Saturday, April 29, 2006

The one busy day in Green Bay each year

With the five pick, the Green Bay Packers select AJ Hawk, the Ohio State University and a paperback copy of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

Oh, Javon Walker... you trader... Trailer trash in the Lambeau Atrium, you're not helping us at all, buddy. Not even a little.

Aside from hoping the rest of the country missed that little puppet show following the selection of Hawk, it was a pretty enjoyable first day of the draft overall. Well, except for the one nickel for a dollar trade of Javon Walker and subsequent two nickels for a nickel, penny and stick of gum trade that followed.

Sometimes I wish that player would shut their yaps about wanting to get out of town because it really screws the team and the fans on the back end. There was pretty much no one in the football world who has risen above the rank of fantasy team GM who didn't know that Walker wouldn't return to Green Bay without a firearm and loved one involved, which makes it very possible that this was the best deal open to the Packers in this regard.

Trading a Pro Bowl wideout for a pick? It makes me sick and angry. I hope that motherfucker keeps blowing his knees out and that it's colder than usual in Denver so he has to freeze his ass off as he lies on the field waiting for the stretcher to come get him.

If I wake up in October and see that Walker will be placed on the DL with a ruptured ACL and frostbitten buttocks, I will probably take the day off to celebrate.

Frank the Tank sent a congratulatory e-mail tonight with regards to the pick, and thinks he'll be an anchor for the Packers D for years to come. I see that potential, but those sentiments were being tossed around Seattle with their pickup of Brian Bosworth years ago, too.

All things being equal, I love this pick. I'm sick of several years of Madden where the Packers defense is awful and you have to try and force teams into shootouts to make use of an over-rated Favre and a killer running game. Lately it's meant no defensive upgrades and erosion of the O line, so a top tier linebacker makes me very happy here.

As William "Dirty" Henderson pointed out, the Pack lost two good LBs in Na'il Diggs and his backup, Paris Lennon heading out, Nick Barnett is the only LB worth putting your faith in these days. Pairing him with Hawk gives them strength in the linebacking corps and the secondary at least holds its own with the addition of Chuck Woodson.

Also, Donald Driver has walked back comments (read: denied them completely) that he'd be holding out for a new contract. Smart move, Donald - very smart move. They're working on naming a street after you right now.

Not sure if these are the types of moves Favre wanted to justify another year, but in the long term picture, they are solid at linebacker with even a halfway decent player outside to clean up when teams tire of running at Hawk. That, and picking Matt Leinart under the "best available athlete" philosophy probably just would have pissed Brett off. And no one wants to upset St. Brett's delicate constitution.

These are all top of my head things right now, with Day 2 tomorrow and time to pick up a few other free agents. Big picture still shows the Packers in trouble, but in the NFC North, it's difficult to be too far out, no matter how bad you are on paper.

Elsewhere in the North:

* Detroit broke from tradition, not only refusing to draft a WR, but going for a defensive player. Ernie Sims (OLB, Florida State) you a re now a punchline for football fans for years to come.

* Minnesota kept the good time rolling with another OLB pick, this time Iowa's Chad Greenway. No word yet on when he'll be taking the test for a Minnesota boating license. Being picked by the Vikings right now has to be like coming back to college from the weekend and realizing that your roommates threw a huge party that got out of hand the night before. Sure, they don't mind the smell, the mess or the cold stares from neighbors and random students shaking their heads, because they had a blast. You on the other hand, just get stuck sleeping on the goat urine in your bed for the next week.

* Chicago opted to not ruin the afterglow of last year by botching a first-round pick and traded it away to Buffalo. Best draft day move for the Bears since Urlacher.

(Photos from /

Friday, April 28, 2006

Texans fans get bullshat upon

Reggie Bush.

Vince Young.

Matt Leinart.

Mario Who?

Oh, you stupid motherfuckers. Enjoy redecorating after your fans burn down the team's offices. I hear tan is the new teal, so you might want to mention that to your interior decorator.

Late breaking news is that North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams is the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft this year, ahead of local legend Vince Young and no-brainer pick Reggie Bush. Either one of those guys is a highly defensible pick at the low end and a possible franchise player on the moderate end. Best case for anyone is Hall of Fame caliber and that's not too much of a stretch for Bush right now.

Instead, the Texans are the proud new employers of Williams. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that Bush's agent nixed a deal to the Texans as his client didn't relish the thought of spending Sunday nights and most of Monday removing the opposition's helmet from his rectal cavity. These things happen when you have no O-Line to speak of and your offense has been a laughing stock since your inception.

While football fans have gone round and around over Bush, Leinart or Young, the Texans settle for none of the above. The Houston sports junkies have already hit the message boards down there, with my favorite comment being, "We passed on Jordan... Hell, why not Bush, too?"

Heh. Stupid Texans. Another year without a running game just brings us closer to a happy day in my life - the day when David Carr suffers a career-ending injury.

I hope it's on a play action pass, just for this.

If that wasn't enough, let me twist the knife. Actually, let's allow John McClain of the Houston Chronicle the honors:

"Williams' best position is left end, but the Texans gave Baltimore free agent Anthony Weaver a $12.5 million signing bonus to play that position. Williams will play right end, probably forcing Antwan Peek their best pass rusher back to outside linebacker.

"Before Weaver signed, the plan was to move him inside in passing situations. Peek, who had been ticketed for right end before Williams signed, was going to compete with defensive end Jason Babin and outside linebacker Shante Orr for playing time at end in passing situations.

"Now, Weaver will move inside. Williams will move from right to
left end. Peek will drop down at right end.

"Although he has incredible speed and quickness for his size, Williams was better against the run than sacking the quarterback in college.

"In three seasons, he started 34 games and registered 175 tackles, including 55 1/2 for losses, and 26 1/2 sacks.

"Last season, Williams had 14 1/2 sacks and 27 1/2 tackles for loss, both school records."

Out of position... to bump their best pash rusher... with the first pick over Bush. But hey, on the bright side, he's the best football player North Carolina State has ever produced.

If this were a fantasy league, this would be a decision so bad that the commish would stop the draft and explain to the manager what just happened, then try to calm the giggle fits and outright awe as they enacted a do-over to give the mismatched chump another shot.

Unfortunately for Houston fans, there's no such luck in the NFL and as of Friday night, Bush is hanging out with Jay Z at the 40/40 Club in NYC as fans of the team prepare to re-enact the Alamo at Texans HQ.

This is just amazing.

Selling 9/11

Today United 93 opens in theaters around the country after a pretty quiet lead in to the release. A few days back, the Chicago Tribune took a look at how this movie and another slated for release in August is being publicized.

This is a pretty interesting topic, considering how delicately this needs to be handled. With all the official fanfare of a made-for-TV movie, it's slipped into the national rotation and apparently will rely on word of mouth to either make or break the gate receipts.

In the hypothetical, "How would you handle this?" situation, there are really no great answers. Too little and your movie will suffocate. Too much and you risk public outcry and undercutting any goodwill or credibility you might have as a result of the film's merit. Tough call.

I guess because it's only been a few years since the attacks, things run the risk of getting out of hand. Release a movie with Leo and Kate on a sinking ship and it's an international hit. Release this and it's seen as "too soon" by some.

I'm not really passing judgement on this, but it'll be interesting to see the results of this film (with no major stars to my knowledge) and August's offering with Nicolas Cage, where he plays one of the last people to be pulled from the rubble. You can't really ignore the proximity to September either, regardless of when in August it comes out.

Either way, both are pretty ballsy moves.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two days of hard labor

A few quick things from my return to the working world.

1.) Maybe unemployment wasn't so bad after all. Grass is always greener.

2.) Months of more time spent with dogs than people does weird thing to your brain. I think I was cage guarding my cube yesterday.

3.) It's hard to not sound like an ex-con when giving an employment history. "I did a year in DC and another year in Chicago... Put in a nickel at a south side newspaper before that." My new work friends Red and Andy nodded knowingly.

4.) Wearing khakis to work feels a little like I lost or something. If my 19-year-old self didn't have a serious drinking problem, he'd probably track me down and kick my ass. He's not that motivated or coordinated though.

5.) If things keep up the way they have, I'm going to Dooce myself right out of the new place. Some things are too good to keep to yourself.

6.) Had I gone to work with people pogo-humping on my voicemail, things would have been better. "Dude, check out... damn! Damn! They stopped, I was gonna hold the phone to my ceiling..." Runs a very close second.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

It's not goodbye, just hello less often

The long winter is over. Both literally and figuratively, the long, cold days of little sun and claustrophobia are drawing to a close with warm weather and a new job.

After nearly six months of unemployment, I've taken a new job and start tomorrow morning.

Unfortunately, a newspaper came in too late with an interview request after I was already waiting for a possible offer from the new place. As they say, "A bird in the hand lets you pay your insurance bills and get a new intake system for your truck."

