Monthly Archives: March 2007

go commonwealth rams!

3/14/07

Okay, you crazy kids. You have until noon (eastern time) and 9am (pacific) to get your picks into ESPN’s xtcian-4GNNB tournament pool, so git’ movin’! If you are just now realizing we were doing it, put a comment below ASAP using your real email address in the “we won’t show it” field, and I’ll try to get you an invite in time!

pleasure twice, butt once

3/13/07

My Fascinating Home Improvement Projects

or

What Happens When Daddo Gets a New Miter Saw

Even before I started taking Mother’s Little Helper to improve energy and focus, I’ve always had at least one project going at any given moment. This has been true since I was about eight years old. In fact, I can’t imagine not having some sisyphean task in your house that has nothing to do with your career; what a crappy world that’d be. If I’m not buying the wrong size hex bit, I’m not psyched.

Anyway, I thought I’d bore you into a senseless, limp sack of barely-warm meat by sharing four projects I’ve done over the last six months or so. As always, my disclaimer: nobody is making you read this. If you have a cancer vaccine you’re working on, by all means get back to it.

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click any of these pics for bigger versions

1. The Magnetic Kitchen Chalkboard – Speaking of seemingly cancerous things to drink, there’s this awesome paint made by MagnaMagic that, once applied, becomes both a chalkboard and a magnetic surface. I warn you, it’s the heaviest gallon of paint I’ve ever held; it feels like you’re carrying the collapsed nucleus of an imploded supernova.

We wanted this wall in the kitchen to be a general “leave notes and let Lucy play with it” kind of space. The house we rent is an old Craftsman from the 1940s, so it has that quaint Happy Housewife feel, with a fair amount of pink in the kitchen. I found an old electric wall clock (top left) and painted the trim pink to match.

The magnetic chalkboard paint has the consistency of hot fudge, and takes some getting used to. After two coats, the magnetic properties weren’t all that great, so I put on a third coat and sanded it as smooth as I could. While drying, it cracked a little bit, so I’d definitely stick with two and just use strong magnets. Either way, Lulu and Tessa were pretty psyched with the results, and both started doodling the minute it was dry.

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2. The Great Attic Handrail Caper – We have an attic space that was converted into an office before we moved in, but it still has the somewhat-nightmarish folding attic staircase, and getting up (and down) was a drag. I thought about putting a straight vertical bar at the top, but the mental image seemed too much like those things in a handicapped bathroom.

Not that there’s anything wrong with a handicapped bathroom. They’re frequently much cleaner and more private, as any guy can tell you.

So I decided to calculate the angle of the staircase and existing handrail, and add a “crook” to my horizontal bar that would make it seem to be a visual extension of the original. I’m here to tell you that taking a handrail and adding a 28-degree crook is no laughing matter. It had to be shaved down, sanded, whittled, taunted and humiliated before it looked pretty.

Add three coats of high-gloss linen paint, attach via studs and butterfly screws, and voila! At the end of this project, I asked myself “what the fuck was THAT all about?”

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3. The Odd Notch Map of Scotland – One of my first “blog hits” was an ancient rime I wrote about bizarre U.S. state shapes, and when we were in London last year, I came across this map. It has a notch at the top for no reason, other than to include part of the Cairngorms mountain range in Scotland. Weirdly enough, that notch was where Tessa hiked as a young girl, so I had to get it.

Taking it to a framing shop, however, was out of the question. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a frame shop, even a chain like Aaron Brothers, but they charge you $50 just to walk in. So I found some cool wood trim, stained it red mahogany, and then went batshit with the miter saw. Putting that thing together took the whole week before Christmas, and it didn’t help that I had strep the whole time.

I finished it on Christmas Eve and got it to Tessa before collapsing. Now it hangs in our bedroom, and it’s oddly compelling in a way that only asymmetrical things can be.

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The Picture That Went On Forever – Back in 2003, I posted a stitched-together panorama of the hill by our farm, taken while the leaves were changing. I’d always wondered what it would look like as a printed picture, and once I figured out that our Epson had a paper-roll feature, I wanted to push it to its breaking point. Turns out that the Epson 2200 can actually print something six feet long, but my silly panorama was actually longer than that.

