January 2006 Archives

i'm outta here

Thanks to:

  • John for the tickets

  • Josh for house-sitting

  • Readers in advance, for tolerating a whole week of football posts from Detroit

  • Justifiably insecure, excuse-flinging, whiney maggot Seahawk instafans who've scolded me nonstop today because the world thinks they're lame, for making it easier to root against "them"

  • The ghost of Art Rooney for, well, everything

"Snob," like "politically correct," is a term often abused. Just because someone thinks you're saying appalling or moronic things makes them neither snobby nor PC. Such a claim, like all ad hominem attacks, smacks of desperation, if not full-blown intellectual bankruptcy.

I'm sorry. Was that snobby of me to say? Well then, I'm a snob.

• • •

My sister has a new boyfriend, and with that, a whole new belief system. Yep, she's one of those people. She was railing about how W is "the stupidest [sic] President we've ever had!!!!!" I asked how familiar she was with W.H. Harrison, Jackson, Grant, and Buchanan. She wasn't. I asked her if she knew what W's academic background is. She didn't. "Well, considering how you're unfamiliar with both W and history, how can you assess the one's place in the other?"
"Don't be such a snob," she said in lieu of I see your point. I should learn more before issuing personal attacks. Gosh, dear brother, you're nearly as smart as you are handsome!!!!! "What, did you vote for him?"

Actually, no. I think the man's a menace.

"Then why are you defending him?"

It was that moment when I realized that she's right about my being a snob; she's just wrong about how. A few days of self-examination, and voila. The list of things I'm snobby about follows.
  • People who can't construct an argument but vigorously assert anyway. Constructing an argument ain't hard. Bundle together a few verifiable facts, qualify anything that's subjective, and state your case. How come hardly anyone can do it? And how come my expectation of sound logic is my fault? Extra demerit points to people who refute data with anecdotal evidence.

    Me: See? These studies show that smoking while you're pregnant is horrible for the baby.
    Nadine: I smoked through my first pregnancy, and she came out fine.

    Me: According to the NWS, where you're looking at property gets 65 inches of rain a year. That's nearly twice what Seattle gets.
    Friend: It's not bad. The day we went, the sky was blue, and when we got back to Seattle it was raining. I'm buying it.

    Extra special demerits for people who indulge in personal attacks in lieu of evidence. Personal attacks in addition to evidence are fine by me. Enjoyable, even.

  • People who take all disagreement personally. Really. You might be wrong. And really. I might like you anyway. It's looking increasingly doubtful, though.

  • Higher education. I don't care where you went, nor even if you did. But when people who didn't go to college take that extra step of demeaning its value, I'm blowing the whistle every time. My bachelor's degree taught me self-reliance and how to exploit obtuse, uncaring bureaucracies, skills integral to my person today. My master's sculpted me into a skilled writer/editor and blessed me with a core of diverse, literate friends. And both introduced me to my love of teaching. Rather than deride the value of the path you didn't take, why not tell me what value you derived from what you did?

  • Professional editors. It doesn't matter what form your professional training took, but you better have had some. If you just woke up one day, declared yourself an editor, and proceeded to find fault, real and imaginary, with others' work, you disrespect the profession, those who went into it diligently and on purpose, and your writers.

  • Professional cheerleaders. I have a strong bias here. "Hate" is not a strong enough word. I'll take my sex and violence separately, thanks. You'll pardon me if I think people who watch teenage girls simulating masturbation at a football game to be less than real fans. At Super Bowl XXX, the NFL thoughtfully provided the silicon-free Steelers with scantily clad teen masturbators. I cringe to think they'll do it again next week.

  • People afraid to be alone. Of the marriages you're familiar with, how many would you actually want to be in? Two? One? None? Yet astoundingly...

  • New cars. When my car is paid off, I'm thinking "This is where the savings really begin." Others think "Whoo-hoo! I can finance a flashier car!" I think these people are morons. I realize this is most folks, but still, I don't get it. If you want to set money on fire in the name of status and fashion, pay me to pretend I'm your gay boyfriend.

  • Girlfriend insta-fans. Just because I root for the Steelers does not give you license to wear a sweatshirt and refer to the team as "we." Seriously. Shhh. Want to watch the games with me? Fantastic! I'll happily tell you tales of team lore, and maybe one day you too will get nauseous in the playoffs. But that day is not anytime soon.

  • The empty vessel. A superset of the insta-fan. You know this person. Every time they couple with someone new, their interests and values change wholesale. Hobbies, dreams, politics, religion, sports teams, the whole schmear. Some of that is natural—this is, after all, the most influential person in our lives. But I'm talking about revolution, not evolution. When a few weeks into the new relationship you no longer even know the person, you wonder if you ever did.
  • The soft luck case. These people bemoan their horrible circumstances to someone who's enjoyed a paltry fraction of their advantages. I've been on both sides of this equation, I'm ashamed to admit. I've said it before; I'll say it again: by the time you turn 25, anything wrong with your life is your own fault. You own your problems, or rather, you should. You're disadvantaged? Congratulations. You're a member of a large and inclusive club. Stop blaming, step up, shut up. If your problems persist, then here's my shoulder. Cry away.

gutter ball

When I saw that Jerome Bettis was throwing a Super Bowl party the night of my arrival, theme TBD, I snagged a ticket on faith.

The theme has now been determined. Fuck you, Jerome. Your parents too.

Bowling? Bowling?!? You've gotta be yankin' me, Bussie. I ain't bowling in Detroit. Oh and pretty please, can I watch Steeler players incur wrist injuries by bowling days before the game?

hit of the day

A Google search for "stories of ladies requesting spankings from mentors"

call orkin

I figure I'm allowed to take one shot at Seattle instafans for every five instances of "we're gonna kick your ass!" I have to endure. Today's Seattle Times has the definitive observation:

At the Sideline Sports Bar in Bellevue, a regular haunt of Steelers fans, managers are expecting a Super Bowl crowd with a strong contingent for each team. "We've never seen anything like this," assistant manager Steve Hunt said. "The Steelers fans have been coming here for years, and now we're seeing Seahawks fans coming out of the woodwork."
Even more remarkable than the fans this quote describes is their utter lack of self-awareness. They will not read this quote and be embarrassed. They will have an explanation. "Well, before now there was nothing to cheer, was there?" they'll point out helpfully.

how unusual

You probably aren't aware of it, but Pittsburgh journalists have descended upon Seattle. Insightful and very respectful reports about the Seahawks, their fans and their city are everywhere in the Pittsburgh media. This sort of interest is common in sports towns.

