Friday, May 29

Before you even ask, no, The Onion didn't come up with this.

It is all too real:

Seriously, who does that?? Does this look like the kind of thing Spurrier would've signed off on when he was at Florida? All that's left now is to decide the athletic department's slogan for the 2009-10 academic year:

· "Gamecock athletics: Finally on the sunny side of mediocre."

· "Setting the bar low . . . and clearing it."

· "The relentless pursuit of acceptability."

· "South Carolina sports: Because there's no thrill like breaking even."

Any other ideas, children?

The Friday Random Ten+5 gets wistful. Or maybe just pathetic.

The other day Orson Swindle announced that he'd gotten an advance copy of Phil Steele's legendary preseason college-football publication, that lucky rat bastard (except for the whole, you know, breaking your back and ending up immobilized for weeks thing). Between the imminent release of the annual Steele opus and the preseason top 25s that have started popping up on various Web sites over the past few weeks, I've really been reminded just how much I'm starting to miss football. It was acute enough when we still at least had the distractions of National Signing Day, spring games, or the NFL draft to distract us; at this point we've basically got three more months of nothin'. And it hurts.

But that's just one of the things I've been missing lately. There are plenty of other things I've found myself pining for, or at least wishing they'd pop up again, and thus this week's +5 is Five People, Places, And/Or Things I've Been Missing Lately:

Alfa Romeo
Originally, this Italian car company, which had stopped selling in the U.S. in 1995, was supposed to return to the American market in 2007. Then it was 2008, then 2009. And now that the economy has gone in the crapper and the auto industry is on life support, it looks like they've pushed the date back to 2011. That may actually be a good thing, since it'll probably take at least that long for me to pay off the rest of my credit-card debt, but once I get that off my permanent record I want to be able to buy a Brera (above) or, barring that, a 159, particularly the station-wagon version. Speaking of which, I miss station wagons.

Getting to visit the cockpit
I can remember flying on Piedmont Airlines as a little kid and getting to go up and say hello to the pilots (and no, none of them ever asked me if I liked movies about gladiators or had seen a grown man naked), and then getting my "pilot wings" pinned on me by a flight attendant. Post-9/11, of course, you practically need security clearance to get anywhere near the cockpit, and I'm kind of bummed my kids are never going to be able to have that experience. And at the risk of sinking into "What's the deal with airline food?" humor, I also miss decent snacks on airplanes. I can remember when Piedmont would give you a bag of smokehouse almonds even on a short hop over the Smokies; then airlines throttled back to honey-roasted peanuts, then regular peanuts, and now you're lucky if the flight attendants fire a bag of goldfish at you with one of those compressed-air guns they use to launch T-shirts at people at basketball games. And why don't they just make the whole airplane out of the black box?!? OK, I'm done now.

Mike Wallace
Wallace is/was the standard-bearer for a dying breed of journalist: the investigative reporter/interviewer who wasn't afraid to be a complete asshole. Once upon a time, interviewers were less concerned with currying favor and being best buds with their sources/interviewees than they were with actually asking tough questions and getting relevant information, and when you sat down across from Wallace, you knew you were going to get some shots across the bow (or maybe right into your gut). Who has that kind of balls these days? Hardly anybody on the Sunday-morning talk shows, that's for sure, and not even Wallace's own son, Chris, who is a dead ringer for Dr. Leo Spaceman but has yet to do anything else to distinguish himself.

Punk rock
Watched the movie "24 Hour Party People" the other night, about Factory Records and the Madchester music scene of the 1980s, and it was awesome. And it reminded me how much I miss good music in general, but also punk rock in particular. And I'm not talking about bullshit pseudo-punk like Fall Out Boy, or even goofball pop-punk like Blink-182, I'm talking about genuine, angry, garagey punk like the Clash or the Sex Pistols or the Buzzcocks (above) or Iggy Pop. I mean, the economy's in the shitter and nobody can find a job, which was a defining theme in a lot of the British punk of the late '70s, and just like the people in that period, we're coming off a long stretch in which pop music has sucked out loud and desperately needs someone to rebel against it. Somebody give me an oi.

Yeah, it's been a while.

And now the Ten:

1. Richard Cheese, "More Human Than Human"
2. Flight of the Conchords, "The Prince of Parties"
3. Naked Eyes, "Promises, Promises"
4. Radiohead, "Paranoid Android"
5. Big Country, "In a Big Country"
6. Elvis Presley, "Suspicious Minds"
7. Sting, "Seven Days"
8. Underworld, "Shudder/King of Snake"
9. John Phillip Sousa, "The Liberty Bell"
10. U2, "Lemon" (Bad Yard club mix)

Your turn, punks. Random Tens and lists of stuff you've been missing lately go in the comments.

Thursday, May 28

Mean boys.

SCENE: The free breakfast bar at a Holiday Inn in Destin, Florida. Florida head coach URBAN MEYER and Alabama head coach NICK SABAN are hunched over plates of bacon and eggs and appear to be deep in conversation.

SABAN: . . . So I'm standing there, taking a leak behind the Chevron, when who pulls up but John Q. Law. He gets out of his cruiser, kind of stands there tapping his foot, and then I hear the son of a bitch clear his throat. Pardon me, but I've got my dick in my hand, I'm lettin' it rip, what the fuck am I supposed to do? I'll take the ticket, whatever -- you can't give me ten seconds to finish my business?

MEYER: I wear a Stadium Buddy when I'm out recruiting. Never have to stop even for a second.

SABAN: Well congratulations, Urban, you're a fucking genius. Can I finish my story? --

Presently LSU head coach LES MILES staggers up, everpresent hat towering atop his head, a coffee-filled 64-ounce cooler mug from QuikTrip in his hand. He takes a long, mouth-searing swig and unloads himself into a chair at SABAN's table.

SABAN: Jesus, Miles, what the hell happened to you?

MILES: Honestly? I got no fuckin' clue. Last thing I remember is doing shots of tequila at this Chinese buffet out by the outlet malls, next thing I know I'm waking up in the crawlspace of someone's --

MILES reaches in his pocket and pulls out a set of Volvo keys.

MILES: Son of a bitch, whose keys are these?!

