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.


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.

Friday, January 18, 2008

No, seriously. Stick It is actually kind of good

Here's why the utterly unnoticed and easily mockable movie Stick It is actually much, much better than you think. Not, uh, that you asked.

It's not the story of a plucky underdog finally learning what's within herself and putting it all together for a Climactic Final Competition against the Hated Foe, which she wins, landing herself on a cereal box at the start of Happily Ever After. Even if you could be excused for thinking that. There is a final meet scene, but it's not what you think.

It's more like a Bad News Bears for gymnastics, but make no mistake: these are good athletes.

Haley is a rebellious teenaged tomboy and former elite gymnast who gets arrested for trashing a development on her BMX with her two guy pals. The judge gives her a choice between returning to gymnastics or being incarcerated. She chooses juvie. The judge sends her to gymnastics. There's a reason Haley doesn't want to get back in the gym -- she wigged out and left the U.S. team at the world championships, costing her teammates the gold. She doesn't like gymnastics, gymnasts don't like her. Conflict!

There's a not-very-interesting get-to-know you part of the film with Jeff Bridges as the coach with the mildly sullied reputation and Haley as the rebelliously talented brat. There's some nods to Haley's divorced parents, and a lot of visually excellent exposition about just how grueling a sport gymnastics is. Also, this is where I should note that Missy Peregrym, who plays Haley, is an utter babe. I would be lying if I said that seeing her bouncing around in a sports bra was not what got me into the movie.

But Stick It has more heart than abs, and it doesn't stay predictable. There's a scene in which Haley gets her overcautious coach to do a trick on a trampoline, which is clearly going to show what he's gained from having this rebellious young girl around to teach him the way and show him he's still got it, right? Yeah, good luck with that.

Haley discovers soon that she's regained her enthusiasm for a sport that demands, essentially, the entire lives of its participants. At a meet, Haley's guy pals show up, to the amazement of her fellow elite gymnasts. "You know boys?" one says. "Yeah, they're called friends," Haley replies.

All elite gymnasts live like this. They train six hours a day so they can please others -- parents, judges, coaches. Haley's real rebellion is that she dares to ask if maybe they should be doing it for themselves. And this is what the movie is about. Reclaiming a sport the participants obviously love -- they would have to -- from all these so-called adults.

The movie is far from perfect. It's got plenty of flaws, plenty of needless asides and just some off moments. It's clearly aimed at the kids. But it's engaging, watchable and a hell of a lot better than you'd think or expect. Especially considering the crap that usually passes for sports movies these days.

If I were a real movie reviewer, this is where I'd wrap everything up nice and neat by saying how Stick It gets deductions, but you don't always need to score a perfect 10 to get the gold.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let my people go

My values and lifestyle choice are under assault. The key bigot is Kay S. Hymowitz, whose hate speech was recently exposed in a Wall Street Journal blog post called Single Young Male is Urged to Grow Up. As summarized in the Journal post:

People shouldn't dignify the videogame-playing and hard partying of some 20-something [sic] males as a phase of self-discovery, says Kay S. Hymowitz in the conservative City Journal. She suggests the so-called Young Single Male grow up before he wrecks society (article not yet available online).

Dignify? We should be glorified.

It is not a phase of self-discovery. It is the discovery. Has Ms. Hymowitz ever walked home through Tompkins Square Park at sunrise with a cigarette dangling in her mouth, sunny-side-up detritus on the corner of her lips, serenaded by the birds as she plays an impromptu game of tag with a homeless junkie? No? Her life has no meaning.

Ms. Hymowitz will never know the pleasure of slaughtering a Templar knight during a hard-fought battle in Assassins' Creed. She will never relate to the highs and lows we feel upon throwing a pick in NCAA 2008, only to recover a fumble and watch a fat defensive lineman spin his way into the end zone.

Such joys are not self-discovery; they are reasons to live.
Men are increasingly delaying marriage to their late 20s and beyond. As seen in movies such as the "40-Year-Old Virgin" or "Knocked Up," they fill their prolonged bachelorhood by watching gross-out videos on the Internet, playing videogames and flitting from one half-serious girlfriend to another.
Ms. Hymowitz's knowledge of my people is based solely on the work of arch-conservative comic Judd Apatow, whose pro-life propaganda flick Knocked Up turned the clock back to 1972. She sleepwalks through history, unaware that all across America, cakes are being given to grateful pedestrians, cookies are being drop-kicked into thoroughfares and Nerf missiles are hurtling into nuts. Her ignorance is further shown by limiting her critique to "gross-out videos" and "half-serious girlfriend[s]," when for many of my people (not necessarily me) the truth is closer to rampant internet pornography and consequence-free sex.

Ms. Hymowitz is equal parts ignorant and jealous.

Unlike bachelors past, Young Single Males no longer bother posing as sophisticates.

Utterly incorrect.

Instead, they indulge in scatological jokes and chugging contests.

This is not exclusive of sophistication.

Partly this is a backlash against feminism, says Ms. Hymowitz.

If that's the case, and I don't think it is, then feminism is the best thing that ever happened to my people: "Women now have the franchise and a right to choose. Our revenge shall be beer and video games."

More fundamentally, pop culture has given the seal of approval to the long-running discomfort men have felt for the responsibilities of family life. Articles in Playboy were describing marriage as an encumbrance long before modern feminism arrived.

Stupid old scold.

The downside to this attitude shows up in novels like Nick Hornby's "About a Boy" and Benjamin Kunkel's "Indecision." In these stories, the protagonists' serial indulgence of easy pleasures leaves them isolated from others, with few aspirations.

No, "About a Boy" is about how Hugh Grant helped a kid become famous for singing a Roberta Flack cover, and "Indecision" is about how young authors shouldn't be too precious. As to aspirations, Mario Manningham once won a Heisman in NCAA '07 while under my tutelage. And that's just one thing that comes to mind.

For Ms. Hymowitz, who has written extensively and sometimes critically about how the family has changed over the past 30 years, young men especially "need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations," says Ms. Hymowitz. "Adults don't emerge. They're made."

Unfortunately, adults are in fact made, and the calendar is the culprit.

Ms. Hymowitz's disgraceful, bigoted assault cannot stand. She appears to favor a world free of birth control, where young man accidentally impregnate their girlfriends and spend the rest of their lives in quiet servitude to an accidental child, dominated by regret, emotional repression and fear. Or, as I prefer to call think of it, my hometown.

Nevada courts agree: Voting should not be made harder

The lawsuit filed by the Nevada teachers' union to prevent people working on Saturday from caucusing at seven spots set up on the strip got thrown out today. It means that the idea of using the law to erect obstacles to legitimate voters took a hit. Anyone who gives a shit about democracy or the legitimate consent of the governed or voter participation should be happy.

This is a good thing, even if you support Hillary Clinton.

