Friday, March 30

Friday Random Ten: Most Excellent Banzai Video Explosion!

For someone who effectively had a two-day (actually, one-and-a-half-day) workweek, I'm reeeally glad it's Friday. One more day of convalescing and I may actually be able to walk down two flights of stairs without having to stop to catch my breath. In the meantime, here's the Ten.

1. Patton Oswalt, "Toronto Open Mike"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "One More Chance" (7" mix)
3. U2, "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
4. 3rd Bass, "Oval Office"
5. Human League, "Human"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Birthday Boy"
7. Miles Davis, "All Blues"
8. Ludacris, "Rollout (My Business)"
9. The Smiths, "The Boy With the Thorn in His Side"
10. Depeche Mode, "Sweetest Perfection"

For a full visual representation of the diversity of my music collection, I bring you Nos. 5 and 8, side-by-side. Play them simultaneously and it's just like doing 'shrooms!

And with all due respect to Josh, I believe this is, in fact, the greatest music video ever made:

The original version of the song is below for those of you born before 1980 -- the full version of the video, no less, and thanks to commenter JasonC for jogging my memory of just how weird this seemed back in '83.

Your own Random Tens and/or greatest video nominees in the comments.

Wednesday, March 28

Not quite live from New York.

My apologies for the radio silence over the last few days, but in a sequence of events disturbingly similar to that of my return from Italy a couple years ago, I managed to come back from NYC with a terrible cold. Fortunately, numerous doctors have determined that the best possible treatment for a head cold is exposure to the dramatic changes in air pressure aboard a commercial airline flight, followed by massive doses of pollen, so when I hit the ground in Atlanta yesterday I was right as rain!

Uh, not really. Actually I'm at the point now where my head feels like it's stuffed with cotton and I'm kind of getting winded just typing this. But anyway, here are some of the photos I took in the Big Apple, with commentary as necessary.

A Tibetan guy -- at least, my best guess is he was Tibetan -- playing the violin and several other instruments at Bethesda Terrace in Central Park.

Ice skaters at Rockefeller Center, about two days before the weather shot up into the 70s. Unfortunately we didn't see Tina Fey or Alec Baldwin at the Rock, but we did have a great time watching the same three or four kids bust their asses on the ice over and over and over again. To their credit, though, they didn't cry or whine about it, they just got right back up and went at it again. For that I salute them.

A Chewbacca made out of Legos at the FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue.

You can't really tell, but this guy was playing his car stereo really loud with the windows down and playing the maracas as he drove his Saab down 8th Street.

We spent nearly an entire day at the Museum of Modern Art, which I can't remember ever having been to before, and I got to see my favorite painting, Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory.

I also liked this one, René Magritte's The Empire of Light II. Surprisingly, I understood it without having seen The Empire of Light I or The Empire of Light III: The Empire Strikes Back.

Yves Klein's Blue Monochrome. I don't know why I took a picture of this, I just thought that was a really cool shade of blue, and according to the museum's catalog Klein worked with a chemist to come up with it.

And finally, the "concrete canyon" of 6th Avenue.

I won't show you any pictures of the fake designer goods I bought in Chinatown . . . because, uh, I didn't buy anything like that, that would be wrong. Although we did think it would've been funny to walk into the Prada store across from Trump Plaza on 5th and ask them where the fake stuff was.

Regular blogging to resume shortly.

Friday, March 23

Friday Random Ten: So long, suckers!

This afternoon I'm flying up to New York and staying until Tuesday, so posting is likely to be pretty sparse between now and then -- assuming there aren't any travel disasters like there were the last time I went up there. With any luck, I might actually catch a plane on the first try.

In the meantime, Josh made me recall a question that was bouncing around my office the other day: What was the first music video you can remember having seen on MTV?

Mine was in 1984 -- I was six years old, we'd just gotten cable, and some afternoon I happened to catch some MTV that the babysitter was watching:

Now that I think about it, this video was also probably my first introduction to the thong. Thanks, Mr. Idol!

Anyway, the Ten.

1. R.E.M., "Falls to Climb"
2. Moby, "Everloving"
3. Air, "Kelly Watch the Stars" (Moog Cookbook mix)
4. Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, "An American in Paris"
5. Jakatta, "American Dream" (Afterlife mix)
6. Gnarls Barkley, "Crazy"
7. Massive Attack, "Risingson"
8. Fatboy Slim, "Love Life"
9. Sting, "Dream of the Blue Turtles"
10. The Farm, "Suzy Boo"

Your Random Tens and first MTV memories in the comments.

Thursday, March 22

The Two Jennas: A story that starts out like it's going to be awesome, but then isn't.

So just now I was taking Jenna for a walk on my lunch break, and we walked by Chez Fon Fon like we always do. And who comes out of the door while we're standing there, having I guess just finished her lunch? None other than Jenna Bush. I shit you not.

Jenna Bush said, "What a cute dog," and then left with a woman whom I'm guessing was her agent. By the time the whole thing fully registered in my brain, they were crossing the street.

Dude, I told you it would turn out not to be an awesome story.

Jenna (the dog) comments:

My dad is so lame. There we are, one of the First Daughters is standing right there, we've got a perfect intro -- all he had to do was yell "Jenna, sit" or something, and at the very least it's a conversation starter. But no, dumbass locks up and there goes my chance to meet a celebrity. What a dingus.

Go away. Just go. I can't even look at you right now.

Wednesday, March 21

Thursday Mystery Meat and Bloggerpalooza update.

· Bloggerpalooza '07 update: Mayor T. Kyle informs me that kickoff for the G-Day Game on April 7 has been moved back to 2 p.m. I consider this a good thing because it will both give me a little extra time to get to Athens from wherever the hell it is I'm going to be that morning and allow a little extra time for tailgating and all the beer drinking, football talk, and wanton Krispy Kreme consumption that entails. I have offered up a start time of 10:30 a.m. Eastern -- what say the rest of you? As always, please e-mail at gmail to RSVP, volunteer tailgating supplies, or ask questions.

