Monthly Archives: March 2007

mighty pleasin’, pappy’s corn squeezin’

3/29/07

Okay, general stuff and a Public Service Announcement on the blog… we are renting out our farmhouse in Columbia County again this summer, so if you know anyone in the New York City, Boston or New England area that would be interested in a summer getaway, by all means leave a comment on the blog, or respond to my email address. 4-5 bedrooms, a huge barn replete with fun stuff, 360-degree views of the mountains, and lots more. We’d like to have one renter for the whole summer – June 1 to Labor Day – but willing to do singular months if need be. I implicitly trust 90% of my readership, so if you guys have good leads, we’d rather do it through you friends than any other way.

As for this weekend, I have no idea who to pull for in the Final Four, as I don’t like any of the teams that much. We’ve suffered at the hands of all of them: UCLA throughout the ’60s, Florida (and Ed Cota’s complete ghost 5th foul) in 2000, Ohio State in 1992 (bleh), and Georgetown not just last weekend, but that utterly demoralizing loss in what would be Doherty’s last game as coach. Even so, I’ll probably pull for G-town, because I basically like their team, their coach, and they’re the underdog. A world where Billy Frickin’ Donovan has more championship rings than Roy Williams is a world that has lost its way.

I have submitted names to the other folks in the band, and we’re voting over the weekend. We each get to submit two, and then all four of us will vote for two (but not our own). I will report back as to the winner.

I am wearing a fleur-de-lis T-shirt and jeans from Lucky, and my least favorite color – and food – is olive. I am a Gemini and I hate hiking. That is all for this week.

impaled gail, lynched lyndon

3/28/07

So, our band is trying to come up with a name. We have a show in about three weeks, and lots of ideas have been thrown out, many of which sound great for about fifteen seconds, and then are met with the postmodern monosyllabic “meh.” It’s getting tiring, because none of them truly hit the ball out of the park, and I’m as much to blame as anybody. I always used to get some freshman city desk editor to write the headline for my newspaper columns because I hated doing it so much, and this requires the same skill set.

Here’s the big problem: words are so evocative that almost any seemingly-innocuous name can alarm the hairs on the back of your neck. On Tuesday, after overhearing a lady describing her two Jack Russell terriers at a magazine rack, I thought “Broken Coat” would be a great band name. One day later, however, I realized it sounded like a lonely emo high school group.

And so we look to our childhood for names that made us feel good when we were six, but they’re all copyrighted, and besides, pretty much every geological layer of our nostalgia has been ruined by excessive digging. I blame the internet for ruining our memories. Talking about the minutiae of our pasts – “hey, do you remember…” – used to be so divine, but now, it’s all on YouTube and there are entire websites devoted to shit like Spirographs and Spokey Dokes.

I beseeched my band to find a name from our youth “that hasn’t been through the ironic meatgrinder,” and for about five minutes, they wanted to name the band Ironic Meatgrinder.

I miss the unspoken, occasional memories that flash out from our childhood. I loved it when we would sit on the porch at the Purple House and talk about bands we loved and toys we played with. There was an “undiscovered country” about those memories, and it allowed us personal access and a shared history. Now all of that crap is plastered everywhere, about two clicks away from a Google search term.

I can’t talk about my childhood anymore without being paralyzingly self-conscious. Nostalgia only works when it’s tenuously out of reach. And it’s hell on band names.

lookin’ down on creation

3/27/07

Boy, am I a shrill bastard on this Global Warming thing, or what? You’d think I’d just shut up and get back to writing heartwarming television, but this exchange has made me so furious that I simply MUST take issue. Yes, the link takes you to Salon, where you have to watch an ad for ten seconds, or you could just subscribe, because they’re excellent.

Anyway, Al Gore went to the Senate last week to testify on what he calls “a planetary emergency.” I recommend reading the transcript for the sake of theater: he is constantly badgered by Known Idiotâ„¢ Senator James Inhofe, the moronic Republican from Oklahoma, whose ass is roundly kicked in turn by committee chair Sen. Barbara Boxer.

At one point, Boxer has heard enough, and tells Stupid Fuckwit James Inhofe, “You’re not making the rules. You used to when you did this. You don’t do this anymore. Elections have consequences, so I make the rules.” Applause erupted, at which point I finally decided to buy an American flag and shed a patriotic tear for my country again.

But it goes on, and you simply must read what half-wit Inhofe said in rebuttal to Gore’s science. First, he thick-wristedly tried to change the subject by bringing up Al Gore’s own household consumption, a favorite trick of conservative goons who have truly run out of things to say. Then he showed a picture of Buffalo’s snowstorm this winter, hinting that global warming can’t be happening if Buffalo is going to get this much snow.

