November 2005 Archives

setting the remote down

I'm starting to come to terms with the fact that'll I'll never look for work during the 100-day break before my new gig.

"You're only now realizing that?" Katrina says. "I've been telling people you're not working until January for a month, now."

In theory, this was to be writing time. In practice, I've cooked a lot. I've slept. I've ordered HBO. I've caught Ed drinking out of the toilet and held her face in there while she got, at age 11, the first swirly of her life. I've pretty much done everything but look for work or write. I've decided that my self-respect dictates that I must do one or the other. And there's no way in hell I'm working.

In six years of posts here I certainly have enough story ideas. I've decided to poll the body of esteemed Stank trolls and see which posts y'all think might be worth expanding upon.

last rites

Right above where my will directs my family to "Go fuck yourselves, the bunch of you," it directs Allie to scatter my ashes on Heinz Field by any means necessary. This would be excellent.

a thousand pardons

In describing Football Weekend to an uncaring-but-being-polite Courtney, it dawned on me that one reference was likely lost on this frilliest of girlie girls.

"I know you probably don't even know who Brett Favre is, but it was a really big deal—"

"I know who Brett Favre is," she snapped crossly. "Scheez."

"Sorry."

"He was in Something About Mary."

oh, canada

The Canadian government was toppled tonight when the House of Commons gave the boot to Prime Minister Paul Martin. On behalf of all Americans, I'd like to be the first to say..."Who?"

timpano revisited

Esteemed troll Jan (Germany) decided to try to make Timpano himself, and he sent me a note and some photos. The highlights:

  • I would definitely add more "flavor" items next time, i.e. more salami, olives etc. As for lubricant: since we didn't completely trust our bowl (see below), my wife insisted on covering it in tin foil which is a definite solution to all potential stickiness problems.
  • It held together rather nicely at first but I was so in awe that i forgot to take the trophy pics right then. The photos were taken sometime later and some pasta (albeit not much) had spilled out by that time, but most of the loose stuff was actually falling off when trying to lift the tiny 'ladies slices' which immediately lost consistency. So overall I was rather satisfied with the integrity.
  • There is another account of freestyle Timpano-cooking at which tells of rather more severe consistency problems.
  • The really amazing thing about the whole Timpano cooking was the bowl problem. I had kind of ignored it until the evening before when my wife critically eyed the amassed components and asked me which item in our household was supposed to host this (literally) mountain of food. Luckily for us we have a big cellar room where we kind of store everything which had once been useful or pretty to some remote ancestor up the family tree or maybe his neighbor. Some digging behind an old 386 PC suddenly caused a land- (or rather computer magazine-) slide and thus was a mighty 14-15" enamel bowl revealed. It hasenormous jutting handles and had probably seen its main use before washing basins became standard issue in western european bathrooms. And don't you just know it, just after just ~50 years of storing it, its new use as a Timpano baking bowl was revealed. Shows that some things just take their time. Halleluja. Now if some other recipe could put all the other garbage down there to use, that'd be truly awesome.

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bride and prejudice

Prior to yesterday, all I knew of this movie was that 1) it was a musical, an Indian-made adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" and 2) during their review, Ebert and Roeper almost came to blows as to whether star Aishwarya Rai or Piper Perabo is the most beautiful woman on Earth. Having now been made to watch the film, I can add that 3) Sayid of "Lost" (actor Naveen Andrews) is in it, and he sings and preens and prances like a light-loafered dandy. Yep.

I'm no Austen fan. I expected to be bored, not offended. But offended I was. You can take all the shots at my country or the West you'd like. There are certainly plenty to be taken. So fire away—as long as they're honest shots, I'll laugh with you. Alas, Americans only speak in this movie in order to be beaten down by its curiously defensive Indian makers. Americans are embodied only through the thinnest of racial stereotypes, and they only utter the most moronic things. Example dialogue about the Indian female lead:

Friend: I saw you eyeing up Lalita.

American lead: She's beautiful, yeah.

Friend: But not exactly your mother's idea of the mother of her heirs, right?

American (laughing): Not exactly, no!

Ah yes, the famous American class system yet again thwarting romance. If I've said it once, I've said it a million times: "Mother, I may well marry outside our caste, and there's not a gosh darn thing you or the Tribal Chief can do about it! And now to show you how heavy with rage my heart is, I shall perform the Livid Mango Dance. All four parts, be-yatch."

Other times, the American is there just to rudely inform his kindly Indian hosts and love interest that their country is "backwards" and "primitive" and that he doesn't "know how people can live this way." He is corrected, of course, and shown to be quite stupid prior to his being redeemed by the wise, independent Indian girl who rejects the backwards, primitive tradition of arranged marriage and—oh fuck, my head hurts. For the most part, though, the American is there just to set up kill shots near the net. Here, he's talking about invading India and teaching its young to speak English and worship Jesus. (Not really. He's only talking about buying a hotel, but you sure wouldn't guess from the hositility.)

Indian lead: And I thought we had gotten rid of the Imperialists.

American lead: I'm not British. I'm American.

Indian lead : Exactly!

Aishwarya RaiUh-huh. For my own amusement, I've included a photo of the actress who uttered that line.