· Actually, I do kinda know where I'm going to be the day before G-Day -- in Atlanta for the Braves' home opener. Lucky me, it's against the Mets, whom I despise. If you're planning on being there, give me a holler.

"Accountability? Responsible government? Those are just, like, words to me."

· The Bush administration says they shouldn't have to force top officials to testofy publicly before Congress because that would interfere with the president's ability to get "candid advice" from his advisors. In case you were wondering how many Clinton administration officials were brought before Congress to give public testimony: 31 officials on 47 separate occasions. Uh-huh. Next.

· Why do television news networks and even the fricking AP report on who got kicked off of "American Idol" like it's news? Nobody gives me an update on what happened on "Heroes" or "30 Rock" or "The Office" or "Deal or No Deal" in the event that I missed an episode. What the hell makes "Idol" so special?

You, me, bar, beers, buzzed. Wings, shots, drunk! Waitresses -- hot! Football, Cornell-Hofstra, slaughter! Then quick nap at my place, then we hit the tizzown.

· Speaking of "The Office," last week's episode revealed that I have the same kind of cell phone as Andy Bernard, the whiter-than-white "regional director in charge of sales" played by Ed Helms. This is not meant to be construed as bragging.

· Famous last words from a first-time blogger.

· As far as anyone knows, Citroën is not planning on coming back to the United States anytime soon, but Peugeot is said to be at least considering it. I may be one of only five people in the United States who's excited about that, but whatever.

Alfa Romeo, however, is confirmed to be making a return to the U.S. in 2009. That'll give me just enough time to maybe get my credit cards paid off . . . in which case Alfa 159 Sportwagon, here I come.

Everyone's car says something about them; this one says, "I'm sexy and I can help you move."

· I hate to end this on a down note, but Calvert DeForest, more widely known as "Late Show" regular Larry "Bud" Melman, has died at the age of 85. We'll miss you, Bud.

He was pretty fly for a white guy.

Tuesday, March 20

Belated St. Patrick's Day wishes . . .

Here's Jenna (and a nearly drained pint of Guinness) at Dave's Pub in Southside Birmingham, watching the city's St. Patrick's Day parade pass by . . .

. . . and here's Jenna actively participating in the festivities. I know I'm probably going to catch some flak from people who think it's horrible that I would let my dog drink beer, and I want to make it very clear I don't give Jenna beer just so that I can put funny pictures on my blog. I only do it because I want her to be cool.

Thanks to Texas Karl for giving me a hand with the pictures.

Sunday, March 18

War, peace, and being "serious."

I know it's become a little personal blog tradition to drag this old chestnut out every year around this time, but here's what I wrote the day the Iraq war started, March 19, 2003.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm only whipping this out again to sound morally superior or anything, because there is a larger point to it than that. I'm not looking to be held up as some kind of foreign-policy expert, and I'm not even demanding that people who were for the war back in 2003 all admit they were wrong and tell me how brilliant I am. All I want is for people to take war seriously, to realize that it has horrible consequences for everyone involved and that there's no such thing as an "easy" war, no matter what the people in charge tell us. I think a lot more people get this now than did four years ago, but there are still quite a few important people who apparently don't.

There seems to be this lingering insistence at the elite levels of our government and media that in order to be "serious" about national security, one has to be in favor of war whenever and wherever one is proposed. This is the kind of thinking that holds up someone like Joe Lieberman -- who fell in lockstep with the Bush administration's Iraq plans from the get-go and who has never once called for any kind of change or accountability for what has been almost universally decried as a disastrous policy -- as a "serious" thinker on foreign policy, while people like Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Patrick Leahy, who voted against the war resolution in 2002 and who have demanded that the Iraqi government actually be held to held to account for some of their promises and stated goals in exchange for the continued American presence there, as not serious.

Imagine that you come to me complaining of terrible migraine headaches, and I tell you (based on my years of advanced medical training) that the best way to cure this is to bang your head against a brick wall. You think this is kind of weird, but you decide to go ahead with it. You're banging your head against a wall, you're bleeding all over the place, you're cracking your skull, and people are coming up to you saying, "This is ridiculous! Stop beating your head against the wall!" But I'm standing next to you the whole time saying, "You just want him to stop before his migraine goes away? You're just not all that serious about helping him, are you?"

Look, I know that September 11 changed a lot of things about this country and how we perceived our need to act in the world, and I'm not saying that all war has to be dismissed out of hand; the invasion of Afghanistan, for instance, was immediately needed to oust a regime that had directly assisted al-Qaeda and aided in carrying out their terrorist attacks. But war is something that should be wielded only as a last resort, and it's clear that that's not how it was viewed with respect to Iraq. Bush continues to claim to this day that all diplomatic avenues had been exhausted with Iraq and that the country presented an imminent threat, but the example he uses to prove this point -- Saddam Hussein supposedly kicking out the UN weapons inspectors -- isn't even true, because it was the Bush administration who ordered the inspectors out so that they could start bombing. We could've pulled up short of an all-out invasion of Iraq; we just didn't want to. Why?

Now the target du jour is Iran, and we have people both in the blogosphere and in the government insisting that "all options remain on the table" with regard to attacking that country -- all options, evidently, except negotiation. There may yet come a time when relations with Iran deteriorate to the point where war becomes the only option, but how can anyone say that we're at that point already? And how can anyone who says that be considered "serious" about national defense when we're already overextended by major military operations in two other Middle Eastern countries?

