Monday, February 25, 2008

Your cash is good at the bar

Cole Slaw Blog comes to an end with this post. Thanks to everyone who read, linked, commented and otherwise supported the project.

There are no major life changes prompting this. Neither of us is moving or getting married or having a kid (that we know of). Neither of us is taking the 20th Century Limited to Chicago with Eva Marie Saint, especially because she's 83 now and was a bucket of trouble in the first place. We didn't even make a decision to retire and focus on condiments. We just decided a few months ago that we'd put it away before it before it gets stale -- spoiled slaw is a botulism risk and nobody wants that.

We're no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that one cole slaw blog doesn't amount to a head of cabbage in this crazy world. Someday you'll understand that. Now, now ... here's looking at you, kids.

-- CrimeNotes and Flop


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Presidents day

In the United States, we’ve somehow decided that only presidents are worthy of a place of honor on the currency. Even bad, war-loving presidents are on the money. Now that we as a nation seem to have a bit of a public-relations problem, maybe it's time to rethink this.

Our decision-making on this issue -- and it’s ours, as Congress controls this stuff -- has been nothing but lamebrained. The combination of institutional inertia, having other priorities, and a lack of critical thinking has made us a nation that appears to venerate authority and the occasional mythological figure.

For example, we honor on the utterly ubiquitous $20 bill, Andrew Jackson, a man who, until about 2003 or so, was the front-runner in the “Worst President Ever” horse-race. He enjoyed killing Indians and forcibly removing them from land white Americans wanted for its gold. He also campaigned against those silly, foppish Eastern Elites, thus paving the way for a broad-base of voters who make their decisions based on “common sense” which is just another way of saying “whatever pretty much everyone else thinks is cool.” So George W. Bush is kind of Andy Jackson's fault, but that's for another time.

The next denomination up is Ulysses S. Grant, who, like Jackson, was a better military officer than a president. He presided over a bunch of scandals and disasters on Wall Street, and generally seemed to be an anti-semite. He did nothing truly positive of note, and yet there he is on the $50 bill. Nice.

The $100 and $10 get non-presidents, and deserving ones. The single, fiver and even the $2 bill all get presidents who appear previously on coinage, and they deserve their twin-billing. No one disputes the worthiness of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson for the honor of appearing on American currency, and you won't hear that argument from me, even if I'd like to see some space cleared up for worthy candidates.

And don't get me started on the whole dollar coin mess. First we solved a problem that no one had -- pockets not jingly enough with change, billfolds stuffed too fat with singles. The result was a handsome, attractive failure. A gold-colored dollar that, despite an advertising blitz encouraging Americans to use the new currency (Americans, do you enjoy goods and services? Tired of digging clams all day to barter? Use money!)

Either because the first one-dollar coin in about 20 years was such a unique sight, or because Americans actually thought the dollar was made out of gold, no one spent the suckers (although I distinctly remember being amused by plunking down four of them for a beer in a dive bar once in 2000). America's first attempt to honor a non-white, non-male, actual person was a failure.

Naturally, the minority woman was blamed. The solution: more white dudes. Yes, now every single freaking president will be on a similarly shaped coin. On the back will be an image of another fictional female, the Statue of Liberty, along with a “$1” mark so the illiterate masses would no longer be confused by the words “One” and “Dollar.”

It’s as if no American has ever made any significan contributions to the humanities, the arts, or science. I realize that if Chaz Darwin were a Yank, there’d be no way that GOP congressmen (and the adorably contrarian Blue Dogs!) would allow him to appear on good old American coinage. But in Britain, he gets the £10 note. Which, thanks in part to the doings of our current president (coming to the dollar coin in 2017!) is worth about the same as a $20 bill. On which we honor ... Andrew Jackson. Sigh. I guess in a world where Ronald Reagan's name graces an airport, George W. Bush's mug might as well smirk back at you from the heads side.

If only the United States had produced some, you know, good scientists. Or artists. Or writers. Or musicians. Or great people of any sort besides Warren G. Harding, Chester A. Arthur and Rutherford B. Hayes. Oh, would that it were.

But alas, Franklin Pierce’s contributions to the United States and the lives of every American must clearly outweigh those of any writer. What can Walt Whitman’s mere words do against the Kansas-Nebraska Act?

Sure, Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, but William Henry Harrison’s administration, which was about as long as his inaugural address, clearly had more of an impact on the world.

And let’s not even imagine the “controversy” that would erupt when someone decides that Martin Luther King might someday deserve to join the pantheon of faces on American currency. Sure he kind of saved us from ourselves, but if you think Republicans would let him on the $50 or something without getting Ronald Reagan onto something, then you’re not watching what I’m watching.

And even if these arguments don't sway you, there's this: There's going to be two Grover Cleveland coins.

I realize there are more pressing issues, and there’s even more pressing issues on which our national policy is even more dunderheaded. (Airline security, for example, seems like it’s run by the kids from the slow math group in my fourth-grade class, but with more flailing and spazzing out.) But hey, it’s Presidents Day. If there’s a better time to advocate for restoring dignity and honor to those presidents worthy to be on the money, I can’t think of it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cole Slaw Bible study: The bad twin



Happy Sunday, brothers and sisters.

I'm at an age when friends have started having babies. Several of the kids are cute, even. Acknowledging that makes me weak, I know, but I've always loved dogs, so it's not that far of a stretch. Babies are like dogs with higher yield potential and less long-term loyalty: compare a twelve-year-old dog to a twelve-year-old kid, and it's clear who loves you more. There are trade-offs in life.

My point is this: dogs are cute and hairy but babies are cute and not hairy. I would not like to be around a hairy baby, but Rebekah didn't have that choice. She had twin babies, and Esau exited first. He "came out red, all over like an hairy garment." Yikes! But Esau also sounds like a little baby Ewok. Cute!

You'd think that given what we've learned from the Bible so far, Ewok would get hammered one night and burn all his body hair in an Everclear accident, and then get nursed back to health by banging his eight underage sisters. This is not the case! I'm 30 chapters into Genesis, and Ewok is the first character who's not a complete dick, including God.

Ewok's problem is his asshole brother, Jacob, and in the Bible's backward logic, I think it's Jacob who's the hero.

Ewok is a stand-up guy. He's his father's favorite. He hunts and provides food for the whole family, doesn't have drunk sex fiascoes, and commits no incest. Meanwhile, Jacob is his mother's favorite and doesn't do a thing. He sits in a goddamn tent, and is "a plain man." When he talks to his mom, he says, "Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man." Swift observation, Abercrombie. Somehow, Abercrombie's bragging about lack of body hair persuades his mother to go in on a swindle wherein Abercrombie covers himself in goat furs in order to trick Dad into thinking that he's Ewok. Hence, Dad gives Abercrombie a special blessing instead of Ewok, which sends Abercrombie off on a binge of the Bible's two favorite pastimes: farming and incest-based polygamy. Abercrombie leaves for a neighboring tribe. Once there, Abercrombie first marries his cousin, and then he marries her sister, and then he bangs several of their maids. Along the way, he fathers an entire minion.

Meanwhile, Abercrombie hoards his father-in-law's livestock -- sheep and cattle and whatnot. His brothers-in-law are angry that their first cousin is banging their sisters and impregnating the entire support staff and making off with all the goats and cattle and whatnot, so a rebellion happens, Abercrombie and company are evicted, and his in-laws' lives go back to normal. Abercrombie's justification seems to be that God wants him to steal all the livestock, which is the kind of thinking that got us into the whole Iraq mess in the first place.

