Thursday, January 31

My debut album.

Sorry for the slow posting this week -- I've had shit goin' on pretty much every single night (including campaigning for Rev. James Fields, who earned a historic win in the House District 12 special election here in Alabama a couple nights ago). But while I get my affairs in order, here's something for y'all to entertain yourselves with. It was originally posted at this site, which seems to be experiencing some bandwidth problems of late, but I'll try to remember the process as best I can:

1. Click on this link for Wikipedia's random-article generator. Whichever Wikipedia entry comes up is the name of your band.

2. Click on this link for the Random Quotations page. The last four words of the last quotation on the page are the name of your album.

3. Click on this link for interesting Flickr photographs from the last seven days. The third picture on the page is the artwork for your album.

Put them all together and you've got your album; mine is above. Post a picture of your assembled album cover on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments thread of this post, and I'll post some of the best ones here over the next few days.

Sunday, January 27

Miracle drugs, better angels, and the real meaning of hope.

They played the U2 song "Miracle Drug" as he walked onto what would've been the court at Bartow Arena, shaking hands beneath a canopy of outstretched arms holding cell-phone cameras. It was a noticeable change from the '60s soul music they'd been playing for the previous two hours as 11,000 people crowded into the buiding; maybe they were really trying to imply that Barack Obama is a magical panacea to cure all the nation's ills, or maybe they were just trying to throw a curveball at a punditocracy that's still expecting him to walk out to Public Enemy's "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" one of these days. Me, I think the campaign just wanted some soaring guitar chords that would resonate with the substantial number of audience members who were still in diapers when "Where The Streets Have No Name" came out.

But whatever their reasoning, the energy of this particular song was matched and exceeded by a crowd fully prepared to make Obama the next president of the United States, or at least do their part from the state of Alabama. It was more or less his standard stump speech, numerous parts of which I'd already read or heard reported from other campaign stops around the country, but it was still one of the most inspiring -- and inspired -- campaign speeches I've ever heard, at least since 1992, when I skipped school to see Bill Clinton's campaign stop in Columbus, Georgia, and got interested in politics to begin with.

The people who constituted Bartow's largest-ever crowd, larger than the official-record 9,354 who attended a UAB-Louisville basketball game three years ago, included a black gospel choir and wealthy white folks from Mountain Brook. There were wheelchair-bound people in their nineties and little kids sitting on the floor, peeking through the railings for a glimpse of the candidate. There were Protestants, at least two Catholics (me and my sister), a number of Muslim students I recognized from the Arabic class I took last semester. There were even a few people whom I've traveled in various political circles with since 2004 and whom I could've sworn were preparing to get on board with Hillary last year. Whatever else you can say about the Obama campaign, the diverse coalition of supporters you've no doubt heard people talk about is very real.

And I don't want to get too flowery and "I believe the children are our future" about that crowd, but the group of people packing Bartow this afternoon really does speak volumes about why Obama's campaign is so important, and it wasn't just because of their diversity. What was even more inspiring, I thought, than the speech itself -- which, in spite of what you've probably heard, was a fairly equal mix of soaring rhetoric and actual policy -- was the way the crowd reacted to it. Some of Obama's biggest applause lines came from parts where he placed responsibility for bettering the country on the people in the crowd themselves: his assurance of college-tuition assistance in exchange for post-graduation public service, for example, or his line about how he could shovel all the money in the world into our public schools and it wouldn't matter if parents didn't do their part. Rather than just rattling off a list of insincere promises and calling it a day, Sen. Obama told his supporters about the role they were going to have to play -- and the hard work they would have to put in -- to make his vision of an American renewal become a reality. And from what I could see, at least, those supporters appeared to be willing to answer the call.

It's no coincidence, then, that both Caroline and Ted Kennedy, the two living people who knew John F. Kennedy better than anyone, both endorsed Obama in the last couple days: Obama gets what that "Ask what you can do for your country" line meant back in 1961 and what it should mean today. One of the biggest things that's caused me to pull my hair out over the past seven years is how little we've been asked to do for our country; we're fighting wars in two different countries, trying to rebuild one of America's largest cities, and doing so under a $9-trillion mountain of debt, yet we're still being fed a diet of upper-class tax breaks and full-size SUVs. Barack Obama, however, has the temerity to believe that the can-do spirit and willingness to sacrifice that we've lauded in "the greatest generation" hasn't completely disappeared from American society, it's just atrophied over the last couple decades. If called upon, Americans will make the sacrifices and put in the grunt work necessary to ensure that we leave a decent world for our kids and grandkids.

Is that faith misplaced? Apparently some people think so -- the people who've been pooh-poohing Obama's candidacy as a lot of naive optimism, anyway. And there was a time when I was at least that skeptical, if not more so. You live through the Clinton impeachment, the travesty of the 2000 election, and the disappointment of 2004, and you come out the other side just a little bit jaded. But cleaning the filth and decay out of Washington and restoring our country's moral authority on the world stage was always going to require an effort on the part of 300 million people, not just one man, and there came a point when I realized that Obama wasn't promising to conjure all that up on his own; he was declaring a willingness to organize and lead such an effort on the part of an entire country. And so far, he seems to be the only one who's done so.

The "hope" he talks about that the punditocracy has tried so hard to marginalize is not, as they would have you believe, a matter of Barack Obama saying, "You just sit back there and hope while I wave my magic wand and make everything better"; if anything, that seems to be the provenance of his opponents, those on both sides of the aisle. Rather, the hope he's selling is the hope that one's hard work, sweat, and tears will actually make a difference. We haven't been able to believe in that for a while now, partly because we haven't been given a coherent plan or even been asked to do anything. Obama, however, is telling us things can be different. Is that such a bad or naive thing to hope for -- that we can achieve a better future through hard work and sacrifice? I thought that was the whole point of America to begin with. (Not to mention the whole point of hope.)

