Wednesday, April 29

The electorate who wasn't there.

I don't know if this qualifies as a Freudian slip per se on the part of National Review columnist Byron York, but it's pretty telling nonetheless:

On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular overall than they actually are.

Than they actually are. What, pray tell, could that mean? I mean, if African-Americans are people, and those people have opinions, then presumably their opinions matter just as much as everyone else's. But according to York, Obama's actual popularity, his white-people popularity, is actually a bit lower, and those black people -- who are invisible, or holograms, or are maybe just figments of the imagination of some all-powerful being, perhaps Oprah -- are just artificially pumping his numbers up with their non-actual approval.

You hear this from time to time, not just from conservative commentators but also from people in the media who should know better -- the whole "Well, if you take out the black vote" argument, as if black folks were somehow less than human and there's some alternate Earth where black people don't exist, McCain got elected, Bill Clinton never got any higher than governor of Arkansas, and everything is way better than it is here. Unless one of them finds a way to open an interdimensional portal to this alternate reality, though, all of these discussions about taking out the black vote from this thing or that thing seem kind of pointless. They're humans, they're American citizens, they vote just like the rest of us . . . why don't you ever hear anyone say stuff like "Well, Sharpton would've wrecked shop in the 2004 election if it weren't for all those white voters"?

Maybe what we need is a compromise, so that we count the black voters but not to the extent that they can all rush in and skew things the wrong way. What if their votes in elections and polls and whatnot only counted 3/5 worth? Would that make Byron York feel better?

(Hat tip: Mac G on Twitter)


Remember this story I linked to about the 52-year-old stripper in Akron who got jumped by one of her co-workers? Looking for a story from the complete opposite end of the spectrum? Have I got a deal for you!

AKRON -- Police say a 14-year-old girl was dancing topless at an Akron strip club when they raided the bar and arrested four exotic dancers.

The girl has been placed in protective custody. . . .

Police Lt. Rick Edwards says officers saw some dancers have contact with customers, but not the 14-year-old. He says the club is not licensed as a sexually oriented business.

The girl has been placed with Summit County Children Services.



OK, I'm done now.

(Hat tip: With Leather.)

Tuesday, April 28

They see me rollin', they hatin'.

It has recently been brought to my attention that it might be time for a new picture in the ol' blog sidebar, not to mention a new Facebook profile picture. OK, then.

I'm giving you, lucky reader, the chance to choose which picture I use for each of these. Examine the photos below and then vote in the poll at the bottom. Pick your two favorite photos when you vote; the top vote-getter becomes the Facebook photo, runner-up goes in the sidebar. Voting closes Monday morning.

Here we go:

1. Me at New Year's 2007 (currently in the blog sidebar).

2. Me as a Lego minifig (currently my Facebook photo).

3. Me next to a 1:1-scale Volvo XC90 made out of Legos, at Legoland.

4. Douchebag with finger guns (Holly Anderson, Las Vegas, 2009).

5. Douchebag with cigar and martini (Spencer Hall, Las Vegas, 2009).

Now vote!

Monday, April 27

What about syphilis? Does anyone know the favorability ratings for syphilis?

For the last few weeks we've been hearing solid citizens like Karl Rove dismiss Barack Obama as a divisive president because his disapproval numbers have been increasing among Republicans. There's just one problem: if Washington Post/ABC poll is any indication, nobody actually wants to admit they're a Republican anymore. Only 21 percent of the respondents to their poll saw fit to identify themselves as Republicans, compared to 35 percent for Democrats and 38 percent for independents.

So that got me to thinking: What kinds of things does that make the Republican Party less popular than? Here is but a sample:

· Gay marriage. Yup, as much as some people get their staunchly heterosexual pantaloons in a wad over gays settlin' down and gettin' hitched, fully one-third of the country thinks gay people should have the right to get straight-up married; 60 percent are OK with some form of civil unions.

· Marijuana legalization. Even at 31 percent in the most recent poll, legal wacky terbacky is still a good bit more popular than the GOP.

· Russia, China, Venezuela, and Cuba. Despite being run by dictators of varying degrees of autocracy and repressiveness, all four countries graded out with favorability ratings higher than 21% in Gallup's most recent World Affairs survey.

· Michael Richards at his lowest point. Less than two weeks removed from the former "Kramer" from Seinfeld's racist nutjobbery at the Laugh Factory in 2006, 41 percent of Americans (scroll about a third of the way down) still had a favorable opinion of him.

· George W. Bush at his lowest point. Right before the 2008 election, Bush clocked in with some of the lowest approval ratings ever recorded in the Gallup poll -- but he was still higher than 21%.

But take heart, Republican Party: You're still more popular than Iran, Paris Hilton, or the concept of O.J. Simpson's innocence.

No, no -- no need to thank me.

Thoughts on the draft.

Soon to be makin' it rain in Motown on the regular.

· I realize I'm only repeating a point I made over at Dr. Saturday last week, but as bad a situation as it looks like Matt Stafford might be stepping into in Detroit, it really could be a lot worse. Think of what a luxury it is, in a way, to be taking the reins of a team that just went 0-16. If the Lions win four games in 2009, it's an improvement; if they somehow so much as break even at 8-8, Stafford instantly becomes a local legend. I'd be a lot happier for him if the Lions had bothered to draft even a single offensive lineman, but you can't have everything, I guess.

· I'd also be a little more jazzed for Knowshon's prospects if he were joining the Broncos under the Mike Shanahan regime, in which Shanahan's RB system was so magical he could practically pluck fans out of the stands and set them on track to notch thousand-yard seasons, but Knowshon is still poised to make a pretty immediate impact given that a) the Broncos backfield was a virtual M*A*S*H unit last year and b) Kyle Orton's not going to be taking any games over on his own, not yet, anyway. Either way, with Knowshon joining both of the Bailey brothers in the Mile High City, I think I've got a new favorite AFC team.

The last thing Tony Romo will see before he falls asleep for the next six months.