While MILES tries to piece together his night, Arkansas head coach BOBBY PETRINO strolls over to the table carrying a plate loaded with fruit and bacon.

PETRINO: Mornin', fellas --

MEYER: Can I see your ring?

PETRINO: My what, now?

MEYER: Your ring, Petrino. This table's only for guys who're sporting national-championship rings.

PETRINO: (looks at his free hand) Well, I've got an Orange Bowl ring and a Conference USA --

SABAN: And I'm sure all the other stockboys at Wal-Mart will be very impressed. Have a seat over there.

PETRINO: (walking away angrily) You guys think you're such hot shit. Well, let's see you talk that way to me when I'm the coach at Notre Dame.

SABAN: (under his breath) Get in line, dickweed. (to MILES) Do you know you reek of stale booze?

MILES: No shit, that little trollop sprayed champagne all over -- THAT'S whose keys these are! The stripper, the one with the glasses! Had that "intellectual" thing going on, so of course she'd drive a --

MEYER: Oh, great. Look who's coming this way.

The three coaches' heads swivel to see South Carolina head coach STEVE SPURRIER striding toward them, coffee in hand.

SABAN: Terrific. Get ready for two more hours of tales from the '97 Sugar Bowl.

MEYER: So tired of hearing his bullshit war stories -- did I tell you he made me address him as "Ol' Ballcoach" on the golf course the other day? I've won twice as many national titles as he has, who the fuck is he to tell me how to -- Steve! What's happening.

SPURRIER: Can't complain, can't complain. What're you boys chattin' about this morning?

MEYER: Uh, Nick was just telling me about a run-in he had with the cops when he was trying to relieve himself behind a --

SPURRIER: Boy, I'll tell you, I never came closer to getting arrested for public urination than when I really had to go during the '97 Sugar Bowl. And this was during the second quarter, before we really started pouring it on 'em, so there was no way I could possibly --

SABAN: (desperate for a distraction, sees Georgia head coach MARK RICHT walking by) Mark. Hey. G'mornin'.

SPURRIER: (whirls around suddenly) NATIONAL CHAMPIONS ONLY, RICHT! You just keep on walkin'!

RICHT: No problem, fellas, I was just gonna take my breakfast on over here and introduce myself to Coach Mullen. Y'all have a blessed day.

RICHT walks on; SPURRIER looks completely caught off-guard by RICHT's non-reaction.

MEYER: Kinda took the wind out of your sails, didn't he, Steve?

SPURRIER: That's Ol' Ballcoach, Meyer, and I'll have you know --

RICHT: Say, fellas, you don't suppose I could borrow y'all's pepper shaker, do you?


RICHT: No problem, I'll just see if I can borrow Petrino's.

SPURRIER: (still unsatisfied) Hey, Richt, how's your offense coming together? Gonna be real hard to score points without Stafford and Moreno, won't it?

RICHT: Boy, you're right about that one, Ballcoach. I reckon we'll just end up in some low-scoring defensive struggles and beat you guys 14-7 like we usually do.

RICHT heads off toward PETRINO's table. The frustration is evident on SPURRIER's face.

SPURRIER: Got-dammit, I hate that guy. Goody twoshoes.

MILES: You win some, you lose some, I guess -- fuck, am I wearing a thong?!?

SPURRIER: Man, I'm so tired of these new kids coming in here and acting like they own the place. Fulmer was a big dumb ape, but at least he'd paid his dues. He'd earned the right to talk some trash. Nowadays, you see some new coach come in, he ain't even finished his first season and already he's actin' like he's got the right to --

MEYER: (coughs loudly) Daboswinney.

SPURRIER: Huh? What's that?

MEYER: Nothing, Ballcoach.

SPURRIER: (ignoring him) Just sayin', things aren't like they were 10, 15 years ago -- y'all remember '96? Year I won the national title? Jim Donnan came in there actin' like he was gonna turn Georgia into a powerhouse, well, I showed him real quick who the sheriff was in this town. Beat him by 40, and he was lucky it wasn't worse . . .

SPURRIER doesn't notice sunglass-clad TENNESSEE head coach LANE KIFFIN striding up behind him, carrying a tall glass of orange juice with a Crazy Straw coming out of it. KIFFIN smacks SPURRIER on the back as hard as he can.

KIFFIN: 'Sup, niggas! I don't know about you guys, but I am ready to hit that beach!

SABAN: Good morning, Lane.

KIFFIN: (sits down) Oh, dude, I meant to tell you, Lance Thompson said to tell you hey. Bet you're missing him right now, huh?

SABAN: Don't you have some traffic to go run out in front of?

KIFFIN: And Urban, I wanted to tell you again, I am sorry about that whole "cheating" accusation, man. Seriously, you just do your thing, man, it's working for you. I mean, you cheat all you want as far as I'm concerned -- long as you're not very good at it, no skin off my ass, right? What's up, my man!

KIFFIN holds his hand up for a high-five from MEYER, which the Florida coach pointedly refuses.

KIFFIN: Whoo! Haven't seen a crowd this tough since my last employee evaluation with Al Davis.

SPURRIER: Since you're new here, I guess you might not have been aware that this table is reserved for national title winners.

KIFFIN: Way ahead of you, broseph. Check it!

KIFFIN flashes his 2004 national championship ring. MILES grabs his wrist for a closer look.

MILES: "Passing game coordinator"? What in the good cow-tipping fuck is that?

SPURRIER: Tell you what, Kiff, when you do something with the Volunteers other than embarrass your daddy, maybe we'll let you sit at the big boys' table. 'Till then . . .

KIFFIN: (getting up) Hey, no, man, that's cool, that's cool. Hey, incidentally, I got a message for you, too: Blake Mitchell said to tell you "what's up."

SPURRIER: Blake Mitchell? Where'd you run into him?

KIFFIN: Pumped my gas at the Shell station in Columbus, homes! Heyyyooo! Said he couldn't wait for Kenny McKinley to get down there and join him!

SPURRIER: (getting angry) That's pretty big talk for a kid who can't even get a meal in Pahokee, Florida, these days.

KIFFIN: Whatever, dude, they love them some Kiffin down there.

SPURRIER: Is that right? I bet you don't recruit another kid from that high school before "Monte Knox" is old enough to drive.

