Friday, March 31, 2006

Done and done

The Siberian Baseball full-league preview was finished today after a few weeks of work.

While it lacks factual basis or statistical support, it does have a lot of cheap shots at the league's easiest targets.

So, if you ever need to kill a few hours and the real Interweb sites crash, there's always this.

More redneck than NASCAR

In what Sgt. Slaughter calls his Daytona 500, Wrestlemania 22 will be in Chicago Sunday night. I can't begin to express how awesome an honor this is for the people of Chicago.

I'd like to think that they are trying to clear out trailer parks with tornado season around the corner, making sure that they are empty when the twisters hit, but Vince McMahon isn't returning my calls.

Nor am I placing them.

The Tribune is even getting into the act with another slide show production, this one showing off Triple H's shrunken old man / chicken chest (he's the hairy fellow on the right in the picture).

So, if while walking around this weekend you see a.) less teeth per capita than usual; b.) more black t-shirts with some variation of lighting, two-word slogans or foul language per capita than usual; or c.) orange camouflage; don't fear, it's not Big Ten Tournament week again, and they will all make their way back to Iowa on Monday.

(Side note one: This is one of those things that you see is on the way and so you look for tickets to find the thing is sold out and it baffles you. You can get seats to a heavyweight fight the day of, but not Wrestlemania? Weird.)

(Side note two: My roommates and I caught a Wrestlemania at a bar one year and had probably the best time we've ever had paying a cover charge to watch television. My favorite part was by the end of the night a friend of ours was jumping out of her chair and yelling at the TV after not giving a damn about what happened when she was walking in. This is the power of a spandex bananna hammock.)

(Photo from WWE.com)

Inappropriate, uncalled for and are you kidding me?

The new El line is the Pink Line? How the hell did that happen?

As if the Brown Line wasn't enough of a punchline for dirty jokes, now we have this? I guess this is the price you pay when you let grammar school kids pick the color for the new line.

On top of that, have the CTA Board members never been outside of Evanston or a tea party? Aside from being the wussiest of all colors, how many signs are they going to need to replace for this? Are you telling me that any drunken college aged male isn't going to steal Pink Line maps for their dorm room?

Finally, has anyone thought of the impact on the rental market? What self-respecting woman is going to want to include the words "take the Pink to my place" when giving directions to her apartment? You know, other than whores.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Don't miss it, it'll only happen once

As part of the volunteering I'm doing at the Humane Society, there's a little side room where we log our hours and hang coats, etc. The other week, I saw a note about how they needed help with dog training classes we offer to the public.

For the record, this isn't the sexiest job at the shelter. That falls to adoption preparation for the skittish and fearful dogs who come in. Basically, before we'll put a dog out for adoption they need to pass a few tests to make sure they're sound physically and mentally. Some just need more time around people to be OK with all of that and thats where Ad Prep comes in.

That's not to say that they're snarling, angry dogs - it's really shocking how far you need a to push a normal dog to make it dangerous. Most dogs will hide or keep a low profile in the face of abuse, instead of fighting back.

However, once those dogs are brought along, they still need work and that's where some of the specialized classes come in. Sandwiched in between puppy kindergarten and an open play hour (to help socialize the puppies) is the "Wallflower Class."

There are four dogs there, with a cavalier graduating tonight. Coming back next week will be a collie, a hound mix and a golden retriever, all of which are pretty shy, but very gentle. The idea is to stay as low as you can, keep your voice up with a higher pitch and avoid all the other dominant postures that would terrify these dogs. Honestly, my being there could throw the newest dog into a funk because there'd been a new person introduced into this safe space.

It's pretty cool to see these four owners who take the time every week to bring their dogs in, whisper, cajole and praise every little baby step they take and put up with all of the quirks that aren't so cute on a daily basis, I bet. It's a little family, where everyone shares treats, knows each other by name and tries to do the best they can to help each other and their dogs out.

For anyone who puts stock in the idea of karma, it's nice to see just as much love and attention being put back into these dogs as was taken to put them in this position in the first place.

Aside from the cavalier, Sugar, the collie is next on the list to move on. She still needs a lot of work, is a little blind and is in the process of learning to be a dog again as she's another production dog from a puppy mill who never learned normal dog behavior.

At the end of class, the dogs are unleashed to hang out and roam from person to person, picking up treats and occasionally hanging out with each other. Rumor has it that "ringer dogs" are usually on hand to come in and run and play and basically act like dogs to get the others to forget to be so afraid.

Tonight, they were on their own and just milled about, sniffing and snacking and making the rounds. Sugar came over and took a few bits of ham and toast from my hand and kept moving along. According to her owner, I'm the first true stranger she's wagged her tail for (and this is because of nothing I'd done, just that she was taking a huge step tonight). This was a very big deal, but it's pretty counter-productive to make a big show of this with a quiet dog.

I can easily say that those three wags were the coolest things I've seen in five months of being stuck here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Quick programming note

Tonight MTV is scheduled to run a very special True Life episode, this time focusing on reality television washouts. Just when I thought last week's episode on competitive eaters (more on this later) couldn't be topped, I was greeted by Real World and Survivor has-beens being followed around by camera crews as the whore themselves to bar crowds and judge wet t-shirt contests.

(And for the record, I love True Life anyways. They find three chowderheads who want breast implants and follow them around as one gets daddy to pay for them, one takes out a huge loan and drives to get her new cans in a rusted out 1978 Corolla and one has to go the bargain surgeon route. Good times. Then, the next days as they're doped up and crying and in agony, they keep the cameras there as the boyfriends stop by in their sleeveless No Fear t-shirts and try to tell the gals that they look hot.)

Awesome.

When I lived in the hip part of town in Chicago, we used to see ads popping up for guest appearances by reality TV folks and wonder why. We chalked it up to the fact that Real World: Chicago had recently wrapped and they were cashing in on that.

Quite the oposite, it's an exploding field of reality TV exploitation, with agencies taking over whole stables of roommates and pimping them to bars and colleges to talk about drinking and STDs before they go out to drink and spread STDs... awesome.

Anyways, more after this airs, but if the programming notes are correct, it'll be on tonight at 9 p.m. CST. Check local listings.

Enjoy.

Here we go again...

The Virgin Mary is back, this time in Moline.

If you needed any further proof that it's probably not the Virgin Mary, well, that first sentence probably sums it all up for you.

Yeah, because appearing under a bridge wasn't bad enough, she chose to do it under a bridge in a town so shitty that migrating birds avoid flying over it as they flee the icy grip of winter's deadly hand. Ummmm... yeah...

"Me, I was overwhelmed," Celia Medina said. "Out of any place in the world to come, she'd come to the Quad Cities."

The article does not extrapolate on the severity of Medina's current or prior head injuries, but from all of us here at Siberia, Minn., Inc., we wish her the best of luck. And for the record, no one has ever ended up in Moline on purpose.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yes sir, no ma'am, F@%k you

Half the reason for this is to test the YouTube.com player on the blog.

The other half is that it's really, really funny. For the record, it's a Best Of Uneccesary Censorship from the Jimmy Kimmel Live show.


The quest for fire, film at 11

Chronically Disconnected Insane in the Suburban Membrane had this yesterday about how it really is newsworthy when someone in Minnesota shows scrap of common sense.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in downtown Minneapolis this weekend when the light rail smashed up an SUV (no word on whether the driver spilled his coffee or if his cell call was dropped) and it was the big news.

I mean, hell, people are pushed in front of the El and the story is about how the morning commute was jacked up for 45 minutes. That is comforting to me in the same way fire trucks and traffic help me sleep at night.

Throughout the evening as they were hyping the evening news during the basketball games, they kept mentioning how the light rail passengers were confused and frightened as they were stuck on the light rail tracks.

I can see any number of adjectives to describe the passengers on the overhyped airport tram that passes as public transportation here. For example, concerned, upset, annoyed, amused or late for dinner with the wife. But confused? Shouldn't that have fallen to the wayside after you heard the SUV crunch up and someone explained that you hit something?

I can only imagine the police on the scene to take statements from a carload of unfrozen cavemen witnesses.

"I am but a simple caveman, unthawed by your scientists and set free to roam your modern world. The things here frighten me from this magic beast that takes me from your 'mall' to your 'random stop somewhere downtown.' Though I am but a simple caveman, it baffles me how civic planning and public transportation in such a large town could suck so badly."
The funny thing is that police were needed elsewhere in this bustling metropolis to free this dumbass kid from one of those toy crane machines.

Watch the video feed, the older brother is priceless and may be smarter than your average housecat. Maybe.

Mom is on record as saying that the pizza joint should childproof the machine, but my vote is to knucklehead proof her strange little kid. Seriously, hiding in there and the TV station's camera bag? Can we get him tested for agorophobia?

Check the video and pray for a nuclear accident in Minnesota to thin the ranks of the massing dumbass armies that have chosen this state to call home. While you're at it, parlay that prayer for blowback into Wisconsin and the Dakotas. They're not much better.

