Monthly Archives: April 2008

emma chi upsilon

4/9/08

For those still conscious after the Heels got drubbed in the Final Four, we got ourselves some winners in the annual pool – and it was a tie! Our girl Emma, who wrote here on March 18 that she would “go ahead and start working on my guest blogging piece” before she even entered her picks, dunked on the naysayers who thought she was being cocky. Our other winner, Scott Burkett, played with this head and not his heart, and wound up at top.

Today will be Emma’s blog. Enjoy!

***

Sure, everyone knows the basic rules for picking games in an NCAA tournament bracket. A number 16 seed has never defeated a number one seed. Nearly always, one number 12 seed beats a number five seed in the first round. In the years since the field has been 64 teams or more, a number 15 seed has beaten a number 2 seed only a handful of times.

I have come up with some other rules to go by in doing my picks every year. And who am I to make up rules for March Madness Bracketology? Well, nobody, really. I have never played sports. But I have watched college basketball ever since my grade school teachers let us watch the ACC tourney on ACC tournament Friday. I clearly remember watching the 1982 NCAA championship game. To this day, I swear I was the first person on that rainy night on Franklin Street in 1993 to come up with the thought that TimeOut should put a picture of Chris Weber making that beautiful T with his hands in the national championship game.

I don’t remember when I did my first bracket, but I am guessing it was about 15 years ago. My husband has conducted an office pool since he has worked at his office and has kept a Hall of Fame. In the last 11 years, I have placed first or second in the pool five times. I think I finished in the top five in the xtcian pool last year, but don’t quote me on that. In perfect candor, I did make the Hall of Shame in 2004, but I will blame that on the fact that I had a one-year-old and a three-year-old at the time and who really had time to care about basketball that year?

Back to the brackets. I have fun with it and these are my rules. As soon as put my rules out there, I am sure that I will become the world’s worst bracketeer, but that’s a chance I’m willing to take.

1. First step: You must get a newspaper the Monday following Selection Sunday. In that paper, you’ll find blurbs on all 65 teams in the field. This will provide valuable information for your selections, such as Team Coach, Team Mascot, town where the school is located, season record and how the team has performed in the NCAA before.

2. If in doubt, go with a family member. For example, my maiden name is Stallings. Therefore, when I see that Kevin Stallings is the coach of Vanderbilt, Uncle Kevin will get into the second round of the tourney. (This did not do me much good this year, but has worked in the past.)

3. If in doubt, go with your sisterhood. Back in 1995, when the Miami of Ohio Redhawks were still the Redmen, they made it to the big dance. I think they had a player who wore this great and funny looking pony tail on the top of his head who was a lot of fun to watch. So, I picked Miami of Ohio to make it to the second round. They made it. My husband looked at me and said, “Why did you pick that team?” “Because that is where Delta Zeta was founded, of course.”

4. If the field fits it, pick a final four theme. It must have been 1997 when I decided that it would be fun to have a feline filled final four. My picks were probably Arizona, Kentucky and Clemson. Carolina would have been my exception to the theme.

5. As any gal would tell you (even a fashion idiot like myself), if you can’t find any other distinguishing factor, go with the better team color or basketball uniform. I promise you, you won’t find a better basketball uniform than those designed by Alexander Julian. In fact, maybe we should bring those unis back for good luck.

6. Don’t enter a pool with more than fifty people in it. Although the payout is better, you’ve limited your odds of winning way too much. I like pools with about 25-30 people in them (I will break my rule for the xtcian pool every year. I have always said that rules were meant to be broken).

7. Never spend more than thirty minutes filling out your brackets. Don’t overthink it. Go with your gut.

8. No matter how fun it is to pick UNC every year, it’s not reasonable to predict them to win the National Championship every year. Pick UNC when it is reasonably likely for them to win the National Championship. Branch out and pick another team every so often. Of course, if they are the #1 seed in the entire tournament, this gal will be picking them.

After Saturday night’s game, I really didn’t feel too much like writing about March Madness today, but I certainly didn’t want to write about politics or religion. Global warming has been discussed ad nauseum recently. I could talk about music, running or the beauty of eastern North Carolina (I said eastern NC, not East Carolina), but it was basketball that got me here today.

So, a thought came to me, a smile appeared on my face, my fingers danced a little bit as I started typing, and I decided to talk about basketball. The thought? No matter how you look at this basketball season, we outperformed Dook in every way, shape and form.

seitan tastes like sheitan

4/8/08

Rampant cursing, messianic self-pity, the maniacal destruction of inanimate objects, decades of revenge fantasies… I’m a treasure trove of things I can teach the Lulubeans to avoid. One to add to the archives: when to stop being defensive and just admit that your critics are not always completely deranged. And so it is with the environmentalism on this blog; I’m going to completely let it go.