Abercrombie, his multiple wives and concubines, his several dozen children and his fleet of livestock are cavorting away from his in-laws when Abercrombie hears an erroneous rumor that Ewok has raised an army against him. Abercrombie decides to bribe Ewok by giving him animals. But instead of kicking his ass for dressing up in goat furs and stealing their dad's magic blessing, Ewok hugs his brother. All is forgiven! Ewok is a good dude, a guy who's probably been happy just to hunt and hang out with his family, and it turns out that all he wanted was to see his dick brother again.

You'd think that this would be the end of the story. You'd be wrong. Abercrombie's kids turn out to be violent assholes (shocking, I know) and what happens next is a Last House on the Left-style revenge porn centering on rape, trickery and sore penises. And that, my brothers and sisters, will be the topic of our next session together.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Paradise Hotel has to feel the ridge

When reality TV was young and uncorrupted, Fox aired an ingenious show called Paradise Hotel. It was the genre at its peak, back before VH1 turned reality TV into contests over whether C.C. Deville would bang the white methadone addict or the black methadone addict and every other show involved retards seeking home improvement.

Paradise Hotel made it up as it went along, in an earnest, dramatic, straightforward way. Its characters were attractive alcoholics who wept and brawled. Salon's Heather Havrilesky made a study out of it. Here, she summarizes a typical Paradise Hotel moment:
Remember, kids, there's no prize, at least not one that they've announced. Amy is ripping Keith a new asshole simply because this is paradise, and she's staying at at the most exclusive hotel in the world, and never, not in a million years, did she imagine that Zack would be cast out of paradise ... forever.

But then, Amy is concerned only with the here and now, and remains unaware of the show's obvious mind-blowing cultural significance and the stigma it carries. Keith, on the other hand, seems to sense just how doomed the inhabitants of paradise are. Unfortunately, he only manages to blurt out that they're acting like a bunch of 2-year-olds before he settles into a dumbfounded silence.

The original Paradise Hotel turned on the drama that inhered in a man called Dave, who Ms. Havrilesky describes as "a moderately intelligent, mildly unattractive man, [cast] into the pits of moron hell." While the other characters passed out drunk, screamed and wept and hooked up in shoddily built cabanas, Dave quietly plotted their undoing. Pasty, slightly chunky, hatchet-faced Dave was the Guy Fawkes of Paradise Hotel. His ultimate downfall was the greatest plot line in the history of reality TV.



Paradise Hotel is back! And in an extraordinary development, it seems to equal the original.

This is due in part to the casting of Ryan, who's been categorized as "the surfer" despite being from New Jersey. Ryan is just 25 but due to his badly sun-damages skin, he looks at least 10 years older. He's dumber than a standard poodle and looks and acts like he's going through heroin withdrawal. This is attractive to the women of Paradise Hotel.


On the late-night TV-MA version that airs on Fox Reality, things turn blue. Ryan ferries Chelsea into the bungalow he ostensibly shares with Lauren, and we see a naked Ryan with his privates blurred. An obscured camera angle follows and the dialog summarizes a handjob gone wrong.
Ryan: Feel the ridge?
Chelsea: Yes.
Ryan: It gets better as it gets harder.
Chelsea: Yes, okay.
Ryan: No, you need to feel it as it gets harder. ... No, you didn't get it, you didn't feel the ridge. You have to feel the ridge.
Chelsea: ... Yes I did. It's ... nice.
She walks out on the handjob, and later Ryan finds himself on a date with Tanya. Tanya reminds you of a girl who cried a lot in high school, and not the kind of crying that comes because she's sweet and insecure and maltreated, but the kind of crying that comes because the back-up cornerback wouldn't hook up with her despite her new nosejob and the fact that her dad just bought her an Audi. She's not particularly nice, not particularly pretty, and has a sense of entitlement that runs deep.

Ryan thinks that they have a lot in common, which sounds about right. "Tanya's a cool girl. She's got the party thing going on. A lot of fun." Tanya says, "I'm like, I sometimes make out with my friends and people, but me, I like really don't need alcohol to make out with people." Through his glassy-eyed, heroin-withdrawal morass, Ryan observes, "Tanya's been mentioning how she loves to make out, hook up and stuff. I'm definitely into that kind of thing."

What helps put this show over the top is the editing and production values. It's portrayed as a serious morality play, a story where values and integrity are at stake. Ridges are felt and drunken fights begin and everyone has the most intense night of their lives. It's good to be back in Paradise.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Indy films

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was the first moderately grown-up movie I saw in theaters, and even though it's everyone else's least-favorite installment, it's the one I like most: the antic Shanghai sequence, the heart-yanking ritual, chilled monkey brains, the bugs, the chase on the mine carts, and the denouement on the rope bridge. It has the most bang for your buck, a dark sense of humor and the action sequences are tense and original.

Like good and decent people everywhere, I've been excited for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, even though the title sounds like a He-Man adventure. I feel a set up for disappointment. The three most recent Star Wars movies were epic failures. They undercut the affection I used to have for the original series. George Lucas has lost his way and while Steven Spielberg has gotten better with age, he's no longer good at fun.

The new Indiana Jones trailer is on YouTube.


I read last month's Vanity Fair article about the production.* The link has spoilers, probably more than you want. When I finished reading, I was not pleased. I'd like to hope that the story comes together and what we're about to have is a return to glory, but like other returns to glory, outlook not so good. Watch the trailer closely and you'll see a quick shot that reveals the name of a city in the American southwest. You can draw your own inferences without knowing much. I want the best, but I'm skeptical. I'll be happy to be wrong.

*I've never subscribed to Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone, but I receive both magazines in the mail. Not sure why. They embody everything I detest. I guess they need to inflate subscription numbers for ad sales and I fit into a key demographic.

<3

Every day, but most especially on Valentine's Day, I love the anonymous people who read this site, as well as our many googlers looking for cole slaw recipes and the sex-fetish guidance erroneously implied by this site's vulgar metaphors.

Love.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Permanent smile

Editor's note: I'd normally delete this post, except that it's emblematic of a new trend: Come home late drunk, donate to the Obama campaign, and spend two hours combing YouTube and C-SPAN for Obama speeches. I stayed up until 6 a.m. last night doing this stuff. It beats buying a bunch of Whitesnake on iTunes.

Every time I watch him I can't get the grin off my face, but it makes me so happy that I don't even care.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

My fundraising appeal

Dear Friend,

One of the things I'm most proud of about our journey is not the amount of money I've spent, but the things I've spent it on.

Together, we have been on an unprecedented pace to break cigarette-smoking precedents, which in some bodegas is shattering price records at more than $8 a pack. I have not been drinking enough lately, but I hope that changes. We must take back the neighborhood one bar at a time. And just this past Thursday, I made another visit to the Strand Annex and purchased four new books.

The old adage rings true: If CrimeNotes can't drink it, smoke it or read it, he doesn't care. Yet we face new challenges in the weeks and months ahead. Never before has there been a PlayStation 3, with all of the dangers and opportunities that it entails, specifically including Grand Theft Auto IV. Never before has there been a clothing purchase that accounted for appearance and comfort, not merely necessity. And never before has there been serious consideration of purchasing Guitar Hero III in order to entertain visitors.

Never before has tradition combined with progress so seamlessly to build change.

So many people are ready to join, and your first donation of 2008 could be what helps me take the next step. My movement cannot continue without your generosity. Please consider attending the following events. I am counting on you to expand my hope.

Cigarettes with CrimeNotes at Waspwood Manor

Date: Sunday, February 17
Time: 3 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Location: Waspwood Manor - The CrimeNotes Residence
New York, NY
Contribution: $500 per person
RSVP: Space is limited. Cannot guarantee spots after February 17.