It also cuts into blogging, video game, truck repair and woodworking time - fucking birds.

The truth is that I like doing this, even if the core readers are people I e-mail regularly, anyways. The long and the short of it is that I have no real plans to stop writing, maybe just in the way I've been doing things.

This means more weekend posts - possibly saving them in draft form and publishing nightly to try and keep at least one new post per day. There's something very satisfying about logging in and seeing a post or three a day and I'd like to keep that going. It may be a lot less lightning reactions to CNN as it happens or baseball as an in-game piece, but that's OK.

If anything a little more time to polish my ideas isn't so bad. I can edit them a bit and cool off if need be, so I think the overall product will be better in the long run.

That said, I'll miss multiple posts per day and plan on checking in some evenings. In addition, being back in a tech environment will open a lot more doors mentally and if you all play nice, I might post hacks for amping the hell out of your home stereo and how to make an LCD projector, MacGyver style. I'm already planning a few big entries on video games and their continuing impact on society (relying heavily on Wired's recent opus on the subject) and a few more bits and pieces.

Just probably not this week - in the office by 8 a.m.? Dude, that used to be my bedtime a week ago.

(Photo from

Pride of the Al's Hardware and Lumber Yard Yankees

With the weather warming up and baseball officially in full gear, I took time Monday to head to the indoor batting cages in town.

I like it there because there's at least the appearance of athletic activity, as it's open year round and it lets you bring your own bat in. Try that at a mini-golf with pitching machines and the cops get called.

For the record, the most organized baseball games I've played in were Sunday nights before the lights were turned out at Hamlin Park, but then I got a job and had to worry about being up for work and it all kind of fell by the wayside. It also got to the point that guys were bringing catcher's gear and that seemed a bit competitive for my tastes, so it was OK in the end.

Long story, short - I suck at baseball. I love it, understand it, obsess over it (honestly, I can't see highlights of 2004 without welling up for unknown reasons. This happened this afternoon) but I am really not that good at it. I can pitch, but that's thanks to bio-mechanics more than talent. When you have arms like an ape, it's easy to get a ball over the plate because there's plenty of time to correct your release points and arm slots - trust me.

This brings us to yesterday, when I walk up to the counter to get tokens for the cages and the lady asks me what speeds to turn on. I tell her slooooow (having wasted $5 to $20 an outing this winter in swinging strikes) because I have no pride. Or balls. No pride or balls.

She turns on the 30 and 45 miles-an-hour machines, which is fine, because I'm just looking to shake off some rust, concentrate on my swing and undo bad habits fostered by a winter of goofing around in the living room while on the phone.

The 45 was about right, but I'm hearing the backstop way too much and I move down to the super slow cage. The main problem is that this is for little kids and they have much lower strike zones than say, oh, a 6-3 full-grown male. Yeah.

For the uninitiated, there are usually four-foot square scraps of heavy leather behind the batters to stop the balls you miss from hitting the cage and bouncing back at the back of your skull. The flipside of this is that ever pitch you miss makes an unmistakable "Whump!" behind you.

I see a kid come in as I'm taking a break and stretching out my back halfway through and think, "Crap, it's going to suck if he wants to split time in the cage. It's embarrassing and I'll be here longer than I'd like."

Not a problem, as the kid saunters by, goes two speeds higher and gets in his cage.

Another unmistakable sound in the batting cage? Aluminum bat on ball, over and over again. It kind of sounds like "little kid beating your ass," mixed with, "Well, guess my athletic prime is long gone or never was."

Poop makes people stay away

No sooner had I written, "Then, there's my dog. I swear he's marking territory in the hopes that both sets of neighbors pack up and leave - he's a fiesty little thing," this morning when I found out that our neighbors are moving in a few weeks. Like, in the very next interaction I had with them.

Guess the giant Pod out front should have been a good clue.

If this keeps up, I'm going to start crapping on the lawns of really nice homes and claim squatter's rights.

Heh, squatter's rights.

Not bad enough to be a bad dog, not good enough to be a great dog

So begins Day Two of the dog re-training program.

Anyone with a dog and a lawn knows the two don't mix too well. If they aren't tearing it to shreads, they're peeing burn out holes in it. If you've got a pretty easygoing dog, they tend to find a spot and stick with it.

Then, there's my dog. I swear he's marking territory in the hopes that both sets of neighbors pack up and leave - he's a fiesty little thing.

There was a time where "anywhere but in the house" was a major accomplishment, but now with our own yard, we're trying to narrow that the under the pine tree. Our landlords are really nice folks who don't feel right complaining too much. If we were to have the kitchen on fire when they came over, they'd probably settle for an e-mail sent a day or two later, letting us know that violates the "no smoking" clause in our lease.

Still, it'd be nice to have a decent lawn, for us and for them, which is why we're working on only going under the tree. Today I plan on adding landscape fill there and finishing it up over the weekend, so there we are.

This is all a result of his training, so it's our fault that he picks random spots all over the lawn to leave little surprises for everyone. And let's face it, it's not inside, so we're ahead of the curve on this matter.

Next up on the list is breaking him of his new habit of digging in the bathroom trash (only for Q-tips) and shredding any napkin left within his reach. For fans of the Dog Whisperer on the National Geographic channel, "He's no Ree-Tee-Teen." He can be calm and submissive, however.

While this may be far too many words on my dog's bathroom habits, it's priority one here. Nothing ruins good weather like stepping in dog shit or seeing little brown crop circles all over your lawn.

Monday, April 24, 2006

OK, idiots... One last time

The King of the Suburbs has outdone himself today with instructions on how babies are made - and just in time for prom season! - for Oswego High students.

Actually they may be clarifications for their parents who took the Amish route and have outlawed dry humping in all forms.

Oh, those kids and their MTV and their rap music... What will they hump on next? Did you say a coffee table? I bet it's the coffee table.

Little Richie told, "No"

Keeping with the (moreso than usual) Chicago theme today is news that Soldier Field has been stripped of its status as a national historic landmark status after it was ugly-fied a few years ago.

My immediate reaction? "They can do that? Sweet. Serves the bastards right."

It's one thing to upgrade a stadium (like Lambeau Field in Green Bay) or to add seating (like the Wrigley Field bleachers) but to do so like they did to Soldier Field? Pretty inexcusable. Had they stopped with extended seating and adding grass over underground parking lots, they'd have been fine.

Had they added the seating without disturbing the existing architecture or making an effort to blend the two, they'd have been in the clear.

But to push ahead and do whatever they damn well pleased, I think is where the problems began. It's worth noting that of the nearly 5,000 respondents as of right now, 82.1 percent agree with the move to strip Soldier Field of its status.

As noted by Blair Kamin in the piece, Mayor Richard M. Daley was a chief proponent of the redesign and now he gets left with egg on his face. This is a nice change of pace for the man who tore up Meigs Field under the cover of night, gouging giant X's into the runways before dawn and then moving ahead with plans to add park space there.

I was working as a reporter in Chicago at the time and after calling Daley's press secretary that morning was told essentially that it was no secret that Daley wanted green space there all along. That's fine, but there are ways to accomplish this, other than heavy equipment at 4 a.m.

It's kind of nice that the mayor who only hears the word "no" in the sentence, "No, sir, that shouldn't be a problem at all..." is left looking like a clown in this one and will be remembered as the mayor who destroyed Soldier Field.

Don't get me wrong, I've defended Daley on more than one occasion and point out that my trash was always picked up on the right day and my street got the snow cleared in a reasonable amount of time, but it's nice that he at least got slapped on this one.

For years to come (as they do now) tourists will visit the city and they come within view of Soldier Field, they'll ask, "What the hell is that?" And bemused tour guides, taxi drivers and city residents will half smirk and say, "Fucking Daley..."

(Photo from

What I wouldn't give for rotting wood some days

The Chicago Tribune has a cool little bit today on movies shot in and around Chicago and ran down some of the bigger titles to feature Chicago in a prominent way.

It's pretty nice, because usually when the city is featured in a movie, it's for a reason. For as many stories that could be placed at random (Uh, what are we going with here, Chicago or Cleveland? Doesn't really matter to me, but the set designers need to know whether there should be a White Sox or an Indians pennant in the kid's room...) the majority use Chicago as a great backdrop, not to mention as near to a character as it gets.

Aside from New York City and occasionally one of the California towns, Chicago has its niche and I'm always pretty happy to see it used as such, no matter how badly the story sucks.

However the Tribune did a major disservice to the city (aside from its management of the Cubs) by failing to mention High Fidelity in its little list. As much as I love the Blues Brothers and others (except for maybe My Best Friend's Wedding) it seems odd that this should be left out.

Chicago took over for London in the movie and actually added to the final product, in my opinion. It's also kind of cool to see the home of Championship Vinyl from the El at Milwaukee and Honore as you pass by.