It’s true that I fly a lot, more than the average person, and while I’m not convinced my personal travel behavior has any real meaning, I also have to come to grips with another, worse truism: nothing I do has any real environmental meaning. None of the hybrid car-driving, none of the offsets, none of the solar power, none of my habits put the slightest dent in the problem.

Barring a completely new energy source, we’re only rearranging deck chairs. In his devastating article last year in the NYT, Thomas L. Friedman showed how two cities exploding with people – one in Qatar and one in China – renders everything we do irrelevant:

Hey, I’m really glad you switched to long-lasting compact fluorescent light bulbs in your house. But the growth in Doha and Dalian ate all your energy savings for breakfast. I’m glad you bought a hybrid car. But Doha and Dalian devoured that before noon. I am glad that the U.S. Congress is debating whether to bring U.S. auto mileage requirements up to European levels by 2020. Doha and Dalian will have those gains for lunch…

I drive my car and plan my little projects in the vain hope that I have some control over the world, but it’s an illusion than can best be described as “cute,” especially by Americans who might read this 20 years from now. And that’s where I made one of the biggest mistakes on this blog: I pretended my illusion was real, and argued accordingly.

All it really did was set me up for attacks, laying open wide avenues of hypocrisy, and leading to more cases of the Lindsay Doctrine in action. So here’s the deal: I don’t care anymore. Remember when I asked you to do “one thing” to help with climate change? I rescind my plea, and honestly, please do anything you want. Recycle if you want to, burn endangered yak fat in a pit in your backyard if you want to, I’m walking away from the charade. I’ll still do all my enviro-stuff because old delusions die hard and it’s our little way of giving Dick Cheney the finger, but I’m through kidding myself.

Part of this is because I’m tired of subconsciously – and consciously – editing myself on the blog. If I’m going to keep doing this, I can’t second-guess everything I write, and I was intentionally leaving out entire trips I was taking, cool shit I was buying, and rants that were percolating, because I didn’t want to have to hear about my conspicuous consumption, my flying, and my bourgeois tastes. I am tired of putting “for work” as a modifier to my plans, because, quite frankly, some of these things end up as stories for the career, and others end up as stories for experience.

I’ve decided I can no longer care, even a little bit, what someone thinks about my lifestyle. As such, I’m acquiescing the environmental argument. If I write about going to Scotland to taste a rare barrel at Bruichladdich, and you think my airplane is a blight on the troposphere, I’m not going to fight you. If I buy another piece of electronic equipment from the Apple Store, and you think I spend too much money on crap, I bow my head and tip my cap.

Despite the squibbling over the last few days, there is one Basic Tenet of XTCIAN, and I’d forgotten it: “At all times, you must know exactly how stupid you look.” When I got married, and some cranky old acquaintances on another message board commented that I looked “goofy” and that “Tessa was too pretty for me” and that we were “two yuppies in love… BARF!” my comment back was “NO FUCKING DUH, SHERLOCK.”

I get it, the “three houses”, the leftist claptrap, how I’m “hopelessly out of touch”, the not having a real job, the “not understanding how this country really works”, the big words, the Hollywood name-dropping, the religion-bashing, I get it, I get it. But I lost self-awareness on the environmental stuff, and I’m relieved to let it go, so I can get back to the business of being an effortless prick with a clean conscience.

3 oz. of liquid

4/7/08

Okay, let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. Any and all comments about the greenhouse gases emitted by my travels will be referred to this entry from now on. Let me say it loud and clear: I USE AIRPLANES FOR TRAVEL. I WILL CONTINUE TO USE AIRPLANES FOR TRAVEL. I TRAVEL PLACES YOU MAY NOT THINK ARE ESSENTIAL. I TRAVEL A LOT, AND NOT ONLY FOR WORK – OCCASIONALLY I WILL TRAVEL TO WATCH A BASKETBALL GAME FEATURING MY BELOVED TAR HEELS.

But I thought you were a rabid environmentalist! Isn’t that a little hypocritical?

I’m sorry, I can’t really hear you when you’re sucking my balls.

*Ahem*. I said… I thought you were a rabid environmentalist! Isn’t that a little hypocritical?

In some ways, yes. I am one of the (roughly) 100-250 people who elected to take a flight to a place where the plane was going anyway. If I had gotten together with the other 100-250 people, and told them all to drive to Italy… well, no, they would have flown the empty plane anyway. But if I started a groundswell of public outcry against air travel and convinced 30% of all Americans not to fly to Europe anymore, they would probably reduce the number of JFK-Rome flights from four to three.

