Friday, October 30, 2009

'Reverse Jinx?' World Series Game One — Sort of

I can't explain how I watched last year's World Series. I managed to pay attention, take notes and write not one but two live-blogs of the thing. I suppose I was distracted enough by the novelty of reacting to things via live-blogging to not collapse in a wet sack of neuroses about the games themselves. No such luck this year.

I'm genuinely sports superstitious. Even as I'm doing superstitious things, I can tell myself, "This is objectively nonsensical. There is no causal relationship between your behavior and team performance," yet I won't for a second stop whatever's occupying my attention. One time I saw my team win a late-inning playoff game while I was seated in a weird way and holding on to a magazine I'd been flipping through. I sat in that position, clutching that magazine, for the rest of the games. They won 'em all!—I developed a peculiar pain! No, seriously. I had trouble walking because I'd sat like a mutant to watch baseball. Somehow this made perfect sense at the time.

In a strangely obverse display, I once walked home from a trip to The Booze Store during the early innings of a playoff game and discovered that while I was out, the Red Sox had scored three runs. A few minutes after sitting down in front of the TV, they gave up two. I immediately left the house and walked around my neighborhood for what I later figured out was eight miles. I periodically called friends to check the score. The Sox wound up winning by nearly ten runs, but when I'd gone home in late innings and after they'd gotten a large lead, the opposing team put runners in scoring position (RISP), and I left the house again.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Magdalen Nabb's Marshall Guarnaccia Novels

Don't you hate it when you discover a new author you really like, and it turns out she's dead?

I don't suppose this happens too much to people who've recently fallen in love with someone like Dickens. Even an inattentive reader is probably going to guess that he lived in the 19th century. The style is all wrong for a modern novelist, and all that attention to detail just seems a little too perfect, you know? Besides, eventually they'll stumble across an edition that mentions his bio on the back or has a foreword that fesses up that the guy died.

There are all sorts of pitfalls to modern novels, though. Unless you're someone willing to risk spoiling a book by looking up the author on Wikipedia ahead of time, you never know who you're dealing with. You might be sitting in the Barnes & Noble café cheerily chatting up a stranger about this new writer you've discovered, and they could turn to you and say, "You know that guy got arrested for being a pedophile, right?" To borrow an analogue from music, imagine how teenagers who'd just gotten into the Who felt after raving about Who's Next when someone told them Pete Townsend got arrested for Googling little girls.

The worst thing, of course, at least in terms of reader satisfaction, is finding out the author died. With Dickens, you know to pace yourself. If you race through The Pickwick Papers, nothing's going to change the fact that you now have ten books left. Sure, there's the rare chance that an author'll pull a Tupac and have a bestseller long after they've croaked — Camus' The First Man comes to mind — but after over a century you can be pretty sure that Knopf isn't going to drop Charles Dickens' R U Still Down? No matter how much you want to see more from the guy, that's it. There is no more.

Friday, October 23, 2009

I Finished My Law & Order: SVU Fan Script!

If you've got two ears, two eyes, a heart and a passing familiarity with English like me, I assume you too must love the bounty that is Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Those people care. They love law, order and rape victims. They're the thin blue line between you and all the sick, twisted perps out there. But, as they debuted their eleventh season, I realized two things. One, they must be running out of ideas. Two, I've watched enough episodes that there's no reason why I can't write my own fan script.

Well, it took a couple of weeks, but here it is. I hope you enjoy it. I really feel like I got in touch with the characters and some serious real-life issues.

WARNING: SOME OF THIS CONTENT IS OF AN ADULT NATURE AND MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN.


Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

"Murder My Balls"

by Mobutu Sese Seko, Mr. Awesome and Dashiell K. Rigamarock

We fade in on a crime scene, with sirens wailing in the background and horns honking. It's a beautiful, spacious penthouse apartment, sparsely decorated with top-of-the-line modern furniture. Camera captures several technicians taking pictures and dusting for prints, then pans over to a man's body on a king-sized bed, naked except for the bed sheet covering him. The bed sheet is soaked with blood around the crotch. The MEDICAL EXAMINER is looking at the body, as DETECTIVES OLIVIA BENSON and ELLIOT STABLER inspect the scene. STABLER opens a wallet.


Looks like the vic was a "Doug Robb." Hey, I know that name, that's the guy from my daughter's favorite band — what'stheirname, you know... Hoobastank.




I've never seen anything like this, detectives.





What is it?





There's really no other way to put it. His testicles are just destroyed.




Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Search Strings of the Day for 10/21/09

As I've said in the past, I could pretty much post one of these per week, but they'd get boring pretty quickly. People on the internet like sex; some of them are willing to do costume design and rehearsal for it, and this leads to strange enthusiasms aided by Google. Of course, I would in no way attempt to capitalize on this by giving all posted graphics ridiculously long filenames choked with double-entendre search terms. Oh, no. Never that.

Still, at least for me it's rare to get a concentrated burst of weird search terms, let alone wind up as the #1 hit for a Google search of "man got fucked to death by horse." For a reason I can't even begin to fathom, such a search takes you to a collection of messed-up parody videos of gaming fatass Gabe Newell.

On the "extremely explicable" front, it's nice to see that it took only a day to be the sixth result for "joe buck sucks alcs" and third for "horrible fox sports broadcast of the alcs," not to mention a shitload of searches for "cement mixers," all of which send people to this ALCS broadcast quasi-live-blog. It also took only a single day for that article to get a search for "Crayola Rapecat."

I'd also like to thank Major League Baseball announcers' inability to think about the words they use for sending God knows how many people here looking for "balls being fisted." Although that seems to be sending people to the site in general, rather than the relevant article.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Having a McCarver Moment: ALCS Games 1 & 2

It was not a day well-planned. When you spend about four hours watching DVDs of The A-Team looking for godawful effects shots that you can rip off and insert in a deliberately godawful promotional video and then feel too wiped out to watch playoff baseball, you have gravely miscalculated.

But I had fun. I was with good people, and I think I strained something laughing when I saw the guy who played Rasczak in Starship Troopers guest starring as an evil taxi company mastermind who wore skin-tight nylon pants with no zippers or buttons up front, a prominent dong-bulge and a 1980s-sized cell phone improbably jammed in a pocket.

Still, when you wind up falling asleep in your chair after one inning of the first game of the American League Championship Series, you have managed your time poorly. You've done worse when you wake up and realize you didn't set the DVR to record the game. Consider this my McCarver Moment of the 2009 playoffs. Because of it, the Game One recap is going to be awfully short.

Monday, October 19, 2009

NFL Red Zone Is Sweet Freedom

I broke down and bought the NFL Red Zone channel. Call it premature or a lack of perspective if you want, but I believe this might be the greatest thing I've ever done. I like football. Football is awesome. It's 60 minutes of awesome. But, as you may have noticed, every football broadcast is at least 180 minutes. These others are not good minutes.

The NFL Red Zone channel essentially concedes that those 120 extra minutes are trash, and that even some of the 60 awesome minutes are not so great. You're paying $50 to not watch football as it is traditionally broadcast. It's a bold move for the NFL: their business model is, essentially, "We acknowledge that two-thirds of what we show you is flawed, interruptive, unappealing and dull, before and after the one-third you actually enjoy. We recognize these flaws are severe enough that you will pay to avoid them."

Here's the deal: for $50 per season, you get one channel and one HD channel that, from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. airs commercial-free football from every game. No blackouts, no mandatory games crowding out other broadcasts. No filler. No booth reviews. No sideline interviews. Essentially no commentators (more on this later). No dead air. For seven hours, a single host, Scott Hanson, does no-frills voiceover transitions, devoid of any attempt to foist his "personality" on the programming, as the feed cuts into any game where a turnover just happened, a team just scored or a team is about to score. It's seven straight hours of everything you like about football and nothing you hate. Unless you're deeply invested in a particular team or game, there's no reason to watch football any other way anymore.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fistin' the Night Away: NLCS Game One

Maybe it's years of Joe Buck and Tim McCarver at work, but I'm used to tuning into the Major League Baseball postseason like a dog that's been summoned by the person who beats it. I try not to make eye contact with the screen when I change the channel and reflexively wince when I turn on the speakers. I'm already dreading Friday night when Buck looms into view like a mushroom cloud with parted hair, and Scraps the Baseball Fundamentals Mouse levers McCarver's head into the frame by an elaborate system of pulleys arrayed around the command center inside McCarver's skull.

But for now, we should all be glad. Tonight's game was consistently exciting, and even notoriously bad play-by-play man Chip Caray managed not to be too horrifying. Sure, Ron Darling was fairly boring, and Buck Martinez started to sound like Donald Duck by the 8th inning, but it was pretty fun. It's a wonderful experience to watch a good baseball game and suddenly realize that you haven't heard (and won't hear) some stray idiotic comment that you'll remember for the next half a decade.