So I fixed up the image, strung it together into the biggest Photoshop file this side of Lars Lucier, and divided it into three long rolls. Target had some of those long frames on sale, so I painstakingly mounted the three pictures in the frames with some white foamboard and a matte knife. In the end, the hardest thing was getting them to line up on the wall correctly.

But now that it’s there, we can come back after a crazy day of meetings and L.A. traffic, lie on the side of the bed, and imagine what it’s like on that hill right now.

8 degrees, with a wind chill of negative-20. mmmmmm, yummy.

mormons take xavier by 8

3/11/07

First off, a big congratulations to my beloved North Carolina Tar Heels for winning the ACC Championship! N.C. State had a miracle run – and I’m sure won the hearts of many casual fans – but I’m incredibly happy for Roy and our boys. If you look at the last ten years of winners, it seems like nobody but Dook was playing, and I’m glad I outlived that despondency. And for all you Reyshawn haters out there, you can suck it. He was an assassin.

So now it’s truly March Madness, and in that spirit, I’d like propose a first: our own tournament challenge right here on the blog. We used to just do it with the four of us from college, with me, Jon, Chip and Bud making up the Four Guys Not Named Biff. Our selections were made by fax, phone message, semaphore, Morse code and smoke signals. Now we have the internet, and it’s a little easier.

So I cordially invite each of you regular (and irregular readers) to do two things:

1) Comment below, saying why you’re awesome. In the “email” field, please leave your actual email (if you don’t do so normally). Nobody but me ever sees those addresses, and I’ll email you the special invite with the password.

2) The link will take you to our ESPN page where you can sign up and submit your picks. Feel free to ignore the goddamn Pontiac ads.

The winner of this contest gets a blog day all to themselves, where they get to write whatever they want. They’ll also get a special treat mailed from wherever we are living that week.

I warn you now – Tessa keeps winning these things. It’s embarrassing. She has some rule about geography, and time zones, and sleep, and god knows what, but it works. You’ll be trying to out-pick her, and I haven’t been able to do it for three years.

So research Withrop and Creighton and find out where the Purple Eagles are from! You don’t have to know anything about basketball to be good at this, just willing to place your bets on a ragtag team of kids from the Niagara Falls area!

lower shoulders, tighten adductors

3-8-07

You know I like to endorse products that truly work for me, like those outrageously expensive boxer briefs I touted last year, along with my usual hosannas for Afrin, Excedrin, Celexa and Mother’s Little Helper. Well, I’ve given it seven months, and I’m here to tellsya that the Super Slow Workout kicks all sorts of ass.

I know it sounds like a fad, or a reason to stop eating yellow food, or Oprah’s “secret” or something like that, but a good friend had just been certified, so Tessa and I decided to try it out. The sell? It’s half an hour, once a week. And research shows that it does as much, or more, than working out 3-4 times. If you’re the sort that needs cardio, then you can run once (or play hoops) at some other point during the week, but seriously, the base requirement is thirty minutes of your time.

One drawback is that it can be a little expensive, but the price gets you a personal trainer catering to your specific issues, and it costs less than a gym membership where you occasionally catch horrifying glimpses of fat white guys’ testicles. SS uses special weight machines that are specially calibrated, and instead of doing intense reps, you go verrrrrrrryyyyyyy SSSSLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWW.

The trainer coaches you through every move, and after thirty minutes on 6-7 different machines, you are done – the aftermath is palpable, intense, and satisfying. One of the best things is its asceticism: there is no music, no distractions, and usually, no other people around at all. I’ve never been one for privacy and seclusion, but I swear it makes it almost soul-divining.

But whatever. I can tell you this: neither Tessa nor I was going to go to a gym three times a week. But we could certainly do a half an hour. In the interim, I have lost two pants sizes and gone down a shirt size. My left knee, which had been hurting for two years, suddenly felt fine. My neck has stopped being a bloated mass, and is now just vaguely annoying.

