Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Philosophy of Soccer

The folks guest-blogging for Andrew Sullivan while he's away linked to this hysterical Monty Python clip. The costumes and the acting are funny, but the announcer is what makes it -- the announcer is just pitch-perfect brilliant through the whole thing. Enjoy.

Kicking and Screaming -- Not the Dumb Youth Soccer Movie

Bad Movie Club rightly rejoices that a very good movie has finally been released on DVD.

“I just feel this place is stuck on stupid.”

I wouldn't have guessed that a thought-provoking piece about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, dealing with issues of home and rebuilding and ultimate relocation, would revolve around the fate of the guy who played the judge on Night Court, but here it is.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Archive of the Day

"Recuerdo" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

We were very tired, we were very merry --
We had gone back and forth all night upon the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable --
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on the hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.

We were very tired, we were very merry --
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.

We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed, "Good morrow, mother!" to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, "God bless you!" for the apples and the pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.

Today in Debate

Do you have trouble envisioning President Bush soundly trouncing anyone in a debate? Yes? Well, me too. Until I read this.

Lemonheads Redux

It's a Shame About Ray has always been one of my favorite records, and now the Lemonheads are reuniting. (As much as a band can reunite when it's always been one dude with a rotating cast of supporting players.) The new record is out at the end of September, and you can hear a song from it over at My Old Kentucky Blog (mp3 link is at bottom of the post). I've played it a couple of times, and it sounds OK to me.

(Update: It seems you can now stream the whole thing here. Still sounds pretty good to me. Update to the Update: OK, it seems like that link is to three or fours songs on a loop. Still, better than just one. And the link comes via Pop Candy.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

And God Created Women. And Said Unto Thee, "Shhh."

I was interested in this Times article partly because my mother has always been very involved in her church, but also makes impassioned arguments against allowing females to hold the highest positions in that church. The basic issue, for those who don't believe in checks on female power in the church, is summed up in the paper like so:
Whether they come from theologically liberal denominations or conservative ones, black churches or white, women in the clergy still bump against what many call the stained-glass ceiling —- longstanding limits, preferences and prejudices within their denominations that keep them from leading bigger congregations and having the opportunity to shape the faith of more people.
Later in the article, we're shown how -- surprise, surprise -- arguments for and against female empowerment can be found in the Bible:
Conflicting interpretations of the Bible underlie debates over women’s authority and ordination. Opponents of their ordination cite St. Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:12, in which he says, "I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent." But proponents point to St. Paul again in Galatians 3:28, which says, "There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Let's leave aside those charming words of St. Paul in Timothy for a moment. I suppose the debates that seem to eternally spring from the Bible are what has caused Christianity to remain so vibrant; it could be that many raised in the faith stick around because they want to figure out what it's saying. After all, it's not like these women are fleeing when they read St. Paul's words (which shocks me) -- they're just forming splinter groups that interpret that issue differently but still stick to the religion's other teachings. Andrew Sullivan often writes of the ways in which he tries to reconcile his complaints about the Catholic Church -- including its treatment of homosexuals -- with his membership in it.

But Sullivan and many others have also written about the unyielding, pathological lack of comfort with females that constitutes some of current-day Islam. And from this paragraph in the Times, it seems Christianity isn't far behind:
At a large church where she was an associate pastor, a colleague told her that when she was in the pulpit, he could not focus on what she was saying because she is a woman. A man in the congregation covered his eyes whenever she preached.
Covered his eyes? This is like some kind of demented adoption of the burka, requiring no extra clothing for the women, just blindness for the men.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

AP Headline of the Day

Rounding out the top 10: Minneapolis-St. Paul; Columbus (I've been there; I don't blame them); Boston; Austin; Chicago; Cleveland; Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; and Providence.

New Yorkers, we have work to do. We're 32nd -- behind Norfolk, for God's sake.

Hornby on Reading

I have New York friends who ask me why I remain a fan of Nick Hornby's. It's partly because he expresses sentiments like this one, which I don't think many of my Yankee friends could bring themselves to endorse:
I am not particularly interested in language. Or rather, I am interested in what language can do for me, and I spend many hours each day trying to ensure that my prose is as simple as it can possibly be.