(For the record, this photo isn't Photoshopped (This one isn't, either). Also, they let the kid go, despite my urging that it was for the best that he be left in there until he learns or, you know, uh... dies?.)

(Photo from pandasthumb.org / startribune.com)

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lou Dobbs is a jackass

I'm watching the protests in Los Angeles today and hoo boy, is it getting Lou Dobbs' goat.

He's not happy with the students, with the fact that they're waving Mexican flags or that there are St. Patrick's Day celebrations in the United States.

What a grumpy old coot.

In an interview with National Council of La Raza President, Janet Murguia, he was at his crabby best, making little sense and offering nothing in the way of a constructive aguement.

As Murgia is trying to make a point about conservative southern lawmakers finding guest visas as appealing alternatives, Dobbs called them "wrongheaded."

Then, when he pressed her as to why she was even mentioning that, she said it was to show that even conservatives are getting behind the ideas.

"They're wrongheaded at both ends," he said before accusing the Democrats of grubbing for votes and the Republicans for advocating cheap, unskilled labor. Instead of trotting out constructive counterpoints (such as the newest crop of unskilled, illegal workers take the jobs of last year's unskilled, illegal workers) Dobbs was content to call people "wrongheaded." Repeatedly. They cut to commercial before anyone was branded a doody-head.

Nothing quite beats a CNN anchor pouting like a kindergartner on national television. Eh, still better than Fox News.

The other highlight was the mayor's address to the students in California. Everyone is cheering and waving flags and the mayor scores points for telling them that he signed a formal proclaimation that asks the feds to reconsider the recent moves. Yaaaaaaay!

...Oh, and thanks for the interest you've shown kids, but can you go back to school now? Boooooo!

Who says the 60s have the market cornered on youth involvement in politics?

(Photos from CNN.com / NCLR.org)

I hear the Land O Lakes chick is lactose intolerant

I was messing around earlier today and saw a quick hit on how John Kerry is a little princess and now his travel preferences have been made public on the Smoking Gun's site.

Not a big deal, touring acts have all sorts of crazy shit in their riders, but look in the middle of the first page. It's even boxed out for emphasis.

"NEVER order: Tomato-based products or sandwiches."

From the guy who married a ketchup heiress.

No tomatoes or tomato-based foods...

This is either very funny or a warning to throw out all the spaghetti sauce in my cupboard because Soilent Red... is people!

Seriously, though - is this to protect him from accidentally putting Hunt's on his hot dog or something? Or is this a major problem in the Kerry household?

John: It's nothing personal, Teresa, I'm just not a fan of tomatoes. I never have been.
Teresa: You're a fan when they're paying for this house. You're a fan when they buy your new Yukon. Tomatoes are just fine then, aren't they?
John: I knew I should have married Susan French... Mustard people are much less judgemental, you harpy.

(Photo from Wikipedia.com)

The Chicago White Sox, your 2005... aww, fuck it

Cue the collective outcry of White Sox fans in 3... 2... 1... Waaaaah! There we go.

A mere six months after winning it all, the disrespect begins anew. I guess this is just karma. I think that White Sox fans have enjoyed this title less than any other fan base in the past 20 years. Things are a little less rosy when they all filter through the prism of White Sox fan's inferiority complex.

While I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, I'd bet dollars to dougnuts that most of their fans see the Cubs on the front page of ESPN.com and don't think, "OK, breathe... We just won a World Series. That's enough for me..." but rather, "Crap. Here we go again..."

Honestly, I'm getting a really sick charge out of shit like this. Now that the shock and damage has worn off and dulled I'm pretty untouchable on this. I've been as ill as I can be and I know this is exactly the kind of thing that drives White Sox fans batshit.

The first set of stories from ESPN.com on the upcoming season - previews, team caps, etc. - has four on the Cubs, one on the Sox (a locked down column by Peter Gammons). This couldn't please me more.

They even ran this nice, big picture on the front page - that was sweet of them, wasn't it?

I have to admit that even moreso than in other years, I'm praying for a Cubs World Series this season. Following Boston and Chicago in back to back years, it doesn't seem as far-fetched as it might have five years ago (and makes even more sense if you buy into the conspiracy theories about MLB). See, the thing is that the worst thing that could happen to the White Sox and their fans would be a Cubs World Series win this year.

(Note: I don't think the Cubs will even make the playoffs this year, much less win, but who would have picked the White Sox last year?)

Here's the thing about the World Series last year - it goes away if the Cubs win this year. It becomes a footnote to history when bookended by the Red Sox and Cubs winning. Hell, even if the Cubs make the playoffs in the next five years, then the White Sox fade. It is stupid and petty and indicative of my hatred of the White Sox and their fans, but I'd love to see this.

Imagine a world 20 years from now as White Sox fans fume at cocktail parties as people recount those few crazy years in baseball when Boston won and then the Cubs won like a year or two later and it takes about 30 seconds before they have to scream, "The White Sox! It was the White Sox that won a year after Boston! The White Sox!"

Even if there's literally next to no chance of the Cubs making the postseason, God, it makes my week just thinking about the possibility of this. Seriously, check out my nipples - you could cut glass with them.

(Photo from ESPN.com)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Six shining moments

I'll admit it - I'm not a college basketball superfan. I'll watch a game or two here and there and then lock in for the conference tournaments in the last week leading into the NCAA Tourney. That's about it. It used to be different, but now that's about the extent of my attention span.

It's a sad state of affairs.

One thing that hasn't changed is my love of the first week of the tournament. It's funny, the first year I'm not working full-time in nearly a decade and the NCAA has live game feeds on the Interweb. The bastards.

Nothing is more fun than bracket time. I can't remember much from oh, say 1996 to 2001-ish, but I remember a surprising amount of hoop. Go figure, huh?

From upsets of Kansas (a running tradition) to strong showings by Old Dirty University (at Goldie's where the PBR is always a buck a pint) I remember a lot more of those games than other things. So, when I sat down today to actually focus on the games, it was nice. No bars, no distractions, just me and the dog eating peanuts and Milkbones.

Here were the high points:

Pregame: One of UConn's forwards (I think) is going on and on about his philosophy in life and how college basketball is cool and all, but he's really concerned about his daughter and raising her right... Awwww...

So, when did the whole high school baby thing become OK with the Bible Belt? I mean, I'm happy we've reached this point where unwed parents aren't run out of town and told never to return, but the whiners from the Red States need a liaison or something to inform the rest of us of what they're going to object to.

I mean, nipples on TV isn't cool, but multiple kids fathered by college players is now after 20 years of that being taboo? It's confusing - we need a State of the Red States Address every year. What's Jeff Foxworthy doing these days?

Postgame - LSU: Glen "Big Baby" Davis is on CBS after his game with a teammate. Afterwards, he thanks God, who apparently never gave up on Louisiana State University. God was unavailable for comment, as he sat sobbing with joy in the stands, his tears smudging the tiger print painted on his face and repeatedly whispering, "We're going to Indy... we're going to Indy..."

"We're still not satisfied yet," says Davis on national television. "We've got tapeworms in our belly."

I'm at a loss for words, but I'd be more inclined to believe him if the didn't look like Tony Siragusa's stand in.

Between games: Peyton Manning is on TV welcoming the NCAA audience to visit Indianapolis, home of the Final Four. The more I hear Bill Simmons pitching it, the more I agree. These types of events should all be held in Las Vegas. Build a football stadium and a basketball court and hold those events there. For pretty much any event that has mandated a neutral site, hold it in Vegas. This makes more sense than anyone will admit.

So, Manning or a fairly lifelike puppet of Manning, mails in his greeting, stiltedly telling the audience, "Can't wait to see some basketball... ... ... In Indy." All monotone, odd timing, and it looks like someone has a gun pointed at him from off camera.

Something tells me the Colts had to call Manning a few weeks ago and tell him he needed to do this.

Colts: Yeah, CBS is really busting our stones over this. It's part of their NFL deal and they can pretty much make us do at least five of these things in the offseason.
Manning: What? Really? Are you serious, man? Damn. I need to take the vacuum in to get fixed and the dog needs to get to the groomer on Tuesday...
Colts: Yeah, we know, thanks for this it means a lot to the organization... OK, gotta go, bye!
Manning: Wait! Hold on... hello? Hello? Shit.


Halftime of the UCLA-Memphis game: Davis is shown cutting down the nets wearing a yellow boa (see photo). I swear that for a split second he looks like Star Jones and he crawls up the ladder. I wish that I could find that shot here. It was John Goodman as Linda Tripp all over again.

Middle of the UCLA - Memphis second half: If the announcers are going to insist on calling tall players "Long players" can they at least refrain from doing this within 15 seconds of promos for The Unit? Some of us will never be mature enough to handle the words "long unit" without giggling and most of us are watching sports on the weekend.

