February 2006 Archives

stuff i just do not get

Calvin_Chevy1.jpgTruck guys. You know them. They have the Ford Decimator 6000 sitting proudly in their driveway, a monstrous beast with platinum splash-guards and an "OFF-ROAD 4x4" logo steel-plated on both sides. Three things are certain: 1) the truck will have more cup holders than seat belts, 2) fumes from all the Armor All will make passengers hallucinate, and 3) it will never, ever, under any circumstances go off-road. I do not get these guys. When they hear I bought a 1989 junker truck just for towing my boat, they want to see it. I could have a child and not generate this much interest. (Which, okay, I get.)

Subset of truck guy: the Ford vs. Chevy guy. They root for brands like I root for football teams. "At least you bought a Ford," they cluck approvingly at my junker. They are marketers' wet dream.

will_ferrell_snl_1.gifWill Ferrell. I've never heard another soul say this, but I just don't find him amusing. At all. He's hailed as the second coming of Phil Hartman, but I can't remember a time he made me laugh. I can remember plenty of times I was laughing until he appeared. He's a comedy control rod. I keep waiting for the No Talent Police to come and beat him to death. Alas.

Pretty much any white music from the 60s. From the Beatles to Dylan to the Stones, it's all white noise to me. Uninteresting, unmelodic, whinily pretentious, musicly simplistic crap not fit for elevators. Thank god the culprits are finally dying.

Jay Leno, purveyor of banal McJokes. He stopped being funny around 1989, yet his ratings are strong. Who is watching him? Who? I can name 20 people who voted for Bush, yet I can't name one who watches Leno suck.

Serial TV. Oh, I love the medium when it's done right. Serials, with their lush backstories, character arcs, and sense of forward purpose are vastly more compelling than shows that reset at the end of every episode. But serials are also easily done wrong. Take 24 or Lost. Honestly promoted, the commercials would sound like this: "This week on Lost...monstrously cryptic, suspiciously unilluminating things are uttered that for some reason no one asks a follow-up question about. Plus backstory padding that has nothing to do with anything! And Jin goes shirtless! Next!" 24 would be even easier to promote: "This week on 24...Jack finds a random clue and follows it to another random clue. Plus people act astoundingly petty about their love lives during a chemical attack. Next!" These shows are guilty of killing time, theirs and ours. If you don't have enough story for 24 episodes, do 2- or 3-arc seasons.

operation rabbitYankee fans not from New York. I've said it before: these are people who watch the Discovery Channel and root lustily for the coyote to catch the bunny. "Yeah! Bunnies SUCK! Co-yo-tes! Co-yo-tes!"

Chronic brakers. Who are these morons who slam on their brakes when the speed limit changes? They think this practice is safe? Honorable mentions: two-footed drivers whose brakes lights evoke a strobe effect, idiot Seattle drivers who brake on ice. Super-duper honorable mention if it's on an incline.

hits of everyday

(Pardon my hyphens. Just trying to avoid more hits.)

I'd guess that 80% of my Google hits come from someone searching for nu-de photos of Kari By-ron or Jessica Al-ba or for information pertaining to rumors about gospel singer Heze-kiah Walker's sexual orientation. My stats are lousy with queries like:

kari by-ron fake nu-de
jessica al-ba angry s-ex
na-ked picture hez-ekiah walkers trans-vestite lov-er
This sort of insight into the human psyche, I most decidedly do not need. Time to add another deadbolt to my door.

worse than pottery barn

Wouldn't the world be a just swell place if you could donate to a charity and give them your real contact information, without fear of inundation?

Mind you, that's a sixty pound dog.

princess 028.jpg

IM trolls

If you use MSN Messenger and drill into its properties, you can tell who's still got you listed among their contacts. It's only nominally interesting information, save when you piss someone off so much that they actually delete you.

(cough)

There they are, a half dozen people I worked with for a few weeks a year ago. As soon as that job ended, I deleted them from my contacts. Yet there I remain, cluttering their contacts lists. They likely get a stupid "toast" message every time I reboot. Why? Why on earth? Clingy-ass people! Belinda, I'm not coming back. I need you to let me go.

Best use of the blocking feature ever.

sports porn

Is there an American female athlete today who could pose for Maxim magazine and hasn't? Not necessarily Maxim—Stuff, FHM, a boudoir calendar, or that great pipeline of softcore porn from my youth, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, will suffice. As soon as they're legal, the clothes seemingly fly off. Danica Patrick: check. Natalie Gulbis: check. Et tu, Maria Sharapova?

maria sharapovaNow, I'm no prude. I likes me some hot women. My objection has every bit as much to do with sports as it does with feminism. I'd understand if Jill Snowboarder cashed in—when else is she going to wring money out of her sport? But Danica, Maria, et.al.—these women are millionaires, among the best in the world at what they do. Unless eight year old girls endlessly smashing tennis balls against the wall are dreaming that one day, if only they practice hard enough, they might achieve enough stature in their sport that men will pay five bucks to see them in a baby-oil soaked thong, I don't get it. But I'm apparently alone, because it's nearly automatic. I suppose their managers steer their careers that way. "Congratulations on Wimbledon! As soon as you turn 18, you're guaranteed a Playboy pictorial!"

It's disappointing. It denigrates them, their sport, and the male fans who are assumed to objectify them. Well. Guess again. I might want to meet Maria Sharapova, maybe shake her hand, but I decidedly don't want to see her covered in sand, posing with her elbows back. I remember when she was a preteen up-and-comer and during an interview recoiled at the mention of Anna Kournakova doing the same. I liked that Maria. I miss her. I'm embarrassed for her.

mo' movie love

I've already written about proximity-inspired "love" in movies. Today, I take on inequitable love: when a female character serves as a man's love interest, but not so much vice-versa. Consider, say, the Rachel McAdams role in Wedding Crashers or the Virginia Madsen role in Sideways. They're nothing but props. They're idealized notions of women, and they serve the film only in so far as they serve the male leads' fantasies. We do not root for them. We do not know what motivates them, or what attracts them to a man beyond a contractual obligation, and we are not supposed to care. They are pretty plot constructs. The Madsen character, particularly, is abhorrent to me. Why she would be attracted to Paul Giammati's wholly irredeemable whiny bitch character is a mystery to all.