· As for my favorite team period, the Redskins only had six total draft picks (one of them a compensatory selection) due to Danny Snyder's ongoing inability to restrain himself from trading draft picks for the first shiny thing somebody dangles in front of his face. Still, we didn't do too badly, and our first-rounder, Texas quarterback-killer Brian Orakpo, is a monster. I'm looking forward to a great many opponent O-lines soiling themselves upon seeing Orakpo and Albert Haynesworth lining up side-by-side this season. Downside: The 'Skins didn't shore up their offensive line either, but I'm sure there will be at least one elite-level OL entering free agency next year for Snyder to throw buckets of cash at.

· The Falcons didn't have a lot of eye-grabbing, name-brand picks after the first couple rounds, but they filled needs with a bunch of potential sleeper picks. Their first-rounder, defensive tackle Peria Jerry, is a guy I remember notching approximately 137 tackles (admittedly, this is just a guesstimate based on my own recollections) when Ole Miss played Georgia in Athens a couple years ago; I'm also excited about their fourth-rounder, Richmond defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, who will get a chance to line up alongside Jerry from time to time and go hunting for QBs.

· Which team would you rather be a fan of right now: Detroit, who just went 0-16 but got to draft Stafford, or the Oakland Raiders, who just went 5-11 but continue to draft players based solely on their 40 times? It's only a matter of time before Al Davis directs his team to draft a frisbee-catching dog.

Undersized, yes, but quick and elusive; kind of a reach for the first round, though.

· Didn't follow the Arizona Wildcats much last season, so I don't know quite what to make of this comment . . .

"I couldn't be happier than to be picked by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but I was [ticked] off,'' Britton said, of going in the second round. "There isn't a better organization that I could have asked for, but every team that passed on me will regret it for the rest of the history of their franchise. I was always told I wasn't big enough, fast enough to play. Well, the chip [on my shoulder] just got a little bigger and somebody's going to pay.''

Britton didn't mince words about his goals in the NFL. "I want to lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Super Bowl and I want to become the greatest tackle in the history of the NFL,'' he said.

And then, as if that wasn't enough, Britton put the likes of Mel Kiper Jr. and his ilk on notice.

"You know what, if one of these draft guys lined up across from me, they'd be dead, so that's not something I'm really concerned with,'' Britton said. "If you want to line up across from Eben Britton, you're going to know what's happening to you, I guarantee that.''

Hasn't even formally signed a contract yet and he's already referring to himself in the third person? Easy there, tiger. Maybe you should actually block somebody in an NFL game before you go all Rickey Henderson on us.

· Final tally for the Dawgs: five players taken, three of those in the first two rounds (and Mohamed Massaquoi should get a chance to compete pretty early on in Cleveland, given what the rest of their WR corps looks like); four more signed free-agent contracts, including Dannell Ellerbe (who I couldn't believe didn't get drafted) with Baltimore and Brannan Southerland with the Jets. Good luck, guys.

ADDED: Best comment I've read on the draft (this draft or any NFL draft, for that matter) is at this Dr. Saturday post -- specifically, scroll down to "Greg S" at #21:

Rule of Thumb- If they are a criminal, the Bengals will sign them. If they suck, Redskins will sign them. If they are too old, Patriots will sign them. If they are GREAT, Browns will sign them and trash their career. If they are are qb playing wr/rb, Dolphins or 49ers will sign them. If they are warm weather college player, Bears or Packers will sign them and ruin their career. If they are projected 5th round pick, Raiders will trade up to top ten pick to get them. If they are a rb, Denver will sign them. If Payton Manning approves, Colts will sign them. If they have a drug problem, Cowboys will sign them. Steelers will not sign any of them. Cardinals are too dumb to know that their is such a thing as free agency. Rams, Raiders and Seahawks are scouting for next year's top 5 pick.

What can I say? The man knows his NFL teams.

Friday, April 24

The Friday Random Ten+5 has officially had enough.

A couple weeks ago I was watching an episode of "Family Guy" and there was a long interlude in which Stewie sang Bryan Adams's 1991 hit "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" in its entirety. And I was reminded of something I hadn't thought of in probably a decade: I fucking hate that song. For like that entire year, there was no way of getting away from that song -- on the radio, in restaurants, in waiting rooms, in fricking roller rinks for "couples skate," etc. etc. etc. There came a point when I might've actually sympathized with any fundamentalist Muslim leader who called out a fatwa on Adams for recording it.

But that's only one of numerous songs each year that get overplayed to the point of turning listeners' brains to mush. I blame most of this on mainstream radio stations, who play the same songs over and over again to the point where even really good songs -- "Under the Bridge," for example, which got rotated ad nauseam by Columbus's big top-40 station back in '92 -- can start to grate on your nerves; when the song in question sucks, it's enough to trigger "Manchurian Candidate"-style killing sprees. With that in mind, this week's +5 is my list of the Five Most Overplayed Pop Songs Relative To Their Actual Musical Merit (only going back through my lifetime, of course -- baby boomers, if any of y'all got sick to death of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" or "I Can't Help Myself" back in the day, by all means, chime in in the comments.)

Tom Cochrane, "Life is a Highway" (1991)
Now there's an original metaphor. Well played, Tom. Can someone tell me what "Life is a highway/I wanna ride it all night long' means? 'Cause all it sounds like is "I want to continue to be alive," also a very original sentiment. You still hear this crap in unimaginative TV advertisements all the time.

Alanis Morrisette, "Ironic" (1996)
Yes, this song was wildly overplayed back in '96 and '97, and no, none of the things Alanis sang about were actually ironic, they were just unfortunate coincidences -- as my friend Benjie said, the song should've just been called "Bummer" ("Isn't it a bummer/Don't you think?"). But I will say this: Maybe Alanis made all the lyrics intentionally un-ironic, in which case the mere fact that such an un-ironic song was called "Ironic" would actually be the most ironic thing ever. If that's the case, then Alanis Morrissette is a diabolical genius who should be directing our military/diplomatic strategy against Iran and North Korea.