But I do not wish to produce prose that draws attention to itself, rather than the world it describes, and I certainly don't have the patience to read it.
Read the whole thing.

(Addendum: The New York friends aren't all adamantly opposed to Hornby, but there is a sense among them that he's not a serious critic -- I don't think he would claim to be -- and that he's often too flippant or unclear about what he says. For instance, one friend, and I think she's right, has already e-mailed me to say that his "not particularly interested in language" comment cited above is both technically inaccurate given what follows and dangerously soft-headed in the era of President Bush's unintentional but still formidable assault on language as a potent communicative tool. Unintentional in the sense that he's not anti-language so much as language-deficient himself. He might daydream about being T.S. Eliot, for all we know, the same way I might daydream about being Derek Jeter; doesn't make me a clutch hitter.)

(Via Normblog)

Planetary Update

Well, they've booted Pluto.

And I just ran across this entertaining op-ed piece in the Times, an impassioned plea to "grandfather in" Pluto, which makes a lot of sense to me, but which was evidently too little, too late. You should read the whole thing. Here's a fragment:
The situation this seems most similar to is the inextricably tangled social nightmare that is inviting people to your wedding. You truly want to invite your distant and eccentric but dear old friend Pluto, but this necessarily means inviting his horrible girlfriend, too, plus then maybe you’re obliged to invite all the other people you were both friends with in college, friends he’s still in contact with who will be offended if he’s invited and they’re not but who, frankly, are now boring people with whom you no longer have anything in common.

Some would suggest we just have to be harsh about this and not invite any of them, Pluto included. But these people are forgetting that we already sent Pluto an invitation, 76 years ago. Pluto has rented a tuxedo.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

AP Headline of the Day

Now that I've discovered that church-sign generator, I wonder if it would be fun to use it for the AP headlines from time to time. Let's see, what do you think?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Breaking news from the There Must Have Been Some Mistake Department: The judges for Norm Geras' recent short-short story competition have seen fit to say nice things about my work. Bless them. And thanks to Norm for the chance to play.

I'm now in Saratoga for the first of my annual five nights filled with recreational drinking, fairly heavy eating (by my standards; one friend has been continually referring to my "manorexia" these days), and intense feelings of celebration/regret about how the ponies are treating me. Tomorrow is our first day at the races, so wish me luck.

The story I submitted to Norm's site was a highly condensed piece of a longer thing I've been working on intermittently. (I would use the word "novel," but given the fact that I've never completed a short story to my satisfaction, that seems a bit silly for the time being.) Anyway, the longer thing is set, mostly, in Saratoga, so I'm hoping to spend at least one day away from the track taking some notes about the local environment. I'll spare you that boredom, but I'll likely give you a brief recap of each day's gambling, making a special effort to limit the number of terms that none of you will understand.


Whatever you think of him (I like him quite a bit), David Foster Wallace is one of the few writers whose style makes him very easily recognizable. His piece on Roger Federer is worth reading. Make sure to click on the footnotes when they appear. . . . I have friends who make noises about living in Maine. I suppose this photo is an argument for. . . . A Seattle writer bows before Brooklyn (natch), but gets slammed for it by his commenters. It's the same all over, people. . . . A funny, accurate observation from my friend Nick about a certain snack food, made this past weekend in upstate New York: "With Doritos, there is no satiety. There is only sickness and the desire for more Doritos."

Archive of the Day

I'm finally reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, which has been near the top of my must-read list for a while. Two friends recently reiterated the necessity of my reading it, and each of them, independently, cited the same paragraph as evidence of that necessity. Having just reached the paragraph in question myself (it appears on page 61), I thought I would share. It concerns someone waking up with a hangover.
Dixon was alive again. Consciousness was upon him before he could get out of the way; not for him the slow, gracious wandering from the halls of sleep, but a summary, forcible ejection. He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sparty Was Robbed

I'm falling asleep on the job. As you know, I like to be your source for mascot news. It's right up there in the subtitle, even before geography. But somewhere i have never travelled has beaten me to the story of the 2006 inductees to the Mascot Hall of Fame.

Let's start, of course, with the glorious realization that this Hall of Fame exists. Some friends of mine have made small noises recently about moving to Philadelphia. It appears the Mascot shrine is located there. I might have to start apartment hunting.