However seldom, a movie occasionally gets love right. What seems to distinguish these films is that the leads are realistically drawn, flawed, interesting characters who show us their mutual genuine affection—as opposed to merely telling us about it. Their love feels familiar. For my money, "Eternal Sunshine" most recently got it right. That was a love story in which I at least recognized love and its rhythms, thrills and terrors. The Clementine character was someone with whom I could conceivably fall in love, and I suspect women felt the same way about Joel. I left the theatre hoping that those two kids worked it out, not trying to conjure an explanation for why they were even together. The writer already did that work for me, and not coincidentally, the movie worked for me.

Eternal_Sunshine1.jpg

Distinguished mentions go to Broadcast News, High Fidelity and Before Sunset, each of which felt real and each of which I thought about during the writing of this post.

woman characters

I finally caught The Wedding Crashers over the weekend, leaving me with two overriding questions: 1) why was this wildly uneven movie so wildly popular? and 2) how come Hollywood can't write for women?

Me, I have the opposite problem. I can't write male characters who aren't basically me. I was raised by a woman. All of the benchmark people in my life have been women. My every childhood role model who wasn't a cartoon rabbit was a woman. I work in a female-dominated industry; indeed, almost all of my bosses have been women. Certainly all of my heroes and most of my villains are women. Almost every male friend I've got, I met through his gal. Women, in short, have been huge influences. Suffice it to say that if I have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, I learned them from a woman.

Women, I can write. Men, not so much.

So I'm sitting there and trying to like the Rachel McAdams character, who's blessed with Rachel McAdams' looks and not much else. We've all met this character before. She's poorly drawn, just a plot point that engineers conflict between the male characters. We're told a list of likable characteristics—look! she likes charities and football, yet she's funny, accepting, and most importantly, she looks like Rachel McAdams!—and the entire movie hinges upon her slow realization that Our Man is better for her than the Bad Other Man. (Yes, it's standard-issue Hollywood plot B. Or is it A? I get them confused.) Herein lies the problem. The Other Man is so obviously, comically evil—a point delicately underscored by his having the name "Sack"—we cannot help but wonder what mental defect she suffers. No woman worth dating would give this little Hitler a passing thought, yet she smooches him and talks marriage to him. Why? Because it serves the conflict between the male characters. It works as a plot point, I suppose, but at the complete expense of the character. There's no avoiding it: she's staggeringly stupid. Helpless, too. Those are not attractive qualities. The movie is undercut; indeed, I want Our Man to flee. She's nothing but a mindless trophy to be won, and she's certainly not worth "winning." And without that...well, why am I supposed to care, again?

Tomorrow: well-written female characters.

accusations from under wheel

under busAstounding though it is, I am aware that this page is published on the Internet.

I never cease to marvel at people who read this page, then act as if 1) they caught me doing something covert and 2) that I should care. Clever, they. Trust that if I choose throw you under the bus, I've already decided you belong under wheel. Yelling "A-ha! It's come to my attention that you just threw me under a bus!" matters not at all, save some morbid curiosity about why you think your words matter to the guy who threw you there.

My favorite such chiding to date is "This, after I've always defended you when everyone criticized you!" That rebuke was from a middle-aged person, not from a 13 year old girl, and, not at all coincidentally, is symptomatic of the childish, bunglingly manipulative behavior that got them under wheel in the first place. Elegant in its symmetry.

To summarize: that you're yak dung who doesn't matter might constitute current events to you, but it's history to me. There's the door. Try leaving with dignity.

thank you jesus, indeed

What took the world so long to invent the farting preacher?

If you're the type who lunches on bouillabaisse whilst perusing The New Yorker, this clip might not be for you.

reality check

constantine americna idolIt started when I confessed my affection for reality shows. Childless Courtney and I agreed that the primary source of their appeal is our seeing delusions be ruthlessly crushed. Hey, coddled 17 year old! You've been told your whole life that you're a talented singer? Grab your ankles. We're debunking and mocking that fantasy on national TV. Ha, ha, ha. Good stuff. Hey, no-talent shrew whose breasts mysteriously don't shrink as you lose 80% of your body fat! Do you honestly think you're going to parlay your 15 minutes into an acting or modeling career? Ho, ho, ho! "Has anyone actually made lasting fame out of a Survivor stint?" I asked. Courtney pointed to Elizabeth Filarski, who's now on The View. Ah yes. One out of hundreds.

I enjoyed wallowing in smugness so much that I had the same conversation the next day with Allie. "Only Elizabeth Filarski," I concluded, snorting with self-satisfaction. And then the conversation veered abruptly in a manner to which I'm becoming all too accustomed. "I have issues with her," Allie chided no one in particular. "She stopped breast-feeding her kid and, like, glorified this practice on her show."

I've said it before; I'll say it again: I'm gonna start trolling for friends at infertility support groups.

wmd found at last

I just can't get enough of the Cheney-shooting-a-lawyer/contributor story. What's more delicious: that they sat on the story for so long; that gun-lobby whore Cheney shot a donor in the face, thinking it was a bird ("Guns don't kill people. Sitting Vice-Presidents do," says Katrina.); that a Texas corporate lawyer took it in the face; or that Cheney was hunting illegally? Be still my heart.

cheney shooting gun

the old valentine's day tradition

valentine love heartsI used to give out small boxes of chocolates on Valentine's Day, particularly to single friends and to the poor receptionists who have to process everyone else's flowers all day. I'd done this for several years when one day, suddenly and without warning, an old friend freaked out. She started speechifying. "For some time now," she said to my utter horror, "It's been apparent that you want to be more than friends..." And then she let me down rather ungently—not to mention unnecessarily. Surprised and supremely uncomfortable, I had to respond that actually, I wasn't attracted to her, and that moreover, if I were interested in a girl, I think I'd muster more than a 4-piece Whitman sampler. It was the latter part that I found most insulting.

The next year was squirmingly uncomfortable, made all the more so by the increasing sensation that this woman was going to lock me in her basement if given half a chance. By Christmas, she sent me a list of reasons why she and I should couple. I haven't seen her since.