This leaves me wondering if the polling place to be set up at the New York New York casino will feature the massive, clanking, medieval Machinery of Democracy that we use here in the Empire State. That place thought of everything.

Another great thing about Lost

Your head spins as you try to follow a million threads at once. Faith and fear, hope and despair, salvation and ruin. There's just so much going on. You know you're going to have to come back over this again and again and again and you can't wait.

And this shit is, technically, filed under the same heading as Two and a Half Men? Other people, lots of them, some probably even Ron Paul voters, or "independents" who think John McCain's a real maverick, they watch this. And they like it. And they probably get more of it than I give them credit for.

We can't impeach the two biggest crooks who ever ran this country because of all the mental barriers we've erected for ourselves (with help). But the mere fact that this show still exists, is still viable, means that we're not done yet. Not completely.

It's morning in America, and I'm sitting on my couch with the shades drawn, watching one more episode before I turn in.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Numismatics corner!

I was recently discussing the trend in the United States to name our most visible assets for presidents and only presidents. I assume part of it comes from the Great Reagan Renaming of the late 1990s. But the stupidity has only grown.

Basically, every new aircraft carrier is going to be named for a president. Including the new U.S.S Gerald R. Ford class of supercarriers. (Incidentally, I know of no capital warships named for former Ohio State players). Although I think I foresee a problem when the George H.W. Bush and the George W. Bush get their orders crossed and make a Three Stooges-style entrance at the Straits of Gibraltar.

We've long been remiss in honoring great Americans on our currency, leaving it to a couple great presidents, a few horrible ones, Alexander Hamilton and Ben Franklin. And, of course, Sacagawea.

But she's getting hustled out the door, apparently in the belief that the reason no one wants to carry around pockets full of jingling dollars is because they don't have former presidents on them. And oh, are the new dollar coins are going to show presidents. All of them, in fact. Including, yes, two separate coins for each Grover Cleveland administration.

So we'll be honoring Rutherford B. Hayes, Andrew Johnson, Millard Fillmore and William Howard Taft, in the same way we honor Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and the like. But other Americans can go suck a lemon. Would it kill us to put Martin Luther King on the currency? And not as a sop to multiculturalism or Black History Month. Dude pretty much changed the course of American history, and for the better. While Benji Harrison rocked the tariffs pretty hard, I don't think that quite compares.

But I'll let this issue drop for now. We're an increasingly unthinking, people. So I suppose its only fair that we make no distinctions other than that leader = good. I do have one other minor objection, and it's a question of taste. This requires visuals.

The new Rich Rodriguez problem is not minor

Caveats, unknowability, et cetera, but anyone with a loose familiarity of scandalous downfalls over the past 30 years knows that the story usually begins with something like this:
The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette reported Tuesday that Rodriguez might have “destroyed all or most of the paperwork files relating to every player on the current Mountaineer roster and virtually all of the activities conducted by the programs over the past seven years.”
It's an easy invitation for imaginations to run wild. The Duke lacrosse episode was a lesson on being cautious about accepting an entirely plausible, common-sense conclusion about people doing bad things.

Still, this has the whiff.
JJ Prescott, an assistant professor at the U-M Law School specializing in employment law, said “the key question is likely to be who owned the files — Rodriguez or the university?”

“Rodriguez is free to destroy his own property,” Prescott wrote in an e-mail. “But, if the university owned the files, then Rodriguez might face criminal liability for destruction of property, possibly even if he mistakenly believed the files were his to (destroy).”
I've had e-mails with friends today who've argued that they're skeptical of news coming out of West Virginia because fans there are so angry. This is backward. There's nothing more destructive than a swarm of motivated, pissed-off individuals. They will fight as long as they have ammunition. This is good ammunition.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Circumspice, bitches!

Si quaeris liveblogam amoenam ...

We'd be remiss if we didn't liveblog the hot, hot primary election action coming out of our (in my case, adopted) home state, Michigan.

Starting this afternoon, we'll bring you occasional updates, but when the returns start coming fast and furious, we'll be there as only Cole Slaw Blog can. Cole Slaw Blog: Your 2008 Election headquarters for silliness and nonsense. (By which we mean intentional silliness and nonsense, not crap like an expose on cafeteria food from The Politico, Washington's answer to The Beverly Blaze.)

I'll start with a somewhat timely anecdote. When I lived in Michigan in 2000, I voted for John McCain in the Republican primary. I thought reasonably nice things of McCain back then, and I thought horrible, horrible things about George W. Bush. Although never in my wildest dreams did I expect this kind of disaster, I knew enough to know I really, really didn't want him. And so I made sure to go out and vote for McCain to fuck over Bush. And it worked ... until the South Carolina firewall.

So that was nice for a while. If I still lived in Michigan, I think I'd consider doing what a lot of Democrats are doing, and voting for Mitt Romney. Or maybe I'd tell them I was trying to ratfuck Republican primaries with my vote long before it was cool, and back when internet video was just buffering ... buffering .... buffering ...

OK, on with the updates:

11:38 a.m. Early news out of the Wolverine State indicates moderate to light voting. Seeing as this is essentially a GOP-only contest (as far as delegates are concerned), that's not too surprising. Are you like me? Did you think the coolest part of the Michigan Democrats for Romney video was Brandent Englemon jacking up some poor macroeconomics major from Vanderbilt?

11:58 a.m. This has nothing directly to do with Michigan, but CNN is doing a piece on how Mitt Romney may be too perfect looking for the presidency. This is vapid, even by CNN's standards.

12:20 p.m. Feel the excitement! The Grand Rapids Press, located in the heart of Michigan Republicandom is informing its website readers of the following up-to-the-minute news: A local chain of grocery stores has scored well on recent sanitation inspections; a local snowboard park has a history that includes one of the sport's titans; a credit union was recently robbed for the second time in a short span; Business leaders will be attending a policy conference in Grand Rapids this fall.

1:04 p.m. Just saw this now on TPM. Apparently, Mitt's goose is as yet uncooked. Poll numbers are showing signs of Romnmentum. As George Costanza once said "I think I felt it move!"

1:06 p.m. CNN is interviewing some smirking Republican who's complaining about illegal immigrants hurting his business, and for whom the candidates aren't socially conservative enough, even in the economic blast zone that is southeast Michigan. In the background: A Manchester United flag. Figures. I wonder if it makes him uncomfortable that Cristiano Ronaldo is so very, very pretty and prancy. And frequently appears in tabloids wearing naught but junk-hugging Speedos. Or maybe he doesn't give a shit, because this appeared to have taken place in some classroom somewhere. Maybe at the Lynn Rivers Democrat School for Forced Gay Marriage.

1:25 p.m. There's not a lot happening in the Michigan primary. I'm going to watch the $10 DVD of The Princess Bride I bought late last year.

