Monday, September 29, 2008

I'm Not Sure Anyone Can Dislike the New York Mets

But I do know what my immediate response was when the Mets failed to make the postseason again this year: BWAAAAAA AHAHAHAHAH AAAAAAAHA HAHAHAHA.

Then I felt guilty.

Two years ago, Endy Chávez robbed the Cardinals of a potential game-winning home run, only to see another Cards player hit a freak homer, followed by the Mets' best hitter striking out while looking at a curveball. Last year, on the last day of the season, the Mets lost their final game to the Florida Marlins. Just weeks earlier, with 17 games left, they had a seven-game lead on their division before embarking on a historic collapse. The loss eliminated them from the playoffs.

During the offseason, they traded for AL pitching ace Johann Santana, hoping to close off a major chink in their armor. Instead, Santana got little run support, winning far fewer games than expected. He routinely delivered incredible pitching performances that gave his team easy win opportunities that went unrealized. Often, a matter of one run made all the difference. On the last day of this season — indeed, the last game ever in Shea Stadium, the Mets' longtime home — the Florida Marlins again eliminated the Mets from playoff contention.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

'Mr. Freedom'

Somewhere in America, a lone sheriff drives through a city on fire, riots, deployed National Guardsmen and mass arrests of blacks. He lets himself into his office, sloppily eats a sandwich, drinks a Colt 45, adjusts his cowboy hat and seems to be wondering what to do next.

Drawing aside a massive wall-sized flag, he reveals a hidden chamber where he changes into his other uniform: American flag pants, weightlifting belt, football shoulder pads, a catcher's mask and hockey gloves and, of course, a gun. Later, he'll even wear a fighter pilot's helmet. He is Mr. Freedom.

His first order of business requires shooting several black people who have looted while the city is ablaze. The ones he does not shoot, he tries to convert by singing a song about why he's shooting them. He's shooting them for freedom. Before he can finish, a call comes over his watch communicator. It's Dr. Freedom. He needs Mr. Freedom right away.

Dr. Freedom works for Freedom Inc., on the 25th story of a large city building. It isn't the only company in the building, though. Judging by the menu of floors on the elevator, these companies also rent space:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Items #3 and #4 from the Cognitive Dissonance File

Again, while there isn't a single objective reason to vote for John McCain, it's nice to see that he's doing his damnedest to help undecided voters come to the same conclusions the rest of us reached long ago. The latest gaffe involves his attempting to weasel out of debating Barack Obama tonight.

It's easy to see why he'd want to do it. One, he's going to get his ass handed to him. Two, even if he weren't going to get his ass handed to him already, thanks to the current banking crisis he's going to get some sort of auxiliary ass removed from him and then handed to him by a second ass-handing helper for a kind of Twin Bestowing of His Ass. Even a relatively shy and polite man like Jimmy Carter probably couldn't leave a debate like this without destroying McCain for fostering and encouraging an environment of recklessness by deregulating the banking industry and, for oversight, doing the equivalent of asking the kids who eat paste to watch over the class while you go to the principal's office.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Items #1 & #2 from the Cognitive Dissonance File

Many of the POWs still express anger at Lyndon Johnson for mismanaging the war, and in particular they blame the organized left, and what they see as its sympathizers in the press, for mislabeling a North Vietnamese offensive [Tet] that was clearly repelled as a defeat for the Americans. "The thing that really bothered me was that LBJ, he let those demonstrations on college campuses really affect him," Paul Galanti, a Navy pilot who was shot down and taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese in 1966, told me. "He should have smashed those demonstrations. To let them happen was anarchy."* Galanti, like several other ex-POWs, was a supporter of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that spread unfounded accusations about John Kerry in 2004. The "Swift Boat" attacks against Kerry were a delayed reaction to what some veterans saw as Kerry's betrayal of their cause upon his return home from Vietnam. "I have some pretty strong feelings about these sorts of people," Galanti said.
— Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Wars of John McCain." The Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 2008
* — While it's certainly possible that Paul Galanti entered the Naval Academy in hope that he would one day be tasked to kill Asian people (and considering WWII and the Korean Conflict had both occurred within the last 20 years, it doesn't seem so unreasonable), in all likelihood he viewed the war in Vietnam as necessary to preserve the freedom of the South Vietnamese people. After all, he wasn't there just to be there. So you've really got to admire that he considers stamping out the freedom of American citizens necessary to complete the objective of bringing those same freedoms to the Vietnamese. You have to wonder: if you asked Galanti to build houses for Habitat for Humanity and then he suddenly discovered that his house had dry rot and needed extensive renovation, would he burn his own house down to eliminate a costly distraction from his objective?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fringe Entertainment

