April 2006 Archives

journeys with george

From Carl, the first man I ever sent flowers, comes this mesmerizing animation. The configuration of the bubbles is different every time, so keep hitting Refresh.

Update: Esteemed Stank Troll "Dug" points out that you can click-and-drag George by any part of his anatomy. I hadn't even noticed.

what they say, what i hear

I've often been accused of being a poor listener, but I like to think I'm actually exceptional in that regard. It's just that what you say isn't necessary what I hear. Here's a primer.

Who What they say What I hear
NFL draft pick, responding to a reporter's question "Nah, it doesn't matter where I go. I just want to play football." "Yeah, like I want to play for the Texans. Thanks for putting me on the spot. Don't ever put yourself in a position where I need to brake in order for you to live."
Student "I had no idea we weren't supposed to copy writing from the Web and pass it off as our own." "Please insert your foot so far up my ass that I can taste where you walked yesterday."
Student "I'd love to work at Microsoft someday" "I have no idea how lowly your station is nowadays."
Woman "My boyfriend..." "Move along, lardo."
Woman "My husband..." "I'm low-hanging fruit."
Woman "My fiancé..." "I'm 19."
Pakistani official "We have no idea where bin Laden is." "Pakistan."
Acquaintance "You are cordially invited to witness the marriage..." "I heard you work at Microsoft."
Bride "You are cordially invited to witness the marriage..." "Come, pay homage at the altar of...me!"
Groom "You are cordially invited to witness the marriage..." "I owe you."
Niece or nephew I've never once heard from "Announcing the graduation..." "I heard you work at Microsoft."
Microsoft executive, in e-mail "Pete is moving on to other exciting opportunities. I'd like to thank Pete for..." "I know Pete's a complete fuck-up, you know it, so I'm not even going to bother to spin this."
Microsoft "You must download a critical update" "This breaks RealPlayer real good."
Dorkass "I like how you cherry-pick stories to make me seem so stupid." "Me no like you're web page."
Katrina "I can't do anything tonight. I've still got tons of editing to do." "Please drop by, kick off your rancid shoes, and take no hint to leave."
Ex-friend "Whenever someone criticized you, I always defended you." "I'm 13."
NBA player "LeBron's going to get his points. You just have to try to contain him." "My check clears either way."
Conversationalist "How's Ed?" "I can't think of a single thing to say to you."
W "I'm the decider." "I write my own public statements, too."
Athlete holding out for a tenth million "I gots to take care of my family." "And I mean for 17 generations."
Critic "John is so negative. I'm just tired of it." "John held up the mirror, so he's to blame for the ugliness I saw."
Allie "At the end of my life, I want those six wasted months back." "At the end of my life, I want those six wasted months back."
Anyone "Democrat" "Incompetent"
Anyone "Republican" "Evil"
Pushy friend "I just want you to find someone." "I'm so terrified to be alone that I won't leave my obvious train wreck of a marriage, and seeing you happy makes me feel weak and stupid. Validate me."
Fundy "Do you know Jesus?" "Validate me."
New mother "Want to hold the baby?" "Validate me."
Athlete "I'm being disrespected." "Validate me."
W "I'm the decider." "Validate me."
Anyone "I'm not looking for validation. "I'm so desperately looking for validation."

helping the last 1000 days begin with a bang

bush's last 1000 days

scary in-law moments

A real-life conversation about scary in-laws leads me to share my two scariest tales here.

Honorable mention

I was staying at Fucking Amy's parents' for the first time, and her little brother was in fine form. A nightmare child at school and at home, he had already been diagnosed with several mental illnesses, and their manifestations included incredible outbursts and fits of violence, including at me. Earlier in the week, he had put Draino in his mother's contact solution, so I counted myself lucky to just be punched in the eye. After I had iced my eye, Dad asked me if I'd walk the driveway with him to get the mail. I thought he would apologize, or maybe talk about the strains of raising such a child. I was wrong. He talked about their treatment plan.

"I don't know when he's going to realize that until he learns to accept Jesus Christ into his heart, he's going to have these problems."

"Jesus Christ!" I said.


Okay, so I made that last line up.

Grand Jury Prize winner

While we'd been on vacation, Maddie had contracted a bizarre and terrifying disease. The doctors performed every imaginable test, including a spinal tap. We were in a hospital room and she was prone, naked, and with a syringe drawing fluid from her spinal column when her dad burst in and demanded to know why I was in there.

This is how we met.

Dad introduced himself to me. "I'm her father," he said, with peculiar emphasis that connoted contempt, but I'm not sure why. He spoke in italics a lot.

"GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" Maddie screamed. She was partial to all-caps, herself.

I stroked her hair. "Honey, be careful. Remember what the doctor said about mov-"

"Do you mind?" Dad snarled as though I were mounting her doggie-style.


And so Dad and I moved to the waiting room, where he proceeded to grill me. After we'd discussed me, my job, my family, my car, my past, my present, my future, and several other topics I wasn't interested in, I brought up Maddie's very possibly terminal condition.

"Yep," he drawled sadly. "She's a special little gal, and—" he twisted toward me, using his right hand to pull his sports coat back and thus reveal his massive handgun—"I'd hate to see anything happen to her."

Message: sent.
Colon: evacuated.

• • •

I've shown you mine, so show me yours.

media and race

It's officially time to retire using "the Arab guy" as a red herring in entertainment. No one's falling for it. It just wastes our time.

In Flightplan, when Jodie Foster is searching the plane for whatever nefarious person abducted her daughter, and her eyes linger on a bunch of pissed off Arabs congregating around the bathroom door, did anyone in America not think "Well, obviously they didn't do it. In a movie 10 years ago, sure, but not today. But which WASP did it?"

It's ineffective and hypocritical. What is intended, I'm sure, to play upon prejudice and teach us all an important moral lesson, fails. Instead, the filmmakers lazily practice prejudice—toward Arabs, toward us—and the only lesson we're taught is that the filmmakers think we're profoundly stupid bigots who haven't seen a movie in the past five years. Our would-be enlighteners would do well to examine whether cheaply using ethnicity as a red herring is itself offensive. You know my vote.

I knew it had gotten bad when I saw the trailer for United 93 and my dominant thought was not "Too soon" but "Wow, they actually cast Arabs as the Arab terrorists." I was expecting Mexicans.

• • •

While I'm on the topic of media and race, can we also get a moratorium on race-based "nexts?" You've heard them. When young black Phil Ivey won a few championships in the predominantly white poker world, he was immediately hailed as "the Tiger Woods of poker." When young white Adam Morrison established himself in the predominantly black world of basketball, he was predictably christened the next "the next Larry Bird."

adam morrison larry bird phil ivey tiger woods

The Woods comparison is simply insane. They have nothing in common except skin color. Ivey is presently one of the best poker players in the world. Tiger is merely immortal. The Morrison comparison is slightly more defensible (small school, great shooter, hick, soft on defense), but not when you consider the pantheon of "the next Larry Birds" to have come and gone over the years, the only common denominator again being hue. Where you at, Chris Mullin and Rex Chapman?

Repugnant, lazy reporting.

But just how shocking would it be to hear Morrison called "the Tiger Woods of basketball?" It's ludicrous, yet oddly no more so.

a day in the life of john (2006)

6 am - Wake up. Stretch. It's all downhill from here.

6:01am - Check personal e-mail. Not a peep from my friends. Thank god for Internet trolls.

9am - Commute. Drive by Metamuville store, cringe at the owners' patheticly self-promoting sign: "Roses are red, Violets are blue, Ava is sweet, And our doughnuts are too."

11am - Try to scare up a lunch date. "If I take a lunch, that's just that much later I have to work, and I won't be able to pick up my baby from the complete stranger," they say.

Noon - Lunch alone.

1pm - Chat with Mom #1. Her baby is really, really unique and endlessly fascinating. The child likes crinkly sounds and bright colors, everything goes right into her mouth, and she sure is a handful! "But enough about my kid," Mom says. "What do you think about my kid?"

screaming baby2pm - Have the identical conversation with Mom #2. "She just makes the cutest expressions!" she says.

3pm - Have the identical conversation with Mom #3. "She just makes the cutest expressions!" she says. Well, someone's gotta be wrong, I grumble. She gets cross. "Validation, please. A real friend would pay unremitting homage to my baby," comes the reply, or maybe that's just what I heard. "YOU WILL PAY HOMAGE!"

3:30pm - My co-worker cancels, at the last minute, the meeting for which I traveled 160 minutes and paid $25 in gas and ferry fees. "My kid has a thing."

3:31pm - Plan Football Weekend such that Bubba's wife and two kids can fly with us and visit family. Otherwise he can't go, you see.

4pm - Receive e-mail with baby photos. My oh my, gosh almighty and yes indeedy, that is just, um, let's see...the...cutest baby ever? Ah, you're welcome! And your baby's so distinguishable from the rest! Yep. Yep. Say, what do you think about Iran enriching uranium? A scary, can't-win situation, that. "Now that I'm a mother," the reply comes, "Those sorts of things really bother me."