I have since stopped the tradition. Happy Valentine's Day.

the smartest member of my family

This morning I awoke to a wide-distribution email from my sister, who when we were kids narrowly defeated me for highest IQ in the family. Other than my favorite line being "please use no invectives or emotion," I offer no further comment. Enjoy.

To my friends,

The attached letter from Curt Weldon's office, dated yesterday, MAY or may not be good news. My prediction: the hearings about Able Danger will uncover enough "slipshod crap" to get a few people in trouble and give others a public slap on the wrist. It will actually be supposed to satisfy the American people of some incompetence in the government. Many suspect that the government could have done more towards prevention of the attacks. There is much more deception and lies about the attacks than Americans know of. I won't tell you why I believe the attacks occurred. But I will tell you that the European community is aware of the U.S.'s imperialist ventures in the Middle East, especially in Iraq, all in the name of fighting terror. The U.S. has conveniently located 4 military bases in Northern Iraq, all along the proposed oil pipeline passageway. Haliburton is putting in the pipeline.

It is certain that the Israeli intelligence agency told U.S. intelligence agencies and the U.S. government that they knew attacks on the trade center would occur. They told them which week they would occur. Our government PURPOSEFULLY ignored them, and they "happened.". The Israeli's had a center in one of the towers. It vacated it one week before the attacks. Israel could not save the American people, but they saved their own. Do some fact checking.

I have ALWAYS voted Republican, but I NEVER will again. This administration has passed several laws that completely violate our Constitution. They have an agenda that was set out in the 90s, and they are currently following it. They could not act upon it until they could got the support of the American people, which they gained after the attacks.

Don't believe me if you don't want to. But Do do some homework on this. And you will get little news from Fox, ABC, CBS and NBC or the Columbus Dispatch. The media delivers what their financial supporters want. The American people are not given all the news.

screw ball screwballI have a few DVDs that point out the above – and much more. Two senators and a former LAPD narcotics agent speak in the first, and a number of retired military, (one of them pointed out the bases I spoke of), scholars, and concerned citizens of other countries who know that the American people are being misled by our media and government speak in the second, "Hijacking Catastrophe." It is excellent and only one hour long. I recommend it.

Still don't believe me? Here's a VERY well known quote that leading members of our government made famous: "It is now certain that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." How many weapons did they find? None. Any apologies? Nope. Try disagreeing on me on this one.

I know a few of you are stout Republicans – and you are my friends. PLEASE TAKE NOTE OF THE DATE OF THE ABLE DANGER HEARINGS, AND SEE IF THEY ARE OPEN OR CLOSED WHEN YOU TRY TO WATCH THEM. This email was sent to me last night, Monday, February 13th, at 5:30 p.m. Surely, I must be one of the first to know of the hearings. Why do I have less than 48 hours to disseminate the news? Have they told about them in the newspapers or on the t.v. yet? Maybe so. In the last day or two? If it is longer, they must realize that I do not watch or read bought out news stations or newspapers, and I needed to be personally contacted.

Even if you are angry with me, because you think I am against our government (I am), please write to me and tell me what date it was when you found out that the hearings will be February 15th. It is now the 14th.

I am a VERY patriotic American. And I believe in the American people, especially all those in their 20's. They have a hard road ahead of them to fix the huge problems that this current regime is creating for the American people. We are now hated over much of the world. What? Why? Because of what our government is doing in the Middle East and in other countries. Instead of building an arsenal in the 80s and 90s, our government should have been supporting research into alternative energy sources. Yes, I know they did. With a mere fraction of the amount of money that was given to "defense." We wouldn't be attacking and intimidating peoples of other lands who have what we want – oil – today, if we had done the work we needed to do in the last few decades.

Sadam was a terrible leader of Iraq. But we let him perform his atrocities as long as Iraqi interests aligned with U.S. interests. He became "evil that needed to be rooted out" when, and only when, Iraqi interests didn't align with U.S. interests. The atrocities are well documented during our years of "friendship" with Iraq.

nutcase nut caseBy the way, does anyone know what happened to Colin Powell? I liked him. I HEARD he retired. Did he refuse to be a part of the government of the U.S. based on personal convictions and morals? If you know what happened to him, I would like to know.

Recapping, watch for Able Danger hearings tomorrow, Tuesday.

Write and tell me when you heard the date of the hearings.

Write and tell me what really happened to Colin Powell.

Feel free to disagree with the facts in this letter. Tell me where you got your alternative findings, and how current legislation does not go against our constitution. Please don't use invectives or emotion. Quote the rights that our government is not violating – of the American people, in, say, the Patriot Act, and the rights of peoples of other countries. Tell me how the Patriot Act, for example, is actually aligned with our constitution – ALL of it. No U.S. citizen has protection against what used to be illegal search and seizure, spying, and more. Officials in Congress did not have much time to review the Patriot Act before a vote was called for. Many blindly voted for it in a time of crisis and emotion. It will be interesting to see if it is re-upped now that everyone is aware of what it can actually allow to happen.

I love you guys. I hope this is helpful. Watch for the hearings!!! They will tell of wrongdoing in the government before and after 9/11 – and a coverup.


zagtacular

Over the weekend I jetted to Spokane to take Sue to the Gonzaga-Stanford basketball game. I was kinda dreading it, to tell you the truth. After the Super Bowl, the last thing I wanted was more airports and lines, but a promise is a promise. It turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. Being with college students at a big-time college basketball game is pretty much the opposite experience from the Super Bowl. They were boisterous and fun, lively and imaginative. I defy anyone not to enjoy themselves.

ESPN College Gameday was broadcasting from the arena, and during a timeout I watched as the ubiquitous makeup babe touched up the anchors' faces. Using the same pad. Ew. How much money would it take for you to have Digger Phelps' sweat smeared all over your face? I decided I'm well into four digits.

dog days

I always find my dog Ed's post-kenneling depressions to be contagious. Pouting in her bed, she looks at me with sad, accusing brown eyes. "I had friends," they spit contemptuously at me. "I had sex. Why won't you just die, already?"