The day after the premiere of his new show, Fringe (Fox, Tuesdays, 9:00 p.m.) blogs and entertainment sites declared, "J.J. Abrams has done it again!!!" I agreed. Of course, they meant "made a great new TV show." I meant, "Took a classic TV show and another TV show or movie and added Sex and Retarded to it and hoped no one noticed." What's most irritating about Abrams isn't that his shows are bad (most of them are); it's that they're bad versions of original and good things you'd rather were left alone.

Take a look at his track record:

The Avengers + The Da Vinci Code + Sex + Retarded = Alias
The Avengers featured an incredibly hot woman and a stuffy older man doing amazing spy things around the globe. J.J. Abrams decided to make his hot woman character dress like a high-end prostitute for one-third of every episode and then evidently asked himself, "Hey, how can I make this deeply uncomfortable? I know!—I'll make the stuffy older partner her father." Sometimes he mixed it up by having her boyfriend send her to act like a prostitute with another man, while he watched. Voyeurism becomes Elektra. Then, in case you didn't find that the height of entertainment, he added a recurring plot about a mystical Italian Renaissance artist and inventor named "Rambaldi." Even someone watching the show with an ether-soaked rag stapled to his face would have known it was a Da Vinci ripoff, but of course Abrams invented an insultingly transparent fictional name that gave the audience slightly more credit than Adolf Hilter and Beinrich Bimmler gave the woman who ran their boarding house in England. Also, bear in mind that Abrams is so bad at storytelling that:

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Will Not Buy Stocks with You Because of a Talking Baby

What's the logic at work here?
MARKETING VP #1: The stock market is practically a living organism. It undergoes tens of thousands — if not millions — of transactions and processes every day. People actually have to get graduate degrees to really understand it, to see its many tendrils stretching into the economic life of the entire world and visualize how it and the world reflexively affect each other. The average person has no hope of really coming to grips with its enormity and can at best become a kind of thoughtful amateur — sort of like how being a lifetime football fan but never a coach at even an intermediate level would give you some rudimentary horse sense on the sidelines but would get you absolutely destroyed in head-to-head competition by even the worst community college coach. And that non-expertise is not so bad, in its own way, but it's a scary proposition when the thing about which you're amateurish is something that can cause you to lose your entire fortune. So how do we get people who may be incredibly intimidated by this complexity to turn to us?"
MARKETING VP #2: Let's pretend we're a talking baby!
MARKETING VP #1: Yesssssss!
(both mime "ballin'" jumpshot)

(high five)

Friday, September 19, 2008

'God Save the Fan': How Will Leitch Was Almost Beaten to Death with a Manual Typewriter by a Guy Wearing a Green Visor

Some internet fans might know Will Leitch best for founding Deadspin, arguably the most popular sports blog. But those who don't care for bullies or who advocate the democratization of information and commentary might know and love him best for his famous non-confrontation with swearing, screaming Pulitzer-prize-winning author Buzz Bissinger. Although he'd written it before meeting Bissinger, Leitch's new book, God Save the Fan, makes a lot of the arguments Bissinger didn't give him a chance to.