The real cheat in that exchange, of course, is that a given American would know anything whatsoever about India's colonial past. How well they know us. They have us pegged, all right—when the film gets to America, we see all three American ethnic demographics represented: highborn, snooty whites basking at their country clubs; Latinos playing in a mariachi band; and blacks—I am not making this stuff up—singing in a gospel choir, complete with silk robes and risers set up on a beach. Why a beach? Because it was a beach scene, stupid.

To summarize: before the movie, I had no particular feelings whatsoever about India. After the movie, I feel stereotyped and attacked by stupid, insecure people who made a bigoted, defensive movie. Not to mention it's primitive and backwards.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

what i'm stankful for

All the drippy "What I'm thankful for" blogs are making my teeth hurt. Enough of that spooge. Things I'm thankful for:

  • That when Christy said "Let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for," one snarl from me was all it took to crush the notion.
  • Presidential term limits.
  • Mortality. The loftiest service most people will ever perform is being food for worms.
  • People who bet on themselves instead of relying on the easy comforts of conformity.
  • Competent, self-confident women. Sexiest people on the planet.
  • That I can tell myself from other people without checking IDs.
  • Dog incontinence meds.
  • With the exception of Catherine Bach's conspicuous absence, that my life very closely resembles what I wished for when I was a kid. (And have you seen Catherine Bach lately, anyway?)
  • That my binge-drinking, wife-abusing, child-beating, cross-dressing, justifiably self-loathing excuse for a father remains quite dead.
  • Solomon Burke. After a weekend of listening to Bubba's British pop and, god help me, Vanilla Ice, Solomon hath detoxed my bloodstream and healed my soul.
  • Bosses who get me. Particularly Terrell, Annette and Carla. They knew when I was dying inside and skillfully ensured that I wouldn't have to suffer fools for long. I wish I could squish them all into one woman. With a brown ponytail. And low standards.
  • That none of the women whose assurances of infertility I stupidly believed have shown up with John Jr. Yet.
  • That I don't have to invent mythology or people to feel like my life has purpose.
  • That Microsoft just can't seem to stop sending me money.
  • Editors who went into the field on purpose and educated themselves accordingly.
  • Ben Roethlesberger and Troy Smith.
  • It took me this long to mention Sue Bird? Uber-thanks for Sue Bird.

taking a holiday

Mother's Day was the first to go. My mom had just died, and when May next rolled around, the holiday suddenly meant nothing to me. It was a holiday for other people now. However obvious the feeling was, it was still surprising and jarring.

Alas. Christmas was next. And now throw Thanksgiving on the list. I'd rather just stay home by myself than sleepwalk through another holiday. They mean nothing to me beyond rote ritual. I vaguely remember them meaning something once, but it's so, so distant. They're all holidays for other people now. Fine by me. Have at 'em.

• • •

Most. Misunderstood. Post. Ever.

I'm not, repeat not, in need of cheering up. Indeed, I'm not down at all. I'm in my cozy Fortress of Solitude, happily baking and writing and not making awkward small-talk while dreading the three hour drive home. When I say that the holidays have stopped meaning much, this is just an observation, not a confession of depression. They've just quietly, steadily become less meaningful to me. The point was and is that I don't much care. It's merely a "Hmm." thing. So stop with the sympathy! Jesus H!

guest columnist:
my ex-point guard

Before I abandoned the idea of guest columnists, unbeknownst to me, d'Andre (1 | 2) had already written his "ex–point guard" piece. As his making verbs agree with subjects is equivalent to the rest of us relocating an entire mountain range—not the Himalayas, maybe, but certainly the Andes—he's rather insistent that I publish this. I yield to the eldest. But I'm gonna bury this fiction on Thanksgiving day, when I have two readers. Him and his wife.

• • •

I met Egger's fat ass this last June. The rest of him, I met in the early 90's. I remember the day clearly. It's not often I make the sort of mistake in judgement about someone that I made that day. (Background: We all lived on Cleveland Ave in Columbus. It wasn't the blackest neighborhood I've ever lived in...but only because of Egger being there. You know how light can't escape a black hole's gravity? He's got the opposite effect. He's a white hole. You can feel him sucking the blackness straight out of you. Soon I was enunciating "mu-THIR-fu-KIR" like I was at the Queen's tea. It's a good thing he left when he did, before we were all country line-dancing.) We were all gathered on the neighborhood basketball court, maybe 12 of us. The court was small so we usually played four on four. We shot free throws to see who picked teams. This cube-shaped, appliance-looking white guy I'd never seen before makes his first three free throws. He had perfect form...nearly motionless. Little did I know that described his WHOLE game. I ended up being one of the two guys to pick teams. With my last pick, I committed my great mistake in judgement.

"And the white guy to shoot jump shots."

You have never seen a white guy less able to make open jump shots. Never. Remember Will Perdue? Lights out by comparison. And was Egger ever sloooooow. God almighty, was he slow. You know how TV announcers say that some plodding white dude has "a quick first step?" I used to tell Egger that he's got "the quickest 12th step out here. But that's because it only takes the rest of us 9 steps." To Egger's credit, he knew he stunk, and he passed the ball like it was radioactive. Between that and his proclivities toward violence, he was someone you wanted on your team and not the other. Yes...I said violence. This guy sets picks the way tire spikes stop cars. His picks don't merely disrupt the flow of the game. They disrupt continence. You're covering your man, and you hear someone start to call out "pi-" and then you see white spots, black out, and wake up in a puddle on the ground. Worse, he set illegal moving picks, too. You'd be backpedaling on defense, minding your own business, and then WHAM! Puddle. This was his genius. His great equalizer. He had players of superior skill with their heads on swivels, frantically looking for him instead of following the ball. He'd tell you it was out of respect. I tell you it was out of self preservation.