No Doubt, "Don't Speak" (1996)
So overplayed it actually had the effect of making Gwen Stefani less hot, which is quite an accomplishment. I remember being in Washington in the summer of 2000 and they were still playing this fucking thing nonstop.

Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On" (1997)
Another no-brainer. Believe it or not, once upon a time Celine Dion was a perfectly respectable pop singer, but this song turned her reputation from "Pretty Canadian chick with some pipes" to "All I want is two bullets so that I can shoot her and then turn the gun on myself." I wrote a whole column about it for The Red & Black not long after "Titanic" came out, and I still twitch whenever I hear it.

Christina Aguilera, Pink, Li'l Kim, and Mya, "Lady Marmalade" (2001)
Seriously, examine the picture above for a few minutes. Did we as a society ever actually find that sexy? I guess everything really was different before 9/11. Give Aguilera credit, at least, for dumping that look and going with the whole '40s pinup glam thing, but I have no idea what the other three are doing.

Just missed the cut: "Losing My Religion," R.E.M.'s most overrated song ever; Boyz II Men's "End of the Road," one of those songs written specifically for acne-faced pre-teens to call into Casey Kasem's Top 40 and dedicate to their exes; "I Alone" by Live, who was doing the whole ridiculously-over-emotive-and-bombastic thing long before Creed got to it; that "Backstreet's Back" song by the Backstreet Boys; and "Hanging by a Moment" by Lifehouse, which sounds like it was written by a 14-year-old girl who just finished taking her first creative-writing class.

And now the totally non-overplayed, non-sucktastic Random Ten:

1. The Jam, "A Town Called Malice"
2. R.E.M., "Radio Song"
3. Passengers, "Elvis Ate America"
4. Avenue Q cast, "The Avenue Q Theme"
5. The Chemical Brothers, "Get Up On It Like This"
6. The Streets, "Who Got the Funk?"
7. Fine Young Cannibals, "Good Thing"
8. Dead Kennedys, "Drug Me"
9. Leftfield, "Shallow Grave"
10. David Bowie and Pet Shop Boys, "Hallo Spaceboy"

Your turn -- your own Random Tens and not-so-random lists of songs you'll put a sharpened pencil through your eardrum if you have to hear them one more time, in the comments, por favor.

Thursday, April 23

The real happiest place on earth: a photo essay.

Pictures from my trip to Legoland. Yup, I finally got to go. And don't even act like you're not jealous.

One of the row markers in the parking lot, made entirely out of Legos.

A Lego tourist positioned at the front of the park.

Washington, D.C.

The famed inauguration setup in Washington.

Evidently they update the Miniland setup fairly regularly, because they had this detail of Obama and the First Family's new dog in place within days of the family's much-anticipated selection of a Portuguese water dog for their new pet.

The Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Times Square.

New York harbor, with the under-construction Freedom Tower already in place.

The Las Vegas sign.

The Excalibur, whose real-life counterpart we stayed at while we were in Vegas. You know you're staying at an awesome hotel when Legoland has decided to build a Lego version of it.

The New York, New York casino.

A Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans. And before anybody asks, no, we went over it with a fine-toothed comb and there aren't any little Lego people showing their tits for beads. Which would've been awesome.

A 1:1-scale Volvo XC90.

And, finally, a dude with a camel.

I took a buttload of photos in Legoland, so there may be more of these in the next few days.

Tuesday, April 21

What happens in Akron . . .

Some stories make me sad because there are so many jokes and I can never make them all . . .

AKRON, Ohio — Ohio police say a 52-year-old woman was attacked on her first day as an exotic dancer by a jealous co-worker wielding a stiletto heel.

Akron police Lt. Rick Edwards says the woman was assailed Friday night by a co-worker who didn't think the club needed more dancers. Police say one of the dancers took her stiletto and repeatedly struck the woman in the face as she walked into the basement dressing room.

The woman was treated at a hospital and received seven staples.

. . . so I'll simply say this: If you are so insecure in the continued stability of your exotic-dancing job that the presence of a 52-year-old on your club's payroll threatens you, maybe you should be the one to quit.

A million thanks to my college friend Andrea, who's getting a basket of mini-muffins for Twittering this.

An extremely belated Friday Random Ten+5(+another 10) recaps Vegas.

Hmmmm, so . . . I seem to remember implying that I'd try to post something from Vegas last week, didn't I? Er, sorry 'bout that. Turns out that free wi-fi is oddly scarce in Sin City, but perhaps more to the point, so are concepts such as "sleep" and "sobriety." But I'm home now, awake, upright (more or less), and not even that poor; didn't get arrested, didn't wind up getting married to a hooker, didn't even get throwing-up drunk at any point, though not for lack of trying.

So what did I do? Well, I learned a lot about Vegas on my first trip out there, which I'll share with you in this horribly tardy Friday-slash-Monday Random Ten+5, in which the +5 is Five Things I Learned About Las Vegas On My First Trip To Las Vegas:

Ordinary concepts of scale have no meaning here. Think of the biggest hotel you've ever stayed in, and the ones in Vegas are still three or four times bigger. And that's just the actual guest accommodations; add in the gaming floors, restaurants, shopping areas, sportsbooks, theatres/show halls, convention halls, and really crazy stuff like aquariums (Mandalay Bay), wave pools (ditto), and roller coasters (yes, the New York, New York casino has one), and a lot of these places are closer in size to some of the airports you've flown out of.

And a lot of them are connected -- Excalibur (where we stayed), Luxor, and Mandalay Bay are all owned by the same folks, so they're all strung together by shopping areas -- so it's possible for you to traverse great distances without ever actually stepping outdoors. For instance, we went from our rooms on one side of Excalibur to the aquarium on the far side of Mandalay Bay (above), and we probably walked about three-quarters of a mile each way, all of it indoors. The fact that you can go such long stretches without actually going outside really messes with your sense of space (because you don't feel like you've covered all that long a distance until you get back to your room and you're about to collapse), but also your sense of time -- the whole thing about casinos not having any clocks is true, but most of these places also severely limit the amount of natural light coming into the gaming areas so that you don't realize you've been playing blackjack or dumping money into the video poker machine until six in the morning.

