Friday, July 29, 2005

Are you ready for some football?

This week's purchase was the annual EA Sports college football game, in this case, "NCAA 06."

Nothing like running the option as a warmup for some serious Raiders "Madden" playing.

Last year, I bought the big "Madden" Collector's Edition, and then hardly played. I never quite recovered from the Raiders cutting Tim Brown in real life. This year, I'm sure it will be different, though...

Usually, I only play the college game until "Madden" comes out, because the college game has been a) an inferior football game, more like the previous year's "Madden," and b) because they don't license player names, so I get sick of either living with guys named QB#12 or typing in names.

But this year, two major happenings: First, they enabled with button to just make up random names for players. Saves a ton of time when there's 119 Division I-A teams and a bunch of D I-AA ones. It's a little weird to see the guy I know is USC's star quarterback, Matt Leinert, called Willie Coe, but hey, I could always change it. But at 70 guys per team and about 150 teams... well, no, "NCAA 07" would be out before I'm done, and I type fast.

One serious downside: Whether it's my first-gen PS2 or what, the game hitches like mad on the loading screens - the gameplay's fine, but God is it annoying to try and wade through everything to get there. The disc is in perfect shape, so I'd guess it's my aging PS2.

The second major happening? "Heisman mode." It's like Dynasty mode, but with one player - you create a freshman, work out, win scholarship offers, and find yourself starting on opening day. You've got four years of eligibility and your goals are to win the Heisman and the national title (and, based on the inclusion of a girlfriend picture, get laid).

So on my third try at the workouts (first one went badly, as I chose my position poorly; second one, the computer hiccuped when I tried to save and I wound up losing my game) I wound up getting an offer from #1 USC. As a scrambling QB. But who's going to turn down the nation's top program?

There I am, in a passing offense, running like hell, while the nation's top player, in virtual form, is holding on placekicks. It's a little weird, but hey, I stunned 'em at the workout, what can I say?

And then, after four years, I can import my guy into "Madden," which apparently has a similar mode, with a 20-year career path (it's out in a couple of weeks). It's an awesome twist on the Dynasty mode, which is just about the greatest thing ever in video game history, or at least this side of "Resident Evil" and "Gran Turismo." Run every aspect of the franchise - the Raiders, of course - from ticket prices to free agent signings to my personal favorite, the NFL Draft. One year, I even did what Al Davis has never managed, to build a new, football-only stadium in Oakland.

And I won three straight Super Bowls, with Mild Bill Callahan as my head coach. For my next trick, I'll be out on the Passaic, walking.

EA Sports: It's in the game! ...

...Including a slow, overweight Asian Jew's white, rifle-armed, sprinter-speed teenage alter ego. Who rushed for 200 yards on opening day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Just when you thought it was safe...

... To wrap up a post on strange stuff, this happens:

I went to Barnes & Noble tonight after work to pick up a magazine.

So I'm standing in line, waiting to check out, and they've got a bunch of audio books on a rack at the counter.

You know, books on CD. It's a concept I've never warmed up to, despite my love of reading and my 50-minute-each-way commute. I just like actually reading my books, instead of listening to them. Besides, the kind of fiction I like, I might wreck my car if something shocking happened. The authors I favor tend to be jaw-droppers.

That's not the odd part. The odd part is, one of the packages has a blurb:

"A real page-turner!"

D'oh! Now THAT is a forehead-smacker.

Barnes & Noble online
Athlon Sports, whose college football mag I bought

I might point out that my hockey jones is on the verge of being satisfied: The NHL is back! And it's about freakin' time. Don't know how the players will be able to sit on the bench bleeding from the rectum, though. Nice job on the negotiations, guys. You lost a season and still got nailed with a salary cap.

At least Sidney Crosby ended up going to my favorite team. Er, second-favorite team. Sorry, Dave, I meant second-favorite, I really did. And Dave's, er, MY favorite team signed its two top prospects today, too.

Let the games begin!

A few random thoughts

I can't think of anything to write, so I'm just going to share a few strange things I saw today. A magnificent seven, as it were.

1. Somebody on HorrorTalk mentioned some legislators here in New Jersey want to ban smoking in automobiles. My property taxes are through the roof, there's one of the nation's biggest depositories for mercury in my township, they still haven't built the Route 206 bypass, we don't have a real governor, terrorists have plans for Newark buildings, and the most important thing these idiots can think of is that I can't smoke in my car? Then why does it come standard with a cigarette lighter and ashtray, huh? Good thing the sponsor isn't my assemblyman, or I'd be tempted to give him a piece of my mind.

2. Speaking of smoking in your car, what I could see is a rule against flicking your cigarette butts out the window while driving. Am I the only one who's ever wondered what might happen if you drive over a bouncing cig butt and your gas tank is leaking? KABOOM!

3. Some Miami politician committed suicide in the Miami Herald office today. I'm from Pennsylvania, where all political-corruption suicides are measured against Bud Dwyer, who shot himself live on television at a news conference. I'm not that impressed.

4. I saw an article about a missing pregnant black woman in Philadelphia on today. It's nice to see something about a missing person who isn't a whitebread suburbanite. USA Today had an article a while back out that whole no-men, no-minorities missing-persons fetish. I hope they find her, too.

5. The expression, "more fun than a barrel of monkeys"... I'm not thinking a barrel of monkeys is fun. Maybe a barrel of dachshunds. Or a barrel of monkeys going over Niagara Falls. But a barrel of monkeys would just be full of screaming primates.

6. I heard a great commercial on the radio today, for some Toyota sedan. It's a guy talking to some rice-boy kids ("yeah, you, the ones with the stupid stickers all over your car and the useless tail fin") about whether or not there's a sticker for their car that says "I just got my BLEEP handed to me by a 38-year-old father of two." Cracked me up. Not quite as much as the life insurance that pays you even if you don't die, but still.

7. Nos. 5 and 6 bring to mind one of the all-time great commercials, the cell phone one where the rancher wants oxen, but he has bad static, and gets dachshunds. "Stampede!"

An editorial on the anti-smoking bill, from No. 1 and No. 2
The article on the missing lady, No. 4
The Barrel of Monkeys game, No. 5, which doesn't look that fun
The Toyota Avalon, from the commercial in No. 6
Funny animal commercials, including No. 7

Yes, the Net is full of Bud Dwyer footage, for No. 3. Google it yourself, you sickos!

Act your age

Today, I read a wire story that involved an adult man who goes by the nickname, "Bunky."

We probably all had a silly nickname like "Bunky" once. We were also about 4 years old.

I've already written a post about nicknames, but the last time I knew any group of people who had nicknames people called them by was college. And even they made sense.

Sophomore year, my dorm floor (coed, freshman/soph) was full of nicknames. A few guys went by their last name, as usual (Strauss, Storch, Hrynko). But the rest... well, many had nicknames left over from freshman year, and the rest got 'em as they went on.

Not all were imaginative. I mean, Vijay was basically "VJ."

But some of the others had their moments.

One kid was "Newman," like the Seinfeld character. Rotund, annoying, you get the picture.

Jim Hsu (pronounced "gym shoe") needed one for obvious reasons, so one of the guys dubbed him "Ha-soo" (say it like it's spelled... not).