5pm - Meet Mom #4 and appendage for dinner. The baby shrieks nonstop, and little is done to make it stop. Everyone in the restaurant glares at me. They want to kill me. I want to help them. Mom shrugs. "There's nothing I can do about it." I ask her if she's ever heard of the technological innovation called "babysitters." Or "condoms," for that matter. I'm told I'm rude. What? I'm sorry, what did you say? All I can hear is your little birth defect being extra miraculous.

5:57pm - Drive past Metamuville store on way home. The sign now reads: "Ava says 'ice cream and I are cool treats!'"

6pm - Play cards with Mom #5. She asks about the baby of Mom #4, even though she's never met the people and never will.

7pm - Quality time. Cigar. Tawny. Hot tub. Alone.

11:35pm - Save me, Letterman!

11:36pm - Letterman mentions his son Harry for the first time that evening. I realize that nowadays, I can't tell Letterman from my friends any easier than I can tell my friends from one another.

11:51pm - Letterman asks vacuous supermodel about her kids. She takes the hint to ask him about Harry. They conclude that their kids make just the cutest expressions. After five minutes of brain-gooifying discourse about sippy cups and table-walking, the sweet, sweet release of unconsciousness comes. Or maybe it's death. If I'm lucky, it's death.

6am - Damn.

the great playhouse massacre

For my tenth summer, Mom shipped me to Los Angeles to live with my father. What was billed as a get-to-know-your-dad-better growth experience was, in fact, complete subterfuge. Mom was secretly selling my childhood house that summer, and she wanted me out of the picture. Was she protecting me? Protecting herself from my certain histrionics? Protecting the house's resale value by hiding its worst feature? Yes.

She would live to regret not being forthright with me. I would have removed, for instance, the teacher-photograph-adorned dartboard from the basement wall. But in retrospect, when you erect such a thing, don't you hope that your teacher will someday discover it? To Mom the incident was just a lost sale, but to me, it was a watershed moment. This was when the vindictive Mrs. Meague was confronted by the depths of my scarring at her hands, and, perhaps, to feel the guilt she so richly deserved to feel.

Sorry, Mom, I would only feel good about that. If not for me, for the next kid forced to move his desk from the "good side" of the room to the "bad side" so many times, the desk could have come with an odometer.

• • •
Years earlier, my dad had built the older kids a playhouse. It was quite sharp: a full-blown framed house on 8-foot stilts, complete with a wraparound deck and railing, slide, trap door and rope-ladder. By the time I was able to climb the rope ladder, the other kids were too old for such things, so I had the playhouse to myself. I decorated it as a 10-year old boy would, adorning its walls with hand-drawn posters of Steelers and other superheroes. Aquaman alone merited an entire shrine. The playhouse was littered with relics of my "inventor" period, which I kept for the benefit of future historians chronicling my earliest signs of greatness. The two irregular blocks of wood held together with model glue and several still-protruding nails served as the playhouse's indoor solar-powered refrigerator, for years ensuring that drinks never rose above room temperature.

As my siblings entered their late teens, they became engrossed in mysterious new hobbies that required great deals of privacy. They summarily reclaimed the playhouse. Suddenly, I found the rope ladder gone and the doors locked, and when I knocked I was emphatically told to go away. The next morning would be an archaeological dig, with me finding the occasional spent doobie or condom wrapper and holding it up to the sunlight for closer, squinting examination. Beer bottles littered the floor, and the solar refrigerator was tossed aside like so much scrap wood. My painstakingly drawn posters were utterly mangled, literally hanging by threads. I was incensed.

Fortunately, Saturday morning cartoons had shown me what to do in such a situation. Putting my old inventor hat back on, I rigged a simple revenge mechanism. Tying one end of a rope to the inside of the door and another to a hammer, I then hung the hammer on the wall opposite the door and fastened the rope's mid-point to the ceiling. When an intruder opened the door, the rope would tighten, the hammer would swing across the room, and pow! Just desserts would be served.

For good measure, I pulled the rope ladder into the playhouse and jumped to the ground, thereby ensuring that whoever entered would have to climb up the slide (a technique favored by my siblings) and use the rigged door. And for several weeks, my friends and I would stand aside when opening the playhouse door, like TV cops busting into a hostile room. WHOOSH! the hammer would shoot between us, violently thrashing when it reached the end of its arc. And then I forgot about it. And then I went to California.