Some people criticize Obama as being nothing more than a symbol. Look, everyone who dares to run for the position of Leader of the Free World is a symbol of something, whether they want to be or not; they might as well be a symbol of something good. To me, Obama represents a political system where we can vote for a guy who's for something rather than just being against what the other guy is for. He represents an America that doesn't shy away from its responsibility to set a democratic example for the rest of the world to follow. He isn't promising to be a miracle drug, but he is promising to try to be the kind of leader we haven't had in a while -- one who appeals not to our worst instincts but to our better angels, and who helps us channel our hope and hard work into something real.

Is that dumb? Eleven thousand people at Bartow Arena didn't seem to think so. Two hundred ninety-five thousand people in South Carolina -- more than the people who voted for McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani in that state's Republican primary combined -- didn't think so. And I'm more confident than ever that come November, a majority of America's voters won't think so, either.

What about you?

Friday, January 25

The Friday Random Ten+5 is just happy to be nom
. . . aw, who the hell am I kidding?

The 2008 Oscar nominations came out this past week, and for the first time in several years I've actually seen a bunch of the films that got nominated -- three of the five Best Picture nominees, in fact, and I may be able to hit the other two sometime in the next couple weeks. Which means that for probably the first time ever, my favorite movie from a given year might actually win Best Picture (avenging "Pulp Fiction," "Trainspotting," and a bunch of other movies I loved but the Academy ignored in favor of one damn movie or another). Not that you care, but this week's +5 is My Five Favorite Movies Of 2008, not just in terms of cinematic merit (which I'm hardly an expert on) but also in terms of how much I enjoyed watching them (which I pretty much am):

5. "Atonement"
I concur with baby sis on this one -- "Atonement" was one of the most beautifully shot movies I've ever seen, and even in scenes like the ones that take place on Dunkerque, where the goal was not beauty so much as a modern-day interpretation of Dante's Inferno, the film is just staggering. The plot twist is one that I imagine was difficult to translate into a movie, and not having read the book, I'm still not sure how I feel about the way they accomplished that, but still, it's a gorgeous and incredibly well-acted movie.

4. "Superbad"
How's that for a switch? This movie was hilarious, obviously, but at the risk of sounding like a wuss, it also had a sincere heart to it, which is important because even I can't watch two hours of nonstop dick jokes unless I have some confidence that it's, you know, going somewhere. Michael Cera, in particular, needs to get a fricking Oscar of his own somewhere along the line; after this and "Juno," though, I'm a little worried that he's only going to get painfully-awkward-teenager roles from here on out. He may need a psychotic maladjusted school shooter role sometime in the next couple years just to keep things balanced.

3. "Charlie Wilson's War"
Funny, very well-shot, full of hot chicks, fairly accurate in its portrayal of the early to mid-1980s . . . and it doesn't shy away from the downer ending that it kind of had to have. (I don't know if anyone else noticed this, but one of the Foley artists for the final scene at Wilson's condo is a twisted genius.) Comes close to going over-the-top at times but is almost always smart enough to stop just short where other less ably directed films would go tumbling over the precipice with similar subject matter. (Trivia item: Julia Roberts was supposedly four months pregnant when she shot this scene.)

2. "Knocked Up"
Some people have criticized this movie as being a little removed from reality -- the ending, in particular, gets wrapped up a bit too neatly for some -- but I don't think it's that far off, either. And the path that the two main characters take to get to that happy ending rang true to me. Judd Apatow just really gets how guys act and talk, and in particular he gets how we frequently screw things up royally not out of cruelty or vindictiveness but just by being total clods. I also like how even when he makes a movie that revolves around one or two main characters, the supporting cast is given enough to do that it almost feels like an ensemble film. My only caveat is that while this might look like a great date movie, it really isn't. Unless you have no intention of having sex at the end of the night, then it's cool.

1. "No Country For Old Men"
I don't know that I've ever seen a movie that was so faithful to the material from which it was adapted; a few people have made the comment that you could sit in the theatre with Cormac McCarthy's novel and follow along with certain scenes almost word for word. This is a good thing, because the novel is one of the best (if also most heartbreakingly depressing) books I've ever read. Javier Bardem is nightmare-inducingly good as the hired assassin Chigurh, who operates on a moral plane completely removed from what any of us have ever recognized, but the movie is really about the sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones, who's trying to solve a crime and prevent further deaths even as he perceives the moral fabric of society crumbling around him. Just a fantastic movie; if you haven't seen it yet, you've still got time. Go.

Honorable mention: "Transformers," "Juno," and "The Bourne Ultimatum." And an early contestant for the 2009 version of this list: "Cloverfield." Saw it last night and my jaw was just about hanging to the floor by the time it was over; if you're thinking that the "Blair Witch" hand-held camera gimmick is going to result in a grainy, shitty-looking movie with half-assed special effects, you're in for an eye-popping surprise.

And now the Ten:

1. Dimitri from Paris, "Free Ton Style"
2. Underworld, "Second Hand"
3. Thievery Corporation, "Hong Kong Triad"
4. Pet Shop Boys, "Call Me Old-Fashioned"
5. Morrissey, "How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?"
6. Modest Mouse, "Dance Hall"
7. Jimi Hendrix, "Fire"
8. Miles Davis, "Rouge"
9. KRS-One, "The MC"
10. De La Soul, "Buddy"

Let's hear your own Random Tens, as well as the movies from last year you loved -- or hated -- in the comments.