When I visited Egger this last summer, he spun a tale about the greatest pass he ever threw. I remember it well because it was to me. He was at the top of the key with his back to the basket, and I cut baseline behind him. He threw a no-look bounce pass behind his back. Then he turned around and saw me reverse-jamming it in. This is all true. What does Egger leave out? He sprayed it. The pass missed me by a mile and bounced off another player's leg. It was pure, blind-ass luck that it came anywhere near me at all. Too bad he didn't call "bank." He's right about one thing though. This was definitely his career highlight.

football weekend x:
hail to the victors, indeed

An IM exchange yesterday with Carla, whose beau is a Michigan alum.

john says:
So. How was your weekend? Did you have a good turnout at your party?

c says:
it was actually lovely. the party was great fun.

c says:
i already know how your weekend was.

john says:
Yes yes, mine was delightful, but I'm attempting to show a modicum of class.

c says:
really?

No. That was just hysteria from sleep deprivation talking, boss.

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My notes from the road follow.

Day 1: Friday
Bubba and I take in the Illinois prep football semi-finals, where we see Morris easily handle Crystal Lake South before moving on to the championship this Saturday, which I'll watch via the Internet. Morris running back/safety/linebacker/returner/kicker John Dergo is the stud to watch. He has 2200 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns this year. So far.

Malnutrition notes: We drank Maker's and Captain Morgan's out of the trunk of the rental car. I smoked a cigar and ate a "meat sandwich" of indeterminate content.

Exhaustion notes: Having awakened at 4:30am in Seattle and flown to Chicago, we drove from Crystal Lake to Ann Arbor after the game. We got three hours' sleep Friday night.

Day 2: Saturday
Munching on White Castles, we wind through Ann Arbor while blaring the "Buckeye Battle Cry" CD I've had since I was a kid. We pay $30 to park, a new Football Weekend record. We drink and throw the football, then walk through the acres of RVs to the Big House. Although at 111,000 plus it holds a few thousand more fans than Ohio Stadium, the worst seats are vastly better—the merits of a bowl shape. The concourses are wide, the bathrooms abundant. And trough urinals sure do make for fast friends. The sight-lines (from the seats, not from the urinals) are god awful. I'm 20th row and can't see the near half the end-zone because of people's heads. That's what you get for using a Michigan engineer, I suppose—probably the same modestly endowed gentleman who drops his pants and waves at me after Michigan scores. The game itself is a thriller, featuring Troy Smith engineering two touchdown drives in the final seven minutes to lead my boys from behind. I have excellent views of both drives, especially Antonio Pittman's final score. When he pointed in triumph at the stands, he was pointing straight at me.

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Troy Smith's stats for his two starts against Michigan: 723 yards and 5 TDs. He'll never have to buy his own drink again.

I need to mention the Michigan fans seated behind us, who were great fun to commiserate with during the ebb and flow of the game. We met when the Buckeyes took the field and one of the guys tried to embarrass Buckeye fans by chanting pariah Maurice Clarrett's name. I turned around and yelled back "Chriiiiis Web-ber!" It could have gone either way, but to his credit, the guy just laughed, shook my hand, and said "You win." And then three hours later, he did it again.

After the Ohio State kicker missed an extra point, then made a 50 yard field goal, the same guy yelled, "What are you, far-sighted?!?"

Exhaustion notes: No rest for the weary, as we head south for Cincinnati immediately after the game. We pause in a Damon's in Lima to take in Bubba's Clemson-SC game. I am getting downright woozy.

Malnutrition notes: I smoke two more cigars, eat a half-dozen Sliders, and toss down about two dozen buffalo wings. My colon lodges its first protest, which I drown in a half bottle of Maker's.

Day Three: Sunday

We somehow awaken in Cincinnati. Miracles do happen. Since both the Bengals and Colts have black head coaches and white quarterbacks, I'm unsure who I'm supposed to root for. Tony Dungy's slightly lighter skinned, so I go with him. The game's been bumped to 4pm, which means I can watch the Steelers suck at 1pm, so I buy a TV at Radio Shack. We find parking and, after bribing the lot attendant with promises of brats, tailgate. This is delightful. In the shadow of Paul Brown Stadium, I'm drinking, eating brats and watching my boys suck on TV. Next thing I know, I'm in my seat watching the game. Truly, it's the next thing I know; I have zero recollection of walking to the stadium or finding my seat. Thank you, Bubba. I hope you didn't have to carry me fireman-style. What I see next terrifies the holy bejeezus out of me, as Payton Manning plays my Steelers next week. He dissects the Bengals, leading them to touchdowns on their first five drives. His passer rating at halftime is perfect. The halftime score is 35-27, en route to a 45-37 defensive classic. Paul Brown Stadium is lovely, and its fans louder than most. Who Dey?

Speaking of attention whores, Chad "touchdown dance" Johnson scores a touchdown, runs to a cheerleader, flips off his helmet so SportsCenter will show his face, and mock-proposes. Yawn. Do it during a victory.

