Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Exes, All-Stars, and Home-Field Advantage

A friend sent me a link to this rant about all-star voting in baseball. This blogger wants to show how dumb it is to leave the voting up to fans by campaigning to have two clearly unqualified/unglamorous players elected to the team.

My only problem with this is the reasoning that's emphasized:
I understand that it's supposed to be an exhibition game for the fans, so why not let the fans decide who participates. It makes sense. But when The Commish made the insane decision to actually base home field advantage for the World Series on the outcome, the term exhibition became a misnomer.

Now we have fans, many of whom that know very little about the game of baseball, deciding which players will compete for their respective league to claim the right to home field advantage in the most important series of the season. In my opinion this is a travesty.
I've seen this complaint before, but it ignores the fact that, before the Commish made this "insane decision," the home-field advantage for the World Series was determined by...alternating between the American and National League every other season. So, if it was a National League year, but the American League representative had 20 more wins, too bad, the NL got home field. So it's not like the All-Star Game plan replaced a brilliant set-up. In fact, a monkey throwing darts would have been equally meritocratic.

(In his e-mail, my friend also asked me whether I still keep up a practice I started in college of giving a write-in vote to a certain girlfriend of mine as an outfielder in the National League. Alas, I haven't done that in many moons, but it was fun. I always imagined there had to be an official record of all votes kept somewhere, and it amused me to think of her name rounding out the list each year.)


Archive of the Day

From The Brothers K by David James Duncan:
There are kinds of human problems which really do seem, as our tidy expressions would have it, to “come to a head” and “demand to be dealt with.” But there are also problems, often just as serious, which come to nothing that we can recognize or openly deal with. Some long-lived, insidious problems simply slip us off to one side of ourselves. Some gently rob us of just enough energy or faith so that days which once took place on a horizontal plane become an endless series of uphill slogs. And some – like high water working year after year at the roots of a riverside tree – quietly undercut our trust or our hope, our sense of place, or of humor, our ability to empathize, or to feel enthused, and we don’t sense impending danger, we don’t feel the damage at all,

till one day, to our amazement, we find ourselves crashing to the ground.

Peter had one of these kinds of problems.

Monday, May 29, 2006

AP Headline That Speaks for Itself of the Day

Paris Hilton Plans Reggae, Hip Hop Album

Gatsby Passed Up, Like a Punk

I promised that Gatsby was in the on-deck circle, but then I went and picked up another book, which is the problem with trying to predict what one is going to read next. I'm now halfway through (and quite taken with) Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? It begins a bit deceptively, with a passage that, while well written, suggests that the novel is going to be about a disgruntled married woman watching her husband eat fancy food in Paris. And it is about her, but it quickly flashes back to her childhood and a particularly intense friendship. So far, it's great. Between this and Birds of America, I think Moore is one of my favorite contemporary American writers. At the risk of unnecessarily emphasizing gender, it's also becoming clear that she's my favorite contemporary female American writer.

Here's a passage from Frog Hospital for you. It's narrated by Berie, the narrator (duh), and it comes when she and her best friend, Sils, are driven home by Sils' new boyfriend, Mike, about whom Berie is less than excited.
Mike pulled down to the end of her street, right up into the entrance to the cemetery, and I got out and waited. I walked away from the car, to let them kiss. I had a lot of patience, I felt, for certain kinds of things. I hopped the low fence and roamed around the edge of the cemetery a little, but when I looked back, they were still in the car, kissing, so I walked farther out. I looked for little Estherina Foster's grave, and then sat there with her in the dark. I listened for a voice that might be hers, some whisper or peep, but there was nothing. I fiddled with a long-stemmed plastic rose that had gotten mashed there in the dirt. I brushed the mud off it, and bounced it around, tracing words in the air -- my name, Sils's name, Estherina's name. I couldn't think of other names. I wrote Happy Birthday, Fuck You, and Peace. Then I tossed the flower away, into the shadows. How silent the world was at night, the unbudded trees etched eerily into the sky, the branches reaching as if for something to hold and eat -- perhaps the dead and candied stars! The ground was cold, thatched with leaves; the nearby swamp had begun unthawing its sewagey smells. In the moonlight the sky seemed wild, bright, and marbled like the sea. People alone, trapped, country people, all looked at the sky, I knew. It was the way out somehow, that sky, but it was also the steady, changeless witness to the after and before of one's decisions -- it witnessed all the deaths that took people away to other worlds -- and so people had a tendency to talk to it. I turned away, sitting there, hugging my legs, pulling my jacket close. I plucked my earrings off and stuck them in my pocket, the cool air strangely still and mushroomy. I wondered whether I would ever be in love with a boy. Would I? Why not? Why not? Right then and there I vowed and dared and bet that sky and the trees -- I swore on Estherina Foster's grave -- that I would. But it wouldn't be a boy like Mike. Nobody like that. It would be a boy very far away -- and I would go there someday and find him. He would just be there. And I would love him. And he would love me. And we would simply be there together, loving like that, in that place, wherever it was. I had a whole life ahead. I had patience and faith and a headful of songs.


The "Best" of ASWOBA

I've been blogging for eight months, and I just now figured out how to neatly categorize the links on the right-hand side of the page under new headings. So, given that I probably gain a new reader or two every couple of months, I've added a list (near the bottom, above the archives) of my favorite posts from the site, arranged by type to give a sense of the subjects that I'm obsessed with from time to time. Basically, if you're new, it's a guide to what you can expect from me. If those posts don't do anything for you, then you should probably move on. If you're not new, consider it a stroll down memory lane. We've had some good times, no?

Preserving the Williams Clan Legacy

Funny anecdote:

Home in Texas last week, one morning I was fielding questions from my 10-year-old sister, Taylor, and her friend, who were fascinated by my iPod. (They each have one of the smaller ones -- "nano"? -- so it was more material jealousy than fascination, I guess.) Dad was standing nearby, and the following conversation occurred (and just so I limit the number of parenthetical asides below, let me say here that everyone in my family has a nickname. These handles vary in the silliness of their back stories and the obscurity of same, and Taylor's nickname is Scrunch):

Taylor: What kind of music do you like?
Me: Just, you know, rock music. R.E.M., U2...have you heard of them?
Taylor: I think so. (Ed. Note: I felt 342 years old in this moment.)
Dad: He likes the same crap you like, Scrunch.
Taylor: Good. I'm glad someone understands my heritage.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Slowly Catching Up with the Classics

The list of books I haven't read that I should have read is damn near endless, and I'd like to make some small dent in it. To that end, the next two on my docket are Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Percy's The Moviegoer. (Yes, I'm sure I was assigned to read Gatsby in high school, and I have some vague memory of its specifics in addition to the way I know it well as a cultural signifier, but please don't underestimate the lack of discipline that I brought to my career as a student. My career as a human being, really.)