His roommate was "Stevie P." Why? Because Steve Miller was already taken by somebody famous, and Steven P. Miller took too long to say.

(Stevie P. was fond of saying "I don't give two shakes of a rat's ass" about things. One birthday, the guys bought him a plastic rat, so he could.)

"Marky Mark" wasn't a rapper, but he was a crew-cutted, All-American white boy named Mark. And it distinguished him from the other Mark, my pal Storch.

"Lisa Lisa" likewise got her nickname to distinguish her from another Lisa, who we called Jailbait, on account of she was a 16-year-old freshman. ("Lisa? Which one? Jailbait Lisa, or Lisa Lisa?")

The stories about Jailbait would take up an entire 'nother post. And be thoroughly offensive, generally speaking. Though she was always a willing participant in the hijinks, and often the instigator. I mean, let's be honest, on the maturity scale, 16 is somewhere between the 18/19-year-old sophomore level (and the word "sophomoric" exists for a reason) and, well, a grown man called Bunky. Poor girl flamed out young (I don't think she lasted the spring semester), which is why my kid, be he or she smart enough, still isn't skipping more than one grade, max.

One Filipino girl (Lisa Lisa's roommate) called herself "Flipper." We figured it for an ethnic slur, but maybe it was like black guys who call themselves the "n" word. I dunno.

Kroll went by last name for a while, but his luck with the ladies (two roommates, two days) got him dubbed "Casanova." Til the rumor got started he barfed up an entire piece of cheese. Then he became "Yakanova." (Pretty sure he actually barfed ON the piece of cheese... though I did see a cat once barf up an entire mouse, head to tail.)

Mark got called "Buns" by our R.A. for about a day and a half, after a Hrynko pantsing incident went horribly awry - in mixed company, no less - but he threatened us enough we stopped that right quick.

Among the other girls, Mahalynn didn't need a nickname. After all, how many of them could there be? And nobody called Michelle anything, at least to her face, because back then, if she didn't kill them (with her big-sister overhand hammer punch), I probably would have.

And Melissa probably should've been called "Rain Man," or the female equivalent. She was doing her boyfriend's engineering homework, then turned around and cleaned his room so it would be neat when his girlfriend from home came to visit.

Think about that one for a sec.

Yup, you read it right.

Melissa was actually a great girl and provided plenty of comic relief. I mean, you didn't actually have to talk about her behind her back, you could talk about her right in front of her. Once, I told her, "Melissa, just smile, nod and pretend you understand." She actually smiled and nodded before the light bulb went on and she laughed and called me some unprintable name. At least she had a good sense of humor about it.

She's probably making a couple hundred grand a year somewhere right now, so she who laughs last, eh?

Well, this sort of goofball nostalgia kick petered out, didn't it?

So no clever kicker tonight, no witty wrap-up. Just a smile about better times, back when I was younger, and more naive, and more innocent. And wilder, and crazier. And more violent. And a borderline alcoholic. OK, maybe "better" times isn't the right word. But they sure were fun. Mostly.

A glossary of ethnic slurs, which informs me "flip" is NOT a slur for Filipino (and my goodness, are some of the entries fascinating)
Carnegie Mellon University, where all this good fun took place (they've probably disavowed me by now)
And Mudge House, where I lived sophomore year and part of junior year (and THAT is another long story)

All of this begs a question: What is the statute of limitations on misadventures anyway?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Justice, s'il vous plait?

Tonight's post is going to be just a wee bit schizophrenic.

So if you're a red-stater, keep reading, and if you're a blue-stater, skip ahead to the funny part. The one that begins with the airplane explosion that killed hundreds.

Toward the end of work tonight, we were discussing Natalee Holloway, the high school girl who disappeared on her class trip to Aruba (haven't you watched ANY news since the Runaway Bride?). Apparently, the girl's poor mother has upped the reward for finding her and/or information about her.

Let's set two ground rules.

One is, the girl's dead.

The other is, the Dutch kid in jail, he killed her.

Unless, of course, she went skinny-dipping while he lay drunk on the beach, and a giant shark directed by Steven Spielberg swam up and ate her.

OK, fill in all the allegedlys and reportedlys here.

But I've seen enough episodes of "Law and Order: SVU," or as I often call it, "Law and Order: SUV," to know how it went down.

Let's see if I've got this right: Twice at a party, she shoots the Dutch kid down (no, I can't spell his name, and I'm too lazy to look it up. he's VanderSomething). Then she gets drunk enough, she leaves with him, his buddies drive them to a beach, and she's never seen again.

My vote is, he tries to get it on with her, she sobers up enough to figure out he's a little weasel, and he rapes her. Then he kills her, to cover his ass, in a panic, whatever. Then he dumps her in the ocean.

The only way anyone's collecting that reward is if they cut open the shark that ate the body. Like Dutch Boy's weasel would-be-judge daddy said, no body, no crime.

So the kid's guilty as OJ, and he's sitting in jail, all clammed up. Meanwhile, a girl's family suffers without knowing the truth.

This is why I advocate the torture of prisoners. I mean, if the Aruban government doesn't want to do it, surely Aruba's close enough to Gitmo we can somebody over to go all Lynndie England on this little rat.

I'll tell you what, indulge me a minute, and let me tell you what I'd do if that were my daughter, God forbid.

I'd take out a second mortgage - I've got some old friends back whom who'd do just about anything for money. Then I'd take them down to Aruba, with a boat.

And I'd jump Daddy Dearest, haul his ass out into the ocean and turn him into John Bell Hood. You remember Hood, the Civil War general who lost the use of an arm, then lost the leg on the other side.

I'd think by the time you break the kneecap, he's at least thinking about talking. By the time you break the opposite elbow, he's telling everything he knows. Which would be helpful if she's in the only other place she could be: the VanderWhatsis basement.

If that doesn't work, it's time for a good old fashioned Aruban jailbreak.

(And hey, if you think the Dutch would object, last I saw them, they were in "Band of Brothers," shaving the heads of the women who slept with the occupying Nazis. They do revenge funky.)

Yeah, that's right, I'd bust little whatsisname out, and haul him out on the boat with daddy. Then I'd cut open his thigh and use him for bait. I'm thinking at the first sign of a dorsal fin, one of 'em talks.

And then, hell, if they killed my little girl, I'd disembowel 'em and toss 'em in the ocean for the sharks. Or go all Dread Pirate Roberts on them. ("No! To the pain!") Vengeance is seldom, if ever, the sole property of the Lord.

That whole school-trip-gone-to-hell thing got me thinking about another story, slightly less violent.


Remember that plane that blew up over Long Island back in '96? The one that had the high school French club on board? The one that inspired the movie "Final Destination"?

Anyway, when I saw that on the news, my jaw dropped. I remember I ended up being late for work, because all they said was the flight had a French club from Central Pennsylvania on board.

I was in a high school French club in Central Pennsylvania. Fortunately for my town, it wasn't the one from Bloomsburg on the plane. There but for the grace of God, and my sympathies to the people of Montoursville.

Anyway, I went on two trips to France with the French club - my French teacher and her husband, the gym teacher, went over about every other summer, taking kids on an "educational experience."

I really didn't have much fun either time I went, the first because I didn't speak French well enough to get around (after two years) and the second because, well, it was Murphy's trip.