Just think about what war means is all I'm asking, people. War is never an easy thing. War means thousands of people getting killed; war means billions, if not trillions, of dollars getting thrown into the fire; war means entire societies getting scarred for generations. As Sadly, No! so succinctly put it three years ago, War never doesn't hurt. If we've learned nothing else after four years of agony in Iraq, I hope we've learned that. But I wouldn't even be bothering to repeat this if I thought everybody had.

Friday, March 16

Friday Random Ten, Not St. Patrick's Day Edition.

Well, I was thinking about doing a special Irish Friday Random Ten to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, which is tomorrow, but I tried doing that and the Ten ended up consisting of six songs by U2, two more by their side project Passengers, and two by Morrissey. So that ain't gonna work.

1. Blur, "Sing"
2. Sting, "King of Pain" (live)
3. Frank Sinatra, "I've Got a Crush on You"
4. Moby, "In This World"
5. Miles Davis, "The Pan Piper"
6. Crowded House, "Distant Sun"
7. NFL Films, "Playmakers"
8. The Roots, "Meiso" (DJ Shadow mix)
9. Pet Shop Boys, "What Have I Done to Deserve This?"
10. Public Enemy, "Cold Lampin' With Flavor"

I have to cop to not having any Irish ancestry whatsoever (that I know of), but in the interest of solidarity with my Catholic brothers, I'm not going to let that stop me from participating in such traditions as the wearin' o' the green, the drinkin' o' the beer, the vomitin' o' the stomach contents, and the next-day complainin' o' the hangover.

Your Random Tens and St. Patty's Day plans are welcome in the comments.

Tuesday, March 13

Suppose they gave a social and nobody came?

I realize I'm way late to the crush party on this one, but one of the topics of conversation at the office today was the Great Delta Zeta Wallflower Purge of '07, and I picked up a new piece of information that I hadn't known before.

From the linked New York Times article (my emphasis below):

Worried that a negative stereotype of the sorority was contributing to a decline in membership that had left its Greek-columned house here half empty, Delta Zeta's national officers interviewed 35 DePauw members in November, quizzing them about their dedication to recruitment. They judged 23 of the women insufficiently committed and later told them to vacate the sorority house.

The 23 members included every woman who was overweight. They also included the only Korean and Vietnamese members. The dozen students allowed to stay were slender and popular with fraternity men -- conventionally pretty women the sorority hoped could attract new recruits. Six of the 12 were so infuriated they quit.

So, the good news: Of the 12 Chosen People permitted to stay, half of them were so rightly disgusted with the treatment of the Notties that they left the sorority. The bad news: Six stayed behind. I've obviously never been in a sorority, and I had to take a second to think before I could say whether I'd ever dated a sorority girl, so I have to ask: If your sorority chapter has just booted two-thirds of its members because they weren't hot enough, and then six of the hotties even leave in protest, and you guys are the last six staying behind, aren't you like the six shallowest people in North America?

The national Delta Zeta leadership's CYA can be found here. In the meantime, those last six DZs at DePauw might need to be reminded of a little something.

When the Delta Zetas came for the fatties,
I remained silent;
I was not a fatty.

When they kicked out the uggos,
I remained silent;
I was not an uggo.

When they came for the girls with bad skin,
I did not speak out;
I did not have bad skin.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Monday, March 12


If you follow college basketball religiously, or even if you don't follow it religiously but still find invitations impossible to resist regardless of what they're for, you are cordially invited to join Big Ass Tournament Bracket, Hey Jenny Slater's official NCAA Tournament pick'em group on Yahoo.

If you want to sign up, go to this site and enter Group ID# 95754 and password "ihateflorida" (no quotes).

There will be no cash prizes for winning, lest any of you end up disqualified from ever reaching your lifelong dream of one day coaching the University of Washington's football team. You will, however, be lauded by name on this site for your wisdom, which plus $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

By the way: Since neither Georgia nor UAB made it to the big tournament, Hey Jenny Slater's official rooting interest for March Madness is Virginia.

Thrilled that the 'Hoos will not have to face Miami or Wake Forest in The Show.

The clock strikes thirteen . . .

Allow me to swipe a page from the late, great Billmon's book.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia's government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration's perspective, the most profound -- and unintended -- strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that "realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region." . . .

Some of the core tactics of the redirection are not public, however. The clandestine operations have been kept secret, in some cases, by leaving the execution or the funding to the Saudis, or by finding other ways to work around the normal congressional appropriations process, current and former officials close to the Administration said.

A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee told me that he had heard about the new strategy, but felt that he and his colleagues had not been adequately briefed. "We haven't got any of this," he said. "We ask for anything going on, and they say there's nothing. And when we ask specific questions they say, 'We're going to get back to you.' It's so frustrating."

-- Seymour Hersh, "The Redirection"
The New Yorker, March 5, 2007

The speech had been proceeding for perhaps twenty minutes when a messenger hurried on to the platform and a scrap of paper was slipped into the speaker's hand. He unrolled and read it without pausing in his speech. Nothing altered in his voice or manner, or in the content of what he was saying, but suddenly the names were different. Without words said, a wave of understanding rippled through the crowd. Oceania was at war with Eastasia! The next moment there was a tremendous commotion. The banners and posters with which the square was decorated were all wrong! Quite half of them had the wrong faces on them. It was sabotage! The agents of Goldstein had been at work! There was a riotous interlude while posters were ripped from the walls, banners torn to shreds and trampled underfoot. The Spies performed prodigies of activity in clambering over the rooftops and cutting the streamers that fluttered from the chimneys. But within two or three minutes it was all over. The orator, still gripping the neck of the microphone, his shoulders hunched forward, his free hand clawing at the air, had gone straight on with his speech. One minute more, and the feral roars of rage were again bursting from the crowd. The Hate continued exactly as before, except that the target had been changed.