After making my choices, I found that people are talking about these two venerable novels, like here and here, so that must be a sign of some type. I'm on the right track.

Meanwhile, over at somewhere i have never travelled, the links to other bloggers, once arranged based on their resemblance to characters on "Lost," have been updated to match literary characters. I'm listed as Nick Carraway. My suspicion is that this is random, but I'm choosing to read it as yet another tea leaf: Gatsby should be next...

One Last Thing (I Promise) About That Times Poll

While I was gone, the New York Times continued the endless chasing of its own tail with a roundtable about its own survey of the best American fiction of the past 25 years. The thing seems to run for about 540 pages, so I'm waiting to print the whole thing out at work later this week, but I did glance at a few of the opinions on display, and I love the following insight from Michael Cunningham:
I suspect it's true, too, that novelists -— this novelist, anyway -— are suckers for sentences in ways critics may not be. For me, it gets down to an almost embarrassingly simple, quotidian fact -— I know how hard it is to write even one good sentence. Show me a book full of them, and I'm ready to forgive all kinds of lapses in narrative method, consistency of theme and character, and etc.

Five Songs, Chapter Eight

Has it really been almost a month since I listed five songs that all of you are likely to ignore? Can't have that...

"How to Disappear Completely" by Radiohead

Over drinks with three friends in Dallas a couple of nights ago, one of us (not me, believe it or not) asked the others to name their favorite Radiohead album. The first person responded, "Amnesiac." You don't hear that every day. It reminded me that I never spent much time fairly judging anything by them after OK Computer, so I spent some time with Kid A. I still don't like it nearly as much as their earlier stuff, but there are exceptions, and this song is one of them.

"Wolves" by Josh Ritter

Whenever I'm in Austin, I make a point to stop by my favorite-ever record store, Waterloo, where I'm always tempted by the new releases, which they set up in a very appealing way, and where I always find something obscure to bring home with me (in this case, a live CD of two acoustic concerts by the Trash Can Sinatras in 2004 at the now-sadly-closed club Fez in downtown Manhattan). Where was I? Oh, I also picked up Ritter's latest. I bought his debut years ago after reading a good review, but promptly lost it, so I'm pretty unfamiliar with him. There might be better songs on this new one, but I've only gotten halfway through it. This is the second track, and my favorite so far.

"Inside and Out" by Feist

A cover of a Bee Gees song by a sultry-voiced Canadian. It's the only song I have by her, but I need to get more. Soon.

"Simone and Perry" and "All Her Songs" by Grant McLennan

McLennan was half of the band The Go-Betweens, and he died a few weeks ago at 48. The Go-Betweens have a real cult following, but I've always had trouble getting into the little that I've heard. I really like these two songs, though, off Horsebreaker Star, a solo album that McLennan released in 1995.


Archive of the Day

From Clive James' introduction to Flying Visits, a collection of his travel writing:
Even within the confines of Europe, the idea that all airports were the same turned out to be exactly wrong. In fact any airport anywhere immediately reflects the political system, economic status and cultural characteristics of the country where it is situated. During the supposedly swinging Sixties, both of the major London airports gave you a dauntingly accurate picture of Britain's true condition, with one delay leading to another, a permanent total breakdown of the information service supposedly responsible for telling you all about it, and food you would not have given to a dog. Zurich airport, on the other hand, was like a bank which had merged with a hospital in order to manufacture chocolates.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rooms With a View

Sorry the site is gathering some dust, but remember that I'm using up energy over at the MRE while I'm on the road in Texas this week, and I'm only human.

More here in a day or two, but for now, go check out Andrew Sullivan this week. He's got a great project running right now where readers all over the world send in pictures taken from their windows. He's posting quite a few of them. I love this one and this one, but this one...oh, man, that makes me miss home.

It's such a great idea. I'd steal it and start a similar project here, but I'm afraid I don't have any regular readers in Lisbon or Bogota yet.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Great Moments in Songs

Relatively new Cleveland-based blog Good Hodgkins asked music bloggers to list their favorite "visceral moment" from a song. For example, one person lists a moment from "Westfall" by Okkervil River and writes: "But oh, that moment that Sheff pronounces 'Evil don’t look like anything' with a punch at the end of a hushed verse and the rest of the band takes up the call. It literally made my hair stand on end the first time I heard it."

You get the point.

I imagine this type of list will satisfy Laura Miller, my younger sister, and others who think that listing things depreciates them, because this seems to be about delving further into something rather than standing back so far that judgment becomes flip or meaningless.

So, here are a few moments for me (picked pretty randomly out of what could be thousands, I think). Feel free to leave your own in the comments.

"Not Forgotten You" by Kelly Willis -- When Willis sings, "And I said 'Hail the western bound/with its black tail flying/lay on the rails and leave me to dream/of when your love was mine." The way she stutters the "i" in mine and then the organ comes in right after.

"My Life" by Iris Dement -- Pretty much the whole song, but the way she sings the chorus -- "but I gave joy to my mother/and I made my lover smile/and I can give comfort to my friends when they're hurting/and I can make it seem better for a while" -- kills me every time.

"Funny" by Trash Can Sinatras -- The way he freaks out singing the last verse. I found a guess at a translation online, but I'm only convinced about some of this -- "and when the cap fits I'll wear it/and if I knew what made carpets fly/wouldn't be sitting here twiddling my thumbs in a bar/I'd threadbare my soul and wheedle my way into other people's lives/and out of my own." ("Threadbare" doesn't make sense as a verb, I know, but there is a lot of silly wordplay on the rest of the album, so who knows.)

"Smile" by Pearl Jam -- Both times the music shifts and Vedder soars in with "I miss you already(-eady-ay-ay)."