5:10 p.m. That totally ruled. I was done with it a while ago, but I did some other stuff, and to be honest, there's not much action until the polls close.

5:11 p.m. Fuck that shit, there's always something happening in The Situation Room! And so it is. The Wolfster lets us know that Barack Obama is black. And Hillary Clinton is personally offended that people thought she noticed. Or something. I just got back from New York Burger Company and am not really paying attention.

5:27 p.m. Ever wonder why Michigan State Police cars still have those old-timey "gumball" lights on top when every other force has gone to massive racks of strobes? And what's with that ineffective-looking clear sign on the hood?


Both the rotating overhead light and the shark fin have traditionally been synonymous with the MSP. The shark fin was used for a side stop, which was employed when a Trooper was stopping another vehicle. The Trooper would pull along the driver's side of the vehicle he wished to stop and would activate the shark fin's light, alerting the other driver that he was to pull over. ... The rotating red light has been used by the MSP since 1960 and the current style red overhead light has been in use by the agency since 1979. The bright red-pink hue of the light is striking and it makes the patrol car recognizable as a Michigan State Police car from several miles away. The red overhead lights on some MSP cars are 20-25 years old.

There you have it. Meanwhile, Blitzer's talking about issues with the Canadian border -- maybe he's trying to carve out his own niche as the Lou Dobbs of the north. What better night on which to do it than Michigan Primary night? I bet this is of great importance to Michigan republicans.

5:28 p.m. Do you think there's a small subset of right-wing blogs obsessed that Canadian immigrants are going to take over our country (assuming the Muslims and Mexicans don't get there first)? I mean, there's NHL teams in two dozen U.S. cities, OMG they're going to take it over!

5:29 p.m. I'm done now. Wolf is interviewing Glenn Beck with a straight face. George Bush "has betrayed conservatives every step of the way." Uh huh. CNN should hire us and fire Glenn Beck -- Americans would wind up more knowledgeable about mammal taxonomy, Cormac McCarthy and state police forces, while also being less racist and self-centered. Meanwhile, he could be the really annoying guy you tune out down at the office.

5:32 p.m. Holy shit, we're talkin' health care, because Beck just had surgery. CNN's chryon: "Why Health Care Matters: Glenn's life-threatening surgery."

Sounds about right. After all, to repurpose a frequent point of crunk raconteur, "conservative" is just another term for someone who can't imagine a world more than six feet from his or her own billfold.

Apparently, Beck had a rough ordeal at his (presumably) privately run hospital, where they just tried to get him out the door and didn't have enough compassion. He has concluded that the government is not the answer, because the hospitals would be like the DMW. The upshot: Rudy Giuliani will solve this by unleashing the private sector. Blitzer wanly mentions that HMOs might be part of the problem, but Beck is two steps ahead of him, demonizing Canada and England. It's like watching a fish try to race a snail across a parking lot.

None of what I just wrote is anything but a straight, vanilla summary of the conversation.
This is truly dada. Future generations will be horrified.

5:41 p.m. Uh, just to cleanse the palate. Michigan's state quarter is rather handsome, and of all the states resorting to using their outline on the coin, Michigan has one of the better excuses -- few states have a more distinctive shape. The design was cleanly executed, with a nice use of texture to highlight the state itself. I would rank this among the better, but probably not the best, designs. I'll spare you the details.

5:49 p.m. Mich-mentum! Voter turnout is low, low, low, although absentee ballots should help make up for this. The Free Press blames snow and the lack of a real Democratic race. I'm not buying the first one -- this is Michigan. If people are letting snow keep them home, I'm going to be embarrassed for my adopted home state. Although I wouldn't piss on one of these Republican candidates if they were on fire, so I can't imagine getting out of the house to go cast my vote for one of these hucksters. This sums it up for me:

“It’s probably going to be something like a school board election,” said Inez Brown, clerk in heavily Democratic Flint. Brown said the equipment in Flint’s 61 precincts has worked properly and voters seem to understand that the not all the candidates are on the Democratic ballot.

But the difference is, I wouldn't trust any of these clowns to appropriate pencils and paste. I hope the light turnout helps provide a sort of reverse boost to the Democrats for Mitt.

6:05 p.m. Don't forget Huckabmentum! Blitzer tells us that Huckabee "suggests he'll be a winner tonight so long as he defies expectations in Michigan." From the campaign's press staff to Blitzer's mouth. They don't pay him the big bucks for nothing, folks.

6:07 p.m. Apparently 20 percent of Romney voters chose him because of the reason "say what he believes." I am going to go ahead and guess that these people have images of a mesomorphic cartoon hoplite on many of their personal property. Just a hunch.

6:14 p.m. Here's a photo of the Sleeping Bear Dunes. They're up here (I'm pointing to the outside edge of my left pinky, near the tip).

From blue_eyed_demon1963's photostream at Flickr.

6:3o p.m. Voters! Study up! You only have two and a half more hours to set your hand in favor of your chosen candidate. Paw Paw resident Lorraine deBaptiste has been working on it diligently since speaking to a Kalamazoo Gazette reporter earlier today.

KALAMAZOO -- Lorraine deBaptiste said she was "very impressed" by John McCain's appearance here Monday during a campaign rally at Kalamazoo Christian High School.

But the Paw Paw resident still doesn't know how she's going to vote today.

"I liked what he said about securing the borders and supporting our soldiers," deBaptiste said. "But there's also things I like about Romney and Huckabee. I need to do a lot more research."

Best of luck, Lorraine! Did you know? Paw Paw is just a couple miles east of Teapot Dome, Michigan.

6:43 p.m. I used to think Jack Cafferty was a grumpy old, id-centric crank. But he's clearly smarter than most of the people who draw paychecks for appearing on CNN. Man, I have better things to be doing now, right?

7:15 p.m. Apparently, I did. I started a batch of vegetable soup. It's easy. Take some vegetables, put them in a pot with some stock (I used chicken; vegetable would work too). When they're tender, I'm going to put them in the food processor and slash the fuck out of about half the veg. Then I'll add it back, thickening the soup. Let's see fucking Dana Bash do that.

7:22 p.m. Chris Matthews is live from Las Vegas. Idle thought: I wonder how much he's spent at the Rhino already. Also, I'm getting a vision ... interns pooling credit cards ... bouncers ... a cab ... sunrise over the Strip. OK, where was I? Oh yes. More chatter about the Nevada caucuses. What about Michigan, clowns? Cole Slaw Blog is your home for primary coverage, even if these guys aren't.

7:45 p.m. I reserve the right to watch some of the Democratic debate, assuming I don't just fall asleep from all the Republimentum! It's amazing to me what a smorgasbord of dopes they have out. But wouldn't it be perfect for someone of real substance like Edwards or Obama to win, only to spend his time in office cleaning up after Bush and getting blamed when all that administrations time bombs go off.