Overtime - How I Met Your Mother: Two stellar lines tonight:

"How much did I drink? How did I sprain my ankle? Who is this girl in my bed?" If you've never gotten out of bed to discover that you've sprained an ankle, broken a foot or toe of driven a nail into your thigh... Thank your lucky stars. I swear that the best way to wrench an ankle is to put all your weight on one you twisted the night before... then forgot about it when you woke up.

For anyone who has done this, you know I'm on the right track when I say you could sell giant stickers that have warnings about putting your weight on your foot that you'd stick onto your leg the night before and hope you'd see it when you woke up. It'd be like printing money.

And finally:

"Hey, how easy do you think think it'd be to, like, sneak into the zoo? I have to see some penguins, like, right now." Your honor... mistakes were made.

(Photos from: NCAA.org / Gamespy.com)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Reminds me of college in a lot of ways...

I'm e-mailing with a good friend today and we're going back and forth about being run down and Ike Turner-ed by life. While I sympathize with him, I will be as happy as anyone that the weekend is here, not that it really matters because I only really do eight hours of volunteer "work" a week these days.

Enjoy (allowances have been made for the sake of grammar and overall clarity) -

Tuesday I'm at the shelter and if you've never had the pleasure, puppy shit is the worst. Just unmistakeable, gross, stinking shit. Worse that full-grown
shit, even the Katrina dogs with worms smelled better. Yeah. So, I get to clean this up for free because otherwise the dogs cover themselves in shit and piss and that sucks because they aren't as adoptable caked in their own feces. Go figure.

I go into squeegee out a kennel and this puppy is really happy to see me and comes crashing over, because he's a dumb lab and that's what dumb labs do. Where do his canoe paddle paws land? Right in the puddle of piss in the kennel, splashing up and hitting me in the eye.

While this is unfortunate, it's not like you can just up and leave in the middle of your shift over it. You just get a bit grossed out for a minute and go back to cleaning up the kennel. The strange thing is that I wasn't the least bit flustered - I think I wiped it off on my sleeve, thought "Well, damn..." and concentrated on where the dog was headed next.

There is no way to adequately convey the level of acceptance that the world is kicking you around and humping your anus than when you get dog urine in your eye, you receive no compensation for such misfortunes and there isn't a damn thing you can do about it.

It's good advice, Steve

In a weird fluke Xavier McDaniel was on Pros vs. Joes this week and aside from looking like he ate Oprah (or possibly a cement mixer, whichever is smaller at this point) all I could think of was his cameo in Singles.

No kidding, the whole time. Xavier McDaniel with those magic words. Then, Singles is on VH1 late tonight and I can't help but think that they're going to cut those lines for TV. And that shit makes the baby Jesus cry.

However, in a grave injustice, the IMDB is missing the quote. The best line in the movie and perhaps any Cameron Crowe movie (at least in the 90s) is missing. I'd like to think it's oversight, but how can we have missed this in favor of these winners?

Stupid red states and their stupid issues with sex and profanity. Bible fuckers...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Four wheels good; two wheels bad...

Not to be the Trib's bitch, but they were relevant again today, so figured I'd throw out a quick link.

The RedEye of all publications ran a worthwhile story (I know, I know!) today about cars versus bikes in the streets of the city. As someone who biked from west of Wrigley to the Northwestern University Law School on the lakefront every day of the spring, summer and fall, I'm not going to pretend to be unbiased here, you know, in the name of full disclosure.

I've had this discussion with plenty of bikers at Northwestern and other places, and there are a few ways to keep everything safe on the roads when you're on a bike in the city. The funny thing is that most drivers are slammed in traffic and aren't close to keeping up with a bike on the surface streets. For all the complaints about bikers in traffic, there's not much movement on the auto side and it's not too difficult to keep track of two or three bikes as you crawl down Clark Street.

While there are a handful of bike messengers that are causing problems and darting in and out of traffic, there are many more drivers out there and most aren't aware of how to share a road with a bike. Before I break out the soapbox, suffice to say that if you took 10 drivers and 10 bikers and snuck hidden cameras onto their respective vehicles, there'd be more to find fault with the cars. (As my buddy, Greg, told me when I started biking to work, "Always make eye contact at intersections to make sure drivers see you and if someone almost hits you, it's going to be some chick in her SUV on the phone with a cup of coffee in her hand.")

Here's what it boils down to from my perspective: When you're in your car, doing 5 to 10 miles per hour as you creep home from work and someone cuts you off it's a pain in the ass, it's annoying and you're glad when you don't have to deal with your insurance company.

When you're biking, you take it a lot more personally. Even wearing a helmet and doing what you need to do to try and stay alert and safe, a car cutting out and nearly missing you is a big deal. Friends of mine have been struck by doors opening into traffic, t-boned by cars making turns without looking and run off the roads in varying degrees.

All of these are much bigger deals when you're rolling along at 20 miles an hour or more without any protection above a set of gloves and a helmet. So who is responsible here? The bikers or the drivers?

Here's how I see this - At the shelter, we swing the gates into the kennels to try and push the dogs back a bit to clear space to get in and snap a leash on them. Sometimes the little guys can get caught by the fence, or get their heads caught as you're shutting the gates after a walk. While it's an imperfect analogy, it fits here - the dogs, like the bikers, are responsible for their own well being, but a person with a gate is the only one in the equation who can do any serious damage to the dog and none to themselves. It falls on the person shutting the gate to watch out, take an extra second or two and make sure that there are no problems.

So, while the story may be interesting and some of the points are valid from both sides, it really shouldn't be entirely up to the bikers to stay out of the way of cars and SUVs. The lion's share of the responsibility should fall on the people whose vehicles have the potential to be deadly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Art, music and other things morons find unnecessary

While I try to keep my political ranting to a minimum because of my relative ignorance on most subjects that fall under the umbrella of "politics"... But this one is too easy to screw up.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in addition to having a ridiculous name, also has a story today about Jeb Bush advocating a plan which would require Florida's high school students to pick a major and take core classes in that area of study.

Let's back that up a second for the nation's prospective philosophy majors, shall we?

Under Gov. Bush's plan we're going to ask 14-year-olds, people too young to drive cars, drink, vote, serve in the military or even stay out past a 10 p.m. to try and decide a career path for the next 50 years of their lives.

Yeah, Jeb is in a real dogfight with Jesse Ventura for the cover page in my upcoming book, Great Moments for Dumbass Governors.

I'm not very convinced that 18-year-olds are up to the task of making breakfast, much less long-term decisions and think European ideals of having students take a year between high school and college are worth exploring here. Now, Bush has decided that people who aren't trusted to not set fire to town gazebos after dark or to be trusted with a firearm under the supervision of a gunnery sergeant should be allowed to set a prudent course for the next half century? Yeah, yowza...

Is it the end of the world? No. Will this lock students into the career path they choose when they enter high school? Hell no. Will there be a run on Physical Education "majors" in Florida's high schools? Uhhh, you bet.

My high school used to allow us some leeway when we'd been there a few years. Not just in the Spanish or French, Chemistry or Physics combinations, but the sciences had Microbiology class and the history courses were pretty customizable, too. Nothing too crazy, but plenty of room to start looking at possible career choices.

My question? What the hell is Florida doing now?

Business and technical career programs are cited as a positive to the proposed plan, essentially allowing students with no interest in college to get a jump on a career in high school. I wonder what percentage of schools don't have programs like this already in place. Auto shops seem pretty common and after-school work can help there as well.

I don't think the danger lies in what the plan proposes, but rather that it'll make it too easy to clip arts, music and other elective courses. While the Seattle story lists an arts track, I'd need to see it in the final proposal to believe it.

At a point in American education where private funding and VH1 Save the Music drives are propping up music programs across the country, I don't trust government to keep these classes on the books, period. Opening the door to school boards being allowed to slash music programs because they don't see performance-based careers as viable options scares the hell out of me and I don't even have kids yet.

Never mind the fact that a broad knowledge base is important for students, regardless of age, but also consider that even college students are prone to major changes several times in their careers there, but just think of the problems with hundreds of high schoolers changing their "majors" several times each.

Yeah, really stupid idea with a huge backfire factor. Sounds like par for the course for the Bush kids. I wonder if there's a jackass politician career track on the drawing board yet?

(Photo from Rotten.com)

And Aunt Jemima wins in a landslide

In a really cool example of convergent technology in the media, the Chicago Tribune put together a slideshow with audio about strange polling places for yesterday's primaries.

From a pancake house to a car dealership, they did a good job of pulling photos and spoken word into a really smooth presentation.

See, major print media outlets? You don't need embedded journalists and up-to-the-second updates filed from laptops and uploaded via satellite phone to stay relevant in the world of cable news. No, sweethearts, you just need to tell a good story and slow down instead of speeding up sometimes.

It's also nice to see that there are still some things that fall squarely into the print media's wheelhouse. While TV and the Internet are the sprinters of the media world, the newpapers and magazines of the world till stand a puncher's chance if they can adapt like this.