The Hall's web site says that the institution "is in its infant stages and needs your help to grow. Do your part and receive some cool gifts along with voting rights in the induction process." (Emphasis mine.)

Huh? I can vote?? Little ol' me, entrusted with such a weighty duty? I could emerge from a Philadelphia voting booth and piously raise my ink-smeared finger to allow a New York Times photographer to capture the miracle that is democracy? Rest assured, I'm investigating this possibility.

Perhaps if I lend my voice to the chorus, I can rectify miscarriages of justice like the one described on somewhere i have never travelled, in which the University of Delaware's YoUDee -- a "fightin' chicken" -- was voted in over Michigan State's Sparty. The nomination process includes submitting a three-minute video of the mascot in action. Here is Sparty's reel. These moments pass pretty quickly, but I particularly like the 1:12 mark, where he crowds out a couple of students on the top step of an academic building, and 1:28, where he, perhaps unadvisedly, seems to be manning a phone at a suicide hotline center.


Pluto Perplexes Planet Professionals

If you haven't been following the drama surrounding whether to boot Pluto from the official list of planets, Dava Sobel has a good wrap-up here. Most entertaining is this paragraph, which ends with a question that is an exact mix of funny, pathetic, and touching.
On one side were major-planet purists who felt that bodies smaller than 1,500 miles in diameter (a size calculated to eliminate Pluto) should be dropped from the planet list. On the other side were Plutophiles who objected to arbitrary size discrimination. One Pluto specialist asked pointedly, "Is a dachshund not a dog?"
I imagine the major-planet purists would answer, "Yes, but a cockroach is not."

(Via Critical Mass)

Make Your Own Church Sign

This site, where you can generate your own church signs, is a lot of fun. I found it via The Stranger.

I went with an old joke template:

And then I figured the self-promotional angle is as good as any:

I could do this all day. Lucky for you, I won't.

State of the Blog Address

Blogging is hard, people. I know the image you probably have of me, slumped half-asleep in my rickety chair, wearing only boxer shorts and a tattered Yankees T-shirt, sipping a Snapple and trying not to get the crumbs of Pepperidge Farm cookies lodged in my keyboard, trawling the Internet for inspiring items about REM and sock puppets.

Well, I’ll have you know that I’m almost always wearing pants.

Things have been slow around here this week because I'm confronted with a very harsh reality. I'm moving in a couple of weeks, and for many of those days I'm going to be on vacation. Meaning, I have three (or four) nights left in which to pack up all my belongings, call a moving company, let the interested parties -- cable provider, energy provider, etc. -- know that I'm leaving. It can't be said too often, can it? Moving sucks.

Next week should be fun, though, as I’ll be in Saratoga Springs for most of it, playing the horses, taking leisurely strolls, and scouting possible locations for the gourmet cheese shop that a friend and I keep threatening to open up there. The good news for all of you – joyous news, really – is that I will be hauling my computer with me, so ASWOBA will not be on vacation. ASWOBA never rests.

Actually, ASWOBA will be lightly resting for the next few days, because of the aforementioned tasks surrounding relocation. I’ll still post some things, but I’ve got my work cut out for me. Pardon my relative silence. Lots of shouting and dancing soon, scout's honor.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"A new Goliath"?

On a light night around here, I'll just point you toward a thought-provoking piece about the current situation in Lebanon and Israel, which I found via Norman Geras.

Monday, August 14, 2006

AP Headline That Even I'm Not Evil Enough to Laugh at of the Day

Kittens Thrown in Frying Pan in N.Y.


The Rapture Index, currently at 160, keeps track of such indicators as "Drug Abuse," "Inflation," and, of course, "Beast Government." Oh, my; follow that link and check out the rapture "FAQ" page. That will be worth its own post any day now. Perhaps momentarily. . . . "Dancing With the Stars" is already such a bad idea that there's no danger I'd ever watch it, but now comes word that Tucker Carlson and Jerry Springer will be competing in the new season, and that moves it from bad to just plain wrong. . . . This would be the best title for a blog ever, if it didn't match the actual subject of the blog. . . . Oh, and some late-breaking news: People are still dumb as rocks.