When you're a kid, you'll take anything someone hands out to you on the street if it's free, simply because the concept of getting something for nothing is so novel, but past a certain age, people no longer take stuff just because it's handed out to them. I know this because there were people on street corners and in casino walkways offering everything from drink specials to show tickets to hookers, and 99 percent of the pedestrians were strolling right by. How jaded have we become, that enduring so much as a five-minute conversation with a casino employee is considered too big a price to pay for free Criss Angel tickets? Oh, that's right, because Criss Angel is out-of-this-world creepy and his fuck-me face is staring glassy-eyed at you from nearly EVERYTHING at the Luxor these days, even the goddamn casino chips. Just because you were tagging Holly Madison for about five seconds a few months back doesn't make you a rock star, buddy.

I did take the little gimme cards they were handing out for hookers on the strip, though, just to see how big a collection I could end up with by the end of the trip. And once I had a stack about as thick as two packs of cigarettes, I figured there'd be some duplicates in there, but out of the stack of more than 100 little cards, there were only a handful of dupes. What this tells me is that there are more hookers in Las Vegas than customers, possibly more than actual people. That's got to be one cutthroat-ass business out there, then. On a side note, some of the girls on those cards I recognized as having been Playmates at one time or another, and I'm pretty sure you're not going to get to bang a Playmate by calling any of the numbers on those cards, fellas.

I don't recall the University of Nevada-Las Vegas having developed an especially sterling academic reputation, but after three days in Vegas I've developed a newfound respect for anyone who graduates from UNLV in four years. Not only do you have the constant distraction of world-class gambling literally a 15-minute stroll away, but the quality of tail roaming the periphery of the UNLV campus on Sunday afternoon was also world-class, on a par with Arizona State or UCLA or any of the hottie mills of the SEC. If you can actually focus on your studies enough to get handed a diploma after four years, I don't care if it's in music appreciation or video gaming, you're a better man than I am. Either that, or a eunuch.

And by way of apology for the lateness of this post, here's ten more things I learned this past week:

· The Pacific Ocean is like the penguin habitat at the San Diego Zoo: Real nice to look at, not actually any fun to swim in.

· There is no human malady that In-N-Out Burger can't cure. None that I've ever experienced, anyway. Well, maybe herpes.

· Hottest cocktail waitresses in Vegas: Mandalay Bay. Though we never did peek inside the Hooters Casino, and I was kind of disappointed that we didn't.

· Mandalay also boasts the strongest drinks, and has the best bar: Red Square, a Soviet-themed vodka bar featuring more than 200 different kinds of vodka from all over the world. There's even a private ice bar if you want to sample the really high-end stuff, and they give you a fur coat to wear when you go in there.

· Biggest boobs: Hard Rock Casino, a nonstop silicone valley on the part of cocktail waitresses and guests alike that will either turn you on or turn you off breasts forever, depending on your personal preferences. (In another paradox, it's also home to either the best- or worst-named restaurant in America, a Mexican restaurant called the Pink Taco.)

· Nicest blackjack dealers: Luxor. I didn't actually gamble that much, more out of fear than anything else, but I did settle into a nice comfort zone late Saturday night (er, early Sunday morning) at a table with Orson Swindle, Holly, and Peter Bean. It's perfectly fine to ask dealers for advice, too; the casino may not want you to win any money, but the individual dealers do, since the more you rake in, the more of a tip they're likely to get.

· That said, the very instant the words "Hmm, maybe I should quit now" pop into your head, fucking quit.

· Keep track of your jacket or any accessories you might be wearing just as you would your wallet.

· Try not to leave Vegas on a Sunday if you can avoid it. The traffic streaming out of there on Sundays is almost as bad as anything I experienced in Los Angeles the preceding week.

· Legoland is every bit as awesome as you'd think it would be. (Pictures definitely to come.)

And with that not-so-random ten out of the way, here's the Random Ten:

1. The Clash, "Sean Flynn"
2. The Beastie Boys, "Groove Holmes"
3. U2, "City of Blinding Lights"
4. U2, "If You Wear That Velvet Dress"
5. Radiohead, "Lucky"
6. DJ Cam, "Un Ete a Paris"
7. Pet Shop Boys, "To Step Aside" (Ralphi's disco vox)
8. Flight of the Conchords, "Song for Sally"
9. Q-Tip, "Moving With U"
10. David Gray, "Babylon"

Feel free to throw your own Random Tens in the comments, and talk amongst yourselves . . . I'm gonna go dry out my liver for a few days.

Thursday, April 16

No time for tea parties, Dr. Jones.

For the best summations of yesterday's teabaggings "tea parties," go here and/or here; I'd weigh in on them myself, but I'm just about to hop in the car and go here:

So it's Legoland down in Carlsbad this afternoon, and Vegas by nightfall, meeting up with Orson, Peter, Dr. Saturday, and the rest of this year's cast of miscreant bloggers. Posting from Sin City will be as frequent as my level of intoxication and/or incarceration allows.

Tuesday, April 14

"We have become so politically correct that no one would even daaaare think about sending in the Marines to fight pirates . . . "

Well, Glenn Beck was right about one thing: We didn't send in the Marines. We sent in Navy SEALs.

If Beck (or Newt Gingrich, or Brit Hume, or any of those other Fox News dicklicks) are ever right about anything else, then by all means let me know. I wouldn't want to miss it.

In the meantime, hijack this, bitches. (Chart lovingly, painstakingly crafted over at Tiki Bar.)

It lives.

Back in the driver's seat once again.

Don't know what the inspiration for the renewed interest in blogging was, but I don't particularly care, because baby sis's excellent blog is back up and running, with regular updates, for the first time in eight months. The honesty, as always, will be refreshing. And terrifying. Terrifyingly refreshing.

Update your blogrolls accordingly, mofos, or there will be pain.