7:48 p.m. Dear God! It's Pat Buchanan, squinting in the light after a production assistant wheeled him out from his dusty closet.

8:04 p.m. It's clear that I've gotten started too early. Like in Go when Simon got drunk and passed out before he and his friends even left for Las Vegas. Polls don't close for about an hour. I guess I just got caught up in all the excitement of a non-essential primary.

8:53 p.m. Excitement builds as it's almost time to show the exit polls. I'd guess that Mitt and McCain do well, Huckabee rides a wave of Huckabmentum to third, and Rudy Giuliani gets his nuts hammered (again) by totally sane person Ron Paul. I may have been peeking on super-secret websites, however.

9 p.m. It's Romney. Oh, the Mittmentum. Polls in all but the farthest reaches of the Upper Peninsula are closed and NBC's gone ahead and declared the state for Romney, the son of a former governor. Three states, three winners for the Republicans.It's possible that there will be an actual, constested convention. But probably not.

9:02 p.m. Two young campaign workers can be seen on CNN, jumping up and down gleefully at Mittquarters. How such a hunk of Vitalis and starch can get anyone, let alone 20-something women, so excited is beyond me. But hey, what the fuck do I know about loving Republicans?

9:05 p.m. Debate time. Hillary just said "son of a mill worker." I know who that is! As much as I like Edwards, I have to say, I am as aware of his father's field of employment as I am of Jerome Bettis' hometown (it's Detroit, by the way.) She and Obama are being made to play nice here at the start of the debate.

9:11 p.m. Just wanted to mention that Rudy Giuliani is still working the Florida angle. I was going to post something else, but I just looked at the clock, and thought of him.

9:13 p.m. Russert is going to call Hillary Clinton on the Robert Johnson thing. I guess this isn't like when he asks people if he can print what they just told him. She won't toss him over the side though.

9:16 p.m. Edwards gets asked the white male question, to laughter. He says it's a credit to his party and to America. I'll buy the first part, if only because the Republican debates look like the Men's Grille at your friendly local (restricted) country club.

9:22 p.m. I think what I like about Edwards is that he understands what it's like to be getting the short end of things in 21st century America. This isn't to say that Clinton and Obama were born with silver spoons in their mouths, but his compassion really seems to drive him. You can't help but find it admirable. If he doesn't wind up President, I feel like he'll keep doing good things. This post is really lame and dull because I'm suddenly falling asleep, but yeah, I like Edwards.

9:33 p.m. Wow. Brian Williams quite jovially repeats the hateful "Secret Muslim Man" slur against Obama. A proud moment for journalism. Obama is handling it with dignity and grace, which will totally serve him well in the general, just ask John Kerry. I would have liked to see him point out that not only is being a Muslim perfectly legal, but there's not one candidate in the election who would think there was anything wrong with it. Except maybe Mike Huckabee, who would like to see the Constitution changed to meet "God's standards."

I'm sure he'll be called to account for his desire to see a theocratic United States.

9:40 p.m. Dear sweet lord, even my rage at the whole "Are you now or are have you ever been a dirty, no-good Muslim?" question can't fuel me much longer. So ... very ... sleepy.

9:48 p.m. Let's see what the backslappers over at Fox News have to say about this. Upon flipping the channel, they seem to be lathered up over some slight to Gen. Petraeus. Brit Hume is fluttering his jowls and muttering about Hillary's performance among black voters. Some blonde chick with pearls is talking about how correct John McCain was on his "one-issue" candidacy. (Note: He was right about the surge AND the Iraq War. So true.) Some other white guy is chortling about McCain's vibrant sense of humor. Dear God, what a frightening room. I'd rather be dumped into a pit full of scorpions.

9:59 p.m. Edwards' question is better than most I've seen asked at debates. It's pointed and designed to get a response. I would guess his background gives him an advantage here. Aaaaand, apparently, Hillary doesn't have to answer it. Dan Burton just threw a pumpkin at his TV.

10:06 p.m. Hey, look at that. Made it past 10. I'm like, barely sentient right now. Which I suppose makes me rather representative of the American electorate. I do, however, like that Hillary is willing to point out that there are serious, fundamental differences between the Republicans and Democrats on the issue of Iraq. It makes me think that she'll deliver a payload of hellfire to the Republicans the second she's sworn in. I like Obama better, but if he's elected, I fully expect a period during which I'll cringe at his attempts to forge bipartisan consensun.

10:12 p.m. About time to bring it home. Lessons learned tonight: Michigan state troopers roll old-timey, Mitt Romney is a winner, Obama will be discrediting many, many slurs that shouldn't even be slurs for a long time, nonstop coverage of nonstories is draining and irritating, Atrios can still find people who think getting slaughtered again by Ron Paul is great news for Giuliani, the lure of sleep is strong, even at 10 p.m.

10:27 p.m. The Dreaded Yucca Mountain Question. My solution: We should bundle the waste canisters, secure them, and put their disposal out to bid so private companies can compete on the open market to profit from taking it on. The power of the market will ensure that the waste doesn't wind up anywhere it can cause havoc. Or at least nowhere that we'll have to hear people squawk about it.

OK, that's it for me tonight.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Flight of the Batsman

I had an increasingly odd dream, or series of dreams, last night. First, I was flying back from the West Coast, and somehow had a connection for my flight in Petoskey, Michigan. It was, obviously, not a real connection but one of those ones where you fly into and out of a small airport between two hubs, like when Continental wants to send you to Rochester or something between Newark and Cleveland.

Anyway, I spent too much time fucking around and enjoying the scenery, so we taxied off without my bags and I had to ask the captain (it was a small plane; with an interior that resembled a moderately luxurious van) to turn around so we could get them. Then he let me sit in the middle seat of the second row so I could see out the window. The plane was so slow and underpowered, we had to bank, gently, to avoid trees on takeoff, then, we skirted them as we slowly climbed out along the Lake Superior shoreline. (In my dream, Petoskey was in the U.P.)

We were going so slow, the windows were open, and then I realized there was no roof or structure around the plane. I realized this when CrimeNotes lit a cigarette. I also realized we were going really slow when I saw him on the ground, smoking with other people. I remember wondering: How is he going to get back onto the plane?

At this point, I realized, I was just flying on my own, in close formation with the pilot and a few others. I found myself ahead of him, then behind him at different points. The foliage along the Lake Superior shoreline was spectacular in the early fall; from above, all the Michiganders enjoying some sort of festival below formed a scene right out of a Pieter Bruegel painting.

Then we slowly pootled out of Michigan airspace and into a massive, labyrinthine marketplace, with some vaguely middle eastern feel to it. After struggling with some control issues and bouncing off the ceilings and walls, I finally was back walking again.