One poor reporter for a Pittsburgh TV station decided to dress in Steelers garb and walk around downtown Seattle to see what sort of reaction she'd get. I could have saved her the trouble, but she didn't ask me.

"I'm not getting much reaction at all," she informed the anchor, bewildered. "People are just...averting their eyes."

audio mirror

Katrina has made her disdain for my Midwestern dialect quite clear over the years. It's #17 on her list of things wrong with me. I never knew which was the more distressing notion: that there's a Midwestern dialect—after all, are you not all just perversions of the standard, which is us?—or that I'm receiving linguistic criticism from a Jersey girl. "On the TEE-vee, youze axents droive me nuts," she'll say, barely comprehensible behind all the Hoboken. "Yoir joist AUE-foll."

I always figured she was full of it. And then I called home this week, tapping my two good sisters for dinner next week when I briefly sneak into Columbus. My god, the nasality. Every vowel sounded like the a in bat. I'm related to these mongoloids? It was especially jarring to hear them back to back. "A, that's GRATE yer camang. A lark farward ta seeang ya!"

"So. Um. This Midwestern dialect of which you speak," I later said to an unabashedly delighted Katrina. "Wat as at A sand layk ta ya, agaan?"

XL itinerary

The Steelers might well lay an egg, but I'm confident I'll still milk Detroit for all the fun it's worth. For the convenience of those who want to avoid me, my schedule thus far:

  • Thursday: Jerome Bettis' party. I bet you didn't know Detroit is his hometown.

  • Friday: Patti Labelle's gospel show

  • Saturday: The NFL Experience by day, Motown review by night. John Legend, Nelly, The Four Tops, The Miracles, The Contours, The Dramatics, The Former Ladies of the Supremes, Freda Payne, Brenda Holloway, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Velvelettes, Paul Hill, and (god only knows why he rates) Jamie Foxx.

  • Sunday: Super Bowl XL. Steelers. Seahawks. Stones. Stevie. Aretha. Leave it to her to break up the alliteration.

  • Monday: therapy

Somehow I didn't manage a ticket at Eminem's or Diddy's parties. Not for lack of availability.

box office apartheid

The other day I was partaking in what's become my unemployment past-time: sitting in the hot tub, smoking down a fat cognac-dipped Gurka, generally celebrating the fact that PITTSBURGH'S GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL AND THEY'RE BLOODY TAKING ME WITH 'EM, and reading the ultimate hot tub magazine, Entertainment Weekly. Why is EW the ultimate hot tub magazine? Because you're done in 20 minutes, and if you accidentally drop it, it's probably just as well.

In this issue, tucked behind the obligatory "Oh my god! Your Orlando Bloom cover was so dreamy! Next time, make him take his shirt off!" letters, was a table showing the final box office receipts in 2005. Worldwide receipts generally beat American receipts by a 4:5 ratio. The top- and bottom-five films are fairly representative:

Film (not counting active releases) U.S. (in millions) Rest of World (in millions)
Star Wars $380 $668
Harry Potter 284 582
War of the Worlds 234 357
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 206 267
Elizabethtown 26 24
Serenity 25 13
Dark Water 25 24
Unleashed 24 26
Elektra 24 32


Being a data geek, I looked for anomalies in the pattern. I didn't have to look hard.

Film (not counting active releases) U.S. (in millions) Rest of World (in millions)
Get Rich or Die Tryin' $31 1.5
Beauty Shop 36 0.9
Diary of a Mad Black Woman 50.4 0.02 [sic]
Coach Carter 67 9.4
Are We There Yet? 80 31


Wow. Talk about your color lines. The only comparably performing film with a white headliner is "Because of Winn-Dixie" at $33/0.9. Walk the Line is at an eye-popping $98/0.4, but it's still in release, so those numbers might change as markets are added. What all this says I don't know, but the economic lesson is clear: if you're writing a script for world consumption, think twice before making the characters southern or black.

dial 313!

The other Seahawks fan just called me. In the lottery of season ticket holders, he won the right to purchase a pair of Super Bowl tickets, and he wanted to know if I wanted them. DO I WANT THEM? DO I FREAKING WANT THEM? I just got a $3500 ticket for cost!

If you'll pardon me, I have no choice now but to put on the Isley Brothers and dance, dance, dance.

damned william

My fellow Buckeye James Thurber once spoke of the frustration I'm feeling right now. I can't find the exact quote, but it was very close to "Whenever I finish a piece of writing, however pleased I am with my work, I'm choked by the knowing fear that Robert Benchley wrote the same thing, better, in 1928."

I can't tell you how often I open the great William Pitts' web page and feel humbled. Today, it's his "chocolate city" piece, one of several excellent recent articles. He's been on fire in January. Bastard.

three seahawk challenge

seahawks jerseyKatrina, read no farther.

In deference to the two Seahawks fans I've met in my 11 years in Seattle, I've refrained from ranting during the Hawks' playoff run. I'm rooting for them, actually. It's Katrina's team, and I'm delighted for her. Besides that, it's a fine franchise with admirable ownership and players. I'm hoping that success will bring the support they deserve. It's hard to believe that not too long ago, Ken Behring nearly moved them to L.A., only to be thwarted by the NFL and paid to go away by local hero Paul Allen. I opposed that move, voted for their stadium, and rooted for their success in the playoffs. I'm obviously pulling for my boys against them, but if someone else has to win, I hope it's the Hawks. So what's my beef?

Poseurs. They're everywhere now.

To understand how bad the poseurism is, you first how to understand how apathetic this community is. Was. It wasn't hyperbole when I say I've met two Seahawks fans in 11 years. I can't name another soul who's gone to a game, who's worn a sweatshirt, who's died inside when they ultimately lost. That's not what we do in Seattle. Oh sure, there's a stadium full of fans; I just don't know who they are. Sports are just not a part of the consciousness around here. Walking the streets, you'd never even know there was a game that day. Waitresses and clerks don't wear colors on game day, and they sure don't think to ask if you're going to the game. If you make a Seattle sports reference out of context, you're blinked at. There's little appetite for local sports media; there isn't a tenth of what I watch/listen to from Pittsburgh and Columbus, and the local reporters are barely conversant about the sport or the team. When there's a game on, the stores and restaurants and roads are every bit as crowded as when there's not. And last year when the Hawks made the playoffs, the Seattle Times ran a full page spread on how to pretend you've been a Hawks fan all along, right down to memorizing phrases about famous plays of the past.