And nowhere was that more evident than in Nice (pronounced NEE-sss, not NIGH-sss). And a nice experience, it was not.

(I'll keep the guilty parties anonymous, for the sake of my friends. The nonguilty parties, I'll cheerfully name.)

Let me put it this way, when we left on the tour bus, me and Johnny, one of the guys, sat in the back giving the entire city the finger out the back window.

We'll get to the part that makes the connections momentarily.

First, let's share some of the fun.

We knew we were in trouble when we got the hotel, and the French guide informed my teacher it was a brothel.

How he knew the anorexic-looking woman leaning on the front desk was a "known prostitute" was none of my business. And the guy at the front desk looked like Elvis. I mean, he had a pompadoured rug that would make Jim Trafficant blush.

As Mrs. Coy said, "This is the last time I let the tour company put us in a two-star hotel."

Turned out the place had four and a half floors. The top floor, where they put me, Johnny and Kevin (three of the five guys on a tour with 25 girls from two different states... and the only guys who got any on the whole trip were the other two guys, who unknown to anyone, were boyfriends).

Oh, aside, they combined my tour from Pennsylvania, on an "educational experience," with a tour from Georgia of eighth-grade girls, on a shopping trip. And Johnny, who immediately dodged his chaperone mother to hang with us. We mixed like oil and water. The Georgians sat on one side, the Pennsylvanians on the other. The bus aisle was like the Mason-Dixon line.

Me and Johnny, we were the ambassadors, sitting on the back seat, on the wrong sides, to show solidarity.

Bear in mind, too, on this second trip, I'd graduated the week before we left, there was really nothing they could do to me if I misbehaved (unlike the underclassmen, who'd get suspended).

Anyway, we're in Nice, in the brothel, and Kevin goes up to our room on the top floor. Kevin's about 6-foot, Johnny's 6-4, and I'm 5-9. Kevin's in the dark, in the hall, when runs forehead-first into the expansion. I shit you not, he knocks himself out. He says he woke up minutes later, in the dark, on his back. This was an omen.

The expansion floor, the half-floor, was so short Johnny showed us - fully clothed, you perverts - that he had to bend almost double to get his hair under the showerhead.

That night, while we were exploring Nice (more on that in a minute), Johnny's mother and her roommate (the two Georgia chaperones) got their room robbed. So Johnny actually ended up staying in their room, while Kevin and I blocked our door with a piece of furniture. We had a special knock and weren't going to open for anybody but him. So we spent the night in an armed camp.

The next morning, at breakfast, before we checked out, the waitresses were in French maid costumes. Literally. A shame we didn't call room service.

I told you it was a brothel.

But now to the relevant part of the story, the part that I think of every time some tragedy happens on a school trip (there was one a few years ago where a Jersey cheerleader fell from a hotel balcony, too).

That one night, we all went out on the town - teenagers can drink in France, but even we weren't that hardcore; the first trip (from which I was the only returnee), one of the girls got sloshed the first night on wine so bad we had to drag her back to the hotel, fear of future suspension or worse, a plane ticket home on mom and dad's dime, running through our heads.

Anyway, the chaperones tell us not to go ANYWHERE alone. So the guys, being high school guys, ran in a pack. The girls, being girls, paired up. (Like they do in bars, on the way to the bathroom.)

We're hanging out down by the beach, taking in the breeze off the water. Well, actually, we're up on the street, which is way above the beach, connected by big stone stairwell. It's nighttime when one of the girls comes rushing up in a panic. Turns out, she lost her partner. While we're trying to figure out what to do - that is to say, how to find her without alerting any chaperones - she goes walking by. With a guy. A strange, suave-looking, older guy. Who's just talking her up.

So three of us follow at a relatively discreet distance. They're headed for a parking lot, and we're thinking if she gets in that car, they're going to be off to Monte Carlo and we're never going to see her again.

Now you see the connection to the first part of the story?

Eventually, she catches us and comes back to (angrily) ask why we're following her. We point out she's like 15 or 16 and he's like 30. And she's in a foreign country. Wandering off alone with a stranger. Maybe we overreacted... but then he got squirrelly. And took off. That's when she started crying.

So, feeling good about ourselves (line of the day: "I may not be big, but I can fight," said one of the guys), we amble on back to the rest of our party. Only to discover, they've lost the first girl.

In a word (or four), "merde. Merde. MERDE. MERDE!"

So we're looking around, re-frantic-ing ourselves, when we hear her. Down on the stairwell, sitting on the landing. In the dark. With a guy. Another stranger.

Usually, we learn from others' mistakes, we don't try to out-fuck-up them.

But she did.

So we drag her out of the stairwell, and ask her the obvious question: Did you learn nothing? She says, she was right near us. Which, to her credit, she was. Fifteen feet down, in the dark, out of sight, with a stranger, unknown to any of us. To her discredit.

So she's pissed, and as we're trudging back to the hotel, she's telling us over and over how nice this guy was and how there was no harm in it and how we're overreacting.

The response?

"Then why's he following us?"

We bolted. Running through the streets of Nice, splitting up (into groups), cutting through alleys, etc.

We'd shaken him by the time we got to the hotel. A couple of the guys hustle the girls upstairs, and Johnny and I hung out at the next-door McDonald's, where Johnny could practice his (nonexistent) French, and we could make sure the mystery man just walked on by.

Harmless fun, a story I've entertained friends and family (and now you, dear readers) with for years. But when I actually think sometimes how close we might have come to being the poor bastards on CNN, maybe it's not quite as funny.

What can I say? Of all the places I've been, the one I'm least likely to go back to is France. I'm not going for pleasure, Paris isn't that fun. And the odds I'll be leading a German army anytime soon aren't good, either. So that's that.

Natalee Holloway, and here's hoping they find her
Aruba, which is undoubtedly sorry they let the school trip get through customs to begin with
The latest from CNN on the Holloway case
Torture, Wikipedia-style
"The Princess Bride," for those of you who don't get the Dread Pirate Roberts reference
Nice, France - I wish I could remember how to swear in French so I could adequately express my feelings toward the city

Let's end with a joke: Why did France and Germany oppose our invasion of Iraq? France didn't want to lose to a country that small, and Germany didn't want to bother conquering a country that small.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

A little levity in the face of fear

In response to today's London incident, one of my British forum-mates over at HorrorTalk posted a link.

You might recall the "We're Not Afraid" site from my "I hate terrorists" post.

This one?

"I'm Fucking Terrified"

As parodies go, pretty darn good. And it's even better to see the Londoners keeping their chins up.

I still hate terrorists.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Today's munkee weather report

Grumpy, with some aggravation occurring in the late afternoon.

A 60 percent chance of whimpers, giving way to grumbles and sighs in the late evening.

Frustration in the high 70s, rising to the high 80s as the day progresses.

Did you ever just have one of those days? I got nothing done, I will get nothing done, I don't want to be at work, and when I get home, I won't want to be there. Nothing really went wrong, but everything's getting on my nerves. And I'm not too happy about it. And yet kind of resigned.

Tomorrow will be a better day. But first, I have to go home and do my chores. Yay. Not.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Five questions... not Kilborn-style

This interview game's wandering around the 'Net. I got it from Stewie and he got it from somebody else, and so forth.