Exhaustion notes: with a drive to Green Bay looming tomorrow, I yield and go to bed early. I get a whole six hours sleep.

Malnutrition notes: Nutty Bars make their first appearance. I eat about 12. I finish off the pizza from Giordano's in Chicago that's been sitting in the trunk since Friday night. More cigars, brats, wings. I start the second bottle of Maker's and dip into Bubba's rum. Caramelized onions are surprisingly easy to make on a hibachi.

Day 4: Monday
Do we ever fly through Indiana. I pass the Indianapolis airport, from which I departed on a one-way ticket to Washington more than a decade ago, thereby completing a round-trip of sorts. This is where one life ended and another began. I think about Maddie and our life together a lot, about my summer alone in Bloomington. Whoop, I'm in Chicago. Pay attention. Chicago passes without incident, and soon we're 100 miles north of Milwaukee, driving to what is surely the end of the earth. I put on the Music of NFL Films cd Katrina gave me a few years ago, back when she was cool. Lombardi is talking. Perfect. I haven't been to Lambeau in six years, and man has it changed. The exterior doesn't look like it does the footage from the 60s anymore. It looks like...well, Safeco Field. Which is lovely, but it ain't old Lambeau Field. We tailgate with some Packer fans. One tells me that he's going to the Ohio State game next year on September 4. "Jesus!" I say stupidly. "What tune-up game are you going to?" It's his alma mater, Northern Illinois. Nice job, John. Soon we're in our box seat, another Football Weekend first, protected from the bitter cold and having cocktails and nachos brought to us.

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On my way to the suite, I stumble into the players' wives' lounge. I know where I am even before I see the sign. I'm amidst the finest collection of women I've ever seen, each positively dripping ice. They look me up and down like, well, like I'm stinky and lost. Deanna Farve is there. I resist the temptation to bother her.

Exhaustion notes: Thanks to my letting Bubba make the flight arrangements, we have to check in at O'Hare, 200 miles away, about five hours after the game ends. We catch a nap in the 20 degree car and get our butts back to Seattle. Fellow passengers report that we snored obnoxiously the whole way back.

Malnutrition notes: Vegetables sneak on to the menu, as we grill kabobs and stew. I don't know if it's nutrition related, but right before we drop off the rental car, I get the most voracious nose-bleed of my life. An hour later, it's still gushing. This is nearing a crisis. I can't get it under control, and all my best efforts have failed to get blood out of my beard. We worry that I won't be allowed on the plane or worse, that I will be, and that the altitude will cause something even ghastlier to happen. It all works out, though, and my vampire-who-just-killed look keeps people from looking at me. Bonus.

Random stats
Days: four
Games: four
Miles flown: 3400
Miles driven: 1535
Times sex mentioned: also 1535
Wings: 60
White Castles: 16
Nutty Bars: 12 pair
Cigars: 9
Fifths: four

i'm still working on the ballad of troy smith

I'm back. I last slept in a non-chair in Cincinnati on Sunday night. You'll pardon me if I skip the recap and check myself straight into Betty Ford for much needed "rest."

Many thanks to Katrina for holding down the Stank fort while I was gone. And who says parents have nothing interesting to say? Certainly no one here.

guest host

Game tickets in wallet: check
Maalox in overnight kit: check
College-student housesitters in liquor cabinet: check
Top-shelf stuff in secure place: check

And with that, Football Weekend X begins. Look for me on TV at Ohio State-Michigan (I'll be the scarlet dot), Indianapolis-Cincinnati (I'll be the blue dot), and Minnesota-Green Bay (I'll be the bored dot). Yep. The latter sure sounded good when we planned this thing in April. But at least we'll be in a box seat in Lambeau freakin' Field. Hopefully, a box seat with closed-circuit TV so that I can keep one eye on Tommy Maddox setting a fumbles-lost record in Baltimore.

In the grand tradition of Joan Rivers and Joey Bishop, Katrina will serve as your guest host until my return. Miss me already, don't you? Her first order of business as guest host was to hunt down and kill the Ohio State music. She says "you're welcome." I'd originally planned a themed slate of guest hosts: ex-editor, ex-boss, ex-girlfriend, ex-student, and ex–point guard. But the negotiations were exhausting, so I did what comes naturally—I sloughed off all work on Katrina.

• • •

Katrina: Is there anything I'm not allowed to talk about?

John: Just don't mention anything that'll inhibit my getting hired or laid.

Katrina: Well, shit.

say yes to michigan

And this is when they won.

ann arbor

percy's driveway: believe the hype

Since that wild and crazy Bob saw fit to have people ask me about Percy's driveway, here's the whole hilarious saga. Towing my boat, I intended to take her down Percy's driveway, then drive across our lawns to my own, much as the UPS guy does. My turn was too sharp, and the trailer wheel went into a shallow ditch, causing the trailer frame to rest on the road. I couldn't move it myself and had to have the whole rig towed backward five feet. The boat and driveway are fine.

I'll pause before the punchline so that you might gather your breath. Ready?

It was raining.

Here's a kleenex.

ann arbor is a whore

Not an original line, to be sure, but it did destroy me one time. It was 1997, and Football Weekend was in Columbus for Ohio State-Michigan, and we were seated in front of a wretched old coot with a voicebox. We were feeling great pity for the man, until he won our hearts forever by blaring, in a terrifying electronic monotone, "ANN AR-BOR IS A WHO-zzzcrackle-ORE." It had to hurt, but now he's immortal.