Back in the early ’90s, the Sex Police and Dillon Fence guys had a name for “doing things differently” or a “stylish shortcut en route to your goal”. They called it “Hobex style,” as in “let’s go to Durham via Erwin Road hobex style” or “Chip took it to the rack hobex style”. Greg, of course, named his second band after it.

Most Americans spend a lot of time looking for their quick fix, a magic pill that will shave precious corners on the way to everything they always wanted. Most of the time, it ends in fizzled epiphanies and margarine. Super Slow, at least for me, is the hobex style, an unexpected, less arduous alternative that accidentally happened to fix my body. Not bad for a lark.

smug harbor

3/7/07

WARNING: I AM ABOUT TO BE THE BIGGEST ASSHOLE EVER.

I just have to harken back to 2001, which was a pretty terrible year for reasons I don’t need to repeat here. It was notable, however, for two things that served to make me gray with despair: Dook won the national championship, and George W. Bush shredded the American Constitution.

Sure, it’s a mix of high and low vernaculars. Bush is responsible for the war in Iraq, and Dook basketball isn’t even responsible for Nixon. But the two are related on some pretty base levels, even if it’s in the back of my own brain.

Perhaps because I’ve hated both Bush and Dook since the first seconds I encountered either. It doesn’t help that Koach K spends the offseason raising money for Republicans, but when you think about the character of both, it makes sense. Like Blythe says, K has always been primarily about his Business and winning at all costs despite his resources – and neocons are eerily similar.

And I’m no fool. I know John Edwards got boos when they showed him on the Dean Dome Jumbotron during a Heels game. Democrats have a ways to go before making inroads into the NASCAR subset of Carolina fans. And hell, some of my beloved commenters are K-bashing conservatives.

But I just can’t help feeling vindicated these days. I’ve spent damn near twenty years spewing vitriol about Dook (except for Scotty and Lars, natch), and the last week has seen the fake Gothic façade crumble. Just look at any coverage, and you’ll see stuff like this:

Greg Doyel slams K

or

Wisconsin coach tells it like it is

or

Media wonders why nobody apologized to Hansbrough

or, my favorite,

the guys from “Around the Horn” shred Dook apart.

You can’t swing a dead East German transsexual swimmer around the Web without hitting some pundit willing to sell Durham Clown College’s unique brand of smug thuggery up the river, and that means the planets are finally lining up in harmony.

Likewise, George W. Bush’s approval rating is clanking around 29, with only 20% believing we can “win in Iraq” and 58% wishing he’d just Not Be President Anymore Already. His legacy is all but moribund, his old friends are all going (or gone) to jail, and he has become a tragic punchline.

Let me tell you this: many of us spent the years 2000 through 2005 shrieking in horror at what this man has wrought, and many of us contemplated moving out of the country in November 2004. At the same time, I was watching my beloved Tar Heels tank in general and lose to Dook over and over and over; I believe we were something like 4-15 during that period.

Now the country has come to its senses and the sports world has too. Men were exposed for being what they are. Sure, GWB and Dook have several tricks left up their sleeves and perhaps it’s way too early to be etching tombstones. Koach K could pull off a stunning tournament upset, and Bush may still fuck us all yet. And believe me, I know what I sound like when I equate a college basketball rivalry with the future of the free world.

But for right now, I’m going to GLOAT.

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Tyler Hansbrough leaving for the ACC Tournament today

you just haven’t earned it yet, baby

3/6/07

Today’s CODE WORD question is a good one: my nephew Sam is applying to UNC, and amongst the usual application stuff, they started asking short-answer questions a couple of years ago. One of the questions was this: Who, over the last 50 years, do you hate the most?

At the end of the questionnaire, the admissions board revealed the most popular responses. Sam came back to the hotel and told us the number one most hated person amongst all applicants, apparently, by a wide margin.

So I put it to you… who do you think it was?

big bertha was the first to go

3/5/07

Tomorrow’s our last full day in Chapel Hill, and though I hate to bust out superlatives, this was damn near a perfect visit to the Southern Part of Heaven™. In terms of work, I got the beginning of a new script written, and Tessa firmed up an hour-long pilot we’ve been finishing. In terms of everything else, well… what else can you ask for?