KIFFIN: Whoa, bro-ham, you better not bring my family into this.

KIFFIN stares SPURRIER down as he takes a long, serious sip from his Crazy Straw.

SPURRIER: Yeah, what're you gonna do about it, bowwaahhh?

KIFFIN: What'm I gonna do about it? I'm, I'm --

At that moment SEC commissioner MIKE SLIVE appears at the table with a cup of yogurt. He does not look pleased with the scene before him, and all the other coaches snap upright in their chairs the minute they see him.

SLIVE: Is there a problem over here, gentlemen?

KIFFIN: No, no problem at all, Mr. Commish, sir. Me and the Ol' Ballcoach were just messin' with each other, that's all --

SLIVE: I see. Well, Mr. Kiffin, take care that you don't "mess with each other" so much that you violate the rule I laid down the other day about not criticizing one another in a public forum. I would hate to have to cut into those nice hefty paychecks you're all getting. (pause) Am I clear?

SABAN, MEYER, MILES, SPURRIER and KIFFIN: Yes, sir, Mr. Slive, sir.

SLIVE walks off without a sound. All the coaches breathe audible sighs of relief as he goes, except for KIFFIN, who breaks into barely stifled giggles.

KIFFIN: Oh, shit, dodged a bullet there, huh, playas?

MILES, SABAN, MEYER, and SPURRIER return wordlessly to their respective breakfasts. KIFFIN finally gets the hint.

KIFFIN: Well, I guess I'm gonna go kick it with my main man Nutt for a while -- think I saw him down by the hot tub with a couple Hooters waitresses . . .

KIFFIN gets up to leave.

SPURRIER: Oh, hey, Lane, before you go?

KIFFIN turns around.

SPURRIER: (coughs) Faggotsayswhat?


SPURRIER: (coughs again) Faggotsayswhat?

KIFFIN: What? Man, speak up or clear your throat or something, I can't hear you.

SPURRIER: Never mind.

KIFFIN shrugs, takes another sip from his Crazy Straw, and wanders out to the pool. SPURRIER leans back in his chair and smiles.

SPURRIER: Who's the king, boys? Who's the king?

SABAN: (rolls his eyes) As always, Steve, you are.

SPURRIER: Damn straight. (pause) Still got it.


Wednesday, May 27

Interesting point. I'm going to pronounce your last name "douchebag," because that's easier for me.

As with any Supreme Court nomination, there are any number of reasons one might oppose the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, and they might be legitimate reasons at that -- yet today's right wing, as has become their habit, seems to have settled on only the most outrageously stupid ones. "She's dumb" and "She's a racist" were bad enough, but one National Review Online whiner has managed, implausibly, to dig yet deeper: Sonia Sotomayor should not be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice because she's one of those uppity Latinas who thinks she should be able to determine how her own last name is pronounced.

Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to. . . .

This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Internalize this, kids, and recall it the next time you hear someone carp about what a horrible racist Sonia Sotomayor is. Some conservative asshole just told her how to pronounce her own fucking name, but she's the racist, so screw her and any idea that she might have experienced oppression or discrimination in her life, because the real oppressed class in this country is white Republicans who simply want to go on about their business controlling everything without having their monopoly on political power interfered with by a bunch of brown people not knowing their place and running around with complicated, spiccy last names.

Then again, at least Mark Krikorian got her name right. Apparently Mike Huckabee watched "West Side Story" over the weekend and assumed that if you've seen one Puerto Rican, you've seen 'em all.

ADDED: Now they're even asking questions about what kind of effect all that OMG crazy Puerto Rican food will have on Sotomayor's judgin'. (Link from Washington Monthly via Mac G's ever-fascinating Twitter feed. Does this count as more stupid than the name-pronunciation thing, or is it still not quite as stupid? I look forward to the debate on that one.

Let he who has not employed an underage exotic dancer cast the first . . .

Yeah, uh, remember all the times I made fun of Akron for not knowing how to run a strip club?

Well, it looks like my home state has its own problems:

A man and woman were charged with contributing to the deliquency of a minor Friday night after Gwinnett County police busted an alleged illegal strip club operating out of a Lilburn bar with dancers as young as 15 years old.

The owner of Lucky Billiards on Indian Trail-Lilburn Road, Jay Young Kim, was arrested, along with a dancer, Whitney Faith Blackburn.

Good job, Gwinnett County, good fucking job indeed: You've brought yourself down to Akron's level.

My sister's been telling me about this show where celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay swoops in at a failing restaurant and helps them figure out what they're doing wrong and how to improve. Maybe the Beeb needs to start up a similar program for strip clubs. Pamela Anderson or Joe Redner could go in, take stock of the establishment, and offer critiques like "Your girls' costumes are rather cumbersome for dancing" or "The chairs around your stage aren't positioned for optimum tipping" or "Hey, genius, there's a FUCKING FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD giving lap dances by the cigarette machine."

Or, hell, I could host it. I like to think I know a thing or two about this stuff.

Friday, May 22

The Friday Random Ten+5 has come here to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and is all out of bubble gum.

In a Random Ten+5 I did a few weeks ago, outlining a few of the museums I might include in a new Smithsonian Institution, I left out something that this country could actually really use: a Badass Hall of Fame. Just a big salute to badass people, places, and things that might not get their due props somewhere else. The qualifications for induction into such a hall would not be real formal, of course; you could make all kinds of rules if you wanted to, but my only qualification for inclusion would be that, upon seeing or reading about a prospective inductee, the average American person would be inclined to say, "Boy, I'm definitely not fucking with that guy/girl/fictional character/animal/vehicle/weapon/
natural disaster/alcoholic beverage/ethnic group/etc." Obviously we're treading into some very subjective territory here, but I'd like to think the Badass Hall of Fame would be a place of reverence where we can celebrate the few people, animals, objects, etc. that are recognized, almost universally, as being really fucking intimidating.