The whole thing was good, so go watch it on TiVo or MLB.com or something. For now, here's a comparatively short liveblog of the game. Amazing how these things don't balloon with content without a family-corpse-profiteering jackass and a senescent boob in the booth bloviating at interminable length. All times in Eastern because it is God's Own Time Zone.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Cat Who Blogged on a Mac

I'm a Macintosh owner.

I am so because I love wearing dark jeans (they're slimming) and sitting in the darkest chair in a Starbucks, withdrawing my Blackbook surreptitiously and then opening it to make the white Apple logo on the back alight just like the young ladies' faces do when they see the whirring white and bulbous corporate ornament 'twixt my legs and—oops!—the strains of Gershwin coming from the iTunes playlist on which I accidentally "forgot" to "quit" when closing up the laptop earlier; Gershwin in this case being George (although if you have 25 minutes and a taste for the subtle I will make a stronger case for Ira) and his American in Paris—an orchestral romance that could describe the two days I spent there in the company of a gorgeous English girl, speaking long into the night about books. They have so much more culture than we do, the English. Where was I?

Ah, yes. I own a Macintosh because I am a giant stupid baby.

I'm actually neither of the above kinds of people (I bet all the Apple Boys say that!), but you almost can't help but think of both when you think of mac owners. The people who adopt them as talismans of cultural currency are far more unbearable than the people who rely on them as crutches for never learning anything computer-wise until it's been thought about for a few years and infantilized, but both can be equally trying in the right circumstances. My first personal computer was a mac, as were many people's, but that doesn't excuse illiteracy across basic computer platforms.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's My Birthday!

Seventy-nine years ago today, I plopped forth out of my mother's yawning ladyparts and onto the land I love so much, The Belgian Congo Zaire Democratic Republic of the Congo somewhere near where birthers say Obama was born. Some things never change. You rule a country on a throne of Hennessy empties and steal from the people, and apparently now Barack Obama steals from disadvantaged white people. According to those birther guys, he and I are a lot alike. At least they're consistent. Their thesis seems to be: black people steal.

Anyway, wow, what a long strange trip it's been. I hope you all had a great summer!

Now, what do you get for the guy who has it all? I honestly can't tell you. I hadn't even seen this coming — like the date isn't really even that important to me — so I didn't put together a gift list. I tried going over to Stormfront, the world's #1 white supremacist website, to get some ideas of What African Leaders Spend Their Money On, but even all those suggestions seemed too predictable. Best not to get me anything.

Besides, I feel I owe you guys something. For a while now we've been about a third of the way through redesigning this site to make it look a little more professional and to add more widgets and tables to it, while still keeping a sparsely elegant look. We came up with something that (surprisingly) turned out very Gawker-esque — the same textual width down the middle, but with nicely distinct and unflashy columns down both sides — and hopefully we can get that rolled out within a month or two. Unfortunately, the economy being what it is, we're paying our designers in the sort of cash that doesn't inspire quick work — or even work at all! — and I can't blame them for not snapping to it. Hopefully publicizing their lollygagging shames them a bit into getting some more stuff done.

And if the economy stays as horrible as it is through that process, maybe we'll integrate some sort of shameless "Look at Our Amazon Wish Lists and Buy Something off Them Here!" widget in one of the new columns, and we can celebrate my birthday by giving me things any day of the year. Until then, I'm celebrating by corning six pounds of brisket and drinking Irish beers.

L'chaim!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Postseason Shower's More Delicious Than Tony La Russa's Tears

Tony La Russa is a good baseball manager. He takes teams to the postseason; he gets unexpected performances out of seemingly mediocre players. He has won championships. You could fill a railcar with sportswriters bound for ovens he designed, and they would nevertheless still lazily anoint him as humanity's closest thing to a baseball godhead. As I've said before, I hate the guy.

My antipathy for the man owes more to his press than anything he's done. But he's never repudiated his press and has instead encouraged it. There's something detached about him (a trait his followers attribute to some serenity from a higher perspective) that seems to suggest that it would be gauche for him to toot his own horn, but he wouldn't dream of pushing away someone tooting his for him. He's become his presentation, with only rare-to-nonexistent demurral. Since baseball beat writers who pretend to poetry and a spiritual understanding of what happens between actions on a baseball diamond lionize his micromanagerial maneuvering — and since their plaudits tend to manufacture a reality out of convenience or apathy — this vision of La Russa as a calculatingly remote man-shaped baseball sublimity will likely endure for generations.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Marge Simpson in Playboy

From here:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "D'oh!" doesn't even start to cover it. Marge Simpson -- the blue beehived matriarch of America's most loved dysfunctional family - is Playboy magazine's November cover, the magazine said on Friday.