• • •

"Did you see John's playhouse, Timmy?" my mom cooed at the 8 year-old child of a prospective home-buyer. "He's got it decorated really neat. You should go take a look. Oh, the rope ladder is gone? I think the kids just climb the slide. Go check it out! Have fun!"

timmy.gifAnd then, as Mom would recount many times later, we heard the scream. The Scream of Purest Terror in the History of All Mankind.

My Wile E. Coyote booby trap had grazed top of the the kid's head, cutting his scalp, and to hear Mom tell it he left behind a greater volume of blood than a dozen 8 year-olds could possibly contain. "Needless to say," the story would inevitably conclude, "We lost the sale."

I felt terrible that he had sprung my forgotten trap, and not just because he had deprived my sisters of their rightful fate. He was an innocent. Timmy, if you're out there, I'd like to apologize both for the scalp and for any subsequent decades of therapy. If it helps bring you any peace, know that I was punished severely. In one of the great beat-downs in west coast history, my dad got me first. And then with brazen disregard for the illegality of double jeopardy, my mom got me again when I returned home. I didn't even mind. Although I wasn't ordinarily a big fan of corporal punishment, in this case, I made an exception. I deserved what I got.

That realization, however, was slow in coming. When I explained to my parents that the the booby trap was actually intended for their other children and why, their anger abated a bit. Alas, I stoked the rage again by asking Mom if she had thought to reset the trap.

reader mail: yoko

The consensus response to last week's Yoko post is sensible enough, but nonetheless I didn't see it coming: yes, this happens with the genders reversed, and often it's a sign of an abusive relationship. The guy discredits people in her support system one by one, excising from her life anyone who might pose an obstacle to him. This is not at all inconsistent with my Yokos. Although physical abuse isn't a factor, emotional abuse is, and the hunting of the support system is too familiar. People perceived as threats are managed out.

Next question: male or female, do your Yokos have any friends of their own? Mine don't. Socially as with all else, they bring nothing to the table.

he's a decider, not a divider

There's something unsettling about a president making like Alexander Haig and publicly grabbing at his own authority. Even mocking the word "decider" can only bring so much relief.

stalking, inc.

If you're a parent and haven't seen the culture of myspace.com, you really need to take a look. This is not your usual "the sky is falling!" media alarm about new technologies. This really is a danger.

I was first exposed to the site through my students. Essentially a bunch of free personal web sites wherein kids can post photos, blogs, and messages to one another, the service is neither new nor unique—except for the wildly popular subculture it bred.

Witness my horror: a student showed me her myspace, and through it, any miscreant could find countless photos of her, her full name (including middle), her mother's maiden name, her parents' home address, her boyfriend's full name, her zip code, her email address, her employer's name, her birth date, her work and education history, who got soooooo drunk last weekend that he did untoward things, and where they were all meeting again this Saturday night at 8.

"Are you completely deranged?" I asked. "Have you ever heard of identity theft? No? How about predators? Employer background checks?"

This piqued my curiosity, and soon I was easily finding out about who was having sex with whom after taking several hits of ecstasy. The kids have no filter whatsoever. The more boastful and explicit they can make the site, the better—this material is, after all, intended for the consumption of their friends. Unfortunately, unlike the boasts and posing of yesteryear, it's not in someone's basement but in the public domain.

Parents, want to have a panic attack? Try this exercise. Pick a random bagger at your grocery store. Note their first name. Then go to myspace and search for that name. Then to narrow your search results, specify the zip code of the store. More often than not, myspace thoughtfully leads you straight to the bagger. You'll see his whole drug history, if not her boudoir photos. It's utterly horrifying in its ease.

Being both invulnerable and at the zenith of human intellect, just like we were, this generation of kids clearly has no conception that they're making themselves easy targets for thieves, HR departments and worse. When the kids are fired or raped or killed, parents will doubtlessly blame myspace. I'll blame the parents.

"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  paula abdul

"I always hear "I like the bald-headed guy,' 'I like the gray-haired guy.' Even if you don't know their names, people know their personalities."

less is more

There's a shot in the Superman Returns trailer that's startling for all the wrong reasons. In it, we see a crane shot of 40 or so extras all staring skyward—silent, still, awed.

superman returns

What did I find so jarring about this modest shot? It's real. Peter Jackson or George Lucas would have given us a gaudy, sweeping shot of tens of thousands of squirming people—"Look! Matte paintings can't squirm like this!"—which of course our eyes have already learned to perceive as fake. Their self-indulgent, top-this shots make me think "Look at all the CGI people." The Superman shot, in contrast, made me think "I wonder what they're looking at?"