Why the apathy? Theories abound. There's little history, which is true enough, but it's more true in better sports towns like Charlotte and Jacksonville. People here are largely transplants like myself, and they brought allegiances to other teams with them. Very true. And then there's my personal favorite theory: people here are soulless, joyless fucks who only get excited when they can talk publicly about whatever pretentious trend they're most recently into. Sports are gauche.

Until now. Seattle's going to the Super Bowl, and everyone's suddenly referring to the team as "we." People who voted against stadiums at every opportunity because the tax revenue from sports apparel sales would be better spent on kabbalah-based mass transit are suddenly "we." For some reason, a few have even seen fit to antagonize me about the imminent game between the Steelers and the newly minted "we."

"Name three Seahawks," I'll say.

Right now "we" is a perfect 0-6 on the Three Seahawk Challenge. Not one person who professed to be a huge Seahawk fan has done it. Worse, there's no shame. I asked an unreasonable question.

• • •

I heard this delightful bit o'punditry on local radio yesterday:

"So the Seahawks just missed a touchdown. I'm told it's second and goal on the two," he said shakily, like I would say I'm told it's 'the quark-gluon structure of hadrons.'

"Which I guess is pretty close. But once again: we just missed a touchdown."


Welcome to my world.

foreboding

Hines Ward Terrible Towel.jpgWhat's a worse omen for the Steelers: Aretha Franklin singing at the Super Bowl, or Ed puking on my Terrible Towel this morning?

"The Seahawks are gonna win!" Katrina squeals at the news.

yoi and double yoi!

SuperBowl06_image-2.gif

pro-life

Funerals are never fun, but funerals of the virtuous and impossibly beloved are downright depressing. Listening to how his life touched others, I found it impossible not to take stock of myself. "Man. I gotta make some changes." I surveyed the hundreds of grievers in attendance. "I don't even know this many people. How many would show up for me? Hrm. Maybe if I pretend it's the reading of my will."

I'll tell ya one thing that ain't happening at my service: an open mic. As person after person spoke of how the deceased touched their lives, I imagined my friends similarly passing around a mic.

"Sumbitch died owing me money, just like he always said he would," Katrina says.

"He hit me," Dorkass offers.

"Me too," her little sister chimes.

"Dating him was like living near radioactive waste," Maddie says. "After a time, your blood just starts to turn bad."

Allie pats the casket fondly. "Thanks for the power of attorney."

A minister bows his head, hushes the crowd, and speaks. "Uh, the check from the estate bounced. Who's covering this?"

"John was my role model and mentor," Elizabeth says. "Fuck him."

"He creeped me out and I'm relieved he's dead," Courtney says. "I'm just here to poke the corpse with a stick."

My family checks in. "Mine! Mine! MINE!"

"Speaking of when I played for the Bengals..." Dirt will begin.

Sue staple-guns a note to the casket. "I made you a list of things to do differently in your next life."

"The casket is really ugly," Minette declares.

"He didn't know what it's like to be black," someone chides.

"He was my brother," Percy sniffs. "I will miss him every single day."

It's not worth it. I choose life.

dog abuse

It started with the little idiot walking across wet cement and me smoothing it over. "Hmm."

ed cement 001_sm.jpg

chronic, what?

There are two types of people. There are those who can emotionally invest in a talking beaver who wears chain-mail armor, and there are those who cannot. Or if you prefer, there are people who think Santa Claus' giving children weapons with which to kill heretics is super-cool, and there are those who don't. In both cases, I am rather decidedly in the latter category.

I knew I was in for a steamin' pile of Christian allegory, but Narnia is rather like those World War II propaganda cartoons such as "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips." It's decidedly creepy to watch entertainment intended to manipulate the thoughts of youth, and I couldn't help but imagine Christian parents everywhere using the movie to recruit impressionable kids far too young to be making spiritual choices. "Jesus is just like Aslan! You don't want to be like one of the ugly, dead people who didn't follow Aslan, do you?"

family is not a hate value

I always figured if I had a son, I'd say, "Boy, I've got one hyphenated word for you: long-snapping. You're only on the field for punts and extra points, you never take a hit, you don't have to shower after the game, and the NFL rookie minimum is $650,000 a year. So let's go. Throw Daddy the football from between your legs. That's it. Now try not to bounce it."

I still think that's a mortal lock of a retirement plan. Specifically, my retirement.

If I had a daughter, I have no less of a lock in mind. "Girl," I'd drawl like Robert Duvall, or maybe Solomon Burke, "You'll never go broke if you make your living telling people what they already believe. And if you tell them everyone who disagrees with them is a bona fide idiot, you'll be obscenely wealthy."

Hopping around the web tonight, I came across the Top Ten Conservative Films of 2005. A conservative film is not, as I would have thought, a documentary about textiles that was made on-time, under budget, and released slowly, perhaps opening in Des Moines.

Conservative cinema does more than entertain; movies that do no more are visual candy. It instructs and inspires. Conservative films celebrate virtue. They tell timeless tales of individuals overcoming all manner of adversity to achieve true greatness. They're about honesty, loyalty, courage and patriotism. They're concerned with conservatism's cardinal values – faith, family and freedom.

I've carefully combed every dictionary I can find, but no definition of "conservative" includes words anywhere close to instruct, inspire, celebrate, virtue, timeless, overcoming, adversity, greatness, honesty, loyalty, courage, patriotism, cardinal, values, faith, family, or freedom. It's almost like the author made all that crap up. Other than that, though, he's spot-on. The dictionaries use many of the same prepositions.