CrimeNotes Live! Evening with CrimeNotes
Date: Wednesday, February 21
Time: 11 p.m. - 1 a.m.
Location: East Village, tbd
New York, NY
Ticket Levels: General Admission - $200 (limited availability), Preferred Seating - $400
Host Committee - Raise or Contribute $5,000

Drinking and Shouting with CrimeNotes at Waspwood Manor
Date: Saturday, February 23
Time: 8:00 p.m. - 3 a.m.
Location: Waspwood Manor - The CrimeNotes Residence
New York, NY
Contribution: $6,000 -- recreation funds only
RSVP: Space is VERY LIMITED. We cannot guarantee spots after March 15.
Cereal may be served.

Surrogate Fundraising Events

Coffee and Conversation with Sasquatch
Date: Friday, Feb. 29
Time: Noon - 2 p.m.
Location: Throatchop Alley
Between Castrato St. and Avenue Soreballz
Washington, D.C.
Contribution: You will do exactly as you are told.

Various Things I Do By Supper: Selected Stories and Anecdotes from Flop

Date: Saturday, February 16
Time: Noon - 5 a.m.
Location: Bungalow 8
515 W. 27th St.
New York, NY
Contribution: $10 per person; Vice-Chair - $108; *Chair - $12,000
*Recreation fund only. Includes CrimeNotes Live! event with CrimeNotes on Wednesday, February 21.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

I always was the sharpest pencil in the drawer

In a recent dream, I found myself in my old elementary school, completing a crossword on a single sheet of paper. It was photocopied, not mimeographed, so you could tell it was kind of special. I was late, and an annoying girl I never really cared for had gotten there early, and had been at it a while.

I like crosswords, and I'm pretty good at them, so I dived right in. I don't remember a lot of the answers, but I was happy to share clues. I remember entering one of the across answers, the clue to which must have been the name of Hungary in its native language, because I filled in "MAGYARORSZAG" with no small amount of satisfaction. The really strange bit was, instead of my usual implement, a Pilot roller pen, I was using a colored pencil.

It was a pale peach color. Possibly the ill-advised "flesh" color, although I'm not sure of the brand. All I know is that it wasn't a Berol Prismacolor, which we all know was the Caddy of colored pencils back in school. And it was dull, I was just smearing letters on the page.

I went over to the sharpener mounted on the wall by the coatroom and had a flood of nostalgia. "No matter how much money I donate to this school," I announced as I came back to my seat, admiring the perfect, oddly carved-looking point on my peachy pale pencil.

"No matter how much money I give, no matter how nice the new facilities, the new gym, all the books, everything. No matter what other accoutrements we have, I'm not giving a cent for new pencil sharpener."

Someone must have looked at me funny, because I continued:

"Do you see those things? They were built to last. They were built during the war. Materials were scarce, and things had to last. Not like now, where you're supposed to use stuff for a while, and they buy some more."

No one seemed to share my enthusiasm, so I got back to work. It was around this time that annoying girl announced "Done!"

A couple others seemed nearly there as well. I bent back to my task, about two-thirds of the way through the puzzle. It slowly began to dawn upon me that this was actually a competition. And I wasn't going to win.

"Sixty seconds," my old teacher announced.

I stared at the clues, Everything swam. I put my perfectly sharpened pencil to the page, but nothing happened.

"Time's up."

I crumpled my paper in mock angst, pretending so I could cover how pissed I really was. How could I lose to these people? I was in a higher math group for Christ's sake. And now, as an adult, I was going to have to correct my sheet (in royal blue colored pencil)? Oh, this sucked. This sucked big time. And the only recognizeable person in this dream was one of the most annoying people in my grade school. Where was the girl I had the crush on? She was in my math group, and if she beat me in a crossword puzzle contest, I would have been embarrassed, but at least she was someone I respected. And thought about like, all the time.

Sigh.

And I don't know what I was thinking: Those pencil sharpeners were the worst. The teachers had to bring in electric ones.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Post-Super Tuesday hangover cure



Got buried in the middle of a liveblog packed with Huckabee-friendly Lawrence Welk singers. Thought it deserved a moment in the spotlight.

Sonnet commemorating a parade in Lower Manhattan, 5 Feb. 2008

Fat-fuck fans in sweatshirts
asking for directions

in accents that make one's ear hurt

from New Jersey inflections.

The shame and horror of New York

is rotten, pockmarked sports teams

and puke-breath fans who get uncorked

whenever they're succeeding.

Mannings, like Sparty's Plaxico

are bastards since the nineties,

whereas Tom Brady's Orange Bowl

win shall be remembered fondly.

Down the street limp obese churls

past trashcans spilled by barfing girls.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday sexy-assed liveblogging, part deux

In honor of Mike Huckabee, winner of the West Virginia convention and the day's first victor:



(Reprised for those who missed it in the short-lived pre-party.) 7:10 p.m.

It's a delight watching Pat Buchanan praise the bi-racial coalition behind Barack Obama's win in Georgia. 7:12 p.m.

Don't count your chickens, but if these numbers hold true shop's going to close around 10 p.m. and I'm going to get drunk on a Tuesday. 7:34 p.m.

2004 subtext, redux. On election day 2004, the exit polls were indicating a Kerry landslide, including wins in states like North Carolina and Virginia. Before polls closed, coverage heavily hinted at Kerry upsets in the South. Right now they're pushing similar themes in Massachusetts and New Jersey. They've also been hinting that women are not aligning as strongly behind Clinton as expected. 7:48 p.m.

Republican nervous breakdown. For entertainment reasons, the more Huckabee wins and the longer he runs, the better. Even better, it makes his party look crazy, and maintains M___ R_____'s suffering. Mike Huckabee is my favorite Republican in a long time. 8:26 p.m.

Mike Huckabee wins Arkansas. Huckabee fans celebrate through song.



"I guarantee that Mike Huckabee is sitting back tonight with the popcorn popper, frying up some squirrel." (Joe Scarborough) "And the squirrel pizza arrives at what point?" (Olbermann). 8:43 p.m.

Bill Richardson on MSNBC, sporting thick goatee, looking like affable party pirate. 8:51 p.m.

ALABAMA FOR HUCKABEE. His supporters celebrate with additional song and dance.



New York, Massachusetts for Hillary Clinton; Delaware for Barack.
I would like to add that having lived in New York for six years, every time I go to the precinct it's a genuine pleasure and Tom Tancredo's worst nightmare. 9:04 p.m.

BREAKING: Terrell Pryor to Ohio State! Fine by me. I've been endorsing Steve Threet. 9:25 p.m.

Steve Threet, likely starting quarterback for Michigan,
breathes a sigh of relief.


This arose during Flop's liveblog session this morning, but how fantastic is it that the Republican candidates are sparring over the degree of respect due to Bob Dole? It would be like the 2016 primaries turning into a spat over whether candidate Sherrod Brown unwittingly dissed John Kerry's 2004 campaign and candidate Jim Webb is all, "Back off." Another reason why it's more fun to follow the Republican primaries. 9:41 p.m.

Pick Flick. The following video just showed up in my inbox. Not sure if this is making the rounds yet or if it's only new to me, but let me give a direct order: You must watch, and you can thank me later.



Breaking character: I prefer to keep the liveblog light in tone, and my affection for Huckabee is 95 percent joking, but I like and value the fact that he's successful despite the violent opposition from his party's gatekeepers. There was an ugly discussion on last Sunday's "Meet the Press" when Mary Matalin violently argued that Huckabee needed to drop out and let the race narrow to McCain and Romney. Her contempt was enormous. Democrats have this problem to a much smaller degree -- the establishment is behind Hillary but you can practically see Howard Dean bite his tongue -- but the Republican leadership seems viscerally uncomfortable with Huckabee and wants to stage manage him out of the election. The better he does, the worse they look, and I like that from many perspectives. 10:21 p.m.