The little report card they give her doesn't exactly help me feel loved. Perpetually unchecked are "I had fun, but I missed you" and "I didn't eat much." Not my dog. Nuh-uh. "I had fun!" it says. "I loved my roommate! I loved my food!"

• • •

The trip I didn't much enjoy continues to bleed me dry. Forget the $200 Motown concert jack. That was chump change. Certain items seemed to sprint right out of my hotel room. My iPod, for instance. My binoculars. Super Bowl programs. The $50 triple-infused Gurka cigar Dirt gave me, just in case the Steelers won. My credit card. All mysteriously vanished. My dirty underwear and empty pizza boxes, thankfully, were all accounted for. I returned home to a charming double-whammy: In a story too long, torturous and dull to share, PayPal is stealing $2700 from me. (If I'm lying, they can sue me. Cocksuckers.) Winds caused $6000 damage to my beach stairs, which, yep, isn't covered by insurance. I'm really ready for some good news.

Oh. Yeah. And I'm back on Microsoft's campus today. Hide the knives.

why the steelers

"You're from Ohio. Why the Steelers?"

I've been asked this quite a bit lately. After the fetid turd they laid the first half in Detroit, I even asked this of myself.

I haven't lived a day in Pittsburgh, but my childhood choice is not, as many speculate, merely a matter of their being a great team when I was a kid—although that never hurts. My Polish family all lives in Western PA. Those are two pertinent variables. The Steelers are as much the choice of Poles as the Raiders are the choice of bikers. I also love that the fans don't need or want cheerleaders. I love the ownership; they're the rare family-owned team, and the family is composed of loyal, civic-minded Pittsburghers who routinely defend the integrity of the league. I love the blue collar mentality that comes from the blue-collar fans. I love that the coach is a local boy. I love that Steeler players from all over the country routinely remain in Pittsburgh when they retire. And I love that when the bitter rival Browns summarily abandoned Cleveland, Steeler fans wore orange armbands and frightened Art Modell with their anger.

Which brings us to by far and away the most important factor in my fanship: my dad, who hailed from western PA, was a diehard Browns fan. I watched with thrilled fascination as these men in black and gold repeatedly drove my father insane with rage and frustration. Oh, how he hated them. I didn't know football, but I knew this was a very good thing. I liked them. They were my secret friends.

And thus did six years of pure bliss ensure, followed by 26 years of insane rage and frustration.

reader mail

It started with my thinking my dog Ed's vet was cute. "Cute, and I maybe could get free veterinary care," I thought. "Ha."

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha."

I always find my thoughts much, much funnier than they actually are.

Not knowing what else to post about that wasn't football-related, I started writing about that. I would try to make myself seem cluelessly calculating, and everyone would laugh at me. When in doubt, pratfall, I always say. Somewhere along the way "vet" became "teacher." Not pleased with the result, I published it anyway. And then the mail started to pour in. Ugly mail.

Ladies: it was not my intention to perpetuate some sort of stereotype I did not know existed. Please call off your dogs.

Gentlemen: this is not Penthouse Forum. Please do not send me your bend-the-teacher-over-the-lectern fantasies. They're creepy, implausible and misspelled.

trent lott

Trent LottI know I shouldn't be enjoying the fact that Trent Lott didn't have flood insurance on his Mississippi home, but I am. I'm just a lousy person that way. I want to kick back, make a bowl of buttered popcorn, and watch State Farm do to him what he's been doing to Americans for decades, in as many positions.

teacher fetish

I had no idea teachers were so fetishized until I searched for an image to use with the below post. Eek!

hot for teacher

However briefly, a buddy and I have dated two of the same women. And then one day, he had an elementary school teacher by his side, and they got married, and they lived happily ever after. I hate him now. She's lively and lovely, bright and utterly charming, and best of all, she doesn't work for, nor care in the least about, Microsoft. This is the perfect woman.

Brace yourself for an irrational leap.

You've heard of leg men. You've heard that gentlemen prefer blonds. The better-adjusted of my gender might say they want to be with a woman who doesn't need a man to complete her. Fine, fine, fine. Me, I want to date an elementary school teacher. The more I think about it, the more attractive the notion is to my fertile imagination. By definition, she's educated and she has ideals, or at least she has the suggestion of ideals, or at least she did before politics and parents beat it out of her, which only serves to make her darker and more fascinating. By definition, money isn't the most important thing in the world to her, so perhaps she won't mind too much if I work four weeks out of the year. She won't have any free time, so she'll leave me alone during the week, and she'll have summers off like me. Having others' brats off-loaded on her all day, she'll very likely not want kids. Big win. She'll work mostly with women and the occasional gay man. Most excellent. And of course, she won't come home and complain about her petty, dysfunctional little corner of Microsoft, which will very closely resemble every other petty, dysfunctional little corner of Microsoft. The perfect woman.

But will she have sufficiently low standards? I: there's the rub.

go go super-hawk hearing!

Every time, I say to myself "This is the last Super Bowl post." Sigh.

I've been inundated with mail this morning from hysterical Hawks fans claiming that on Letterman, Big Ben admitted he didn't get into the end zone. Talk about hearing what you want to hear. He did nothing of the kind. In recounting the story of that moment in the game, Ben said that during the officials' review, he walked up to Cowher and said he didn't think he got in. During the review. As in before he saw the footage. After he saw the footage, he's said many times he thought the ball broke the plane.

Me, I can't tell with any certainty. Unless you're a Hawks fan and you're blessed with special super powers denied the rest of the world, you can't really see how he's holding the ball. Maybe he got in. Maybe he didn't. You'd need a laser to tell.

Thank you for your attention. You may now go back to jerking one another off.

home lost

At a glance, my old Columbus neighborhood is largely as I left it. The people all look the same and drive the same cars. Literally. But since I left, affluent neighborhoods have popped up 10 miles to the east, and the drain on businesses is jarring. A mall the size of Bel-Square is a dirt lot now. It was the affluent mall. Gone. Homes and apartments sit empty, unadvertised. The huge strip mall (think North Bend outlet mall) near my apartment, which was thriving to the point where parking was a challenge, contains just an Asian market and pizza place now, with 25 empty stores in between. Iconic local businesses older than my parents have long closed, and since nothing replaced them, their ghostly, neglected exteriors remain to haunt survivors. Massive grocery stores are empty. Gas stations sit abandoned. I couldn't help but think this is phase one: all the businesses pull out. There aren't any homeless folks, squatters, rubble, graffiti or the like yet, but it seems inescapable. It's just a matter of time.