"Settled Down" by Richard Buckner -- A great song, the best of several good ones added on to a reissue of his first album. Visceral moment is when he goes up high, cracking a bit to sing the "now" in "I'm younger now/history, my dear friend/years away, you say my name/I'm settled down, but I won't give up again." Really, really pretty.

Then there are impressively sustained visceral performances, like most of Patty Griffin's vocals on the album Living With Ghosts or Ray LaMontagne's through most of Trouble or the entirety of Radiohead's performance on The Bends.


The Baseball Blog is Born

OK, folks. The Mickey Rivers Experience is now fully operational. The first three posts from me and JF are up (they start at the bottom and we'll sign each post, but I think you'll figure it out. If you have trouble, JF's are the smart ones. Mine are the other ones.)

It will be the top link on my blogroll for the next couple of weeks. I hope you visit us there regularly. Because I'm insane, I'm also going to try to keep this blog fairly updated while on the road, but the MRE is going to be the much more active site until Memorial Day.

Sleep. Not So Much.

The Suns-Clippers game just got pushed to double overtime in a really dramatic way, and now the NBA playoffs are officially: a) insane, and b) the mortal enemy of my need for rest. It's almost 2:00 here. Damn the Pacific time zone.

The Baseball Trip Looms

Just back from a draining Yankees-Rangers game with Jon and NickandPatty (they recently moved in together, so they're a compound word for the next few days, just to tease them). Partly, the game was a way for me and Jon to warm up for our impending weeklong trip to Texas, during which we'll see five games.

Tonight was a better dress rehearsal than we could have imagined, since it ended up 14-13 and kind of felt like five games.

The Rangers' Mark Teixeira said, "It had everything. It had a lot of runs. It had good pitching, at times. It had defense. It had balls caroming off runners."

Hmm. I suppose there were some good pitches, but I don't think that's the same as good pitching. The teams combined for 33 hits. That might represent good pitching over a four-game series.

There's much more to say about the night, actually, but I think we'll post that on the baseball-related blog tomorrow to kick-start that puppy. I'll link to it when it's up.

Times Poll Abstainer Speaks!

Turns out that Laura Miller is the critic who refrained from voting in the New York Times' recent poll to determine the Ultimate Fighting Champion of the last 25 years of American fiction. Here, Miller expounds on her silence, if that's not an oxymoron. She claims that her reluctance was not "namby-pamby" in nature, but despite her very sensible comments ("Some people I discussed this with had a hard time understanding that not wanting to exert an excess of judgment isn't the same thing as refusing to make any judgment at all. I don't know why this is so difficult to grasp; it's like the difference between being decently neat and having obsessive-compulsive disorder."), it still comes off seeming a bit...namby-pamby. She writes:
An editor at the Book Review assured me that the list was really a parlor game that I should view in a more cavalier light, like something the obsessive characters in "Diner" or "High Fidelity" might indulge in. But those guys take themselves pretty seriously, and damn if the letter didn't ask for the "most distinguished" American novel of the past 25 years, which sounds pretty sober. I wasn't going to do it as a game when it was likely to be taken in earnest.
Well, OK, yes. But really, the only people more earnest than the guys in High Fidelity are those who, upon entering their record store and being asked to join the discussion of favorite side-ones/track-ones, would refrain out of a sense of obligation to the manner in which they parcel out their critical acumen. I mean: Snore.

(Plus, "Diner" and "High Fidelity"? Totally candidates for my list of 25 favorite movies -- which will be posted soon, Dezmond, I promise. No miserliness with the critical acumen here. No way.)

Plus-plus, this blogger in North Carolina laments the "provincialism" of the vote, since 75 percent of the judges live within "75 miles of Manhattan." My response? Threefold:

1. This guy must have spent way too much time with Google Earth figuring this out.

2. If he's not careful, we'll eliminate southerners altogether next time.

3. On one hand, it's a petty complaint, since it makes sense that a lot of major writers would live near the publishing hub of NYC, the same way top film actors and directors would live near L.A. On the other hand, he's right. Manhattan is probably the most provincial place in the country. On the other hand (if you're deformed), it gets less provincial (in the way we're talking about) well before you've gone 75 miles outside the city, so stretching the boundary of his complaint this way seems particularly weak.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Archive of the Day

From The Will to Believe by William James:
Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found? I am, therefore, myself a complete empiricist so far as my theory of human knowledge goes. I live, to be sure, by the practical faith that we must go on experiencing and thinking over our experience, for only thus can our opinions grow more true; but to hold any one of them -- I absolutely do not care which -- as if it never could be reinterpretable or corrigible, I believe to be a tremendously mistaken attitude, and I think that the whole history of philosophy will bear me out.

Today's Geeky Reason to Love Baseball

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle gave up seven earned runs in the first inning today against the Twins, and managed to hang around for the win. For those of you who don't know, though all of you can probably guess, giving up seven earned runs in a game is bad. Giving them up in the first inning means you probably shouldn't have gotten out of bed that morning. The last pitcher to come back from such an early fireworks display and get the win was Jack Powell -- in 1900.

No. 400

With this post, I'm 355 posts away from the number achieved by Hank Aaron. If my knees hold up, I should beat that mark. Wish me luck.

And thanks to those of you who have read all 400 entries, or even close to that. You should all be checked for brain disease, of course, but you have my sincere thanks...

World Wrestling and Political Federation

Conjecture about the next presidential election makes me think it might have the tenor of a professional wrestling show: lots of hardworking Americans looking at some very familiar faces -- faces that have played both hero and villain depending on the day's script -- and trying to figure out who the hell they're supposed to be rooting for.

I'll start with the fact that there's a camp pushing for Jeb Bush as the Republican nominee. Poor Jeb, if this happens. Not only was he (and his career of political service) passed up in 2000 for his more photogenic Everyman brother, but now he'd be running into the stiff wind of Dubya's asymptotic approval ratings.

Of course, "Bush vs. Clinton" would have such a massively depressing ring to it that I'd be tempted to throw up my hands and admit that we're a dim populace of dynasty-loving fools after all. I really don't want to do that.