Chit-chat potpourri for the comments:
  • Item! Is Terry McAuliffe the number-one most annoying Democrat?
  • Item! Is it scarier to speculate that Mitt Romney knows he's full of shit but says it anyway, or to think that he actually believes himself?
  • Item! Would you eat fried squirrel or possum? I believe I would.
  • Item! With Terrell Pryor going to Ohio State, are more Michigan fans finally going to turn pissy on Rich Rodriguez, even if it's for a dumb reason?
Salt Lake Olympics. Among M___ R_____'s bad selling points, my favorite is his job at the Salt Lake Olympics, which strikes me as the adult version of being in charge of the prom committee.

And for what it's worth, in high school, I was one of the people in charge of organizing prom. I wrote the checks and whatnot, and we had a very fine prom. A very fine prom. 10:47 p.m.

Hillary's acceptance/concession/stasis speech. She's often a very strong and interesting speaker. As much as I rag on her, there are plenty of times when I listen to her and am surprised all over again by how good she can be. This seemed to me like one of her weaker speeches. Very platitude-heavy and passionless. I also don't like that her theme was focused on the lines of what she can do to help, rarely about shared action or responsibility -- but I think that's me being spoiled by Obama. As a matter of pure style, though, her delivery seemed stiff and halting and her remarks utterly unmemorable. 11:02 p.m.

Still, let's give Hillary her due for the night:



Georgia to Huckabee! This can only mean one thing:



Delegate count.
NBC estimates that Obama currently has 594 delegates on the night to Clinton's 564. 11:31 p.m.

McCain delivers a "victory" speech. Somewhat oddly, he begins by declaring himself the Republican frontrunner. 11:40 p.m.

OMG fucking sweet Barack is on! I think this is the first time I've seen one of his victory/concession speeches in real time. Heart is racing ... I have the giggles ... stay cool, man, stay cool ...

It started off routine, but when he broke into the discussion about the election being different "because of you," he took off. Also, for my taste, he can never emphasize enough that the war "never should have been authorized." That always will be my applause line.

I also thought the section of his speech dressing down Hillary was extremely effective without being too harsh or personal. But I have strong bias.

And that line, "We are the ones we've been waiting for" -- sheer heaven.

And WHOAH after being down in Missouri by about 15 percent for most of the night, he's now down by less than one percent. 12:04 a.m.

Barack now up 3,000 votes in Missouri with 97 percent of the votes in. 12:06 p.m.

M___ R_____ might drop out. MSNBC reports that the campaign will have "serious discussions" tomorrow and has canceled campaign stops late in the week. 12:31 p.m.

OBAMA DECLARED THE WINNER IN MISSOURI. While MSNBC interviews my beloved Claire McCaskill, no less. Obama won tonight. 12:41 p.m.

Super Tuesday Liveblog: Magnum Flopus Part I

A super Tuesday requires a super liveblog, does it not? Follow along with liveblog-style coverage of a Tuesday so super, they should have called it Über Tuesday.

8:28 a.m. Time to vote! Democracy is totally on the march. Despite having registered some time ago, thanks to a lissome, auburn-haired young Obama volunteer, the board of elections did not have my information. If I were a minority in Indiana or Georgia, I'd most likely be hosed, but the Empire State, despite its shortcomings, does not see fit to disenfranchise. So I (carefully) cast my provisional. No problem. Despite his predilection for hiring college-aged slackers who probably got drunk (or hopped up on goofballs) and threw out my registration forms, I voted for Barack Obama. If Hillary wins her home state, I'll still be pitching a perfect no-hitter in presidential elections.

8:34 a.m. There is a problem. It's not with me. An angry middle-aged urbanite with a jaunty cap screws up his ballot by mis-manipulating the giant Handle of Democracy on the ancient, clanking machinery New York uses to record its citizens' votes. I feel like Jim Kelly in the SportsCenter ad when he's watching Adam Vinatieri repeatedly set off a metal detector. I love that giant handle. I like to imagine I'm in a massive Zeppelin of righteousness, unleashing my high-explosive ballot upon George W. Bush's misbegotten presidency. Or something. But this time, my justice was meted out in ink form. As the poll clerk records my ballot in the log for the provisionals, I notice I'm the second name listed. The first: My roommate, who apparently got a bum machine, as his reason was listed as "machine broken." U!S!A! U!S!A!

9:16 a.m. Nothing's happening yet. I mean, it is early in the morning. But I thought I'd add a photo. Because, um, I can. This image symbolizes Tuesday's role as the second day of the week, as well as the two principal candidates on each ballot of the two major parties. Also, the duality of man.

Photo from holeymoon's photostream on Flickr.

9:19 a.m.
While I was uploading the photo, CNN showed that commercial where Clay Aiken rings some dude's doorbell to ask him if he's heard about "the fiber" yet. So I switched it to NBC, which is going to be showing lingerie. Let's see: Annoying commercials on CNN or pretty ladies wearing clothes meant to be removed from them. I think I'll start my day with the flismy nightwear, and ease in to my Super Tuesday coverage, lest I wind up shooting out the TV screen by the dozenth showing of that commercial. I will consider posting a photo of that, but it's unlikely. Future photos will be more likely to illuminate the text by exploring the themes of Superness, 2s, and days.

9:25 a.m. No one asked, but it always bothers me when people use the term "political junkie." I have an interest in politics, but that's only because I have specific, well-developed ideas about governance. I don't consider myself a political junkie, and I don't even consider "politics" by themselves an interest. When I hear people call themselves that, or saying they really enjoy the campaign season or whatever, I'm always suspicious. Especially when they don't seem to have much familiarity with or interest in policy. I wonder: Are these the kind of people who used to like to catch bugs, put them in a jar and shake it to make them fight?

9:29 a.m. If you read the preceding and wondered if it was my oblique way of expressing my general blanket distaste for pretty much all cable TV talking heads and newspaper campaign reporters, you could be right.


9:48 a.m. Some facts about ÜberDienstag, as the German media are no doubt calling it.

  • Elections are being held in 24 states! That's 23.9 Canadian provinces, 12.9 British Counties, 25.9 Swiss cantons and 2,553.73 Japanese prefectures!)
  • On Democratic ballots the frontrunners are Barack Obama, who is not Muslim, and Hillary Clinton, who does not keep her husband's ballsac in a safe-deposit box, despite what you may have heard on CNN.
  • For Republicans, Maverick Senator John McCain has a lead on Proven Businessmann Mitt Romney, upon whose shoulders Boeing jets made for short- and medium-haul flying have been posited to be able to land.
  • For our overseas friends: This is just a sort of pre-election, to determine who will stand for the real elections in November. But most of you know this thanks to your often-superior educational systems and media.
  • The states voting today are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas ... oh, fuck it. Here's a map from wikipedia.


Blue: Democratic election only. Red: Republican election only. Purple: Both parties. Not hard.

10:27 a.m. I'm back. I ran out to get some seltzer and an egg-and-cheese sandwich. I was tempted to get a beer, but that could be frowned upon. Nevertheless, I made plans with a friend of mine to watch returns and play Tiger Woods later tonight. He's a Giants fan and always manages to beat me in Tiger Woods, no matter how well or how poorly I play. (The opposite holds true when he and I play NCAA football.) I'm looking at a whupping, but hopefully it won't be as bad as the one Rudy Giuliani absorbed. Speaking of that: My favorite part was that the more he campaigned in a state, the less popular he got. That makes me fly.