Sound good? Then I'll get things started. This week's +5 is my 2009 Class of the Badass Hall of Fame -- this is in no way meant to imply that these are the most badass people, places, or things out there, of course, but once you've enshrined the Steve McQueens, B-52 Stratofortresses, and Gen. George Pattons of the world, you need to start thinking outside the box a little and shed some light on lesser-celebrated badasses whose badassedness could stand to be talked up a little bit more. So here are some ideas:

Chris Cooley
Obviously I'm biased here, since he's a Washington Redskin coming off two straight Pro Bowl appearances. But here's the thing: Any athlete can be a badass for what they do on the field of play. In fact, it's kind of what they're paid to do. But what really elevates Cooley to hall-of-fame badass status is what he's done off the field. He got engaged to a Redskins cheerleader two years ago, and to celebrate her 21st birthday, he and his future father-in-law did 21 shots of Jim Beam -- apiece -- in her honor. The following spring, the three of them and his fiancee's aunt and uncle all had a "family outing" at a strip club called Vixens in West Virginia and got the strippers to dance to "Hail to the Redskins." (Actually, Cooley's in-laws might deserve an honorable-mention spot on this list.) And in addition to all that, Cooley has the courage to wear his now-infamous ridiculously short shorts on the practice field. Why? Because he's 6'3" and 255 pounds and could snap you in half, so who's gonna say anything to him, that's why. For his football skills, hot wife, and supernatural alcohol tolerance, Cooley gets into the Badass Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

Mil Mi-24/25/35 "Hind"
The biggest, ugliest, most heavily armed attack helicopter on the market. Can easily travel at a cruising speed of more than 200 miles an hour while carrying this laundry list of weapons configurations; Soviet pilots nicknamed it the "flying tank." The difference between the Hind and a helicopter like, say, the American AH-64 Apache is that the Hind can also carry eight fully armed and equipped troops. So once the helicopter is done laying waste to buildings and tanks and whatnot in its target area, it can land and let the troops off to go mop up whatever's left. Basically, it's not the kind of helicopter you want to meet in a dark alley. When I hit the Mega Millions jackpot I'm going to buy a surplus airframe from the Red Army and pimp out the troop cabin with leather couches and a wet bar. And probably a plasma TV.

Burmese python
I happened to catch the History Channel's "Life After People" earlier this week, and they did an episode about how "invasive species" artificially introduced into new, non-native environments would proliferate and take over without human beings there to control their growth. Apparently, the Burmese python is poised to start wrecking shop in the swamps of south Florida, where they entered the water supply after people purchased them as exotic pets but were unable to take care of them (specifically, unable to keep up with their ravenous appetites). The python is even setting up to challenge the supremacy of the American alligator down there, and here's proof: A few years ago, a 13-foot Burmese swallowed a six-foot alligator whole. And 13 feet isn't anywhere near as big as these snakes get; there's a 27-footer at a safari park in Illinois that weighs more than 400 pounds (or 1.57 Chris Cooleys). Now that I think about it, that kid in the picture might deserve a spot in the Badass Hall of Fame, too.

Krystyna Skarbek
A native of Poland and former beauty queen who escaped to the West shortly after the German invasion in 1939 and became one of the first agents of the UK's Special Operations Executive. Later served behind enemy lines in occupied France bringing supplies to Allied forces and resistance groups; when three fellow agents were arrested in southern France just before the Allied invasion, she met with a Gestapo officer and basically threatened him with severe retribution from British forces if the prisoners weren't released. I can't imagine very many things more satisfying than that: Here's a member of the army that overran your homeland and murdered millions of your countrymen, and he ends up completely bitchmade after you've intimidated him into releasing his prisoners. After the war, she had a relationship with Ian Fleming, who supposedly modeled the characters of Vesper Lynd and Tatiana Romanova after her.

Porsche 917
Its association with Steve McQueen himself (in the 1971 film "Le Mans") is badass credential enough, but that was just the beginning. The 917 packed as much as 1,580 horsepower and could go from 0 to 60 in under two seconds; with a top speed of more than 260 miles per hour, it crushed its Can-Am competition on the racetrack, winning six of nine races in 1972 and every single championship race the following year. The 917's domination was so complete that Can-Am organizers had to introduce new rules specifically to keep it from winning everything (tellingly, the series was cancelled altogether two years later). Incidentally, the car that McQueen drove in the movie is now in the possession of Porsche enthusiast Jerry Seinfeld.

And now the Ten:

1. Frank Sinatra, "I've Got You Under My Skin" (Live at The Sands)
2. The Chemical Brothers, "Star Guitar"
3. Patton Oswalt, "Physics for Poets"
4. Don Henley, 'The End of the Innocence"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "Closer to Heaven" (slow version)
6. House of Pain, "Jump Around"
7. Pet Shop Boys, "Numb" (original demo)
8. The Roots, "The Love of My Life"
9. U.N.K.L.E., "Guns Blazing"
10. Nanci Griffith, "If Wishes Were Changes"

Enjoy the long weekend, folks, but first throw your own nominations for the Badass Hall of Fame (and your own Random Tens) in the comments.

Thursday, May 21

A memo from the desk of Arnold T. Pants, Esq.:
Getting back in the saddle.

· First of all, I want to thank everyone who e-mailed or commented or text-messaged their kind wishes in the wake of my granddad's death last week. The family's been taking it really well, and I think we've all been extremely lucky to have big groups of people to rally around us when we've needed it.

Incidentally, while the process of "settling affairs" is still ongoing, I was granted what I guess you could call my piece of the "inheritance" while I was up in West Virginia with the family: an unfinished bottle of Glenlivet that had belonged to Granddad. We don't have many Scotch drinkers in our family, but he was a big fan. That bottle is one that will never be finished -- I'm always going to keep a little bit sitting there in the bottom, for Granddad -- but I'm proud to have it on my shelf.

· OK, enough with the seriousness; time to get back into this "blogging" thing, which I have been extremely slack about the last few weeks. I won't say anything dumb like "It's what Granddad would've wanted," because I frankly have no idea whether he gave a crap about this blog or anything on the Internet period, but -- if I let this unfortunate event stop me from blogging, then the terrorists have won, or something. Let's bring out the Legos.