Aside from that, it's also a solid pictorial and with sound goes for three minutes. Very cool, almost like keeping NPR on in the background as you read the Sunday papers.

Now, is it just me or is the state board of elections asking for trouble holding elections in a diner? There wasn't any space at a library or maybe even a bank lobby anywhere in Chicago?

(Photo from the Smithsonian Institution)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The death of reality

At what point did MTV cease to be relevant?

By that, I don't just mean the hack stand-up bits about the music channel never playing music anymore or even cheap shots at Ashlee Simpson's expense - although here is a really fantastic one - I'm talking about the time when MTV was a cultural touchstone.

While I can't claim to remember the first hours of the Buggles or even the first years of Van Halen, The Police and Jesse and the Rippers, I can claim my spot as a member of the Real World generation.

While maybe not right from the start, several summers of limited programming meant that MTV ran marathons at least twice between June and August while school was out. My little sister and I would catch these as they ran back-to-back for a week or more. Of course this was in the days when you could name the Real World seasons in six or seven seconds.

Care to guess how many season we're up to now, kids?

Seventeen.

Seventeen years into the progressive crapening has left the Real World as nothing more than cartoons and thumbnail sketches of human beings marking time until they can get into the bars for the night.

I swear this isn't the beginning of a three-page rant about kids these days or even how recent years have sold out the original premise of the show in favor of younger and better looking cast members, but think back to the first or second seasons (with pictures for reference) and then think of the Las Vegas or this year's casts and you can see the differences almost immediately.

This year has marked the first time that even the guilty pleasure of watching the token bitchy princess try to survive without being eaten by pigeons has paled in comparison to the TVWOP write-ups.

It was three or four seasons ago that you could start to pick out series-specific stereotypes on the first episode of the new season. What was a groundbreaking and powerful show when it launched has become a seasonal display of live-action cartoons who drink too much, have no real responsibility and are left plenty of time to hook up, pick fights and occasionally get arrested.

When all is said and done, they move to LA, sign the same agent and get ready to participate in the Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

It's this sick little self-sustaining world now and it's robbed the show of the richness and reality that were the show's early hallmarks. Not only did life outside the Viacom bubble create compelling television, but it also infused much of the spontaneity. As I watch tonight on TiVo, the main source of drama is an 18-year-old who is trying to find reasons to break up with her boyfriend who calls to read her the riot act about who knows what. Not quite the New York cast tackling racism or Pedro living with AIDS, is it?

Someday, I will probably work up an entire post on the San Francisco cast and why it was outstanding television both on a social and entertainment level. In the meantime, I've definitely lost sympathy for teenagers as they are put up in nice homes without rent and are handed every possible opportunity to get blasted and hump on each other.

The Real World could have kept its edge, fending off challengers from the Surreal Life to Drawn Together but it chose to cater to those looking to beat off to basic cable. I really think the trouble began when the cast members were given employment. Remember when they were actual members of society who came and went as their work, school and personal schedules dictated?

Remember when all cast members weren't accounted for at all times? In the first few years there were musicians (with some seasons like L.A. having two) and cops, doctors and cartoonists and they were responsible for their own transportation. This lent aspects of realism that aren't there anymore as MTV treats cast members like campers at a special needs summer day camp.

Yes, I know I'd be hard-pressed to find many other folks my age who are aware of this year's cast or even care that the old show isn't even identifiable in it's current state. Honestly, if the TiVo didn't grab the reruns, I'd be unaware that the new season had even started.

My proposal is simple - let the TRL crowd keep their implants, frat boys and angry or sensitive meatheads and we'll get a new set every year on VH1 where the cast members work and drive and may disappear for a few hours or a day or two at a time.

No more following guys home as they bury their mothers or are handed small companies, production offices and blank checks. Remember Puck getting an earful for digging in Pedro's peanut butter? It's because Pedro probably had to buy it himself.

In short, cut the fat and the apron strings from the show and the cast and see if the show can become relevant again.

Like the Real World but, you know, real.

(Photos from Wikipedia.com)

Monday, March 20, 2006

The case for huevos

So, it was time to return to the ice-encased pile of shit that is my life in Minnesota. That's a little-known fact about Minnesota, that all shit is frozen until three weeks in mid-July and early August. They have parades and everything for "Body-Temperature Shit Month."

(I'm sure there's a diarrhea sounding like a hail storm joke here, but it's late and I lack motivation in my life as a whole.)

Apparently, the wild horses I'd ordered up were unavailable from National Car Rental or any of the other fine companies represented at O'Hare Airport and so I was left to fend for myself in the fesitval seating of National's lot.

For those unfamiliar, you throw down your deposit (on something other than a debit card, because your bank will protect you to a point, whereas your credit card company will sell you out in a half second - the lesson, as always, never trust a credit card company) and head to the lot where cars are organized by size and type.

Being 6-3, I can't fit in the clown cars that pass for affordable compacts and have to start right in with the intermediates. I'm OK with this. What shocked me was after seeing that National's intermediates were Pontiac G6's on the web site the actual lot had a G6, a Chevy Cobalt station wagon and a shitload of minivans.

As I'm walking up, I ask one of the lot attendants what he thought of the set. "I don't want to pay $250 in gas," I said only half-jokingly.

After about 45 seconds on how the guys who work the lot sit in running minivans when the weather is hot or cold, he tells me the Dodge minivan is the best one there at fuel economy. I guess at idle speed it really sips the gas, which was good enough for me.

Then I ask the million-dollar question, "Well, it doesn't have a little bitch engine does it? Does it have decent jump?"

"Oh, yeah, man," he said, "It's got some huevos."

Good enough. And on top of that I was able to roll off the lot with a Grand Caravan which officially upgrades it from badass ride to chick magnet. More tomorrow, I need to go scrape the ladies from the windshield and pry one loose from the grille - The Grand Cranny is due back tomorrow, probably so Burt Reynolds can rent it Wednesday or something.

(Dodge.com / Cinematical.com / NNdb.com)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

www.instant-copyright-lawyer.com

As I keep plugging along here with Flickr.com and adding pictures from a rapidly expanding catalogue, I was checking up on my licensing options as the site will allow you several different levels of legal protection as you share images.

As part of this, Flickr has set up a Copyright Wizard to allow you to work your way through these steps and decide which reservations are right for you. The funny thing is that in all, it's just legal postscripts on your posts and nothing really prevents others from ripping off your images without paying you for them.

Better yet is that anyone with serious cash isn't looking at that site, littered with pictures of pets and family vacations, and trying to dig up images for national ad campaigns, so at most it'd be someone looking for blog images or cheap decorations for their apartment. Really, can you see some Fortune 50 company looking for art for their ad copy and running a Google search instead of clearing all the legal hurdles and making sure their images are under their complete control?

Exactly.

After working at newspapers, it's pretty clear cut what you can and can't do in terms of appropriation of images and I try to be somewhat sensitive to that in the images I use for posts. I make sure to cite where they came from and photographer credits when available and should anyone ever ask to have an image removed, I'd take it down as quickly as I could.

Still, I bet most folks would just be looking for a few bucks for their trouble and I can safely say I have yet to see a dime for this blog and doubt I ever will.

In the meantime, I'll just sit and wait and keep an eye on the ads in the Sunday papers. Stealing from snot-nosed amateurs like me would be the perfect crime.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The wonderful world of chemical imbalances

My buddy has launched a new blog after the excitement of posting family vacation photos waned for him. I should have known this was going to take a sinister turn when the first post was a picture of someone blowing a guy's brains out with a cup of Starbucks coffee.

For one of the nicest guys I know, he sure looks like a Grade A lunatic in his mugshot, which makes things three times as funny for me.

So, when you have the time, check him out at disconnectedinsuburbia.blogspot.com and don't say I didn't warn you.

No, seriously, I'm warning you... he's not right in the melon.

The happy accident


A few years ago, I grabbed a camera and started hitting the rooftops and overhangs from parking garages downtown.

One of my favorites is this one at Lake and Wells streets, which used to be the busiest intersection in the world back when trains were the only way to travel in style.

I've re-traced some of my steps with a higher-octane camera and a lot more know-how, so it seems like a great time to join the Flickr.com revolution.

(Photo from my Flickr.com account)

Quick question

So... at this point, does the travel agent for the Kansas Jayhawks adopt a "wait and see" policy for their tournament bids, or do they just book for the first day and leave it at that?

How uncomfortable is that for the Sports Information Director to have that conversation with Bill Self?

"Well, Bill, it's not that we want to jinx things or even say we don't trust you, because that's not the case, but... uh... well, it's expensive to book a block of hotel rooms for two weeks and then have to pay to release those. It's not us, it's the Holiday Inn, they can be real douchebags about this sort of thing..."

Betcha staying at Illinois is looking like it might have been a better decision by the day, huh, Bill? It's like leaving to manage the Cubs. Sure, if you win you'll be immoratal, but chances are it's never going to happen.