First, you have to post the rules:

Here are the instructions:

1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying "Interview me." "Blow me" or "Eat me" are not acceptable substitutes.

2. I will respond by asking you five questions - each person's will be different. I'll post the questions in the comments section of this post.

3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post on your blog.

5. When others comment, asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

And now, here are Stewie's questions for me:

1. If you could have sex with a cartoon character, who would be the lucky girl (or guy)?

I'm thinking Jessica Rabbit. But maybe the chick from "Voltron," Princess Allura.

2. Taking slavery out of the equation, which side of the Civil War would you fight on? Why?

Tough call. The Northerners won, but the Southerners gained immortality. Assuming, like most of the greats, I wouldn't live to see the end of the war, I'm tempted to pick the South, because at least that way, I'd be a dead hero rather than a dead nobody.

But ultimately, I'm a Northerner, so if I really had to choose, I'd clearly fight on the side of my nation and home state (Pennsylvania, which brought you Army of the Potomac commander George Meade, among others), like everybody else.

3. Would you let gramps take photos of you for his personal collection? If not, what if money was involved? How much? (thanks fnord!)

No. Maybe if money were involved. A lot of money. How much depends on how I'd have to pose.

4. If you could ask one author one question, what would it be?

I'd ask William Shakespeare if he really wrote all the plays everyone thinks he wrote.

5. Will you ever write one blog about your ex-fiance' [sic], getting her completely out of your system, so you don't bring her up anymore? :p

No, it's more fun to take potshots at her and complain about her. Especially if it bugs people.

For Q1: Princess Allura
For Q2: A list of Civil War roundtables
For Q3: How to become a model
For Q4: An essay on who wrote Shakespeare's plays
For Q5: A discussion on the de-sexing of nouns, such as fiance and fiancee, because I couldn't find a good link about the resale value of diamonds

If you want to play, follow the rules above.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Shopped 'til I dropped

My friend Sari took me clothes shopping today.

Going shopping with Sari is somewhat like being the other charioteer in "Ben-Hur." You know you're getting run over, the only question is when.

This girl is a professional shopper. Whereas, I am a rank amateur.

So this was like my own little episode of "What Not to Wear" from hell.

Look, as far as clothes-horses go, I'm more Mr. Ed than Secretariat. My idea of a good shirt is one that's clean and not too wrinkled.

My parents have bought me several nice, expensive, custom-made (for my shoulders!) dress shirts. But I never wear them. I'm petrified I'll spill something on them.

So most of my clothes... well, let's just say when I applied for my Express Men credit card, they asked if I wanted to reactivate my account from 1998, back when I was shopping at Structure. Upon reflection, I figured, why not? I still have one of those shirts I bought with it.

This of course, was after I spent most of an hour following Sari around, whimpering and carrying a small pile of clothing.

And she's so fashion-oriented, I'm pretty sure I heard her offering other customers advice while waiting for my various bunny-eyed trips out of the changing room for a thumbs-up/thumbs-down.

(Aside, it's pronounced Sari like "Larry," not "Sorry" ... It's Jewish, and means princess. Insert your own joke here.)

I haven't tried anything on in years (I know my size) but nonetheless, I found myself in a changing room, in my boxers and socks, pondering those reports of quasi-porn made from video cameras hidden behind mirrors in these rooms.

I don't think you'll be seeing any clips of me on the 'Net. I could barely get into the clothes without hurting myself. And one of the hangers bit me.

But now I'm dressed for success. Well, not today. Today I'm wearing a variety of things Sari said I should never wear near her again. Except the socks. (Well, and probably the boxers, but she's not that kind of friend.)

I suspect Michelle bought me this shirt, or rather, I bought it at her request/demand, which means a) it's freakin' old and untrendy by now; and b) apparently, the fashion-obsessed can disagree radically.

And c) there's always a woman around who thinks I dress like ass and is cheerfully happy to spend my money to fix that condition. At least this one's looking out for me. If "You didn't wear that shirt on a DATE, did you?" counts as looking out.

Sari promises when I have more money, she's going to redo my entire wardrobe. I'm thinking it's time to buy that $300 "Star Blazers" DVD set I've been craving, just so I don't have any for a while.

She said I was good today, outside of the whimpering, but I don't know how long I can keep up the facade.

Name definitions: Look under "Sarah," and you'll find "Sari"
A breakdown of the "Ben-Hur" chariot race stunts
Express, where my wallet was smoking by the end

I went looking for a "Star Blazers" link, but the one for the company selling the DVDs didn't work today. I hope that's not a bad sign... I really do want that set.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What high school has varsity chain-sawers?

As you may have realized, I tend to write my pithy titles for these posts first, then veer wildly from the topic at hand.

But today's title is my way of pondering how exactly one qualifies for the Great Outdoor Games on ESPN.

I started watching these yesterday because I am fascinated by two sports: Women's Log Rolling and the one where women run across floating logs (whose name I don't know, but is probably Women's Log Running).

Why just the women? Well, A) they're more attractive, even if every single one of them could probably kick the ever-loving snot out of me; and B) as with most sports, the women tend to be both more pleasant and more emotional, and therefore, more fun to watch.

But that's not really my point. My point is, who the heck comes up with this stuff?

I mean, the riflery, I can understand. (Oddly enough, in the Great OUTDOOR Games, the riflery got rained out. I'm not making that up.) That's almost a useful skill.

Chain-sawing, maybe. I think there's regular sawing, too. I'm not a lumberjack, but I'm assuming men still do this, and not machines.

But how does one become one of the world's great chain-saw wielders? Is there a lumberjack Olympics? Do they keep stats like trees-per-minute average? Do you have to have made a horror movie?

Look, I'm patently an indoorsman, so maybe these are obvious questions to the more nature-inclined. But if it's on ESPN, most of the time, I understand it, if not enjoy it. Even the X Games, I get. My friends growing up were skaters.

But Log Rolling may be the most ridiculous sport I've ever seen, and one without any practical use whatsoever that I can determine.

And yet, there's a seven-time world champion woman who's spawned not one, not two, but three daughters who all made the quarterfinals. One of 'em won, too - after the defending champ, the only woman ever to win a GOG gold medal (four straight!), was upset in the semis. One of the others has beaten this legendary champion not once, but twice (including in the Bronze Medal match).

Also amazing is that the ESPN commentators discuss things like technique, skill level and so forth as if they were dissecting the All-Star game. Which, I suppose, this is, for outdoors people. But I mean, you've never heard of any of these log rollers, and yet you probably have heard of at least some, if not most, of the baseball All-Stars. But I mean, these commentators KNOW WHAT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT. Or at least fake it real well. Amazing.

Can't wait for the Log Running.

(By the way, if you've gotten this far and still have no clue what Log Rolling is, picture two people standing on a floating log, facing the short side, and running like hell in place while the log spins around and around in the water. First one to fall off loses.)

Also on last night's show was the Small Dog Agility event, which involves small dogs (duh!) running like hell through mazes and jumping over fences and the like, all while their trainers ran alongside yelling incomprehensibly, some cheerfully, some meanly.