A somewhat sensationalized version of a conversation had with my parents this past weekend.

A river-view table at a nice restaurant in Columbus. Nicer than the protagonist deserves, at any rate.

ME: So have there been any repercussions from the I'm-engaged thing I pulled on Facebook last week?

MY DAD: Your Aunt _________ was certainly excited.

ME: That's right . . . she's on Facebook, isn't she.

MY DAD: Mmmhmm. She was excited, and by the end of the week, so was the rest of the family.

ME: Oh. (pause) So, uh . . . how many people do you think it got out to?

DAD: By now, no telling.

ME: So you think I should just, uh . . . e-mail everyone in the family and tell them it was a joke and apologize?

DAD: It's not that simple. By now it's gotten around to relatives you haven't even met. Actually, it's gotten around to relatives I haven't met, not in years, anyway.

ME: I think you're exaggerating.

DAD: Someone up in Connecticut e-mailed me "congrats" the other day and asked if you'd set a date. I e-mailed my mother to find out who this person was and she said it was one of great-granny Renshaw's nephews. Which I guess would make him my . . . second cousin? Once removed? I can ask her if you'd really like to know.

ME: Oh.

(long, awkward pause)

DAD: Your mom and I were talking, though, and there is one thing you could do to sort of, I don't know, clean all this up.

ME: What's that?

DAD: Well, have you thought about . . . actually getting engaged?

ME: Well, duh, sure I have. I mean, one of these days, I hope to meet the right girl, and we hit it off, and . . .

DAD: No no no, that's not what I mean. I mean, have you thought about just going out and getting engaged?

ME: What do you mean, "just 'going out' and getting engaged"?

DAD: I mean go out, just find a girl, and get engaged to her. For a few months. Get engaged, let everybody get excited for a little while, and then if you want you can just break it off later.

(even longer, more awkward pause)

ME: Mom, are you on board with this?

MY MOM: Well, you are 30, you're kind of at a point in your life where it wouldn't be the strangest thing that you could do . . .

ME: But, I mean, as a Catholic, doesn't that strike you as being kind of . . . disrespectful to the institution of marriage?

DAD: Not if you don't actually get married.

(long, awkward pause, not quite as long or awkward as the previous pause but still fairly long and awkward)

DAD: Look, all I'm saying is, you've got a ton of relatives out there who think you got engaged because you lied -- the least you could do is make it true for a little while. Give them a return on their emotional investment.

ME: But, OK, who would I get married to?

DAD: What about ______?

ME: She's married.

DAD: Oh, right, right.

MOM: What about her sister? The one you got the dog from?

ME: Married too. Remember? She got married before ______ did --

DAD: Didn't you date a girl for a few months you met at the park -- Amy or something? The one who had the two Boston terriers?

ME: Ugh, and who dumped me over a voice mail? Try again.

DAD: The Hooters waitress?

ME: Seeing someone, and probably not interested.

DAD: What about Holly from the thing you did last year the week of the Tennessee game?

ME: On the other side of the continent, and probably not interested either.

MOM: She was interested enough to imagine what life would be like if she was married to you . . .

ME: That's . . . not even remotely on the same planet as the same thing, Mom.

MOM: (hurt) Well, I'm not going to keep giving you ideas if you're just going to shoot them down.

(long, awkward pause, about equivalent in length and awkwardness to the preceding pause)

DAD: Look. We can go around in circles about this all evening long, but the fact is, you created a situation here, and you need to fix it. Your mom and I have given you an option, and it's yours to take or not take, but you better do something.

ME: Huh.

(long, awkward pause, longer than the preceding pause but perhaps not quite as awkward)

ME: If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go use the bathroom, and if the waitress comes back, tell her I'd like another Guinness, and two would be even better.

(excuses himself and heads into the lobby; dials phone)

HOLLY: What do you want?

ME: Hey, uh, how's it going?

HOLLY: Fine, what do you want?

ME: What makes you think I want something?

HOLLY: So you're just calling to chat?

ME: Uh, well, no.

(long, awkward pause)

ME: So, uh, the engagement-on-Facebook thing has kind of blown up in my face, and my dad's kind of riding my ass to do something about it, so I could use your help.

HOLLY: To do what?

ME: You want to, uh, get engaged? For a little while?

(awkward pause of medium length)

HOLLY: Well, look, this has been fun, but I've got a ton of cleaning to do, and . . .

ME: No no no, don't hang up, don't hang up, seriously. You want to get engaged? Just for, like, a few months? It'll placate my family for a little while, then we can break it off, no questions asked, I just have to do something . . .

HOLLY: And what do I tell my family?

ME: Same thing I'm telling mine -- and when we break it off, you can even tell them it was my fault and that I'm a huge asshole. I just need something to take the heat off for a few months.

(long, awkward pause)

HOLLY: I want a ring.

ME: Uh . . . OK . . .

HOLLY: Silver band, 'cause gold will turn my finger green, and some kind of round cut, none of that princess-cut bullshit. Oh, and I don't get out of bed for less than a full carat.

ME: Wow, uh . . . how much is that gonna cost me?

HOLLY: I don't know, how much is your family hating you for the rest of your life gonna cost you?

ME: Right, right, sorry, sorry. OK. You got a ring.

HOLLY: And I do want you to be the one who's the asshole when we finally break up.

ME: Yeah. Sure. No problem.


HOLLY: And you're gonna have to come out here and do it.

ME: What? To L.A.? Why? Why can't I just e-mail everyone and tell them the news?

HOLLY: Because my family's gonna want photographic proof -- the nice restaurant, the ring, getting down on one knee, the whole deal. I don't care about any of that, mind you, but if you want to back everything up then you're gonna have to do it. I'm going for verisimillitude here.

ME: Well, I guess since I'm headed to Vegas anyway . . .

HOLLY: Oh, yeah, and when we're all in Vegas, you buy all my drinks.

ME: For fuck's sake --

HOLLY: In case it slipped your mind, I'm the one doing you a favor here, huckleberry. Ring, in L.A., my drinks in Vegas, or I walk and good luck explaining things to your relatives.