The thing that impressed Winston in looking back was that the speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in midsentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax. But at the moment he had other things to preoccupy him. It was during the moment of disorder while the posters were being torn down that a man whose face he did not see had tapped him on the shoulder and said, 'Excuse me, I think you've dropped your brief-case.' He took the brief-case abstractedly, without speaking. He knew that it would be days before he had an opportunity to look inside it. The instant that the demonstration was over he went straight to the Ministry of Truth, though the time was now nearly twenty-three hours. The entire staff of the Ministry had done likewise. The orders already issuing from the telescreen, recalling them to their posts, were hardly necessary.

Oceania was at war with Eastasia: Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.

-- George Orwell, 1984

Sunday, March 11

Weekend Bostonblogging.

Now that I've just gotten done boring you to tears with meta junk, it's time to respond to the will of the people. Pet photos, fresh baked this weekend.

I would put more photos of Jenna the Wonder Terrier up on here if I could just get her to sit still long enough to take some, but this weekend I managed to do that, mainly because she'd just spent hours at the park chasing and wrestling with, I kid you not, a full-grown Great Dane. I'm trying to decide which fictional character is the best metaphor for this, and the one that first sprang to mind was Tommy DeVito from "Goodfellas" -- short, kind of goofy-looking, funny voice, but will not hesitate to beat you into a bloody pulp for so much as telling him to go get his shinebox. Jenna's not quite that psychotic, but she did work herself into enough of a lather battling the Great Dane that she was good and knocked out once we got home:

Even the following morning, she still took a while to completely wake up . . .

. . . but then she was right back at it again with my neighbor Katie's dog.

I have this fear that one day she's going to step to a poorly trained pit bull and do something we both later regret, but until then, enjoy.

Saturday, March 10

Blog, what is it good for?

For a long time I've been of the opinion that two of the most boring things in the world are talking about writing and talking about blogging, yet I just went to a writer's conference at Birmingham-Southern College on Friday, and now I'm about to talk about . . . blogging.

Kathy McMullen over at Birmingham Blues has a better recap of this than I could probably do, but basically it goes like this -- the conference's Friday luncheon speaker was a fairly prominent writer and critic named Richard Schickel, and toward the end of his talk he made some pretty dismissive comments about blogging. I think he was disdainful of blogging more in terms of its value in developing one's talent and making progress toward writing professionally, as opposed to just having contempt for the idea of blogging in general, but nevertheless, his comment didn't go over well with a lot of the people there -- particularly since, as Kathy points out, the conference included a session on blogging.

My immediate reaction was that it probably wasn't especially wise to pass judgment on blogs right after declaring flat-out that he didn't read them. I assume he wouldn't submit a movie review to Time magazine if he'd only walked out after the first 10 minutes.

But anyway. First let me say this: I don't know that I buy into the idea that blogging is revolutionizing anything or turning the world of journalism completely upside-down just yet. Every time someone like Glenn Reynolds or Hugh Hewitt talking about how life-alteringly awesome blogs are and patting themselves on the back for promoting them, the only urge I get is to roll my eyes and make the jerk-off gesture. Some bloggers out there are important, maybe even downright revolutionary, but far more of them aren't -- and a lot of people in the second camp assume they're in the first. (I hope I've managed not to be one of them.)

But I will say this in blogging's favor: It has gone a long way toward leveling the playing field in terms of elite opinion leaders vs. average schmoes. It used to be that if I wanted to get an opinion on, say, a movie, I could only select from a very select group of Richard Schickels, Roger Eberts, or colleagues thereof; now I can get that from any number of people whose taste and/or cinematic "values" might be a lot closer to mine (read: much further down toward my lowbrow level). Sometimes I might even get to be the person who writes those opinions for other people to assess. (I have a feeling that's what bothers Mr. Schickel, a fairly prolific critic in his own right, the most.)

Now then: Has blogging brought me any closer to being a professional writer (in the sense of being a novelist or short-story impresario or Sedaris-style regularly published essayist)? Welllll . . . not really. And in some ways I can see how it might actually bring someone further away: If every writer's dream is to have his/her work read by millions, and possibly even get paid for it, then getting comfortable with thousands or even hundreds might be enough to sap you of your ambition to finish your novel, bite the bullet and put it out there in front of a bunch of editors or literary agents. But if the only way to become a better writer is to just write a lot, blogging can't possibly be a bad thing. And "having a blog that a few hundred people read a day" is definitely closer to "world-famous published writer" than "someone who writes stuff but never lets anybody read it, ever."

For me personally, I think blogging has made me somewhat more disciplined in terms of writing regularly -- I go through the same dead, uninspired periods that everyone else does, but when you know people are at least checking in once in a while to see if you've put something up, it at least makes you feel like you have some kind of responsibility. However, I also think it's made me do a better job of backing up my positions with actual evidence and arguments. Sure, I still drop more than my share of four-letter words as well as epithets such as "douchebag" and "picklewipe" and whatnot, but I at least try to make sure the underlying points I'm trying to make are backed up better when I know I'm going to have readers and commenters challenging me, and if you got a problem with that then guess what, thimblecock, I got an ass you can jump up. Sorry, that was inappropriate, but I stand by it.

But anyway, my point is I think both the "blogging is teh suxx0rz" and the "blogging is the greatest thing since, and maybe prior to, sliced bread" crowds are off base. I think it's too early to call blogs revolutionary, because they've only been around a few years and it's still possible they could turn out to be a fad; plenty of people insist there's no possibility of that happening, they'll be powerful forever, but I'm sure some people said that about Betamax, Limp Bizkit, and the Republican Party at various times in the past. That said, I think a lot of the people already declaring blogging silly and frivelous have a vested interest in doing so.