I went into a store that sold all sorts of exotic sports equipment, and bought a cricket bat. Then we were playing cricket, and I was running between the wickets, which were ludicrously close together. I smashed a boundary off someone, and gleefully called "I'm at eight not out!" as I ballsily scampered for one more run.

Then I woke up, and you know how you sometimes have a random name or word stuck in your head upon waking? Mine was Sachin Tendulkar.

From faisal_c's stream on Flickr.

Drama in my pants

Two of my favorite pairs of work pants have sizable holes in their front-left pockets.

Front-left pocket is for keys and cigarettes. Front-right pocket is for wallet.

While dressing this morning (one leg at a time, just like the rest of you fuckers) I inspected the hole in the front-left pocket. It seemed small enough to contain my keys.

As I walked to the office this morning, I felt warm metal scrape down my leg. My heart skipped a beat.

I was walking over subway grating.

The keys made a soft landing, settling between the cuff of my pants and my left shoe. I paused and carefully picked out my keys. They didn't fall through the grating, thank balls. My spare set of keys is with a high school friend who lives in California. If I lost my keys, I probably would have been so frustrated by the prospect of dealing with a locksmith that I would have abandoned my current apartment, found a new one by Friday (probably on the same block) and started over from scratch.

The sidewalk wasn't crowded, but it was crowded enough for fellow pedestrians to notice the tall handsome man bend over and produce keys from his shoe.

From now on, when I wear the pants with the holes in the pockets, the keys need to be carried on the right, not the left.

Dramatic re-creation.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bush Lite: When all else fails, disfranchise your rival's supporters

Because a casino workers' union endorsed Barack Obama, Clinton surrogates have now sued in the state of Nevada to shut down caucus sites originally designated to allow casino employees working on the caucus date (a Saturday!) to participate.

This plan had long been in place. Only when the union endorsed Obama did the Clinton surrogates decide to litigate. The contention seems to be that it is unfair to cluster caucuses near employee workplaces. By this rationale, it is unfair that Manhattan has more voting booths per square mile than Joshua Tree National Park. I recently had an employer that closed on voting days -- this too would be unlawful under the Clintons' lawsuit.

The Nevada Democratic Party and the relevant unions are understandably displeased:

The state party quickly dismissed the lawsuit. Going back to last spring, every presidential campaign was involved in setting up the unusual casino caucus sites while state party officials and the Democratic National Committee ironed out the details. "This is a fair, legal and proper way to choose delegates under established law and legal precedent that has been reviewed by attorneys....The time for comment or complaint has passed," the party said in a statement.

The union was more blunt, contending the arguments are only a political effort to muddy the waters in case Clinton loses. "It's strange [the suit] is coming after our endorsement," said D. Taylor, the secretary-treasurer of the local labor group, told the Washington Post in an interview last night after an Obama rally in his union hall.

They have studied Karl Rove very well.

Clinton race-baiting, Part 2 of _

"If you have a social need, you're with Hillary," the aide said. "If you want Obama to be your imaginary hip black friend and you're young and you have no social needs, then he's cool."
It really is masterful -- if disgusting -- politics. Even if this turns out to be a misunderstanding or overheated rhetoric among informal advisers, they still polarize the campaigns and make Obama a niche candidate. Obama becomes the definitive "black candidate" of a black constituency, no matter how hard he tries to be the candidate who's moved beyond race. Certain white voters will perceive him differently, and the Clintons maintain plausible deniability. Maybe it bodes well for her performance in a general election. That it risks starting a war within the Democratic Party is secondary -- all that's ever matter is their own survival.

In light of Bill's exploitation of Ricky Ray Rector,* none of this should be surprising.

*Rector, a black man with an IQ of 70, shot a police officer and then attempted to kill himself. He believed that prison guards were throwing chickens and alligators into his jail cell, imitated an ape, and on the night of his execution asked a prison guard for a slice of pecan pie before bed, not realizing that he was about to be killed. Before his death, he also stated an intention to vote Bill Clinton for president. In 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that executing the retarded is unconstitutional. For Clinton, it was all an opportunity to prove death penalty bona fides.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Clintons' Rovean smear tactics

Let's pretend that legitimate attacks on the party's anointed frontrunner are steeped in misogyny instead of the harsh criticisms levied against any standardbearer. Once she's off limits, engage in race-baiting.

I can't stand them.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Flop's guide to the New York Primary

Chapter 1: Registration

If you haven't registered or filled out a change-of-address form, you're going to need to do this. I started off by downloading the form from the New York state website. But then I saw people in the subway registering people. So I filled out the form and she gave me two Obama stickers.

The deadline's on Friday, so I suggest you get on this. If you happen to find a cute, earnest college student type with red hair and brown eyes to mail your forms for you, then you can consider it kind of a bonus.

Next week: Choosing a candidate.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MmmBarack, bop ba doo bop, bidee bob ba doo bop, bop ba doo I don't like Sen. Clinton very much.

This site will live-blog the New Hampshire primaries for at least some part of this evening. I know this interests no one but me, my co-blogger and one of our readers, but really, when has this site ever cared about pleasing you? Not since Tits Week!

I spent much of today feeling grateful for Howard Dean's old campaign and thinking about why Bill Clinton is a blight. Maybe you'll have that to anticipate, as well.

Stay tuned!

7:31 p.m.: When Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert share camera time with Chris Matthews, I imagine they think the same things I do when I'm having a conversation with "Flop." Something like, "How did I end up in the company of this excitable, rambling madman, and what can I do to extract myself?"

7:42 p.m.: Exclusive scoop! Commenter Oops Pow Surprise has reported in the comments (on this site!) that Hillary Clinton currently is behind by 70 percent. For its part, MSNBC just spent several minutes talking about crying, when crying is appropriate, etc.

7:52 p.m.: I've revised the headline per dmbmeg's suggestion. This is an interactive process tonight, you see. Speak up and let your voice be heard.

7:59 p.m.: MSNBC promises exit poll results at the top of the hour. I'd love to put this liveblog to a rest by about 9 or 9:30. I bought a PS3 over the weekend and would like to turn my attention to Assassin's Creed.

8:01 p.m.: Oh, yikes. Too close to call between Clinton and Obama. That is not what I expected or wanted. Uh ... huh.

8:10 p.m.: Not wanting to repeat my experience in 2004, when it took me months to get behind John Kerry, I've been very careful this year not to get too passionate about one candidate. I'll support any of the Democrats, and I logically know this, but after Obama won on Thursday my passions went up and I looked forward to the Clintons disappearing as soon as possible. I'm not excited about the possibility or reorienting.

8:13 p.m.: MSNBC calls the Republican race for McCain. I've spent most of the primary season steeling myself for a Clinton-Romney election, but an Obama-McCain or Obama-Huckabee election seems like a much more grown-up process.