More, please.

can't nobody do me like jesus

An actual Hezekiah Walker lyric. Write your own joke.

bubble popper

Allie and I were discussing yesterday's post. She liked it, and I let the praise go to my head.

Me: And the term "Yoko?" That's a John Original, thank you very much. I coined that.

Allie: Ha, ha!

Me: No, seriously. That's mine.

Allie (slowly): You don't really think that, do you?

Me: Oh no.

Allie: Oh yes. I hear that all the time.

Me: But I coined it three years ago in Sue's living r—

Allie: They used it on "That 70s Show" just the other night.


Allie: Sorry.

Me: Goddammit. There's just nothing original to be said anymore.

Allie: I'm sorry.

Me: Fuck you. You had to go and take that away from me. Here I was, feeling all pleased with myself, and you had to go and blow a hole in my pride. A big Yoko-shaped hole.

Allie (chipper): "Yoko-shaped hole" is original! You can claim that!

Me (bitter): It sucks. Thanks heaps.

Allie: Eh. Garbage in, garbage out.

how do you sleep?

Tell me if this is familiar.

john lennon yoko ono You've got a friend. You get along fabulously. One day, a woman appears in the periphery of his life, hanging around just a little more than she should, trying to get his attention in any way she can. She's needy. Compared to your friend, she's wholly unremarkable. You might even feel a little sorry for her. Then one day, they're dating. Okay, fine. You welcome her. And then bit by tiny bit, you watch the man who was your friend be chipped away. I'm not talking about normal new-relationship triangulation, where this new influence causes your friend to change and evolve. That's natural and healthy. No, I'm talking about a descent into a sort of madness, where the whispers in his ear become his unquestioned perception of reality. Suddenly, you and your friend have conflicts. You question yourself but find that his other relationships are weirding out, too. He's suddenly secretive. He's distrustful of your motives, and he's not the least bit inhibited about telling you what you're really thinking—which often is shockingly far from anything that's ever crossed your mind. He's uninterested in hearing your thoughts; he already knows them. He does not allow his certainty to be diminished by data. You don't know for sure where this weirdness came from, but you strongly suspect. "This is between you two," the woman makes sure to say about each of his suffering relationships. "It has nothing to do with me." Yet his every question feels like an errand, and his every e-mail seems vetted. The new unease in your friendship breeds more unease, and you grow farther apart. You find yourself not really knowing this person anymore, nor caring to. And then one day your friend is gone entirely, and you just shrug. I've had two such friends, both male, both gone. The women whispering in their ears? Still there, still whispering. I call them "Yokos."

At first I thought Yoko unique to the first friendship, but then Yoko II appeared, so now I wonder how common it really is, and whether this happens with the genders reversed. Do tell.

white smoke

Football Weekend XI has been decided. This year, Bubba and I are heading south for Christmas. Four pro games in five days, including all four conference championship teams. First, we see a complete dog of a game (San Francisco getting pummeled here in Seattle) on Thursday night. Next, we travel down to Atlanta for Michael Vick and the Cowboys. Then we head up to Charlotte to see a great matchup between the Panthers and my Steelers. And last, we fly to Indianapolis to see a shootout between the Colts and Bengals on Monday Night Football.

This is gonna be spendy. Especially on the heels of my solo Ohio State/Texas, Steelers-opener trip. Yikes. I'll try not to think about what percentage of my 2006 income I'm devoting to football.

I've always thought that incorporating Thanksgiving and doing a 9-day trip would be the ultimate FBW. Unfortunately, I've thought of a new "ultimate." Five BCS games in seven days: Tempe, Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Tempe. The game tickets alone would cost at least four grand. Man, I wish I hadn't thought of it. Man. This must be done some year, of course.

I have conflicting feelings about immigration reform. On the one hand, we have right-wing cranks in Congress targeting illegals. They're taking jobs away from real 'Merikuns, we're told, and we need to erect a 750 mile fence along the Mexican border to keep them out. For those keeping score: whereas al Qaeda operatives don't merit a fence, crop-picking migrant workers do. Congress falls short of explaining to my satisfaction why illegals are such a threat to me and mine; they speak about an impending Hispanic population explosion, but such talk—historically also said about blacks, Chinese, and Irish, among others—make me squeamish. It feels like ethnic baiting. Score one for the illegals. I'm also sympathetic to the immigrants' point that families would be split, the legals remaining here and the illegals returning to Mexico. And there's some sense of historical justice in California and Texas slowly ceding back to Mexicans. If only American Indians would take it back from them, it'd be perfect.