A Rare Foray Into Questionnaires

I normally don't go in for these despite loving lists, but (en)gender tagged me with this book survey, and here goes:

1. One book that changed your life?

Welcome to the Monkey House
by Kurt Vonnegut. I was always a big reader as a kid, but reading these stories during algebra class in tenth grade (sorry, educators) gave me the bug to try my hand at writing them. I'm not saying this was a positive change, mind you, but it qualifies.

2. One book you have read more than once?

All the Pretty Horses
by Cormac McCarthy.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

This one.

4. One book that made you laugh?

Home Land by Sam Lipsyte and Money by Martin Amis. (Sorry to cheat, but not many books make me laugh out loud, so might as well name two.)

5. One book that made you cry?

The Brothers K
by David James Duncan

6. One book you wish had been written?

I’d like to see a comprehensive, page-turning(ish) history of horse racing from ancient times to the present day.

7. One book you wish had never been written?

I’ve seen people (including my tagger) answer The Bible for this one, and though the anti-religionist in me sees their point, I just can’t imagine banishing so much from the English language. No, for me the answer is The Truth About Diamonds “by” Nicole Richie because, like that old joke about a lawyer at the bottom of the ocean, it would be a good start.

8. One book you are currently reading?

Fear and Trembling by Kierkegaard.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

One? Are you kidding? Well, to choose at random -- Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde.

10. Now tag five people.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if any of my blogger-readers want to post on their sites, I’d be happy to see their answers. Anyone else with choices to share is encouraged to visit the comments section, as always, where battles are waged, friendships are cultivated, and refreshments are served.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Recognizable View

Andrew Sullivan has thankfully kept up his "View From Your Window" series. Remarkably, I named the location of today's entry in my head before I even saw it written beneath. I spent many years in Plano, and one of the most consistent criticisms leveled against it is how perfectly it represents the prefabricated, McMansion, high-end strip mall, office park aesthetic that's so rampant these days. All of which is pretty true, so I wouldn't have guessed it would be so easy to identify it, immediately differentiating it from other similar 'burbs. I guess it has a singular character after all, even if it's a bit...well, look at the picture.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Archive of the Day

From Blockbuster by Tom Shone, a scene in which George Lucas screens Star Wars for several movie people in 1977:
(Alan) Ladd hated Harrison Ford's performance -- thought it was too camp -- and resolved to ask Lucas to fix it in the editing, but for the moment he said nothing and simply left. Everyone else headed out to a Chinese restaurant; as soon as they sat down Lucas asked them, "All right, whaddya guys really think?" (Brian) De Palma plowed into it: "It's gibberish," he said. "The first act, where are we? Who are these fuzzy guys? Who are these guys dressed up like the Tin Man from Oz? What kind of movie are you making here? You've left the audience out. You've vaporized the audience."

Mean Green Machine

I'm legitimately excited that they're finally releasing The Incredible Hulk TV series on DVD. And yes, I'm going to buy it, and yes, I'm going to pray that it holds up just a little bit.

The Hulk comics were one of my first passionate reading experiences -- a clear early indicator of what has become a refined taste in literature -- and I thought the TV show did a much better job than that horrid Ang Lee movie of getting at the mundane existential dilemma at the heart of the story. Now that I think of it, my own vague-but-real wanderlust might have been largely shaped by watching David Banner traipse off towards another town at the end of each episode.

The show had a great introduction each week. It includes the classic line -- "You wouldn't like me when I'm angry" -- as well as the implication that to grow "angry or outraged" enough to transform, Banner only needs to change a tire in the rain. Awesome. But really, it also has a closing split-screen image that still gets to me. Check it out:

AP Keeping Perspective Headline of the Day

Terror Plot Could Affect New Stone Film

AP Overshadowed Terrorism Headline of the Day

Squirrel Attacks People in Fla. Park

Let's Get Physical

It had been about eight years since the last time I stepped into a doctor’s office when I made my way all of one block uptown today at lunch to get the ol’ engine serviced. My irrational fear of medical practitioners -- which is really part of my larger, no less irrational and even more problematic fear of physical existence -- has led me to develop a set of tools to deal with my heebie-jeebies. For instance, Tool One: Avoiding a checkup for nearly a decade.