Wednesday, January 23

Respect the crock.

By now I'm sure you've all seen the above video in which Tom Cruise flaps his gibs for nine and a half minutes about . . . well, nothing in particular. I mean, ostensibly it's about Scientology and how ZOMG AWESOME it is to be part of it, but round about a minute and a half in it's pretty much just Cruise on autopilot, talking to hear himself talk, luxuriating in the aroma of his own metaphorical farts, with the occasional maniacal laughter or Creepy Face thrown in like some kind of bad Bond villain. I was halfway expecting some long pause after the end of Cruise's speech, after which this timid voice offscreen says, "Dude, all I asked was whether you were still into the Scientology thing, and where the bathroom is."

At any rate, it's all the proof you could still need that Cruise is so crazy shithouse rats won't even hang out with him, and they were playing the audio on one of the sports-talk stations here in town the other day and laughing hysterically. The question was posed as to which American football coach is most likely to be a Scientologist, and one guy said Mike Martz (formerly of the St. Louis Rams) and another said Mike Leach (currently with Texas Tech), but I'd go with Urban Meyer. The creepy stare, the secretive operation, the questionable recruiting tactics . . . if he's not an OT III yet, he's at least been audited.

But anyway, this is all just leading up to something my sister found that, if you can fathom it, ratchets up Scientology's level of crazy a couple more notches. She found where Radar magazine had posted some sample questions from the questionnaire that Scientology auditors ask people while they're being E-metered, and it's like the Proust Questionnaire for people who think the government has planted microchips in their braisn. Yet at the same time it makes perfect sense, because anyone who'd take these questions seriously is also the kind of person who'd totally buy a story about a galactic overlord named Xenu killing billions of people in nuclear explosions and releasing their damaged spirits to inhabit and infect human beings.

Just for poops and giggles I decided to rip a page straight out of baby sis's book and answer the questions. Enjoy!

Have you ever enslaved a population?
See, one question in and we're already bringin' the crazy like whoa. And this is typical of the vague-ass questions Scientology traffics in. A population of what? If I had an ant farm, would ants count? How big is a "population"? If I had a group of a dozen or so campaign volunteers working for me back in, say, 2004, ordering them around mercilessly and even extracting sexual favors from some of them -- not that I did that -- would that count? In the end I'm gonna go with a tentative "no," but there's still ample time to revise that statement.

Have you ever debased a nation's currency?
I spread nasty rumors about the złoty one time, and there's a video on the Internet of me peeing on a 14-year-old Congolese franc, but that's about it.

You dirty, filthy whore.

Have you ever killed the wrong person?
No. If anything I've been letting too many of the wrong people live.

Have you ever torn out someone's tongue?
Only the mascot for the Calgary Flames, and he was totally asking for it.

Have you ever been a professional critic?
No. In my capacity as a critic, I have never been anything but unprofessional.

Have you ever wiped out a family?
The temptation to make a masturbation joke here is killing me, but there are just so many possibilities, and out of fairness, if I can't make them all, I won't make any. Feel free to leave your own in the comments, though.

Have you ever tried to give sanity a bad name?
Nope. Love, comedy, journalism, the Gillett family, democracy, yes, but never sanity.

Have you ever consistently practiced sex in some unnatural fashion?
There are those who would say the fact that I've ever had sex period is somewhere short of natural.

Have you ever made a planet, or nation, radioactive?
In spite of my best efforts, no. But I'll get you yet, Equatorial Guinea.

Have you ever made love to a dead body?
Technically, no, but there was that girl Amy I dated a few summers back who did a spot-on impression of one.

Have you ever engaged in piracy?
One time I hijacked a truck full of gun parts and inadvertently got four other guys dragged into a police lineup as part of an elaborate setup to get us all to pull heists for a Hungarian mobster, but that may have been the plot of "The Usual Suspects." So let's mark that one "pass," too.

That's me on the far left, of course.

Have you ever been a pimp?
Figuratively, yes. Briefly. And Big Daddy Kane is right, it wasn't easy. Literally, no, unless you count using my dog to pick up chicks, or the time I set a friend of mine up with this girl so that I could have a shot at her best friend. I don't like to make rash generalizations, but that is always, always a horrible idea. (The set-up-the-friend thing, not the pick-up-girls-with-a-dog thing. The pick-up-girls-with-a-dog thing is cash money. What were we talking about again?)

Have you ever eaten a human body?
I'm going to steal Ann's answer and assume that being Catholic and taking Communion counts. We kind of make a big deal out of it, actually.

Have you ever disfigured a beautiful thing?
Not on purpose, but Katia, the Ukrainian waitress I went out with a few years ago, was so beautiful that I probably disfigured her just by standing next to her.

Have you ever exterminated a species?
In spite of my best efforts, no. But I'll get you yet, Vespula maculifrons.

Have you ever been a professional executioner?
No, but I have been a professional sexecutioner. (That was before I was appointed to the office of Chancellor of the Sexchequer.)

Have you given robots a bad name?
This question is just random and retarded enough that I can only assume Tom Cruise contributed it himself. What the fuck does this mean? Have I been casting aspersions on the otherwise sterling reputations of Asimo and R2-D2? Or are they asking me if I have designed and constructed a line of robots so shoddy and malfunction-prone that it's damaged the reputation of the entire robot industry? And why is Scientology so concerned about the robots, anyway? I wonder if this isn't all part of some master plan cooked up behind closed doors in the halls of Scientology power, to get us to waste all our sperm fucking robots while they have sex with real people, spread their seed far and wide and end up overrunning the world with Scientological spawn.