A week ago tonight, I ordered dinner from the pizza place, my old pizza place, the one whose phone number I still have memorized 14 years later. When I saw all the empty stores, I gasped and stared. I still haven't processed what's happened to my old neighborhood, what's still happening to it right now. The pace of deterioration is unfathomable. When I went inside to get my pizza, I was greeted (just as I would be at my old White Castle the next day) by a wall of bullet-proof glass. They slid my pizza to me using a huge extendable tray, just like at the bank. The guy saw me fighting tears. Somehow, he knew. "Isn't it sad what we have to do now?"

Sad. Horrible. Words aren't sufficient. Seeing all that, knowing what's to come...a part of my insides died last week. One of the few remaining good parts, too.

sad epiphany

Although it was largely unfun, the trip home to the midwest was a watershed moment of my life. Thanks to the weird social environment created by the game, I was thrust into a single setting in which concentrations of midwesterners, Pittsburghers, and Seattlites were easily identifiable. They were plainly labeled, making Detroit a laboratory environment, complete with experimental and control groups.

The contrast was jarring.

"Watch this," I said to some new friends, a group of Detroit natives with whom I was enjoying a fifteenth appetizer. I walked up to the counter to order a sixteenth, and, just as I had with my companions two hours before, I approached some Seattle folks with an earnest "How's it going? You having fun?"

"Uh, fine," they said, scanning my hands for weaponry. And then it became apparent that I wasn't going to stop making eye contact, that I expected something in the neighborhood of an engaged conversation, or maybe even a complete sentence. And then they visibly imploded, scurrying off.

"What was that?!" Treen laughed. "Did you molest their dog or something?"

"That," I replied, "Is the warmest person in Seattle."

As the days wore on, I repeated the routine for my own amusement. But as sterotypes continually confirmed themselves, my self-righteous amusement gave way to depression. The inner nothingness of Seattle folks will never be more empirically proven than it was in Detroit, and though I long suspected such, I now know for certain: I am in a hopeless social situation. I must move. I love the natural beauty of my Seattle home, and the job market is aces, but I cannot allow the inner ugliness of its people to change me further. Today, I called a financial planner and a realtor. I'm not going to do anything impetuous, but the days of my ridiculing the problem instead of working it are over. The soulless, joyless fucks must go.

return to fantasyland

super bowl xlMETAMUVILLE - I was planning on writing about the whiny maggots running their bitch-holes unremittingly since Sunday night. About how on the flight home to Seattle I enjoyed many a "this is a confirmed fact!" as to why, in the name of all that's holy, the refs felt compelled to call untimely penalties that the Seahawks did, inconvenient though this detail is, actually commit. "Steeler fans sent death threats to the refs" was my second favorite. Number one with a bullet: with the game ending at 10pm on the last night of Super Bowl week, the NFL wanted to ensure that the Steeler fans stayed to drink and thereby bring extra riches to the proprietors of Detroit. So they fixed the game, you see.

There's little sense in arguing with these fans. They're not conversant about the rules or the plays in question. Their idea of evidence—and something I've heard three times today alone—is that "everyone I know says this." Of that, I have little doubt. I've heard nothing but the creepy low moan of mass masturbation since I arrived at Sea-Tac.

That the Hawks' receivers were pushing off all night and finally got flagged—thank Christ—in the red zone is immaterial. (I blew my voice out screaming about all the offensive pass interference.) That there's really a rule that on an interception return, you can't hit a non-ball-carrier below the waist is immaterial. That the holding was so flagrant that Clark Haggans was leaning backward as he ran to the ball-carrier is immaterial. What the rest of the world calls "calling it tight," Seattle fans call "cheating." What the rest of the world calls "not being able to finish drives within the rules," Seattle fans call "a dominant performance thwarted by the refs." And what the rest of the world saw as self-destructive sloppy play, as an inability to put away an opponent that was playing very poorly, Seattle fans saw as a world championship denied.

I was planning on writing much more, but I see the petulant whining has become a national story, so I'll leave you with a link. Moral: those who complain about not getting respect might try granting it.

where's sea-d'oh?

super bowl xlDETROIT - A few thousand Seattle fans arrived over the weekend and made it their business to start as many confrontations as possible. I saw it again and again. Steeler fans would be off celebrating, perhaps chanting "Here we go Steelers, here we go," and a couple of Seahawk fans would enter their space and shout alternate lyrics, often profane. Words would fly, then often fists. I guess the Hawks fans think this is what fans do. The existence of fans for the opposing team is an affront to their belief system, so those fans cannot be allowed to exist uncorrected. Or perhaps being outnumbered 20-1 made them feel compelled to ratchet up the obnoxiousness, much as a puffer fish inflates to simulate greater size. Regardless, I've had my fill of the whole scene.

Sports fans that celebrate themselves instead of their team annoy me. Sports fans who think teams who don't want cheerleaders are somehow worthy of abuse flabbergast me. Sports fans who point to my Terrible Towel and mock the Steelers for copying the Seahawks' newly minted Derivative Diapers ("Ripoff Rags" was the alternative) leave me speechless. Sports fans who high-five when an opposing player is injured and scream "He's afraid to face us! What a pussy!" appall me. Sports fans that blame everyone and everything—instead of, say, the field goal kicker who missed two, the tight end who dropped three, the linebacker who had contain on the opposing qb yet let him rush for three first downs, the same linebacker for getting crushed by a pulling guard on a 75 yard touchdown run, the coach who mismanaged time at the end of both halves, or the cornerback who got torched in the end zone—annoy me even more. For that matter, "fans" who correct my observation that their cornerback bit hard on play action by saying "Duh! The defense is on the field. This stupid Steeler fan thinks the quarterback is on the field! Ha! Ha! Steeler fans are so stupid!" in my opinion merely occupy a seat that might be enjoyed by a higher primate.