Once that tool outlives its usefulness, I pick up the next trustiest, which is turning my fear into a joke around the doctor -- brilliant and unheard of, right? Yeah. I do this partly to win them over with humor, making it less likely, I imagine, that they will order unnecessary invasive exams. But I also do it so they’ll understand if I suddenly jump out the window at some crucial moment during the proceedings, like the Cowardly Lion on his way to confronting the Wizard.

Upon disclosing my nervousness today, as if it couldn’t be sensed from down the hall, the doctor -- the first woman I’ve been to for the engine, and certainly the first woman of any type to be direct enough to say to me, “Take off your boxers, I want to look at your testicles” -- asked, “Why are you nervous? Do you think we’ll find something wrong with you?”

“Well, yes, there’s that,” I said, being a longtime adherent of the philosophy What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You Until It Quietly and Painlessly Kills You In Your Sleep. “But I think it’s more the poking and prodding. I just always fear it’s going to hurt somehow, even though it never really does.”

I also have a silly notion that the doctor is going to do his or her best -- not purposely -- to make my worst nightmares come true, though I’m rational enough to understand what Nick said earlier this week: “I’m pretty sure they’re supposed to help, unless that part of the oath has changed to, ‘First, do no harm, except to John Williams.’ ”

Of course, these twisted visions always bloom in the days leading up to the appointment. Once I’m in the office, the primary task becomes the same one in offices of all types: fending off boredom. I was initially left in the exam room by a friendly nurse with a very thick Eastern European accent around 12:15. Ten minutes later, I was sitting on that vinyl divan-like structure covered in deli wrapping paper (The Embarrasser, I christened it in my head while waiting) in my underwear and a flimsy robe open down the front (these robes are new since the last time I saw a doctor; I suppose they’re meant to provide more dignity, but I experienced even less somehow), when I noticed that my feet, dangling a foot above the floor in the very cool air-conditioned room, were swelling and turning an alarming shade of purple. I started pacing to get the blood flow back. I looked at the time displayed on a phone on the wall. 12:38. Ten more minutes would pass before I was joined by the affable doc, and that’s a long time to spend barefoot in an open robe with only jars of tongue depressors and thoughts of your own mortality to keep you company.

After we spent some quality time, during which we went through the usual motions of my meeting a healthcare provider -- me reciting my spiel of I’m a bit of a neurotic mess upstairs, there’s probably not much you can do to help me, etc., and her tapping my knees to make my feet do that spastic little air dance and quietly judging me for being a 32-year-old who seemed like he wouldn’t mind having his mother’s hand during this completely painless ordeal -- she left the room with a promise that the nurse would be back to take care of the painful stuff.

The nurse’s accent was beautiful. It did sometimes obscure what she was saying, but I felt confident that phrases like “rectal exam” would come through loud and clear, so I kept an alert ear. At one point, while putting the stickers on me for the EKG, I thought she asked me to take off the robe. I assumed it would make it easier for her to reach the sides of my chest. I asked her to confirm. “No,” she said, “I just said, ‘I’m moving some of your chest hair to put on the stickers.’ ” Ah, my bad. Why she felt the need to narrate the relocation of my body hair, I’m not sure, but it was pretty humiliating to misinterpret “This won’t hurt a bit, Bigfoot,” as “Please disrobe.”

After that, it was all over but the shouting, by which I mean, the bloodletting. The doctor had reassured me by explaining that, because of training techniques passed on by a former nurse, the office uses small butterfly needles to draw the blood of all patients, “the same ones we use on children,” and nothing forces you to calm down like hearing, “Elementary schoolers are routinely tougher than you.”

I know it’s all in my head, which just makes me feel worse about myself. The fact is, I do a variety of things every week that feel worse than having blood drawn -- stub my toe, jam my finger, go to work.

I stared at the ceiling and got through it. In this way, it was like any other rough stretch of life.