Ban Michigan

boobilogue

Minette sends me this P-I story about implants. Timely, that.

What struck me most was the surgeon saying that some women "are intensely self-conscious over their asymmetrical breasts." Having given my body's symmetry exceedingly little thought, I'm at a loss to explain this neurosis, but ladies, if you're doing this for us, for the love of god please understand that we don't care about symmetry. I have never, ever heard even the shallowest guys mention a woman's symmetry. Never.

I have heard men complain about the insecurity and vanity that compelled a perfectly lovely woman to get sliced up.

And I've heard complaints about the unpleasant refrigerated dough women have implanted in their chests.

But asymmetry? Not a peep.

implant pride

I can think of two excellent justifications for getting breast implants: 1) you've gotten a mastectomy or 2) you're gambler Brian Zembic, and you had funpacks installed in order to win a $100,000 bet. After those reasons, there's a precipitous logic dropoff. I suppose it's possible that someone's self-esteem is so ravaged by small-breastedness that surgical enhancement constitutes some form of psychological treatment. But as soon as I allow that, I envision scads of A-cup trauma claimants.

Even assuming that most of Silicon Valley moved there out of vanity, I'm still at a complete loss to understand actual implant pride. Implant owners seem to try very hard to be noticed. Why such conspicuous attempts to show off conspicuously fake-looking (not to mention fake-feeling) breasts? "Look what I bought!" these women say in my imagination. "Goddamit, you will look!"

Me, I'd feel sheepish about it, like with a toupee. "Don't look at me," I'd think. "I'm not only a fraud, I'm a fraud of such staggering insecurity that I had a man slice open my flesh and install foreign objects."

Someone 'splain implant pride to me, please.

okay, so i'm puerile

This constitutes news?

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the ditzy left

Politically speaking, I seem to have four kinds of readers.

Category 1: thoughtful right-wingers who carefully avoid being called "Republican," who are frustrated by the Democrats' incompetent opposition.

Category 2: monosyllabic right-wingers who read my reference to the "ditzy left" and feel so validated, they write in gratatude and prayse.

Category 3: thoughtful left-wingers who read "ditzy left" and see a careful qualification that excludes them and who, grateful, write to tell me I hit the nail on the head. They find their association with the ditz factor to be politically debilitating.

Category 4: ditzy left-wingers who read "ditzy left" and see their reflection and who, hysterical, send bravely anonymous, screechy mail.

Category 5: skeevy men of indeterminate politics who've googled "Kari Byron's breasts" and found their way here.

Category 6: people who just want more Percy, please.

Categories 1 and 3 and 6, welcome. Everyone else click here.

i suppose i have this coming

Pretend, for a moment, that you are a world class bolt-turner. That you have a shoving match with your assistant manager. That you publicly deride his manager. That you're suspended for embarrassing the company with your antics. As you quit that job, you sneer, on television, that your former co-worker is gay, making him deny it again and again for reporters. You get a new job. Your new contract pays you seven million a year for seven years. You're delighted with it. Then you're again shown fighting on TV, screaming at your latest co-worker. After nine months, you decide that you're not so delighted with your contract after all, so you stop honoring it. You don't report to work. Your complaining about the contract you just signed becomes a fixture on the news. You bash the company. You bash your co-worker, who is widely regarded as the heart of the organization. When you finally relent and report to work, you say you're not going to work very hard. Soon after, you tell your assistant manager not to speak to you unless you speak to him first. You tell his manager to shut up. And you seek out the cameras again to trash your beloved co-worker, and this time you add that the company has no class and integrity because they didn't throw a party to celebrate your turning your 100th bolt. And the company, who put into your contract a clause protecting them from your badmouthing them, cuts you loose. They suspend you for the contractually allotted time, a month, and they say that after that, they don't want you coming back, ever, so they'll pay you to stay at home.

Perhaps it's the last provision that struck Jesse Jackson as unfair. He's taken to the airwaves, decrying Terrell Owens' mistreatment. Yes, mistreatment. If Microsoft fired me for badmouthing them in this space—with pay, yet—would Jesse be on Face the Nation calling me a victim and defending my right to work? No. As he shouldn't be. I asked for it. I submit that if you publicly and repeatedly trash your employer, if you double-dog dare them to fire you, you waive all claims of victimhood when they do. But not on Planet Jesse.

Meanwhile, Ralph "You're welcome" Nader says T.O.'s suspension is a vital consumer issue. We bought tickets, the logic goes, on the assumption that the team would feature T.O. An interesting argument, but odd that it wasn't made a half-century ago. Coaches rest healthy stars all of the time, especially at the end of the regular season. How is that any less a consumer issue, Ralph? What about those players who are listed as "questionable" and could play but are held out in a precautionary manner?

Shouldn't these guys be opposing a war or a Supreme Court nominee or something? To my many international readers who've wondered how we ever elected W twice, I give you my answer: the camera-whoring ditzy left.

michigan week

Fuck Michigan

With Northwestern's scholar-athletes now dispatched, attention in Metamuville ("West Columbus") now turns to Michigan. To help get myself—and any of the other 450,000 living Ohio State alumni who read this page—in the mood, I'll be indulging in some OSU media this week.

arrested

Sadly, Fox canceled Arrested Development today. Not that anyone cares, but I wanted to note a brilliant show's passing. Farewell. You were truly too smart for the viewing public.