Add to that location shots at the Green Mill and other bits and pieces and I think it does a gret job of hitting the details without overpowering the viewer with a travel piece like, oh, say Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Nothing against Ferris, but it plays like a commercial done by the city. (I will now pause to let the nerds get the goofs and flaws rants out of their systems. Better now? Good.)

While High Fidelity is a run away favorite for Chicago-based movies, nothing quite soothes the homesickness like Chicago By "L" which, as far as I can tell, is only available as part of a package deal with Chicago; City of the Century, which is a little pricey.

There's a standing order in our house that if the DVD is in, it's been a particlarly nasty day up north and that safe distances should be kept until my bad attitude blows over. This happens more frequently than you would guess.

The series on its own is amazing and follows the city from its founding to the opening of the World's Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893. I'll save you the song and dance from my days as a Chicago Trolley tour guide, but it's a great documentary that helps define Chicago today. It also keys on most of the things Chicagoans take pride in from being the first, biggest or best to a strong blue collar work ethic and tough streaks no matter what your station in life.

It's a really well done series and I recommend Netflixing it, if nothing else.

Finally, one movie that has been relegated to late night cable and dusty VHS boxes, About Last Night is mentioned a few times in the Tribune bit, which surprised me. While it's far from being the best movie on any list, this adaptation of a David Mamet work always reminds me of home for the touches they added around Demi Moore and Rob Lowe.

Despite being a vehicle for both as rising stars in the 80s, it captures the rooftops and back porches that come to mind when I think of home. In my early 20s everyone with an apartment in the city had the same standard issue back proch, despite wildly different living spaces inside.

While it was always interesting to see what accents and floorplans were used inside the near identical brick walk ups, the back porches were always the same. From this movie to others, such as Barbershop the wooden steps are always the most authentic piece of a Chicago apartment.

While they are in the process of upgrading and replacing them to bring them up to code, most have kept their charm though the process. Sure, you can pull out the rotten timbers, but most property owners are still going to slap up the same setups on the backs of those three flats and that's comforting. They've been the same since I was a kid and to be honest, the wrought iron just looks a little off to me at this point. I doubt I'm alone in this.

While Ferris may bring back memories for those who have spent a week or two downtown, hitting Wrigley and the Art Institute, About Last Night reminds me of living with three other guys in an old apartment, blowing fuses as window air conditioners kicked on and off in mid-July. Sitting out back with empty kegs floating in melted ice at 4 a.m. and debating whether or not the taco joint was till open is just another part of that, as were the first days of nice weather and nearly burning the damned things down with grill-related mishaps.

Good times.

As much as I hate to admit it, nothing takes me back quite as well as Jim Belushi on a rooftop. I really wish it was John in a used squad car.

(Photos from: /

Save early, save often

The Interweb is a little wonky today, so look for a few posts tonight.

Nothing is quite as disappointing as a few hundred words lost to the gremlins in cyberspace.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Family Guy, the stupid game

Another gem from today that details the early stages of the Family Guy game with screenshots.

Sweet Jesus.

I've started to go south on Family Guy with the recent beating by South Park going a long way to further bury the series. It can be funny, but lately the random jokes have just been weak and the homemade comedy has been getting annoying to say the least.

I realize that some people can't stand what are countless random pop culture references and moderate jokes. I also realize that television-based video games suck more often than not when it's not a sports-based title.

The Simpsons, in addition to losing its last leg three years ago, released two racing games, because the first one was so God awful. The benefit for the company is that no one can tell the two titles apart on sight, so parents out to buy, "The Simpsons racing game, have a 50-50 shot of buying the shitty one. Now that is a solid business plan.

I can't see how Family Guy is going to translate worth a damn and this thing is sunk if the voice acting sucks. I have now officially put more effort into this post than I'm guessing they'll put into the entire game.

Whereas sports games have helped to push live sports ahead (in terms of forcing better camera angles and encouraging the on-screen scoreboard), other titles don't seem to make the transition well at all. It's a pretty solid bet that if the TV commercial for an upcoming game has only cutscenes and no gameplay, you'd be better served feeding your $50 to a goat, because then you'll smell like a barnyard, making for a conversation starter the rest of the day, thus providing more entertainment than, oh, say The Fantastic Four game.

(Image from:

You are now free to move about the globe, if your balls are big enough

Southwest Airlines is making noises like it might be ready for international flights in addition to its current schedules to Chicago, Washington, DC and really, nowhere else of note. This is after the apparent addition of flights to Washington Reagan airport, which wasn't an option when I lived out east.

Want a simple, easy definition of, "That's a bitch?" Try working out the math on whether it's cheaper to fight traffic to Baltimore, park for a few days and fly Southwest or just fly out of town. Granted, it's just an hour or so to get up there on a good day, but ny past or current Northern Virginia residents will tell you there's really no such thing.

Also, don't get me started on Maryland drivers. I'm pretty sure their license plates are designed the way they are as a "do not touch" kind of thing, like bees and hornets.

A few years ago, ATA "went international" and everyone at Midway got drunk for about a week as they celebrated their new international status. Yes, Mexico is another nation, but it seemed kind of misleading that a move such as that would count as international flights.

It's like calling the Indianapolis Colts a "championship football team." Well, yes, you did win your division, but you did the bare minimum to earn that title.

I just wonder about Southwest sometimes. While they are a cheap airline and I kind of enjoy the festival seating concept, they always seem to be on that fine line between safe and ABC Movie of the Week waiting to happen. Let me state that I have never seen any evidence that they are anything but a safe, smart airline(don't sue me), but it just always makes me a little uneasy.

The thought of them crossing oceans and such? I just got a shiver down my spine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Super Vader Bros.?

Even for a big gaming year with a handful of titles crawling out of their parents basements and making it mainstream (World of Warcraft, Guitar Hero and Madden's usual fall dominance) Star Wars products had a pretty good year.

Taking three of the top ten best-selling games, Lucas Arts all but flooded the market with games running the gamut from the usual first-person shooter mode to what amounted to SimGalaxy with far-reaching intergalactic war games. Nice job, Lucas Arts.

Gamespot is now reporting that a Darth Vader game is in the works to cover the time missing between the old and new trilogies. This isn't such a bad thing, considering how well the production company has done over the years, both in its Star Wars spinoffs and other titles.

In the 90s, they helped lead the way in story-based, puzzle-solving titles with good plots and writing. While this sounds incredibly geek-centric, it really marked a departure from the usual shoot em ups and introduced Day of the Tentacle, The Dig and Sam and Max Hit the Road, an underrated, but phenomenal video game from the mid-90s.

Lucas Arts releases were an event for gamers and the nice thing was that the games would last forever because the puzzle sets weren't cakewalks. (Maybe we were jst dumb kids, in retrospect, but there's your endorsement - Lucas Arts, it'll keep dumb kids busy for hours!) From there, the Star Wars franchise followed on the heels of flying games with Jedi-based games and that leads us into their current lineups.

With those elements in place and a history for releasing quality games, I think this might be a better move than actually releasing a movie, juding by the disasters that the first two movies of the new trilogy were. Let's face it, Episode III wasn't much to write home about either, just better than the hogs that came before it.

Open-ended Vader-based combat? Sweeeeeet.

(Photo from

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

My Canadian citizenship papers are pending

Um... how serious of an option are nuclear strikes against Iran?

I realize that "all options are available" is a world away from "Now where did I put that launch code" but it's still kind of unsettling.

Plus it'd be a real bitch to make it through the entire Cold War without unpacking a warhead just to break the streak now. Also, isn't it more than a bit hypocritical to tell a nation that they are unfit to have a nuclear weapons program and then threaten to bomb them with the same weapons?

This seems to be the international diplomacy spin on, "Because I said so, that's why," from my parents when I was a kid. Or spanking a kid for hitting someone.

Monday, April 17, 2006

There are worse things than being a monkey

My final thoughts for now on the 10 Moments That Unexpectedly Changed America (which strangely fails to list the invention of the bacon taco - patent pending) was on the episode revolving around the Scopes Monkey trial in 1925.

First off, I was clueless to the fact that the whole episode was pre-planned by the town of Dayton, Tenn., as a publicity stunt to test a new law, barring the teaching of Darwinian Theory, and in doing so raise tourism in the small town.

With John Scopes' cooperation, he taught Darwinism to a science classroom and was promptly arrested, setting up the showdown between science and religion. I'll spare you the full history lesson, but suffice to say, religion got smacked around by Clarence Darrow, but has kept fighting (and winning ever since). There are a few other little twists and turns, thanks to Tennessee trial law, and it makes for a good story - in fact it was a good story, Inherit the Wind.

Now, we get to the good part, essentially years of assholes yelling, "I didn't come from no monkey!" at the top of their collective lungs. If you ask me a.) monkeys are some of the funniest and coolest animals on earth, so don't knock it and b.) most of the people yelling such nonsense are my top contestants for "least evolved" to begin with.