It is without the slightest twinge of guilt, then, nor the slightest doubt that I'm returning home to a self-feeding chorus of shrill whining, that I indulge in showing you Seattle's famed 12th Man in action. See if you can spot him. It's the sports equivalent of "Where's Waldo?" I called it "Where's Sea-d'oh?"

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super bowl xl seattle 12th man seahawks twelfth man

There's Sea-d'oh! He's leaving at the end of the game. By the way, this is the Seahawks' season ticket holder section.

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finally!

super bowl xlDETROIT - I get to leave Detroit! But not before several parting buttfuckings. Being made to walk post-game in bitter cold for 30 minutes, only to end up back at the stadium, was their warmup act. Then I got to walk the two miles (!) to the park-and-ride pickup point, where I found...no busses, only a thousand shivering Steeler fans ahead of me in line. So like many, I walked the five miles to my car. Into a blistering wind, on icy sidewalks, through Beirut. Thanks, Detroit. Excellent job. What crack-baby did you elect to run this town?

And oh yeah. The Steelers won. Well, they didn't lose. In a game where the Hawks, Steelers, refs, and Rolling Stones all competed to see who could suck the least, the Steelers barely won. I'm so very proud.

This is my last Super Bowl. I didn't particularly enjoy myself. It's a sterile, deathly dull, made-for-TV event in which I felt like neither participant nor audience. "Antiseptic" is the word that comes to mind.

• • •

The dull game notwithstanding, it's worth noting that my boys did something that will surely never be repeated in our lifetimes: they beat the #1, 2, and 3 seeds on the road, then beat the other conference's #1 seed in the Super Bowl. A more difficult path is not possible.

gaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

super bowl xlTicket: check
Camera: check
Binoculars: check
Ticket: check
Terrible Towel: check
Flags on car: check
Gracious text messages programmed (both outcomes): check
Ticket: check

I'm ready to go, I guess. In a nod to superstition, I've put my Super Bowl ticket in my Fiesta Bowl sleeve.

Prediction: Steelers 31, Hawks 21

super bowl ticket

pre-game blues

super bowl xlDETROIT - Man, does it feel like the Steelers are poised for an ambush tomorrow. The only thing worse than all the fawning "Jerome Bettis! Bettis Jerome!" stories last week is all the "Why is Seattle so overlooked?" stories this week. My team plays best with a chip on its shoulder. In fact, I'd go so far as to say they've only won when they've had a chip on their shoulder. Seattle is too solid for anything less than my boys' focused best, and I have a sneaking suspicion "anything less" is precisely what's forthcoming. I hope I'm wrong. I hope this is just the bad day talking. I hope the statistics Seattle amassed at the expense of the league's worst division are as misleading as I hope. Yes, I hope for my own hope, now. That's how nervous I am.

super bowl trophy


My affection for its people notwithstanding, there's no way Detroit should be hosting a Super Bowl. I'm not unaccustomed to such events. A quarter-million Buckeye fans descended on Tempe in 2003, but at no point did it feel utterly out of control like Detroit does. I love my fellow Stiller fans, but they have overwhelmed Detroit. Everything's clogged. There is no organized mass-transit to the stadiums. You can't eat. You can't drink. You can't get out of the freezing rain. Blowing your nose requires a 30 minute wait. It is, in one made up word, unfun. Win or lose, I'm looking forward to leaving.

crap on a stick

super bowl xlDETROIT - This was as shitty a day as yesterday was wonderful. I drove the 80 minutes to Detroit so that I could attend the NFL Experience. If you've ever been to the Hall of Fame and an NFL game, you have already exceeded the sum of the fun here. Yes, there are a couple of exhibits from the Hall of Fame. Yes, there are "throw the football through the hole" type booths. If that's fun enough to justify waiting 30 minutes for each, then this is the event for you.

Yawn. Nothing affiliated with the NFL has been anything better than dreadful. All the fun I've had, I made myself.

A few hours later, I attended the Motown Classics concert. I left after five songs. Between the "Nelly and John Legend won't be performing as scheduled tonight. No refunds." sign, the utterly moribund crowd talking during songs and holding up their cell phones, ushers completely obstructing my view of the stage, and singers so obscure that they weren't even introduced (the band, the Funk Brothers, was), I got the distinct feeling that I'd rather be in my hotel. A criminal waste of $200. And a day.

• • •

I got into the same aggravating discussion three times today.

"I saw on TV that it's really snowing there!"
"No, it's not snowing at all."
"Yeah, right!"
"I'm looking out the window. It's not snowing."
"Yes it is."

"I saw on TV that there are tons of Seahawk fans!"
"Uh, no. I've seen maybe 20."
"Oh come on. The local news is showing them!"

"I read that the Stones t-shirt is the #1 selling item."
"Uh, no. I've never even seen one."
"Why would they lie?"


So odd to have my first-hand observations refuted by couch-jockeys 2000 miles away. Not helping my foul mood.

where did our love go?

super bowl xlDETROIT - Yesterday I also went to the Motown Museum. (Yeah, I know. Yesterday was quite the transcendent day. I wish I'd spread it around, but at least I had one great day in Detroit.) It was interesting to see the Temptations' sequined suits and the Supremes' 35-pound gowns, and it was gratifying to touch the Platinum Record awards for What's Going On? and Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

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But walking into humble little Studio A was, here's that word once again, chilling. This is where it all happened. These are the instruments and mics and mixing boards used by the Funk Brothers, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Jackson Five, and so many others. There's a picture on the wall of Stevie standing right where I'm standing, playing the very piano I'm creepily fondling. Goosebumps.

motown studio a

random super bowl XL photos

fORD fIELD sUPER bOWL xl sTEELERS sEAHAWKS

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is this heathen?

super bowl xlDETROIT - Last night I attended arguably my best concert ever, a gospel revue that apparently Detroit hosts annually on Super Bowl weekend. What a high-energy, positivity-wallowing show. I defy anyone, believer or not, to not leave that room feeling like they could bend steel. Observations:

  • Featured acts included Patti Labelle, the Winans, Mary Mary, the Clark Sisters, and my personal favorite, Hezekiah Walker and the LFC. All were great, but Walker's group stood out. Best use of voice as instrument I've ever seen. I got goosebumps.