This left me pondering my own dog, Morgan, who I decided is probably better suited for weiner-dog racing than agility courses. He can run really fast, even if he is a senior citizen in dog years, and he certainly is agile and flexible. (He's a dachshund, yet he can lick his, um, favorite parts. That's flexible. He can actually catch his tail when he chases it.)

But the commentators said discipline and the ability to follow instructions are the keys to this event. Along with accuracy.

My poor puppy's 0-for-3 there. Now, maybe if this sport involved running, jumping over fences and eating things, he might do OK, but I can imagine him veering off course (that's a fault) to, say, lick the commentators' faces. Or stopping to pee. Or possibly chasing anyone with food.

Weiner-dog racing seems easier. They line 'em up, the owner stands at the other end with a biscuit or toy, and they let 'em run. For a biscuit, Morgan could probably outrace Secretariat. And he actually comes when you call. (Most of the time.)

But getting him to run through a tunnel and up and over a teeter-totter would probably only marginally easier than having him teach astrophysics. He's just not that bright. But I love him anyway.

I wonder how he'd do at Log Rolling?

The Great Outdoor Games
Dachshund racing

My Google search for a dachshund racing link revealed that this is apparently a very controversial sport. So here's a little pro and con and con.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

X-Man 3, as it were

So I e-mailed X-Man out at the Sporting News, and we've corresponded briefly the past couple of days. (He was on ESPN2's "Cold Pizza" this morning, for those of you who watch.) Small, small world.

Anyway, in the line of weirdness in journalism, how's this:

In the year-plus I worked in Easton ('96-'97), all of these people had sports connections, and NOT ONE worked in sports:

• Mark LaRose, the copy chief, had been a boxing writer who covered Larry Holmes, the "Easton Assassin," and former heavyweight champion.
• X-Man, a municipal reporter, has gone on the Sporting News, as this saga attests.
• Michael P. Buffer, another municipal reporter, is the son of the ring announcer of similar name ("Let's get ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuumble!")
• Mike Miller, a third municipal reporter, looked somewhat like a shorter version of the baby-faced NBA gunner of the same name.
• And I, of course, have gone on to write about and cover the Raiders for

Larry Holmes' Web site
X-Man's NASCAR column
Michael Buffer, the world-famous ring announcer
Mike Miller, of the Memphis Grizzlies
And, of course,

Of the entire list, I think only Buff still works at the Express-Times. Good guys, good journalists, every one of 'em. We had a good crew going for a while, that's for sure.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Lady Di(e) and journalism geekiness

OK, so over on HorrorTalk, the day Princess Diana died came up in passing, and I started to tell this stupid, long-winded story, when I decided it was really off-topic and not really appropriate for the thread at hand.

So, of course, I figured THIS was the place to tell it.

When Lady Di was in her car crash, I was working at my first full-time newspaper job, and there were a bunch of us young journalists who would go off to one of the guys' places and drink beer after the bars closed. So whatever night it was that crash took place (I think it was a Saturday), we ended up over at X-Man's pad (he had the biggest apartment or the coolest neighbors, I forget which) drinking beer. Because when me and Pat, two of the three guys on the desk, left, she was still "hurt."

So when we saw on TV, she died, we, slightly or more than slightly intoxicated, called Jim, who we'd left behind (hey, he volunteered, he was just going home to his family anyway) and asked if he needed help. I'm not sure which one of us slurred the words into the phone, but he figured leaving us at the party was addition by subtraction when it came to efficiency and accuracy. ("Friends don't let friends edit drunk," you know.)

Well, at some point in the evening/morning, as we journalists are geeking out journalistically on the big story, I have a small revelation.

My parents, world travelers, just happen to be in ... wait for it ...

No, not England, that would be too easy.

Nope, they were in IRELAND.

Close enough.

So I called them. Time difference and all. And sure enough, I got them just as they were back from breakfast and preparing to head out. (Not sure how X-Man let me get away with calling Europe from his phone... the memory goes with age.)

And I say, hey, did you hear about Lady Di? (Which by that point had become more of a declarative than a name...)

No, they said. So I told them. They were, needless to say, somewhat shocked.

So I asked them for a wee favor: Could they head out and pick up a London Times (the big daily) and some tab newspaper and bring them home for me and my crew? We'd love to see how they covered it.

My father, mind you, studied journalism in college. (He never worked for a newspaper. I studied fiction in college, and I've never done anything BUT work for a newspaper. Well, until the movie comes out.)

So what did he do? He bought every freakin' paper he could find for the rest of the trip. An entire shopping bag full. ("Do you have anything to declare?" "Just newsprint.")

Then, of course, he chewed me out for the sore shoulder he got from lugging the bag around for a week. Figures.

He had, on the other hand, read most of the papers himself and rather enjoyed it.

Not as much as we all enjoyed reading them the next week at X-Man's, of course. But I don't think Dad had nearly as much beer.

And I must say, it was fascinating to see the variety and depth of the coverage - some special sections were on the street within HOURS after the news. Thick special sections. Some papers were Extras. Some papers had something dominating the front page all week long.

I think of this in the wake of the London bombings - I can only imagine the coverage was as thorough and complete, and I wish it weren't necessary, of course. The death of one person is a tragedy, to be sure, but the death of dozens and wounding of hundreds makes me wonder about that whole "benevolent God" thing. But that's beside the point.

On Sept. 11 and 12, 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, my newspaper put out its first Extra in who-knows-how-many years. I'm sure we weren't alone. I was too busy helping out and calling friends in the NYC area to really think about worldwide coverage.

But on the HT forum, someone brought up that one of the London tabs had simply run the giant headline, "Bastards!"

I know of at least one newspaper that did the same thing on Sept. 12, and someone else mentioned another. One of them was a broadsheet, one of the papers out of San Francisco, and that may well have been a first in history.

But that's the thing - good newspapers, at least in my experience, if they have the manpower, are prepared for these kinds of things - not so much terrorism, but major events. My newspaper had a special section on the Pope ready for YEARS before he died. So the coverage was as thorough as we could make it when he did. Again, I'm sure we weren't alone.

I'm not British and I'm not in England, so I can't say which event, the death of the Princess or this recent terror attack, was more "important" in the media.

But I'll tell you what, for a journalist, seeing those British papers after she died, that was geek heaven. And they were impressive.

They must have been, because for all his complaints about their weight, Dad still has them in the basement somewhere.

Of course, Mom and Dad have most everything in the basement. Old newspapers, old books, old games, probably the secret to fusion and the truth behind the Kennedy assassination, too. But that's another post.

HorrorTalk, where the discussion reminded me of all this
The London Times, representing England's broadsheets
The Sun, representing England's tabloids

And a link for the city of Easton, where we honed our craft, drank our beer, and eventually went our separate ways. X-Man eventually went back to Michigan, and I think he took one of the girls with him, lucky dog. I went to Allentown and Pat went to Pittsburgh. He was leaving for the hope of a girl, I was leaving to escape the memory of one. Not really the point. Pat eventually wound up in Allentown (small world, that newspaper one) and me, I wound up right here, in Jersey.

Lady Di(e) "postscript"

Yeah, OK, so out of sheer geekiness, I did a Google search for X-Man, who I haven't spoken to since we scattered to the four winds. Figured his byline would turn up and I'd see what he's up to. Turns out I see his name almost every week, in my Sporting News subscription.