Anyway. Now I'll drop this boring crap and get to what y'all really want, which is dog pictures.

Thursday, March 8

Friday Mystery Meat Salad, Random Ten, and attempt to salvage the honor of Bloggerpalooza.

Yep, that's right, it's salad today. No meat on a Friday. I would've called it "Tossed Salad," but then I realized one of you picklewipes would've immediately made some kind of joke about it.

· I know I'm biased on account of us having the same parents and all, but this rumination over at Practically Harmless on the illogic of faith and the absurdity of making it a requirement for public office is one of the most insightful, sensible, well-written posts I've ever read on any blog anywhere. Amd this is coming from someone who doesn't even know why he's not allowed to eat meat today, he only knows his mom told him it would make the baby Jesus cry.

· OK, so I just saw an ad for the new Dodge Avenger in which the focal point was the fact that the car has a 20-gig hard drive. So that the car can . . . be your iPod or something, if you don't already have an iPod. I guess. (I've seen similar pitches for its sister vehicle, the Chrysler Sebring.) It reminded me of the ad campaign for the Buick Lucerne that seemed to emphasize absolutely nothing other than the fact the car could heat up its windshield-washer fluid. Look, I'm sure that a 20-gig hard drive in a car might be kind of cool for some purposes that I really can't think of at the moment, and that heated washer fluid might be useful in a place like Birmingham on as many as two or three days out of the year. But are they really trying to get people to buy cars based solely on this?

Holds up to 5,000 songs! And, uh, drives, or something.

I got an idea for the American carmakers: Instead of spending all this effort coming up with hard drives and fluid heaters, howsabout you start buying your dashboard materials from someone other than Fisher-Price. Tune a suspension as if the people who drive the car actually give a rat's ass about how it takes a corner. And build a hybrid, for shit's sake! Seriously, the Honda Insight has been on sale in this country for nearly eight years now, and you guys still don't offer a hybrid passenger car?

For all the advances they've made over the awful '70s and '80s, the American car companies are still trying to sell cars like McDonald's sells burgers -- just pile as much stuff onto 'em as you can and hope that the fat, lazy, stupid public has nothing better to do than gobble 'em up. One of these days the Big Three are going to have to start building cars people actually want and not cars that people will merely settle for; then they might have something to hang their hats on other than a single wowee feature.

Or to look at it another way, do you think Mercedes-Benz has ever had to cram a hard drive into a dashboard to sell a car? Nope. They are, however, giving serious thought to unloading Chrysler entirely. But hey, I'm sure those 20-gig hard drives will turn everything right around.

· A couple months ago, a reader thanked me for this post because it introduced her to the concept of a "Sitzpinkler," the German term for a wussy male who's so whipped he sits down to pee. Those Germans, they got a good word for everything! And the other day I learned yet another excellent word to add to my collection of concise Krautisms such as "Sitzpinkler" and "Schadenfreude": "Backpfeifengesicht," which translates roughly to "a face that cries out for a fist in it." If it'll help you visualize, some prominent Backpfeifengesichte belong to Sean Hannity, Tommy Tuberville, Bill Kristol, and Jimmy Clausen. I wonder if, in some part of Germany, this might also be known as a Scheißeëssengrinsen.

Be honest -- you'd love to put some backpfeifen in this gesicht.

· You know what? G'ahead and add Tom Brady to that list. Yes, I freely admit this is only out of burning jealousy, but be that as it may, Christ. I call it a red-letter day if the cute Japanese barista at the Starbucks on 11th so much as makes eye contact with me, but here's Tom Brady getting to inject his thrice-Super-Bowl-winning seed into pretty much any internationally renowned beauty he chooses. And I didn't win the Mega Millions lottery on Tuesday! Fuck this, I'm gonna go punch a kitten.

· Almost forgot. The Ten:

1. Pet Shop Boys, "The Resurrectionist" (Goetz B. extended mix)
2. Patton Oswalt, "How We Won the War"
3. Fugazi, "Bulldog Front"
4. U.N.K.L.E., "Awake the Unkind"
5. Fatboy Slim, "The Sound of Milwaukee"
6. Happy Mondays, "Step On"
7. Garbage, "Special"
8. The Farm, "All American World"
9. Meat Beat Manifesto, "Let Go"
10. U2, "Acrobat"

· Finally, a couple people have asked about it, and yes, Kyle King and I are going to make an attempt to revive G-Day Bloggerpalooza for this year's Georgia spring football game on Saturday, April 8. I say "revive" because, well, last year's Bloggerpalooza was pretty much on life support from the moment it began -- a combination of subpar communication (my fault) and ridiculous weather (God's) meant that it was attended by so few people we could've held the entire thing in a Toyota, and that's almost what we did. (It actually ended up being a parking garage, only a slightly more romantic venue.)

But I promise to do a more thorough job as Bloggerpalooza co-coordinator this year, and the organizing starts here: If you're interested in attending, even if you're not technically a blogger, shoot an e-mail to (at) and let me know you want in, and I'll tell you as much about it as I can. Really there's not a lot to tell -- we'll probably try to get started around 9 a.m., somewhere on the North Campus quad close to the main library -- but if you want to volunteer to bring anything, and I know you do, you're more than welcome to do so. Naturally, I will be contributing beer and Krispy Kreme donuts to the festivities. So shoot me an e-mail and let's make this happen!

I would prefer that we get to take this picture outside this year.

Wednesday, March 7

Droppin' the deuce: A very special birthday Mystery Meat.

That's right, suckers -- today marks the second berfday of Hey Jenny Slater. Two glorious years of football trash-talking, political trash-talking, hot chicks, and indiscriminate cursing. How awesome is it? I think the phrase you're looking for is "extremely f$#!ing awesome," my friend.