  • Labelle blew her voice out on "Somewhere over the Rainbow," and her choir had to finish it. Lame, but the woman is 61.

  • Labelle ripped the NFL for relegating Detroit's considerable local talent to the pre-game stuff and having the Rolling Stones do halftime. Per Labelle, Aretha had to insist on singing the national anthem.

  • Mack Strong was in the front row. I hope he stayed out late.

  • If you ever want to feel pathetically underdressed, and you know you do, put on your best outfit and go to a gospel show in Detroit.

  • At one point, I planned to write "the jesusing was minimal." But then it became maximal. If you're not into holdin' hands and telling strangers that Jesus does [I forget what], this is not your venue. To me, it's part of the cost of my ticket.

  • Seeing Ray "unsolved murder" Lewis hop around and jesusfy made me decidedly queasy.

  • Since Monique gave me her blessing to lust after cute black chicks (actually, I don't think she said "lust," but I am what I am), allow me to propose to the sparkly, inhumanly lovely LFC choir member in the brown skirt and sweater vest. I don't know you at all, but I know you're utterly without imperfection and I want, nay, need to give you half of everything. My name is John; here's your key. And don't worry about racial, geographical or cultural divides between us. Compared to the spiritual one, they're nothing.

  • While I'm grateful for the music it inspires and respectful of their beliefs (funny how their respecting mine inspires that), I'm always uncomfortably aware of the imperialistic element to black Christianity. It's the elephant in the room. I've never fully understood why modern blacks so comfortably embrace the religion forced upon their slave ancestors. Yes, I know religious faith was all the hope slaves had. I understand. That doesn't explain its persistence across the centuries. Retaining something spiritual from something so awful seems...well, I just have complete disconnect. I don't get it. I'd think it would be tinged with negative associations. Viewpoints beyond "Because it's the one true faith!" are invited.

rosa parks

super bowl xlDETROIT - Foregoing the giant tire and the world's largest ball of twine that the NFL recommends I check out while in town, I instead ventured to the Henry Ford Institute to see the Rosa Parks bus. Why is it here? Because she moved here later in life. But yeah, I too think it belongs in the Jim Crow south.

The Henry Ford is a bizarre place. A single level-building vastly larger than Costco, it's a bizarre collection of classrooms, cars, and exhibits that range from cutlery to looms to locomotives to, well, the Rosa Parks bus. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the museum was trying to be. I walked in the side entrance and asked the assembled security guards where the bus was. Following their directions, I wandered, alone, through exhibits to the bus. Not a soul was in sight. "That's sad," I thought. "With all the tourists in town...?"

Rosa Parks bus

There are a few moments in my life where being in a certain place gave me chills. Normandy. The Ford Theatre. The Air and Space Museum, looking at Spirit of Saint Louis and the various space capsules. Yesterday, I added the Rosa Parks bus to the list. I sat in her seat. I had the bus all to myself for 15 minutes. It vibrated with history.

Rosa Parks bus

I tried for a while to find an exit, and finally I came upon a security guard. "WHERE ARE YOUR CREDENTIALS?!?" he demanded in accusing all-caps.

"Huh? I don't have anything."

"YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED IN HERE WITHOUT CREDENTIALS!" He got on his walkie-talkie and talked to his boss.

"There was no sign, just an open door. And the guards waved me in. But this works out. I'm done, and I'm not sure where the exit is. Can you show me out?"

"YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED IN HERE WITHOUT CREDENTIALS! I'M GLAD I CAUGHT YOU!"

"Caught me? I came to you!"

And then, instead of leading me out of the building, he led me to the security manager, who proceeded to interrogate me and talk in terms of my presently being "detained" and perhaps some day "released."

"Allow me to explain something," I growled, barely containing my rage. "I'm here because I'm being polite. To help you understand how your security is as invisible as your policy. But make no mistake. My politeness is very nearly depleted. And when I want to leave, no geriatric rent-a-cop is going to 'detain' me."

"YOU WILL LEAVE WHEN I—"

And then I left.

Odd that the custodians of the Rosa Parks bus want so badly to violate the civil rights of people who come to pay homage to it.

is this heaven? no, it's detroit.

super bowl xlDETROIT - This town has its problems, but its people are not among them. They've been uniformly kind, even sweet to me, and I'm not just talking about the well-scrubbed white folk the NFL has working the tourist area. Leave the NFL quarter and you are embraced. In my case, literally. Two parting hugs so far. I've had more great conversations with strangers (residents, not tourists) in the past two days than I have in the past 10 years. I'm ashamed to say that those skills are severely stunted in me. I'm still not back into the rhythm of being regarded kindly, or at all, by strangers. But I like it.

The ease and good humor with which local blacks discuss race with a white stranger is particularly welcome. There's none of the bug-eyed discomfort to which I'm accustomed. They talk; they listen; we laugh at the absurdities we have in common. The mutual respect and warmth are palpable. I miss this too.

how now, chad brown?

super bowl xlSee Chad last summer.

See Chad reject his last team, the Seahawks.

See Chad reject his original team, the Steelers.

See Chad instead join the champion Patriots, figuring that they're his best chance at a Super Bowl.

Cry, Chad, cry.

uh oh

super bowl xlDETROIT - Troy Polamalu has tweaked his ankle. He's still probable for the game, but this is potentially enormous. If it affects his play in the least—and how could it not?—the Steelers' defensive lynchpin has gone from difference-maker to liability. I'm very concerned. All the folks on ESPN changing their picks to Seattle is not helping.

now i too hate on bettis

super bowl xlDETROIT - As recently as this morning, I was planning on attending Jerome Bettis' enshrinement in Canton in five years. As of this evening, I wouldn't deign to brake if he stepped in front of my car. A timeline:

7 days ago - I see a Bettis-hosted Super Bowl party listed on Ticketmaster, theme TBD. I buy an $80 ticket on faith.