Check this out.

When you read it, take note of the following:

• The article described him as, and I quote, "not liking his job in Easton." Guess we weren't good company?

• The mention of his wife, Emily. He did, indeed, take one of the girls with him to Michigan (and beyond). Good for them.

• The TSN cover photo doesn't look the way I remember him at all. Of course, it's been almost 10 years. Zoinks.

• If you think I did OK for myself post-Easton, yeah, he did even better. Somebody in the article said they wouldn't be surprised if he's the editor of TSN someday, despite no experience going in. I trained in sports for about five years, and my only stint on a sports desk lasted nine months. (Was a good nine months for my sex life, not so good for my sanity, but that's not the point.)

• Though the above point might sound a touch bitter, it's not. Not only do I think it's aces cool (i've thought it funny for a while that TSN had an editor with the same name as my old drinking buddy. never even considered it was the same guy - as mentioned, he was never a sports guy. d'oh!) that he's kicking ass and taking names at a way cool job, I'm just super-happy this blog led to my random Googleness. He really was a good friend, at least for that year or so we hung together. Nice to see he's doing well.

Really is a small world in journalism. And a weird one, too. Wait 'til I tell Pat.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I rigged the time on the posts so this one would come second. It made no sense if it were first. I really wrote it at 3:14:00 a.m.]

Monday, July 11, 2005

I hate terrorists

Yeah, I know, way to take a radical political stance there.

But this is the awesomest thing I've seen today:

We're Not Afraid, as featured on

I thank God none of my friends in England were hurt, that I know of. And if any city can bounce back quickly from last week's attacks, it's London. Heck, one Londoner I know through the Net was back in the pub before supper. If they survived the blitz and kept on rolling, they can survive these jerks.

Like we were talking about over at HorrorTalk, the U.S. and U.K. are allies, and allies got each other's backs.

I'll never forget watching the smoke rise from the wreckage of the WTC on 9/11, and it's just uplifting to see the messages of support and courage on that site.

God bless the people who were killed or wounded, and their survivors. As with New York that awful September, the civilized world mourns with you.

This blog is not afraid.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bad is good...

I've noticed a trend in video games lately - well, not lately, but over the past couple of years - toward playing the bad guy.

I used to be an avid video-gamer, but that's faded out to "Madden," WWE and NHL games, plus the "Resident Evil" series and "Gran Turismo" and other assorted racing games, and I don't even play those that often anymore.

But I used to be a die-hard PlayStation guy. And generally speaking, you were usually the good guy.

That started to change, as far as I could tell, with games like "Driver," in which you were the wheelman for a criminal syndicate (and even in that, you were really an undercover cop), which led, of course to the "Grand Theft Auto" series, which I must admit I've never gotten into, having lost some of my gaming fanaticism before it became popular.

And there were always "antiheroes," like "Final Fantasy VII's" Cloud Strife or even the ambivalent mercs of a game like "Dino Crisis," who just wanted to get out of Dodge with all their limbs.

But "GTA's" success opened the door for a wave of you-are-the-bad-guy games, including "Devil May Cry" (another "antihero" game) and even, from what I understand, a "Resident Evil" game where you can actually be a zombie if your character is bitten and turns.

Anyway, I have found the ultimate bad-is-good game: "Jaws Unleashed"!

Yup, you guessed it... you are the shark!

Now, "Jaws" is probably my all-time favorite horror movie (it's that or "Dawn of the Dead"), and it has been freaking me out since the first time I saw it, when I was 10.

And I've developed both a fear of being eaten by some undersea monster, a desire to learn to scuba-dive, and a fascination with the water.

Details, near as I can tell: Coming Aug. 23, from Majesco, a company based here in Jersey, home of the first headline-making shark attacks in North America, available on PC, PS2 (yes!) and Xbox.

I can't wait. I want this. Maybe not quite as much as I want a robot monkey, but I want it bad. And if I have to wait until August, this better be good. That's all I have to say.

That, and, "We're gonna need a bigger PS2."

Majesco Entertainment - the pressure's on, guys!
The "Jaws Unleashed" site
The "Jaws" DVD site

Are you humming the theme music, too?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Violating my own rules...

OK, I know I've said I'll never talk about work, but this came up in the comments on a post at Stewie's blog, and I was asked for my thoughts on the matter.

So I found myself writing about a million lines, I decided to put them up over here, rather than clutter up Stewie's blog comments.

First of all, let me say (AGAIN!), these opinions are my own, no one else's, not my employer's, and do not necessarily reflect any of my employer's policies.

Second, the issue in question is the jailing of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. I don't know her, I don't work for the Times, and most of what I know I've read in the paper or seen on CNN like everybody else. Most of the facts I'm citing in my reply, I got from

Third, if you want any of this to make sense, the first thing you have to do is read Stewie's post on the matter. Go do that now, then come back.

OK, done reading? Read the comments, too? Go do that, too. It'll help with the context.

OK, NOW you're done? Good. Here's my reply:

First of all, my gut instinct is to decline to comment, citing conflict of interest.

Secondly, it should be noted that neither reporter in question is the one who actually revealed the name of the CIA operative first. That was Bob Novak. Why he wasn't charged, I don't know.

Third, the case isn't a question of who published the name - in fact, the Times reporter who went to jail never even wrote an article on the subject.

The issue at hand is whether or not these journalists needed to reveal their sources to the grand jury investigating who leaked the name of the CIA operative to the media. The person who the grand jury is after has nothing to do with the media, and the contempt of court charge is based on the premise that they are refusing to testify about what they know.

The belief, of course, would be that the source leaking the information would be prosecuted for revealing the name of the operative and thus allowing it to be printed.

So the ethical question for journalists is twofold: One aspect, the one your post is covering, is whether or not you print information that could put a life in jeopardy. The problem is, the post's base logic is flawed in that this is not the reason the woman from the Times is going to jail.

The second half of the ethical question is this: Weighing a promise to a source of anonymity vs. the requirements of the law to reveal that source. This gets to things like attorney-client privilege, priests and what they hear in confession, and so forth.

Traditionally, journalists are adamant about keeping their sources' secrecy because of whistleblowing cases such as the Watergate/Deep Throat example, and many others. These are not the first journalists to face this dilemma, nor is she the first to go to jail.

Also, it was reported the Time mag reporter's source freed him from his promise of anonymity, so that reporter did testify - but would not name the source to the media outside (grand jury testimony being closed). Therefore, it would seem, that source is jeopardizing his/her own safety (because if he/she is the leak, he/she could be charged) rather than see the journalist suffer for a non-binding promise.

Understand, too, most newspapers, and I cannot imagine the Times is any different, have a policy by which some high-ranking editor knows the identity of any anonymous source in the paper. The Times hierarchy has thus made a conscious decision to back its reporter's stance.

To me, personally, it's a question of honor and professional responsibility vs. civil responsibility.

Without the promise of anonymity, some sources would never come forward to reveal great wrongs - witness the laws passed offering financial rewards for whistleblowing as evidence that it's difficult to get people to risk their lives or livelihoods without incentive or protection, even if they are doing the right thing.

And a man's word is his bond. I promise you anonymity, you're getting anonymity.