Simpson, tastefully concealing her assets behind a signature Playboy Bunny chair, is the first cartoon character ever to front the glossy adult magazine, joining the ranks of sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford.

Playboy said the cover and a three-page picture spread inside was a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the "The Simpsons" and part of a plan to appeal to a younger generation of readers.

Scott Flanders, the recently-hired chief executive of Playboy Enterprises, told the Chicago Sun-Times in an interview that the Marge Simpson cover and centerfold was "somewhat tongue-in-cheek."
Shut up, Flanders.

Friday, October 9, 2009

MLB Playoffs '09, Day Two Roundup

I'd intended to keep a liveblog going of the three games today, but I also intended not to have a giant goddamn headache. Instead of watching the Rockies at the Phillies, I wound up lying down and listening to most of it it, then napped through a bit of the Cardinals at the Dodgers, then had the big screen commandeered to watch TiVo'd episodes of Community and The Office during part of the Sox/Angels game. I felt way too funky to put up a fight anyway.

Now of course I feel better and can't sleep, so at the risk of seeming ignorant — after all, I missed quite a bit — here are some stray observations from Day Two of the 2009 MLB playoffs:


Pregame:
For some reason, the human mattress that is David Wells is in the TBS booth this year, and someone's already cleaned him up from Day One. That was incredible. He wore this strange brown shirt that looked like some earthy tunic a civilian guest star would get on Star Trek and, over it, a brown jacket that I swear was a Members Only™. So you had this guy who made millions as a pitcher and is probably getting paid tens of thousands to be a commentator sitting amidst three other guys dressed in suits, only he looked like he'd stolen his outfit off a pensioner passed out at the local VFW. Amazing.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gandalf the Urban: Jim Butcher's Terrible 'Dresden Files'

It's rare to discover that a novel was spawned by the the same mentality that one might devise for a dismissive straw man argument, but Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files manage to be so comprehensively conventional that even their conception seems born of the worst kind of stereotype. From the author himself (bold emphases mine):
The first several books I wrote were nothing but swords and horses. I had been discussing things with my writing teacher every semester and I had written several very mediocre books. At some point she had told me "You know, Jim, you're always going on about how much you enjoy these Anita Blake books by Laurell K. Hamilton and how much you like Buffy, why aren’t you writing something similar to that because that would seem to be a much better use of your interests to serve your writing?" I said "No, I'm a fantasy writer" and I'd done that for a long time. Finally, one semester, I had been arguing with her on several different points on writing craft and so on, and I finally decided that this semester I'm going to do just exactly everything she tells me to and I'm going to show her how wrong she is about all these different things because I had my English Literature degree so I knew better than she did. Just because she had 30 or 40 novels under her belt, that didn't mean she knew anything. So kind of to prove her wrong, I set out to fill out all the little worksheets she had in her class, and proceed according to things she had suggested for new writers to do and I was going to show her what terrible unimaginative pablum was the result... and I wrote the first book of The Dresden Files. I wrote it to prove how much my writing teacher didn't know and learned a valuable lesson about humility as a result.

She read the first three chapters of the very first book and she looked up at me and said "You did it. This will sell." I said "What?"
The average reader of his first novel, Storm Front, probably has the same reaction. He's an orcs-and-hobbits fantasy writer repurposed to riff off another fantasy writer who's repurposing crime procedurals for the fantasy genre. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Butcher has an excess of praise for other authors and genres. He's taken Laurell K. Hamilton's crime thrillers away from the Marshal Service and toward private detectives; in the process, he's crafted a retread of every detective motif, glossed it with some Tolkein and filled it with the sort of flourishes that belong in a writers' workshop. He succeeds in every way but competent writing.

Storm Front follows wizard-for-hire Harry Dresden, a duster-clad, tall and thin man whose use of white magic is available for hire to any citizen who can't get results via conventional means. He also consults for the Chicago PD about cases that cannot be explained by natural causes. In the midst of working on a private case and one on PD consult, Dresden becomes embroiled in a mafia-related drug war, the vengeful motives of a vampire brothel owner, the doubts of police and his potential execution at the hands of a minder assigned to him by a wizard-run court. Not to mention that women coo at him lustily.