While I'm itching to speculate as to what the author would consider the characteristics of liberal cinema—how much does "cowboy" mitigate "gay?"—I'm far more interested in defining Stank cinema. Stank cinema trumpets my pleasing appearance and soothing natural odor. It celebrates me and those who celebrate me, of whom there should soon be more, if the movie is truly Stank. It instructs others to think exactly like me, to share my values, to hate the same people I hate. It's about cardinal Stank virtues, namely how honesty, loyalty, courage, patriotism, faith, family, and freedom are all somehow inextricably tied to me. Dishonesty, disloyalty, cowardice, America-hatin', godlessness, orphanhood, and slavery? Those are Michigan values.

hit of the day

I don't know why, but this cracked me up. Someone in Indiana found my site by googling "Peyton and Dungy stink."

Okay, I know why.

unlearned prejudice

I've been mulling over how to discuss two forms of prejudice I find particularly hurtful, and then it dawned on me that they should be presented together. Not because their perpetrators have anything in common, mind you, but because it'll irritate all the right people.

the unfiltered white racist

Many of you know him. This is the white guy who thinks it's okay to blurt racist comments in front of any other white person. He has cousins—the obnoxious homophobe, the chatty misogynist—but the first guy is the most common in my experience. Unfiltered whites span the education spectrum, which rather surprises me. One would think that education would temper racist comments, but no. Education just makes the hateful words bigger. My first example is mild. I recently had houseguests, a friend and her idiot husband. We had tennis on TV, and we were all intermittently watching Serena Williams beat someone. When she won, she leapt in the air and ran over to shake her vanquished opponent's hand. And the idiot husband turned his head away from the TV and snorted.

"Jay-zus ca-righst, she even jumps up and down like a black chick."

Forgetting the obvious question about the apparently distinctive nature of jumping black chicks, as racist comments go, this is downright tame. But it still filled my head with resentment. Oh. My. God. You tool. You're actually rooting against her because she's black. Jesus Christ, indeed. Out of the world of possible choices, my friend married you? What makes you think it's okay to say that in front of me, you piece of shit? What makes you think it's okay to say that in my house, my home, my sanctuary away from people like you? This particular episode ended with my friend taking her idiot husband outside and suggesting that perhaps such comments, however mild, should be repressed around me, but the damage was done. If men are icebergs, I no longer want to know what hideousness lies beneath his surface.

My next examples hurt more, both because of severity and because, well, the perpetrators and I are composed of essentially the same genetic material. You betcha, I gots some racists in my family. My brother, a dentist with some 20 years of education, a born-again Christian who oozes Jesus' love out of every pore, is an unabashed racist. He is a regular user of the n-word. And not in any spontaneous "Some n-word just cut me off!" fashion, either. He enjoys using the word. It clearly makes him feel superior. When our old high school considered installing metal detectors, I of course thought of Columbine. Not my brother.

"It all went to hell after the n-word moved in."

Unlike with the Serena Williams incident, where my hands were somewhat tied, I have no desire to get along with my brother. I told him that what he said was moronic and offensive. You know what's coming next. I'm an overly sensitive purveyor of "political correctness." That little bit of hilarity aside, I'm left with similar feelings: What makes you think it's okay to say this to me? Maybe I was adopted.

My sister, meanwhile, doesn't even wait for an excuse to use the n-word. She uses it like you or I use pronouns. She too has 20 years of education, but eight of them were spent in the third grade. To my horror, she send out broad-distribution email in which she recounted a story where she and her husband rooted through a burned-out building and emerged covered in soot, looking like-you-know-whats. With two exclamation points. Ha, ha. What makes you think it's okay to say this to....my god, look at all the names...all of us?

Sometimes 2000 miles' distance ain't nearly enough.

the chiding young black

I'm developing a new prejudice myself, and it's one I could just as soon live without. I no longer want to discuss race with young blacks. All too often, such conversations end with me being chided, dismissed. I used to talk about racial matters with blacks under the age of 40 all the time. It was an everyday, unspectacular, often humorous dialogue, like talking about current events. We were simply discussing the state of our world, sharing our very different experiences, and we gave audience analysis very little thought. I no longer feel as though I can do this freely.

I don't know what's changed. I'm older, certainly. I've moved from a black neighborhood in a city that's 24% black to white neighborhoods in a city that's 8% black. And there's been a weird backlash from whiny white guys, who bitch and moan about "reverse discrimination" and the trifling inconveniences of measures that combat gross injustices. I hate those guys, too, and I fear that my looking like them sometimes makes my motives suspect. I don't discount those significant variables. But honestly, and I offer not a shred of evidence to back up this feeling, I think it's this point in history. I don't think it's a coincidence that I still can comfortably discuss race with people old enough to remember the civil rights era—hence my "under 40" disclaimer. We're a generation removed from the civil rights era, now, and people who have grown up enjoying rights previously denied people like themselves are, well, different. At least they discuss race differently. I'm sure we all discuss race differently from the previous generation, whatever our hue.

In my previous life, a deliberate plucking of the racial line was a sign of comfort and acceptance. The example that leaps to mind was a common accusation of the day: that white people referred to black athletes by their first name and white athletes by their last, and that this was some sort of diminishment of black athletes. It's obvious to any fair-minded person that Magic is "Magic" and Bird is "Bird" simply because "Johnson" and "Larry" are dull, undistinctive names. (Poor Larry Johnson.) Just like Jordan is "Jordan" and not "Michael" and Peyton is "Peyton" and not "Manning." The charge was pure silliness, and we all knew it. We used humor to defuse the issue.

"Don't call me 'Shaun' anymore. Racist mu'fugga, always diminishing me. To you, I'm Mister Thompson from now on"

"Yeah. You keep dreaming, pal."

"Don't call me 'pal' anymore, either. I ain't your 'I got black friends' friend."

"Why would I brag about having black friends? I'm ashamed of you mothirfuckirs."


And so forth. It was an innocent, everyday exchange spawned from comfort with one another and discomfort with some loud people who happened to look like us. It's important to note the element of satire. We found it reassuring and therapeutic to make fun of people who would much rather we distrust one another. End result: more trust.

Now, let's imagine what that exchange would be like if it happened today between me and a chiding young black. Based on my experience, this is what I'd expect:

"Sports announcers use blacks' first names to diminish them."

Their pronouncement will have no trace of satire. I'll give my counter-example. They'll sigh. "It's racist," they'll intone, apparently expecting me to either 1) acquiesce and agree or 2) agree and acquiesce. My choice.