On a personal note, there are three teams that are my kryptonyte - Arizona, Michigan State and Kansas. If I pick them to run to the finals (Kansas to the Final Four this year; Michigan State to the Elite Eight) they go into the toilet on day one.

If I pick them to tank out early, they make an unstoppable run (Arizona to fall to Wisconsin this year).

This is the danger of picking in favor of teams you don't like and/or hate. When they win, they screw you twice. Even though Kansas blew apart my bracket, I'm pretty happy with that result.

Rock. Choke. Jayhawk.

(Photos from NCAA.org/Getty Images)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Life's simple pleasures

There's really nothing more surprisingly pleasant this time of year than opening your NCAA Tournament bracket and seeing that one of the matchups you'd gone back and forth on was picked correctly in the end (and you were pretty sure you'd gone the other way on the pick).

Syracuse was just put to bed by Texas A&M and Frank the Tank had talked me into posting that as my 5-12 upset.

The fraternal twin of this little slice of heaven is opening your bracket on Yahoo! or ESPN to find the last-second dumbass move you'd made wasn't recorded. You can spend all afternoon kicking yourself for playing it too fast and loose with regards to picking crazy upsets and mid-major Cinderella teams only to see you hit the wrong button and kept yourself out of trouble.

Not my case this year, but also a great feeling.

Enjoy Day 2 of hoop Friday and I'll be back next week when I will more than likely be back in Minneapolis... but no promises...

(Getty Images/NCAA.org)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Temporarily out of order

The blog will be set to idle for the next week or so as I get to head home to Chicago.

Not sure what kind of access I'll have after Wednesday (if at all), so I'll probably just take a break for the week and catch everyone on the other side.

(But rest assured that if some really crazy shit goes down, I'll suck it up and hit a coffee shop to bogart their wireless. I'm good like that.)

(Photo from my own camera. So don't steal it, jerkwads.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Packers have money to burn

I was waiting on this one, at least until Brett Favre makes a decision on what he's doing next season. Smart money says that if that team goes .500 or better with signs of life last season and we're not having this conversation. Why people feel the need to push Favre out the door is beyond me, but the third coaching change after Mike Holmgren probably will do the job.

Yesterday Daunte Culpepper IM'd everyone on his buddy list and placed his trade demands on his blog and then stomped his feet until his parents made him go to bed an hour early and without dessert.

This morning, Javon Walker picked up his phone and told everyone who would listen that he no longer wants to be a Packer. After Favre ripped him for being a baby (brought about in no small part by following the advice of Drew Rosenhaus who was leading walkouts in most of the NFL training camps last summer) and failing to honor his contract.

Now, with Kennard McGuire in his corner, Walker is crying about his contract again as fifteen different things are going on in the NFL this week as they sort out their Collective Bargaining Agreement and get ready for fee agency to kick in.

To add a little splash of art to the bottom here, I figured I'd post a picture of Walker, but didn't really recognize him when he was upright or in uniform. That's not entirely fair. There are no pictures of Walker in uniform or upright from the past few seasons.

To be fair, if I knew Favre was leaving and that the front office was in disarray as a new coach tries to right the ship, and I was a marquee receiver with a history of injury, I'd be looking for a way out, too. Do you want to be a rookie quarterback's most viable option at receiver? Or would you rather push for a trade to a team ready to win as you enter your prime - and in doing so lessen your risk of injury?

Exactly.

In addition to the growing free agent frenzy, John Clayton's column today focused on the Packers as the top team with money to burn this offseason. This worries me as Green Bay hasn't been doing much in the offseason for the past few years. They used to be good for one or two solid pickups per year (or at least move things around to clear a path for solid young guys). The defense has needed a massive tune up for three seasons running now and it hasn't been done yet. The abysmal secondary has lost Mike McKenzie and Darren Sharper in that time, while the top DB this year according to ESPN in oft-injured Charles Woodson.

(For the record the top QBs are Drew Brees at No. 5 and Josh McCown at No. 23).

Also, this year's free agent class can be summed up in two words. Horse. Shit. It's LeCharles Bentley as the top-ranked free agent bad... yeah. On the plus side, the Packers have resigned Aaron Kampman hours before he became an unrestricted free agent, taking him off an already thin signing board.

The sleeper free agents are great, though. Lot of keepers in that list, including a Packer running back who allegedly shit in a girl's closet while he was a player at Miami... That's what is known as an intangible, kids.

(Photos: USA Today/Getty Images - TSN)

Well yeah, I love football...

As this is the first football posting I've made, we're going to kick this puppy off right - with one of my favorite jock stories I've ever heard. We're pulling out all the stops.

My college roommate, Nick had an older brother, Vince, who graduated from college in the spring of 1996 as we were entering. Vince is a great guy and like all the men in his family tells a hell of a story.

Vince was the one who talked me into applying for a spot at Green Bay Packers training camp, having done the job for a few years and he tells the story of Travis Jervey, a stereotypical surfer (but born in South Carolina) who had gone to school at the Citadel before he was drafted in 1995.

I can't begin to explain Jervey in a nutshell, but he was a very chill guy who would wander around camp in flip flops and a ratty visor, was really mellow with staff and his teammates and I thought it was pretty cool when he made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer in 1997.

Seeing that he'd been to the Citadel and looking for info on the rookie class (it gets really slow in the summertime for reporters, especially in week two or three of camp), one of the reporters was talking to Jervey and asking questions about his college career.

Then, he was asked something to the effect of, "Wow, the Citadel, Travis? That must have been a great experience. What was you fvorite course you took there? Did you have any favorite books?"

Travis took a second to take it all in, flashed a lazy smile and said, "Well, yeah... (long puase) I love football!" and was done for the day.

To this day I don't know if it was an attention problem or just a way to break free before he had to talk about personal questions that were sure to follow.

(Photo from SI.com)

Our racist country

I listen to all types of music. And not just in the "I want to impress people with a Kanye West or a Tribe Called Quest CD out on top of the CD player when company comes over" kind of way, either. If you can't get behind this premise, then don't bother with the rest of the post. Anything short of shoving my iPod in your face won't change your mind and I'm OK with that. Also, you can go to hell. Just trust me that I have Keith Urban and Rodney Crowell in the same iPod with Public Enemy and Guns 'n' Roses.

I just love music and my preferred vector for adding it to that magical little box is to buy the CD, rip it and set it aside. If I need to take a road trip with someone who has a CD player, I'm covered. If the iPod or laptop crash and erase the collection, I'm covered.

When discussions arise over the music industry and people who want to buy CDs over digital-only media for the cover art and lyrics and such, I'm one of those people. Not Hugh Fidelity level snobbery, but I enjoy an obscure inside joke in the liner notes as much as anyone else. I also like the security involved with a hard copy that can be ripped over and again.

One thing I've noticed however is the level of security as it relates to genre (that's the sugar-coated euphemism). Let me rephrase that - one thing I've noticed is that music (or video games) with a predominantly black audience has security strips inside, while music (or video games) with a predominantly white audience do not. I've had enough of this.

This isn't a conspiracy theory, I can show you the strips embedded in Kanye West jewel cases and the lack of any security on a Lyle Lovett CD. Almost all have come from Best Buy, so it shouldn't be a retailer preference. If it's a label decision - ie. Roc-a-fella and Def Jam made these decisions to secure their products, I don't know what to make of it. Something tells me that's not the case though.

Same thing in the gaming world. A $50 PC game, City of Heroes had no strip, but Def Jam: Fight For New York did. Same for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It's just not adding up as anywhere logical, but is adding up as offensive.

I'm betting there are shoplifters in Hog's Holler, Ark., who are nicking Tim McGraw and Hank Williams CDs, so maybe there are strips on country and rock down there while the rap and R&B are left untouched, but I doubt it.

George Bush may not care about black people, but the record industry seems to be pretty interested.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Barry Bonds is one sick bastard

I promise that this isn't going to become your one-stop shop for all things Barry Bonds.

The fact that I've made two Bonds posts in a month is really pretty shocking to me, considering my lack of respect or compassion for him, but how are you going to ignore what's going on the past few days?

When I first started seeing stories about the Bonds' steroid abuse... well, when I first started seeing the stories this week with regards to the Sports Illustrated reprint of the pending book, I e-mailed Frank the Tank asking exactly what Bonds had to do in order to receive any sort of discipline from the league.

Frank wrote back drawing parallels between the Black Sox scandal and this - citing a need to make an example of Bonds to clear baseball's name for the public and I tend to agree.

Despite reports to the contrary, ESPN has posted copies of the league manifest from 1991, outlining the league's decidedly non-friendly stance on their use.

Gene Wojciechowski hit the nail on the head in his column from earlier in the week:

Bonds is finished. He might play again, but there is only a chalk outline left around his integrity and home run totals. And the only way he gets into Cooperstown is if he spends the $14.50 for a Hall of Fame admission ticket.

Winstrol. Deca-Durabolin. Insulin. Testosterone decanoate. Human growth hormones. Norbolethone. Trenbolone. Clomid.