Bissinger and Leitch appeared on Costas Now — the HBO show of sanctimonious sports midget Bob Costas and not the chat show of noted frankenstein Aussie heartthrob/creature Bob Costas Mandylor — for what amounted to a kind of half-assed symposium on sports journalism and the blogosphere. Only Bissinger absolutely torpedoed the atmosphere of faux academia. Before the discussion could really get started, he tore into Leitch with what seemed to be a desire for personal retribution, blaming Leitch for everything between the decline of newspaper circulations, the degradation of national discourse and the poisoning of his own child's mind. His one-dimensional blowhard routine still stuns even the repeat viewer, months later.*

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Dexter's Depressingly Didactic Dullfest

Like a lot of people, I enjoy Showtime's original series about a quasi-virtuous serial killer, Dexter. Also, like a lot of people, I enjoy turning my brain off, picking up a book full of two-dimensional characters entertainingly gettin' it on, maybe fuckin' some dudes up and generally going yaaaaaahhhh!!!!! and doing cool shit I could never do. Dexter in the Dark, the second sequel to the book on which the Showtime series is based, doesn't do any of this well, if at all.

The book deserves a full evisceration but lacks enough meat on its bones for that kind of dissection. The trouble with picking up a fluff book to pass the time is that, if it turns out to be bad, the reasons why are likewise fluffy, vague or indeterminate. Author Jeff Lindsay, perhaps on cruise control (I haven't read the previous books) or perhaps having no control to begin with, serves up a narrative that succeeds best in not engaging really anything worth serious consideration.

The book's core premise centers on Dexter's mythical "dark passenger," which existed for untold years before inhabiting the bodies of humans and finding tangible means of doing evil via mayhem and murder. What, in the Showtime series, is presented as more of a metaphysical condition or a psychological malady — i.e., "Is Dexter's dark passenger a permanent social/psychological/chemical affliction that he has personified in order to absolve himself of guilt or rationalize his shame? Is his evil from and of him or something created by accidental conditioning?" — is here presented as an enduring and immortal god.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brief Reviews of Cadaverous Men

I woke up today to an email from a friend and a Facebook message from another, both distressed about the apparent suicide of David Foster Wallace. Much like an afternoon in 1994, when I watched a girl stumble through a hotel hallway in Washington D.C., Alice Cooper treaks of mascara running down her face, bleating "Kurt's dead, Kurt's dead—omigod, Kurt's dead," I wondered why this was such a big deal. (Actually, in that case, the first thing I wondered was, "What is a girl who wears mascara doing listening to Nirvana?") It took my working out my thoughts on Joe Posnanski's blog comment section to realize why: David Foster Wallace was a rock star.

I've always had a strange relationship with DFW, none of it personal, naturally. A close buddy in college practically worshipped Infinite Jest, considered it the greatest novel ever written and, if I remember correctly, had personal rules about when and how often he could re-read it to prevent the spoilage of over-familiarity. I hated it. I still hate it.

I wanted to like it. Since this friend, who was also my writing partner and drinking buddy, loved it, I felt like there was something wrong with me when I didn't. It just seemed inconceivable that he and I could both think torturing characters with geography trivia and having an Italian zombie teach bocce to a boy as a means of increasing his masculinity was hilarious but disagree on a novel so massive and so acclaimed that it had to at least be pretty good.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Is NOT a Joke

S'up, dawgs. Flavor Flav the epitome, a public enemy, still countin down to armageddon. I had em stick the picture at the right in there just in case y'all havin the readin issues and couldn't figure it out. Course I guess if you can't read, this didn't do shit for y'all anyway, so what the fuck you readin it for? That don't make any goddam sense, boyyyyyyyyyy.

Anyway, where's I at just now? Shit, that's right. Maybe y'all remember I did a track bout 20 years ago now called "911 Is a Joke." I brought the flaaaaavaaaaaahhh. Still bring it. Still is a joke. Straight up. 911 is a fucking joke. If you a strong nubian brother or a big beautiful black woman, you betta not get shot or fucked up by your man, because ain't shit comin for you. Might as well take a fuckin taxicab to the hospital. Least then them bitches in white coats be fixing up yo body instead of cuttin yo ass up to see what the fuck kill you.

Y'all know what? Better not even sound black on the phone. Bitch dispatcher probably hear the black on your voice and think, "Ima route this shit to someone else who give a fuck, because I sure as fuck don't." Shit, don't even sound Puerto Rican. That's close enough for them. If you gotta go into some neighborhood they be seein on the map and goin "yeah, theyall's minorities living there," betta be in a car or holdin onto a cell phone, cause the only thing gettin yo blackass outta there is yo damn self. Know what else? Don't even call 911 on a blackberry. Buncha crackerass motherfuckers probably think the phone gonna fuck em up if they get too close.