That said, though, there may be some of you who have only started reading this blog recently, and two years is a lot to catch up on. I certainly don't expect you to go back and read five-hundred-something posts in one sitting, unless you're, like, a Maytag repairman or a backup quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts or Dick Cheney's ethics advisor and you really don't have anything else to do for the next couple weeks. For those of you who've just joined us, here's the gist of the first two years of Hey Jenny Slater, as condensed as I can possibly make it.

· The Georgia Bulldogs are awesome. Oops . . . no they're not. But wait, yes they are. And I am awesome for covering them. Whatever the case, Georgia Tech still sucks hard.

Georgia Bulldogs: Great team, or greatest team?

· Not awesome: George W. Bush, Republicans in general.

· Also awesome: the Washington Redskins, the Pet Shop Boys, Wes Clark, "30 Rock," Tom Selleck, cheese grits, Citroëns.

· And, of course, Boston Terriers.

It doesn't get much more badass than this.

· "The Simpsons" and college football are practically the same thing; Pluto is a whiny little bitch; I am a hater; Sexy Santa costumes kick ass.

· I look like Elle MacPherson, yet am somehow still a loser.

· Nevertheless, that has not kept this blog from becoming the preferred blog of former Miss Georgia Monica Pang.

For reals.

· Birthdays are important to me, so you should probably buy me stuff.

· I have a richly detailed fantasy life.

· But, completely separate from that, I will be moving to France soon because I'm the future husband of a French newscaster Melissa Theuriau, or (in the words of official Hey Jenny Slater friend-for-life Benjie) "that French chick who does the news in Barbie clothes."

In some alternate dimension, this may actually be true.

· And finally, I throw toasters.

There. I hope that gets you up to speed. Now you are well qualified to jump into the comments thread and tell me how awesome I am.

Tuesday, March 6

VolvoDrivingLiberal's revenge.

Ask not for whom the Volvo tolls . . .

Unless you've been locked in rehab with Britney Spears for the last week and been deprived of TV, radio, and newspapers during that time, you probably heard about the comment Ann Coulter made at a conservative political conference in which she basically called Democrat John Edwards a "faggot." Classy stuff, yes, but pretty much what we've come to expect from her.

As many of you know, on my previous blog I had a regular feature for a while called "Ann Coulter Is A Lousy Writer And She Isn't Even That Hot" (because, contrary to what the right wing will tell you, she is neither a good writer nor hot), basically picking apart each one of her syndicated columns week after week. It was fun for a while, then it got significantly less so -- mainly because she ran out of spurious, context-free "facts" I could disprove with less than five minutes of Googling and instead descended into 100-percent name-calling -- and I dropped it. Since then, Coulter has become more of a joke with each passing day, to the point where pretty much anyone who's not a total retard -- even those on the right side of the spectrum -- now recognizes that she is, at best, a shitty stand-up comic as opposed to an actual political commentator.

And honestly, as far as I'm concerned she's gone from being a dangerous cheerleader for the right to being a terrific asset for the Democrats. Whatever the far right wing thinks, mainstream American voters don't particularly want to throw their lot in with a side that can do no better than call the other party "faggots," and at this point every time Coulter opens her mouth she probably drives 10 moderates or independents into the Democrats' camp. So there's a part of me that hears stuff like that and smiles and thinks, Flame on, Annie.

Nevertheless, if you've ever decried the intractable political environment in Washington or the sorry state of political debate in this country -- and I have -- you kind of have to recognize that Coulter and people like her are the motor driving a lot of that. So there's probably a case to be made for marginalizing her as much as possible, for the good of the country if nothing else. That's where VolvoDrivingLiberal comes in.

VDL just happens to be a good friend of mine, and true to his name, he is both a Volvo driver and a liberal. He's also a dedicated diarist on Daily Kos, and over the weekend he put up this post listing the corporations that advertise on Coulter's Web site and how to contact them. VDL didn't even ask for a boycott, he just thought that these companies should be informed about where their ads are ending up and asked to account for it.

VolvoDrivingLiberal was even honored with a name-drop (or handle-drop) on CNN's "The Situation Room" over the weekend -- and now Verizon, Sallie Mae, and NetBank have all pulled their ads from Coulter's site. Obviously that's a great start, but there's still pressure to be applied, so click on over to VDL's post and e-mail some of those companies.

And before anyone even mentions it, no, this isn't a violation of anyone's First Amendment rights. Coulter still has the constitutional right to launch whatever slurs she wants; corporations, however, have no obligation to sponsor her. If anything, this is straight-up capitalism we're looking at here, because some of those corporations might find their reputations sullied by any kind of association with Coulter and would thus be interested in taking steps to avoid that.

Anyway, good job, my Volvo-driving brother. I'll update this post if I hear of any other companies making like Catholics and pulling out.

Monday, March 5

Anger management.

Whoa, two serious posts in a row -- I hope you're ready for this jelly. If you want to slink on over to E!Online or, now's your chance.

Two things came up recently that told me things about myself I might rather not have known, yet pointed me in a good direction, in a way.

The first thing was something I kind of brought about myself, to the extent that it "happened" at all. You know how sometimes you get bored and you don't have anything better to do than surf the Internet, and you actually don't want to look at porn because maybe you've already looked at a lot of porn, or maybe you're at work, or maybe it's Lent and you feel like looking at porn will make the baby Jesus cry? No? Just me? OK, but anyway, you know how you get bored and you start Googling your name just to see what kinds of places it ends up, then you start Googling your parents' names? Then you start Googling your current friends' names? Then you start Googling names of your friends from college, then high school, then eventually you're Googling people you haven't seen in 15 or 20 years, just to see where they ended up? You know that?