(long pause)

ME: Can we go to Legoland while I'm out in California?

HOLLY: Sure, what the hell.

ME: See you on Monday.


Friday, April 10

The Friday Random Ten+5 salutes Dear Old Mom.

Today, April 10, marks a big milestone not to me but to someone who is at least 50-percent responsible for me being on this planet in the first place: my mother. Moms hits the big six-oh today, and since she's had to spend half of those 60 years dealing in some fashion with my trifling ass, I figured it was only fitting that I give her a shout-out on the blog. She's a pretty cool cat, and my sister and I both feel extremely fortunate that we were blessed with someone as loving and good-natured as she is for a mom; my friends all love her, too, and I even have ex-girlfriends asking how she's doing from time to time. Moms can be pretty entertaining, most of the time on purpose, and I thought I'd embarrass the hell out of her tip my cap to her by making this week's +5 Five Random Memories Of My Mom From The Last Thirty Years. Just so you know, you're going to be jealous by the end of this post; I don't think my mom and dad are accepting adoptions, but they do have a couple extra bedrooms with me and my sister out of the house, so I guess you could always ask.

Columbus, Georgia, probably 1993 or so: My mom never got quite as into Nintendo as she did the Atari games we'd first gotten when I was real little, but she did love her some Dr. Mario. Sometimes I'd be trundling off to bed close to midnight and she'd be sitting in the rocking chair in the family room, plugging away like those folks who sit with glazed expressions in front of the slots in Vegas for hours at a time. Anyway, she got pretty good at it, but not good enough to beat me on a consistent basis -- I probably took her down four out of every five times we went head-to-head -- and one time after I'd completed a particularly humiliating string of defeats, she called me a little son of a bitch right to my face. I gave her a few moments to consider the ramifications of what she'd said, and she did, but she flatly refused to back down from her initial assessment. Tell me that's not hard-core.

Belgium/international airspace, 1999: My sister and I hit the respective milestones of graduating from high school and graduating from college within about a month of each other, and my parents, seeing the writing on the wall that we might not get to have but so many more big family vacations together, decided that momentous summer to take us all on a month-long trip across Europe. As our Sabena flight was landing in Brussels, my mom happened to be flipping through the in-flight magazine, and all of a sudden I heard her exclaim, "Oh my God! Did you know alcoholic beverages were free on this airline? We could've been getting smashed the entire flight!" We vowed to make amends on the return leg, and between the four of us we probably cleared out the plane's supply of Stella Artois. By the time we got back I could barely heave my suitcase off the baggage carousel (and this was all with my mom's blessing, of course). Barely more than two years later, the airline filed for bankruptcy protection. I'd like to think the two events have no connection, but I'm not positive.

Alexandria, Virginia, 2006: This is another drinking story. While we were in Alexandria for my cousin Kate's wedding in 2003, we ate at this great Irish pub down the street from our hotel called Pat Troy's, so when we went back up there for her brother Philip's wedding three years later, I insisted that we go back. The first time we went there, we'd managed to behave ourselves, but for some reason -- maybe it was the authentic Irish folk band playing that night, or the round of car bombs I ordered the minute we sat down to celebrate my sister getting called back for a job interview by UAB -- the six of us, my whole family and my aunt and uncle, got tuh-rashed. I'm talking speech-slurring, stumbling-down-Pitt-Street trashed. I think that was the first time I've ever seen my parents genuinely wasted, and it was pretty awesome. (Now would probably be a good time to point out that neither of my parents are alcoholics. Just wanted to have that one on the record.)

UPDATE -- Mom's version of the story, Rashomon-style: "I think your memory might have been a little clouded by a few too many car bombs. Your dad and I were happy; Aunt _______ was a little more happy; you and Uncle ______ were the ones who were stumbling, falling-down tuh-rashed." Whatever, mom. You remember it your way, and I'll remember it mine.

Custer State Park, South Dakota, 1992: That summer, my mom, her sister, me, my sister, and our cousin John all went on a month-long camping trip that took us all the way out to Wyoming and back, stopping at numerous national parks and KOA Campgrounds along the way. Things went all right for the first week or so, but by the time we got out to South Dakota, with the five of us and all our crap crammed into a Ford Aerostar the entire way, we were starting to get a little punchy. We decided to bed down fairly early when we got to Custer State Park in South Dakota's Black Hills area, but not everyone in our campground had the same idea; this one family just a couple campsites away from ours stayed up into the wee hours, messing with their dogs and playing guitar and commenting on what a fantastic fire they'd built. Seriously, they commented on it like every five minutes: "Boy, that's a purty fire. Ain't that a purty fire? Skyler, throw another log on that fire. Boy, that's a purrrrty fire." Lather, rinse, repeat. Anyway, my mom tired of this in a hurry, and finally she couldn't take it anymore. The kids and the adults were sleeping in separate tents, so I didn't actually see this happen, but the tone of my normally mild-mannered mother's voice screaming "Will you clowns PLEASE quiet down!!!!" into the cold prairie night was enough to convince me that her eyeballs were on fire and her neck veins were bulging out like an Olympic weightlifter's. Sure enough, the guitars went silent, and nobody said shit about how purty the fire was after that. The next morning, we busted tracks for Billings, Montana, and never looked back. I've never taken down a tent faster than I did that morning; I just wanted to get the hell out of there before the rednecks set out to exact their revenge.