Now, when one person, any person, makes an accusation against an individual, I expect them to meet a nominal burden of proof. All the more so when it's as grave an accusation as racism. A lifetime of calling bullshit on people has taught me that when you ask for proof, you're often greeted with irritation. But until recently, the pattern of people who were irritated was random. No longer. I have met an entire demographic who thinks my expectation of evidence is unreasonable. Ask them to meet a burden of proof at your own peril.

"What's your proof? For every anecdotal example you cite, I can give a counter example. You call someone 'racist,' and you better have more than a feeling. That's a serious charge."
So far, so good. This is the same argument I make all the time to people of all colors and flavors: I've heard your conclusion; what are your premises? And normally, the person either lists them, admits indulgence, or reacts with hostility. But not the chider.

Are you ready? Here it comes. The granddaddy of all trump cards, the nuclear bomb designed to put me in my place and end the debate in a rout.

"You just don't know what it's like to be black."

Another chiding young black will chime agreement right away.
"No white guy could. The first-name/last-name thing couldn't really be for any other reason, but he'll never see that. A white guy couldn't possibly know the inner thoughts of whites as well we do."

Okay, I made that last line up, but that's what I hear. Outnumbered and buckling from the sheer weight of their evidence, I put my alabaster tail between my legs and scurry off, never again to question their pronouncements of racism. Okay, that's not true either, but the attack does discourage dialogue and encourage discomfort, and it does diminish my viewpoint based not upon its merit but upon my skin color, and those ain't exactly gains. End result: less trust.

I wouldn't have thought it, but the unfiltered white racist and the chiding young black do have something in common after all. All together now: What makes you think it's okay to say that to me?

i want my craptv

Random thoughts about the last week in TV.

  • (Spoiler about first episode of 24 >) If the makers of 24 want to shake things up by killing off a couple of regulars in the first few minutes, I'm all in favor of it. But why, oh why did they list them in the opening credits as "Special Guest Stars?" Just put a red shirt on 'em and get it over with. (< end spoiler)
  • I thought the first season of Lost felt padded with backstories, but this year we're at the midway point and they've advanced the plot about 10 minutes. Get on with it already, before my skipping large chunks of show evolves into my skipping the show altogether.
  • Kari Byron's sickening popularity continues unabated. When Letterman announced her as a guest, I lunged for the clicker like it was abandoned pizza in a Microsoft meeting room. I don't get it. She's a nominally attractive (read: no visible goiters), annoying, attention-whoring nobody, yet geeks have made her a ubiquitous pinup girl. Worse, half the hits on my site come from guys googling her name.
  • What is the appeal of the American Idol auditions? They're irresistible, yet I know they're staged. They're hypnotic, yet I would never go watch karaoke. I'd like to say that I'm looking for the next Reuben or Kelly, but I just don't give a crap. I'm looking for the next Scooter Girl. I need professional help.

chocolate cities and plantations

MLK Day brought some curious comments from two Democrats speaking to black audiences. One comment's daft, the other despicable. Shortly after saying that the hurricane was God's retribution for Iraq (echoing an identical statement from al Qaeda), New Orleans Mayor Nagin said that God wants New Orleans to remain mostly black. "This city will be chocolate at the end of the day," he said. And thus concludes the black community's long search for Dr. King's successor.

"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"This city will be chocolate at the end of the day."
- Ray Nagin

And then along came Hillary. To make the point that the Republican House leadership has stifled debate, Clinton invoked slave ownership. In her speech in Harlem, Clinton, who has never served in the House, told the audience that "when you look at the way the House of Representatives has been run, it has been run like a plantation, and you know what I'm talking about."

No. We don't. Help me understand. Explain the analogy, and please use small words. Debate-stifling on a plantation? What the hell are you babbling about? Tell me you didn't just inform the descendants of slaves that their ancestors' suffering is analagous to politicians' being marginalized by parliamentary procedures. It's a sad, weird MLK day when Bob Jones-lovin', affirmative action opposin', insincerity-spewin' Republican politicians sound more like MLK than do his supposed supporters.

I've joked that my political philosophy is defeatest but simple: "Democrats are incompetent, and Republicans are evil." But with Hillary reaching across the aisle like this, I may have to rethink.

unmindful

Sure, using Christmas colors is cute, but when Google uses Dr. King's head as the letter "o" in their logo, I submit that they've vaulted into tastelessness.

mlk06.gif

Who's next? I shudder to think.

mlk07.GIF

I live near a lifelong NY Giants fan. Rather, he was until he moved to Seattle, when he promptly exchanged navy blue for turquoise, or whatever that dainty-ass color is. He seems happy enough with the trade, but I'm appalled. I couldn't do it. Sure, there are days when I want to hunt down and vivisect all 53 Steelers, the coaches, the conditioning staff and the kid who coils the coach's headphone cable, but I would never cheat on them.

Remember the winter of the Idiot Kicker? When Mike "Shank" Vanderjagt thoughtfully informed the media that Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy lacked the mental makeup to win? Oh, sweet irony. Memo to Tony Dungy—when he was calling you out, your errant kicker also said:

"Coach Dungy, he's just a mild-mannered guy. He doesn't get too excited, he doesn't get too down and I don't think that works, either. ... I think you need a motivator, I think you need a guy that is going to get in somebody's face when they're not performing."

To me, that's pimp-slappin' carte blanche. Slappity slap!

weapon of choice

Even at five years old, is this not the best music video ever?

learned prejudice

I've been thinking a lot lately about the nature of prejudice. I'm going to write about it for few days. If you're easily upset by such things, I advise you to come back in a week.

• • •

Any discussion of people's prejudices should certainly begin with an examination of my own. For all my mom's faults as a parent, she did a remarkable job of not instilling in me distrust of people unlike myself. Nope, I learned to do that all on my own. My prejudices are uniformly not a function of childhood environment but of adult choice. I've wrestled with whether that makes them better or worse. Are they more forgivable because they've developed from experience and evidence? Or are they less forgivable because I consciously choose to generalize about groups of people? I suspect that the answer to both questions is "yes."