Now I just have to wait for the blood results. Breath held, fingers crossed, all that. I’ve heard that kindergartners await their results with stiff upper lips, so I’ll try to do the same.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What's Scary and What's Not

MAW over at somewhere i have never travelled is not happy about the fact that Rob Zombie is going to remake Halloween (I don't blame her), and she channels her rage into a comparison of John Carpenter's technique in the original with the indignities she imagines Zombie will unleash from the director's chair:
Seeing the world through the eyes of a psychopath for the first half of a film is scary. Listening to simple, repetitive piano notes echoed over and over and over again is scary. A nondescript, white Halloween mask hiding a mysterious and never-seen face IS SCARY. Watching someone get disemboweled by a unrealistically grotesque-looking monster while heavy metal music plays in the background and strobe lights flash IS NOT. Rob Zombie remaking Halloween would be like Paris Hilton singing a cover of "Ave Maria" or drunken hobos fingerpainting The Mona Lisa. It's a travesty and it makes me very, very angry! Gaa!!!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Five Songs, Chapter Eleven

It's been a while since the last installment. Dig out your dancing shoes.

"Getting Saved" by Portastatic

Portastatic's Bright Ideas was one of last year's best records, and this is probably my favorite song off the follow-up, Be Still Please, which is out in October and is one of this year's best. I would tell you how I got a copy, but then everyone's going to want one and we can’t have that.

"Life of Leisure" by Rainer Maria

If the rest of this band's latest album was as strong as its first three songs, you'd have a contender for 2006's top spot on your hands. As it is, well, download the first three songs. Here's an analysis made possible by iTunes, God bless it -- I’ve listened to those three a combined 70 times. I’ve listened to the other eight songs a total of 24 times. (OK, I just listened to the song "Already Lost," not one of the first three, and I have to say, I should be listening to that one more.) ((OK, OK, look -- the whole record’s pretty good, they just front-loaded the puppy, that’s all.))

"Wasted Time" by Skid Row

I know. Here’s the thing. In possession of iTunes, I wander. I think of songs I heard way back when, like this one -- yes, I somehow possessed the cassette of Slave to the Grind when it came out; you can stop reading now (not just this post, but the entire blog, and any personal correspondence I might send you). I won’t blame you. -- and I search for them, to see how they sound now. As I was telling a friend a few weeks ago, there are a lot of songs I listened to as the very dumb, tasteless, slowly testosterone-infused 13-year-old I was (“I Won’t Forget You” by Poison, “Wait” by White Lion, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” by Def Leppard, the list goes on) that sound as awful as I would imagine -- neanderthal lyrics, hacky musicianship, and production values that make it sound like poofy-haired ‘80s bands in search of recording space were regularly renting out giant empty coffee cans. Not this song, though. This is more Guns N Roses than Europe. Without defending Skid Row, and while admitting that the first couple of times I listened to this again it was with a vague sense of shame, this song isn't bad. Really. I’m also intrigued by someone like Sebastian Bach, who can really sing (particularly compared to most front men in hard rock), but chooses to growl in equal measure. It makes it that much more satisfying when he decides to clearly hit and hold a note. OK, it’s damning with faint praise to say a song is one of the better examples of a drug-addiction power ballad from the era that spawned this one, but there you have it. Oh, hell -- as one reviewer on Amazon opined, “Don’t think, just rock.”

The most humiliating thing -- but I'm all about full disclosure here -- is that I just spent all of those words on this song, and it's not even my favorite Skid Row song. That will have to wait for another time. I don't think we're ready for that.

"Sixteen, Maybe Less" by Calexico and Iron & Wine

Two great tastes that taste great together.

"Mind Blindness" by Dirty on Purpose

If you like male-female call-and-response vocals and ringing-then-fuzzy, melodic guitar, go now. Go. We’ll wait for you to get back.


"It's a Simple Question, Doctor: Would You Eat the Moon If It Were Made of Ribs?"

OK, for now I think the heat has abated to the point where the blog will start making sense again. Or, as much sense as it usually does. Some friends have pointed out the anemic nature of recent posts, like the one showing my hand. They've used phrases like "low on content," which is friend speak for "worthless." But tonight, I'm back, filled with rage at New York Times reporters and ready to recommend songs and -- how's this for content? -- armed with a link to this skit of Will Ferrell surreally and hysterically playing Harry Caray as the host of a science interview show. Jeff Goldblum does an admirable job, I think, of not laughing at Ferrell's insanity until at least a minute or so into the proceedings:

(Via Pop Candy)

AP Story of the Day

My friend Sarah sent along this AP story, which has a great headline:
Woman Gets Stuck on Toilet, Suffers Burns
The rest of the story isn't bad, either. Turns out someone put a cement compound on the toilet seats at an Iowa mall. The burns came when paramedics used fingernail polish remover to...remove her. The best moment comes at the end, when the woman says it was "one of the most embarrassing moments in her life." One of? What kind of a life has this woman led?

