Monthly Archives: August 2008

jan bártu of czechoslovakia


My wife and I are bizarrely matched for each other when it comes to a number of random things: we’ve both named all our pets after composers (a habit from both our parents), we both have an irrational love of maps, and we both have a long-term obsession with the Olympics. I loved the Olympics so much as a kid that I had the book where you enter the names of every medalist in every event – meaning I was passingly familiar with the dude who got the bronze in the Pentathlon in 1976.

I understand from the Gallup poll that 26% of Americans didn’t plan on catching any Olympics at all, but then again, these Games are getting the best ratings in 32 years, so I know plenty of you are watching. Add your thoughts if you wish, but here are some of mine so far:

– I’m still pissed off about the Chinese “women” gymnasts, and it’s not just their country’s blatantly obvious cheating on their ages. There’s obviously a tremendous cultural difference in how Americans see human livelihoods and state-mandated determinism, but plucking 3-year-olds away from their families, not allowing any contact, and making them eat/breathe/live gymnastics for a decade ought to register as a human rights issue.

Sure, the parents acquiesce, but do we have any idea what saying “no” to the government could mean for these families? The mere thought of giving up Lucy for gymnastics, and not seeing her for another ten years… hell, she has gymnastics camp on Saturday mornings, and I start to miss her after half an hour. The only silver lining about the underage girls is that they get to go HOME that much quicker.

– I have been a documented fan of Misty May’s ass for quite some time now, and in fact, that’s one of the top search terms that brings people to this blog. I’ll watch Kerri Walsh and Misty May play backgammon – and most of the Brazilians for that matter. But NBC giving us a two-hour slog through men’s beach volleyball the other night is a hunk of crap, especially when we never get to see badminton or ping-pong. Plus, one of our beach volleyball players looks exactly like James Carville, and it’s thoroughly distracting.

– The ads with Shannon Miller touting Claritin™ are a little sad. I’m sorry, I really adored Shannon when she nailed the full-twisting Yurchenko vault in 1992 – TWICE – and was subsequently robbed of the all-around medal. But the Shannon Miller of today has had so much work done…


– I know you don’t need me to harp on this when it’s all over the internet tubes, but my heart absolutely broke when I saw Yang Peiyi, the girl who “wasn’t cute enough” to sing in front of the cameras at the opening ceremonies. The Chinese authorities found a prettier girl instead, and stuck Yang in the basement with a microphone while Lin Miaoke mouthed the words.

To quote the music director Chen Qigang, “It was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression.” Absolutely. Because we all know that ugly people, fat people, or people who aren’t exactly symmetrical all harbor deeply-flawed internal feelings. Especially a 7-year-old girl who is perfectly adorable even with her baby teeth.

Yeah, yeah, I know this is one of my bête noire hot-button issues, but this story is the perfect encapsulation of true talent crushed, humiliated, or silenced by the tyranny of physical attractiveness. It’s sickening and embarrassing, and the Chinese are no worse than we are. Could you imagine telling your daughter she could sing, but she wasn’t pretty enough to be seen by the world? I’d rather douse myself with gasoline.

– Michael Phelps has the laser wide-eyed intensity and unshakable competitive drive I’ve only seen in three other people: Michael, Tiger, and Tyler.

general tso’s checkin’


Okay, let’s play catch-up with the blog.

1. It’s true what they say: colonoscopies and endoscopies are fine in and of themselves, but the preparation? Jesus Living Poopypants, that was one of the most miserable nights of my life. I hope by the time Lucy and all our other kids get to my age, there’s some GammaCam that will be able to see your jejunum in hi-def without even taking off your fanny pack.

Another thing – I don’t know how many of you have had to “go under” in the last couple of years, but the art of anesthesia has truly turned a corner. No longer are you groggy for days; they can time your waking within minutes. In fact, they had to wake me up after one procedure to get my consent for the next, and it was no problem.

2. Great answers for the pop quiz on Thursday – particularly strong entries from Kevin, Sean M, Ehren and Caren, and of course Kaz wrote the book on question one. Janet provided her poetry, and if Matt had answered all three questions, he probably would have gotten the highest grade, but alas…

Anyway, our independent graders give the highest marks to Jody K, for clarity, succinctness and overall command. Jody, what bizarre Venice beach tchotchke would you like, or do any of you have suggestions?

3. The Chinese Gymanastic Team? Give me a fucking break. Yes, they were fantastic in many respects, but fer crying out loud… THERE IS NO WAY THEY ARE 16 YEARS OLD.

I come from a big family. I have hundreds of cousins. I have seen thousands of people grow up before my eyes. I know what a 10-year-old looks like, I know what a 12-year-old looks like, and I know what a 14-year-old looks like. Only their team captain, not coincidentally their worst performer, could possibly be sixteen.