Rich old white fucks (ROWFs) with overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Born-again fucktards. HR Twinkies. Seatards. These are terms I've used in this very space to disparage enormous groups of people. While I'm not particularly proud of that fact, I'm not particularly ashamed of it, either. I wouldn't do it if I didn't feel justified—that's the essence of prejudice, isn't it? Yet I'll be the first to acknowledge the inherent ugliness and unfairness of it all, not to mention a central hypocrisy: I go batshit if someone presumes to categorize me. Yet somehow I feel justified if I decide that my anecdotal evidence against a group has achieved critical mass. You don't gotta eat the whole pie to know what it tastes like, I tell myself.

Sounds good. Maybe even sometimes it's accurate. But what a treacherous, slippery slope to navigate.

• • •

I keep reminding myself of Maddie's dad, Ken, my personal poster-boy for the dangers of learned prejudice. He was a hillbilly and, most unfortunately, a Columbus cop. Without exception, the blacks he met were on the job. A lot of them were criminals, and he said a few had tried to kill him. It's very hard, I suspect, for a cop to resist generalizing about people, but I'd always figured that wrestling with that inner demon came with the job. I'd figured wrong. Ken felt no such responsibility. By the time I met him, he was an unabashed racist spewing stunningly ignorant things. He himself was a living, breathing embodiment of a stereotype—specifically, the racist-white-trash-cop stereotype. He even had a trailer in the hills of southern Ohio, where he rode quad-runners and shot guns at cans.

I'll never forget the day we met. He was railing against the CPD's effort to recruit more black cops, a seemingly noble venture. The line I most remember: "They should just put recruiting pamphlets in women's purses."

I sat there, stunned stupid. I'd heard about this kind of person, but I'd never actually talked to one. He proceeded to hold forth, moving on to impugn the overall intelligence of black folks. Maddie tried to rescue him.

"Now Dad, you're not really saying that blacks are less intelligent."

"Oh yes I am," said the man who would one day accuse me of pretense because I used big college words like "delusions" and "grandeur."

Jesus H. Where do you even begin with such a person? Telling him off was going to make me an enemy I couldn't afford, reasoning with him was like trying to bail out the ocean with a bucket, and remaining silent implied consent. My chickenshit solution was to let him infer my offense. "I dunno about that," I finally said, feigning thoughtfulness. "My best friend is flat-out the most intelligent person I've ever met, and she's black. She's got like a 170 IQ."

My hand to god, this was his response: "How much white she got in her?"

Unimpressed, he proceeded to bury us in anecdotes of his own, story upon story about stupid blacks he'd supposedly met on the job. His hate ran deep. My mouth dropped. So did Maddie's. I shot her a bug-eyed look that said "Pack your things, demon-spawn." His confidence in his prejudice was proud, unyielding, unwavering. After all, he probably figured, you don't gotta eat the whole pie to know what it tastes like.

the estranged folder

Exhausted, we were sitting on my office floor in the dark. It was the end of a interminable, excruciating breakup conversation, and my newest ex had one last request of me. "Please," she grabbed my arm. "Please don't put me in that awful Estranged folder."


estranged.JPG


The Estranged folder is where old email goes after I've booted someone out of my life. (Okay, a few estrangees just disappeared on their own.) I don't want to throw out our history, but I don't exactly want to look at their names every day, either—voila, the Estranged folder. It's populated mostly by former love interests, but there are a smattering of friends and family in there, too. It used to have just two subfolders, but it quickly swelled. A few years ago, the number of folders under Estranged began to outnumber the number of "good standing" folders, which was a sobering moment. Now it's a 2:1 ratio, estranged-to-not. When the number of onetime friends with whom you never speak outnumbers the number of friends you've still got, it gives one pause. I've decided it's a normal part of life, that of course as I get older I'll accumulate more dead relationships, but still. To see it neatly quantified is downright numbing. It's a monument to my own romantic and social futility.

It feels like a big win, then, when someone makes the reverse trip—moving back out from under the Estranged node. It's happened three times, now. It feels like when your team hangs a loss on the division leader—this win counts double in the standings.

Vick arrest delights hate-mongering fool

ROANOKE (Stank Press) - Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick—fresh off expulsion from college because of drugs, multiple arrests, and his deliberately trying to injure another player—has been arrested yet again, this time for threatening people with a gun at McDonald's. Philadelphia NAACP chief and aspiring Nobel Laureate J. Whyatt "Jerry" Mondesire issued a statement of general approval. "Now that's what I'm talking about," he said. "Keep it real, baby."

one, pete

This, this is what the Internet was made for.

It turns out I'm not alone in my annoyance with USC claiming an imaginary "share" of the 2003 title. An enterprising LSU fan—whose team won the championship according to the criteria everyone, including USC, agreed upon prior to the season—plans to post this billboard near the USC campus. Donate to the cause.

USC football billboard onepeat

(Thanks to Bob for pointing out this site.)

seatards

I ventured into the outside world yesterday, always a mistake. After running errands in Seattle and the eastside, I am positively pulsating with contempt for humanity. Who are all these people who breathe smog in an asphalt world and numbly wait in line all day? And who dropped them on their heads when they were babies?

the six-month war: allie

Allie was my first girlfriend in the post-Fucking Amy era. She's the most empathetic person I've ever known, and as such she attracts broken men like my dog, Ed, attracts stink. So was it with me. For our ex-ship, I like to say, we retained the best and worst parts of our relationship. The best part is our friendship, which has only gotten closer. Much to her lament, she's the person with whom I speak about everything—hopes and fears, boasts and insecurities, projectile vomit and diarrhea. She, not her successors, is the one with the housekeys and passwords. One could certainly read into that—no wonder it never works out; you trust another woman more!—but for me it's a matter of hard-learned pragmatism. I give her the keys simply because I know I won't later have to change the locks. Stand by me for a decade and you too can have a key.

And now for the worst.

You know that one ex with whom you argued constantly? She's mine. Drove me positively insane. "Slavery was a bad thing," I might observe. "And chlorophyll makes grass green."

She would bristle. "I don't know why you say these things. You just generalize without thinking things through. You need to stop watching cable TV news. Not that you're entirely wrong, but I can think of 187 reasons why you're oversimplifying, and now I'm going to enumerate them in excruciating detail until you beg for mercy. You'd better sit down."

"Oh, I know you're right," I would offer hopefully. But it was too late.

"No you don't. You never know. When I'm done enumerating the 187 things you overlooked about slavery and grass, I have many compelling illustrations of how you never admit I'm right."