In the show that aired, they cited a statistic that 80 percent of people in Japan and Europe are on board with Darwinism as their preferred explanation for how we all got here. Compare that to a near dead heat in the United States.

Think about that for a few minutes. Go grab a cup of coffee down the hall at work or look out your window at home and try to grasp the fact that every other person you see doesn't believe in the theory of evolution (statistically speaking). Despite crushing mounds of scientific evidence to the contrary, half of all Americans refuse to believe in natural selection and all the good ideas that come with it.

I realize in my little slice of readers here there are some really rational, really bright folks. We have cancer researchers in school for more knowledge, post-grads in mathematics with government job offers on the table, lawyers and others who I'm guessing all put some stock into Darwinian theory.

Hearing that half and half split was one of the most shocking things I've heard in months. I guess I just assumed that those who bought into Intelligent Design were the same small but vocal minority who get nudity and foul language banned from public airwaves and write letter upon letter whenever South Park makes fun of them or Scientologists. I now stand corrected.

It's much the same feeling you get when you travel to Gettysburg after never living in the South. While I respect the fact that grandfathers and other long-gone relatives fought and died on both sides and that families from the former Confederacy will come and visit gravesites and battlegrounds, it's jarring when the subtext of "We were so close..." is heard there.

In several of the National Parks that now protect these battlefields, I've heard variations on this theme and it's a little weird. Not to over-generalize or pile on the South, but I'd bet these groups intersect quite a bit. It's commendable to have a belief in God, but even as a kid in Catholic school, they gave us the option of the "Grand Watchmaker" theory that a higher power set everything up and then let it run its course, which I personally feel a lot better about.

All of this reminds me of an NPR story that played in the summer of 1997 when they were speaking to former astronauts on their belief in God and their work with the space program. One of the men said something that has stuck with me ever since, when he said that working in outer space did nothing but confirm his belief that there were larger forces in play.

He said that the amount of time, work and calculation that needed to be done to keep a human being alive outside of the earth's atmosphere made him more sure of God than anything else in his life. I've heard much the same thing from nurses in operating rooms who say that to look into a human being and see the networks of blood vessels, organs and bone suggests that it wasn't a big accident that everything was put together correctly.

Simply put and to paraphrase Michael Crichton in the book version of the Lost World, when you see a bat with it's ability to fly and echolocate and do all the things a bat does and chalk that up to random selection is the same as watching a cyclone hit a junkyard and assemble a fully-functional 727. There's just no way that with that much in play that you get those results on accident.

Finally, the last major point to be made is that the trial opened the floodgates for religion in public spaces. Whether that is a classroom or otherwise, the build up (and subsequent upholding of the initial law) can only be seen as a victory for religion over science. While religion got its nose bloodied in the final showdown outside the courtroom, the fact that the law held meant that numerous other states were able to follow in its footsteps to hold sway over what could be forced into classrooms.

Me? I'm still pulling for the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He touched me with his noodly appendage.

(Photo from: /

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saving baseball one fan at a time

I am a man who is slow to anger, but incredibly easy to annoy. Annoyances drive me to distraction and quickly become consuming forces in my life. This is only exacerbated by my surroundings, so it's safe to say that a dome full of Minnesota residents is already a recipe for disaster (and fill that with Yankee fans like Friday night and it gets worse. Before we were able to make it outside after the game, I'd dropped two f-bombs and was more than ready to fistfight a man in his 60s, no joke.)

Baseball games are one of those things where I wholeheartedly believe there is a standard of conduct that all fans should be aware of and abide by. I am not asking for an army of drones, all silently filling out scorecards, nor am I asking that everyone find their seat and stay planted, like going to the opera. Baseball is fun and passionate and that's part of the charm of seeing games live, but we need some ground rules here.

For instance:

Grown men with gloves are a major pet peeve of mine. If I were handed the keys to a Major League franchise this afternoon, I would all but instantly employ a small army of children to wander about, find men over 18 with a glove and punch them in the testicles.

No joke.

I imagine that kids would be all about this job and if I could find a way around those pesky child labor laws, I'd be in the clear. I think this just the kind of deterrent needed in ballparks around the country to end this national embarrassment.

The odds of a ball landing in your section are pretty low for any game you go to. Most will end up in the stands on the first-base side, a few peppered into the third base seats and a handful deeper down the foul lines. Sitting in the upper deck drops those odds and outdoor stadiums limit this even further because the roof will keep high foul balls from ever seeing the seats.

The point is that it is very rare for foul balls to find the fans. This is why if someone came into your office on Monday morning and told you they caught a foul ball, you'd think it was pretty cool.

Now, assuming you beat the odds and a ball finds its way to you, most of the time it's not a screaming line drive, which even if you had a glove would be tough to catch, it's a loping fly which gives you plenty of time to get set and get two hands up. That's assuming you can reach through a sea of arms all trying for the same ball. There's a better chance of someone taking the ball off their noggin, given all the confusion.

I'd even be willing to allow gloves in the outfield where you could catch homers - the idea being that you want the best chance to hang on if it's hit your way - but the argument should boil down to three points.

1.) You are a grown-assed man. Do the math, you're not seeing a baseball unless you buy it at the gift shop.
2.) If a ball comes your way, stand up, get ready and use both hands.
3.) No one is going to see you brought your glove and ask you to play catch during the seventh-inning stretch or pitch in garbage time. It's not your lack of a glove that will keep you off the field, it's the fact that you haven't touched your toes since 1977.

My team isn't playing guy is a sticky situation. Where is the line for what passes for acceptable attire, especially with regards to teams that aren't playing in that ballpark on that day? I think a hat is OK in most cases - for example, wearing a Brewers hat to an Oakland vs. Seattle game - as long as you don't overdo it with a jersey and facepaint.

For your team playing that day, anything goes. I have made it a priority to wear a full uniform, including pants and possibly spikes, to a game at some point in my adult life, so the rest is all fair game. Jerseys, hats all of this is OK as long as that team is playing.

What I'm talking about was the knucklehead behind us Friday in a Cubs jersey from two years ago with "Garciaparra" on the back. Sooo... team isn't playing here, with a player who isn't in Chicago anymore? How is this a good idea?

The subsections here are "My parents never hugged me guy" who wears strange wigs, giant sunglasses, etc. to try and get on TV. Giant foam cowboy hats are classic. Looking like an extra from Mad Max is not. (More on this some other time.)

Kids getting up and down all damn game are another real problem for me. People of any age getting up during play are the real issue. Baseball is a slow moving game - glacial in spots - so time it right.

If you're hungry, wait for the inning break or at least an out if you're sitting near an aisle. When you come back, wait for another break in gameplay to return. It's that simple.

There are very specifically defined moments that are important in a ballgame. It infuriates me when I miss one because someone comes back and needs to shove their way down the row after going to grab nachos or a bathroom break.

While I used to watch a few innings and then ask my dad to wander Wrigley Field with me, we always waited. This is the single greatest thing you ca teach your child about a baseball game - wait for the inning to end before you disrupt two rows of people. Wait to come back until there is a good break in the game.

This could be another punchable offense in my book. Better yet would be a seperate section for people who don't give a damn about the game. Sit them somewhere in the upper deck - preferrably without seats - and just let them mill about until it's time for a hot dog or to go pee.

I will now wait for the General Manager offers to roll in.

(Photo from:

Killing me with kindness

I was taking a nap Friday afternoon and with the really spectacular weather we're seeing, the windows are all open. It's really been kind of nice and the house is good and aired out after a winter that had beaten me into submission on several levels.

The dog is still getting used to the sounds that bombard the house because there is not ambient noise here. Let's just say that we can hear people opening cans of soda two blocks away because there is no natural noise caused by the usual hallmarks of civilization.

Well, across the street on the corner was a lemonade stand with a herd of little chattering monkeys running about, shouting about it. I say if I can get nasty letters from neighbors and the city about my dog barking at 2 p.m. on a weekend because it interrupts some little booger-eater's nap, I should have some avenue to complain when these little cretins run wild in our neighborhood, but I digress.

The point is that you can hear really, really well here and what were the kids yelling? "Free lemonade! Free lemonade!"

Free? Are you fucking kidding me? Free?

Minnesota nice is a strange and dangerous thing. It both confuses and terrifies me.

(Graphic from:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The job I'm applying for today

After months of looking for full-time work up here in the frozen wastelands of America's northern frontier, it's getting a little dicey.

The jobs I'd like aren't hiring or aren't paying much. The jobs I'd classify as soul-crushing or utter wastes of time are the former and the latter.

However, in a grand showing of the universe's far-reaching wisdom, I saw the greatest job in the city two nights this week as we sat embroiled in gridlock trying to leave Twins games in "downtown" Minneapolis.

As cars sit and idle, locked in the same spot for three and four traffic signal cycles, I pondered what could be holding things up. "There'd better be a fatality," I'd say and for the first time, kind of meant it.