Tony Kornheiser Revisited

Let's just say I'm already regretting this observation:
Morrissey... probably appeals to only four groups of NFL players... [including] white quarterbacks (especially backups). That said, I am absolutely 100% certain that Tom Brady unironically loves the crap out of Morrissey and The Smiths.
After a rush and a push, Tom Brady might be out for the season, which suggests that invoking Morrissey might well be as powerful a curse as getting on the new Madden game cover. At this point he probably feels like the boy with the thorn in his side or half a person, wondering "what difference does it make?" if he even wakes up in the morning and hating the chance that his friend Matt Cassel might become successful.

I sincerely didn't mean anything by it. I just figured, you know, Brady's from the San Francisco Bay Area, and almost everyone knows that. So, really, he's the one NFL player who you could claim listens to Morrissey and get most people to believe it. If I had any expectation of his winding up out for the season, I probably wouldn't have elected to associate him with the sort of music everyone listens to when they just get out of a relationship.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pat Jordan and Gay Talese

If you read sports blogs or sports columns long enough, eventually someone will mention Pat Jordan. Usually, his name is accompanied by the name of his memoir, A False Spring, or by the words "The Garvey article" — the notion being that everyone who cares about sports will recognize these works or the ideas expressed by them immediately. Most people eventually mention Jordan's name in conjunction with the title of greatest living sportswriter, or even greatest ever. They're probably right.

The trouble with collections like The Best Sports Writing of Pat Jordan is that they usually fail to even approach the level of critical fawning their authors receive. Three factors typically explain this.

1. The authors indeed were exceptional twenty, thirty or forty years ago. However, in the intervening years, standards have changed such that their writing sounds dated or their technique toothless. Quite often, someone venerated as the first to do something is no longer remotely the best at doing it. Just imagine reading the best magazine interview of the 1930s and then reading the best magazine interview of the 1980s, after decades of Playboy interviews and Studs Turkel books, after an increase in the public's awareness of what spin and personal managers do to discourse and an intolerance of the same. It would be unbearable, wouldn't it?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Brief Recap of the 9/8 Packers v. Vikings MNF Football Game from Me, Your Friend, Tony Kornheiser

This is the story so far. One man, Brett Favre, decided to retire. Then he decided that he wasn't done. But the Packers had gone with QB Aaron Rodgers, who had backed up Brett Favre for years. Then the Packers traded Brett Favre to the Jets. But will Aaron Rodgers have what it takes to fill the shoes of #4, Brett Favre? The thing you have to remember is, it's been over a decade since the Packers started a game with a QB who was not Brett Favre. Will the fans support a QB who is not Brett Favre?

And Rodgers comes out throwing. That's a beautiful throw he just dropped back and Favred right there. So you have to ask yourself... shades of Brett Favre??? I mean, you have to admit that so far he has made a very Brett Favre-like performance. So if you're the Packers, are you upset now that you have Aaron Rodgers instead of Brett Favre? Or if you're the Jets, do you wish you had Aaron Rodgers?

Lemme ask you this: you are Brett Favre. When you favre in the morning and brett the day, knowing that you, Brett Favre, will have to brett and favre brett favres and also try to favre and brett when people brett favre at you? Seriously, Brett Favre, or Brett Favre? Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett. Favre. That pass was for four yards, just like #4, Brett Favre, which makes you wonder if when Aaron Favre bretted back to pass on that play, maybe he thought it was favre down and time to try to get a fourve-yard brettpletion.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

There's One in the Campaign, He Don't Look Right To Me

Yesterday, like a total klutz, I managed to trip and bang my chest pretty badly and probably cracked a rib. At least I hope that's it. It feels exactly like the last time I cracked ribs, when The Wife's (then fiancée's) softball-lesbian roommate drunkenly pounced on me as a gag, knocked me to the ground and drove a knee into my chest.

I'd love to sit up at a computer and write something more balanced and thought-out than a reactive post, but I can't lean in one direction or another, move my left arm or even breathe hard without it feeling like someone's stabbing me a few inches under my left collarbone. As such, I don't have much for today. I'd rather fire this off and get back to lying propped up and trying to drift off with the help of expired pain medication.