And now, back to reality shows.

overplaying a hand

My favorite breakup—and by "favorite," I mean the only one I look back on with any fondness whatsoever—was downright fun. I was in Month Six of a one-month fling. Steph was making me insane. She was an astonishing, lethal combination of inept and confident. Inept, I can tolerate. Confidence can actually be very attractive...when warranted. But combine the two traits and you have a person who should come with warning buoys. Bungling at a level I previously hadn't known existed, she worried me nonstop. I couldn't trust Steph to do anything adequately, or at all. The sex was fantastic crazy-chick sex, but even that lost its considerable appeal. Knowing I'd put it off for too long already, I determined to break up with her over the weekend. Mid-day Saturday, though, she decided it was time for her own power-play. She presented me with a list of my faults, the non-negotiable list of things about me that would just have to change. And thus did her ineptitude continue to the very end.

In the middle of her speech, I chuckled and raised my hand. "Wait. Stop."

"No. This is important to me."

"I'm sure, but it's about to be overtaken by events."

And then, much more ruthlessly than I'd planned, I dumped her. I told her why. She cried. She tried to retract her list. But of course the list was a coincidence, not the cause, so I was unswayed. But every time I've since been clubbed with a list of my inadequacies, I've thought back with nostalgia to the time when I just didn't give a crap. There's no other word for it: it was sweet.

• • •

I find myself revisiting this territory from time to time, usually with acquaintances. Someone who contributes little to my life or the world, who's been nothing but a time- and energy-sink for me, will see fit to level criticism. Never once do they consider what I ask myself about them all of the time: what's in this for me, again? The homage of their company, I guess.

Guess again.

I think we'd all do well to critically examine our role in our friends' lives, to ask of ourselves "what's in it for them?" I ask this about myself all of the time, and I'm not always pleased with the results. Take Katrina. (Please.) I have no idea what's in our friendship for her. I try hard to be a worthy friend, but I still don't give as good as I get. At some point, some folks are just better people, I suppose. But I credit myself with trying, which is more than I can say for a great mass of parasites who view friendship as a cynical economic exercise—as harvesting the most attention and affection they can for the least investment possible. And invariably, these same people are the ones who, like Steph, overplay their hands. They issue demands from/take shots at/lay guilt trips on the very people to whom they have made themselves disposable. If not actual liabilities. And I guess we should thank them for, like Steph before them, making our doing the right thing easy.

Moral: Before you fling attitude about, ask yourself if you're worth it.

• • •

Offers Katrina on why, despite the inequities, she continues to be my friend: "Habit."

When my family would annually drive from Ohio to Florida, we used the station wagon. We were seated by age. Mom and Dad were in the front seat, the two oldest kids in the next, the squabbling twins in the third, and in the rumble seat, the puny thing wedged into the tailgate area, we had yours truly. The seat had its advantages. First and foremost, it was out of Dad's reach. But that bit of pleasantness was more than mitigated by its proximity to the twins, Julie and Judy, who screeched and bit and swore unremittingly from Chillicothe to Siesta Key. And that, in turn, had a tendency to attract Dad. Those were some long-ass 30-hour drives.

I used to think that CBS chief Les Moonves was a pretty smart guy. And then "The Amazing Race: Family Edition" came along. What focus group said "Can we please watch dullard families squabble and preen for the cameras in the car for months and months?" I want names.

• • •

I'd be remiss if I didn't note that last week, Katrina and I finally watched Revenge of the Sith together. Of course, now we discuss how Padme's pregnancy was unrealistic. My life is so enriched.

reader male

So in the last week, I've heard from previous subjects Adam Bruckner and the great Leonard Pitts. That's all well and good, but it leaves a pressing question: is Jessica Alba's laptop broken? How about the lesbian cheerleaders'? Or perhaps I should just grab for the brass ring.

Kate Winslet is a dimestore mannequin's understudy with a fake British accent.

schmartnership

Despite the fact that I took care to give Minette credit for her double breach photo, I ended up getting some. To recap, here's her photo:

double orca breach

And here's mine:

orca4.jpg

To her credit, despite my being falsely associated with her work, Minette doesn't climb to rooftops and shout that I suck. You can rest assured that were our roles reversed, I would not extend her the same courtesy. My nose would bleed from altitude, my throat from all the shouting.

Still, this didn't stop me from calling her 17 times when Ken, a scientist legend in whalin' circles and a hero to us both, stopped by for a visit last night. He was admiring my Whaling Wall, which is composed primarily of pictures that Minette took on our excursions. As always, I took care to give her credit. "You used a Rebel XT, right?" he replied. "Can I see your lens?"

stairwell.jpg

why the packers are 1-7

Much is made of the fact that they've lost their top three receivers and running backs, and justifiably so. That's crippling. But when Troy Polamalu ran back a fumble 78 yards, only his fellow Steelers crossed the goal line with him. That's the trademark of a team that's given up.

irony

I'm getting scads of hits from jagovs googling Kari Byron. Kill me now.

meaningless sex

Yes indeed, we have two NFL cheerleaders arrested for "having sex" with one another in a public restroom. Has this expression lost all meaning? I've certainly done every sordid activity in which they they could have possibly been engaged, yet at no point have I ever considered those activities to constitute "having sex." Apparently the sex scale slides.