On the other hand, I find the publishing of an undercover agent's name reprehensible. However, again, that's not necessarily the issue in play here. Miller, the reporter jailed, never printed the name of the agent, for whatever reason. But in some cases, the question becomes what you reveal vs. the greater good - witness the trouble Geraldo got in while an embed over in the Middle East for saying where his unit was traveling, on the air.

I've never been in a position of having to deal with anonymous sources. So it's difficult for me to say what I would do in that situation and be fair to those in whose shoes I've never walked.

But I would say this: Every journalist I know has, in his own mind, a line drawn that he'd rather quit his job than cross. So I think that says no journalist makes a decision like the ones involved here lightly.

The problem with debating the premise at hand, as I said, is that the premise is flawed. You can debate the ethics of printing an undercover agent's name. You can debate the ethics of revealing anonymous sources. You can debate whether or not journalists are above the law, and whether or not this prosecutor is violating a longstanding tradition and whether or not that invalidates his moral stance. But in this case, the revealing of the name is not a cause and effect relationship with the jailing, and that voids the entire base argument of the post.

That's probably about eight or 10 cents instead of two, but there you have it. My opinion, such as it is.

Monday, July 04, 2005

It's America's birthday, but I got the presents

So this is my big Fourth of July post, as promised.

Now, look, I was just watching "Team America: World Police" the other day - and laughing my ass off, I might add - and one of the songs in the movie literally has the lyrics, "America, Fuck Yeah!"

(What do you expect from the guys who brought you "South Park"?)

Now, I'm not one of those kind of patriots, my-country-right-or-wrong. But I've got to say, in a way, I'm pretty close, for better or for worse. Honestly, I hate extremists on both sides of the political/religious/whatever spectrum, but the one place I think I've got a certain sense of extremism is patriotism.

Well, that, and Raiders football.

Anyway, today's a day for celebrating America, but I'm sure there's people out there somewhere bitching and moaning about all the things about America that suck. Aside from the fact that this is a mean thing to say about someone on their birthday, it's something I just can't agree with.

(For those of you just joining, and cringing at my use of "someone" with "their" as far as number and agreement goes, it's my standard policy to be writing free-flowing stream-of-consciousness, with no or minimal editing.)

Yes, America is flawed. And yes, I've been to other countries and many are quite nice. In fact, all but two of the countries I've been to were quite nice.

Among the not-so-nice, one is France. What can I say? It's a long story, fit for another post.

The other is Vietnam. And I don't even remember being there.

Look, for the record, I don't wrap myself in the flag. I don't like the Bush administration. (What can I say? I like America for its diversity. He wants everyone to be just like him. Didn't work out so well for my people when the Germans tried it back in the "Extreme Race Makeover" days.) I support our troops but oppose the war, or at least the way it's being fought. I think Bush's Supreme Court picks will cause problems for my children and my children's children, and I don't think we can torture terrorists enough. Pro-choice, pro-death penalty, pro-gun control. I'm not exactly a bleeding-heart liberal, but my conservative friends think so.

And these days, there's been a lot of talk about bashing America (the Ground Zero 9/11 memorial debate) and thus a lot of counter-talk of the love-it-or-leave-it kind. And I really can't say I like either. Normally, I'm a free speech, free press, free love kind of guy. And I certainly don't like the idea that questioning the government and its actions makes you unpatriotic. But I do get tired of people saying how much America sucks. Hey, if you're one of 'em, you're entitled to your opinion. (But you know what they say, opinions are like assholes - everybody has one, and nobody cares about anyone else's.)

But if it sucks that bad, leave. There's people trying to swim here that'll take your place in the subdivision in a heartbeat. There's a reason idiots like the Minutemen have a job - it's because there's a whole lot of people who want to come here. We must be doing something right. Or at least something as good as it gets, as good as we can do it. Face it, unless you're a Native American (I hate being PC, but if I say "Indian," it'll just get confusing and open a whole different debate, the kind that ends with guns and horses and casinos), somebody in your family hauled his or her ass here from someplace else, probably risking life and limb to do so.

I hated moving two towns over. I can't imagine why anybody would move someplace they think sucks.

But hey, if you think the grass is greener somewhere else, by all means, go. And good luck. But before you go, stop and think a minute. What will you get wherever it is you're going?

Maybe in my case, it's a very specific example of opportunity. But the point is, America, at least for me, is truly the Land of Opportunity.

In America, I can be whatever I want, except president or vice president (and just wait for the Schwarzenegger Amendment. I'm running, baby!).

And if there's one thing I know about Vietnam, it's that I never would have been anything there.

We're having a debate on the HorrorTalk forum today about America, and in the interests of winning the argument there, I sort of shot my wad as far as this post goes. So, although I really hate quoting myself, I'm just going to take a moment to repost what I wrote there, in response to somebody complaining that America sucks:

"...I could be living in poverty in a Third World nation right now, but instead [I have a really great job, and tonight] I'm calling a girl on my cell phone then getting in my sports car to go on a date, before which I'm going to stop for gas I don't even have to pump myself (see FM's blog), and after which I'm going to drive back to the house I actually own part of.

All because an American program took me out of an orphanage in that Third World nation and brought me to America, where it may suck when you get a ticket and didn't bother to play by the MVC rules, but which, in my humble opinion, generally beats living hand-to-mouth as a laborer or taxi driver or something in a Third World communist country, where I'd have to deal every day with being a multi-racial person in a racist society, assuming, of course, I survived the various medical problems I had in infancy that were cured easily with a couple of shots and some antibiotics within days after my arrival here.

Hey, I've been lucky in life, or blessed, depending on what you believe in. I'll be the first to admit it. And Flint sure does sound like it sucks. But I'd rather spend the rest of my life in my podunk, boring, white trash, dying, redneck, poor little hometown here in flawed, f'ed-up, fabulous America than spend a weekend trying to make a living in Vietnam, that's for damn sure."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Pardon the edits; I told you I'm not going to talk about work in this blog. Yes, I'm afraid of getting in trouble, and yes, that's probably censorship, which is very un-American. This is one of life's little ironies.)

Look, I'm not perfect. I'm every bit as flawed as our country, and more. But the thing is, I love America. I love America because for whatever bad things it may have done to me (fast food, Captain Morgan, exfoliating body cleanser, Michelle), they are more than offset by the wonderful things it's done for me, starting with my family and friends, people I am honored and privileged to know.

I'd like to think my journalism job, informing the public, in some small way returns the favor.

I was thinking that later tonight, I'm going to try to find me some fireworks. But the Fourth of July isn't about fireworks and barbecue any more than the way Christmas is about trees and fat guys in red suits.

To me, the Fourth of July is about celebrating America, which for all its flaws is still the country where so many people want to live, where so many people are grateful they live, and where so many forget so often how good they have it.

Today, of all the days, let's not forget.

This is a country where a random guy like me is able to write whatever he damn well pleases in his random blog. "America, Fuck Yeah!" indeed.

So happy birthday to the greatest nation on Earth, whatever her flaws. God bless all of you who do her proud, from soldiers and police to doctors and journalists to bloggers and the guy wearing that American flag T-shirt.