But maybe I'm just being paranoid.

At any rate, I couldn't give robots any worse a name than this guy already has.

Have you ever set a booby trap?
Yeah, I did that whole prop-the-bucket-of-water-on-top-of-the-door thing to my sister and a friend of hers when we were little. The execution left something to be desired.

Have you ever failed to rescue your leader?
No, I'm generally the one driving my leader out into the middle of nowhere and then leaving him.

Have you driven anyone insane?
Yes, if by "anyone" you mean "everybody."

Is anybody looking for you?
Yes -- Melissa Theuriau, Kristen Bell, Jill Wagner from the Mercury car commercials, Rosario Dawson, Erin Andrews, Ivanka Trump, and former Miss Georgia Monica Pang. Though that last one is because I bet her fifty bucks she couldn't eat two whole racks of Daddy D'z ribs in one sitting and she totally did and I haven't paid her.

You can't tell by looking at her, but she can pack away some ribs.

Have you ever set a poor example?
Asking that question is a category mistake.

Did you come to Earth for evil purposes?
First let's address the question of whether I "came to Earth" period. Can you really "come somewhere" from your mom's vagina? If so, then I suppose I did, but I don't remember doing so with any evil intent. Then again, my mom was in labor with me for like 23 hours, so if she divines some nefarious intent from that, I guess I can't blame her.

Are you in hiding?
Yes. In fact, "Doug Gillett" is just a pseudonym (not to mention my screen name on

Have you systematically set up mysteries?
No. Other people typically set them up for me, and I don't figure them out.

Have you ever made a practice of confusing people?
Again, it's more other people making a practice of confusing me, but then I'm really not all that bright.

Have you ever philosophized when you should have acted instead?
I'm not sure how to answer that question. This is going to require some thought.

Have you ever gone crazy?
It's been known to happen -- usually involving some kind of chemical stimulus, but that certainly isn't a deal-breaker. If it helps, most of the time it has something to do with football or politics. On most other things I can keep it under control.

Doesn't do my toaster oven a lot of good now, though.

Have you ever sought to persuade someone of your insanity?
No, my insanity pretty much sells itself.

Have you ever deserted, or betrayed, a great leader?
When Bill Clinton admitted that he had had sexual relations with that woman, I was pretty pissed, and almost decided I was done with him, but then the impeachment hearings became such a farce I decided I'd stick with him just to piss off the Republicans. And the rest is history!

Have you ever smothered a baby?
No, but I scattered and covered one. It was just a game we were playing. Trust me, the kid's fine.

Do you deserve to have any friends?
What the fuck kind of question is this? It sounds like something that would've been written by Ashley, the girl in third grade who straight-up hated me the minute my family moved to town. Seriously, I didn't do anything to her, she hated my ass as soon as I started at my new school. Now that I think about it, though, it may have been one of those I-have-a-crush-on-you-so-I'm-gonna-make-your-life-a-living-hell kinds of things that school-aged kids are always doing to one another. What was this question about again? Oh, right, whether I deserve to have friends. Well, you know what, I'm going to avoid the obvious answer here and go with "yes." I can be one abrasive motherfucker sometimes, I won't deny it, but you know what? I'm damn entertaining, people. And while I may tell you to your face that your football team sucks or your new favorite band is totally gay, once you get beyond superficial stuff like that I'm fiercely loyal. I might knock you around just for the hell of it, but I'll do your enemies a hundred times worse.

Have you ever castrated anyone?
You mean a human, or just like a bull or something? Because if it's "a bull," then no.

Do you deserve to be enslaved?
Absolutely. I've been a very bad person. Very bad. Naughty, even. Not only do I deserve to be enslaved, I should probably be spanked soundly whilst doing so.

Who wants to do the honors?

Is there any question on this list I had better not ask you again?
The castration thing, for starters. That shit's just not funny. Oh, and the question about whether I deserve to have any friends. Seriously, who asks a question like that?

Have you ever tried to make the physical universe less real?
Well, a few years ago I actually spent a few days living in a world where Robin, the ridiculously hot bikini-contest-winning waitress at the Hooters on Lakeshore, would actually go out with me. So in my own way, I guess you could say yes, I have.

Have you ever zapped anyone?
Let me ask Scott Baio what exactly that entails and I'll get back with you.

Have you ever had a body with a venereal disease? If so, did you spread it?
Have I ever had a body? What, like had one in my possession? Or is this question in reference to my own body? Either way, the answer's no, thank God. Then again, maybe this is a reference back to that question about making love to a dead body, in which case I have another answer to that "Is there any question on this list I had better not ask you again" thing.

Done! I don't know about you, but I personally found this to be a valuable experience, because after answering the questions, I became even more confident in the knowledge that I'm in no danger whatsoever of getting roped in by Scientology, no matter how much Tom Cruise insists it's going to save the world. I propose that we start sending this around to take the place of all those lame time-wasting "Where are you right now? What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?" questionnaires that show up in your e-mail, and I encourage y'all to post your answers on your own blogs. C'mon, people, it's time to get clear!

ADDED: By popular demand, here's's video of Jerry O'Connell doing his staggeringly spot-on Cruise impression. This already puts O'Connell in the running for an Academy Award for best actor in 2009.

Sunday, January 20

You think you're cold? Feel these nipples!