For those of us who think pro cheerleaders rank just below Hitler and just above Art Modell, this is delightful news. Since the Panthers went to the trouble of removing the strippers' cheerleaders' profiles from the team web site within 12 hours of their arrest, I went to the trouble of unearthing them. Here are Angela Keathley and Renee Thomas, who truly loved like they'll never be hurt.


Angela Keathley
Renee Thomas

My undergraduate degree is from Ohio State. About this I neither boast nor apologize, even though I knew when I was there that my education wasn't what I wanted it to be. That, I decided, is what a master's degree would be for. OSU was my stepping stone, my dues payment. When you were poor in Ohio, you went to Ohio State. They charged little for in-state tuition, and they practiced "open" admission; if you met the nominal entrance requirements, you got in. Period. (In my day, admission swelled to 60,000 students. They have since closed admission somewhat.) Your name, gender, race, income, and academic pedigree didn't matter. All were equal in the eyes of Ohio State, which is to say, all were dog meat.

Ohio State championship

The football team excepted—they never did anything to me—I hated OSU when I was there. The hate has abated over time, but it hasn't been supplanted by affection. It's simply where I did time. It's where I learned to manipulate an uncaring bureaucracy to my advantage, using its agents' worst tendencies against them. It's where I learned to build relationships with people who worked not in fancy offices, but in cubicles—I befriended the clerks and secretaries who actually work all day. And it's where I learned to bet on myself ultimately prevailing, to trust myself even during setbacks. Am I grateful? Hell no. Ohio State didn't set out to teach me survival skills. They set out to teach me about Chaucer and calculus, and in that they largely failed.

But.

Chris Webber timeoutIf I hear one more Michigan alum sniff that his alma mater is "The Princeton of the Midwest," blood will surely flow. Michigan's a fine school, the second-best in the Big Ten after Northwestern, but let's not overstate things, hmmm? The latest perpetrator was Percy, who recently came out as a Wolverine, making all the cosmic tumblers of my universe suddenly click into place. Of course he's from Michigan. He could be from nowhere else. "It's the Harvard of the Big Ten, you know," he said. "Hard to get into."

"I thought it was the Stanford of the Midwest."

"That too."

"What about the University of Chicago? Northwestern? Notre Dame? Those are better rated, more exclusive Midwestern schools."

"Nope. Michigan."

And thus do I cheerfully present a reality check for any Michigan alumni still reading. The average SAT scores of incoming freshmen in 2004:

UW: 570/590
OSU: 580/580
Michigan: 620/660
UCLA: 620/660
Notre Dame: 670/690
Northwestern: 680/700
University of Chicago: 700/700
Stanford: 720/740
Harvard: 750/750

To summarize: Stanford and Harvard should sue for defamation.

spiritual shell game

After much soul-searching, I've decided I can no longer abide living a deception. I have decided to come out. I'm out and proud. I do this not to be in-your-face about my sexual orientation, nor do I consider myself a hero. I'm just tired of living a lie. Yes, I am a heterosexual man.

Not news? No kidding. It irks me, however, that the opposite is still considered sensational. Why do we give a rat's ass about who Sheryl Swoopes bumps into when she rolls over at night? Seems to me that an "enlightened" approach would be to think of her orientation not at all. It is whatever it is. It's as interesting to me as her height. Alas. Her height isn't emblazoned on the ESPN The Mag cover.

Swoopes has come out. Great for her. She's good people, and I really hope things works out. But until it doesn't, it ain't news.

• • •

Also in that issue is Matthew Cole's article about an obsessive-compulsive indoor soccer player by the name of Adam Bruckner. (He supposedly helped to solve a murder, although the relevance of his contribution isn't really evident). His O-C disorder took a typically eccentric form. He counted objects obsessively, and he associated random things with future outcomes. The number of times he flicked a light switch when leaving a room, for instance, controlled his health and his Mom's safety. And so he lived his life, mystically controlling events by clearing sidewalks of pebbles, touching every tree and telephone pole with both hands and knees, counting cracks in the sidewalk, and so forth. One day,


...he found himself transfixed by a streetlight; if he didn't touch it, something bad would happen. "I'll get injured during practice," he worried. "Or I'll be hurt in a car accident and end my career." But something different happened that day. During his travels, Bruckner had found himself growing more spiritual as he sought to connect with the strangers around him. Though only vaguely Catholic—he hadn't read the Bible since Sunday school—he couldn't help thinking there was a common thread in his encounters: the woman on the train who talked to him about the power of God; the Christian who picked him up when he was hitchhiking; the pastor who stuck around for hours after Bruckner stopped by an Evangelical retreat looking to catch a ride. Now, as he stood there on that Baltimore street, staring at that light pole, he could hear a voice—his voice—rising above the noise in his head. Trust God and you'll be all right. So he walked right by that pole, didn't touch it. And much to his surprise, he felt better, not worse. He felt free. For the first time since he was a boy, Bruckner's obsessions abated.

I found this paragraph absolutely jarring. I'm sure there are those who read this and see the power of Christ healing a tortured soul, but me, I just see a man substituting one arbitrary, imaginary comfort for another. Touching a light pole brought needed balance and sense to his life. Then in one spectacular moment, he traded belief systems; now poof—believing in God brings his life needed balance and sense. Whoa. A better example of the emotional role of religion you will never find.

