Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Boys Will Be Boys': The Superhuman Debauchery of the Dallas Cowboys

Schadenfreude fans enjoyed a richly rewarding afternoon Sunday as the Dallas Cowboys, who'd been predicted to go to the Super Bowl, suffered a 44-6 drubbing by the Philadelphia Eagles. That the Eagles underperformed all season and slipped into the playoffs while dashing the Cowboys' postseason hopes via their worst loss since owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989 was all gravy. Hating Dallas is relatively easy and, for most people, signs of a healthy mind and functioning heart, and anyone who found themselves in that common position Sunday night probably went to bed smiling.

Explaining the hate isn't difficult. Years ago, Dallas had the presumption to anoint themselves America's Team, an obnoxiousness that seems to afflict mainly southern teams.* True, Dallas was once very popular. As the only southern NFL franchise from 1960-1966, they netted a greater audience from that region and from portions of the country that identified with it and enjoyed regular national programming from networks hoping to capitalize on those markets. Moreover, as a consistently successful team for two decades, they accreted bandwagoners who like the reassurance of rooting for a team that will probably win. (The other successful southern team, Miami, doesn't fit into both categories precisely because the people who identify as true southern good old boys and who have the racist Civil War totems on the bumper stickers of their trucks to prove it don't tend to identify with a city filled with that many Yankees, Jews and brown people.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

GOP Leadership Candidate Distributes Racist CD, Somehow Blames Democrats

Mike Huckabee's former campaign manager Chip Saltsman, who just a few days ago was a likely frontrunner to take over as chairman of the Republican Party, today might as well be nailed inside a wooden barrel and towed out to the open sea by the merchant marine. Providing yet another demonstration of the racial taste and class of the GOP, Saltsman sent fellow republicans a Christmas card featuring a song called "Barack the Magic Negro" set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon."

In case the Puff reference wasn't winkingly sly enough, whomever made the video to the song also included pictures of Obama smoking, in a callback to the hysterically stupid hand-wringing about his "vice" that GOP talking heads indulged in, in 2007, without bothering to notice the irony in their party's staunch defense of Big Tobacco for the last 30 years. See below (also, enjoy the misspelled "Thinking Impared") [Note: the original video has been taken down; this one is edited differently]:

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up

As we near four in the morning, the end of December, I find myself in the same frame of mind that greets me this time every year. Taking stock not of the things done but the things not yet accomplished. The things I keep meaning to do when I have the time or the money or enough connections in law enforcement. Every year, I'm surprised to find yet another ambition I've almost completely forgotten about, as if I'm failing even to retain my dreams, much less attain them.

The attrition stops here. This year, I'm going to start a list, and I plan to add to it annually, so there's a record of everything I've meant to do, whether done or undone. Please feel free to use the comments section to share some of your ambitions for the coming year (and years) and to suggest some goals for me as well, and I'll be happy to include them in a follow-up post.

Things I Want to Do When I Grow Up:
I want to spend an entire day in single entendre.

I want to send massive Christmas gift packages from Omaha Steak to vegetarian families to let them know there's nowhere to hide.

I want to be appointed National Breast Examiner and be given a badge and perpetually warm hands.

I want to go to the deli and order some genoa salami, and when the slicer lady asks me, "How thin do you want that cut, sir?" I'll hold up my finger and thumb about two inches apart, and when she slices it and hands it to me, I'll say, "MEAT PUCK" and stick the whole thing in my mouth.

I would like to slamdance with gleeful abandon, teased hair and sexless joy like a 1980s girl pop singer, celebrating how, despite misunderstandings between my parents and myself, I still had a great day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

"And the kids at Camp Wealthy won't win anything because they lack heart!"

With my favorite baseball blog, Fire Joe Morgan, officially shuttered forever, it's fallen to scattered and ragged bands of sports fans sitting in post-apocalyptic basements in mom's houses strewn across America to try to forge a new society of abuse for misbegotten sports writing. I haven't nearly the patience for number-crunching that those FJM guys did, but I believe I can do my part in at least the "abusive thinking" department.