Where the illegals lose me is with their obvious sense of entitlement. People who have broken the law, who have essentially cut in line in front of those who would immigrate legally, are taking to the streets to decry the unfairness of the enforcement of that law. Um, no. They might look like civil rights protesters, but they're essentially just squatters sneaking into the country and declaring that this gives them rights. Can I get a "Hell no?" In the immortal words of Teddy Pope, "Who the fuck is you?" I find their presumption offensive, not inspiring. It's like I have 150,000 Mexican relatives I knew nothing about until this week. Gimme, gimme, gimme, mine, mine, mine.

Which brings us to Bush, who offers the scarily pragmatic solution of temporary "guest worker" permits, which acknowledges the inevitability of migrant workers, makes them legal guests for a time, and puts in process a place that ultimately results either in their citizenship or in their leaving the country. It's hard to find flaw with this, save one: its source. Supporting a Bush measure makes me feel filthy. (I just know there's a clause requiring the guest workers to build new churches and Halliburton offices in Iraq.) The measure is damned by the company it keeps. Hence "I have conflicting feelings." Everyone's a bad guy. I'm hoping for a compromise solution that royally pisses everyone off. It's a safe bet.

Welcome to America. Viva democracia.

• • •

Alternate heading: if you're america, how come the terrorists aren't trying to kill you?

fearless prediction

Queen week on "American Idol" is going to be the worst yet. Freddie Mercury vocals? Are the producers serious?

And would someone please vote off Constantine Lite already?

I can satisfy five women at once!


pros vs. joes

Pitting average guys in athletic competitions with pro athletes, this show (Spike, Mondays at 10pm) is a gem. Oh sure, all the "Joes, you can call me the Bus Driver, I'm gonna take you to school!" crap is deathly dull, and I'll die happy if I never again have to see pros pretending to be outraged and motivated by the Joes' audition tapes. But where else can you see mortal men try to cover Jerry Rice? Or try to pass-protect against Kevin Greene? Or try to get hits off Jenny Finch or rebounds against Dennis Rodman? This is great, funny stuff. I've only seen three episodes, but I can't imagine I'll ever get tired of seeing couch potatoes race Dan O'Brien or try to return Misty May spikes. And where else will you ever see Clyde Drexler pointing out the irony of John Rocker pitching to a sportswriter?

football 050

super bowl xlArguing doesn't get better than this.

For the bazillionth time in two months, a Seahawks instafan complained about poor officiating in the Super Bowl. You remember the Super Bowl, the game the Hawks lost only because of the refs? This time, it was the offensive pass interference that briefly created a touchdown. "He barely touched the guy!" the man snarled, irritated that I said it was a good call.

"Let's go to the tape, shall we?" I purred. We were on the ferry, and in in my car I have a bunch of DVDs, one of them containing Super Bowl lowlights. Until the moment I showed the man footage of Jackson shoving Hope backward a couple of feet as Jackson broke to the ball, the man remembered Jackson committing no foul.

"Yeah, that's the popular version of events," I said.

The comforts of delusion are difficult to unclench. "You sure that's the right play? Everyone I know says that was a horrible call."

"Of that I have no doubt. And yeah. I'm sure."

It didn't take me long to imagine the utility of breaking down each of the controversial calls, or of refuting mythology by simply citing rules. So welcome to Stank's second special edition: Super Bowl XL officiating.

when i grow up, i wanna be leonard pitts

Swell. Now he's showing me up in real time. Line I wish I wrote: "You would, under other circumstances, consider this a rather minor contretemps. But McKinney is black, which brings race into the picture. And where race enters, stupid is seldom far behind."

can't we all just get a grip?

I've refrained from writing about the Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) situation, as I was never able to find her account of the actual sequence of events. I like to wait for emotions to ebb and for facts to reveal themselves before I issue an opinion; call me peculiar. Like many, I read with alarm her accusations of racist treatment at the hands of the Capitol police, and I waited for her to refute the nuts and bolts of their story: that she had attempted to circumvent a security checkpoint without wearing the pin that identifies members of Congress, that she refused three requests to halt, and that when a guard grabbed her arm to keep her from entering the restricted area, she walloped him. Then she took to the airwaves to decry the "racial profiling" and declare that it wasn't "about a pin, it's about the cornrows."

And then like an idiot, I awaited the evidence that would corroborate this most serious of charges. Any evidence would do—another minority congressman citing a similar occurrence, for instance. Instead, Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte were trotted out before the cameras in a show of support. As the days have worn on and no further support has materialized, McKinney has apologized for the assault and said she'll vote for some idiotic Republican stunt-legislation praising the Capitol police for their hard work. That's swell. Now how about an apology for an apparently baseless charge of racism? I've asked it before; I'll ask it again: why are people allowed to scream "racist!" without meeting the slightest burden of proof?