1) I got to play two hours of hoops with Chip and a few of the old crew at Carrboro Elementary while it was 70 degrees outside.

2) We ate at Bullocks, Dip’s, Crook’s and the new Pepper’s, in that order. Barbecue, barbecue, shrimp & grits, and the spinach calzone.

3) We got to meet a host of new students through Peter’s class, and gossiped with several. I even went by the Daily Tar Heel and talked shit with pals old and new. Katie from the DTH Front Desk is wonderfully nice, and Kevin Schwartz has not aged a day since 1990. Shout out to the Jessicas Scism and Schonberg; one is the editorial page editor, and the other is a current Pink House resident. One cannot get much cooler than either.

4) We witnessed a Dook game that accomplished many things: extended our streak, continued their misery, and exposed their program for what it really is.

5) Our nephew Sam came to visit the campus, as he is in 11th grade and taking his tours. Great weather and great kids to lead him around. We’re not pressuring him, and hope the place sells itself, but wouldn’t it be awesome? Dear Carolina: give this young man a full ride; you won’t be disappointed.

6) Lucy got to meet everyone and their kids, as well as further adventures with her godmothers and godfather!

As for the rest, I’ll just post some pictures. Here’s me, Tessa and Peter before class:

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Lucy and Godfather Chip:

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GFWD and Annie hooping during the lunar eclipse:

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Lucy plays with Meg at the Weaver Street “no kids allowed” fountain!

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The crowd growing restless after Hansbrough was assaulted:

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Here’s a detail of the same picture: note Roy vs. Krzyhwersjyi staredown:

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And here’s an even cooler detail of the same pic: I took my nephew to the game and scalped separate tickets for Tessa and Chip. I was experimenting with high quality definition on the camera, figuring I might be able to spot some friends in the crowd later in Photoshop. I went to the upper right corner of the image, and lo and behold, there’s Chip and Tessa! I had to do some wonky brightness and contrast filters, but it’s still pretty awesome:

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For fans of mob mentality and social anthropology, you can download the original 3.2MB file by right-clicking (PC), option-clicking (Mac) or just plain clicking on this link. Note how every Dook player stands with their hands on hips, in the traditional “defiance” stance, whereas the Heels (except for a couple) are loose, perhaps due to shock, righteous indignation, or an attempt to quell anger. Note several people in the stands describing their take on Tyler’s nose, and the managers being summoned to clean up blood in the tunnel.

Even more interesting: note the number of people in the stadium – thousands – following the lead of both alpha males Roy Williams and Koach K, with their arms folded in a combination of impatience, disbelief and worry. Even my wife is doing it. I dunno, I find this stuff fascinating.

indelible images etched

3/4/07

Wow. This was my 22nd consecutive home Dook game in a row, and just as I think I’m approaching “I’ve seen it all” territory, along comes a finish to a brilliant game that is so ugly that it bears remarking, even here, where 60% of my audience can’t tell a moving pick from a ice pick. Suffice to say my beloved Tar Heels won an amazing defensive battle, fought off several Dook surges, and were up twelve points with less than a minute left.

Tyler Hansbrough got an offensive rebound and was fouled by That Moronic Hunk of White Meat Otherwise Known as Josh McRoberts. Thus Tyler is in the game, late, shooting foul shots. He misses – but then, because he is made of fantasticness, got his own rebound.

Miserable Dookie Gerald Henderson runs clear across from the other side of the court, flies into the mix, then crushes Tyler’s nose with the kind of uncontrolled vengeance usually reserved for the bad guys in “Die Hard” movies.

Tyler hits the floor with blood spurting everywhere, then is escorted off the court, lest he actually eat Gerald Henderson. In the training room, surrounded by his dad, the doctor and a dentist, his jersey is now crimson with blood. He says what you’d expect him to say: “I want to go back out there. Like this.”

Do you know who would be the first to clean him up? Yes, that’s right:

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As the evening progressed, the revisionist historians (led by notorious UNC-hater Billy Packer) have tried to say it was an unintentional foul. Having been at the game, where it all happened so quickly, I was ready to believe them. But the video shows Henderson lunging across court, jacked up, pissed off, and ready to “send a message.” Anyone who has ever played hoops in an emotional game will tell you two things:

1) revenge is only served boiling hot

2) you don’t have to be looking at someone to intentionally break their nose.