Monday, August 07, 2006

My Hand?

I'm pretty sure this is a picture of my hand at the U.S. Open last year, during the Andre Agassi-James Blake match. It just arrived in my Hotmail inbox without explanation, from an address that includes the phone number of my friend PF, who attended the match with me. Strange.

Anyway, I'm excited, because we're going to the men's semis this year, with a friend who will be up from Texas for it. Why you needed to know this, I'm not sure. The fact is, the promised "break" in the heatwave is really just a series of days in the high 80s with humidity somewhere around the 600% range, so I'm trying to maintain the blog as best I can while suffering from severe heat-induced delusions.

Please Be Quiet Now

You might think that a writer who is disinclined to talk about whatever it is she's currently working on, when asked to discuss it, would simply say, "No, sorry, I'd rather not." But you would be wrong, because that route would keep the writer from dispensing a mind-bendingly pretentious non-answer.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

AP Headline of the Day

Rabies Shots Urged for Virginia Girl Scouts


Saturday, August 05, 2006

In Da Club(s)

I remember occasionally picking up The Village Voice at a book store when I lived in Dallas, marveling at the music listings -- dozens of bands I wanted to see, all on the same page, all on their way to the same city. And when I first moved to New York, I was eager to take advantage of this ridiculous buffet of sonic offerings, and I did. But in the hard slog since, from 26 to 32, I've reached two conclusions: 1. I've seen the great majority of the bands I want to see at least once; and 2. Standing in the middle of rabid packs of 20-something hipsters during a mediocre opening-band's set has plummeted on my list of priorities, resting somewhere just above outdoor running in the summer and reading The Nation cover-to-cover each week. In the past year, I can barely remember seeing any concerts -- and the one I can remember, this past February, I left early out of boredom.

But I really need to make an effort to rejuvenate myself, because it's true that I find very few things as enlivening as a good show. Last week was a start. I saw Midlake and the Cold War Kids at a club in Brooklyn. Midlake is a band from Denton, Texas, and they put on a great show -- borrowing a bit from Radiohead and Granddaddy and, according to my fellow attendee, Fleetwood Mac. Cold War Kids, from L.A., were energetic and often locked into a pretty strong groove, but maybe relied a bit too much on their hipness quotient to put over their duller numbers. To my ear, they're heavily influenced by the White Stripes, and realizing there's a flight of new bands already calling back to the 2001 era made me feel, what's the word, ancient.

Then, Thursday night, I saw Calexico and the New Pornographers in Central Park. A smattering of rain passed through just as we arrived, which helped cool things off a bit (the four days leading up to that drizzle were just barely survivable around here, and it's pretty damn hot again -- fall, New York's best season, can't get here soon enough). Calexico was in good form, and the Pornos delivered a fun set, despite disappointingly being without sometime-vocalist Neko Case, whose voice is a force of nature.

Meanwhile, speaking of concerts, longtime rock critic and English mangler Robert Christgau recently had a piece in the Voice in which he recounts seeing 30 shows in 30 days. I have to give him credit, at his age, for being able to handle such an assignment. I'm half his age, and doubt I could go to a show each night for a week before gladly turning in my rock n' roll credentials. Still, it amazes me that people are (rightly) concerned about issues of torture around the planet, but no one is speaking out on behalf of Christgau's sentences. Take these two:
The mark of the letch is on Dulli, whose black attire lacks only the waistcoat his ample bay window requires, yet there's fascination in his endangered self-assurance.