· Those were so good, let's have some more. Cakes! My favorite:

· The other day I noticed an interesting confluence in my Twitter feed -- two Twitterers I follow, one ultra-liberal and one ultra-conservative, linked to the same snippet of video from Glenn Beck's appearance on "The View." And they both agreed that Beck pretty well got his ass handed to him. See for thyself:

First allow me to stipulate two things: 1) I don't like Glenn Beck. 2) I don't watch "The View" and, thus, do not find it to be an especially stimulating venue for political debate. But with all that said, allow me to ask: What kind of fucking idiot is Glenn Beck? You know you're going on "The View," so you decide to mock (and, demonstrably, lie about) its two most recognizable stars on your radio show? To call that "bush league" would be an insult to both bushes and leagues, and to call Beck a "buffoon" would be an insult to the many people throughout history who have managed to make perfectly productive careers out of buffoonery.

Right-wingers, you can take me at my word or not, it's up to you, but your already tarnished political brand is doing itself no favors by its continued association with a whining bumblefuck like Glenn Beck. Rush Limbaugh is an asshole, and avowedly so, but at least he's occasionally an asshole in the service of some greater point or idea; Glenn Beck is just a dork who fell bass-ackwards into a TV gig and who serves no current purpose other than to give sarcasm a bad name. Cut him loose and move on.

· Heard the other day that Olivia Wilde had been given the top spot on Maxim's "Hot 100" list for this year. Is it bad that I had to look up who she was?

· Conspicuously not on the list: CNN money/financial reporter Poppy Harlow. Happened to glance at her on the news the other day above the chyron "Tips for Servicing Your Hybrid" and said, out loud, "I'd service her hybrid." You know when's not a good time to say something like that out loud? When you're on the phone with your girlfriend.

Be that as it may, she's a live one, all right. But don't think for one second that I'm making her the new Hey Jenny Slater Official Future Wife or anything like that; I'm not getting my heart broken like last time.

Tuesday, May 19

Nobody chooses how.

This probably isn't going to be any more fun for you to read than it was for me to write, and I'll tell you right now that there's nothing to be learned here, no greater life lesson that you can actually apply in your daily life, but all that said:

My granddad, Richard Clark Gillett Sr., had a fairly well-to-do upbringing in the Northeast; joined the Navy and came close to losing a leg, or perhaps more than that, hooking airplanes up to catapults on the deck of the USS Boxer; came home and attended two of the best universities in the country; assembled a distinguished career first in the federal government and later in the private sector; and raised five brilliant, highly accomplished children, the oldest of whom was my dad.

Sometime on Thursday, Granddad slipped while taking a walk and hit his head on a rock. He was unresponsive when they brought him to the hospital, life support was removed Thursday evening, and he died Friday morning.

I'd get pissed about it if I thought there was any point, but there's something that really seems unjust and undignified about a man with that kind of life résumé going out that way. Granddad deserved better than to have all those accomplishments culminate in Alzheimer's, slip, hit head on rock, die. Remember the part in "Grosse Pointe Blank" -- 'cause everything comes back to that movie, obviously -- where John Cusack's secretary tells him "We all have to go sometime, sir, but we can choose when," and he shoots back, "Nobody chooses when"? I think a more appropriate way of phrasing that would be to say nobody chooses how. That, I guess, would be the closest thing to a meaningful lesson that I've brought out of all this, but it doesn't add up to much.

In Granddad's case, the Alzheimer's diagnosis he got a few years back was a particularly cruel one, because in his family -- both the generations that came before him and, arguably, the generations that came after -- your mind, your intellect, were always the most important thing. Looks didn't matter, money didn't even matter that much except as an expression of how smart you were and how much you'd been able to profit from it. Granddad's dad was an executive at some fairly high level in the General Electric hierarchy, and he'd spun his electrical-engineering expertise into dozens of patents; Granddad attended the best schools and read everything he could get his hands on, all the better to display some mastery of history or art or politics or whatever the topic of conversation happened to be; all five of his kids went on to excellent colleges and have forged professional careers that anyone would be lucky to have. That ability to use one's mind, more than anything else, was what Granddad prized, and that, more than anything else, was what was taken away from him the last few years of his life.

I've never spent that much time or energy being afraid of dying, but the last few days brought home to me just how afraid I am of everything that leads up to that. I'm afraid of losing my ability to think clearly. I'm afraid of losing my ability to see or hear. I'm afraid of not being able to drive, of needing someone to help me around. I'm afraid of losing control of my bladder or my bowels. I'm even afraid of the silly, superficial shit, like starting to sag, or getting a spare tire, or being less attractive to women, or having women my own age become less attractive to me. The sheer inevitability of death means there's little point in getting worked up about it, but the stuff leading up to it, well, that's a crapshoot, and if a guy like my grandfather can get laid low the way he did, how can I be sure of the way I'm going to go out?

I guess the best that I, or that any of us, can hope for is that we'll be remembered not for the way we died but for the way we lived, and maybe that's the positive that Granddad's legacy will take away from all this. And it doesn't have to be anything big -- maybe it's just a story about the Fiat 1200 roadster he drove way back when, or marveling at the collection of derby caps he'd amassed on the hat rack just inside the front door. Or maybe it's the fact that his favorite waitress at the Denny's in Keyser, West Virginia, remembered him when a dozen of us trudged in for breakfast on Sunday morning and that when one of my aunts said "Bring me what my dad always had," she knew exactly what it was.

Granddad deserved better than to go out the way he did, and just because there's nothing I can do about it doesn't mean I'm not going to be frustrated about that for a long time. But maybe it's up to us to make sure that our memories are the place where he gets what he truly earned.

ADDED: Baby sis, as has become typical, puts me to shame. (Someday you're all going to figure out that she's much smarter and a way better writer than I am, at which point this blog will probably fade, as Mike Tyson once so eloquently said, into Bolivian. But until then . . . )

Friday, May 15

The Friday Random Ten+5 can forget, but it can't forgive.

The Onion's A.V. Club offered up a nice topic in its AVQ&A last week, in which "lifetime grudges" in pop culture were discussed. To wit, are there any actors, directors, musicians, etc. you now consider "blacklisted" because of some horrible piece of crap they've put out in the past, or is there anyone out there you just can't admire no matter what they do at this point? You will not be surprised to find that I have more than a few people in both categories, and now you get to hear about them, you lucky fucks, you. This week's +5 is Five Pop-Culture Grudges I Can't Get Over.