Don't buy my moral argument? Then how about a practical one? Keep crying wolf and soon even the most well-meaning villagers will stop putting on their socks and boots and coming to your defense. Me, for one. I'm worn out from all the false alarms, and I'm increasingly distrustful of them. And I'm very nearly done listening. Is this really the goal? Racial profiling is a serious charge and should be addressed with utmost gravity and zero tolerance for the offender—but how can it be when charges fly so loosely, with such impunity?

Comic relief comes from ol' reliable outgoing Rep. Tom DeLay (R- TX), who shows us that mind-reading is, in fact, a color-blind superpower: "Cynthia McKinney is a racist. She has a long history of racism. Everything is racism with her."

Yeah. Really helpful, thoughtful stuff, that. He'll be missed. Don't let the door hit an illegal contributor on your way out, Tom, and don't drop the soap.

ski chernobyl

From Andy comes this link. Motorcycle enthusiast Elena packs up her camera and geiger counter and tours the abandoned areas surrounding Chernobyl. Most fascinating to me is the Pompeii-like, time-capsule nature of her hastily abandoned discoveries, such as the Soviet-era May Day posters that were being prepared and never used. Pure anthropological gold. This is truly stuff you'll not see anywhere else.


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melon baller

By special reader request, here is the melon baller story. Once again, we mine the fertile, sanity-hanging-by-a-thread period of a decade ago.

I was standing in the glacial returns line at Target. Bored, irritated, I scanned my environment for a means of entertaining myself. The wedding/baby registry machine was to my right. "Hmmm," I thought. "Let's do the math. Fucking Amy broke off our engagement 29 months ago. Six months off for appearances, four months of searching for a man exactly like her father, 19 months of stalling to get to the magical, round we've known each other for two years mark....this is about the bare minimum time she'd need to get re-engaged. Let's see."


"Ho-ly crap." The wedding was in a few months.

My mind reeled. My math was right, or at least it wasn't wrong. But who really expected a hit? And who registers at Target? I have no recollection of returning my item. I printed the registry and went home to reel some more.

For the next couple of months, I had an engrossing new hobby: fantasizing about crashing the wedding. It's not like I didn't know where it'd be: the very church we hadn't wanted to use for our wedding and that her parents had strenuously insisted upon. ("With all due respect, Ken, it's not your wedding. It's ours," I'd said. "No, John, you're wrong. It's ours," came the reply.) But what to do? Pipe up when the minister asks for objections? Perhaps I could sit in the congregation, let my cell phone ring about 20 times, answer it, stand up, and drolly announce "Amy, it's Jesus. He wants to know why you're wearing white." Or should I ask to dance with the bride? Catch the bouquet with a flourish? I had many discussions with fellow jiltee Elizabeth, who was game to help with the cell phone or parking lot fliers or whatever I decided to do. As satisfying as revenge would have been, though, there was one undeniable truth: seeing Amy and her family would punish me more than it would them. I just didn't want to get slimed again. Yet the serendipity of it all compelled me to use this info somehow, didn't it? And thus I decided to amp it down to a sterile little mindfuck that would constitute no burden on me whatsoever. Perhaps if I simply sent a gift. Yes. That was the right tone. But not months ahead of time—two weeks before the wedding would suffice, right during the highest-anxiety period. With any luck, that would be two weeks they spent dreading the thud of my other shoe. Another shoe that would never come. Perfect.

I perused the registry for something appropriate. "Maybe I can send the groom knives," I thought. And then I saw it. The I-can't-even-believe-this answer to my prayers: they actually registered for a four dollar mellon baller. (I pause to let the spectacular white-trashedness of it all sink in. Ready? Resume.) And thus did I etch "Happy Balling!" on its handle and ship it to the groom two weeks before the ceremony. There would no thank you note. Ingrates.

• • •

Three years later, I was waiting in line at the same Target. "Well, my math was right the first time, and according to Hoyle you start procreating at the two year mark, so..."


"Ho-ly crap." The baby was due in a few months. But no, I didn't send them the First Christening doll for which they registered.

on the name "fucking amy"

I explained this once, but it was five or six years ago, so for the three people who were reading back then, I apologize for the repeat. I'm sure you noticed.