These are the substances and steroids Bonds is alleged to have injected or ingested. They are the medicine cabinet of a cheater... Clomid is prescribed to women for infertility. Trenbolone enhances the muscle tone of cattle. Deca-Durabolin is a medication used in the treatment of kidney failure-related amnesia.
According to the accounts gathered by the San Francisco journalists, Bonds started to treat his body as a chemistry lab when he saw Mark McGwire's reception in St. Louis during the 1998 home run record chase and got jealous. Basically, he put his body, career, credibility and the franchise in jeopardy because he felt that McGwire was getting too much publicity and that it was only because he was white.

He reportedly got jealous and upset because he felt he was a better player than McGwire (whch he was) and decided to level the playing field by junking his life to prove a point.

Admittedly, this is just the kind of stupid shit that has added countless problems and complications in my own life, but this seems a bit extreme, even for my tastes. It's beyond compare, but the best I can come up with off the top of my head is feeling jealous of someone getting attention for a twisted ankle and deciding to shoot yourself in the leg to pull back your share of the spotlight.

Is it shocking that Bonds was juicing? No. Anyone (even people who never watch sports) could have come to that conclusion. What is shocking is the rationale behind it. Not to pass his godfather or try to set him apart in the pantheon of great players, it was to show up McGwire, who will likely garner as much historical respect as Roger Maris. Bonds came into the league as a coveted five-tool player with the pedigree to match and McGwire will be forever seen as a one-trick pony with a really cool trick.

Whereas McGwire will be seen as a quick flash and a few great seasons, Bonds had the possibility to be one of the greats. He essentially threw all of that away with a series of awful mistakes capped by this bitter self-destructive showing. I can't even begin to express how sick this is.

Any way you slice it, it's pretty pathetic, which seems to be where most people are coming down on the issue. They aren't angry or hurt or betrayed, they just look around and feel uncomfortable and try to find an excuse to walk away. Have you ever been around a kid who really acts up when company is over and the parents have to discipline them while you're around? You feel kinda bad because the kid was only acting out for the attention anyways and you just stare at the floor or try and watch TV or talk to your date and hope the whole thing is over soon.

Well, little Barry just lit the carpet on fire, pushed your car down the driveway into traffic and broke off a broom handle in the dog's ass. Maybe it'd be best if we just walked away and called it a night.

(11/15/07 Update: Bonds was just indicted. Also, there's this. I feel much better despite the Barry Bonds Fan Club Rally in the comments section.)

(Photo from Boston Dirt Dogs)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Kerry Wood's failing fastball

Kerry Wood is one year and six days older than I am and he may be washed up at 28. I always knew this time would come, but I kind of hoped it wouldn't arrive this quickly.

There are a few basic points to understand about guys who follow sports. First, we all think that given a few more miles per hour on our fastball, a few less ticks on our 40-yard dash time or a bit more size, we could have made an impact in professional sports. We will admit to this in varying degrees on varying days, but it's always there. For instance, I know my sleeve length is roughly the same as Randy Johnson's. With just the simple physics involved from slinging a ball on a like-sized fulcrum, I should be an All-Star. Obviously, that worked out differently than it could have.

Somewhat related to the first point is the assumption that the only real obstacle that we couldn't overcome (with that extra heat, speed or size, of course) would be time. After years of seeing players come and go, quit in their primes and hang onto the dream a season or three too long, we know the rules.

With exceptions of freaks of nature like Julio Franco and others, most players don't last very long past their 40th birthdays. The sports matter here, with football players going first and baseball players going last, but it's inevitable and somewhere we know that. There's just a slight disconnect when it comes to the first of our peers.

Every guy has that first player who was their age, usually when they are 18 or 19. It's funny and surprising and a little strange when you first hear "20-year-old Kerry Wood on the mound for the Cubs today..." and it grabs your attention. It's the dual realization of "I could be out there, now... but I'm not, so what went wrong and is it too late to major in center field?" And from then on you start to live vicariously through them. Sports is great for that.

When Wood struck out 20 as a rookie to tie the record set by Roger Clemens, I was three doors down in my dorm in John and Joe's room, playing Playstation football on the second TV. As Wood kept rolling, we shut the game off and threw it on both televisions, it was that good.

That rainy afternoon against Houston, we tried to keep up with how many batters were left and how many Wood needed. We watched him ring up five, ten, fifteen and kept our fingers crossed that the umps didn't postpone history because of the rain. There is a strange sense of pride in someone your age making a splash like that.

When you're a little kid, you have your sports heroes and then in your teens you broaden your perspective and learn appreciate talent (even if it's not on your team) if you become a balanced fan. Then, without any real conscious reason why, it becomes a bit childish to cheer exclusively for one player. I guess you don't want to be the guy in the stands only cheering for Favre or Urlacher, but maybe it's just avoiding putting all your eggs in one basket. Chris Chelios can get too old and Kevin Garnett can get hurt, but it's not like the San Diego Chargers are going to pull a hamstring or the San Antonio Spurs will lose their roster spot to a younger point guard.

But that first peer is different. He becomes both a milestone and a measuring stick. Wood became the first player I openly cheered for, checked stats on and worried about for the first time in years. I could remember doing all of those things for Ryne Sandberg and was now doing it again. Looking at it now, I guess I knew inherently that for all intents and purposes, when his time runs out, so does yours. When these players (with the arm, speed and size) can't compete anymore, what chance do mortals like ourselves have?

On the other hand, that first big moment is unforgettable. It doesn't need to be Doc Gooden or Clemens or any of the rookie phenoms in any sport, just the first guy your age to start for your team. I still remember picking up the new MLB video game the year Kerry Wood made his first appearance and getting excited about it when I played the demo at Best Buy. Like a little kid, I couldn't wait to get home.

It's being able to say, "There, right there; Our generation is now viable, now we matter, we have a great deal of value to you" after years of being pushed aside. And while you realize it'll be years before your peers take over in business or politics, it's the first hint of being worthwhile in the big picture.

I guess that's why it's been so tough to watch the whole Wood/Mark Prior injury carousel the past three or four seasons. It's not just crushing to watch your team fall apart and lose front line pitchers, it's tough to watch those specific guys get hurt.

Watch those specific guys wash out.

Watch those specific guys cease to be worthwhile in the big sports picture.

So, for me, Wood's injuries are tough to take on a deeper level than just being a fan wondering how my team's starting pitching will hold up this year. In one way, I'm pulling for my own usefulness and youth. This is strange and ridiculous at 27, but then again, Wood was supposed to follow Clemens' footsteps to pitching into his 40s, not Koufax's and shutting things down early.

It's pretty much neck and neck between who or what I'm cheering for more at this point: My team and it's chances this season or Wood and my viability as I enter the prime of my life. Having come this far, it's not like I can just switch over to Chone Figgins and solve the problem.

Even if Wood is shut down for good this season, I realize that life will go on and someone will be called up from AAA to take his place. A new pitcher may even be signed as a free agent who could be older, but it wouldn't be the same. In no small way your peer player's first start is like starting a clock in the background and while you will never meet them or even think about it often, your subconscious will always ask, "What have you done with the same 10 years?" whenever you hear their name.

In the big picture, Wood will probably never be an impact player again. If he did regain his confidence and health and began dominating batters again, most of us wouldn't be able to enjoy a minute of it, wondering when he'd get hurt again and waiting anxiously for the other shoe to drop. By the same token, if Wood learned to throw a knuckleball that took the pressure off his arm and he pitched into his 40s, it wouldn't be the same thing. Teenage phenoms with golden arms aren't supposed to ever have a need for tricky slop pitches thrown by middle-aged men.

And that, in a nutshell, is the sad conclusion of what this situation boils down to; Wood will never be that 20-year-old again - full of unlimited promise and untold potential - and neither will we.

(Associated Press / Nam Y. Huh; John Biever/CNNSI.com)

I can't help but feel somewhat responsible

John Flaherty, the Red Sox backup catcher I wrote waaaay to much on here retired Tuesday without much fanfare with all the baseball news today.

According to ESPN, "He wasn't sure he was able to do what he needed to do for the Red Sox like he has in the past for other teams, and I think he has had mixed emotions all spring," said Terry Francona, who got the word from Flaherty on Tuesday morning. "Apparently the Siberia, Minnesota blog cast a great deal of doubt into John's mind about whether or not he was ready to accept the challenge of catching Tim Wakefield all season long."

OK, I made the last part up, but until Flaherty goes on record, I think we all know what's really going on here. I smell a conspiracy and felt better with Flaherty around. Even when things were rough in the Spring Training game Sunday and I was yelling, "This is why we need Mirabelli, right here!" and working out ways to trade David Wells and whatever the hell San Diego wants for an expendable catcher. Even then.

In other baseball news, Barry Bonds now has a pants fire to contend with in addition to drug use, an alleged death threat made to his mistress and oh, yeah, perjury when testifying in front of a grand jury.