"I just did!"

"I mean internally, John. Jesus H. You're really obtuse, sometimes."

This was every debate with her. Tales of three notable battles follow.

Round 1: Allie wins

We're in the Kingdome watching Rick Mirer suck, and our minds wander. Allie nudges me and gestures toward some 19 year-old failed pole dancers. "Which Sea-Gal do you think is prettiest?" she asks.

(Yeah, I know. Rather, I know now. You don't answer this question, or you pick the homely, uncoordinated one and call her "real." What you most decidedly don't do is think that your girlfriend is actually interested in which cheerleader you'd most like to see naked. Nevertheless...) I meticulously survey all 32 women and silently evaluate their appeal. I undertake this assignment with all due gravity, first prioritizing the variables that comprise a hot cheerleader, then using a complex algorithm to narrow the field to four, then two, then one.

"Don't tell me," Allie says. "Let me guess." And then she points to the very same cheerleader, an apple-cheeked brunette that 99 out of 100 men would overlook.

"Wow! That was a 1 in 32 chance, and you nailed it. That's impressive."

"It wasn't hard," she shrugs, turning her attention back to the game. "I just picked the one who looks the most like fucking Amy."

It took years, but my testicles eventually grew back.

Round 2: I win

We're arguing. "You know what your problem is?" she asks. She would eventually be awarded the registered trademark on this sentence.

"You can't handle dating someone who's an intellectual equal or more. I think you seek out unformed, stupid young girls who'll look up to you and hang on your every word like it's some holy—"

"Actually," I interrupt the former B student, "You're the first woman I've ever dated who wasn't the valedictorian of her high school and summa in college."

Why is this on my top three list? Because it's the only time in a decade that I stunned this woman silent.

Round 3: I "win"

I say something pissy about something. Allie heaves an exasperated sigh. "You know, you don't have to say every negative thing that pops into your mind. It's exhausting."

"I don't."

"Yeah, right."

"But I don't! For instance, take the last hour. When that little old lady at Safeway tripped and face-planted, I almost said 'Clean up in Aisle 6.' And then..."

I proceed to list every awful, hateful thought I'd self-censored in the last sixty minutes. I don't remember how many there were, but I remember it took about an hour to recount them. And I likewise remember watching the ever-mounting horror on Allie's face as she realized that she had grossly miscalculated. "I thought you had a soft, cuddly core underneath all the bluster. But my God...underneath the facade of sneering and piss is actual sneering and piss."

"And you think I can't admit when you're right."

write fantastic

Long Way Round

I've previously recommended the documentary Long Way Round, in which actors Ewan MacGregor and Charley Boorman ride their motorcycles from London to New York the long way: through Europe to Ukraine to to Russia to Kazakhstan to Mongolia to Siberia to Alaska to Canada to New York. It was with some excitement, then, that I cracked open the companion book. As I read about their encounters with mafia and muggers, soldiers and peasants, lamb heads and bull testicles, something gnawed at me. I wasn't enjoying it as much as I should. They went on the adventure of anyone's lifetime, with all the resources in the world at their disposal, yet their account was oddly rote—less interesting to me than any random travel blog. And then I read the following passage, written by Boorman, and the problem became crystal clear.

I was euphoric. We'd survived the mud, rivers and bogs. We'd done it. It was a fantastic achievement. "At least it's good practice for Siberia," I said.

The ride the next day to Nomrog was fantastic. The sun was shining, it was windy, we didn't make too many mistakes and the scenery was just fantastic.

We had a very long journey the next day via Tosontsengel, where we had a fantastic lunch, to White Lake. In the late afternoon, we came screaming down a long pass towards a large bridge. There, standing beside the bridge, was the support team. It was great to see them. We'd got all through the toughest part of the journey, a fantastic achievement.


So you already said. Pity that a team who thought to hire a professional photographer didn't likewise bring someone with command of more than three adjectives. It'd sure make reading about their adventures suitably fantastic.

The movie villian sneered at our hero and gestured toward Jessica Alba. "I think you already know my molecular geneticist."

At this, my entire chest cavity exploded. Police tried to recover teeth to cross-check with dental records, but so forceful was the blast that no trace of me remained.

pizza 101: new york style

If you're like me, you've been repeatedly burned by promises of "New York style pizza." Expecting a savory pie with a thin, chewy, flexible crust and a poofy edge, you instead get the same limp, tasteless crap, swimming in sauce, that you've been served time and time again.

For years I looked for an authentic slice of New York, and I'm pleased to say I've come very close. Several readers have asked for the recipe, but I've been reluctant to post it because it's a work in progress. With that as a caveat, here's my recipe to date, complete with the time increments, methods, and brands I've always used. Does that stuff make a difference? Who knows? It's just how I've always done it. Hence "to date."

Indispensable components of this recipe are the pizza brick, high-gluten flour, and cold-rising. Without any one of these elements, the recipe will produce crap crust. You west coast people won't know the difference, so knock yourselves out.

Niche stuff you'll need

If you want authentic NYC pizza, there's no getting around buying a pizza stone and peel. If like me you live in the sticks, you might also need to mail-order the high-gluten flour. (Note: it's also used for bagels, which are surprisingly easy to make. If you want to try, get this too.)

Sauce for one pie
Timeline: 24-48 hours to go

3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB onion, finely chopped
1 TB garlic, finely chopped
1 14 oz can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes
1 tsp fennel seed, lightly crushed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp brown sugar
1/8 cup red wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh basil
1 tsp fresh oregano

  1. Puree the can of tomatoes in blender, liquid included.
  2. Heat oil in saucepan and add onion and garlic. Saute at low heat for 3 minutes, until garlic becomes aromatic. Don't brown it.
  3. Add tomato puree and other ingredients.
  4. Simmer slowly on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Do not boil.
  5. To let the flavors meld, refrigerate sauce for at least 24 hours until you're ready to use it.