Then he used an ancient argument tactic that is typically abandoned by every Debate Squad north of 8th grade: “Now, it seems that everything is blamed on global warming,” he bloviated, “Last summer we had a heat wave, and everyone said, ‘Oh, that’s proof. It’s global warming’.”

Then, his stunning reversal… some towns had record cold temperatures a few weeks ago! Finally, his masterful conclusion: “Where’s global warming when you need it?”

I’m sorry, but this yokel needs to have a basic math textbook nailgunned to his butter churn. He’s so stupid he’s dangerous.

Nobody ever said Katrina was the result of global warming. AT BEST, they said storms of Katrina’s destructive power will become more commonplace. No meteorologist or climatologist worth your respect has ever looked at a month-long period of above-average temps – say, December 2006 – and said, “well, it was because of global warming.” Inhofe is relying on some of the most disingenuous and gormless strawmen he can pitch together with lies and baling wire.

I may disagree with commenter Matt on issues of climate change, and I may find his sources to be biased, agenda-filled and contrary, but at least he comes at it speaking the language of science, and provides links and his own channels of research, and thus I’ve always respected him a lot. But for Inhofe to show the American Senate a picture of Buffalo one day in January as evidence that global warming is bunk… I mean, come ON, people, this guy is a SENATOR! HE ACTUALLY MAKES LAWS!

To paraphrase Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) in the first “Superman” movie, I’m amazed James Inhofe has enough intellect to keep his legs moving in order to walk. He’s the kind of guy that would say, “The earth is flat. You know how I know? LOOK AROUND YOU.” He would then present a picture of Buffalo, NY and say “Do you see the Earth curving in this picture? Neither do I.”

put your mask on first, then your child’s

3/26/07

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at the Gardner-Webb game early last season

As many of you have read yesterday’s entry have found out, Jason Ray, the 21-year-old senior who dressed as our mascot Rameses, passed away after being hit by a car near the team’s hotel in New Jersey. He was walking along a busy road at night en route to a convenience store nearby, something Sean, Michelle and I had done countless times while surviving my mom’s divorce in and around Morristown, NJ, staying at crappy hotels while producing various music books for kids.

Inevitably, you get hungry at midnight, the hotel’s candy machine only has Funyuns and Certs left, and since this country could give a fuck about walking anywhere, you find yourself traversing a sludge-filled moat and balancing on the curb of a state route in the middle of the night. I feel like I was there, I knew what that last errand was exactly like.

Suffice to say this: this country was made for cars. Getting out of one, in any kind of road environment, is an exercise in crappy odds. If you get a flat tire, ride that goddamn rim to safety, and get your car as far from the side of the road as possible. I won’t allow a tire to be changed within fifty feet of a highway, because someone, right now, is going 72 mph and reaching for a french fry caught between the cushions of the back seat, and he is damn well going to swerve onto the shoulder.

I’d like to use this entry for two purposes: one to offer our condolences to the Ray family, as we can’t possibly fathom the depth of their loss. Jason was an organ donor, and apparently up to fifty patients may be saved thanks to him. I’d encourage all of you to make sure you have the same provision on your license or in your will.

The second purpose is this: what lifesaving tip do you have for the rest of us? It can be anything mundane, or obvious, or long-term, or whatever. If you’ve heard of any situation where someone died needlessly, or read a statistic that shocked you, leave a comment about one thing we can do to try and nudge the odds a little more in our favor.

don’t get caught watchin’ the paint dry

3/25/07

The brackets have come off the magnetic board, my lucky shirts have been thrown in the laundry, even my little girl came up to me after the game when she saw me collapse into my hands. She just held on to my arm with her tiny fingers, not saying anything, just being there, and I have to admit, it made this exit better than the rest.

I’ve been following our team closely now for twenty-two years, and every year except two has ended in bitter disappointment. You’d think you’d get used to it; you gird yourself for the possibility, and yet there’s nothing you can do to prepare for your team going down. I hadn’t dared whisper plans – that maybe Tessa, Lucy and I could go stay with Salem outside Atlanta next weekend – for fear of karma, but all the magical thinking in the world can’t save your chosen religion when you go almost twenty minutes without making a field goal.

The rest of you may wonder what befalls true sports addicts, how they could possibly get so worked up about a game where a bunch of 19-year-olds throw around an orange piece of leather. I’ve tried to explain why it’s more of a philosophy than a sport, but I’m sure those blog entries look as ridiculous as this one.

Dean Smith said “if you live and die by basketball games, you’re going to do an awful lot of dying” and so this, too, will pass. He also said, when kids would leave early to go to the NBA: “you go to college to get a job.” No doubt one or two of our players will be looking at that particular job come Monday, but as for me, I’m back to work as well. Back to hammering out stories without the occasional thought about Reyshawn’s late-season heroics, or wondering if Brandan Wright has the necessary passion.