Columbus, Georgia, 1993: Back in 1993, I really wanted to see the movie "CB4." I don't know why; I loved comedy and I loved hip-hop, and the movie appeared to have plenty of both, so maybe that was it. Anyway, it was rated R, so I couldn't go see it by myself, but somehow I managed to inveigh upon my mom to take me and my sister to see it. I don't know how I pulled this off -- I probably told her "It'll be funny, it's got a bunch of people from 'Saturday Night Live' in it" or something -- and I definitely don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to watch this film in the presence of my mother. But I convinced her to take us, we went for an afternoon matinee, and thus began ninety of the more excruciating minutes I have ever experienced. It only took a few minutes of F-bombs, gross-out gags, and songs with titles like "Sweat From My Balls" before I could feel Mom start to develop her own gravitational pull in the seat next to me, her jaw was so tightly clenched. When it was all over, we wandered out of the theatre and climbed back into our Taurus wagon to go home, and only three lines of dialogue were spoken the entire way: "Did you think that was funny?" "Yeah, I thought it was pretty good." "I did not think that was a very funny movie." And those were the only words spoken for the entire 15 minutes. It took a long time after that for me to convince myself I hadn't been written out of the will. And the thing was, it wasn't even that funny. "Fear of a Black Hat"? Way better (though it probably helped that I didn't watch that one with my mom).

Happy birthday, mom. Thanks for being cooler than you had to be, and for not putting me on a boxcar or signing me up for the merchant marine when I was a teenager. I know you considered it.

And now the Ten:

1. The Chemical Brothers, "Not Another Drugstore"
2. Avenue Q cast, "Special"
3. A Tribe Called Quest, "8 Million Stories"
4. Depeche Mode, "Clean"
5. St. Germain, "Montego Bay Spleen"
6. Q-Tip, "Let's Ride"
7. Roni Size and Reprazent, "Railing Pt. 2"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "Disco Potential"
9. Pet Shop Boys, "A Red Letter Day" (Motiv 8 12" master mix)
10. Radio 4, "Red Lights"

I'm headed down to Columbus this afternoon to help celebrate the big day (and to have a fire extinguisher on standby when we bust out the birthday cake) -- while I'm gone, throw your own Random Tens and memories of your moms in the comments.

Thursday, April 9

This is the part where a Southerner would say "Bless your heart."

If it didn't happen in Suffolk County, it didn't happen.

I don't read or listen to Bill Simmons -- not living in, or being a fan of any of the sports franchises from, the Boston area, I doubt there's a lot of intersection in the Venn diagram of our respective interests. But "The Sports Guy" still managed to be, shall we say, brought to my attention for his "B.S. Report" podcast from Wednesday.

The guest was Sports Illustrated ESPN columnist Rick Reilly, whom I don't really have that big a problem with as either a writer or a guy in general, but who hasn't been a big fan of Every Day Should Be Saturday ever since EDSBS posted an account of Reilly's odd behavior in the LSU press box for the '07 LSU-Florida game. Maybe you sympathize with the guy and maybe you don't, but 18 months after the incident supposedly occurred, Reilly brought it up on Simmons's podcast in the course of an entirely predictable tut-tutting of how mean-spirited and irresponsible sports blogs are, a tut-tutting that rather unpredictably spawned this howler from Simmons:

Yeah. It's the way, just the way the Internet is. I mean, my dad is retiring as a superintendent this year -- the way the Internet works now, you know, with the cell-phone cameras and text and -- you know, it's a crisis every week, something happens, and it just seems like society's gotten a little bit meaner. Which I'm surprised by, because -- I really thought after 9/11, it was gonna be like some sort of wake-up call for everybody, you know?

Wow. That's downright wistful for a guy who wrote more than 4,000 words to do little more than gloat over Pete Carroll's inability to three-peat in the '06 Rose Bowl, or who once said about NBA ref Violet Palmer, "Nobody has ever been worse at their job, in any vocation -- not even the people who work at Home Depot selling Christmas trees." But just for the sake of argument, let's take Simmons at his word that he's very sorry for saying those things and he wishes the whole world would be nicer. Here are some other things Bill Simmons thought were going to happen after 9/11:

Brad Pitt and Gwyneth Paltrow getting back together

McDonald's bringing back the McRib sandwich

America's Big Three automakers cutting back on SUV and truck production and concentrating on smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles

Those kids in the commercial finally letting the rabbit have some Trix

Delta installing special sections on their aircraft where passengers could sit in bean-bag chairs

George Clooney rejoining the cast of "ER"

The "tastes great" and "less filling" sides in the great Miller Lite debate coming together to make peace

The Red Sox finally winning a World Series (OK, so he got that one.)

Otherwise, a worldview as perpetually sunny and optimistic as Simmons's, with such an abiding faith (misplaced or not) in human nature, seems destined to lead to frequent disappointment. Still, we salute you, Sports Guy, and hope that one day you really will teach the world to sing, mean-spirited bloggers be damned.

And as for you, Orson Swindle, we always suspected that you didn't really care about the worst terrorist attack in American history, and now we have proof. Good job: You've managed to make Glenn Beck and the Baby Jesus cry. Shame on you, sir, shame on you indeed.

This meant nothing to you, Swindle? What are you, made of stone?

Tuesday, April 7

A memo from the desk of Arnold T. Pants, Esq.:
Stray bassetblogging, wheezing newspapers, and something even dumber than a Segway.

Sorry about the sparse posting over the last few days, folks -- work's gotten crazy, I've got a freelance job for the Roll Bama Roll fellows, I'm getting ready for an out-of-town trip this Friday, and oh yeah, I've been trying to find a home for a dog that I spotted wandering up the shoulder of I-20/59 on Saturday, a few miles up from the Mercedes-Benz plant. This is the dog we've unofficially christened "Greta":

I think I may be close to finding someone who's interested in taking her -- a few someones, actually -- but in the off chance that you've ever seen this dog before or might know whom she belongs to, shoot me an e-mail. But one way or the other, we're gonna find the ol' girl a home.

And I'm sure it can't be a moment too soon for her or for my two overactive Bostons, both of whom have been completely befuddled by her presence the last few days. Not that they're not getting along or anything, but the situation has rendered Champ even more neurotic than usual -- every time he looks up at me, I imagine Kevin from "The Office" stage-whispering, "There's ANOTHER DOG in this house, I just thought you should know."