Like the opening scene of Office Space there were old men and tree sloths powering down the sidewalks faster than the progress made by the cars waiting patiently (and not so patiently) to move ahead and reach the highway five or six blocks from the main parking lots.

I think you could explain string theory to a classroom of second graders faster than it takes cars to clear the area the past two nights we've been there. In my disgust, I mumbled something about there not being anything better for the cops to do in this town, why not traffic enforcement and then it hit me a block from the highway.

There were cops on the job and they were doing nothing about the gridlock.

Instead of fanning out and waving cars through intersections, relieving some of the pressure and allowing local traffic to move along quickly to clear a path to the expressway, they were sitting around, repeatedly sticking their thumbs in their asses, pulling them out and sticking them back in.

While one stood on the little island that hold the existing traffic signal, the other was on the sidewalk wandering about in small circles. A half block from the on-ramps, two cops milled around in a gas station parking lot, doing (you guessed it) nothing at all.

These people have come to be known in my angry little world as the Minneapolis Department of Traffic Confirmation. It seems they are paid to stand and watch as traffic snarls to a standstill and just be there to confirm the fact that yes, the traffic flow leaving the Metrodome is all jacked up.

It's frustrating enough when the city isn't doing anything about a shockingly obvious problem. It borders on barely contained homicidal tendancies when you get to the end of the line and find four people doing nothing to help with the situation.

As I'm quickly learning - Minnesota and its residents are fucking worthless.

(Photo from

Thursday, April 13, 2006

You knew Elvis? I didn't know Elvis hung out with little mutants.

Although it'd be nice to see what he'd be doing these days, Elvis may have checked out right on time. With the collection of leeches and assorted chuckleheads that continue to sponge money off of Presley's name to this day, I can only imagine how difficult it would have gotten for him to start telling people, "No."

For the record, I am by no means a major Elvis fan. I like the music for the most part, find the stories about his generosity endearing and can appreciate the national landmark status he has achieved. I catch Elvis documentaries on TV (there was one the other night in the 10 Moments series I wrote about the other day), live for his cheesy major motion pictures, but I'm not camping out at Graceland or anything. I know enough without the obsession factor.

By many accounts, Elvis loved giving his money away, giving Cadillacs as gifts and seemed like an all-around good guy. He realized how blessed he'd been in his life and career and tried to spread the wealth a little. Unlike current stars who have done this and ultimately bankrupted themselves, Elvis moved enough cash that he was able to fund these spending sprees.

There's a small documentary, 200 Cadillacs on Netflix that's pretty charming and worth a look if you need to fill your queue that focuses on this and you can pretty much get a feel for those who stood around with a hand out looking for free loot and those who were uncomfortable by the whole thing.

Jerry Schilling seems to be one of the guys who loved working for Elvis, but wasn't too keen on the lavish gifts that were constantly being given. I can respect that.

George Klein is a radio personality who was tapped for the most recent documentary and I'm surprised they were able to crowbar him off of Presley's corpse long enough to get a microphone on him. What a whore.

(Let me stop here and say that with my limited knowledge of Elvis' posse, Klein may have been a legit best buddy with Elvis. As I have never seen him before, I think I'm OK here, but if he's one of the good guys, my apologies. That said, I don't think I'm wrong.)

If Klein could record his voice saying, "Elvis and me..." or "So I says to Elvis... I says, Elvis..." and wire them to play when a button is pushed he could save a lot of time and stress on his vocal cords. Why, you ask? Because this starfucking little punk will only start sentences with those two variations of the same thought from what I saw.

If you ever have a chance to eat dinner with this douchebag, I'd say go for it. I'd love to hear this ass sucking little chump try to order dinner for starters.

You: "I'll have the bacon cheeseburger, no pickles and with the cole slaw."
Waiter: "Very good, and for you sir?"
Klein: "Elvis and me used to always get waffles for dinner. Elvis and me used to also want a Coke with that. Elvis and me would also like separate checks..."

The waiter would think your name was Elvis, which would be cool in and of itself, plus it'd be an evening with a suped-up third-person name dropper. Like eating with Bob Dole and Bob Dole. (Is anyone else shocked that there aren't hundreds of Elvises running around? Is this some unwritten rule of the South? They're the only ones screwy enough to do so and they haven't yet. Or do they all just stay at home and never venture out as the Golden children of their families?)

The whole thing is just kind of distasteful to me. If you were Elvis' friend, that's fine and there are understated ways to point that out, because let's face it, it's gotta be a great pickup line. Still, in interviews with band members, close friends like Schilling (who has several great stories in 200 Cadillacs) and other people who knew Elvis well, they take a step back from the big man and let him be the hero and focal point.

Klein needs to be the one counseling Elvis, pointing things out for him, holding his hand and walking him through life. I don't buy a second of it. Can you only imagine how many more of these dickheads would be floating around with another 30 years to breed?

I don't know if Elvis faked his death, but if he did, it was to duck George Klein and his incessant phone calls.

(Photo from

Colin Farrell may or may not smell like Bigfoot's dick

On the list of celebrities that I'd least want to catch a snootful, I think Colin Farrell is right up there behind Christina Aguilera and King Kong. Also Jack Black, seems like he'd be a little ripe.

But, oh, those wacky Japanese and their technology will be showing The New World in Smell-o-vision. Great, a movie about unwashed men in the 1600s wandering around in swamps? Sounds like a perfect first run for this new idea.

Farrell just seems like a dicey choice for this type of thing. I can't recall the last movie (or public appearance) where it didn't seem like a squeegee and a bucket would provide enough lubricant to keep an Escalade's engine moving for 50 miles.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Kirby Puckett touched my balls

Ah, the Home Opener for the Twins. The moment where I officially become a Season Ticket Holder. All of this and awkward remembrances of Kirby Puckett? Sign me up.

First off, if you want a good working definition of, "What the fuck is happening here?" it's having Sounds of Blackness sing the National Anthem in Minneapolis. For the record, I saw one non-white person the entire time I was at the Metrodome tonight.

One. At the end. Not counting the guys on the field. One. Sounds of Blackness. (They did a great job, by the way, but it was possibly the strangest name to hear over the loudspeakers in Minnesota. I haven't had a harder time containing myself for a National Anthem since a group of deaf children sang at Wrigley Field last year with little to no warning.

(I just remember the looks I saw on people's faces about two or three lines in - again it wasn't made clear that deaf children would be singing that evening, so the whole thing just unfolded like a sick joke. First the singing, then the confused looks and smirks, then reading "School for the Deaf" on the center field scoreboard. It's not like you can laugh during the Star Spangled Banner, especially when it's being sung by the deaf, but we were shown no love by the public address announcer. None. I'm just saying a warning, in that situation, is not too much to ask, is it?)

This time around, we were all standing for the names and photos of local servicemen and women who had died over the winter while serving in Iraq. This was followed by former players who had passed away, capped by Kirby Puckett. It's really hard to know what's appropriate in that sort of situation. Half the crowd cheered, the other half got a weird feeling that it might be like cheering that he'd died (I was in that group). Just strange.

After that's done, the band is set, the flag is spread out over the outfield and they announce Sounds of Blackness. If there was a way to hear thought, the Metrodome probably would have done the Sheila Broflovski What, what, whaaaaa??? at that moment. Good stuff.

This was followed by the Puckett memorial of sorts and considering that there was already eulogized right after his death, the whole thing seemed kind of weird. I'm not sure where it came from, but one of the Twins' broadcasters read a eulogy that may or may not have been written for the first time around and was recycled tonight.

Then, some guy with an acoustic guitar comes out and sings "Kirby Puckett, touch 'em all..." over and over and over and over and again for what seemed like 10 minutes. While the Girl decided to read the Twins media guide from cover to cover at this point, I kept hearing, "Kirby Puckett touched my balls," for nine minutes and thirty seconds. This was six or seven times more entertaining than the actual performance on its own.

Then Jack Morris (referred to as Jake Morris in the story) comes out and was kind of a cocksucker about all of it. A small history lesson, first: The Twins won the World Series in 1991 and 1987, winning in seven games both times. Morris was a hometown product who played one season with Puckett in 1991, winning the World Series MVP that year.

In Game 6, the game goes to the 10th inning when Puckett hit a homer off of Charlie Leibrandt to force Game 7. He'd also made a crucial catch earlier to keep the Twins in striking distance, but the thing everyone remembers is that homer. After he passed away, that was far and above the most played clip of Puckett.

Morris is then given the start in Game 7 and goes 10 innings and when the Twins come up to bat, Puckett is one of two intentional walks that load the bases for pinch hitter Gene Larkin to come in and drive in the winning run, picking up Minnesota's second title in five years.

Tonight, Morris gets up there, is one of the least engaging public speakers I've ever heard and proceeds to use really odd language in the vein of (and I'm paraphrasing here) "If Kirby doesn't hit that home run, maybe I don't have a chance to do what I did the next night..."