Lucy will be a little older by next season, and she’ll be following the ball, knowing when a basket is made; who knows, perhaps her crush on Tyler will find another dimension. I can tell you this: tomorrow we are nailing a little hoop to her bedroom door, and we will be playing out future glories as we hibernate another eight months ’til it all comes around again. She will know backspin, she will know rebirth, she will know the long story arc of a rainbow three, and the indefatigable optimism of a season to come.

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oh, snap

3/22/07

A quick word before we head out to the California desert to hang with my dad – happy Spring, everybody, and if any of you… like, say, my old friend Bridget! … have a good topic, set us out on our weekend in style!

By the way, Bridget isn’t an “old” friend, she’s an “old friend”. And a fantastic photographer. So is Lars. And Susan. And so many of my pals; an embarrassment of riches.

alberto v08

3/21/07

One of the most deeply satisfying things to come of the last year has been the constant horrorshow of the Republican party; as a progressive American, the only antidote for the years 2000 through 2005 has been watching the G.O.P. wheels fly off their body politic.

I don’t know how many of you have been following the Alberto Gonzales scandal, but Republicans are hoping it’s slightly too complicated for you to have an opinion one way or another. It’s really quite simple: Bush, Cheney, Rove and Attorney General Gonzales fired eight U.S. Attorneys for not being loyal to the neo-conservative playbook and/or not going after Democrats enough. At least six of them had previous glowing reports from the Justice Department, and it’s a clear “duh” to everybody (except die-hard Republicans, of course) that the firings were politically motivated.

At worst, it’s illegal, and at best, it’s stunningly unethical. The female statue of Justice always holds a set of of scales and has a blindfold covering her eyes, but the Bush Administration’s version has the blindfold covering her nipples, and her eyes wide open with rage at Democrats. When we no longer have impartial judges and are left with a bunch of conservative ideologues, we have… well, the Supreme Court.

But all of this is beside the point. Here’s what fascinates me: in this era of advanced focus group testing, spin control and “conventional wisdom” experts, why are the Republicans doing every wrong thing in the book? Imagine George W. Bush calling a press conference tomorrow and saying “You know what? We screwed up. I apologize for Alberto Gonzales’ behavior. I’m firing him, I’m firing everybody involved, and we’re starting over.” His popularity would shoot from 29% to about 53% in one day.

Look at the cavalcade of shit heaped upon Dook and Koach K in the aftermath of Gerald Henderson’s intentional foul on Tyler Hansbrough. If K and G had simply marched over to the UNC locker room after the game and said “We’re sorry. It may not have been intentional, but it was obviously painful and scary, and we apologize” then K might have emerged as the leader he claims he is.

Instead, it was a week of “well, Tyler shouldn’t have been in the game” and “Duke University isn’t that kind of school” and “The person I feel most bad for is Gerald” and wham! Cue every pundit on ESPN, all the major newspapers, and all sports radio announcers calling Koach K an asshole. And somewhere, there is a 12-year-old future hoops phenom who suddenly decided he wanted to go to Carolina instead.

Why? Why are these institutions being so stupid? All you have to do is swallow your pride for about forty-five seconds, and you’re rewarded with weeks – years – of good will. Hell, it happens in marriages too. Just choose a different path, the one where you say “Yeah, I kinda screwed up,” and avoid hours of recrimination and defensive posturing.

As for BushCo., I’m happy they’re being such fools. GWB’s complete inability to show nuance and admit mistakes was bound to emasculate his Presidency sooner or later; I just wish it had been sooner. I’m not asking for much, just the perfect leader: someone who is binary in some instances (national security) and nuanced in basically everything else. Calling our President a cowboy is an insult to real cowboys. It takes a real man to say he’s sorry.

three short followed by three long klaxons

3/20/07

QMNY.jpg

The Queen Mary, New York Harbor, circa 1938

Due to circumstances too bizarre to recount here, I found myself spending the last two nights on the Queen Mary. Built in the early 1930s in Scotland, it pretty much defined luxury transatlantic passage for Rockefellers too rich to be touched by the Great Depression. Pictures of the ship in its heyday are stunningly opulent, usually including the greatest statesmen and movie stars of the time.

Now it sits dry-docked in Long Beach, California, and it’s sorta like the Empire State Building: if you live there, you’ve probably gotten really good at ignoring it.