Other links for you to peruse while I try to get this all sorted out:

· Dave from Maize n Brew put together a rather incisive post about the hastening demise of the daily newspaper and what this means for blogs. As a former newspaper writer myself -- not that I have any burning desire to get back into that racket, mind you -- I appreciate his cautioning that the crumbling newspaper industry is not something bloggers should necessarily be celebrating no matter how incensed they get at the opinion columnists or sportswriters who make their forehead veins bulge out on a regular basis. Check it out; it's a good read.

· And it's not like newspaper hacks are the only annoying ones out there, either, because even if all the newspapers go bankrupt, we'll still have knee-jerking drama queens from the major TV networks trying to force artificially constructed narratives down our throats. Granted, I was tired yesterday evening, tired enough to fall asleep before halftime of the NCAA basketball final, but I could swear I remember hearing at least two guys in CBS's pregame show talk about how supremely talented North Carolina was but pick Michigan State anyway based solely on the overwhelming majority of State fans in the stands and the whole "They're doin' it for Detroit!!!111!!" angle. Is that all it takes to get an analyst job on TV these days -- the ability to completely throw out established evidence like "facts" and "statistics" in favor of barely relevant intangibles? Shit, CBS, I can do that, and I'll bet I can do it for a lot cheaper than Jim Nantz. (In case you were curious, my barely relevant intangible was that I could never root for UNC because I applied to go to college there and they said no, so I can never root for them in anything, ever, therefore I picked State, but I guess it's all academic now.)

· If this is what GM thinks is gonna save them from the gaping, razor-toothed maw of bankruptcy, then I don't think a Sparty win in the basketball championship would have saved them anyhow:

I mean, a Segway is basically a little personal-transportation module for people who are too lazy to walk; this looks like a Segway for people who are too lazy to stand up while they drive it. (And to think some people laughed at the starship scenes from "Wall-E" with the fat, lazy humans wallowing in their floating easy chairs.) Man, I'm glad I unloaded my GM stock when I did.

· Finished reading Douglas Coupland's Microserfs the other night for probably the 10th or 12th time. Go out and read that if you haven't.

· And finally, I shouldn't have laughed, but I did.

(Hat tip: Andy Sullivan.) By the way: Seth Rogen's "Observe and Report" comes out on Friday, and looks to be freaking hilarious. Let's all do out part to make sure it has a bigger opening weekend than fricking "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," shall we?

Friday, April 3

The Friday Random Ten+5 dares to dream.

Kind of a rough week here in the Salty 'Ham -- nothing life-threatening, just a lot of crap that I could leave everything behind (except the dogs, of course) and go off and start an entirely new life somewhere. Maybe I'd keep my own name; maybe I'd go Witness Protection Program and give myself a brand-new, cooler-sounding identity like Dirk Hardcastle. Then again, I'm kind of a low-key guy, so maybe a name that doesn't call quite as much attention to itself, something like Flint McHugepenis. I don't know, I haven't really thought it all through just yet.

Truthfully, though, there's a lot of stuff I'd like to be able to do, some of which I can still learn as a 30-year-old, others of which I probably can't. But as long as I'm fantasizing about alternate-universe lives I might like to be leading right now, this week's +5 might as well be Five Talents I Wish I Had:

Playing the piano
I would love to be able to hear a song one time, sit down at a piano, and within a few minutes be able to bang out the melody on the keys, whether the song was Beethoven's "Für Elise" or Camper van Beethoven's "Take the Skinheads Bowling." And yeah, I know, there are any number of people out there who would be happy to start giving me piano lessons right now, but I don't want to go through the decades of lessons and drills and having to learn from scratch how to play the piano, I just want to be magically granted the ability to do it.

Speaking Russian
I started taking some very rudimentary Russian lessons a few years back when I thought I was going over to Russia with the Peace Corps, and kind of put it aside when the assignment fell through before I'd even gotten over there. I can write in Cyrillic and sound it out -- which is fun all by itself, because the Russian alphabet, above, is one bad-ass-looking alphabet -- but I'd still like to be able to actually speak the language and carry on a conversation in it, because that's probably the only way my future career as an international super-spy is going to get off the ground.

Some people, my parents included, have suggested they don't want me trying breakdancing because I grew up with scoliosis and I had a metal rod installed in my spine when I was a teenager. But if anything, I think that metal rod would make me even stronger and more able to sustain the strain that breakdancers put on their bodies on a regular basis. In fact, my eventual goal would be to quit my job, lay out my square of cardboard by the Starbucks in Five Points, and rip shit up on a regular enough basis that I could make a living out of it. Birmingham isn't like New York, where there are breakers in every subway station; I'd pretty much have the market cornered here.

Flying a jet airplane
In addition to scoliosis, I have "mild colorblindness" on my lengthy list of genetic imperfections and deficiencies, so I can never fly for the military or a U.S. airline, but I wouldn't mind knowing how to fly a plane of my own. I mean, once I sell my novel and make an assload of money and buy my own Bombardier Global Express, I'm just gonna hire a pilot anyway, so that I can kick back in the cabin and get liquored up and watch movies and whatnot, but in the event that my hired pilot strokes out in the cockpit or something, I'd like to be able to grab the controls and fly us to safety. Not only would it be lifesaving, it'd be a fun story to tell at my next high-school reunion.

Bending the laws of time and space to my whim
And yes, if I accidentally locked myself inside a particle accelerator and acquired these abilities, I'd go about my business butt-naked too, just like Dr. Manhattan. I mean, what the hell is anyone gonna say to me? I can make you explode just by pointing at you, Mr. Clothes Lover.

And now the Ten:

1. Gorillaz, "Sound Check (Gravity)"
2. A Tribe Called Quest, "Like It Like That"
3. 3rd Bass, "Hoods"
4. Wang Chung, "Dance Hall Days"
5. Crowded House, "Kare Kare"
6. The Police, "Message in a Bottle"
7. R.E.M., "Lotus"
8. Gorillaz, "Rock the House"
9. The Doors, "Break on Through (to the Other Side)"
10. Sting, "My One and Only Love"

Your turn, mortals. Throw your own Random Tens, and/or lists of talents you've always wanted to magically be granted, in the comments.