10:40 a.m. Apparently, I wasn't the only one to have troubles voting. CSB correspondent Fiddles Hallihan reports his polling place was also in a state of chaos resulting in a 30-minute wait to vote. I should have noted earlier, that I was like, one of the few people voting at my polling place, and that the only delays were due to me not being listed in the Mighty Book of Registrants.

10:54 a.m. In lieu of anything substantive, more art.

From the stream of brodiemanlsu, whom we congratulate on his national title if his user name means what I think it means. Brodieman, we welcome your advice on beating those clowns, because the secret has sure escaped us lately.


11:05 a.m. I got distracted thinking about the Detroit Tigers and how most of their offseason moves have been terrible. For me, I mean. If you're a Tigers fan, they're really, really good ones.

11:16 a.m. According to CNN.com, John McCain said "as the nominee of my party, I can and will carry the city of New York as well as the state of New York, because we know how to appeal to independents," he said." Um, good luck with that. If there's one state with a dearth of independents, it's New York, where most voters have to choose a party, if only to vote in primaries. Also: Dude, no. It's not happening. McCain also apparently said that he would "take the battle to the enemy." Naturally, Rudy Giuliani and Joe Lieberman were at his side. Something tells me his campaign is going to have some rather warlike themes ...

11:22 a.m. Yeah, I know, I know. McCain's a Republican. Posturing and sowing fear is how they tend to do, isn't it?

11:28 a.m. Just how badly would Hillary's campaign have to implode for McCain to take either the city or the state? In case no one noticed, people love her here. And in New York City, most people don't care for Republican presidential candidates. I imagine it would take some sort of massive scandal that happened so late in the campaign as to preclude, like, replacing her. Though he's not as bad as some Republicans, the thought of a McCain landslide gives me fucking cramps.

Craps. From the Flickr photostream of evilgreg3000.

11:38 a.m. Let's see what Fox News has to say. I heard they hired Karl Rove recently.

11:45 a.m. This is boring, although apparently the south is in for some terrifying weather, at least if the animated graphics and skinny blonde are to be believed. "I can't imagine being in a tornado watch, or a tornado warning and trying to go out and vote." I've never imagined it before myself. So I guess I can't, either.

11:50 a.m. Sean Hannity's giant, smug head has just appeared. He's infuriating just to look at. Alan Colmes is permitted to chime in. I'm always surprised when Hannity doesn't take a telestrator and write "FAG" or something with an arrow pointing to him. Seriously, the dynamic in the studio is like something out of high school, with a bunch of suckups trying to get in with the cool kid by making fun of the designated target. It's a miracle Alan Colmes doesn't weep himself to sleep every night on a huge pile of cash. Incidentally, Hannity doesn't expect a winner on the Democratic side.

11:59 a.m. This is my last entry of the morning ...


12:01 p.m. ... because it's afternoon now.

12:04 p.m. McCain is blustering at Mitt Romney for daring to say something bad about Bob Dole because Bob Dole was an "American Hero." Look, this is true. Dole served honorably, and was a badass. The sections of Richard Ben Cramer's "What It Takes" that dealt with Dole were great, and made me have far more respect for the guy than I probably would have based on his Congressional career. But declaring someone off-limits because they saw combat, or were wounded in combat is just a non-starter. As convenient as it would make life for McCain, whom I fear is going to cheapen his service over the next nine months, this just can't be an acceptable rule of discourse. And I say this knowing full well that declaring veterans untouchable would benefit the Democrats far more than it would benefit Republicans.

12:19 p.m. Everything I've read today suggests there will be a lot of late breaking votes. Polls are somewhat all over the place. And when it's all over, the large number of proportionally determined delegates means that probably neither Hillary nor Obama will be in the catbird seat or destined for the dustbin of history. Which is ... fine, I guess. I don't think a brokered convention, as much as it makes the the soft and tender bits of the "political junkie" set throb, is a good outcome. In New Hampshire, the late breakers put Hillary over the top. But now it's possible that

12:25 p.m. MSNBC is showing a sign that says "Polling Place" in seven different languages, including Spanish, the defacto second language of Los Estados. I hope lots of people who watch Lou Dobbs were watching that. Hell, I hope he was watching it -- I bet that burned the Dobbster up good.

12:31 p.m. DEAR. LORD. From an ad just now: "As a prisoner of war, John McCain was inspired by Ronald Reagan." The ad goes on to play McCain's voice saying: "I enlisted as a footsoldier in the Reagan Revolution." The narrator comes back to intone: "The leadership and experience to call for the surge strategy in Iraq that is working." The screen flashes the words "True Conservative" followed by "Commander in Chief." The subtext is more than just a little terrifying. Even more frightening is that the appeal might work. I really don't like the implication that we're just a militaristic cult. I hate it even more than the idea that we're all easily gulled by appeals to fear. But, uh, yeah, I would like to say something else here, but there's not much to say. Criminy.

12:39 p.m. OK, I've chilled now. I have to say, after all the havoc they've gleefully wreaked on the country, I do enjoy that Republicans now have to choose between two candidates they don't like. Democrats, who have hemmed and hawed and generally been more complicit than they should have been in the looting of America, at least have a choice between two strong candidates most of them like. Of course, if the Democrats win, they'll inherit a mess, for which they'll get the blame.

12:41 p.m. Yeah, I guess I'm still kind of cynical. It's going to be a long, ugly campaign.


From the stream of Billy V.

12:48 p.m. I mentioned Richard Ben Cramer earlier. I should note briefly that his portrait of Joe DiMaggio was one of the best biographies I've ever read, and I didn't really even have much, if any, interest in the guy until I read the The Hero's Life. It's far from the usual hagiography of sports figures. What it Takes was an opus, several hundred pages of stories woven together, sometimes not all that smoothly. In The Hero's Life, Cramer's usual rat-a-tat style is turned down to soft pops. What stands out is DiMaggio's deep, deep insecurity. It drove almost everything he did, from his seriously dysfunctional interpersonal relationships, (including marriages), to his business dealings to his incredible drive to excel. Cramer did his homework, and he still manages to support a sad, yet almost sympathetic, character.

1:01 p.m. Is it clear that I'm getting a bit discouraged by the prospects for the general election yet? Whatever. Open the floodgates. At some point, we'll discover a sense of national shame, I just know it. It's down there somewhere. Maybe along with plans for reinvesting in rail and eating less red meat.

1:23 p.m. Odds on a Mardi Gras joke referencing Hillary Clinton and her ta-tas on a late-night talk show tonight: Leno: 3-1, Stewart: 4-1, Letterman 12-1, Larry King: 999-1. Jimmy Kimmel: OFF, but only because I think he sucks dong. By which I mean, of course, the Vietnamese currency.


1:41 p.m. CNN is reporting on something about Al Qaida. The video they used: the one with the guys in ninja suits on the monkey bars that we've been seeing for seven fucking years. Just stop it. Especially when the issue is torture. Besides, I know you totally want it to be scary, and it's just not. It looks like terrorist recess.

1:50 p.m. I think when some of the people on TV talk about a brokered convention, you can see them trying to nonchalantly position an elbow or a couch cushion in front of them. Just saying.

1:57 p.m. Seriously, McCain is setting himself up for Jim Webb to go all Lloyd Bentsen on his ass re: Ronald Reagan. What did McCain do during the Reagan administration, other than endorse checks from Chaz Keating? And Mitt Romney was living as an au pair in Bruges at the time, I believe.