Am I culpable? Yes. I’d argue that my culpability is very, very small, but yes, it exists.

I’m not talking about vacation flights to Europe, I mean flights to a place like San Antonio, just to watch a basketball game.

Ah, but is it just to watch a basketball game? When I went to Texas last weekend, I met up with my buddies Jon Vaden and Chip Chapman – two friends I’ve had for 23 years. We talked for two days about our various life issues, offered support where we could, and even visited the Alamo – along the way, spending money in the local economy:

IanJonChipAlamo(bl).jpg

So where do you draw the line for frivolity?

You could have driven. Didn’t you once say: “Every person on that… plane bears the responsibility for its gas usage. They made that choice, not me.”

Yes, but you’re taking me out of context. I was saying that to commenters who didn’t like the fact that I was driving across the country when there was a plane going there anyway.

Besides – and I’ll come clean here – many of my arguments against flying (and for driving) came from an irrational post-9/11 fear of flying that has since been mostly eradicated by therapy and Celexa. In a way, I was trying convince my wife to let me drive from New York to California twice a year, and thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.

Sounds like rationalizations to me. I mean, what percentage of man-made global warming is caused by airplanes?

1.7%.

Um. How much is caused by driving, shipping and trains?

12.3%.

Er… what about deforestation?

18%. Lighting accounts for about 20%. You see where this is going, don’t you? Let’s put it in simple terms:

A round-trip flight from LAX to San Antonio emits about 275 kg of CO2 per passenger. If you were to swap out ten incandescent bulbs for CFLs in your house, you would stop 385 kg of CO2 in one year. Hell, if you were to insulate your attic with rolls of R-38 from your hardware store, you’d save 1500 kg of carbon dioxide a year.

What are you getting at?

I’m saying “make realistic changes where you can.” If you don’t like buying carbon offsets, that’s fine, but instead of calling environmentalists who fly “hypocrites”, you could make about five changes to your own home that would cancel out every flight they’ll take for the next five years.

Oh no. Is this where you list all of your Great Environmental Achievements?

Yes, because it makes conservatives so furious. To wit: we drive a Prius (roughly 45 mpg), we own no incandescent bulbs, we are a one-car family in Los Angeles with no commute, our farm has a solar array that provides free energy to our house as well as several homes surrounding it, we heat with a wood stove (77% efficiency using a renewable resource), we’ve planted trees on both coasts, use new high-efficiency washers, dryers, dishwashers and refrigerators… and we pick airlines with new planes and a solid environmental plan.

Wait – what was that last part?

I make sure to fly new planes that are 44% more efficient than the ones we used in the ’80s (and are still around). And for our roundtrips back to New York, we almost exclusively use Virgin’s brand new planes, which not only have cool games and movies on demand at every seat, but Virgin itself is investing in a superfuel that may change travel as we know it.

Whatever. You’re still flying and still putting gas into the stratosphere.

Whatever. It’s always the climate change deniers who harp on this the most. They use our so-called hypocrisy as justification for doing absolutely nothing. I would make this warning, however: don’t forget what happened to the boy who never went on an airplane, never discovered new places, never visited other countries, never learned another language, never commiserated with old friends, and never ventured far because the world was too scary and complicated…

What?

He became a batshit wingnut reactionary Republican.

You can only do this environmental stuff because there’s money, etc. etc. prissy self-righteous, etc. etc. elitist, latté-drinking liberal fuck, etc. etc-

Wait, wait. I’m sorry. Again, it’s really hard to hear you whilst you suck my balls.

did somebody step on a duck

4/6/08

ChipIanAlamodome(bl).jpg

Chip, Jon, me, mid-1st half, Alamodome, score: 40-14

Honestly, I should have known it was over when I heard the Kansas pep band. They played an arrangement of some awesome pop/jazz invention that was clear, unexpected, complicated and catchy – the kind of piece actual musicians love. When our band took over, it was the same ragged tunes they’ve been flogging since 1987. Familiar, sure, but shopworn. It bore remarking.

I don’t think it’s possible to oversell the amount of hatred for North Carolina stuffed in the Alamodome on Saturday night. The rivers of royal blue coarsed through the aisles, powered by loathing, high on undying resentment and foaming with betrayal. Kansas fans wore shirts that didn’t toy with the language like those “Duck Fook” jokes: they actually said “FUCK ROY”.

If you were from another country and judged audience bias by noise and color, you would think 85% of the stadium were from Kansas, and about 300 people were from North Carolina. I can’t say I’ve ever been in a more hostile environment, and I’ve been to road games in the ACC. Jon, Chip and I tried our best, but sometimes it felt like we got mixed up at the concession stand and walked into the wrong movie.