But Clinton's not the only familiar name being bandied about by the Democrats. How about -- Al Gore? Dan Savage over at The Stranger asks if he's alone in wanting Gore to run. I suspect the answer to Savage, a smart, funny guy, is, "No, but you should be." It's amazing what the Cult of Losing can do to people. For some, all of Gore's earnest lectures about global warming and his many self-deprecating public appearances (only funny, insofar as they are, because they play on him as deserving pity) evidently have the power to wipe out memory of his inability, no matter how smart or well-meaning he might be, to connect to people, which is, like it or not, a pretty crucial component of political skill. My sense is that Gore falls perfectly in between the political and professorial roles that people like to envision for him -- he lacks the charisma to be a great leader, and no matter how many times a New Yorker reporter tries to make him sound like a modern-day da Vinci, I'm not convinced I would hire him to head my humanities department either.

So: Gore, Clinton, Bush. We're trapped in a seriously distressing cycle of talent here. The Republicans' best hope, I'm still convinced, is McCain, no matter how many speeches he gives at conservative universities. First of all, those speeches, locale be damned, tend to be impressively diplomatic and dignified. I'm not saying he's incapable of disappointing me, but he's been saying a lot for the past four years or so, and I'm OK with him to this point.

As for the Dems, I can't shake the feeling that, despite his inexperience and no matter how often he says he won't, Barack Obama's going to play a big role before the nomination is handed out. For starters, his speech at the '04 convention came across as twenty or thirty times more impassioned and authentic than Hillary's. If the party starts thinking she's unelectable, and they want another rock star to replace her (sorry, Mark Warner), I can't think of anyone who better fits the bill.

Part of me wants an Obama-McCain face-off because, even though I have reservations about each of them, as of today I would feel perfectly comfortable having either one address me as my president, and I can't remember the last time I thought that about both major nominees. (Granted, I'm young...ish.)

OK, enough rambling. I'll leave you with an excerpt from McCain's recent commencement address at Liberty University, and with the thought that it would be awfully nice to have someone this believable and eloquent in office during wartime:
War is an awful business. The lives of the nation’s finest patriots are sacrificed. Innocent people suffer. Commerce is disrupted, economies damaged. Strategic interests shielded by years of statecraft are endangered as the demands of war and diplomacy conflict. Whether the cause was necessary or not, whether it was just or not, we should all shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. However just or false the cause, how ever proud and noble the service, it is loss -- the loss of friends, the loss of innocent life, the loss of innocence -- that the veteran feels most keenly forever more. Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes war.

Americans should argue about this war. It has cost the lives of nearly 2,500 of the best of us. It has taken innocent life. It has imposed an enormous financial burden on our economy. At a minimum, it has complicated our ability to respond to other looming threats. Should we lose this war, our defeat will further destabilize an already volatile and dangerous region, strengthen the threat of terrorism, and unleash furies that will assail us for a very long time. I believe the benefits of success will justify the costs and risks we have incurred. But if an American feels the decision was unwise, then they should state their opposition, and argue for another course. It is your right and your obligation. I respect you for it. I would not respect you if you chose to ignore such an important responsibility. But I ask that you consider the possibility that I, too, am trying to meet my responsibilities, to follow my conscience, to do my duty as best as I can, as God has given me light to see that duty.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

NY Times Attempts to Get People Talking About Books

I've blogged about this elsewhere already, but the New York Times' recent poll asking writers, critics, and editors to name the best American work of fiction from the past 25 years has been generating a lot of online chatter. Which is the point, I guess.

The Feminist Who Lacks a Funny Bone weighs in at length here, and The Stranger bemoans the establishmentarianism of the picks here.

For what it's worth -- and I'm certain I'm forgetting a few -- here are some of the best American works of fiction I've read that were published in the last quarter century (the first three listed are short story collections):

Emperor of the Air
by Ethan Canin
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
All the Pretty Horses and The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy
The Sportswriter and Independence Day by Richard Ford
The Risk Pool by Richard Russo
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Plainsong by Kent Haruf
Underworld by Don DeLillo

That's limiting myself to Americans, like the Times asked, sadly disqualifying Felicia's Journey by William Trevor, It's All Right Now by Charles Chadwick, White Teeth by Zadie Smith, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle, Atonement by Ian McEwan, and Money by Martin Amis, among others.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

AP Unnamed-Russian Headlines of the Day

Prominent Soviet Author Dies at 83

Veteran Soviet Diplomat Dies at 81

Back to the Future. Now, We Just Need to Define It For Them.

Truly fascinating piece in the New York Times today about the Nukak-Makú, a clan in Colombia that lives "a Stone Age life." About 80 members of the clan recently showed up on the edge of modern society, with a notion to join it.

The piece says everything that follows from this much better than I could, so I strongly urge you to read it. The one thing that most struck me, though, relates to the book I've been reading (see post below this one). That book concerns itself very much with how the human brain envisions the future, and the ways in which this future does and doesn't live up to our hopes for it as it approaches and takes form. This evidently isn't an issue for the Nukak:
When asked if the Nukak were concerned about the future, Belisario, the only one in the group who had been to the outside world before and spoke Spanish, seemed perplexed, less by the word than by the concept. "The future," he said, "what's that?"

Book Club: Vol. One, Chapter Two

I haven't made as much progress in Daniel Gilbert's book as I would have liked this week. I'll have time to play catch-up over the weekend, though. (I've been wondering if Malcolm Gladwell would be reviewing it in The New Yorker, because it's tailor-made for his style, but it seems he has "guest reviewed" it on Amazon, which I imagine disqualifies a weightier review in the magazine. Too bad.)

I have reached a point where Gilbert discusses the way in which the human brain is designed to take certain actions before knowing why. The example he uses involves a rabid wolverine. If such a creature was, say, in the other corner of my living room right now, there's a good chance I would run away before my senses had fully pieced together just what it was that inspired me to flee. As Gilbert puts it:
Rabid wolverines, crying babies, hurled rocks, beckoning mates, cowering prey--these things count for a lot in the game of survival, which requires that we take immediate action when we happen upon them and do not dally to contemplate the finer points of their identities. As such, our brains are designed to decide first whether objects count and to decide later what those objects are.
This is a neat way for initially formless anxiety to help us avoid certain situations, like being tackled by a wolverine before we can lock ourselves in the bathroom. As a person who's often nervous and anxious for very little reason, though, I think my system might work a little too well in this way... Is that a rabid wolverine!? Whew, no; just the microwave.