Well, I ended up doing that the other day, and I was Googling people I knew in fricking junior high. A lot of my friends back then were people with fairly common names, so Googling them didn't prove particularly edifying, but then I Googled the name of the person who I considered my nemesis from those three miserable years -- Ryan, the leader of the Cool Kids pack, the one whose jokes everyone laughed at like clockwork, the one who for whatever reason pretty much got to pick out who was cool and who wasn't. And for those three years, I Wasn't. I could go through the litany of less-than-pleasant memories from junior high and the reasons why that period of my life saddled me with self-esteem issues that I've only recently begun to get on top of, but I won't bore you any more than this post is probably already going to. Anyway, the point is, junior high sucked, and Ryan was always the major symbol of that, the person I put at the root of all the bad stuff that happened.

So anyway, in Googling Ryan's name I was hoping to see, I don't know what -- that he had flunked out of college and ended up working at a mall kiosk selling iPod accessories, that he had been implicated in the Enron collapse, that he had been a staffer for Rick Santorum and was now desperately looking for work, who knows. But after a fairly minimal amount of time, I found him: He has one of those semi-blogs where people put up pictures of their kids, and he and his wife apparently just had twin boys. Who were pretty cute. And the four of them looked like a perfectly happy, normal family -- Ryan looked like the kind of person who'd be taking his kids to McDonald's and, later, to Little League games, cheering them on without being overbearing or getting into fistfights with the umpire.

The kind of person, in other words, that it would be hard to be mad at. So I had to ask myself: Could I really still be mad at him? And to answer that, I had to ask: What was it he did that I was so angry about to begin with? I tried to remember back to my junior high years, now 17-19 years in the rearview mirror, and I could only remember two or three specific incidents of Ryan doing or saying something really bad to me. I'm certain there were more, but they couldn't have been that bad if I didn't remember them. I could remember a number of instances where other people had taken advantage of my general pre-teen dorkiness to make me look or feel insignificant, but obviously that couldn't all be channeled into a single person, Ryan or anyone else.

I'd spent a long, long time holding Ryan up as the symbol of everything that was unpleasant in my life, and now I'd come to the belated realization that he'd probably never done anything close to bad enough to deserve that. I don't think what I did was anything particularly out-of-the-ordinary; everybody needs to have a villain. Everybody needs to have a devil to have somebody for the angels to fight against. But if you blindly pile too much blame onto that one person, you end up getting distracted from who the real villain is -- which, in my case, was me. The old saying is that "nobody can make you feel worthless without your permission," and I realized I'd been giving permission for the past however many years.

So that was the first thing. The second was a little more serious.

My late-bloomer status meant that I didn't have a real girlfriend until my senior year of high school. I won't directly identify her here, but suffice to say she's the only person in the world with the dubious distinction of appearing on my "Dump Spots" Platial map twice. The first time was just a straight-up out-of-the-blue blindside; the second time I should've seen coming, but I was too naive to keep from diving right back in head-first. But anyway, after two dumpings, I was pissed. Maybe not so much pissed as embarrassed, but I made sure that the last words that passed between us for several years were mean and petty, I said plenty of things to other people that were just as bad if not worse, and I held that grudge for a good long while. Not nearly as long as the one I held against Ryan, but certainly longer than I needed to, and for reasons that weren't much better -- basically to make her a symbol of whatever I was pissed off or frustrated about at any given moment, for whatever way I was being screwed over by a girl or a class or a boss. Again heaping more blame and bile upon someone than they ever deserved.

Eventually I forgot about it, more or less. I stopped harboring it, and I could even be civil and friendly around her in public. But I never apologized for any of the hateful things I said or did much reflecting on it, period. I just forgot.

The thing that brought it to mind again was her mom being diagnosed with lung cancer two months ago. In only two months she went from healthy to having lung cancer to having cancer metastasizing in her liver, bones, and brain to being in hospice to passing away. She died Friday night and I went to her funeral Monday morning.

I tried to imagine what my life would be like in this girl's shoes -- watching my mom waste away to nothing in the span of only two months -- and I could barely do it. The only thing I was sure of was that she'd gone through something horrible that no family in the world deserved. Even though whatever'd happened between us had happened a long time ago, I still couldn't help but feel that much worse about the things I'd done and said all those years ago in light of what she was going through now -- not only feel that much worse about it, but also realize just how pointless it was. I'm not proud of the fact that it took her mom dying a shocking death to make me finally own up to just how much time and energy I'd spent being angry or resentful over the years, but it finally did happen.

Those two realizations coming almost one right after the other made me realize just how much of my life I'd spent being angry about things -- not just those two people in particular but much more general things, from things as major as politics and societal injustice down to silly things like sports and shitty drivers. Which is not to say that every kind of anger is bad or useless, but some of it is over important things and some of it isn't, and you've got to be able to stop yourself sometimes and get some clarity as to which is which. When I sort of rediscovered God five years ago and started going back to church, I made a promise to myself (and to God) that I'd start doing that, but the past few weeks made me realize that I'd kind of lost track of that promise.

I try to pray regularly these days, and when I do I spend a lot of time praying about stuff related to peace in the world, and one of the things I've been praying for lately is that people everywhere -- particularly in Iraq and the Middle East, but really everywhere -- will stop and think before committing an act of violence will accomplish anything of value. That's all, just to stop and think. But maybe it goes even deeper than that -- what if we could stop long before ideas of violence even enter the equation and ask ourselves whether what we're getting angry about (or think we're getting angry about) is really important. Just as 99 percent of the time our violent acts don't end up solving anything, I'd be willing to bet that 99 percent of our anger isn't about anything useful or meaningful either.