8:23 p.m.: The MSNBC panel is agreeing that the primary season has been "perfect" for Rudy Giuliani. He is presently running a distant fourth in New Hampshire and lost badly in Iowa. The mind reels.

8:34 p.m.: In news that actually matters, I am not happy with Rich Rodriguez's effort to chase Ryan Mallet out of town and to essentially predict Mario Manningham's departure when retention appears to be an open question. I like my coaches to shut the fuck up in public, please. I'm trying to be positive and keep an open mind, I swear, but he isn't making it easy.

8:44 p.m.: Nothing happening, so I will briefly pimp a blog I like that I don't see cited many other places. Any time I miss the Midwest, it's a good antidote.

8:54 p.m.: Outside of the Bush family, no one in American politics is more insufferable than Mitt Romney.

8:55 p.m.: I have a sickening case of Clinton fatigue already. The whole thing is like a nightmare on re-run. That idiot Ann Lewis is back, speaking for the campaign on MSNBC. In her Iowa speech, the camera showed Madeline Albright, Wes Clark and Bill Clinton in the background, and I had this sick flopping feeling in my gut. All that's missing was Janet Reno and Dick Morris and some wretched betrayal of Lani Guinier. I keep trying to persuade myself that I can support her. It does not feel good at all.

9:11 p.m.: This is going to be my last evening of live-blogging. Right now, I feel a lot like this:

Thankfully, John McCain is giving a dull, hackish, standard Republican acceptance speech, because otherwise I'd be having an imaginary three-way negotiation between myself, Hillary Clinton and the devil about whether I could vote Republican instead of Clinton.

9:26 p.m.: The MSNBC people disapprove of McCain's speech. It was dull, but the cackling and hooting is a little much. I guess it was the reverse Dean Scream.

9:33 p.m.: Clinton is going to win tonight, and goddammit fuckitall motherfuck, and this is what I get for thinking voters in this country would do the right thing for once. Shit.

10:33 p.m.: NBC New Hampshire for Clinton. Brian Williams calls Sen. Clinton "the new comeback kid." Vomit.

It's on to Assassin's Creed. Good night.

11:20 p.m.: “I listened to you,” said Mrs. Clinton. “And in the process I found my own voice.”

As always with the Clintons, it comes back to narcissism and condescension. I cannot fathom why people support her.

Monday, January 07, 2008

"There Will Be Blood"

I saw There Will Be Blood over the weekend. It's the finest movie I know since The Thin Red Line was released in 1998. There are a small number of great books where the key issues are never settled and the motivations are unclear. This movie is like that; I can't think of any others. I've read reviews where the interpretations share nothing in common. I did not see the story of a born lunatic, but of a shrewd businessman who channels all of his emotion into control and mastery of land. When he tries to simulate a family, the efforts are wrecked by causes he can't control. From that point forward, he must control everything and trust no one. It's about displacing emotions into real property. In suffering for his repression, Daniel Plainview is more like Newland Archer than Bill the Butcher. Newland Archer spent the rest of his life quietly miserable, but Plainview wants revenge against the world.

There are many other ways to view all of this, and none of us has definitive evidence. This movie is full of mysteries. Are Paul and Eli the same person? Was H.W. really just a prop? What was Daniel thinking during his first physical confrontation with Eli? I have opinions about the closing sequence and why people say the things they do, but getting into detail would deprive you of the experience. In much of this movie, I think that when people say extreme things they mean the opposite.

After more than an hour of bleak sandy landscape there is a sequence in green groves and farmlands, and it feels like a tease and reminder, that outside of the bleak landscape and monstrous actions there is a calmer, cooler world. I can't think of any other movie where set design, lighting and scoring are so forceful but never distracting. You feel the sand, heat and darkness, and when it moves to a few brief scenes of foliage and water, there is a great sense of relief. Paul Thomas Anderson uses light and color in a mimetic way, the way a great novelist uses words. That's not unique, but I've never seen it done so well. When it ended, I wondered if this is what it was like to read the modernists when they first published or see the impressionists when they first painted -- to walk away from a work and feel like you've seen a comfortable form of expression turned inside out.

Friday, January 04, 2008


When Barack Obama won Iowa last night, it was the first time that a presidential candidate I've supported won an election. In 2000, it was McCain and Bradley in the primaries and Gore in the general; then Dean/Kerry in '04. In '96 it was Bob Dole -- I don't remember who I liked in the primaries. Recalling my mindset from that time, it was Steve Forbes, probably.

Michigan won a game that truly mattered for the first time in years. I've had games where nightmares about a loss woke me up in the middle of the night, but this week I had two mornings where I woke up before 8 a.m. due to good dreams about the team.

Today the cold air smells a little cleaner, the cigarettes taste a little tastier, my shoulders feel a little lighter and my messed-up hair looks a little perkier. The world feels right and joyous. I wonder if this is how normal people feel every day.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I kan haz kawkus LOLzy? Another liveblogging experience

Why, hello friends.

There's an informal tradition on this site that political spectacles get a special live-blogging treatment. This tries all of our patience, true, but what else is new?


I'm going to be flipping between MSNBC's maniacal belching and the maniacal belching of the Fox team announcing the Orange Bowl. At around 9 p.m., Chris Matthews joined Keith Olberman on a set that resembles nothing less than a day-glo blue electronic cathedral. I'm not much into aesthetics myself, so upon regarding something and thinking, "My, that's hideous," perhaps it's a sign that something is going wrong.

Matthews already has declared Obama a "man of the third world" and a Kenyan, then said that if Obama wins Iowa it will be as big as Ronald Reagan beating Jimmy Carter in 1980. Not quite, but the man just gets so excitable that he loses control of the syllables that spill out of that Stay-Puft little head.

9:06 p.m.: MSNBC has called the Republican race for Huckabee. I've got a little fondness for him, but we're not here to talk about that kind of stuff tonight.

9:07 p.m.: Oh, hi, friends. Dinner has just been delivered, from a nice little restaurant called Odessa on Avenue A. I shall be dining on the Odessa Dinner Combination, a nice little platter that includes a stuffed cabbage, kielbasa and pierogies. It promises to be delicious. Won't you join me? Pour yourself a nice cup of cocoa, snuggle up by the hearth, and let's enjoy a cold winter's night of caucusing, Orange Bowl and fellowship.

9:13 p.m.: The lovely and very bright panel on MSNBC are ringing the death bells of Mitt Romney's campaign (this would please me enormously) and predicting a McCain-Huckabee contest. Wouldn't that be nice?

9:16 p.m.: In news that actually matters, I'm learning that Kansas is beating Virginia Tech 10-0 early in the second quarter. This would be another nice surprise after the West Virginia win yesterday and the Michigan win on Tuesday, right? I've really enjoyed Todd Reesing this fall, and the portly visage of his large-pored coach, and would be pretty delighted to see a Kansas upset. And you know, I really dislike most Cinderellas in college football -- Cinderella is a euphemism for unexposed, Colt Brennan. Kansas, on the other hand, has often played very good football. This would be a nice win.