Steal, Win a Prize

It's a bit late to be calling your attention to this, seeing as how the deadline is midnight tomorrow, but The Morning News is holding a plagiarism contest. Full details here, but the gist is: Create a story of 750 words or less using only phrases, sentences, and paragraphs from other works. (With full citation of the other works required. No original writing allowed.)

If I can come up with something on short notice, I'll post it here.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Again, Why I Can't Call Myself a Democrat With a Straight Face

I love this. Atrios, a political blogger, recently posted a list of policy items about which left-leaning bloggers ostensibly agree. I learned of the list from Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, who posted its contents, including: "Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code," "Reduce corporate giveaways," and "Marriage rights for all, which includes 'gay marriage' and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens."

OK. Not the sexiest stuff, but I can see where he's coming from. I can even forgive the fact that he offers caveats on two of the more pressing issues -- health care ("obviously the devil is in the details on this one") and increased decriminalization of drugs ("the details [are] complicated there too.")

But at the end, Drum writes, "This list isn't meant to be exhaustive, and Atrios doesn't pretend that every single lefty blogger in the world agrees with all of this. And it's solely domestic stuff."

Huh. Solely domestic stuff? This seemed almost too good to be true as a cliched vision of Democrats turning a blind eye to foreign policy, so I visited the original Atrios post to see if perhaps there was further clarification. There was:
I left off foreign policy because I find that most people who write about it imagine they're playing the game of Risk. It's nice to have nice bumpersticker doctrines which are ultimately meaningless, but basically "put grownups in charge" is my prescription. Kick the petulant children out.
Well, I imagine they're not imagining a game of Risk so much as they're trying to come up with answers for incredibly complicated, urgent, consequential matters on a global scale. And as those answers go, "put grownups in charge" strikes me as utterly useless, much more hollow than even the "bumpersticker doctrines" that are derided in the very same sentence.

And of course, the sentiment might be partisan in the sense that it's a knock against Bush, but the rule of grownups over children certainly won't fall in the favor of Democrats in every case. Is John McCain not a grownup? I say this as someone who, in the face of a fundamentalist-Republican alliance, would love to be convinced to vote Democratic again in 2008: How about some ideas, guys?


Quiz: How Racist is Your iPod?

John Cook has a piece on Slate grappling with the fact that Sasha Frere-Jones and Jessica Hopper, two music critics, have lobbed charges of racism at Stephin Merritt, the fey leader of The Magnetic Fields.

Why the charges? Merritt had the audacity to be the millionth person (or so) to wonder if much of today's rap music isn't, er, racist. From the Slate piece:
"I think it's shocking that we're not allowed to play coon songs anymore," Merritt said, "but people, both black and white, behave in more vicious caricatures of African-Americans than they had in the 19th century. It's grotesque. ... It probably would have been considered too tasteless for the Christy Minstrels." In the same interview, he made the moral error of not liking OutKast, whose single "Hey Ya!" was at the time serving as America's background music: "I'm desperately sick of hearing it."

Around the same time, in a New York magazine interview, Merritt again dared to publicly express his boredom with OutKast and furthermore said of Justin Timberlake: "I'm not really exposed to him except as a photographic image. He gives good photo shoot." Of Beyoncé and Britney Spears: "[Spears] would be absolutely meaningless if we didn't see pictures of her. Beyoncé is not famous for her songs, she's famous for that outfit. Which is not necessarily a bad thing."

A reasonable person would understand two things from these comments: 1) that Merritt believes contemporary popular music, whether it's produced by white people (Timberlake and Spears), or black people (Beyoncé), to be more concerned with selling an image than recording and performing songs; and 2) that, like much of America, he had heard as much OutKast as he cared to.
I'm not sure why Hopper is flattered with inclusion in the debate since, based on one of the links provided in the piece (which seems not to work anymore; very interesting), her lack of clarity in expression seems matched only by her inability to spell. (I really wish I could link to what was originally there, but it seems to have disappeared. It was a doozy about "whiteness.")

Frere-Jones is in a band that Cook calls "quite good," and based on the sound files to which we're directed, I’d say that description is just a generous way of making up for the rest of the piece’s assault. Based on a quick listen, the band sounds to me like a bad Lenny Kravitz cover act, which means, yes, worse than Lenny Kravitz.

The entire feud, if you can call it that, seems very silly to me. As Cook writes: "...the whole of their sustained attack against Merritt is founded on the dangerous and stupid notion that one's taste in music can be interrogated for signs of racist intent the same way a university's admissions process can: If the number of black artists in your iPod falls too far below 12.5 percent of the total, then you are violating someone's civil rights."

Still, I'm worried. New York is the type of place where this Slate piece might lead to judgmental strangers hijacking one's iPod at a party to search for signs of latent racism (despite the fact that both you and these strangers are probably at a party where 49 of the 50 guests are white and 27 out of the 50 have almost identical bedhead). So, to preempt any suspicion about me, here's a partial and random rundown of those on my iPod who can attest to my belief in racial harmony: Aretha Franklin, Ben Harper, Billie Holiday, De La Soul, Dexter Gordon, Donny Hathaway, Ella Fitzgerald, Kanye West, Louis Armstrong, Marvin Gaye, Maxwell, Miles Davis, Ohmega Watts, Otis Redding, Prince, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Sarah Vaughan, and Stevie Wonder. Oh, and: The Magnetic Fields.


AP Long Lost Headline of the Day

A couple of years ago, I briefly attempted to maintain a blog about sports, and it was there that I established my reliance on AP headlines to keep people entertained. ("People" in this case meaning far fewer than it even means now, if you can imagine. Four, I think. And of course I'm not going to link to the site, which still exists out there if you're sick enough to care.) Anyway, there was one headline that really deserves to be resurrected for my new, larger audience. (Fourteen, maybe?) So, I'll just repost the entire thing, with my original commentary, immediately below. Enjoy.

Cops Seize 756 Pounds of Smuggled Bologna

The brief story that follows doesn't disappoint, either, describing how the bologna was "arranged into the shape of a car seat and covered with blankets in a man's pickup."