Koach K, for his own part, played the part of Disingenuous Hypocritical Coward:

“The game was over before that. The outcome of the game. That was unfortunate that those people were in the game in that way. But that’s what happens. You know, I mean it’s 20 seconds left. What I’m saying, I’m not blaming anybody, it’s unfortunate, we should have both probably had our walk-ons on….I’m not blaming anybody. You know, I’m not blaming anybody…”

There are so many things wrong with this statement that I must again resort to numbering them:

1) It doesn’t matter who’s in the game, you twisted pair of fuckpants. NOBODY SHOULD SLUG ANYONE IN THE FACE, EVER.

2) Tyler had a sub waiting at the scorer’s table, and was only in the game BECAUSE ONE OF YOUR FUCKING PLAYERS FOULED HIM.

3) Koach K, you are NOTORIOUS for playing five players for 40 minutes each, and running up the score for fifty-five point beatdowns on the likes of St. Agnes Girl School For The Blind, you callous twit.

4) We were up 12 points. In the era of the 3-pointer, anything is possible. Dean Smith kicked your predecessor’s ass by making up eight points in seventeen seconds before the 3-pointer existed.

5) ALL YOUR STARTERS WERE IN TOO, YOU FRICKIN’ SALTED NUT SNACK!!!

Thus, in the course of one sniveling rat-packed moment, Koach K managed to blame Hansbrough and Roy Williams for lacerating Tyler’s nose. Look, this is no joke, as my brother Sean can tell you: a blow like that can shatter your occipital bone and permanently disfigure your face, destroy your teeth, even blind you in one eye. Sean saw it happen in 1990 (in choir practice, no less). Let’s just call this what it was: unthinkably bad sportsmanship from a program whose era is beginning a long, inexorable slide towards sunset.

Me? I’m with these chicks:

our guys!

if there’s something you want to say

3/1/07

Had a great time tonight watching the Carolina game… wait, strike that. Had a terrible time watching the Carolina game, had a great time seeing a bunch of my oldest friends at various spots on a rainswept Franklin Street. For those of you in blogland, we got to hang with Neva at the Wine Bar, someone I last saw at a Johnny Quest show in 1990. As a doctor, she has helped me through my innumerable whines over email, and she is just as awesome in person.

Together with Annie and Tessa, we watched Greg Humphreys play an acoustic set at the front of the bar, and he even threw in two songs for me: “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” by the Smiths, and “Lisa Marie” from his Outside In album. “LM” is probably my favorite song of Greg’s, part of the seemingly unlimited gems he’s able to pull out of what a rock critic once called “Humphreys’ cosmic jukebox”.

Outside In, released in 1993, is a lost classic from the last decade, and deserves another go-round on your iPod for those of you lucky enough to own it. “Collapsis” made the hard-hearted Julianna Hatfield cry, and “Black-Eyed Susan” is perfect rock confectionery. When Greg first played it for me in my car a few days after we won the ’93 National Championship, I was sure they’d join the ranks of Dave Matthews and bust open a huge hit, but such is the cruel randomness of the music industry.

While recovering from that debacle otherwise known as UNC vs. Ga. Tech, Greg and Ann and I sat at Millhouse in Carrboro long after our waitress stopped working and began drinking at the bar. In an era of quick fixes and miracle cures, there’s still no substitute for shared history, the kind of pleasure you find in people you’ve known across the decades.

Pounding rain on a chilly night in Chapel Hill, alone in the living room in a house on Purefoy Street, I’m reminded of the many intense dreams we had while we were here, and as amazing as we all turned out, there’s always a little sadness about coming back to a place where so many schemes were hatched. Listening to the water cascade over the gutters, I think about the lyrics of “Lisa Marie” and fight off an old melancholy:

She looked at me and smiled

For a moment I thought I… had a chance

Stop and say hello

For a moment I thought I… had it easy

For a moment, I…

I…