9:21 p.m.: Chris fuckin' Matthews is preoccupied with establishing a narrative that we'll have a presidential race between a Kenyan and an evangelical preacher.

9:25 p.m.: Goodness, friends! MSNBC has called the caucus for Iowa. That could bring this experience to a quick conclusion. Cue Chris Matthews: "This is Lexington and Concord. ... a guy named Barack Hussein Obama ... grew up in Indonesia ... on a victory projectile to win the Democratic nomination." Matthews also went on at great length about Nancy Pelosi's challenges as Senate majority leader.

9:29 p.m.: Chris Matthews has identified this evening as a triumph for blacks and a setback for women. Mr. Matthews shall not be invited to dine at my hearth and sip the house cocoa.

9:31 p.m.: Kansas 17, Virginia Tech 0. I just invented a cheer: "Hook 'em, 'hawks!"

9:39 p.m.: Sad news: VaTech just scored, friends. 17-7 with 1:24 left in the half. I caught the tail end of the drive. If Fox's announcers are to be credited, Virginia Tech has just found success with the run, and should continue to run.

9:42 p.m.: Serious Interval. I really despise when political journalists go out to the countryside and marvel at that thoughtfulness of the yeomen who participate in the political process. This is wrong for two reasons. First reason: No shit there are people not living in metropolises who know things and give a damn. Second reason: I'm sure plenty of those people are petty, vengeful, ignorant pricks, too. Just because they went to public school doesn't make them marvels.

9:54 p.m.: Chris Matthews to Obama campaign manager: "What is your candidate's appeal to younger women as opposed to older women?"

9:57 p.m.: Oh, gracious, friends. I'm sad to report that the halftime show of the Orange Bowl features ZZ Top playing "Sharp Dressed Man" while a squadron of girls in shiny silver dresses shake their booties on the field. It's like an early Puffy video for the trailer park set. (I can say this because I am both an Eastern elite and a member of the trailer park set.)

10:04 p.m.: I will vote Duncan Hunter for president if he promises that Fox will never have another BCS contract.

10:17 p.m.: Odd. Fox announcers just reported that Kansas was concerned about in-game rain because Todd Reesing's hands "are not real big." Huh.

10:21 p.m.: I know what Barack Obama, John Edwards and Mike Huckabee are not: vacant-eyed robot Stepford candidates who have lived depraved existences dedicated to the accumulation of power. There are many reasons not to like them, but it might be nice to wake up one morning in 2009 with a president who has lived a normal life and done many normal things, whether or not we personally can identify with those things.

10:26 p.m.: How is your cocoa? Tasty? Yum.

More high horse, friends! I have learned to live with the possibility of a second Clinton presidency. Flanked by Bill, Madeline Albright, Tom Vilsack and Wes Clark, she gave a great little concession speech focused more on the Democratic Party than her own candidacy. I really liked it. It was a little pep rally for a Democratic victory in November. But you watch that crew and hope that their time has passed. They've been visionless leaders, and if they're slightly less responsible than their rival dynasty for the past 20 years of untrammeled greed, dishonesty and bloodlust, they carry a significant share of the responsibility, regardless of party affiliation. Obama, Edwards and Huckabee are all game-changers. Hillary Clinton is part of the problem. I would love for that era to pass.

Now is the time on Cole Slaw when we dance.

1o:38 p.m.: Oh, hoot! Chuck Norris is standin' next to Huckabee for his victory speech. The MILFy lady must be Chuck's wife. Striking! Nice 'lil speech by Huckabee, who could occasionally be mistaken for a progressive until you recall that he venerates the fetus and thinks Darwin is hooey.

According to imdb, Mr. Norris's trademark is that he's a good guy to the bone "despite having harmful martial arts skills." He would prefers to fight only when other solutions are not feasible. Chuck Norris is 5'10 and 67 years old. He was born in Ryan, Oklahoma. His fetching wife is named Gena O'Kelley. They have two children.

10:52 p.m.: Oh spit. Back in the world that matters, Virginia Tech has had a little comeback, and the game is 17-14 late in the 3d quarter. Hook 'em, 'hawks!

Also, someone needs to take care of that "crunchy chewy cheesy melty" couple in the Taco Bell ads. Like, In Cold Blood, No Country for Old Men kind of care. Bitch needs to control her appetites and the husband needs to stop being enabling her retarded, unhealthy whims. Paging Messrs. Chigurh and Hickock. Apologies if I offend delicate sensibilities on our cozy night together.

10:59 p.m.: It's late, I want to clean my bathroom before I go to bed, and the Orange Bowl is now much more interesting than the caucuses. It's what we should have been watching all along.

Good night, and I herein state my official endorsement for the next president of the United States, Barack Obama.

New Year's Resolutions: 2008

This year, I resolve to ...

Stop taking first dates to Pax, visibly sighing when they order the specialty soup, then coming home and watching old episodes of Charles in Charge, hoping that Nicole Eggert or Josie Davis will be wearing something that shows her navel.

Stop choosing the "Bill Me Later" option when buying tickets on, then hiding in my bedroom when angry pilots come knock on my door, demanding that I pay up, because "Larry don't like deadbeats."

Just write a check for $100 to my high school's general fund and be done with it this time, rather than insisting on a breakdown based on departments and teachers I liked and disliked, even if the Classics department said it was no big deal that they were stuck with Domino while Modern Languages got Sugar in the Raw.

Take the steps, unless the floor I'm going to is really high. In which case, I can take the elevator, but I have to walk in place the whole time.

Start every day with 25 pushups, 25 situps and and an apple. Pears would also do.

Not start smoking, like I have for each of the past 30-some years.

Finally submit that draft proposal of a new MTA Subway map, renaming each line for a prominent figure in New York City and State history, to Albany. The 4-5-6 will be the George, James and DeWitt Clinton lines; the 1-2-3 can be the Mario, Andrew and Chris Cuomo lines. Moynihan gets the A train. Mets fans will come to know and love that the Gouverneur Morris is the only way to get to Citifield.

Finally read all the books on my shelves I haven't yet. Including: The Oresteia, The Sun Also Rises, 1991 Cleveland Indians media guide.

Stop hiding alarm clocks set to 5:37 a.m. in various corners of CrimeNotes' apartment every time I visit.

Masturbate less furtively. Even if my girlfriend is trying to sleep next to me. It's a doberman, let it have its ears.

Finally start using that Nordic Track.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Gameday photos

It's pretty much impossible to get a decent game photo from the stands, especially if you're more interested in watching the game than photographing it. Here are a few from the Cap One Bowl. I'll leave it to others to discuss the game itself. It was the first time I've cried in public since my age was in low single digits.