Still, you have to be impressed by his evidence: his chilling pattern of running into evangelical Christians who were actually willing to discuss their faith. What are the odds? I mean, what are the freaking odds?!? In the Small Blessings Department, let's be thankful he didn't run into three Amway salesmen willing to talk about pyramid schemes.

david letterman
saved my dog's life

Ed ate rat poison yesterday.

I saw the guilty, just-stole-a-snotty-kleenex-out-of-the-trash look on her face as she slunk out of the pantry. I keep no food within her reach, though, only tools, so...oh shit. The tools were pushed aside, and the rat poison cake was gone. My mind snapped back to a Carson episode from 1991. David Letterman was the guest, and he was telling a hilarious story about his dog, Bob, eating spoiled meat. Curiously, Letterman's whole forgotten anecdote came back to me. Vividly.

...and then the vet said, "But if it were my dog, I'd want to get that meat out of there."

What did Letterman give the dog again? Think, John. Think.

So he said to give Bob a tablespoon of peroxide.

Do I trust this 14 year old memory? Of a comedian's act, yet? Do I have a choice? My dog is ingesting rat poison as we speak. How the hell do you get a dog to drink a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide?

So I get a tablespoon and the bottle of peroxide and I put Bob in a headlock. And for the next ten minutes, it's collegiate wrestling.

Funny line! But focus, John, focus.

Finally I get a Windex bottle, fill it with peroxide, pry open Bob's mouth and squirt, oh, I don't know, about a quart down there.

While I prepare the Windex bottle, I'll just add some peroxide to milk and see if she'll drink it. Oh, good.

And Johnny, it was like magic. It happened instantly.

"Ed, get outside."

Boom! There's the meat again, pretty much just like the last time I saw it.

Boom! There's the rat poison again, pretty much just like the last time I saw it.

Only it had quite a head on it now.

Only it had quite a head on it now.

ed blanket 002_sm.jpg

A miserable Ed, recovering last night. She seems to be fine.

L57 and me

When I'm out whalin' in my boat, I usually have plenty of company. There will be the odd research vessel, but most of the other craft are drunken recreational boaters who see a whale and aim right for it, full throttle. I mean right on top of it. The equation is as simple as it is obvious. Props + whale flesh = mortal wound. Here's the latest asshat, who repeatedly mowed down L pod. The ship's name is the Vita Bella. If you're the captain, drop me a line. I have something for you.

residents 057_sm.jpg

With all the boating activity around orcas, it's seldom a relaxing moment. Infuriating, yes, but never serene. This last time, as the residents moved off and led the drunken reprobates a mile or more away, I floated alone near Useless Bay and decided to make lunch before I headed back. With tea and soup on, I floated on the now-quiet and placid waters and perused my photos from that day. After maybe ten minutes, I heard a familiar gunshot crack: a large male, L57, surfaced right next to me. Surprised, I watched as he fed all around and under my little boat for a half an hour. I had him all to myself, and vice-versa. I lowered my hydrophone into the water. Normally, it's useless because of all the boat noise, but this time my stereo came alive with the sounds of L57 talking to his podmates. (It always astounds me that a 10,000 pound whale can sense and avoid the eighth-inch thick black hydrophone cable, but it's never been so much as brushed.) And so we fed together, he on salmon and me on Progresso chicken noodle. The moment was divine. Funny how orcas don't flee when you don't chase. With whales as with people, I guess.

L57_sm.jpg

resistible link of the day

the unbearable light-headedness of dayquil

I've finally kicked the cold that laid me out over the weekend, but not before indiscriminate TV-viewing turned my brain to tepid goo. (Did anyone actually like Hitchhiker's Guide?) I watched lots of football and reality shows and poker. I watched lots of pay-per-view movies. And I watched the twin critical darlings of the new season, "My Name Is Earl," a comedy about poor white trailer trash, and "Everybody Hates Chris," a comedy about poor ghetto blacks. Ah, equality. "Chris" is the clear winner. Based on Chris Rock's childhood, this is the only show to penetrate the DayQuil fog and make me laugh. It's that rare TV show in which the kids are like real kids, in all their wonder and cruelty, instead of being like miniature adults. It rings true, and not coincidentally, it's funny. The scene that got me: persecuted young Chris is getting the crap beaten out of him by a white bully, and suddenly we hear the strains of Ebony and Ivory. "I'm witnessing a miracle," I thought. "I'm actually happy to hear Ebony and Ivory."

How that show affords its music clearances escapes me. One episode featured two hits by Stevie Wonder and one each by Survivor and Earth Wind and Fire. This costs a bloody fortune.

• • •

ESPN's poker coverage is becoming more and more abysmal. The announcers are obviously reading from a script written long after the game has taken place, yet they deride choices and make predictions as if they don't know the outcome. ESPN shows less and less poker in favor of fluff pieces, and lately they've even started showing people's theatrical reactions to cards unseen. I don't care about them. Show the fucking cards. Worst, though, is the editing. Whereas most hands in real life are unspectacular and don't see the flop, astoundingly, every hand we see results in a clash. The players' chip counts change mysteriously, as if we see only half the action. And worst of all, if we're seeing a hand, you can reliably predict that the guy with 4-5 going against A-A will hit a hand. They wouldn't be showing it otherwise. This is manufactured nonsense, and I'm bored.

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