According to, it's 31 degrees in Birmingham right now but it "feels like" 22. I've never understood that -- how do they determine how cold or hot it "feels" at any given moment? Do they just take an AP poll of 500 or so people who've been outside that day, ask them how cold they felt, and average their responses? Or has our nation's meteorological community developed a temperature-feeling robot that will measure the outside ambient temperature, run it through a complex algorithm based on actual human thought processes, and spit out a close approximation of what the average person will "feel" like when they venture out?

I don't know. But whatever, it's cold. Supposedly it got down to 26 degrees last night here in the B-hizzy, and in Northport, where I was staying with my aunt and uncle last night, the thermometer hit 23 at some point. And yeah, it snowed like a sonofabitch yesterday for most of the morning, but none of it stuck. I was up in Cullman knocking on doors for the Rev. James Fields in the special election for House District 12 most of the day Saturday, and for the first 30 minutes or so of the drive up to Cullman, it was snowing pretty hard; by the time we got there, it wasn't snowing in Cullman at all, but my sister called me at noon to say the ground was covered and the snow was still coming down. By the time I swung back through Birmingham to drop my friend Brian off about 3 p.m., though, almost all of it had melted. So basically I got all the cold but none of the fun; I didn't get to throw a single snowball all weekend.

But there are still some signs here in Birmingham of how cold it is:

This is the fountain at Five Points, right around the corner from my apartment. It looks like the turtle got the worst of it last night; it sort of looks like the bear (at left) was really drunk and got caught in mid-vomit.

A snow-dusted Durango on 20th Street South.

And here's Jenna, right next to the fountain, suited up for the cold weather. Supposedly Bostons don't do too well in extreme cold, but Jenna didn't seem to mind it. She was fully prepared to go on a long walk all the way to the park, but I wasn't real keen on that idea.

The weirdest thing that happened all weekend, though, came right as we were leaving Cullman on Saturday. The backstory is that a few years ago, my car's parking brake didn't catch properly when I parked it on an incline, and it rolled a couple hundred feet before slamming ass-end-first into a concrete retaining wall; the impact was hard enough to do about $5,500 worth of damage and actually pop the faceplate off my stereo. Oddly enough, the thing still worked fine, I just ended up with a detachable-faceplate factory stereo without having had to pay extra for one.

Anyway, as we were pulling out of a gas station Saturday afternoon, the faceplate was a little askew, so I tried to push it back into place -- and the plastic face just fell apart in my hand. I'm assuming it was because the car had been sitting in sub-30-degree weather for more than four hours, but the damn thing just crumbled like a Pringle that had been dipped in liquid nitrogen.

Here's what's left:

And here's the angry, faceless spot that's been left in my dashboard:

Looks kind of like the Terminator after his humanoid Arnold Schwarzenegger skin had been burned away and only the metal robot part was left. Only not as cool, obviously. It's actually pretty ghetto. And I'm thinking it's time to invest at least a little bit of money in a new receiver, since in the event that, god willing, I ever pick up a chick for a date in this car, I can't have her seeing something like this and thinking I'm too cheap to fix it.

So if any of y'all readers know anything about car stereos, I'd appreciate your advice in the comments on what brand/model of dash receiver I should get for my car. It's a 2000 VW Jetta, and the stereo that's in there now is the original, non-Monsoon cassette player (I got my Jetta before CD players had been made standard across the board). I'm probably going to sell this car and get a new one sometime in the next two to three years, so I don't plan on investing hundreds and hundreds of dollars in some complicated CD-changer/DVD-player/satellite-something-or-other system. Really, the main thing I'm going to be using this for is something to plug my iPod into (and occasionally listen to NPR or sports-talk radio on). All I need, then, is something with a tuner, a CD slot, and an auxiliary input jack, and that looks kind of cool once it's installed. If I can bring it in under $200 or so, even better.

So what's best -- Sony? Pioneer? Blaupunkt? JVC? Some Red Chinese knockoff with buttons like "fast advance" and "backwards winding"? And where would you advise me to get one -- Crutchfield, Best Buy, or the back of your cousin Anthony's truck in Bensonhurst? All reasonable answers will be appreciated, thanks.

Friday, January 18

The Friday Random Ten+5 is totally ruining everything.

I know I've bagged on Tony Romo pretty hard on this blog recently; I do it because he's a Cowboy, first of all, but primarily I do it because, well, in the words of Denis Leary, it's fuckin' funny. But Romes isn't the first guy to have been drawn in by a hot chick and promptly reduced to a mindless blob of quivering Spam, ruining life and career in the process. The concept of "The Yoko" has become an extremely popular archetype in our popular culture, and they've put things at risk far more serious than some grinning idiot's NFL legacy. As evidence, I present Five Unsung Pop-Culture Yokos:

Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale"
Don't get me wrong, Eva Green did an absolutely smoking job of playing HM Treasury agent Vesper Lynd in the most recent James Bond movie, but let's not mince words here: She used Bond as a pawn to retrieve $150 million that she could take to supervillain Mr. White to ransom her Algerian boyfriend, nearly getting Bond killed numerous times in the process. That just isn't cool, and it goes a long way toward explaining why Bond can't ever stay with the same woman for more than one movie at a stretch. Wouldn't you do the same thing in his position?

Harriet Hayes in "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip"
Like a lot of people, I had high hopes for this show when it started a year and a half ago, but after three or four episodes I'd almost completely lost interest. And I think the main reason was Harriet Hayes (Sarah Paulson), the love interest selected for Matthew Perry's character Matt Albie. Not for one hot second did I really buy that Matt was head-over-heels for Harriet; she was cute, I guess, in a dime-a-dozen sort of way, but not nearly cute enough to balance out her supercilious holy-roller attitude. The only way I'd really be able to willfully suspend disbelief and buy that Matt was actually that sprung over Harriet was if he was just so neurotic and self-esteem-deprived that he thought she was his last chance for a halfway committed relationship -- and hey, I've been there -- but in that case Matt's central relationship conflict is no longer sympathetic but rather merely pathetic. And that's just not the kind of thing you can build a credible drama on.