Uh, gee, Jack, you think? Fine to point out that you were the MVP of the series, not the well-loved dead guy, but do you really need to piss all over his memorial service like that? It just seemed kind of shitty that he'd downplay Puckett's role in all of it and then draw the attention back to him. Dick.

Without Puckett's catch, they probably aren't in a position to win Game 6 in the 11th and probably don't get that hit in that spot, either. Guess what, pigfucker - the MVP trophy rarely goes to the pitcher from the losing team. Not sure what their history is or was, but it just seemed all the more classless given the situation.

Kirby Puckett's kids, Catherine and Kirby Jr., came in to throw out the first pitches, so that was pretty nice and they found one of Oakland's coaches who'd played with him and Torii Hunter, a Puckett disciple to catch for them, kind of a nice moment after Morris had finished wiping his ass with Kirby's jersey and then did the "dog has ass worms" butt scoot over the big number 34 in center field.

Just seems like the whole thing was lacking to me. Maybe the big memorial immediately following his death was different, but this time it seemed like everything was thrown together at the last minute, almost like the publicity department found out Friday afternoon that the radio stations were telling everyone there'd be a Puckett service and they had to scramble to make arrangements.

Then they called Morris, who was boning Puckett's dog at the time and he agreed to come down and speak after he'd called local hospitals pretending to be a state sheriff who was warning them to keep Puckett away from the maternity wards because he eats babies, but before he lit all the funeral wreathes on fire.

All class, that Jack Morris. What a douche.

Even's coverage was pretty second rate. What's up with interviewing a kid who'd never see Puckett play? They couldn't find one Twins fan with a memory of him? Did the reporter even get out of his car, or did he run up the expense account at the hotel bar last night, leaving him with no money for parking?

Other than that, the scoreboard went on the misspell "pitcher," gave the wrong number to Barry Zito, the public address screwed up Huston Street's name (Hutson, Huston, same diff...) and called Kiko Calero "Kiki."

Is this nitpicky?

Kinda, but when you nail Justin Duchscherer's name and can't place an All-Star, what the hell are you doing in that job? Come on now. Our guess is that with everyone down to the equipment managers being introduced, there might have been a mix-up ("Really? We need everyone's name on the JumboTron? Shit, OK, have the "Touch My Balls Guy"sing another two minutes, we'll copy and paste from the A's Web site.")

In all, kind of a sloppy game, which shows why the Twins are behind in the standings out of the gate. In one of those video game moments, starter Danny Haren took a no-hitter into the third and then couldn't find his breath on the mound as the runs piled up and he got shelled for six quick runs. Just one of those meltdown innings, but it was enough to sink the A's tonight.

I'd like to say that it was a powerful evening and the Twins really felt they had to go out there for a fallen friend, but all told, it was a pretty sloppy game with pitching falling short overall.

There are a few other bits and pieces here, but it's getting late and it's a long season, so there's plenty of time for that. On the horizon, though, are traffic patterns, stupid nicknames and my quickly filling list of baseball-related offenses that require fans to be rabbit punched in the testicles.

(Photo from /

How hard would you fight? How long would you fight?

The History Channel is running a phenomenal series this week that focuses on the 10 moments in United States history that unexpectedly changed America. The concept and the execution have been pretty flawless through the first two days, despite only having an hour per event, spanning from the Gold Rush to the Scopes Monkey Trial.

Opening night was Sunday (and for the TiVo people, they run repeats at 1 and 2 a.m., EST) when they covered Antietem as a turning point for southern support, the Emancipation Proclamation and the bloodiest day of fighting in United States history and followed it with the Mystic Massacre.

While Antietam is one of my favorite battlefields from the Civil War, I had no idea what I was getting in for with the Mystic episode, other than it presumably would occur in Connecticut.

On May 26, 1637, (Yes? No, that won't be on the exam. No dates on the exams, people, let's concentrate on the historical impact and the key players, OK?) English colonists working with other tribes they'd talked into helping with the raid, went to a large Pequot encampment, slipped in through the palisades and slaughtered as many of the tribe as they could. In addition to killing the warriors inside, they mowed down women and children and burned the village to the ground.

This was in direct opposition to promises made to the other tribes, who asked that the women and children be spared. One of the points of the program was to address how Indian warfare to that point had never included the concept of annihilation. People were spared and the tribes, while beaten survived.

Mystic was the first step taken by the Europeans to wipe out entire tribes through violence and it was the end of peaceful interactions between natives and settlers for years upon years. Two years alter, the Pequot War was over, but the pattern had been set by the Europeans on how to forcefully drive the Indians from the land.

What struck me most about the episode was the attention given to the philosophical differences between the two groups and the role that played. Granted, the 1600s were not a time of cultural sensitivity (although asking the Iraqis about the new millennium might get you the same answers) but the Europeans almost went out of their way to antagonize the native peoples in America.

"(The settlers) didn't see any native churches, there was no architecture," said Kevin McBride, Anthropology professor at the University of Connecticut. "What the Europeans really didn't understand was that the native perception of the world was fundamentally different than theirs."

Differences in how property was acquired and held, along with almost polar opposite views in religion and living in and around nature only widened the gap. While the Indians were content to live with the land and work within its framework, European ideals dictated that the land must be beaten into submission, cleared and farmed. Only then did it become "their" land.

While the Indians were at home in the Northeast, the settlers would wander off and get lost easily, having to be returned by well-meaning Indians who found them stumbling about in the woods. This only fueled the English distaste for the unconquered lands.

In these ways, philosophical differences lead to early skirmishing and "good neighbor" issues that exploded that early morning near Mystic. At that point, the Indians were pushed into fighting for the ever cliches "way of life" whether they meant to or realized what the underlying reasons were.

It's an interesting proposition, but one that continually reappears throughout history - when a superior military force invades and pushes its beliefs and ideals upon everyone else. While this is a massive oversimplification of the process, it makes me wonder how far I'd be willing to bend if put in the same position.

Place yourself inside the palisade walls in Mystic a week before the raid and try to get a handle on just how far you'd be willing to give up on everything you knew and you see how tough this would be.

For the sake of this argument, let's pull in some current events with Darren Daulton. I'll refrain from cheap shots at his expense (umm, at least right now), but he went on SportsCenter Sunday night (after an article in Sports Illustrated) talking about metaphysics and how he now flies about, sans airplane, and can time travel and such. There's a lot going on for Dutch and it all sounds pretty bizarre.

Now, take those claims of time travel and fourth and fifth dimensions and imagine those being imposed upon you as your family is falling ill from mysterious illnesses when they aren't being out and out destroyed by the same people who are advocating metaphysics. That puts you in the ballpark of the Pequots.

On the military side, even now, we've backed away from wholesale exterminations of entire groups of people. While it still happens, I think most of the developed nations would take issue if word broke that their troops had rounded up women, children and the elderly and wiped them all out. What would happen if the United States was slowly being annexed, state by state, by Canada or Mexico?

The United States is trying to put the brakes on it, telling anyone who will listen that we own this land and the Canadians are saying, "Well, not really - in order to 'own' the land you need to have a tire repair shop within five miles."

The US can look and say they're capable of building those, but choose not to, because they have no need to do so and think it's a pretty arbitrary way to show ownership, but the Canadians don't budge.

Next, they're telling US citizens that their belief system is out of whack. They are appalled that men don't stay home to raise children to the age of seven. Men are taking the easy way out and the Canadians are going to change that. The list goes on and on and the Canadian steamroll the upper Midwest and Northeast, converting when convenient, destroying most of what they see and leveraging states against one another until it's no longer convenient.

It's really pretty baffling to me once I get my head moving on it. For groups that left for the New World to avoid religious persecution and supposedly were among the most fervent followers, they were also unendingly violent and merciless when dealing with the people they found here. All of this while it becomes pretty clear that it wasn't entirely a land grab, either.

Secondly, I thought some of the structure of the episode was curious. For instance, the settlers (see, even I'm doing this - they could just as easily be invaders) are always referred to as "the English." While this is historically accurate, I can't remember one of the historians referring to them as "us" or "we" in the hour-long documentary.

Also, the final segment of 15 minutes or more follows a different story arc of the Pequot tribes being killed, sold into slavery, legally banned from speaking the language or the name "Pequot" and told never to return. Say what you will about the Europeans, but they have the subjugation of native peoples down. Years pass and one of the slaves finds himself working in the governor's mansion, befriends his son and secures land for the Pequot tribe.

Flashing ahead to the 1960s and 1970s, three elderly women refuse to give up on their people, hold onto the land and convince their children and grandchildren to come and make a stand as well. Now, they are the owners of the largest casino in the United States and are the major economic engine in the region as they had been in the 1600s.

None of this makes the process right, though. The show was wrapped up in a neat little bow and just because the tribe has made a striking comeback isn't cause for the show to go out on an "all's well that ends well" note.