"Fucking Amy" was not, of course, always her name. Nor was the prefix attached immediately. It didn't become necessary until I met Amy Amy, my friend and euchre partner. Suddenly there was confusion about which Amy I was referring to. Then one day, someone suggested that since the f-word seemingly always preceded the the original Amy's name anyway—"John used to be such a thoughtful guy...until fucking Amy came along"—why not just make it official? And thus did I init-cap the F, and a nickname was born.

korean delicacy

My first experience with Asian race relations came when I started teaching. I was fresh from Ohio and naive about the splendors of racial purity, but my Japanese and Korean students quickly got me up to speed. Perhaps I erred, Takumi implied respectfully, when I put a Korean in his small group.


When asked how her small group was going, Yuko blushed and confessed that she'd never seen a black person before and that they all looked alike to her.

"Good thing there's only the one, then. Anything else?"

Were there any big incidents? No. But there were lots of these tiresome little ones. As time went on, my students taught me about the hostility between Koreans and Japanese. It was so, so tempting to tweak them—"Like there's a difference?" And we discussed each nation's fondness for racial purity. Japanese Prime Minister Nakasone had recently driven home that point by explaining the Japanese economic boom thusly: whereas the Japanense worker benefited from his nation's "racial homogeneity," American workers were intellectually handicapped by the presence in this nation of blacks and Hispanics. (Guilty pleasure: How's that racially homogeneous economy working for you, lately?)

Once I discovered the buttons, I couldn't resist pressing them. The first day of each quarter, I would anxiously await the first Japanese name on my roster. "Sota? Sota Yakamura? Hi. Is that a Korean name?"

And then I would watch the student implode. Great fun. All I needed was popcorn.

• • •

It's with mixed feelings that I read about Hines Ward's visit to Korea. Ward is a Steeler, and my favorite one at that. He's the child of a black American serviceman and a Korean woman—a demographic shunned and often abandoned in Korea. Fleeing certain marginalization, his mother brought Hines to America when he was one, and she worked countless menial jobs to give her child a chance. Hines became a star, of course, and years later he won Super Bowl MVP. It was at that moment that all of Korea embraced him. He and his mother are currently touring Korea. Says the government: "He showed perseverance, resilience and modesty, the core characteristics of the Korean people, and gave pride to all Koreans at home and abroad."

The desire to glom on to Ward's success is forcing Koreans to confront how they treat their mixed-race children, which can only be a good thing. Any credit I give is mitigated, however, by the fact that soul-cleansing comes not from within but from a need to explain the hypocrisy of canonizing someone who once fled the country. Ward has been famous for years. He's been half-Korean for even longer. Where's the shame?

• • •

Also irksome: last I checked, Koreans didn't give two craps about Hines Ward or American football...until this half-Korean won Super Bowl MVP, that is. Now he's a "returning hero." Please. Stop piddling yourselves. Show some dignity. I can say with confidence that if a half-American helped England win the World Cup, he wouldn't exactly need a police escort upon his return here.

cancel the lillies

Yes, I'm fine. I didn't break any bones; I just tweaked a few ligaments, and the doctor dispensed an air cast and a sling that I quickly stopped wearing. I thought leaving it to your imagination would be funny, but all it seems to have accomplished is creating concern and questions. So stop. I'm fine.

That said, it's particularly cruel of the universe to make it painful for me to lift a drink.

blue balls

When my last relationship ended, the first decision I made was to paint my house blue. All right, the first decision I made was to change my locks and passwords, but the house color was right up there. Previously, I'd heard disapproving clucks anytime I mentioned painting the house. "Blue is such a cold, ugly color," said the owner of a warm, resplendently beige house. I wouldn't go so far as to say I gave her veto power, but when the words "cold, ugly" greet your every mention of an idea, it's pretty easy to move on to another project. Thus the house remained unpainted, and the moment I realized that I could do what I wanted without getting smacked by negativity, I did it. There was some urgency to it. "I need to get this house the way I want it before the next relationship," I thought. "Get the decisions grandfathered in. Preclude all debate."

Which brings us to my testicles. I love 'em, and we've had a good run, but it's time to cut ties. "It's not you," I'll reassure them. "It's me. Specifically, it's me not wanting you to wreck my life."

pruner.jpgReally, the only reason I can think of to leave their plumbing intact is that a possibly irreversible procedure seems more of a couple's decision to make. Waiting seems like the polite thing to do. Yet the same part of me that preemptively painted the house blue is nagging me to make a vasectomy a fait accompli, as well: "Are you totally deranged? You're actually inviting debate on this? Preclude, 'Daddy.' Preclude."

welcome to the world, ava

Just be thankful that fourth trimester abortions aren't legal.

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