Brenda Warner
The story of Kurt Warner, who went from grocery-store bagger to Arena League quarterback to NFL MVP in just a few whirlwind years, is a great one, but it all started to crumble when Kurt's wife Brenda -- who would've actually been kind of cute without the Ivan Drago haircut -- started Lady MacBething it up on her St. Louis radio program. First she disputed the coaching staff's account of her husband's finger injury, and then the following season she started making threats about Kurt leaving the team if he was no longer the starter. The Rams called her bluff in the off-season, and Warner signed with the Giants, where his contribution was basically to keep Eli Manning's seat warm for two months. Today he's been reduced to battling Danny-Wuerffel-in-waiting Matt Leinart for the Arizona Cardinals' starting job. Which is still better than bagging groceries in Cedar Falls, but not by much.

Amber Brkich(-Mariano)
Brkich isn't responsible for ruining her "Survivor" sweetheart Rob Mariano, mainly because he was an irredeemable douchelick to begin with, but together the two of them are responsible for ruining "The Amazing Race," the only reality show I've ever actually given a rat's ass about. Their presence was a constant distraction during the show's seventh season, and not accidentally so, given that their whole purpose was to cross-promote one of CBS's other big reality franchises. And from there, the show deviated markedly from its tried-and-true formula, first with a lame "Family Edition" that never went outside North America and then with an "All-Star Edition" in which Rob and Amber were shoved down our throats again. I hate to see a show as engaging (and halfway educational) as this one jump the shark so blatantly, but congrats, Amber, you and your meathead boy-toy did it. And I'm sorry, but "reality contestant" is not, I repeat not, a valid occupation.

Marissa in "Old School"
I mean, come on, you can't actually hope to tame Frank "The Tank" Ricard, and to her credit, Frank's new bride eventually figures this out over the course of the movie. But not before dragging him to Bed Bath & Beyond on a perfectly good Saturday morning and ridiculing him in front of her friends for doing something as simple and innocent as streaking down Main Street. I'm not necessarily as wild as Frank is, but as someone who's been known to wonder what kind of underwear the waitress at Olive Garden is wearing, I can definitely sympathize.

And now the Ten:

1. 3rd Bass, "Derelicts of Dialect"
2. Richard Cheese, "Only Happy When It Rains"
3. Pet Shop Boys, "It's Alright" (Sterling Void mix)
4. Thom Yorke, "The Clock"
5. Underworld, "Pearl's Girl" (live at Benicassim 2005)
6. Richard Cheese, "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
7. Underworld, "Rez"
8. Dr. Dre, "The Day the Niggaz Took Over"
9. Thievery Corporation, "Universal Highness"
10. The Chemical Brothers, "Denmark"

Just FYI, if you've never heard Richard Cheese's mambo version of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," shoot me an e-mail and I'll send it to you. It's indescribable.

Anyway, throw your own Tens and/or favorite historical Yokos in the comments.

Tuesday, January 15

Like Sam the Butcher bringin' Alice the meat . . . the Tuesday Mystery Meat, that is.

Wow, I guess it's true what they say, couples really do start to look alike after a while.

· So I watched the NFC divisional playoff game on Sunday, and yeah, I was happy. As much as I've bagged on Tony Romo in the past, I wasn't rooting against Tony Romo; as a near-lifelong Redskins fan, I was rooting against the entire Cowboys team, every last mother's son. If the 'Skins don't get to win a playoff game, then sorry, y'all don't either.

So anyway, yeah, I think the idea that Romes lost the game because he'd spent the first-round bye week nailing Jessica Simpson to within an inch of her life in Cabo is, all things considered, ridiculous. But I won't deny taking satisfaction in the fact that Cowboy fans had to spend time and energy denying this in the first place. Allow me to be realer than real here for a second: Tony Romo was being hailed as the Next Great NFL Quarterback by the Cowboy faithful even before he'd started one fucking game in a Dallas uniform; he was squiring Carrie Underwood about town before he'd played in a single playoff game; he was banging Jessica Simpson before he'd finished one full season as the Cowboys' starter. Brett Favre? Didn't get to be in "There's Something About Mary" until he'd won a Super Bowl. Tom Brady? Had to win a couple Super Bowls before he could get a taste of either Bridget Moynahan or Gisele Bundchen. But here's Smilin' Tony, 19-9 after one and a half seasons as a starter and 0-2 in the playoffs, and he's already defiling blonde starlets right and left.

Look, I don't have a problem with celebrity quarterbacks in principle; I just think you should have to earn it first. And no, having adorable dimples doesn't qualify as "earning" anything. I'm not saying that Romes is Dallas's Heath Shuler just yet, but he still hasn't quite proved that he isn't their Gus Frerotte.

· Oh, and Terrell Owens, and I say this with a heart full of Christian love, shut the fuck up. Donovan McNabb takes you to the Super Bowl and you throw him under the bus, but you turn into the Leave Britney Alone chick over Romo? Whatever, dude. Go get your popcorn ready for the Super Bowl. (Or, alternatively, you could just watch this.)

· And besides, neither one of y'all has it anywhere near as bad as Michael Vick right now. Know which prison he ended up in? I'll give you a hint: It starts with L and rhymes with "Heavenworth." Yup. Don't be surprised if he comes out of there looking like one of his dogs.