2:02 p.m. Who are likely vice-presidential picks for these guys, anyway? You think McCain's going to have Dick Cheney head up his search committee? Does he pick someone who appeals more to the "True Conservative" base and gets that fat fuck Limbaugh off his back? Or does he pick someone maverickier, someone more warlike and, say, Liebermannish? (I can see pundits swooning now.) Who would Obama or Hillary pick? And, who would be the most disastrous pick?

2:11 p.m. OK, that's it for me now. Real life calls. Looking forward to lively discussion in the comments. See you back here as the returns roll in. Encouraging news: Apparently, there's been a shitload of turnout. If I wanted to be like the man who will no longer be president a year from now, I would point out that maybe something good will happen as a result of the unmitigated disaster that has been and will continue to be his legacy. Huzzah, turnout. Huzzah, democracy, Huzzah Super Mardi Gras Tuesday.

From Blonde Librarian's stream.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Stupid Mannings

All dynasties are terrible, but some dynasties are more terrible than others.




















Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cole Slaw Bible study, lesson 2: Are you ready for the Lot, girls?

Happy Sunday, my brothers and sisters.

It's upsetting when your entire town gets destroyed, but probably feels worse when your mom becomes a pillar of salt solely because she cranes her neck while fleeing destruction.*

This still doesn't excuse the Lot Girls' behavior.

Lot, the saltwife's husband, also is in bad shape. Understandably disturbed by the destruction of his town and his wife's abrupt change in mineral composition, Lot refuses to resettle in a city called Zoar. Instead, he takes his two daughters into the mountains -- presumably the Ozarks -- and the three live together in a cave. Very Mosquito Coast, but with a twist.

Brothers and sisters, last week we first learned about the dangers of mixing wine, sleep and adult children. Drinking and indiscretion prompted Noah to exile Ham, the peeping-tom son who looked at Noah's private parts after Noah passed out drunk.

Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that humanity's early tribes made a lot of missteps with alcohol. My freshman year of college included mistakes that I haven't experienced before or since. Maybe one way to interpret the Book of Genesis is to think of it as a world populated entirely by college freshmen who are new to alcohol, where people learn from their drinking errors and move on to live somewhat responsible lives.** Genesis is the Bible's cautionary tale we all hear in orientation, about the young midget who died of alcohol poisoning because he drank a bottle of tequila during Sig Ep rush, so neither should you.

Lot's two daughters worry that their dad is old. They face a shortage of eligible bachelors,*** since they live in a cave, not a city like Zoar.

Big Sister concocts a scheme to get Lot drunk on wine, at which point she and Little Sister "will lie with him, that we may preserve the seed of our father."

I don't follow the logic. Their father's "seed" has been preserved through them. I'm not sure why that's inadequate. It's possible that they were nearing menopause and this was the last chance, but if that's the case, Zoar couldn't have been that far -- surely Zoar's bachelors were preferable. Or maybe 1/2 of their father's seed wasn't enough, and they needed offspring that was 3/4 seed. Whatever -- the Lot Girls didn't weigh alternatives.

Their emotionally troubled plan gained momentum. Accordingly, "they made their father drink wine that night," and Big Sister goes in to "lay with her father."

Lot apparently is blind drunk because "he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose."

Imagine how horrible it would be if the blameless old widower woke from a sweet little dream and saw his oldest daughter riding cowgirl.

The next day, crazy Big Sister demands more, and tells Little Sister that it's her turn. That night, they get dad all fucked up on alcohol again; Little Sister "lay with him," and again, Lot is too hammered to know what happened.

Punchline: "Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father."

OH MY G_D NO

Shocking material. Earlier, Ham's life was torn apart because he happened to walk into a tent where drunk Noah was passed out naked. Lot's two amorous daughters don't face consequences like that, even though they forced their dad to get blind drunk, secretly lady-raped him, and bore his children.

Lot must have been senile, if not catatonic. I find it frankly unbelievable that a man -- even a very old man -- could inseminate grown women in the natural way without waking up, even if drunk, and particularly on consecutive nights.

Seems to me that if God destroyed Sodom and Gommorah because of decadent citizenry, the Lot Girls were in for at least a little suffering. Ham's twittering, childish penis fixation has nothing on these bitches, and he was forced into exile. The Lot Girls don't face any consequences, not even mosquito bites, stubbed toes or a minor plague like cold or acne.

I tried to find a positive message from the ugly incident, something about female empowerment or inverting conventional incest narratives. It didn't work.****

The moral of Genesis: If your dad is passed out drunk, you can't look at him if he's naked, but you can make him involuntarily penetrate you.


*One thing you notice about the Bible: God operates like a high-school substitute teacher, the kind that was over-obsessed with respect issues and demanded full compliance at all times, regardless of how arbitrary the activity. "Now we'll go around the room and everyone will say their mother's maiden name." "Why would we do that?" "[CrimeNotes], go stand in the hallway." That's God's leadership style. I don't even want to engage the circumcision mess that arises a few chapters earlier. This is another one of those incidents I am vaguely aware of in my secular life, but a chapter makes it clear that many adult men experienced extreme penis misery***** for no clear reason. It was the Great Foreskin Massacre of 3000 B.C.E.

**Dear believers: Is the rest of the Bible about the consequences of drinking?

*** The daughters had husbands before they fled to the cave. Lot tried to get the husbands to leave town with him, but the husbands thought that Lot was crazy so they laughed at him and hence were destroyed by the Lord.

****Not unlike Ian McEwan's The Cement Garden. It's a nasty, awful book and McEwan's great writing didn't redeem it. It's probably the Lot Girls' favorite.

*****So far, the book is about murder, genitals, agriculture and inebriation, roughly in that order. This isn't a bad thing, but it's not what I expected.

Last year's Superbowl

I don't remember it, but apparently I provided live updates during a viewing party in which interest in the Puppy Bowl won out over horrible football.

This explains the bonanza of hits we've been getting today for blogging about the puppy bowl.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Lost Season 4, Episode 1

My key questions and observations from the season premiere.

  • We now know that only six people were taken off the island. Jack, Kate and Hurley have been identified. Who are the other three?
  • Hurley's interrogator was unfamiliar with Ana-Lucia's fate. Abbadon, the alleged Oceanic lawyer who visits Hurley at the mental institution, also asked about people left on the island. Apparently the full story of what happened on the island isn't public. The "Oceanic Six" apparently presented themselves as the crash's sole survivors.
  • Harold Perrineau, who plays Michael, was listed in the opening credits but didn't appear on the show. I guess Michael makes a comeback this season. A fair guess might be that he's now affiliated with the people on the boat.
  • I've replayed several times the sequence when Hurley looks into Jacob's cabin. There seems to be a consensus online that Christian Shephard is the figure in the rocking chair, although I can't make that out. Also remember that in "Through the Looking Glass," Jack talks about his father in the present tense, as though he's still alive.
  • Whoever's face jumped out at Hurley, it wasn't Locke's -- in slow-motion replay, the guy appears to have thick, dark hair.
  • Notice that before he sees Charlie, Hurley was painting a man standing outside of an igloo? Is there a reason that looked familiar? Lostpedia isn't helping on this one.
  • When Jack and Hurley play Horse, they stop playing after the letter "o." H is the eighth letter in the alphabet and O is the fifteenth. They stopped at 815.
  • Unrelated to this episode, but here's a very well done YouTube clip that edits the crash of Flight 815 from multiple angles. Once in awhile YouTube makes itself useful.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A brief thought on Lost

This post is spoiler-protected, for those who haven't quite caught up. To read the parts with spoilers, just highlight the blank space in the middle of the post.