Will Smith
First, a brief diversion into someone who's conspicuously not on this list. A few years back, a film writer for a magazine, I want to say it was Esquire, pointed out that Tom Cruise had become virtually unwatchable in movies because through his choice of roles and the way he'd chosen to portray them, every single role had become about Tom Cruise and what a badass he was, not the material at hand. And he had a point, and Cruise may indeed be a total nutcase, but every once in a while he'll break out of that narcissism just long enough to appear in something fricking awesome like "Collateral" or his towering home-run shot of a cameo in "Tropic Thunder" -- and all I can do is shake my head and think, "Cruise, you may be so crazy that even shithouse rats won't return your phone calls, but I just can't stay mad at you, you magnificent Xenu-fearing son of a bitch, you."

His fellow Scientologist Will Smith, though, inspires no such forgiveness. Because every movie he's been in lately -- "Hancock" being the recent notable exception -- is about how awesome, cool, heroic, funny, friendly, pure of spirit, etc. etc. etc. Will Smith is. His characters are completely devoid of any personal weakness or moral failing, and are, as a result, completely uninteresting. Case in point: In the original novel I Am Legend, as well as its first couple movie adaptations, the protagonist was pitted against sentient "vampire"-like opposition who hated the protagonist because they viewed him as the cause of the plague that had spread across the world and wiped out most of humanity -- thus introducing some real conflict and moral ambiguity into the plot. In the Will Smith movie, though, the "vampires" were reduced to unspeaking, unthinking zombies with no apparent motive or emotions of their own, all the better to make Smith look like that much more of a valiant hero as he goes out and hunts them all by his lonesome. So there was very little suspense, and even less depth to any of the characters; it was Will Smith Good, Zombies Bad, lather, rinse, repeat. (And the worst part is, the original ending would've been completely different, more thought-provoking, and more faithful to the Matheson novel.) Maybe "Seven Pounds" was considered bad enough to start turning people off of Will Smith, but either way, I can't bring myself to go see his movies anymore.

David E. Kelley
I've got to hand it to writer/producer Kelley: It took real balls to create a TV series like "Ally McBeal." I can't think of anyone else who would've had the courage to pitch an hour-long prime-time comedy/drama in which all of the major characters are mentally retarded. And they all managed to run a law firm in spite of their disability! Amazing! All that said, Kelley appears to have stuck with his theme of replacing actual depth and characterization with weird quirks and psychoses in combinations that nobody on earth actually possesses, and I can only take so much of that. It might also be time to broaden your horizons and look outside the legal profession for inspiration, dude. I'm just saying.

Dennis Miller
I know what everybody's going to say here: "You only hate Dennis Miller because you don't like the fact that his politics have changed." And it's true, I don't like his politics, but you know what else I don't like? The fact that he isn't fucking funny anymore. Once upon a time, Miller wielded a rapier wit in service of a bullshit detector that went off at the ridiculous excesses of politicians on both the left and the right, but then 9/11 happened, and like so many other people, Miller took that as an opportunity to become a neocon and go completely fucking insane. Now, instead of being just as cynical toward the right as he was the left, he chooses to kiss the asses of the conservatives he's started holding up as heroes, and sorry, but ass-kissing isn't funny no matter who the recipient is. I mean, I was driving home last weekend and happened upon Miller's radio show, and he had Oliver North on as a guest. This is a guy who lied to Congress and sold arms to the Iranians -- whom, incidentally, Miller now thinks are the worst most dangerous people ever -- and Miller's giving him an on-air tongue bath! What happened to Dennis Miller's politics is merely a secondary issue at this point; I just want to know what happened to his brain.

This one hurts, because U2 used to be one of my favorite bands of all time. The Joshua Tree? Transcendent. Achtung Baby? One of the single greatest rock albums ever recorded. I even loved Zooropa, partly because it had the courage to be unlike anything anyone had expected from U2 at that point, but somewhere down the line they lost the nerve to put out stuff like that -- and I think I know when it happened. The halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVI, the one in which U2 played while the names of the 9/11 victims scrolled up on the backdrop, was the greatest halftime show that has ever been or will ever be produced, and yet it was also the beginning of the end for U2, because I truly believe that was the point at which Bono decided "I am going to save the world." And ever since then, U2 has sounded like a band that's more concerned with saving the world than putting out interesting music. Don't get me wrong, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb and No Line on the Horizon are technically proficient and beautifully produced; they're just not remotely interesting to listen to. Sometimes I just want to strap Bono into a chair and force him to listen to "The Fly" and "Daddy's Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car" and ask him if he even knows how to write stuff like that anymore.

Kate Hudson
Awww, isn't she adorable? And after her first two lead movie roles, in "Almost Famous" and "About Adam," it seemed like she was a dead-solid lock to become Hollywood's Next Big Thing. But look what she's appeared in since then: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." "You, Me and Dupree." "Fool's Gold." "Bride Wars." I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kate Hudson stands about as good a chance right now of ever appearing in a good movie again as I do of finding a unicorn with a solid-gold horn and big, beautiful tits on my doorstep tomorrow morning. Her name on a movie poster is as good as a biohazard symbol, as far as I'm concerned. And if it's situated next to Matthew McConaughey's, I reserve the right to burn down the theatre in self-defense.

All righty then. The Ten:

1. R.E.M., "Drive"
2. Pet Shop Boys, "Dreaming of the Queen"
3. The Smiths, "Asleep"
4. Lou Reed, "Sex With Your Parents"
5. Pet Shop Boys, "Always On My Mind/In My House"
6. David Holmes, "Tess"
7. Patton Oswalt, "'80s Metal"
8. Public Enemy, "Welcome to the Terrordome"
9. The Pixies, "Here Comes Your Man"
10. DJ Shadow, "Mashin' on the Motorway"

Your turn, schmucks -- Random Tens and/or pop-culture grudges, in the comments, please.

Wednesday, May 13

Not dead, just lazy.