The war on drugs might be misguided, the war on terrorism might be futile, but it seems we're finally making headway in the war on deli meats.


Choice or Not: Does it Matter?

Will Saletan links to an article about more scientific evidence that being a lesbian is, on some level, hardwired in the brain. It makes perfect sense to me that something so fundamental would be encoded in us this way -- whether it's raging hetero- or homosexuality, or some less clear-cut proclivity, it's probably rooted in the brain. Daniel Dennett's shaking his head right now -- because I'm sure he reads the blog -- muttering, "Everything's in the brain, moron." OK, OK. But I think the level to which things are immovably set up there varies greatly. And so here's the question I often wonder about: Should it really matter, politically, if sexuality is biologically determined or governed by choice? After all, if someone is an architect, no one fervently asks, "Well, were you born to be an architect?" Acceptance of that person's career choice doesn't hinge on pending results from scientific studies about whether certain people can't help but draft blueprints. Just to drive home the obvious, it's not that I think decisions about careers and sexuality are analogous -- "decisions" about physical attraction are mercifully less painstaking than decisions about whether or not to stop writing poetry and attend law school in your 40s or ditch your office job at 26 to get that MFA. It's just this: It seems clear to me that the more you're relying on scientific fact to carry your political argument in this case, the more you're allowing the opposition to believe that a dearth of said evidence somehow diminishes the legitimacy of your life.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Archive of the Day

From Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo:
As a boy Sully had hated his father's intolerance of human error, especially since that intolerance was chiefly reserved for others. But the attitude took, and Sully, as an adult, had come to think of making do without things you'd broken as the price you paid for having your own way.

Goin' to the Chapel, Kind Of

A Canadian friend of mine is marrying a German woman in June, with the ceremony held in Germany. I can’t make it for various reasons, and they were kind enough to invite me to City Hall last Friday morning for the practical American side of things, witnessed by the groom’s brother.

We joked that the experience was like getting married at the DMV, but it was one of those jokes created when straight-up truth just happens to be funny. Things got off to a solid New York start on the security line to get into the building. Right before he checked our IDs, the gruff-looking guard was approached by a woman cutting in past everyone, asking if her friend could get married that day “without an ID.” The guard gave her a look that said, “Are you insane?,” but officially hemmed and hawed until he said, “I’ll let you in, but I’m not qualified to answer your other questions.” When the woman walked away, the guard instantly turned to us and said, clearly amused, “She’s screwed.”

In the first room upstairs, a woman whose disposition was almost indistinguishable from the disgruntled soldiers at other government buildings asked for the name of the bride, groom, and witness. Once she had recorded them, she loudly stamped a sheet of paper and said, “Congratulations,” misleading the groom into thinking that the official marriage had occurred with even less pomp and circumstance than he had anticipated. I was standing on the other side of the room at the time, dismayed to learn that I might have missed the nuptials. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

I suppose you could find something cold about the setting, but I actually found it uplifting in its way. For starters, unlike drivers standing in line for a license, most everyone is happy to be there. Then there’s the graffiti on the walls -- there’s a clearly encouraged (or at least undiscouraged) practice of couples drawing hearts on the wall and filling them with their initials. It has the effect of making the place, with its yellowish hues and sedimentary layers of scrawl, look like the most hopeful and romantic restroom on the planet.

There was one more line to stand in -- at the front of which was a generic window, identical to those covering other cashiers in the room but adorned with a sign that incongruously claimed: “Chapel.” And then it was into the room where the real magic happens. A very friendly public servant used the power vested in her, etc., etc., and the next thing you know, whammo, another marriage had entered the world. The groom and his brother were moved to tears in a very charming way, and then the four of us set out over the Brooklyn Bridge, taking photos of the happiness along the way and enjoying views of the city accompanied by some champagne (none of us had eaten anything yet, so even the small cups of bubbly created a nice 1:30 buzz).

Lunch at Grimaldi’s (a famous pizza restaurant in these parts), a quick trip home to get out of the suit, and then out to Queens where the couple hosted a dinner party, catered, as a wedding gift, by a friend who has cooked at top-notch restaurants. The food was unforgettably good, and then we retired to the roof, where we watched plane after plane get alarmingly close on their identical approaches to LaGuardia. All in all, the kind of day here -- outnumbered recently -- that strongly inspires you to stick around.

Oh, I forgot: Getting in the elevator to leave City Hall that morning, who did we run into but the same security guard who had greeted us upon entering. With a happily flushed face and a friendly laugh, he said, “So that’s it. It’s done!” “Yes, yes,” we said, matching his enthusiasm. “I was with somebody for twenty years,” he said. “Then she left me for another officer. Misery loves company.”

The guy was so good-natured that we all laughed at his attempt at germane conversation, but it led me to wonder how he’d be as a greeter at another establishment, like a restaurant: “Had the fish last week. Tasty going down, but I was sick for a week afterwards.”

Needless to say, I think my friends are in for a brighter married future than the guard enjoyed, and it was an honor to be there at its official start.

The happy couple:

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No Partisan Angle Here. No, Sir.

Andrew Sullivan has been critical of Ramesh Ponnuru and his book, The Party of Death -- here, for instance -- because Ponnuru seems to apply his argument only to the Democratic Party. Sullivan points us to the first two sentences of the flap copy, which are:
Is the Democratic Party the "Party of Death"?

If you look at their agenda they are.
Forget that the second sentence should substitute "its" and "it is" for "their" and "they are." This is book publishing, after all. Seems pretty straightforward in sticking it to the 'Crats, but Ponnuru is adamant that the book is more balanced than this copy would lead us to believe. Here, he writes, in part:
I had no veto over the book jacket, didn’t see it until it had gone out, and didn’t much like it. The title and subtitle, on the other hand, I’m perfectly happy with.
Oh, OK. He's down with the subtitle. What is it again? "The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life."

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

Factoid of the Day: The Sun is Big

Walking in the park yesterday, I was struck (for the millionth time) by the simple, drastic difference between walking under the shade of trees and strolling under unobstructed sunlight. It was the difference between being kind of cold and fairly toasty, and it was separated by an inch of space. And as tempting as it is to get all poetic about it, here are the facts.