Today's sample comes from the Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey:
Chicago Cubs need to shed their nice-guy persona
Jake Peavy once fired Agent of Darkness Scott Boras. This suggests a man with fine judgment and perhaps even a good heart.

Thus, he was the last guy the Cubs should have been pursuing during the recently concluded winter meetings.
What's great about this is that you can read the title and know that there's almost zero chance you'll encounter anything that makes sense in the rest of the article.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chatlog Post #5: Iraqi Journalist Heaves Shoes at Bush's Head

Earlier today, an Iraqi journalist's freedoms and shoes were both exercised at George W. Bush, at a news conference during his surprise trip to Baghdad. Poetic justice continues to elude the American president, in this case, twice in succession and by mere inches. However, the president's Press Secretary, Dana Perino, was caught in the ensuing fray and received a microphone blow to the head, resulting in a black eye on her face and an ear-to-ear grin on at least fifty percent of Americans'. See video below:

Thankfully, a friend and I were on the job and able to bring our combined intellectual heft to bear on the issue by trying to imagine every shitty pun-filled New York Post-style headline about to drop on the front pages of the English-speaking world. How could we do it? Chatlogs. Precious, precious chatlogs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Plimpton, Fatsis and 'A Few Seconds of Panic'

(NOTE: This review was edited at 4:00 p.m. EST to add two details I remembered overnight and also to respond to comments added by Mr. Fatsis. Please see the comments section for more information.)

If you've listened to NPR's Some Things Considered on a Friday, you've doubtless heard the wry sports insights of Stefan Fatsis. His soft-toned voice contrasts nicely against the aged Wednesday Morning Edition death-rattle of Sports Illustrated writer Frank Deford. Fatsis might not have the gravitas of someone like Deford, but his opinions, like his voice, usually offer a more soothing alternative. He reports stories outside the big three American sports, eagerly points out economic rationales for behavior and, unlike Deford, eschews saccharine sports "features" and nostalgic polemics.

His most recent book, A Few Seconds of Panic: A 5-Foot-8, 170-Pound, 43-Year-Old Sportswriter Plays in the NFL, presents the reader with a long-form version of everything that's great about his NPR commentaries but with a depth that allows for both the sweet story and the brutal realities of American football. In Panic, Fatsis attempts an update of George Plimpton's classic Paper Lion.*

* — You may remember Plimpton as the crooked host of the Spellympics who orders Lisa Simpson to take a dive, or as the homosexual psychoanalyst whom Will Hunting deliberately tweaks by admitting to being overcome by the beat of house music so much that he feels the urge to sleep with men. To sports fans, though, Plimpton is the Harvard-educated, prissy-speaking writer who was happy to get the stuffing knocked out of him to write fun and insightful books about what it's like for an average American to try to compete inside the sports world. He also wrote the greatest sports-related April Fool's Day prank ever, "The Curious Case of Sidd Finch," which is absolutely wonderful regardless of your sports fandom.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Impersonal Days

Of the sensations that come from reading an author's good first novel, one of the best is the dawning awareness that this could be the first of many. Better yet, it might even be the least of them. The letdown comes when, as page after page unfolds, small errors and bad habits repeat themselves. Personal Days, Ed Park's bleakly funny debut novel, manages to avoid most of the letdown by uniquely embracing some of the first-time author's pitfalls and employing them as a positive plot device.

The book's title plays on the grim reality that many of us live the great expanse of our social lives in the workplace, in a kind of doomed struggle of depersonalization and hyper-personification of objects and small traits. To a certain extent, we never really can — and maybe don't even want to — know our coworkers. But through the force of repetition and mandatory proximity, small details of themselves and their tiny corporate habitats invade our consciousness and achieve nearly human dimensions. All these are our personal days, but nobody's actually taking time off.