· Turning to college, and to a different kind of Dawgs: The final end-of-season BlogPoll and SEC Power Poll are in, and like the Associated Press sportswriters' poll, both have Georgia at #2 with a bullet (each with a single #1 vote for the Dawgs, oddly enough). And the build-up for the Dawgs' 2008 season has already begun, with everyone from Tony Barnhart to Stewart Mandel to even (very grudging) SEC Power Poll host Garnet and Black Attack putting the Dawgs atop their super-early preseason rankings.

Ordinarily I'd be worried about this, because few things have proven to be greater kryptonite to college football teams in the past than sky-high expectations, but the way I see it, this might actually be a good thing. See, the Dawg #1 lovefest is happening early enough to develop a nice little backlash by August, if not way before, so by the time the actual, this-counts preseason polls start popping up in late summer, the pollsters will be sick of having Georgia shoved down their throats and will knock them down to #3 or #4 in favor of the usual media darlings like USC and Ohio State. (And, I've just got this weird feeling, Notre Dame.) So don't worry at all, Georgia fans. It's all falling into place.

· I'm pretty sure we have a winner in the Best Football Commentary Innuendo contest of 2007, and it's Andre Ware's comment about "Vince Hall coming in the face of Peter Lalich." Thanks, Andre, for giving us that delightful pass-rush bukkake mental image, and thanks to all who participated.

· Finally, I've got a couple videos I've been meaning to throw up on here for a while, the first being an SNL parody of the interactive "Dora the Explorer" videos that makes me laugh my ass off every time I watch it:

Watch the video! Watch it! What's wrong with you?!?!

And finally, I know "Family Guy" is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of show, but if you can't laugh at Peter and Lois Griffin's unusual take on bedroom role-playing, then you've got serious problems.

Family Guy - Role Playing - Awesome video clips here

Friday, January 11

The Friday Random Ten+5 gets interactive on that ass.

For the first time in the brief history of the Friday Random Ten+5, you're getting to vote on which is the best of the five. This week is the Five Funniest Unintentional Innuendoes Of The 2007 Football Season, and once you've taken a gander at all of them you'll get to vote on the Unintentional Innuendo Of The Year. I actually kind of felt bad limiting it to 2007, though, because I would've loved to include John Madden's quote about San Diego TE Antonio Gates from a couple years ago ("He just jumps up and attacks balls") or Lee Corso's advice on proper offensive-line technique ("You've got to squat, drop your butt, and explode into the hole"). Ahh, good times.

But anyway, here's the Five:

"His package is going to expand as the season wears on."
-- Unnamed analyst quoted on JOX 100.5's morning show about Auburn coaches opening up the playbook for freshman QB Kodi Burns

"I rode him so hard. I was in his earhole . . . "
-- Phil Fulmer, referring to motivational tactics used on Tennessee placekicker Daniel Lincoln, as quoted by Dave Neal during Lincoln Financial's broadcast of the Alabama-Tennessee game

"If I'm Georgia, I'm gonna ride my hot guy right now."
-- CBS's Gary Danielson on Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno, shortly before the Georgia-Auburn game

"And it winds up being Vince Hall coming in the face of Peter Lalich."
-- ESPN's Andre Ware during the Virginia-Virginia Tech game

"Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem as it is played by the trombones of New Orleans's very own Bonerama."
-- PA announcer at the Louisiana Superdome shortly before kickoff of the Sugar Bowl

Got all that? Picked yourself up off the floor yet? OK, now vote:

Who had the funniest unintentional innuendo of 2007?
JOX 100.5 analyst ("His package is going to expand")
Phil Fulmer ("I rode him so hard")
Gary Danielson ("I'm gonna ride my hot guy")
Andre Ware ("Vince Hall coming in the face of Peter Lalich")
Superdome PA guy ("Bonerama") free polls

And here's the Ten:

1. U2, "Mysterious Ways" (Massive Attack remix)
2. Pet Shop Boys, "To The Shore"
3. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, "The Impression That I Get"
4. Pet Shop Boys, "A Red Letter Day" (Basement Jaxx vocal remix)
5. Chicane, "Autumn Tactics"
6. The Beastie Boys, "Bodhisattva Vow"
7. Fatboy Slim, "Right Here Right Now"
8. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, "You & Me & The Bottle Makes 3 Tonight (Baby)"
9. LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out"
10. The Clash, "This Is Radio Clash"

Throw your own Tens in the comments -- and by all means, if you've heard any funny commentator innuendos over the past 12 months, let me hear about those two. C'mon, we know we're all 10 years old deep down.

Wednesday, January 9

Going back to the "Simpsons" well:
Your Favorite Football Team's Analogue,
2008 Election Edition.

If Ohio State has just gotten bent over and humiliated by an SEC team on national network television, then that means another college football season has come to an end, leaving thousands of otherwise talented bloggers with nothing to write about. But not me, lawya! Whereas most people are scrounging around for ways to recap and rehash the bizarreness and frequent idiocy of the football season, I have another interest -- politics -- with just as much potential for bizarreness and idiocy, if not more. And now, in the spirit of that "Simpsons" post I did a couple years back that got this blog way more attention than it would've ever otherwise deserved, I bring you The 2008 Election Cavalcade of College Football: Your Favorite Presidential Candidate as a Football Team, or Vice Versa. Get ready to hate it all over again! . . .

Mike Huckabee: Kansas
Toiled in obscurity for years before deciding to aim for the stars this time around; in the beginning, the general consensus was, “Ha-ha, that’s cute, whatever,” but before long they were knocking off some of the established GOP/Big 12 powerhouses. Sudden success quickly drove the punditocracy into tear-down mode, insisting that these were lightweights who had no real substance or staying power, but both Huck and the ’Hawks just kept right on chopping heads. Granted, there are many hurdles left to overcome, but don’t be surprised if we end up stuck with them for the next few years.