Dough for one pie
Timeline: 26 hours to go

3½ cups high-gluten flour
1 and 1/8 cups warm water
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp instant yeast
¾ tsp salt

  1. Mix all ingredients in heavy-duty stand mixer. Once dough ball forms, knead at medium speed ("4" on my Kitchen Aid) for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove dough. It should be soft, not sticky to the touch, and unusually light.
  3. Place dough in a large oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place dough in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Making the pizza
Timeline: 2 hours to go

Sauce for one pie
Dough for one pie
Corn meal
Grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
Boar's Head pepperoni, sliced
Whatever else you like
Flour

  1. After 24 hours have passed, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on the counter so that it can warm and relax for 1-2 hours.
  2. Place the brick on the medium rack in your oven, pushing it all the way against the back wall (to prevent your pie from sliding off) and removing the top rack. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for an hour or more. It takes time for the brick to heat.
  3. Using a little flour to keep it from sticking, roll the dough until it's impossibly thin. Thin, thin, thin. If you're asking "is this thin enough?" it's not thin enough. It should exceed the diameter of the bread peel by several inches.
  4. Set the peel on top of the rolled out dough and, leaving 1.5 inches of overhanging dough, use a paring knife to trace the shape of the board.
  5. Cover the peel generously with corn meal. This is what keeps the dough from sticking.
  6. Taking care not to let the dough shrink and thicken, transfer the dough to the peel. Tuck and pinch the overhang upon itself so that the pie fits the peel perfectly. This thick, pinched edge gives the crust its NYC poofy edge.
  7. Add a thin layer of sauce. This is where most people go wrong—sauce is just supposed to moisten. You should be able to see the beige of the crust through the sauce, still.
  8. Sprinkle a layer of whole moz. You don't need as much as with skim moz. A single layer through which you can still see the sauce is perfect.
  9. Pile on the toppings.
  10. Transferring the pizza from the peel to the stone is a skill that develops over time. Before you try it, jiggle the peel and ensure that the pie is loose and read to slide. With the back edge of the peel touching the back of the oven, tilt the peel and shimmy the pie on to the brick.
  11. After 10-15 minutes, when the bottom of the pie is a deep, golden brown, use the peel to remove it from the brick. Let it cool for a good 15 minutes. I've found that letting it get to room temperature only makes it taste better. Slice into wedges and serve. If you rolled the crust thin enough, a warm piece will droop over your fingertips, just like in Manhattan.

insert "head" joke here

Among the seminars being offered at the Seattle Boat Show: "The Woman's Role in Boating."

Seriously. What on earth could constitute a "woman's role" on a boat? I mean besides asking "you have toilet paper, right?" accusingly.

i've got the urge to purge

In a compelling demonstration of Microsoft's hipness (and hard-won Freedom to Innovate), last night Bill Gates enlisted the aid of Justin Timberlake, the hottest musical star of 1999, to announce the company's plan to clone iTunes, Apple's 2002 music download service.

public service

A special thank you to the very deserving national champion Texas Longhorns, for beating media (and self) darling USC tonight. It's God's work you did. Those who erroneously and obnoxiously claimed two will not claim three. Say it with me now: USC—one time national champion.

Did anyone else see Matt Leinart's snotty post-game interview? "We're still the better team," he sniffed with appalling haughtiness. Enjoy the Saints, golden boy. You deserve them.

contest!

When the original Star Wars was released, I was a little kid. The target audience, even. I begged my mother to take me to see it...until the day that the Catholic Times arrived in our mailbox, trumpeting on its cover what a great Catholic allegory Star Wars was. Cue the role reversal. Mom wanted to go, and I scored the earth with nail-marks as she dragged me to the theatre. Fortunately, in this as in all things, the Catholic church was utterly full of shit. But I do miss the Times and its wildly entertaining movie reviews, which deemed 2 out of 3 films "morally offensive." I, in turn, called those movies "must sees."

• • •

This morning I found an evangelical Christian web site that reviews movies for objectionableness. Hallelujah! Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for instance, was dinged for its "evolutionary content." God doth hate static content so. At a glance, though, here was my single favorite statement, about the documentary March of the Penguins:

The narrator states penguins have been around for thousands of years, which is untrue because, according to Creation science findings, the Earth is actually younger than we thought (unless "thousands of years" meant anywhere from 5,000 to 8,000 years before Christ).

I'd rate that 8/10 on the slack-jawed stupidity scale, but I'm sure there's a 10 up there. Shall we make it a reader contest?

munich and more

I haven't done my usual "year's top films" list, 'cause frankly, I can't think of a single 2005 release I would recommend without reservation. I liked Crash's message, and I'd pay 9 bucks to watch Don Cheadle clean a litter box, but I never could get past the story's crucial, lethal cheat: that there are only 8 people in the greater Los Angeles area.

I enjoyed Munich even less. Yes, its depiction of the self-defeating and cyclical nature of revenge was timely and mildly disturbing. But Munich is billed as a thriller, not just a morality play, and as such it decidedly lacked. But for one oh-please-don't-whack-the-little-girl scene, it wasn't particularly intense, and instead of being propelled by plot or intrigue it's more a sequence of interchangeable (but gruesome) assassinations. Bang. Shock. Bang. Angst. Bang. Doubt. Bang. Torment. Bang. Fear. Bang. We get it. Bang. Wrap it up already.

Have you seen the trailer for American Dreamz? Ho-ly crap. You couldn't make me see this film at knife-point. I can't even imagine this movie not being offensive. (Requires QuickTime)

TEMPE (Stank Press) - Offensive genius and new Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, wearer of four Super Bowl rings and architect of the world champion New England Patriots' offense, personally scored 20 points in the Fiesta Bowl tonight. "If this offense looks familiar, it should! That's the Patriots' offense! He's got four Super Bowl rings," said commentator Brent Musberger. "So he knows a thing or two about playing in big games!" Musberger pointed out that while Weis' unknown opponent needed to amass 617 yards of total offense in order to score 34 points, Weis' team required only 348 yards to score 20. "Now that's an efficient offense!" Musberger gushed. "They only needed to gain 12 yards per point, whereas the other guys needed 18 yards per! That's why Charlie Weis has four Super Bowl rings!"

"Four Super Bowl rings!" added Gary Danielson.

"Patriots!" concluded Musberger.

good news day

As you might have heard, some preening airhead—who will doubtlessly soon be honored with his very own Ben and Jerry's flavor—decided that today should be Good News Day in the blogosphere. The idea is, of course, for everyone to balance the unceasing torrent of bad news with some positive news for once. Here is my humble contribution toward balance.

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