After having gotten scolded by four different people from three different time zones in the span of a few hours last night for not having updated the blog in nearly a week, I realized I owe everyone an apology. Yes, I have been a slack-ass blogger lately, and I don't have much of an excuse. Last night, of course, I was in Atlanta for the UGA-Tech baseball game at Turner Field, which Georgia won 7-5; over the weekend, I was in Columbus, tidying up the place so my parents would have a clean house (and a stocked refrigerator) to come home to after their big trip to Europe. My secondary motive for going home was to get some work done in a big empty house and a distraction-free environment, but I quickly found out that any house with a Nintendo Wii in it, no matter how empty otherwise, is not a distraction-free environment. So obviously I didn't get any blogging done (or much else, for that matter), but I did raise my skill level on Wii baseball by like 700 points. So suck on that, bitches.

Now, as for last Thursday, I do have a legit excuse: I was invited by longtime commenter Zen Bubba up to Nashville for (drum roll, please) the final round of auditions for the Tennessee Titans cheerleading squad, held at the Wild Horse Saloon downtown. ZB, if you'll recall, graduated from law school with a classmate who was on the cheer squad last season and was aiming to re-up for 2009-10, and when he asked if I wanted to come up to Nashvegas and cheer her on, I had only two questions: 1) How quickly can I say "Hells yes" without sounding like a tool, and 2) is flash photography allowed?

As it turns out, Bubba took care of most of the photography (the good pictures are his, while the shitty ones are pictures I took on my iPhone), so here we go:

The inside of the Wild Horse Saloon right as things were getting started. It's a rather large venue. The vibe at a cheerleader audition is kind of like a cross between a Vegas show, "Dancing with the Stars," and the Miss Georgia pageant, and like Miss Georgia, the audience at the cheerleader auditions was filled with girls who were dressed like they expected to be yanked up on stage at any moment.

This would be the Wild Horse, I guess, sittin' easy by the main staircase.

And here is Jocey, now packing a Juris Doctor in addition to her dancing skills.

And here is me, egged on by ZB to douche it up as much as possible; the mirror-lens shades are kind of taking on a life of their own at this point. The PBR, on the other hand, is a Nashville tradition for me; I was in Nashville the weekend before the 2004 Tennessee Democratic Primary, and after a marathon day of campaigning, we all got together at like one in the morning at Robert's Western World on Broadway, where I had a pork-chop sammich and a Pabst Blue Ribbon that constituted what at that point felt like one of the top ten meals I'd ever eaten. So ever since then, trips to Nashville have involved at least one (and usually multiple) PBRs.

You may or may not be able to read this sign hung from the second level of the Wild Horse, but it says "Erica cures my swine flu." I must admit I'm impressed by both the curative powers of the Titans cheerleading squad and their fans' awareness of current events; I doubt the auditions for, say, the Raiderettes would be this topical.

And last but obviously not least, here's me with Jocey (right), who did indeed make it back onto the squad for a second year, and squad captain Valerie (left).

And that's basically why there was no Friday Random Ten+5 last week. I regret nothing.

Wednesday, May 6

A handy guide to participating in civilized, rational debate. (Or not being a wuss. Whichever.)

To an already staggering list of red-flag words and phrases deployed over the past few weeks to scare the bejeezus out of us and turn us into quivering lumps of Spam -- SOCIALISM! SWINE FLU! BRETT FAVRE RETURNING TO THE NFL! -- we can now add another: ORWELLIAN THOUGHT POLICE! Take it away, Andrew Breitbart:

The latest poster conservative for political-correctness-run-amok in a country careening downhill on left-wing, Democratic cruise control is Republican congresswoman Virginia Foxx.

Mrs. Foxx's impropriety: The thought crime of arguing against "hate crime" laws by pointing out that Matthew Shepard - the tragic icon attached to the legislation - represents a salient argument against enacting them.

Oh my God! What did Virginia Foxx do?

[T]he congresswoman is not buying the Hollywood hype. "The hate crimes bill was named for [Shepard], but it's really a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills," Mrs. Foxx said on the House floor last week.

Uh . . . that's it? OK, what did The Left do?

Immediately, Democrats sought out their unapologetic allies in the media to force Mrs. Foxx into a perfunctory, skin-saving apology. . . .

Mrs. Foxx has been "apologizing for semantics, but not her sentiment, her insensitivity or her ignorance," Mrs. Shepard told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

Uh . . . that's it?

First, let me express what may or may not be a popular position: I am completely opposed to hate-crimes legislation. They aim to add harsher penalties for certain crimes based on feelings or motivations the perpetrator might've had toward the victim, which I don't think would be constitutional even if we could ascertain beyond a shadow of a doubt what those feelings or motivations were. That said, this is one of those issues that reasonable people can disagree on, and a rational debate isn't something to be afraid of here.

But, separate from that, we have Virginia Foxx describing the hate-crime theory of the motive behind Matthew Shepard's murder as "a hoax," and Andrew Breitbart defending her. But not just defending her: pulling out the fainting couch and wielding accusations of fascism against Foxx's "politically correct" detractors.

What exactly happened to Rep. Foxx that was so terrible? Was she threatened by the FBI for her views? Was she fired? Was she assaulted? Not as far as I can tell. In fact, the worst thing that happened to Foxx -- at least as far as Breitbart is willing to tell us -- is that Matthew Shepard's mom called her "insensitive" and "ignorant." Again, I ask: That's it?

The Constitution guarantees us the right to free speech; however, it doesn't guarantee us the right to never be disagreed with. It doesn't even guarantee us the right to never be called names. Sometimes you're going to express opinions that are controversial or unpopular, and sometimes people are going to publicly disagree with them; sometimes they're even going to be mean about it. But that doesn't make them the "thought police."

And the thing is, once upon a time, the "anti-PC" movement on the right reveled in the angst they aroused, and the criticism they received, from bleeding-hearts on the left for expressing their bold or controversial viewpoints. They figured that if that many left-wing pantaloons were being wadded over what they said, they must be doing something right. Now, though, instead of relishing such reactions, the right wing are the ones getting their pantaloons in a wad themselves, shifting into sky-is-falling mode and invoking Orwell. They used to get a good chuckle when someone went ballistic about something they said; now they just whine about it.