Good job, dickhead.

Look to the spinoff site, Siberian Baseball for some more baseball bits. There's a WBC post, a quick one on Kirby Puckett and I have a special one for all my fellow Wrigley Cultists that should be up Wednesday afternoon at the latest. Thinking that one may earn a post on the big board as well, so keep an eye out for it.

I swear, for those of you who didn't give a rat's ass about baseball before, you will after a summer of this.

(Jim Mone/AP)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blog etiquette

Know the worst thing about blogging?

The finality. I know they're built with comments and unlimited editing functions, but once it's out there, it's out there. You kind of feel like a fraud if you are ripping and re-writing whole sections from posts.

I feel that once it's out there, you should leave it for better or worse. That was one of the best things about newspaper work (and one of the worst) - in the land of TV and radio, there's very little the average viewer or listener can do to document the words zipping by them at any moment.

People have what the think they hear (a phenomenon cited by two Chicago sports radio guys as listening to the imaginary radio) or think they saw on the news, but it's hard to capture that and nearly impossible to transport it. Put it this way - I got used to people clipping my stories to bring them to community meetings and city council hearings, but I never saw anyone wheel in a TV cart with a tape cued up to WGN's morning show.

Same rules here - sure, I'll clean up spelling, axe deadweight when I read through a post later in the day or add punchlines I was too distracted to include, but for the most part, what is posted is what you'll see next week as well.

This presents a problem, as it lends an air of finality to the posts. Sure, I can preface them with 'first of many...' statements or pre-season capsules like what's going on at the Siberian Baseball site, but barring that, it's hard to pick up a topic and go back at it. For instance I've noticed that
nearly everyone (myself included) starts a new blog with a posting of why they never wanted a blog and how a friend made one, so they did, too - or- they had to do one for a work or school project. Sometimes they had to do one at the urging of their parole officer.

I'd like to add more of these, but what's the best way to leave that open-ended without tripping all over myself to leave that open-ended. If it's this hard to leave the story open for a sequel, maybe Sly Stallone is a lot brighter than anyone gives him credit for.

Still haven't figured out how to tackle that yet, but guess that's why the blogging genre is still a work in progress.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Oh, man... OK, someone get Teddy on the phone, I guess

When life gives you lemons, you're supposed to make lemonade and I'm sure that life is a lot better when you see the glass half full, but this situation would try the patience of even the biggest happy-go-lucky sucker.

I mean, really, what do you do when there's n lemon, lemonade or even a glass to put it in? What then? You're pretty boned at that point.

First, how many people saw Love Monkey. OK, how many people who don't live with me? Uh-huh... and who aren't Jason Priestly? OK, I think I've isolated the problem, here...

Well for those who saw the show (and isn't it kinda funny when the show's web site has lasted roughly twice as long - and counting - as the show itself?) you couldn't have missed the young guy playing Wayne.

In real life, Wayne is Teddy Geiger and has a real song out from a real dead show. I cannot imagine how frustrating this has to be for his management team. You end 2005 gearing up for a heavily hyped show featuring a small stable of known stars, including Tom Cavanagh, who brings plenty of goodwill from Ed. You begin 2006 with that show going in the tank and you're left trying to keep Geiger's career afloat in the middle of this mess.

(A side note, here - I was a big fan of Ed and really wanted this show to do well. In practice, I cared for four characters in the entire cast - Cavanagh, the kid and both love interests. Priestly, the gay ex-jock, the other dude and everyone else can go to hell. This is not what you want from your fan base, especially those who are behind you and the show).

As far as emo-pop goes, I like Geiger. He had snappy little numbers on Love Monkey and because you actually felt for his character, you were pulling for these songs to do well. They hold up as pop songs on their own, but again, I wouldn't wish what his management is going through on anyone.

It must feel like you'd been planning to go on vacation for four months and the day before you do, your boss drops a ton of work on your desk and tells you he's called the airline and released your ticket. While you were planning to do the work eventually, you expected a little easier road on this one. Now, they have to hustle to get this all done quickly, put marketing plans into place and try to capitalize on any existing momentum.

No buzz, dying momentum and the fact that 99 percent the people who have seen you perform think you're an actor? Fuck lemonade, we got any of the hard stuff on hand?

(Photo from teddygeigermusic.com)

If watching TV was a sport, I'd have been an All-American

Let's talk TV. I love TV. More than that, I love my TiVo on my TV. It makes things so easy in the long run. As I sit here with my coffee, I'm able to watch the The Dukes of Hazzard: Reunion that was on CMT last night. I'm just as amazed as I was in 1997 when it first aired and I taped it in my dorm room (only now I recognize Emily Procter as the chick mechanic who took over for Cooter when he became a senator).

Later, I get to watch the spring training game between Boston and Minnesota - isn't technology amazing?

Even when I'm out of the house, Sluggo the TiVo has my back. It's a good life.

Now, while I watch plenty of television, there are a few shows no one is talking about. While I've seen every episode of The West Wing and keep up with Family Guy and My Name is Earl, I've only recently come around on Lost by catching Season 1 on DVD. I'm not talking about any of these shows or American Idol or any of the other big-name shows. I'm talking about well-done shows no one seems to notice.

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How I Met Your Mother - Mondays on CBS, 8:30 p.m., EST - Gaining a buzz, but Neil Patrick Harris is amazing (and the big draw) as a womanizing, drunk jackass. Jokes are funny, cast is likeable and its one of the first shows to feature a cast of my peers (bonus half-point). Bob Saget is the voice-over of "old Ted" (another bonus half-point).

Enjoyable, utterly watchable and keeps the peace between the boys and girls in our house. Win-win.

Plus, it's only a matter of time before Vinnie Delpino gets his cameo - come on, Doogie, hook a brother up!

Sample quote:
Ted: And so I licked the Liberty Bell.
Laura: How did it taste?
Ted: Like freedom... no, actually it tasted like pennies.

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Everybody Hates Chris - Thursdays on UPN, 8 p.m., EST - How does a show that is based on Chris Rock's standup and features him in voiceover work stay this far under the radar? Oh, yeah, it's on the UPN... Why would the other networks pass on this? John Stamos can get a vehicle on the major networks, but Chris Rock can't? I question bringing a child into this world.

My favorite running gag on this show is Chris' dad having a bionic eye for the exact cash value of food being wasted in the house. I do the same thing and we currently have $2.75 worth of gnocci on the stovetop from last night.

Sample Quote:
Rochelle: [about Drew getting a D in his math test] Look we're going to have to get him a tutor.
Julius: Tutors are expensive, y'all just gonna have to work harder we can barely afford kids, we can't afford stupid kids.

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The Boondocks - Sundays on Cartoon Network, 11 p.m., EST - One of the funniest and most socially conscious comic strips in the paper today has become one of the funniest and freshest cartoons on TV. Aaron McGruder has met Castro and caused problems everywhere his strip has been published and they're not pulling punches for national television. Thank God for Adult Swim on Cartoon Network, for giving these types of shows a home.

From the episode when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. comes out of a coma to weigh in on contemporary America to Riley tagging houses with a character based on the Happy Trees guy, the whole show is outstanding. Not for those who are easily offended by coarse language or the n-word, though.

Sample Quote:
Riley: I don't mean bitches in a disrespectful way.

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Squidbillies - Mondays on Cartoon Network, 12:30 a.m., EST - A foul-mouthed, ex-con drunken squid and his illegitimate son are the stars of this gem. It's a 15-minute shot on Sundays and it's worth hunting it down.

Again, foul-mouthed and just a barrel of fun. Extra fun if you've ever lived within a day's drive of the south.

Sample quote:
Earlie Cuyler: Allow me to explain the contamination process. Pine cones go in here, party liquors comes out here and proceed to here. [points to mouth] Fights begin, finger prints are took, days is lost, bail is made, court dates are ignored, cycle is repeated.

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Robot Chicken - Sundays on Cartoon Network, 11:30 p.m., EST - Seth Green uses his vast star power and calls in his Hollywood-type favors to pick up voice work for this pet project. Stop motion show gained a following last season and rumor has it the contract has been picked up for this season as well.

It's hard to explain, but if you're a fan of pop culture, you'll enjoy this show. If not, it's only 10 minutes a shot. From the Behind the Music of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem to Joey Fatone in a deathmatch to avenge the murders of his N'Sync cohorts, it's fast-paced and craptacular.

Sample quote:
Darth Vader: Luke... I am your father!
Luke Skywalker: Noooo! That's impossible!
Darth Vader: It's true! And Princess Leia is your sister!
Luke Skywalker: That's... improbable.
Darth Vader: And the Empire will be defeated by Ewoks!
Luke Skywalker: That's... highly unlikely...
Darth Vader: And as a kid, I built C-3PO!
Luke Skywalker: ...wha? [time passes]
Darth Vader: And you know that all-powerful Force? That's really just microscopic bacteria called Midichlorians!
Luke Skywalker: [smoking a cigarette] Look, if you're not gonna take this seriously, I'm outta here!