After an attempted eradication, legal maneuvers to force the extinction of the tribe, repeated land grabs by the government and declaring the Pequots extinct, things are not peachy now that there is a casino with steady revenue involved. Personally, I found the ending a bit insulting.

How much is it worth to you to move on from having your ancestors burned alive as they tried to flee their homes in the middle of the night? How many new cars will it cost to forget that for centuries, the government you answer to legally barred you from celebrating Oktoberfest or making baklava? How much financial security does it take to ease the sting of being told by your grammar school teacher, "Oh, you're Polish? No, honey, the Polish have been extinct for years now. You must be mistaken."

I can't speak from experience, but I'm pretty sure it'll never be enough.

(Photos from: / /

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Aww, hell. Did we get the wrong guy?

In 1989 was there really a difference between Alex Winters and Keanu Reeves? I mean other than hair color and height? Was there any sentence you could string together then where the two weren't entirely interchangeable, as in, "That guy from Bill and Ted just got the part in Point Break."

Would anyone have been able to tell the difference at that point? If you took Reeves and Winters, switched their profiles and showed them to your 1989 self and explained that yes, Winters (real-life Reeves) did go on to have a successful career, would you have been surprised? Yeah, I don't think so, either. They both had blank stares, stilted deliveries and only a tentative grasp on the concept of what an actor was supposed to do. I'm thinking more along the lines of third grade pageants, where just learning the lines is enough of an accomplishment.

In all honesty, the one thing that kept me awake Saturday night (not for hours and hours, but maybe two or three minutes) was wondering what place in history Deacon (Ted's little brother who ditches Napoleon after getting ice cream) would occupy.

Seriously, what is his historical counterpart at this point of someone who facilitated a great event without being all that irreplaceable. There are plenty in history who did the job, like Paul Revere, but who put the saddle on Revere's horse. This seems to be the level where one would find Deacon.

Also, would people in the future vilify him for ditching Napoleon? Even is he was a dick as Deacon contended? In much the same way that our historians look at Gen. George McClellan as being too timid and are somewhat shocked that the Union army was able to win at all, and at times, in spite of him, would Deacon be seen as a roadblock to history?

Conversely, as he was one of the only players in that crazy day in San Dimas, would he and Missy have separate parades in the future? I'm sure Missy would be looked upon as favorably as anyone in history for her part in driving Bill and Ted around and helping them out as best she could, but what at what level? Parades? Monuments? Picture on currency?

I think we need a third movie to tie some of these loose ends up.

Also, Missy is not as hot in retrospect. Like, not much at all. Even Joan of Arc (played by Go-Gos bassist, Jane Wiedlin, who knew?) is looking better in the movie. Just worth noting that Missy has not held up after a decade and a half.

Ox, however and his assertation that San Dimas football rules, has. I even found an online Q&A with him, go figure. I see his cult status approaching that of Boba Fett's someday, perhaps with a spinoff movie of his own. The question arises as to who rules above all else - San Dimas or Knibb High. Maybe the two of them can get a movie together with the guys from Varsity Blues.

Finally, explain this. Despite advanced technology that makes time travel and other wonders possible, the antennae on the phone booth is made from what appears to be coat hangers and a stripped umbrella. So, instead of a smaller antennae like a walkie talkie that is made of compact rubber and more durable, they have to deal with the other design?

It didn't appear that the original design had any sort of antennae on top, but it's obviously needed to make the phone booth go. What gives? Were product engineers done away with in the future? I mean, there's a reason why engines are surrounded by metal in cars, why wasn't this carried through in the future?

Why would they leave such a vital component so unprotected? Stupid future dwellers. Apparently wireless connectivity remains a problem in the future as well. Damn.

(Photos from

Friday, April 07, 2006

From bad to worse

His career or his wife, you pick which one is more appropriate for the title of the post. If you're opposed to cheap shots, maybe you should just skip this outing, because it's going to be really easy on this one and I'm not sure I can resist.

Word from is that Mr. Spears, Kevin Federline is getting slapped by Thomas Dolby. I'll wait while you access who that might actually be. Need a hint? She blinded me with science! Yeah, that guy, welcome back, that guy and good to see you've found work as a James Carville impersonator.

The long and short of it is that Federline is a theif in addition to being a talentless leeching fuck up. He allegedly lifted a beat from MobbDeep who had legally obtained the track from Dolby. Initially Mobb Deep didn't say anything, presumably because they are on the same label as Federline's meal ticket.

Well, Dolby isn't having any of it. According to MTV:

"Mobb Deep came to me and asked for a license," said Dolby, who was paid a fee and receives royalties for Mobb Deep's song. "We issue licenses all the time, for movies and TV shows and so on. I was aware of the Mobb Deep one, but I certainly never issued a license to Kevin Federline."

Dolby caught wind of the expletive-filled song, which begins with the line "This is for the haters," through a fan's posting on his own Web site's forum and made a plea to Federline on his blog.

"I considered turning a blind eye to it other than, as I mentioned on my site, asking him politely to take it down," Dolby said. "But I found out today that it aired on VH1 last week. So it's more than just an MP3 download. It's airing on TV, and there's no question it's taken from the Mobb Deep record. It's like what Vanilla Ice did with 'Ice Ice Baby' [illegally sampling Queen and David Bowie's 'Under Pressure'], although I think Vanilla Ice is a superstar compared to this guy."

While Jay-Z hasn't passed the bar yet, he knows enough so the cops don't illegally search his shit. Federline presumably hasn't had that much schooling, or any for that matter, but just the image of Mobb Deep having track down Dolby for permission seems funny to me. In fact any of these rappers having to do this gives me the giggles. I assume their lawyers do all of this, but in my world, D12 would have to go over to Elton John's house and have to politely ask permission to use his work. Then they'd have tea and tiny sammiches.

Back to Federline, in addition to having such a sure bet in Britney go south on him - who was the last person to have such a sudden and shocking change of luck? Maurice Clarett? Hurley on Lost? - he now has Dolby breathing down his neck and making unfavorable comparisons to Vanilla Ice.

Seems like the perfect time to grab a pack of Kools, a few MGDs and just try to unwind this weekend if you're Federline. Repeat after me, buddy, "It's still better than whatever trailer you crawled out from under... It's still better..."

(Photo from

Thursday, April 06, 2006

God damn! Is that logical or what?

Oh, Chicago's grid system, how I miss you so.

Though you may have weird dead-ends in spots and slash streets that run on diagonals (Archer, Southwest Hwy., Lincoln, etc.) for the most part, you run north and south and east and west, without fail.

Such a beautiful design... simple, elegant, less cluttered than Daniel Burnham had wished, but delightful to navigate nonetheless. Back in the day, with four young men in their early 20s, we did a lot of running around and chasing girls.

To do this, we'd need to actually leave the apartment, sometimes at different hours or from work or other obligations. "How do I get there?" one of us would ask. "Oh, the apartment is at Clark and Waveland," the other would say. "Gotcha," the first guy would say.

When it got really difficult with streets we didn't know too well or other neighborhoods, all (ALL!) we'd need to know were the cross streets. "It's 2000 west, right off of Addison," they'd say. Then we would go, party and return home alone. Ah, good times.

This morning, I had a meeting near the University of Minnesota and regardless of what any of these lutefisk-eating fucks tells you, the city of Minneapolis is not on a grid. I left an hour early for a 15-minute trip just in case and were it not for my nerdy side, I'd have been embarrassingly late.

Honestly, I had forgotten my near-blinding rage at the mouth breathers who designed this town (it's not like they had to build around anything, right? Or would need to if they wanted to build more stuff tomorrow morning) until I read The Blog That I Hate.

The Blog That I Hate is done by a self-important chowderhead friend of the Girl. I'm paraphrasing here, but he spoke of teaching someone the super-difficult grid system... Honestly, I can train a chimp to follow a simple grid-based street system, there's no trick to it. The problem is the Minneapolis "grid" is about four blocks square downtown and was probably designed by accident, like a potato chip that looks like a spaceship or a basset hound that looks like Richard Nixon. The grid idea could probably be continued easily if there were more bridges over the surrounding rivers, but the engineers are too polite to disturb the local wildlife... or the rivers. The rest of it? Not a grid. Not even close.

The thing is that if anyone can't navigate in this town, I can completely understand that. It's like being out east, only there's no rhyme or historical reason for the snakepits that regularly snarl with hundreds of out of towners as they try to flee. I think they were put in at the urging of the local hotel industry.

However, those who can't handle a true grid or Minneapolis' mini-grid should be quietly driven into a truck trailer, Knight Rider style, shot in the head and pushed out the back on a long stretch of desert somewhere in the southwest where Mother Nature, coyotes and the homeless will take care of disposing of the bodies and their wallets.

Friends and family of these people won't be a bit surprised and at least the deceased themselves will go out on top, with their heads hanging out the window, making siren sounds as bugs smack into their court-ordered helmets. (Why yes, that is a nice helmet. Yes, those do look like Viking horns... Saaaaaay, have you seen the inside of the super-awesome ice cream and puppy truck yet?)