But you know what? Sometimes people are going to call you insensitive and douchey, whether you think you deserve to be or not. Here's a friendly tip for all you eager anti-PCers out there: If you're going to say controversial things, you're going to have to deal with people disagreeing with you. If you want to say stuff knowing that it's going to piss someone off, you have to do so with the understanding that someone might piss you off right back. What Breitbart seems to want is for folks like Foxx to be able to express controversial opinions but not have anyone disagree with her or question her reasons for doing so -- and I'm sorry, Andrew, but that's not how it works.

And for God's sake, drop this "thought police" crap. Someone disagreeing with you and calling you "insensitive" is worse than torture? Man, what a sheltered childhood you must've had. By the time I was out of junior high, I'd suffered everything from being knocked down on the school bus to being rejected by girls to being told I had a tiny dick; instead of shrieking "ORWELL!", I picked myself up, developed a drinking problem, and grew the thick skin that turned me into the profane, self-effacing asshole I am today. It's fun; maybe you should try it.

My favorite trenchcoat ever.

I've been one lazy-ass blogger lately, and that laziness is going to have to continue for just a few more hours, but in the meantime I wanted to share with you something that arrived in my mailbox this afternoon:

I'm going to go ahead and declare this the hottest cover of any magazine ever published -- and yes, I'm including Playboy, Penthouse, Cosmopolitan, Vanity Fair, and The Economist in that discussion. I mean, if you can think of any better ones, feel free to share, but until then I stand by my statement.

A little background info, on the off chance that you needed any, here.

Friday, May 1

The Friday Random Ten+5 is all about making learning fun. Or at least tolerable.

A few years ago I was visiting my friend Kristen up in the D.C. area, and we were taking one last blitz through the Smithsonian before I had to run to National Airport and get on a plane. And we got to talking: If we came into an inconceivable sum of money, enough to endow a whole network of museums in a major city, what would those museums be? The Smithsonian covers a lot of territory -- honestly, once you get past American history, natural history, art, and planes and rockets, you kind of have to get down into some very specific categories to come up with something new. But I think I've got five ideas that would provide the nucleus of a museum system that would bring joy and knowledge to people around the world. This week's +5 is Five Museums That Would Make Up The Dougsonian Institution:

The Museum of the Interstate Highway System
I know that not necessarily everyone finds the Interstate system as fascinating as I do, but I think it's amazing how Eisenhower just up and said "Hey, let's build tens of thousands of miles of big wide roads all over the place" and bam, they started growing. This museum would have exhibits on road construction and how the government decides to build roads where they do, with special information on sections of Interstate built over and through mountains, over large bodies of water, and even under the ocean. And one big room would be devoted to an interactive map of the nation's most lucrative speed traps. See, you're going to learn important information here.
Temporary exhibit: From MacArthur Maze to Spaghetti Junction: America's Great Interchanges

The National Air Disaster Museum
Whenever I go to Washington, no matter how packed my schedule is, I always carve out a little time to wander through the National Air & Space Museum. I loved airplanes as a kid; my dad used to take me there all the time. But the one thing it doesn't have a lot about is airplane crashes. This museum would feature artifacts of some of the biggest and most famous plane crashes of the past 50 years or so -- this section of Delta flight 191 would make a nice centerpiece for the exhibit hall, if we could get our hands on it -- as well as an interactive feature where you and a group of friends could pick seats on a number of different doomed flights and then find out whether you would've survived or not. Morbid fun for the whole family!
Temporary exhibit: Aeroblotto: Alcohol-Related Crashes of the Post-Soviet Era

The National Gallery of Football Bloopers
As much as the Smithsonian Institution contains, it doesn't have a whole lot on sports, except for I guess one small section of the Museum of American History. This museum would be devoted to football, but not the great historic plays and players of the game, since we've already got multiple halls of fame for that. Nope, this museum would display the great fumbles, pick-sixes, missed blocks, blown calls, disastrous trick plays, and general brain farts in football history at the pro, college, and high-school levels. (And what the hell, the CFL and arena leagues too.) Plenty of hands-on opportunities here, including interactive features such as Which Detroit Lion Is Going To Blow This Play? and Can You Return A Jarrett Lee Interception For A Touchdown?
Temporary exhibit: "It's Just a Game, Dawg": A Reggie Ball Retrospective, 2003-2007

The National Library of Lingerie
I'm just going to come out and say it: Women's underwear fascinates me. For the obvious reasons, of course, but also on its own merits; there are just so many different kinds, styles, sizes, colors, and materials that someone needs to open a museum to contain it all. This institution would be a wellspring of knowledge on all the different types of lingerie and why they're different (how is a thong different from a G-string? you won't know until you go!), along with a detailed history of lingerie showing just how much smaller everything is than it used to be. There would also be a huge interactive exhibit on bra sizes and how, for example, a 32F cup holds the same volume as a 36D (it would be hands-on, of course). Everything you always wanted to know about undies but were afraid to ask.
Temporary exhibit: Lift and Separate: The Physics of the Push-Up

The American Institute of Fast-Food Innovation
Confession #2: I'm a sucker for new frontiers in fast-food. I was all over the McRib and the P'Zone; I even liked the McDonald's Pizza when that product had its very short trial run back in the early 1990s. You put some new cheese or topping on a plain old burger and I'll eventually succumb to temptation and go out and try one. This museum would have a big exhibit hall centering around that ongoing cheeseburger arms race, in which fast-food joints constantly try to outdo each other with bigger, sloppier, and more artery-clogging burgers, but it'd also have exhibits on obscure regional and seasonal offerings through history, such as the McLobster (yes, some McDonald's still sell lobster rolls at certain times of year in New England and the Canadian maritimes). And the museum would be connected to an international laboratory funded to research and create the fast-food advances of tomorrow.
Temporary exhibit: The World's Longest Curly Fries

And now the Ten:

1. Dave Matthews, "Dodo"
2. Downright, "Say Some Words"
3. The Clash, "Death is a Star"
4. Fatboy Slim, "Praise You"
5. Ryuichi Sakamoto, "Bibo no Aozora/04"
6. U2, "New York"
7. St. Germain, "Latin Note"
8. New Order, "60 Miles an Hour"
9. The Clash, "Know Your Rights"
10. De La Soul, "Ghetto Thang"

Now it's your turn. Your Random Tens and/or brilliant museum concepts in the comments thread, if you please.