It’s cheating, straight-up, grade-A bullshit. 20-year-old Alicia Sacramone, the oddly-hot American gymnast, buckled under the pressure, sure, but I agree with Ann Killion – it’s not fair to compete against children who haven’t got a full grasp of the stakes.

I guess nobody can actually do a damned thing about this, because the Chinese government can provide any documentation they want – and god knows, if we have to apologize for wearing masks in the polluted bike races, we sure can’t raise a stink about 12-year-old gymnasts.

You know me – I’m no jingoistic America-first chowderhead, and proved it during the last Olympics, but this, my friends, is a load of crap. Come back, Sam Peszek, come back, Nastia! You’re pure, American, curvy, athletic, womanly gold in my heart!


duodenum do’s and dont’s


I write this to you mere hours before I go under general anesthesia for a not-quite-emergency but definitely-hurried endoscopy and colonoscopy. Those of you who’ve hung around in these pages for any amount of time know how I go down with “food poisoning” or “the stomach flu” or “whatever” roughly every two months, and after this recent bout, I’d fucking had enough.

My GP referred me to LA’s awesomest gastroenterologist, and he told me it was time to take the submarine down to look at the coral reefs, so to speak. These things can be done while being awake, but I’m happy to be going totally under. However, I will remind my wife that the last time I had general anesthesia, the nurses called my mom and told her to get back to the surgery center because, in their words, “your son thinks he’s a frog.”

An endoscopy and a colonoscopy serve only to rule out certain things, leaving you with obvious conclusions – and we all already know what I have. It starts with “I” and ends with “S” and the middle letter is “B”. It’s one of those things that many people think does not exist, but like God, it sure feels like it when you’re deep in the experience.

blue books available at scuttlebutt


Whoops! You stumbled into the Mid-Summer Surprise Pop Quiz! You might have been out of school for years, but just by reading this, we’re roping you back in for that recurring nightmare: the test you didn’t study for.

Don’t worry, we’ve provided #2 pencils, and the questions are relatively easy. Read over the following 3 (three) questions, and provide short, observant 1-2 sentence answers.

Those with the best grade get a surprise from Venice, CA. Now on to the questions!

1. In two sentences or less, justify or disagree with the following: Single American men in their 20s and 30s are overwhelmingly damaged when it comes to what they think they want.

2. Again, using two sentences, justify or disagree: The overwhelming majority of political conservatives exhibit a marked lack of empathy.

3. Same rules: We might talk a good game about free will, but when it comes down to it, we all just want to be told what to do.

Good luck!

UPDATE: Highest score will now get his/her pick of any tchotchke, bauble, piece of art or piece of Americana available here on the Venice boardwalk. You name it, we’ll find it.


Tessa and Lucy watch a band on the boardwalk, April 2007

telephone call for mr. horrible


Yikes – if you want to get anything done in the next hour, don’t click on the Plasticopedia: The Plastic Surgery Encyclopedia, and certainly don’t go through their list of celebrities. O grotesque new world That has such people in’t!

One thing’s for sure: plastic surgery is like gummi worms. Once you start, there’s little chance of stopping. It is also something of an equalizer; if you think you’re far too plain to ever be a movie star, don’t worry, because almost every movie star you know has very few of their original parts. Like They Might Be Giants sang, everybody wants prosthetic foreheads on their real heads.

Today’s CODE WORD: if you had to get cosmetic surgery, what would you get? Feel free to post anonymously…

can i have jimmies and carpet sweepin’s on mine


God knows making fun of conservatives is so easy, it should be disqualified – which reminds me, why was anybody shooting fish in a barrel anyway? To eat them? To let off steam?

Anyway, just to say, I’m as self-aware as the next parallelist Gen-Xer and can appreciate a buffoonish liberal caricature when I see one. Take, for instance, the Stuff White People Like site I linked on Friday. The entire site is two things at once: amazingly dead-on, and the cruel-spirited apotheosis of snark. It can be very funny (#4 – “Assists”), arbitrarily obscure (#68 – Michel Gondry), non-trenchantly obvious (#15 – Yoga, #42 – Sushi), and occasionally a laundry list of everything I love (Plays, Apple Products, the Toyota Prius, T-Shirts, the NYTimes and Multilingual Children).

“Stuff White People Like” has a brilliance that lies in everyone’s desire to be pegged, and then taking personal pride in being pegged, thus freeing them to continue drinking chamomile and playing kickball as they did before. I particularly admire entries like Appearing Empathetic With Personal Anecdotes of “Poverty”, especially after I wrote entries like this. The site is slightly misnamed, however: it should really be “Stuff Liberals With Discretionary Income Like”.

Occasionally, snark imitates life, and last week was a doozy. On several sites I frequent, the bold type came out and the frenzy began:



I mean… yes, I have bought a grande soy latté with almond syrup a time or two thousand. And I do enjoy their new DoubleShot on Ice. And it’s nice to always be within 400 yards of a hazelnut frappuccino. But COME ON!