They booed our players, they booed our coaches, they relished each of our botched shots like bon-bons from heaven. When they began to pull 20, 22, 25, 28 points ahead in the first half, tens of thousands screamed in furious ecstasy, addicted to the cruel adrenaline of knife-twisting. They reminded me of Eric Cartman making Scott Tenorman eat his own parents, then licking the bully’s face while moaning “Ooh, the tears of ultimate sadness! Let me taste your tears, Scott! Oh, num num num!”

SadShirtsForSale(bl).jpg

Okay, Kansas. You got it out of your system. Roy Williams was your coach, but then went back to his alma mater, taking what is arguably the best job in college basketball. Then he won the national championship with us. I understand you were pissed off. Now can you move on? Because if that’s all you had to fight for, Memphis is going to clean your fucking clock tonight.

ChipHatAlamo2(bl).jpg

this won’t hurt a bit

4/3/08

I had periodontal surgery in the afternoon, and lemme tellya, it just ain’t the same since dentists stopped busting the nitrous oxide. In order to preserve sterility, they had to put two sticky sheets of plastic over my face, therefore pinning me to the seat like Munch’s “The Scream”, then covered my eyes and stuck oxygen tubes up my nose.

Personally, I’m not claustrophobic and tend to enjoy having so little choices, but I could see how most other patients would freak out. As such, they give everyone three Atavan and some narcotic syrup by rote, just to weed out the potential spasmoids. The surgery itself was fine, vaguely uncomfortable, but I was really hoping for more fun with the Atavan. They were saying stuff like “some patients get up and start talking in made-up English and start pushing random buttons in the elevator.” I said, “you’re going to turn me into my daughter?”

Sadly, none of that happened – I didn’t have any crazypantsing at all, in fact, I was remarkably lucid all the way home. And then I lay down in bed at 12:30 pm, turned over, opened my eyes, and it was 8:15pm. What the fork?

Anyway, much to do now, because I’m going to meet the rest of my 407 Grimes Dorm roommates from 1986 – Chip and Jon – late tonight in fabulous SAN ANTONIO! Anyone else going to be there? WHOO-HOOO!

miss gradenko

4/2/08

Here’s the thing. I don’t like having just one song from an artist, or really, from an album. There’s something so disconnective about that for me – like a single gorgeous finger amputated from a distant body. When the whole concept of iTunes and illegal downloading went mainstream about in the early 2000s, the mantra was always “why pay for a whole album, when you can get only the songs you want?”

For most horrible pop acts, that seemed reasonable, But as a whole, I found several things about that statement sickening. To wit:

1) How the fuck do you know what songs you’re going to like? Do you really think a few seconds’ preview on the iTunes music store is going to give you insight into not just that song, but your shifting tastes two years from now?

2) There was a day when artists would make albums with an overall idea; a theme would run throughout, and each song was carefully placed. Hell, two of the greatest albums ever made – “Sgt. Pepper” and “Skylarking” – are utterly robbed of their power if you just snatch one song out of context.

3) Artists who advertise for iTunes (like Alanis Morrisette infamously did) are basically saying “half of my album is filler anyway”, but if that’s true, what the hell are you doing releasing seven shitty songs on an album of eleven? It’s stunning to me, in a world where so many struggling artists clamor to have five people show up at coffee shop, that established musicians are allowed to be so cavalier.

My solution? The iTunes store should stop selling individual songs for 99 cents – they should sell the whole album for 99 cents. If everyone is only downloading one song anyway, what’s the difference? Studies have shown that it’s still immensely profitable for record companies to sell their music at pennies per song – why not save themselves, and the concept of “the album” at the same time?

Doing so would compel illegal downloaders to go legit, which puts countless millions of dollars back into the hands of companies, and hopefully, artists. It will also compel the musicians themselves to discard their crap and make every song a stunner. Great books don’t have “throwaway chapters” meant to be ignored, why should albums?

And then, the album as a statement – not just a hodgepodge of potential hits and filler – can come back. “Synchronicity”. “OK Computer”. “The Wall”. “The Queen is Dead”. Think of those hidden songs, the fourth track on Side B, that snuck up and changed your life after you’d already heard the album twenty times. You can always right-click and erase whatever song you want, but more likely, you’ll keep the whole painting, even if the blue stroke in the corner takes longer to appreciate.

sgtpeppergroupouttake2.jpg

*kerplonk*

4/1/08

Guys, I apologize. I’m still so jetlagged that I begin to walk into walks by 10pm. Can someone say something rude and salacious in the comments to keep the dinner party going until I “come to,” as it were?