Stylofone have one dynamite gimmick: doubled guitar leads on every hook, executed with joyous arena-rock everything-old-is-new.
Those aren't even that terrible by his standards, and I have to give him credit for these sentences elsewhere in the essay. They're pretty simple, but they get at something I relate to:
I'm a record guy, always will be. But records can't match the exhilaration of the best gigs. You walk home prepared to live forever.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Fashionably Apathetic Sock Puppets

The YouTube finding that I hinted at the other day isn't quite what I hoped it would be. Such is life. But we soldier on.

Just a little before the turn of the millennium -- remember those days, when the scariest possible thing we could imagine involved computers misreading calendars? Oh, but look at us now -- I became a fan of a show called Sifl & Olly on MTV. It made Beavis & Butthead look like Turgenev, but I enjoyed it. (I'll defend B&B to the death, by the way, but you know what I mean.) Sifl and Olly were two sock puppets, seemingly voiced by two college dropouts who were improvising prank phone calls and stoner talk about subjects like the ice cream truck. (My girlfriend at the time couldn't believe how much I liked the show given that I wasn't a regular smoker of weed. Looking back, I share her amazement.) They had a friend named Chester who was normally the highlight of any episode he appeared in, and I was hoping YouTube had footage that involved him and Star Wars (the context is vague in my memory, but I recall it was the funniest thing they ever did). Unfortunately, I couldn't find it, and many of the clips they do have are kind of lame. This song they did, though, cracks me up, so it will have to suffice. Olly (the white one) tears into it while Sifl (the green one) looks on in disbelief:

Archive of the Day

This comes from "In Defense of Alcohol," an essay by Michael Ventura. I discovered Ventura in college -- I think he was writing a regular column for The Austin Chronicle at the time. I recently, for the first time in years, picked up the collection of his I had bought back then, and a lot of it clearly appeals to the young, Romantic-but-inexperienced, pseudo-spiritual person I was back then. (As opposed to me now -- actually, I'm older, but the rest is pretty much the same. I'm not crazy about Ventura's type of style anymore, or his vague hippie-ish notions of cosmic connections, but I can't lie and disown the entire aesthetic.) Anyway, some of it holds up, including this:
Didn't drink much in my twenties. Except when I was twenty-four -- I even drank in the morning that year. Otherwise it wasn't unusual to go weeks or months without a beer. Then one morning I was twenty-six, driving into the West for the first time. If you've grown up in the East, your vision usually stops about twenty yards from where you stand. Some wall, some tree. Space back there feels cramped. Driving 200 miles is a big occasion. But in the West, with its endless, beckoning vistas, I've driven 70 miles for a pizza, 500 for a party, 1,000 for a girl. This is not unusual behavior in Texas and New Mexico.


(a new feature, to keep things moving here)

I was going to say that this photo gallery makes me hate my generation that much more, but if these folks are in their early 20s, perhaps I can get away with saying they constitute the generation following mine. Please say I can. . . . Here's a funny piece about the upcoming fall TV season by a recent guest of this blog. . . . Andrew Sullivan posts an archive of his own, a beauty from Oscar Wilde. . . . And a random great line from Built to Spill: "That net does not make me feel safe/All those holes make me nervous."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

It's Really Hot. And Thom Yorke is Annoying.

You’ll have to forgive the paltry maintenance around here this week. It’s difficult to describe the recent weather outside, much less the weather in my third-floor apartment after it’s been sealed all day.

More soon, promise. And come winter, you won’t be able to shut me up.

For now, can I just say how annoying it is when rock stars issue vague, unargumentative pronouncements looking to foment revolution? Thom Yorke is mad that the world continues to be a complicated powder keg despite its being "a nice sunny day." Ugh.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Blogging Live From the Depths of Hell

I've got some decent stuff to post tonight (decent in my humble opinion), including a look at Robert Christgau's latest nonsense in The Village Voice, a funny piece by a recent guest here, and a great find on YouTube (warning: in this case, "great" will be even more wildly open to interpretation than it usually is around here).

But here's the thing: Without exaggeration, it's about 125 degrees in my living room right now, which is where the computer is. The seat I am on is hot. Not warm, but hot, like I'm sitting on a plate that a waiter just warned me about.

So I'll do what I can. But if I don't come back tonight, it's not because I don't love you; it's because I'm either in the air-conditioned bedroom staring at the ceiling or I've got my head firmly planted in the freezer.