While it remains amazing to me how one network TV show can cover so many themes while also remaining a kickass piece of serial, televised entertainment, I am not here to write the ur-post on Lost. It's not time.

I just finished watching Season 3 in about a week's time. I need to do laundry, I need to make food for myself. I need to sleep more. But it was totally and utterly worth it. I would watch several episodes before bedtime, then just lie in bed, thrumming and trying not to untangle the plot threads so my mind could rest. I dreamed about Lost, and not for the first time. I've followed all these characters and come to know them well and find myself throwing out five or six at a time when the inevitable "Who is your favorite" discussions come up. For the record: Jack, Sayid, Hurley, Kate, and Locke. In no particular order.

But one moment, one scene stands out for me above the rest. I can't stop thinking about when Jack has his flash-forward in the Season 3 finale "Through the Looking Glass" and is clearly a mess. The flash-forward has a couple of scenes, but one is clearly the best. There's a shot of his apartment, food and alcohol bottles carelessly in the sink, a sheaf of papers on the floor, atlases open, maps of the Pacific all around, and Jack's just in the middle of it. He calls someone, clearly a friend, and you know it's Kate, but you don't know if she'll show. She arrives to meet him, under the flight path at LAX, and she's just ... luminous. And Jack explains to her, how he's been flying every week, crossing the Pacific and hoping to crash on the island again. He's out and he can't get ever back in the womb. He's more lost than ever. It's heartbreaking.

It's perfect.

I can't get that scene out of my head right now, and I don't want to either. This show is rewarding beyond any of the reasonable expectations I had when I got into it on the recommendation of a couple friends this summer. One of them was Crimenotes, who loaned me his DVDs of Season 1 and Season 2. The lovely and vivacious Megan loaned me Season 3. I've got to go out and get them for myself, however, as something tells me they're going to want them back after watching tonight's premiere.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Because I'm tough

It didn't matter that I woke up this morning shaking, feverish, my joints sore, that the room was spinning when I was in bed and that I felt sick when I walked down into the subway station.

By noon lesions appeared on my body, blood drained from my orifices, I lost vision in one eye, my hearing was gone, your mother sucks cocks in hell, a parakeet hatched from my stomach, my knees had chicken pox, I could no longer walk in a straight line, I convulsed every 15 minutes, I gnashed my teeth and bit the recess lady's breast, my teeth fell out, my urine glowed (fluorescent orange), my fins were rotting, I hallucinated that "Flop" shot me in No Country For Old Men, and I needed hip replacement surgery.

Baby doesn't take sick days.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A liveblog in brief

Real life has intervened in numerous ways, so I'll be brief:

9:47 p.m. McCain is not like George W. Bush, except in the way that both are reckless dumbasses when it comes to foreign relations, and both think that feeding more people into the Iraq corpse-chipper is a swell idea. So for those of you who get the vapors at all of Hillary's Clintonian exceesses, man up and face the fact that she'd at least be better than McCain on Iraq.

9:51 p.m. Also, on the economy. Jesus, I find a lot of Clinton-era economic policies annoying, but they're better than the Republican ethos of the past three decades, even if too close to them for my comfort. But seeing as McCain is an admitted lightweight on these issues, it seems safe to assume he'll mostly go for Republican Party orthodoxy, if only to fund his adopted pet war.

9:54 p.m. No, I'm not in a particularly good mood that he won, either, so get off my back.

Liveblog? Mmmmmaybe

Not to engage in some shameless coquetry here, but there may or may not be a liveblog later for this, the most Mittmentous of GOP primaries.

Register your outrage in the comments.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cole Slaw Bible study: Take off your clothes


Happy Sunday, my brothers and sisters.

A few posts back I mentioned that I'm trying to read only old books this year. I became an atheist in third grade, so I've never read the Bible. I bought a paperback copy of the King James Bible, deciding that I would occasionally read key portions in the year ahead. It seemed like it might make for interesting reading.

Brothers and sisters, my margin notes include observations like, "God is not an animal rights activist" and "farming is god's punishment."

What I want to preach about today is being naked. It came as a surprise to learn that the Bible is confused about nudity. The big episode is well known, even to a heathen like me: Adam and Eve were happy being naked until they ate forbidden fruit, at which point being naked was horrible. God's punishment: clothes. Basically, clothes are punishment for being stupid and greedy, which is self-explanatory to anybody who's walked past Bergdorf-Goodman or seen an episode of Sex and the City.

So I think to myself, "Huh. According to the Bible's logic, I guess that means if you like being naked, you're a better person and not messed up by fruit-eating." Someone else must have thought of this I'm sure, and at some point after Martin Luther, I bet a sect had Naked Church, where you're not supposed to wear clothes and just be naked. Because, basically, if you're okay walking around naked, that means you follow the rules and aren't a rebel.

Later on, there's a bizarre passage that throws my logic into doubt. Noah (of flood fame) plants a vineyard. According to the Bible, he then gets drunk and passes out naked in his tent. (I swear to G_d, brothers and sisters; turn to Genesis, Book 9 in your Bible.) Now there's drunk naked Noah lying around in his tent, passed out. The details about the party aren't included, but it probably was a rager, which makes me think that the Bible approves of getting plastered and silly.

Noah's got a son named Ham. He appears to be an asshole. Ham sees "the nakedness" of Noah, and immediately goes and tells his two brothers about it. The two brothers go to cover up naked Noah, and, according to the Bible, "their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness."

When Noah wakes up from his drunken stupor, he's pissed that Ham looked at his junk, and he curses him. Ham gets in trouble and is exiled, and the other two brothers are in good shape because they didn't look at their naked dad.

This Jerry Springer scenario raises all kinds of questions. Obviously, it's implied that Ham looked at Noah's dick and told his brothers about it, and that this was a major problem for everybody. And when Noah woke up with a hangover, one of the brothers was like, "Dad, Ham just looked at your dick when you were passed out," and Noah was like, "Whaaaat? I'm kicking him out of the trailer park."

What's the message from all of this? One is that you shouldn't take advantage of drunk people by looking at their privates. In this lesson, the Girls Gone Wild are Noah and dudes are Ham. Another is that you shouldn't look at your dad naked -- again, a good Jerry Springer lesson. Third is that if you repeat stories about things that people do while they're drunk, you're an asshole -- a good lesson that most of us figure out when we're teenagers. Fourth is that apparently you're not supposed to be naked (or at least notice that other people are naked) which seems to me hard to reconcile with the early incident with Adam and Eve, where feeling bad about not wearing clothes was punishment. Seems to me that if you're into nudity, you should be square with God, as long as you don't run around telling your brothers about other people's junk.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In its dumb way, even Oliver! matters

A few years ago I accepted an invitation to somebody's Oscar party. There aren't many things that suck more than watching a major event with people who are enthusiastic when you yourself don't care. (This is a problem every March -- at packed bars, I think, "Basketball is a jumpy, squeaky-shoe sport," and pretend to be enthusiastic.) It's like attending a concert and hating the music and so you never get in on the fun. I made up an excuse and left the party.

Still, there's something nice about the Academy Awards and their nominees. You get nominations for good people with no shot of winning (the David Lynches and Robert Altmans) and harmless celebrity claptrap. Mostly, the awards work as good, superficial snapshots for posterity. It's always a little annoying when smart people write about these awards seriously and handicap prospects as deserving or neglected.

Very good movies stand the test of time regardless. They don't need awards. There are no asterisks next to Stanley Kubrick, Robert Altman or Citizen Kane because they passed award-free. Good is always good.