(Photo from Google Images/

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

This Missouri television station got their hands on a tornado whipping through town this week. Not sure how long it'll be on their front page, so if you're interested in weather like I am... that's a total lie, I just like to see shit get ripped apart and thrown through walls and such.

I'm not so much a weather fan as a destruction fan. I think it's great that things built to withstand high schoolers are the only things that survive tornadoes. Can we get more stats on this? Like the percentage of high schools that survive direct hits by twisters?

In other natural disaster news, Sharon Stone's career is having spasms in the middle of the street for all the world to see. This is a really unique situation.

There are movie stars like Tom Cruise that half of us love and half of us despise (when I saw headlines this morning that Crusie revealed his dad used to hit him, my first thought was, "Hit that little midget again.") and some that most of us love like Tom Hanks or George Clooney or even the ones that no one likes, but they keep finding work, like Woody Harrelson.

Sharon Stone is in now in the class of Carrot Top, Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal of "actors" who have lost their audiences. The people have spoken, Sharon... and they want you to go away. Being lumped in with washed up action stars seems to be fitting, too. All three relied on their bodies for attention and all three have been betrayed.

Now she's saying if there are no takers, she'll direct Basic Instinct 3. Right.

Have you ever seen a child have a temper tantrum in public and as it ramps up the parent lets the kid start huffing and puffing and getting out of control until they step in, take the toy or whatever from their hand and remove them from the situation? Then, as a bystander, you just know that kid isn't going to get away with continually being such a brat? I see a lot of that in Sharon Stone wanting to direct.

She can hoot and holler and cry and scream all she wants, but Mama Studio is going to keep cooly and calmly telling her, "No Sharon, that's enough. You're done now."

In doing press for this week's bomb, Basic Instinct 2: The Case of the Mummified Beaver, Stone went bonkers about how crazy it is to travel abroad with all of her fans there. My advice?

Go there.

Stay there.

Not another baseball post, I swear

Man, spinning off Siberian Baseball was a great idea, huh? I mean, otherwise we'd have four or five baseball posts in a row here and that wouldn't be so much fun, would it?

Yeah, the best-laid plans, I suppose.

The truth of the matter is that baseball has consumed my every waking moment since Sunday afternoon. Until last night I'd caught at least an inning of every game played. Last night, I just focused on the whipping the Red Sox got from Texas. (Remember my reasons to keep Doug Mirabelli? They were on display last night.)

Anyways, we should be getting back to normal here any day now. At the very least, I'll keep posting baseball-in-the-background stories like the past two of newborns and fluke injuries. That's the middle ground, right?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

If you're a good parent, you'll give this some thought

Congrats to the newest member of the Chicago Cubs family. And just in time for Opening Day, too. Now that is timing and great parenting. I would love to be able to one day tell my son that in the first 12 hours of his life, I held him and watched Opening Day.

On the other side, I'd be worried that the labor wouldn't be done in time and that I'd miss the first pitch, so it does present a dilemma. Also, were I to try and time a baby's birth with Opening Day, I'd be branded a copycat and probably have a long string of girls, all born in early April.

Also, I'm betting pregnant women frown on soon-to-be dads flying to Fort Myers for spring training games a few weeks before the due date.


Anyways, now is the time to decide if this is the road you want to take with this kid. Your wife and daughter are already in too deep. This is your one and only chance to free this kid of a lifetime of worry and heartbreak. With the expanded Extra Innings television package, you can pretty much pick any team you'd like except for the White Sox, Indians, Twins or Blue Jays.

Here are my top picks in case you change your mind, or, you know, love your son.

New York Yankees - Nothing ends an arguement like the phrase, "Winningest team in Major League Baseball" or "How many rings does you team have?" Hate them or hate them, if you were to pick a team for your son's overall well-being and psychological health, you can do no better than the Yankees.

Basically, this depends on how you feel about stained undershirts, gold chains and cheesy mustaches. Also, if you have enough room in your front lawn for a Trans Am that will dribble oil and kill your grass. Because all of those things are in your future, too. Also, your son may start talking like Tony Danza.

Atlanta Braves - A picture of consistiency, but never able to take it that final mile. Still, 14 straight NL East titles is really impressive. Kind of like being a Yankees fan, but with some self-respect, and not the obvious pick.

A word of warning, this will all but lock your son into a lifetime of making it 95 percent of the way, but falling just short. He'll go to Yale after Harvard snubs him. He'll pull up just short as a top-tier middle manager. He'll always be just a little short of the big prize, like two numbers off on the Pick Six.

This isn't such a bad thing, though. He can always be counted on as the guy who is really dependable but without being a serious danger to anyone's job. There are worse things in life.

Florida Marlins - How about a team that wins two World Series trophies in 10 years? Oh, yeah, the whole fire sale thing... good point. Nothing is worse for a child than to see his heroes sold off one by one. Let's move on.

Any mid-level team with no real pressure - Seattle, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Texas etc. are all pretty solid organizations who'll show off some star power and have nice, new ballparks and none of the historical craziness.

This is perhaps the greatest disservice you'll do your son by pulling him down into Cubdom. With the Red and White Sox proud new owners of World Series rings, the Cubs have been left as the only ones in the NFL Draft Green Room. It's not so bad when there are a few other historically crippled teams to share the space with, but the Cubs are all by themselves now.

Know the roommate who is left when the other two or three get better-paying jobs and serious girlfriends and decide to move out and start new lives? Yeah, the Cubs are sitting on a shitty, stink-infested couch with cigarette burns right now trying to find someone to go out on a Wednesday night to watch college basketball.

All of the above teams are OK with where they are at, and while they'll never be an elite team, they are fun to watch, have promising farm systems and friendly fans. More than anything else, when these teams make the playoffs next, their fan base doesn't do a collective shudder and shut down for two weeks.

The next time the Cubs make the post season? Too much shit, too little pants.

Thse teams and their fans are normal. Well, as normal as you can be worshipping a mascot that slides into giant mugs of beer. That can't be good for a kid's social growth, now can it?

(Photos from

It hurts and it brands you as a dumbass!

Simply by referring to the law of probability, you'd think at least one professional baseball player per year would be injured on Opening Day, right? Men who have taken a winter off, have eased back into competition this spring and are now asked to perform on a professional level? Seems like a recipe for disaster.

Don't believe me? Check out CC Sabathia or Bartolo Colon. Then again, ask Rod Beck who once said, "I sure don't think of myself as a fat person, just someone who carries extra weight. I've never seen anyone on the DL with pulled fat." He's got a point.

Sabathia was hurt in his first outing, which places him ahead of Oakland's Bobby Crosby, who broke two ribs in batting practice before the opening game.

In no particular order (and subject to change if I remember/hear of a better injury) here are my Top 10 favorite baseball injuries.

10.) Jose Cardenal missed a game in 1972 after a sleepless night at the hotel. The cause? Excessive cricket chirping outside his window. Two years later, he refuses to pitch, claiming his eyelids are stuck open, leaving him unable to blink.

9.) Ken Griffey Jr. didn't always have serious injuries, like he's been plagued with since joining the Reds. No, once he missed a game when his protective cup slipped and pinched his testicle.

8.) Rickey Henderson missed a series of games after falling asleep on an ice pack and getting frostbite in August. Bonu points because I believe this was when he was in Oakland, too.

7.) Terry Mullholland sat out after scratching his eye on a pillow. He story is that a feather was sticking out and the base of it caught his eye the wrong way.

6.) Carlos Perez, a pticher, was hurt in a car accident (broken nose) as he was trying to pass the team bus. While I'm sure there's a better story here, I can't find it. Why wasn't he on the bus? Was he racing it at the time, showing off? I need to know this.

5.) Chicago's own Carlos Zambrano was told to knock it off with the web surfing. He was diagnosed with carpal tunnel after spending too much time on the Internet "e-mailing with his brother in Venezuela." Right.

4.) Mark Smith of the Orioles injured his hand when he stuck it into an air conditioner to see why it wasn't working. As I learned in first grade, Mark, "You see with your eyes, not with your hands..."

3.) Doc Gooden owed over $100K to his dealer... no, wait, different story. He was struck in the face with a golf club by Vince Coleman who was showing off his swing in the clubhouse.

2.) Karma pays Coleman back big time and forces him to miss the 1985 World Series after he was caught in the tarp machine as it was running.

1.) Glenallen Hill has the greatet single injury in the history of baseball. The highly arachnophobic Hill had a nightmare about spiders, began freaking out and in his semi-concious state crashed through a glass table. He then thrashed about in the broken glass trying to rid himself of the spiders.

(Photos from Reuters / Aaron Josefczyk; Thanks to these pages for helping me to nail down injury dates in some places. Oh, and ESPN, too.)