5 days ago - The theme is chosen: bowling. Ew.

Today, 4pm - I depart my Toledo hotel for the hour drive to Detroit so that I may attend his stupid bowling party.

5:30pm - I pay $25 to park.

6:30pm - Just in case, I buy a $50 autograph football (the unthrowable ones with the slick vinyl panels). Unable to find a Sharpie earlier, I give the clerk five bucks for hers. Who knows when I'll ever be able to get Jerome's autograph again?

7:30 - Bored and sitting in my car, I kill time until the 10pm stupid bowling party.

9pm - I arrive at the location of the party to find a ludicrously long line for Will Call. Rather than wait in an unmoving line in a driving rain in 35 degree weather, I hole up in a cafe. I'll wait out the line.

10pm - The party is officially supposed to begin. The line hasn't budged, at least not in any good way. It now extends two city blocks. The freezing rain is falling harder, pelting us all. Several hundred people are very cold, very wet, and very angry. I'm told that Jerome arrived in a limo with a police escort.

10:35pm - Thinking about the hour's drive home, and observing that the line has moved about 10 feet and has gotten even longer, I decide that Jerome can keep my eighty bucks. I also pointedly decide where he can keep them.

10:40pm - I'm across the street, walking to my car, when a motorcade pulls up—a gleaming white limo and a bunch of cops. "Cool," I think. "It must be Roethlesberger or Polamalu." I watch in shock as Bettis exits the building and ducks into the limo, and I listen to the invective being shouted as the limo passes the furious crowd, still waiting in line for no apparent reason.

Jerome Bettis skipping his party


things to do in detroit

super bowl xlDETROIT - I'm presently sitting in an Internet cafe, impatiently waiting out the long line for the stupid Bettis bowling thing. In killing time, I came across the Detroit Free-Press' article on things to do in Detroit. "There are things in Detroit that you can't experience anywhere else, so this is your chance." Highlights:

"The Detroit Zoo" - Only in Detroit!

"Holocaust Memorial Center" - Only in Detroit?

"Meadow Brook Hall: Eminem got married here" - Words fail me.

"Gibraltar Trade Center" - Hold me back.

"Giant tire" - I'm not making this crap up.

"Big Beaver Road: We can't imagine why, but out-of-towners find the name of this thoroughfare amusing." - I can't imagine why, either.

Curious that they don't mention that the Rosa Parks bus is in this town.

planting my terrible towel flag in detroit

super bowl xlDETROIT - I'm getting ready to head into town for Bettis' stupid bowling thing that I'm still bitter about. Before arriving in Jerome's hometown, though, I stopped in Ben's. Findley, Ohio is a prototypical small midwestern town about 100 miles south of Detroit, smack in the middle of Cleveland Browns territory. They still love their Browns, but I dare say they love their boy even more. The whole town is swathed in black and gold. Every business seemingly has black and gold "GO BEN GO" signs in its window. After walking my quarterback's high school field (just so I can say I did, which now I have), I stopped to take a picture of the Nike billboard downtown. An old woman saw me and, in the manner of places not named Seattle, engaged a stranger in friendly conversation. After expressing amazement at my story—a guy from Columbus via Seattle rooting for the Steelers who's in her backwoods little town?!—she gushed. "We sure are proud of Ben! So very proud." I don't have the heart to make fun of her. She was that earnest.

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states of disunion

COLUMBUS - I'm listening to W robotically reading the State of the Union speech. Tell me that Churchie McBrash didn't just lump the following calamities together: crooked politicians, natural disasters, children going unloved, disease going untreated, and gay marriage.

Cough.

Nah, that's not leading. Me, I'm against hamster molestation, nun beating, baby cancer, puppy broiling, and W.

COLUMBUS - What a drab, ugly, depressing place my hometown is. I left to live someplace beautiful, at the cost of seeing my old home through new eyes. This place is just ghastly. Flat, gray, dirty. Even what I used to think was pretty is laughable to me now. "Pretty" in Columbus is a man-made pond (with fountain!) in the middle of an ant-colony of houses. Oooooo, let's stop and enjoy it for a moment. Get the camera, honey!

columbus skyline

I get back about every other year, and each time I return, my old neighborhoods are notably more rundown. It's not like Columbus is decaying like so many urban centers; in fact, it's prospering. It's just prospering outward. As superdoopermegawealthy neighborhoods have sprung up where I used to go for country drives, existing businesses and neighborhoods have dried up. This whole town feels like a houseplant I forgot about when leaving for the summer.

home and home

COLUMBUS - After a scant two hours' sleep Monday night—I'll admit it, packing my Super Bowl ticket gave me a bad case of Christmas Eve jitters—and after dining twice with family members, I staggered into d'Andre and d'Pam's lovely guest bedroom and face-planted. Turns out White Castles + pizza = an interesting combination in your gastrointestinal tract, sort of a culinary version of water + concrete mix. I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned for hours, desperately wanting and needing to pass out. And finally, the sweet release of unconsciousness came around 11:30. At midnight, I felt someone's presence in my room and woke up with that adrenalized start you get when you sleepily open your eyes and see some hulking man leaning over you. You know that feeling, right? Right? Wrong. It's just me. Only I know.

I tried to be suave, pantomiming a phone call and affecting my best Southern-Ohio-redneck dialect. "Officer, there's a lahrge nee-grow sneakin' 'round my bedroom."

d ignored me. "I just wanted to wish you a happy Black History Month," he cooed. And then he turned for the door.

"You what?!?"

"Shortest month of the year. 'Night."

Click.

Ha, ha. I finally got to sleep again around 2.


• • •

I was with family for a mere 10 minutes before thinking "I've made a horrible mistake." This feeling did not abate. Even when I cherry-pick the relatives with whom I visit, I still have to hear a litany of complaints against those absent. You can't even imagine. Everyone's a victim. Tales of persecution are unremitting, shrill, numbing. I had to keep telling a middle aged women to "use your indoor voice," lest other diners complain. At least I long ago learned to schedule family at the beginning of a trip, so that I can get 'em out of the way and get to the business of enjoying myself. Like, you know, being terrorized in the dark of night.

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