The Academy Awards do something different. Like the Grammys and the fiction Pulitzer, they're bad at recognizing difficult and original work. They catalog and honor very formal, upper-middle-brow movies. This is valuable. Without it, some of these movies would (or will) have been forgotten. Excellent movies can lose but survive: Apocalypse Now, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, or E.T. (re-watching it as an adult is a great experience).

Others are watched only because they won these awards. They may not be great movies, but they're good to have around, like a blurry family photo where somebody's only halfway in the shot. Midnight Cowboy has its melodrama and over-the-top visions of hedonism and scary big cities -- perfect for 1969. Kramer vs. Kramer works as snapshot into late-70s confusion over family roles before feminism became a dirty word; Forrest Gump is an effective fairy tale about baby boom nostalgia and Clintonian optimism; American Beauty -- that was your Clintonian moral confusion and ennui. Dances With Wolves and Driving Miss Daisy -- they've aged horribly, but are ripe with naive, condescending, multicultural sensitivity, which was the vogue when they were released. (America wasn't ready for Do the Right Thing, but white directors administering loving lectures about minority groups, that was easy to digest. This was also a theme in Out of Africa.) Going further back, we get The Lost Weekend's bizarre, borderline-trippy take on the menaces of overdrinking, and the sunny, cheerful American man dancing through post-war France in An American in Paris. I don't think these movies hold up, but they're valuable as cultural touchstones. Without the awards, I probably wouldn't have seen them.

Then you get something like Oliver! My mom likes movie musicals, and I remember Oliver! as one of the first movies we rented after buying a VCR. I think it's regarded as one of the worst movies ever to win a Best Picture Award. Who cares? People would watch 2001 anyway, and it's odd to watch Oliver! and think about how, in 1968, while the country was stabbed with race riots, assassinations, and Vietnam, the Academy favored a musical with cute British orphans singing and dancing about gruel. The stark, marijuana-friendly 2001 wasn't even a nominee.


Apparently, these dumb orphans hated gruel.

Even when the "right" movies win, they're formal, conventional products, executed extremely well. I'm thinking of Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, All the King's Men, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Apartment, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather, Amadeus, Schindler's List, and possibly The Departed (which I like today, but give it 10 years). Each is excellent but basically safe. Only The Godfather Part II, with its parallel-flashback plot and extensive subtitles, and Annie Hall's camera-addressing, time-hopping narrative, are structurally unusual. Pulp Fiction and Inland Empire never had a prayer.

I like the catalog of movies produced by these awards, but there's no good in taking a rooting interest. While I'm extremely enthusiastic about There Will Be Blood, it is odd and divisive. People will watch it for years regardless; like Citizen Kane or 2001, its worth is beyond awards. Like the best winners, No Country For Old Men is entertaining, highly formal and well executed. It will hold up over time. Still, without having seen Juno, I like the idea that forty years from now a college student will find it on TCM and think about how people were so naive in 2007, when in the middle of a war and economic distress, a little movie about teenagers was considered the standard-bearer. There's nothing bad about that.

Waste

A couple years ago a friend and I were talking about Zadie Smith, and how happy it is to love the work of an artist that's approximately your own age. It's nice to think that I'll grow older getting to read her new novels, and that when she's writing about being 50 or 60, I'll (hopefully) be there to compare.

There aren't many others who've made me feel the same way: Paul Thomas Anderson (he's 36 but close enough), Craig Finn (obviously), Ryan Gosling in Half-Nelson (I'm not being a copycat, I swear).

I didn't like Brokeback Mountain, but when I watched it I felt like the same might be true about Heath Ledger. I'm not a fan, I couldn't tell you a thing about his divorce, I've never seen 10 Things I Hate About You, and I'm emotionally unaffected, except to the extent that it's frustrating to see someone that good bite it on purpose when people with a fraction of his talent carry on for years. We're stuck with more no-talent hacks instead of people like Heath Ledger. Imagine what a dumber world it would be if Brando offed himself at 28 or Nicholson did the same after Five Easy Pieces.

I've got no sympathy. My reaction is selfish. That's a compliment.


Perhaps not a suicide, in which case I'm an asshole for jumping the gun, as usual. It's an unhappy loss either way.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Three Musketeers


The first thing that jumps out about The Three Musketeers is how fun and sunny it is. I guess I start most classic books with the prejudice that I'm in for a serious undertaking. Why I picked The Three Musketeers I don't really know, except that it was just published in an attractive new edition translated by Richard Pevear (more on him in a second) and that never having read anything by Alexandre Dumas, I might as well roll the dice.

Then it starts and immediately I was immersed, as entertained by the book as any escapist bestseller or beach read. This is a book about young men who fight, gamble and chase skirts (long frilly skirts with lace and jewels, but skirts). Basically, a young man who hasn't hit twenty leaves the provinces for Paris, hoping for military fame. He falls in with the Three Musketeers, who are in their late 20s and early 30s. Originally the musketeers and D'Artagnan plan to kill each other, until the musketeers are impressed by his bravado and decide to adopt him as a protege.

Then it's 600 pages of dueling, chasing and scheming. There are villains and royals and young men who can't decide whether they want to pork the pretty, innocent servant or the polished, beautiful royal. Villains get stabbed, good guys spend time in jail, butlers save the day and everyone celebrates by getting drunk and rebelling against authority.

It's been a long time since I've read a book that has so much pure fun. The translator, Richard Pevear, turns out one great edition after another. I thought I didn't like Russian literature until I read a translation of The Brothers Karamazov that he and his wife published. They could make a cereal box label seem dramatic and exciting.

I decided that in 2008 I'm only going to read books that were written before I was born. I read too much middle-of-the-road junk. Books by new young writers that receive strong reviews but are usually just pleasant or minor. Plus, I have a whole shelf of books with titles like America Betrayed! Bush, Cheney, Iraq, Evangelical Christians and the Beshitting of the Constitution. (I made that up, but the real titles are pretty close.) It seemed time to pursue some new interests.

Whenever someone tells me that I need to read Harry Potter, I tell them that I'm sure he's fine but that I don't want to invest myself in thousands of pages when there are a lot of great books I haven't read. Maybe this should apply to new books by David Mitchell and Richard Ford too. At least in 2008.

I haven't read any Harry Potter, but I'm pretty sure that The Three Musketeers is more fun.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Flop's guide to retirement investing

I am not a certified financial anything. Follow my advice at your own risk and peril.

Like many of you, I see in the daily heavings of the stock market a coming storm. The credit crisis is much more than subprime mortgages not performing. It could be really bad.

I was thinking about this today as I mulled changing the mix in my 401(k) account. Right now, my retirement nest egg largely lives in an S&P 500 index fund. This is because it spreads the risk across companies -- good ones -- that are meant to stand the test of time. I also do this because very little of my investment dollars go to paying a fund manager who's probably just going to do shit like short Apple and keep tons of cash on hand in a bull market. A monkey can administer an index fund; bananas and monkey pellets are cheaper than martinis and BMWs.

I considered lessening my exposure to a possible Black ___day-style crash. Then I had a realization. I'm saving for retirement, not that pleasant feeling four times a year when I open my mail and gaze upon a sum of money I would best characterize as "a shitload." If the stock market is still in the shitter 30 years from now, I'll have other issues. And will probably be looking to take an immediate long position in Mossbergs and buckshot, to keep those fucking mole people off my stash.

Cole Slaw Blog Personal Finance Adviser Flop does not and has not owned any of the securities or commodities mentioned in this article, except for the time when he made a simple, honest mistake between put and call options on the Brazilian Mercantile and Futures Exchange, resulting in sanctions from Mercosul, dozens of frantic calls to zoos, comedy troupes and soup kitchens, and a public-nuisance lawsuit filed by Washtenaw County.