Warmups! I'm happy to have a photo with Hart and Henne in one shot, even if it's not great. Astute observers will note Fred Jackson on the far right. At this point I turned to my friend and said, "I don't care that we're going to lose. I'm really glad I came."

Gators and Wolverines line up. My perception of SEC fans is a pack of screaming Jim Beam-fueled rednecks sodomizing deep-fried turkeys in front of their RVs. I found the Florida fans civil, well mannered and friendly before and after the game. In the hotel, in restaurants and at the game, I heard nothing but good wishes and congratulations. Strangely, about 10 minutes before kick-off a middle-aged in full Buckeyes regalia took a seat next to us. I wondered what it would be like to get ejected from a game for fighting (they sell beer at the Citrus Bowl, and I took advantage) but he cheered loudly for the Wolverines. At halftime I shared my hopes to see Ohio State crush LSU. In our row, their was love among the Big 10.

Halftime! The other side of his sign read, "Win one 4 Lloyd."

We sat right behind the band. I love watching games with the band.

The game was over. Lighting was terrible by then, so sadly this was the best shot of the field that I managed to get. Long, Hart and Henne are on the podium at this point.

Florida fans left quickly. After the loss to Ohio State in November, I stood in the rain after most Michigan fans left. I watched the Buckeyes run to the sliver of OSU fans in a mostly empty Michigan Stadium and watched their post-game celebrations through Carmen Ohio. As miserable and lonely as that felt, I felt its opposite as Henne took his final (healthy!) knee, the band began playing, and a contingent of the team ran to our corner of the field to celebrate.

I've never seen a Michigan crowd so involved in a game, from kickoff through conclusion. At the Rose Bowl, at Ohio State games: the intensity of the Michigan fans on Tuesday was unprecedented in my experience. It was like being in a students' section for the entire game. Everyone stood, and everyone screamed. Once the post-game ceremonies wrapped, the chants carried down to the men's room, and for a bizarre ten-second interval, there was a sort of tunnel of fans lined up waiting their turn and cheering on everyone walking out.

"What a happy day you've given me to remember the rest of my life."

Now, for a cheer, they are here triumphant ...

After Michigan had done it, after the seniors had finally won a bowl game, after they'd beaten the defending national champions on what might as well have been their own field, the players went to Lloyd Carr, and lifted him up on their shoulders. It was long overdue.

How perfect was that? Seeing Lloyd, beaming, hoisted into the air. And because he's Lloyd, after a few seconds, he started banging on their shoulder pads, telling them to let him down because he had to go shake the opposing coach's hand.

Urban Meyer, defeated in a bowl game for the first time at Florida clasped Lloyd's hand and then listened to what the now-retired coach had to say.

"Someday you're going to retire and your guys are going to play as hard as my guys played," Carr told him.

Maybe. It's hard to imagine players who love their coach more than Michigan's do Lloyd. As Shawn Crable, who could have been buried for some technically dunderheaded plays that may have cost Michigan important games at Ohio State last year and against Appalachian State this year said:

"He made me into a man ... I was 18 when I came here. I had just turned 18 and I thought I knew everything. He was more than just a coach. He understood was coaching was, but he also understood what turning out men took. I know a lot more. I can handle myself in different situations."He took a lot of boys who thought they were men and turned them into real men."

And that he did so with compassion, dignity, and yes, even that oft-misused term, class, is why even those who never played a down for the man love him so. Under his leadership, Michigan has been as close to the ideal of collegiate athletics as you can get while still kicking ass at the highest level of the game. We love that. We really, really do, and not everyone gets it.

It's easy to think that Michigan is some weird little arrogant enclave, cut off from the rest of the college football world by spread offenses, multimillion-dollar coaches and a new brand of focused, NFL-style coaches. If you thought that, and you're not a Michigan fan, then you can be forgiven. Because it can certainly look that way at times if you don't slow down to take a longer look.

What makes Michigan special, what makes me proud to be represented by Lloyd Carr, Shawn Crable, Mike Hart, Chad Henne and others, is that Michigan seems to be one of the few remaining fanbases that realizes college football is just that. It's college football.

Although it's easy to forget, what with a national worldview formed by ESPN chatters, blogospheric one-upsmanship and columnists who parachute into our world to provide a Brooksian take before returning to their nests lined with old clippings of articles about Bill Parcells. But this is an amateur sport, played by mostly teenagers, for the enjoyment of students, alums and fans. Winning is NOT everything. Although playing hard to do just that most certainly is.

In the NFL, coaches call time outs a fraction of a second before the ball is snapped for a winning field goal. In the NFL, coaches cut nonperformers in a heartbeat. In the NFL, winning really is everything, and those who can't win are shown the door. Because lovable losers just don't exist at that level, and seats will get empty fast. At any given time in the pros, there's a handful of teams who are just cycling coaches in and out the door until they get a spark. My own pro team did that for a while, and it really, really sucks ass. If the Browns hadn't broken out the way they did this, year, the media and fans would have been clamoring for Romeo Crennel's handsomely mustachioed head on a platter (presumably surrounded by a stadium-mustard reduction). There's a few college programs that do that, too, and some of their fans even seem to revel in it. Maybe purgatory can be a blast, but that sounds like hell to me.

I don't want my university's team to be like a pro team. It's tough to talk about ideals and stuff like that without wandering over on to the preachy side of things, but, yes, I really do want Michigan to represent ideals like sportsmanship, fair play, hard work, education and, yes, seriously good football. Considering them the equal of any other team in one's fan portfolio is missing the point.

Pro teams are assemblages of people who came to their team for a reason beyond their control. They were either drafted, and had no say in it, or the whims of the market brought them there.

Michigan's football players came there of their own free will. They looked at the other possibilities and made a decision, just like all the rest of us who went to school there. Sure, when I sent in my housing deposit, I wasn't thinking of my NFL draft prospects, but I was thinking about my future just the same. I came to Ann Arbor, I looked around and said: Yes, this could be home.

And so did everyone on that roster. It's fundamentally different from the pros, where there's a payroll to be met, seats to fill, scoreboard graphics to design, beer prices to set, T-shirt guns to buy, naming rights to be sold and all that other nonsense.

College football really is different. No matter how much ESPN, the BCS, Fox Sports and a good deal of fans are dragging the game toward the other trappings of professionaldom. Just win, baby is not the lowest common denominator. At least, not at Michigan.

Lloyd Carr got that, and then some. And that, more than the Big Ten titles, national championship and sustained success, is why he will be missed.

* * *
"So gentlemen, what a happy day you have given me to remember the rest of my life.” -- Lloyd Carr, concluding the final postgame speech of his career after Michigan beat Florida 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1, 2008.

Us too, Lloyd. Us too.