Most of the ship has been transformed into a hotel, accessible by ramps on various levels, and I have to say, it’s an abject lesson in missed opportunities. There are still many details left over from its days as working ship – well, I’ll post a few:

PortholeViewQM2(bl).jpg

the view from my porthole window

AirVentQueenMary(bl).jpg

the vents that control hot/cold air over the bed

BathtubFaucetsQM(bl).jpg

faucets promising a hot salt bath (welded shut)

ToiletHandleQM(bl).jpg

my favorite: the toilet handle with a roaring flush

But here’s the deal – like most things in America, the Queen Mary was ruined by disastrous home decoration decisions made in the early 1960s. It was like our farm in Columbia County: built in 1818 yet completely covered in yellow naugahyde and fake wood veneer siding. What were these people thinking?

The Queen Mary was two things – art deco and luxurious – and neither of those took kindly to plastic. And thus you have this ship that was synonymous with world travel and sumptuousness, moored forever in Long Beach and decorated by my grandmother.

It reminded me of the panther in Rilke’s poem, or the sad, old lions caged at the zoo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ships want to be in the water, undulating. The windows should be sprayed with Nordic ice, and the passengers should be barfing. The silent Queen Mary still longs for the waved hankies from the harbor in Cherbourg.

If not that, somebody needs to fix all the restaurants (except for the delightful Sir Winston’s) and bring the rooms back to their original splendor. The miserable tours need to be shitcanned, the shops need to stay open all night, and the land all around it needs to be razed and re-landscaped. It needs to be run by someone who can provide peerless service clicking at 100% efficiency with scads of excitement, bringing in huge amounts of money to one of the great pieces of world history sitting right here in America.

In short, it needs to be run by Salem Suber.

the importance of your opposite

3/18/07

Yeah, yeah, I’ll go back to other topics tomorrow, but ESPN’s NCAA bracket software is driving me bonkers. Not only does it randomly decide you don’t exist for a day, it loads more slowly than a teenager’s MySpace page. Dan Kois actually migrated his entire pool to CBS, although I’m not sure how he did it – I thought it was past the deadline. Either way, can somebody get some trained chimps to write us some code?

Not to say I told you so, but Tessa is thrashing me for the fourth year in a row. This is getting really boring, darling. Here’s the thing: I actually watch a lot of college basketball, even the occasional team that isn’t playing us. I’m up on SportsCenter, I follow a little bit of recruiting, and I have a pretty good working memory of a team once I’ve seen them.

And yet Tessa has this system where she determines how much sleep a team gets, along with some other theory or two, and she crushes me yearly. I’d also like to mention that currently, four of the top six players on our bracket site are women (five if you count Jon Vaden, who owns a Pure Prairie League album). What can it all mean? Cathie’s a priest, so she’s divinely inspired, but how about the rest of you?

The Heels made it past a gritty Michigan State team (sorry, Sean M., although I have to say I really like Tom Izzo) and now our team is off to NYC next weekend for the regionals. I have half a mind to fly back for the game, but apparently I’d be single-handedly responsible for the carbon emissions from the plane, so I guess by not going, the airline will no doubt cancel the flight. Or is that not how it works? I’m confused.

By the way, back in the Dark Ages, they used to say the ACC spent so much time beating the shit out of each other that they had nothing left for the NCAA tournament. Fortunately, that stopped being true about Carolina around 1991, but for the rest of the league, it seems so. Frankly, I don’t understand – and my bracket doesn’t either – how Virginia Tech, Virginia, Boston College and even Georgia Tech can show such brilliance throughout the regular season and then lay such an egg in the tournament?

And Dook, who managed to get 22 wins this year with 6 McDonald’s All-Americans, and gets beat by Virginia Commonwealth in the first round? Sure, it’s always nice to see them collapse into a immolating pyre of self-recrimination, but there’s something truly pathetic about their death spiral. Sure, they might rebound next year (or the year after) and we’d be back to quaking our fists with rage, but you have to be careful what you wish for, or else there might be nobody left to loathe.

and the Colonels have seen enough

3/15/07

I have fallen way behind on my newly-refurbished sleep schedule, and thus will leave you this week with Friday’s CODE WORD: my brother Sean (who just wrote one of the better blogs of his era) has specifically requested shit-talking on our ESPN page, so get over there and click on our message board. Oh yeah, you have to sign in for any of those links to work. [ed. note: forget about it, ESPN’s bulletin board software is TERRIBLE. Simply use the comments below]

Already we have one player, the overmodestly-named Just Andrew, who is tied for 1st in the entire country! Sure, he’s tied with a few thousand others, but tonight he sleeps a winner.

And I’m not quite sure how the computer ate Shannon’s picks, but I’m sure they were formidable. The ESPN software already booted DB off the group, and tried to heisman Tessa before I intervened. Our own Dan Kois lamented the death of the human Bracketmaster, but I have to add: what’s the point of having robots do it if they’re going to screw it up?

Okay, start shit-talking! I expect it to be OFFENSIVE and FUNNY.