John McCain: Penn State
Angry, but hey, they've earned it. Old, some would say past their respective primes; wasn’t all that long ago that both had virtually disappeared from the polls, but somehow they managed to claw their way back thanks to long-proven survival skills. Even those who don’t particularly like them have to admit that, for the most part, they’re class organizations; at this point, they may be destined for permanent just-short-of-elite-powerhouse status, but even then it’s oddly difficult to imagine life without them.

Fred Thompson: Alabama
Once they threw their respective hats into the ring, they were announced as contenders, with everybody just sort of assuming they had a shot at taking the title from the established powers. After a point, though, it started looking like neither one of them actually gave a fuck about winning. An easily saleable brand name and plenty of tough talk, but not a whole lot of proven substance at the moment. Yet somehow the hotties still follow in their wake just the same.

Rudy Giuliani: Notre Dame
Still coasting on reps that have been built on smoke and mirrors, and spent a lot of time getting patted on the back way beyond their actual merit — but in recent weeks their weaknesses have been very much exposed. With the “inevitability factor” shattered, both have settled into what looks like a bide-your-time-then-strike strategy (waiting for the New York and Florida primaries/“People better enjoy it now”) that nobody beyond a core group of delusional supporters actually thinks is going to work. Almost universally despised outside their own fan bases; trust me, Catholics aren’t exactly thrilled about being represented by either.

Ron Paul: Mississippi State
Written off as weird, ineffectual sideshows by The Powers That Be in their respective milieus; even some assholes who were formerly supporters turned on them in a big way. But that was before they jumped up and proved to the world that — oh, shit! — they know a thing or two after all. Buoyed considerably by fan bases whose dedication borders on the fanatical.

Mitt Romney: Oklahoma
Aside from that one triumph that’s already fading fast in people’s memories (the 2000 national title/the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial race), always gets just one or two steps short of the prize and then manages to blow it in a major way. Looks like a contender, sounds like a contender, yet in the end you’re always wondering, “How’d he manage to fuck that up?” Currently making a living out of finishing second in January.

Duncan Hunter: Florida International
Some people apparently convinced them they had a shot at the big time. These people are clearly nuts.

Aaaaand the Democrats:

Hillary Clinton: Michigan
Once the undisputed heavyweights, both are finding that life isn’t nearly as easy or fun as it was back in 1997; they’re far too popular and entrenched to ever disappear entirely, but they’ve been painfully slow to adapt to new realities and hot upstarts, to the point where current generations seem ready to write them off as dinosaurs. But they’ve won far too many battles to go gently into that good night, and just when you think they’re done, that’s when they jump up and whack you.

Barack Obama: West Virginia
Grew up without any of the advantages traditionally afforded to guys with their kind of ambition but still made it very near the top just the same. Some will criticize them as Johnny-come-latelies, relatively speaking, or say that they’re more gimmick than substance, or that they got where they are by beating weak competition, but c’mon, they’re just such great stories. Just as prone to a stumble or two as everyone else, but they typically bounce back in inspiring fashion.

John Edwards: Clemson
Attractive; high-energy; fan bases are an occasionally uncomfortable mix of blue-collar types and influential big-money boosters. Had that one really major accomplishment a while back, but how much of it was on their own merit and how much came from the fact that nobody really stepped up to challenge them? As much of a following as they’ve developed, there’s a sense that they still haven’t quite reached their potential; probably destined to remain somebody’s second fiddle.

Dennis Kucinich: Arizona
Not completely helpless; every now and then they’ll do or say something that’s actually pretty solid. In the grand scheme of things, though, their impact on the overall field is pretty negligible. If it weren’t for their association with ridiculously good-looking women (Samaire Armstrong, Jennie Finch, Kate Walsh, and Natalie Gulbis are all Wildcats), they’d probably be ignored completely.

Bill Richardson: Navy
Competent, inspiring even, but only really good at a limited number of things — and probably not enough of them to be truly ready for the big time. In the end, they’re valued more for what they are than what they actually do on the field of play, but still a whole lot of people’s second choices in terms of rooting interests.

Mike Gravel: New Mexico State
Operates using a style that any reasonable person would deem insane. Once upon a time they were actually solid enough to earn some real respect (a U.S. Senate seat/two straight Sun Bowl wins), but boy, that was a long time ago. These days you really have to be hunting to catch them on TV, and even then it’s only out of morbid fascination. Whatever they’ve done to elbow their way into the spotlight for this long, it won’t last.

Hate these selections? Got your own? I probably don't care, but you can put them in the comments anyway.

ADDED: One more, just to be an asshole.

George W. Bush: Ohio State
Looked unstoppable around 2002, but a couple high-profile humiliations later, it's anyone's guess as to what their legacy is going to be. Built up a lot of their swagger and aura of invincibility simply because nobody really stepped up to challenge them, but that only left them that much more unprepared and flat-footed when a truly tough opponent did step up to the plate. Connected with all sorts of embarrassing incidents and confusing scandals -- none of which have been able to take them down, to the rest of the country's frustration. Both inspire either astonishingly blind loyalty or seething hatred, with nothing in between -- but the haters are finding them easier to laugh at, while even the ardent supporters (a polarizing group themselves) are kind of wishing they'd just go away at this point. Bristle at being called "slow," but, well, if the shoe fits. Rumored to poop in styrofoam coolers.