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Rescue Me - FX, in between seasons - Twisted and funny, this has to be the one show on this list I wouldn't pass up if I could only pick one. Denis Leary continues his string of playing firefighters or cops as a member of the FDNY working his was through 9/11 trauma after losing his best friend and cousin. Oh, and other ghosts of kids and other friends of his come along for the ride. And sometimes Jesus.

It's twisted and surreal at times, but there's a lot of great acting in this show. Season 1 is on DVD now, so pick that up from Netflix and work through it before the second half of this season begins. I don't want to spoil the other surprises here, but they take on pretty much every topic you can imagine and the result is an engrossing and surprising show for basic cable.

Oh, and be ready for cursing for cursing's sake because it's on FX. It's like telling a six-year-old they can now say "shit" and "asshole" and watching them go nuts with their new vocabulary.

Sample quote:
Tommy Gavin: You pussies better pray you don't get assigned to my firehouse. Because I have seen it all. I knew sixty men who gave their lives at Ground Zero. Sixty. Four of them from my house. Vito Castella... found him almost whole. Ricky Davis... found him almost whole, hugging a civilian woman. Bobby Vincent... found his head. And my cousin, Jimmy Keefe, my best friend. You know what they found of him? What I was able to bring back and give to his parents? A finger. That's all. A finger. These four men were better human beings and better firefighters than any of you will ever be.
Firefighting Class Instructor: Say "thank you," firefighting upper class!
Firefighting Upper Class: Thank you, Firefighter Gavin, sir!

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Inked - A&E, rotating schedule, check your listings - Carey Hart's tattoo shop in Vegas in the focal point of the show, but the star is Thomas, one of the senior artists who is a pretty decent guy with a mean streak and mounting frustrations over not seeing his son and putting up with shop politics and knuckleheads who don't clean up after themselves.

In the reality show market, where old standards like the Real World and Survivor have long since gone stale (expect a Real World post shortly) Inked is surprising, fresh and a lot of fun.

Watch for no other reason than to see the art that is laid down on a daily basis in the shop. I, for one, can't imagine the pressure of permanently inking another human being and knowing I had one shot to get it right.

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30 Days - FX, in between seasons - The concept is simple enough. Take Morgan Spurlock and his 30 day formula from SuperSize Me and use it as a weekly series. Because each of these takes 30 days to film and then there's editing to be done, Spurlock has farmed out guinea pig duty to friends and others to go live the life.

To his credit, Spurlock took his fiancee (the vegan chef from the film) and made her live on minimum wage with him for a month, where they struggled to keep afloat a few months after going to the Oscars with the GDP of Ecuador in jewelry around her neck. That was pretty funny.

Other shows from Season 1 were putting a straight man into San Francisco's Castro District, putting two New Yorkers off the grid with a bunch of hippies and living with a Muslim family in Michigan. All are based on a fish-out-of-water concept, but it's interesting TV and brings up some good points. Worth watching to see how the people selected adapt, even if they never really fit in.

(Photos from: cbs.com; fxnetworks.com; donteatthisbook.com; adultswim.com)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The future of the franchise

Oh, Abe Alvarez - will you ever wear your hat like a normal human being?

It is difficult to feel good about the upcoming season (and seasons) when you look like such a fucking jerk off.

I'm going to go take an aspirin now, but thank God for baseball. I'm glad it's back.

(Just a quick FYI - the filenames used by the webmasters at MLB.com are whatshisname.mugshots.jpg, no joke.)

(Photo from redsox.com)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Off the grid

I may disappear for up to two weeks, as the new baseball game for the PS2 should be out today.

I say "should" because of the three release dates I've seen (on the game's web site, in the Best Buy ad and on a review site) this is the last date listed and the one Best Buy had.

This will be baseball's first foray into the single-publisher arena, as EA was shut out and forced to make a college baseball game (which I've heard is surprisingly solid). After the Madden franchise took over football and killed competition in the gaming world, 989 Sports struck back just to screw EA - good for them.

There's next to no buzz for this new game, so if it's any good remains to be seen. I'll spare you too many details.

When I went in Tuesday night, I looked around for the game and didn't see it. This wasn't surprising, considering that no one seemed to know when it'd be hitting the shelves. Then "The Best Buy Guy" waddled over and against my better judgment I asked if it was out yet.

What I got was a short discourse on when DVDs and games and music are traditionally released. I wanted to tell him that a.) The manufacturer's site had listed Tuesday as the release date and that b.) He was an anus, but I figured over three decades of involuntary celibacy was punishment enough.

When is comic book release day again?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Minnie and Buck

While these two aging giants may have names that sound like they came from an animated movie from Pixar, sadly it's more weighty than that.

Frank the Tank weighed in on this earlier in the week, but the gist of it is that a special panel released their 17 selections to enter the Baseball Hall of Fame. This was the result of a five-year process that acted independently of the Hall of Fame selection or veterans' committees and was seen as the last best chance for many of these aging stars to make it in.

For a little background, Phil Rogers had this to say in the Chicago Tribune on Minoso:

"Not only was Minoso 28 when he got to the big leagues to stay, but before he turned 23 he played in what Burgos calls "the sugar-cane leagues" of Cuba, essentially semipro and amateur town teams. It didn't take long for him to get discovered once he got into Cuba's top leagues; he was only 26 when the Indians signed him.

"But Minoso lost more years when the Indians kept him in Triple A, apparently not wanting to risk having too many men with dark skin on the field. The 1949 team he debuted on also had [Larry] Doby, Satchel Paige and Luke Easter."
Meanwhile, O'Neil has become somewhat of an elder statesman for the Negro Leagues and their surviving players. Baseball abounds with stories about O'Neil, including the day he was working in the Florida sun with his father, the foreman in a celery field, and was caught cursing about the job they were doing.

O'Neil told Steve Wulf the story in 1994 for Sports Illustrated.

One day I was having lunch by myself next to a big stack of boxes, and it was so hot, I said out loud, "Damn, there has got to be something better than this."

It turns out my father and some of the older men were on the other side of the stack having their lunch. That night my father told me, "I heard what you said today," and I thought he was going to reprimand me for swearing, but he said, "You're right. There is something better than this. But you can't find it here. You're going to have to go out and get it."
What he went out and got was a solid career as a player(he led the league in batting average in 1946), before managing the Kansas City Monarchs from 1948 to 1955 and players ranging from Ernie Banks to Elston Howard. His story follows a long arc of baseball history, from boyhood in Florida, watching the Yankees and others in spring training to the present day. He tells a story of hearing Babe Ruth's bat for the first time and thinking it'd be the last time he'd ever hear it, but would catch snippets of its thunder for years to come that is one of the best in the lore of baseball.

When his playing days came to a close, he became the first black coach in history with the Cubs in 1962 and has grown into his current position as ambassador of the game. For anyone who hasn't seen the Ken Burns documentary on baseball, pay particular attention to O'Neil's segments. To see the 80-something-year-old's face light up when he talks about the good old days is worth putting the discs on your Netflix list.

While we're on the topic, Sports Illustrated also released a compilation of baseball stories, Sports Illustrated Great Baseball Writing that is a must-have for fans, as well. The Wulf story can be found there as well.

When I first read these stories in local papers and on national web sites, I was getting ready for a post about how it's too bad some really great guys don't make it into the Hall, but that's what makes it special and that's why induction means so much.

With a few exceptions, the players who are in the Hall of Fame deserve to be there and those left out in the cold are usually there for a reason. Midway through several of these articles and to the point that I can't remember who brought it up first, some columnist mentioned in passing that it's not the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, it is the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Negro League players aren't inducted as visiting inductees or special inductees and for the sake of argument, if the writers would vote together, a Little League manager should be eligible for induction just like John McGraw was. In light of this (and admittedly, I haven't done a lot of research on this, aside from confirming the semantics) there's no good reason to keep either of these men out, aside from difficulty in confirming stats from minor and Negro league contests.

And while I support Frank and his push for Minoso, I have to stand by O'Neil whose overall contributions to the game should make him a lock for the Hall. If there has been a better man to stand on behalf of baseball - and all forms and leagues therein - I'd have a hard time finding him. Not to take anything from Minnie, but if I had one vote for him or Buck, it'd be a no-brainer.

In any event, neither man is on that list of 17 members, and even if they were, there'd be other discussions about who had been left off in their place. It's too bad that they weren't included, especially considering the ages of both men, but the decisions have been made.

On a positive note, both also have incredible perspective on their situations, with Minoso saying he'd settle for being in individual fans' Halls of Fame. Frank voted him in on the first ballot.

"There's nothing greater for a human being than to get his body to react to all the things one does on a ball field," O'Neil said. "It's as good as sex; it's as good as music. It fills you up. Waste no tears for me. I didn't come along too early. I was right on time."

(Photo from MLB.com/Charlie Riedel/AP)