Laughing hurts me, so I decided to watch the Republican National Convention, because I was certain not one ounce of pleasure could come from it. I was right. Watching close-ups of the crowd at the RNC is like watching a Ralph Steadman cartoon without its being a cartoon. When they pull back for the chants in unison, it's just a shabbier Nuremberg. The people are uglier, can't stand in lockstep formation, and too many of them are old. But they got the tricolor banners, the hagiography for Dear Leader, the struggle, the picture of an attacked city, the constant refrain of fear — all that came through like gangbusters.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lowering the Bar

This is a terrible pun, but the show doesn't deserve any better. Steven Bochco started it anyway. Raising the Bar is his new TV series about lawyers, and you'll be pleased to note that his 27-year streak of not creating a good TV show remains safely intact. I remember when Cop Rock came out, and people rushed to say, "Hey, don't write off this guy. He's made a lot of classic television." The argument was fair at the time, but now that the cops on Hill Street Blues should be taking their pensions, it's harder to swallow.

Doogie Howser now eats shrooms and cannonballs whiskey while driving Harold and Kumar around, and the only person left on TV sitting at the computer and writing vacuous morals-of-the-story at the end of the episode is a rerun Carrie Bradshaw, who was on Square Pegs at the same time Bochco was last competent. In short, it's been a long damn while. At this point, the guy's in danger of being remembered more for pop-culture jokes at his expense than anything else.*

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

'Transformers' Is Comprehensively Awful

(For a review of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, please click here.)

I remember reading a message board discussion of this movie about a year ago and being blown away by people arguing that it might be the best movie of the year. I hadn't even seen it yet, but I was fairly certain that no one could possibly generate a thought like that unless they also still considered getting a Happy Meal and then a Chuck E. Cheese pizza the only lunch and dinner options on their birthdays.

Still, I thought it'd be fun in a turn-brain-off, watch-thing-blow-up way. It's not. Transformers is a blockbuster of dong-huffing. It was written, directed, acted and scored as if the one question above all that everyone on the crew asked themselves was, "In this scene, am I doing enough to make sure this movie huffs the greatest number of dongs?" If Transformers were a car company, its slogan would be, "Dong-Huffing Is Job #1." If every disaffected Korean youth with a surname starting with D were given free paint cans and unlimited alone time in the garage, there would still be significantly less huffing of Dongs than in this movie. This movie is awful.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Athletes Who Have Speed and Quickness Are Ballplayers

To celebrate the proud return of ENCEE DUBBLE-A FOOBAW this weekend, The Wife and I visited her friend Shana and Shana's husband, Jack. They're both smart, attractive and pleasant people, but I get the feeling that Shana (justifiably) hasn't really the faintest awareness of my existence pretty much 99.9% of the time, and Jack's eyes flash me a glint of neither-pleased-nor-fearful recognition whenever I go over there. Hence, my classification of them as The Wife's friend and the friend's husband.

I like to assume Jack thinks well of me, but I don't know, and in any case, he's probably in the same boat I'm in. I really have no idea how or why Shana became a friend of The Wife's — I strongly suspect that a mutual employer is to blame — but she appeared in The Wife's life one day and thus peripherally in mine. At first, I dreaded that she'd be some earnest, attention-starved matron, but I was pleased to find out she was roughly my age, exuberant, bright and funny. She also seems to more or less like me, which is always a good sign, especially because I more or less like her and wish The Wife bugged her to do things more often.

Jack, however, presents a consistently taciturn countenance, which leads me to suspect that I'm still identified less as me and more as Wife's Consort. Of course, this is perfectly fine: The Wife appeared in his life one day, and I peripherally as her husband. Frankly, I'm relieved not to get the "who the fuck are you?" glance when I'm in his house. But while I hardly expected an open embrace and sudden BFF status, the taciturnity is mildly intimidating, at least in part because he could probably break me over his knee, and one never knows what a wry non-committal smile signifies, especially after offering a potentially contentious observation about whatever's currently happening on his giant-ass TV.*