Park shows both the cramped spaces and bizarrely profound social investments we make in our co-workers' lives by telling the stories of a dozen mid-level employees of a moribund company, marooned on an increasingly empty floor of a New York high rise. Together, they're bound in anxiety over losing their jobs, excitement at the sudden independence of being fired and terror of doing anything to draw attention to themselves. Oddly, this semi-oblivion engrosses them. The best jokes come from the office. So do the freshest ironic nightmares. It's the most entertaining thing they have, but no one wants to ask too seriously if perhaps that's because it's all they have.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chatlog Post #4: It's Hard to Rhetorically Soar with the Eagles When You Lie Down with the Turkeys to Have Sex with Them

While I think most people would prefer not to go half a decade without talking to former friends or acquaintances, it's nice to know sometimes that you can pick right back up with them where you left off.

Whereas people less comfortable with you or with themselves might dance around the "did you become physically bloated in our time apart" issue; whereas a lesser personality might restrict herself to talk of children and spouses; whereas an especially solicitous individual might, in seeking to pay a disarming and non-committal compliment (e.g. "I hope that [washboard stomach, nice hair, enormous ass] of yours held up over the years"), try make you feel still capable of physically bringing it, it's good to know that there are some friends out there with the poise and composure to skip all that polite bullshit.

Some people need only wait until the twelfth line of exchange to cut right to the chase: you have sex with birds.

And some people, in fact, couldn't begin to give a damn about the big, flappy bastards.

Katie A.:
how'd the turkey go? I just learned what "brining a turkey" entails
Me: It was pretty fantastic. I've done this for a few years now, so I wasn't terribly worried about it.
Katie A.: because i didn't know about turkey brining, i thought you were having Thanksgiving 2 days early. "Man, he gets into it."
Me: Ahaha
Me: ffffffff
Me: ok, gimme a minute here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Search String of the Day for 12/3/08

Some poor, engorged, aching soul went looking for
and was unfortunately directed to my carping about the slow degradation in quality suffered by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I can't tell you what a thrill it is to tap into this reader market. This is almost as exciting as when I got the pageload on November 27 for someone searching for, "law and order mariska forced oral sex" and the November 13 search for "unwilling throat pounding videos" that amazingly directed someone to my review of Requiem for a Dream.

I don't really understand what's happening here. I mean, I get it that Mariska Hargitay is an attractive woman. I can get having sexual fantasies about her. What I don't get is wanting to skip her entirely and get right to her character having sex and, worst of all, her character getting raped.

If you want to think of ol' Mariska nude and in your bed, great. If you want to get off thinking about someone who is not even you, someone who is a fictional character, having brutally dehumanizing non-consensual sex with her — well, yer fucked, pal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'I Never Played the Game'

Watching SportsCentury on ESPN or a biographical program on Muhammad Ali, it's easy to get overwhelmed by Howard Cosell's erudition, his pointed opinions, his seeming opposition to all that defines modern commentating's aggressive blandness, gutlessness and obliteration of anything that might rise above the widest appeal. At moments like that, he cries out like the last voice in a gathering darkness of unintelligence. Listening to those few historic snippets, you can't imagine how anyone would prefer Joe Buck and Troy Aikman over him.

Reading his book I Never Played the Game, however, instantly reminds you how — like the Yankees, Joe Morgan and AIDS — he aligned millions of strangers against him and how his adherents are often justly pilloried as the dangerously misinformed, cruel or insane. Despite the obvious intelligence and insights behind it, and despite a co-writer, the book is almost undiluted Cosell — and often in the most toxic boring form.

I Never Played the Game has part of its heart in the right place. Having made his bones as a lawyer and then by working up the ladder of local radio and television broadcasts, Cosell approached sports as an outsider — or, at least, as a man as far outside sports as one can be while still becoming part of billion-dollar athletic and media empires. He writes the book with something like the distant perspective with which he began his career.