And for those of you who hate her even as you revel in her privileges, as they say in the "Dawn of the Dead" remake, here's a nice, tall glass of Shut-The-Fuck-Up. America's a democracy, but this blog's a dictatorship.

"Team America: World Police" - puppets, but not for the kiddies!
HorrorTalk - join the forum and join the debate
FreakMagnet's blog, so you can get the reference to gas-pumping
Captain Morgan spiced rum, one of the things that may or may not make America great
The Minutemen, walking proof you can be as ridiculous as you want in America
"Dawn of the Dead," the remake - it's better than you think

And I'm not mentioning a zombie movie without touting the godfather of all things zombie, George A. Romero. Go see "Land of the Dead." It was filmed in Canada, but it pretends to be Pittsburgh.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

... And the horsepower you rode in on.

OK, let's get one thing straight, this entire post is just an excuse to tout, the winner of Maxim's "best monkey Web site" a few months back.

That said...

I went out today to get my car washed. My baby and I have a love-hate relationship that borders on marriage. I don't understand her; every now and then, we upset each other; and she cost, and continues to cost, a shitload of money.

But it was a beautiful day, and driving around with my nice, shiny car, and the moonroof open and sun shining and radio blaring, I found myself thinking you can tell a lot about people by the car they drive, and how they drive it.

The other day, I got passed on the highway - doing close to 80 in a 65 zone - by a little shitbox import zipping across the three lanes and back to get around everyone. This trooper-bait was every bit as obnoxious as you might expect.

My car expert, Joe Lee, has jokes for most car brands (you know, Ford stands for Fix Or Repair Daily) and when he brings the Miata he races to the office, you can spot it a mile away - it's a convertible with a rollbar and a bunch of sponsor stickers on it. There's a man who knows a lot about cars.

I can't bring myself to deface my baby with stickers - even though I've managed to hit two different columns/posts in the past year, scraping the living hell out of her - or even a vanity plate frame, though that's tempting.

But I am tempted to get a "Trunkmonkey Inside" sticker. I guess I'm getting tired of fighting my genetic tendency as an Asian to completely rice out my car.

I say my genetic tendency as an Asian, because it's certainly not something I got from my parents (see earlier post). My father doesn't even drive, which made my 16th birthday the happiest day of my mother's life. She had me out at the Armory taking my permit test the first day I was eligible, with no preparation. In fact, she pulled me out of school early to go take the test.

And then, when I failed (lack of preparation, remember?), she did it again the next week. That time I passed, so it was back to eighth-period French III after that.

But the point was, now she wasn't the only driver in the family, and boy was she glad.

Dad's from New York, and plenty of New Yorkers I know don't drive. But sometimes I think they bought a house at the top of the steepest hill in town, across the street from Bloom U., where he worked for 30-some years, after living at the bottom of the same hill, simply because he got tired of climbing Spruce Street to get to work every day.

But to his credit, Dad walks into town just about every day, which is more exercise than I get. Of course, I make up for it by running occasionally.

I'm 30 years old, and I've never seen my father run. Ever.

He was in the military, so I know at some point in his life, he MUST have run. But not while I've been around. Late, early, trying to beat traffic across a street, I've never seen him move anything faster than a brisk walk.

He taught me everything I know about baseball, but when it came to playing, it was Mom who took me across the street and pitched to me. I never played Little League, and I think it's because to this day, I can't hit anything thrown overhand. (As my softball teams might attest - another earlier post - I really can't hit anything thrown underhand, either, but at least I've got a prayer.)

When I think of Dad, though, I'm often reminded of the line from my "Return of the Jedi" novelization that remarked: "Great men never hurry; great men make other men hurry."

I've never seen Dad hurry, and I've spent my whole life hustling to try and keep up with him. Take from that what you will.

But while Dad is content, seemingly, to ride in the passenger seat of Mom's car, I love to drive.

And if there's one thing I love about summer - and it's not the heat, that's for damn sure - it's driving with the windows down and moonroof open. No matter what car I replace my baby with, it's going to have a moonroof. Unless, of course, it's that new Mustang I've been craving; they don't come with sunroofs or moonroofs or any such thing. It's almost a deal-breaker, if I didn't love Mustangs so much.

My best friend's been driving a minivan since fatherhood, on the other hand, and he doesn't seem to mind. I've vowed never to buy anything with four doors until after 30 - and now that I'm there, it makes the Subaru Impreza eligible again; they did away with their coupe model, but I do love that car.

(And if you're wondering how someone who knows nothing about cars and has driven the same one for six years figures out what he likes, the answer is simple: Gran Turismo. The video game. They don't call it the ultimate driving simulator for nothing.)

So I was out there today, post-car wash, proving once again why you should never turn a munkee lose in an electronics store. I went to Best Buy to get a CD...

... It was Kelly Clarkson, of all people. Now I've never seen "American Idol," but I live and die, musically, by the three-song rule I learned at summer camp ages ago. It's simple: If you like three songs, you'll probably like the whole album. So when I found myself thinking of downloading three songs off "Breakaway" from iTunes - I'm a sucker for female vocalists - I decided to get the whole CD and take my chances. But my lousy taste in music isn't really the point. ...

... so I went in for a $10 CD and I walked out $100 poorer. That was mostly due to my recent interest in TV-on-DVD, where you can get entire seasons, and sometimes entire series, for $20-$100.

In this case, the main culprit in my budget-blowing was a show called "Firefly," which I've never seen and barely heard of. It's a Joss Whedon show, and his "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is a show everyone's always told me I'll love (they called me "Spike" for a while because of my hair) and that I have enjoyed part of the first season of (also on DVD).

Now all I really know of Whedon is his mediocre draft version of "Alien: Resurrection," but he's certainly got a cult following, and the other day at "Land of the Dead" (another earlier post; you've got to pay attention here!), there was a trailer for the "Firefly" movie - "Serenity," I think - that looked awesome.

If it says anything, Stewie, the only person I know who's actually seen "Firefly," reacted thus to the trailer: When the first words came on (I think something like "From the mind of Joss Whedon," I'm not even talking about any actual images on-screen), he went from slouched in his seat to sitting bolt upright - with an expression and grunt that's tough to describe. I'll put it this way: Based on the only times I've ever made anything resembling that noise, I'm glad I was sitting next to Stewie, and not in front of him, if you know what I mean.

And since then, I've been pondering this show. Put me in front of the DVD, and I wind up $40 poorer. That would be the impulse-buying post.

Anyway, while I ponder how to get a trunkmonkey of my very own (they work best in Subarus, but I say one Japanese sports car's as good as another...), you stay tuned. In the next couple of days, I'm writing a nice patriotic July Fourth post. And then, hopefully, going to see some fireworks.

TrunkMonkey Racing: Trunkmonkey inside! (Complete with link to Maxim's article!)
Mitsubishi, makers of my baby and the redesigned-again, ugly-as-sin 2006 Eclipse
The oldie-but-a-goodie "Rice-Boy" page
Somebody who knows a lot more about Kelly Clarkson than I do
"Firefly" fan site
And the official site of the "Serenity" movie
And, of course, Stewie's blog

As my closing thought, I've been watching "A League of Their Own" on HBO while writing this, and isn't it weird how one of only two baseball movies that isn't really a chick flick is all about empowered women? (The other, of course, is "Major League.")