(Via FrinkTank)

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Race in Kentucky

I can't let the week pass without a few links for those of you who want to brush up on this Saturday's Kentucky Derby. So, here's the official site, here's ESPN's take on how things will shake out, and here's a piece illustrating the courage, insanity, and quirkiness of jockey culture.

I'll have to do some last-second handicapping, because I haven't been paying much attention up to this point. All I know is the names of the horses, which are normally entertaining in their own right, though this year features some clunkers. One entrant sounds like a bad sitcom in development at ABC (Bob and John), two are boring vocational names (Lawyer Ron and Brother Derek), and four have the makings of solid handles with familiar elements for big-time horses, but seem to get something just a shade wrong (Bluegrass Cat, Storm Pleasure, Private Vow, and Flashy Bull).

Sinister Minister and Sharp Humor are my two favorite names lining up Saturday, and they're both speed demons in a race full of them. They should be up front battling for the lead early. I watched Sinister Minister go wire to wire with ease in the Bluegrass Stakes, and even though that's not a race of this level, speed is speed. He's my pick.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Stage Set for Even More Blogging

Two weeks from tomorrow night, I fly to DFW with the intrepid JF to begin a week of baseball-watching, barbecue-eating, beer-drinking, and blog-maintaining. If you thought last year's baseball-trip blog was mind-blowing, and I know you did, then prepare yourself for The Mickey Rivers Experience.

There's nothing there now, of course, but I figured I would link to it so you could practice.

Sequel to the Sequel Post

Jason -- inspired by my powers of persuasion, as usual -- has followed up his hated-sequels post with a two-part look at his favorites, here and here.

It's the usual great stuff, including these two gems:

On Short Circuit 2: "Any of you whose heart doesn't melt when Johnny 5 becomes a US citizen - you are made of stone."

On Michael Myers in the Halloween movies: "Unlike Freddy, he is not particularly quick witted; to be honest, he might be Eddie Izzard but since he never speaks, we'll never know."

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

My One-Man Book Club: Vol. One, Chapter One

St. Mark’s Bookshop in the East Village is a dangerous place to browse. Some stores are just set up in some inexplicable way (or probably an explicable way, but I’m too lazy to suss it out) that almost guarantees impulse buying, and this is one of them. Tonight, before heading over to a friend’s birthday dinner, I popped in and made just such a buy, but I think this one might be a keeper. It’s called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, a psychology professor at Harvard.

Before you go thinking that I’m so desperate as to be reaching for self-healing platitudes, here is Gilbert’s defense of the book’s title in the foreword:
Despite the third word of the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anything useful about how to be happy. Those books are located in the self-help section two aisles over, and once you’ve bought one, done everything it says to do, and found yourself miserable anyway, you can always come back here to understand why. Instead, this is a book that describes what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and about how and how well it can predict which of those futures it will most enjoy.
Luckily, I’m not miserable, but I’ve been making a few day trips into misery’s outlying territories lately, and I’ve also been thinking a lot about what role anticipation and future-thinking have in creating happiness (or its approximation). Anticipation is a stimulant for everyone to some degree, I imagine, but I’ve always been acutely aware of just how strong its influence is on me. I think for some people anticipation is 80 or 90 percent of an event’s appeal (or lack thereof), which doesn’t seem healthy, and I think I might be one of those people. To take two examples, one from each pole:

I don’t have a particularly strong fear of flying. When I’m on a plane, that is. Once seated, barring horrific turbulence, I’m actually pretty relaxed in the air. But for the week or two leading up to a flight, I’m a semi-nervous-wreck about the whole thing. On the other hand, every year I anticipate a certain fantasy baseball draft with childlike glee. The actual draft, of course, is three or four hours of me making a series of choices that I almost immediately recognize as boneheaded, surrounded by men older and even more bitter than I am, cursing at each other in mostly unfriendly ways. Experiencing this time and again does nothing to diminish my eager anticipation of it eleven and a half months later.

It’s always been my suspicion that this trait says something important about the ways in which I’m satisfied and disappointed with the world, alternately, and so, as I’m sharply interested in increasing the satisfaction level these days, this seems like the right book at the right time, and I think I’ll occasionally share my thoughts with you as I make my way through it. Think of it as a book club, but without all the people and snacks.

(It will seem more club-like if some of you participate in the comments section, which could take the form of you reading the book along with me; I’d certainly understand, though, if it takes the form of your personal, non-book-related thoughts and anecdotes about the H word.)

Tonight, though, it’s getting late, so I’m almost sure that what will make me happy is going to bed. I’m anticipating it greatly. I’ll leave you with an abridged excerpt (again from the foreword; I haven’t gotten very far, considering that I bought the book four hours ago, so for the purposes of this project I’m taking it on faith that it will remain interesting and funny). More soon.
We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy. Rather than indulging in whatever strikes our momentary fancy, we take responsibility for the welfare of our future selves...

Yeah, yeah. Don’t hold your breath. Like the fruits of our loins, our temporal progeny are often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that....

How can this happen? Shouldn’t we know the tastes, preferences, needs, and desires of the people we will be next year -- or at least later this afternoon? Shouldn’t we understand our future selves well enough to shape their lives -- to find careers and lovers whom they will cherish, to buy slipcovers for the sofa that they will treasure for years to come? So why do they end up with attics and lives that are full of stuff that we considered indispensable and that they consider painful, embarrassing, or useless? Why do they criticize our choice of romantic partners, second-guess our strategies for professional advancement, and pay good money to remove the tattoos that we paid good money to get?


Monday, May 01, 2006

AP Headline That Must Have Ramifications I Wish I Was Smart Enough to Understand of the Day

Bolivia Nationalizes Natural Gas Industry


Johnny Doffs Cap, For Some Reason or Other/Brief, Shameful Movie Review

I'm starting to like Johnny Damon. This article about the Yankees' loss in Boston tonight features a shot of Damon tipping his cap to the Sox fans, many of whom were booing him at that moment. The report says: "Maybe Damon saw everyone standing and heard more clapping than berating because he removed his helmet and raised it in appreciation." Maybe. Either way, it's a good moment. In one scenario, Damon is tipping his hat because he's mistaking boos for cheers, and that makes him about as bright -- but about as easy to dislike, too -- as the average four-year-old. In the other scenario (and the article makes it clear that some fans were cheering), he's tipping his cap to a semi-appreciative crowd despite the other, more malign half of the reaction, and that, to me, is a pretty good-natured, mature gesture.