Obviously it's silly for someone to say they're just going to stop being angry about anything ever more, and I'm certainly not going to, nor would I expect anyone else to. Like I said, some anger serves a useful purpose, or can at least motivate us to do useful things. But a whole lot of it doesn't, and I think the world at large would be much better off if we could all spend a little more effort separating one from the other. I know my life would be. And I probably have some apologies ahead of me over the next few months, but better that than continuing to carry the same baggage around with me. It's time to start traveling light(er) from now on.

Sunday, March 4

Bless for success.

Since the start of the Iraq war I've gotten increasingly frustrated by the ubiquity of the "God Bless America" message on bumper stickers, license-plate frames, flags, and whatever else, and I think I've finally figured out why.

And no, before any conservatives out there start in on me, this isn't because I'm a godless heathen anti-Christian commie hell-bent on erasing any mention of the word "God" from the public sphere. (My love of dick-and-poopy jokes and the F-word notwithstanding, I'm actually a practicing Catholic and a regular churchgoer, though hardly an expert on matters of theology, as you will see.) I think it's more an objection to the way the phrase is used. As you may have noticed, brevity has never been a particular gift of mine, and maybe for that reason, "God Bless America" sounds too glib, too convenient for me. I like it better when you add a few words -- like, for instance, "May God bless America," as George W. Bush has ended four of his seven State of the Union addresses.

Why do I like that better? Because I'm not sure any of us has the automatic right to assume that God is blessing us. I certainly hope He is -- as, I'm sure, do the rest of you -- but I don't take that blessing as a given. I certainly think that God has greatly blessed this country in the past, more so than maybe any other country on earth, but that doesn't mean we can just take for granted that that blessing is going to continue if we as a country don't act in a Godly way. And so I think that when people say "God bless America," what they should really mean is, "Please, God, bless America." "God, I ask that you bless America." "God, if it's cool with you, we would all really appreciate it if you would bless America." OK, that last one's a bit cumbersome, but you get too much shorter than that and it almost sounds like you're ordering God to bless America -- which, and pardon me if this sounds presumptuous, I don't think any of us is in any position to do.

Sadly, it seems like that's how a lot of people mean it these days. Yes, God has blessed us more than any other country on earth, and yes, I think this is the greatest country on earth for that reason and many others. But particularly over the last few years, it seems like a lot of people have taken the attitude that because of that, God's blessing is automatic, as is His permission for us to go around the world doing whatever the hell we please. And I think you're heading into very dangerous waters when you start assuming God's blessing that way. When you get right down to it, "God bless America" is a prayer, a request, but more and more we're seeing it turned into a statement of fact.

In many ways this dichotomy seems to parallel one of the major differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, i.e. grace through faith vs. grace through works. As a Catholic, I am taught to believe that simply saying you believe in God and Jesus Christ isn't enough, you have to put your faith where your mouth is and do good works for the betterment of your fellow man; there are a number of evangelical Protestant denominations who seem to believe that works are irrelevant, you have to say you believe in Jesus Christ, you're then "saved" and boom, salvation. I know I'm oversimplifying this to some extent, certainly not all Protestant sects believe that way, and if anyone wants to discuss the nuances of this difference between the two major subgroups of Christianity then we can certainly do that elsewhere. But I don't think it's any coincidence that many of the same conservative evangelicals who prioritize being "saved" over actual works are proclaiming God's blessing of America as something that is automatic, not something that has to be earned.

This is probably going to come across as pretty superior and/or holier-than-thou to a lot of people, and I don't mean it to. For one thing, I know I'm the last person who should be acting holier than anybody, and secondly, I know I have no less responsibility than anyone else to earn God's blessing of my family, my state, my country, whatever. My only point is that earn is the operative word here. Like so many other words and phrases these days -- "love" and "hate" are the ones that spring immediately to mind -- "God bless America" is something that is repeated and tossed around without a lot of apparent thought given to what we actually mean when we say it, and I hope that we can change that.

All I ask is that when we say those three words, we do two things: One, that we remember that, like everything else for which we pray to God, it's a request, not an expectation, and certainly not a demand. (You want to start demanding stuff from God, be my guest, but give me some warning so that I'm not standing right next to you when you do it.) Two, that when we ask for God's blessing, we give a little thought to what God is asking of us in return. We may not get it completely right -- that's what forgiveness is about -- but let's at least try and figure out what it is.

So anyway, thanks for letting me vent. May God continue to bless this blog and the United States of America.

Friday, March 2

Friday Random Ten: The inevitable happens.

It finally happened -- yesterday whilst loading songs onto my iPod I got the dreaded "your iPod is full" message. Three thousand two hundred and something songs, and it can't take no more. Looks like it might be time to invest in one of those 80-gig color video jobs. So, uh, if anyone has one they're looking to get rid of, I'll take it off your hands.

I'd prefer black, but you know, whatever you got.

In the meantime, here's the Ten:

1. Blur, "Girls & Boys" (Pet Shop Boys mix)
2. Beck, "Minus"
3. Beck, "Corvette Bummer"
4. EMF, "Unbelievable"
5. David Holmes, "Gritty Shaker"
6. Johnny Cash, "Drive On"
7. Orbital, "You Lot"
8. 3rd Bass, "Portrait of the Artist as a Hood"
9. Beastie Boys, "Sabotage"
10. Sting, "Seven Days"

By the way, off-topic, but I'm watching Headline News right now and so far they have been cutting in between every single story to report on the progress of Anna Nicole Smith's casket down to the Bahamas and what kind of burial gown she'll be wearing and that sort of thing. Thanks, guys. I mean, eight high-school kids are dead down in Enterprise thanks to the tornados yesterday, but it was just so hard for me to focus on them until I knew for sure whether Anna Nicole was going to be buried wearing a tiara.

Anyway . . . your Random Tens and/or other rants go in the comments, as always.

(And seriously, keep Enterprise in your prayers this coming week.)