Also, and I bury this for a reason at the bottom of a post many of you won't read -- right before putting in a rented movie over the weekend, I caught the start of Fever Pitch on cable and ended up watching the whole thing. It stars Jimmy Fallon as a nutjob Red Sox fan who has to choose between baseball and a woman when he falls in love with Drew Barrymore. I detest the Red Sox, I strongly dislike Fallon, and though I think Barrymore can be cute, I also think she can be excruciatingly bad. Fallon's not bad in this (granted, it doesn't ask much of him), but everything else is OK or worse. Still, I enjoyed it. I can't defend this on any level, except to say that I've had a case of the doldrums lately, and that can lead to much lower standards for late-night flickering images. TV as fireplace for the wintry soul; you know the routine.

Blog Recommendation: Little Red Boat

Each time Norman Geras interviews a new blogger, I try to check out that blogger', because I like to think I gained somewhere between one and one-point-five readers myself when I was graciously included in the exercise. (This is to impugn me and my work, of course, and not Norm's vast and powerful readership.)

Anyway, last week's interview was with Anna Pickard, who blogs at Little Red Boat. I've spent just a bit of time there, but I'll spend more. She's got a conversational, funny voice and uses it well to describe everyday life. (If I was an op-ed columnist for a tired newspaper, I'd throw in something here about how blogs empower us average people. But I'm not. And they don't.)

She's also good at expressing anger and contempt with humor, an admirable trait, and using British slang in a way that makes me laugh, as in this description of a meditation technique she tried to little effect: "I’ve been doing it for the last fifteen minutes, and not only has it not made me any calmer, now I feel like a tit as well." Hey, I've never claimed highbrow status.

Sequels: And Now For Something Completely Worse

Jason over at Bad Movie Club is one of the world's leading authorities on, appropriately enough, bad movies. He loves (and is smart about) great movies, don't get me wrong, but he's a walking encyclopedia of bad movies. He could be the world's greatest father -- and he seems to be a good one from what I've seen; making sure the kids are fed and whatnot -- and still have to work very hard to spend more time with his boys than he has throughout his life ingesting terrible, wretched, spirit-draining cinematic product. In college, he would (barely) sleep on his couch with bad movies playing on a loop, waking up for long stretches throughout the night to feed on them. In this way, he gathered strength.

He now displays that strength on his blog, producing posts like today's, in which he presents (and systematically destroys) Entertainment Weekly's recent list of the 25 worst sequels in history, and then counters with a meticulously annotated list of his own.

I don't think I see as many sequels as Jason does. I don't think an overly caffeinated, ADD-afflicted high schooler kidnapped by Netflix for research purposes sees as many sequels as Jason does. (Ed. Note: I'm a happy Netflix customer, and I'm just joking; they don't kidnap, as far as I know.) So I can't offer a comprehensive list of my own. I can only agree heartily with the high ranking of Back to the Future 2, which was one of my first and most brutal lessons in the abject stupidity of anticipating a sequel to a favorite movie with anything other than some mixture of apathy and fear.

The Year's First Year-End List

Somewhere I Have Never Travelled, affectionately known as Props to Michigan in these parts, is putting me and Dezmond to shame. While we exchange best-of music lists at the end of each year, Michiganders are evidently too cool for such calendrical adherence. Before April had even fled the scene, Somewhere had posted her favorite albums of 2006. The list is here.

She admits this is premature, but ASWOBA has only respect and applause (of the delivered-standing-up variety) for list-makers who have trouble containing themselves. I only wish I felt as strongly about this year's music already. I can only recommend Hudson Bell's When the Sun is the Moon with anything resembling thorough familiarity. Past that, I really like Cat Power's The Greatest, Say I Am You by the Weepies (I just discovered this band, so I'm far from familiar), and We Were Here by Joshua Radin (super-sensitive songwriter stuff tailor-made for bad TV shows, but a pretty good example of the genre; the song "Star Mile," in it now).

There are other records I've been enjoying, but just don't know well enough yet -- Built to Spill, Calexico, Centro-matic, Band of Horses, Guillemots, Maritime, Rainer Maria, Trespassers William.

By the end of the year -- oh, believe you me -- I'll know them.* And I'll spend a ridiculous amount of time ranking them, don't think I won't.** Don't try to stop me. But a lot could change, since I know that, at the very least, there are supposed to be new records by year's end from The Innocence Mission, The Mountain Goats, and The Postal Service. Fun times ahead.
* OK, it's not necessarily true that I'll know them much better than I do now. Sadly, my listening habits have followed my reading habits, which have been decimated by the nature of my work. I was telling a fellow drone the other day that I used to live by the romantic notion that I had to finish every book I started, even if I wasn't enjoying it (though I did break this rule with Cold Mountain, the opening pages of which I abhorred for reasons lost to time). Now, there are even books I'm mildly enjoying that I just can't stand to complete. To avoid the 40,000-word essay that might break out, let's just use a pseudo-academic phrase for now and say that working in publishing, um, diminishes the "authority of the book." The one advantage to this, for categorizing purposes, is that if I finish a book these days, I can safely call it one of the all-time best I've ever read. Music is similar. Especially since I'm acquiring more of it all the time, it's unlikely I'm actually going to listen to, say, the new Centro-matic record front-to-back often enough to know it intimately, unless it snares me very quickly, which it hasn't. I'm slippery like that. So at the end of '06, it's likely I'll be able to tell you the things I already know today, but maybe not much more: the Centro-matic is more polished but less enjoyable than their early stuff; the last track on the Built to Spill record is produced in a great, moody way, but most of the rest falls short of their best; etc.

** This part's still totally true.

Don't Make Me Beg. ... Too Late.

Look, folks, I'm not saying I've been hitting them out of the park lately, because I haven't, but the last 10 posts have only generated one comment. These posts have included thoughts on manic-depression, comedians roasting the president but good, songs all of you should be listening to, "beer spas," a potential threesome with the world's most beautiful couple and Ayn Rand, and mascots on the verge of in-game fornication. What other blog can claim such provocative and useless diversity?

Well, a lot of them, probably. That's not the point. The point is, let's hear some chatter.