Friday, June 30, 2006

I failed to make the chess team because of my height

Wherein that's a Woody Allen joke

Speaking of corruption, in an earlier World Cup post, Icepick left a comment that is utterly fascinating. I was unaware there was so much intrigue in the chess world:
I didn't realize FIFA was screwed up. Still gotta be better than FIDE (Federation Internationale d'Echecs, the World Chess Federation). For the last ten years it's been run by a man named Kirsan Iljumzhanov, who is the billionaire leader of a small semi-autonomous Russian Republic, Kalmykia. He's a third world dictator who has political opponents (in his republic) killed, has destroyed the Chess Championship (imagine the World Cup being held every year, with 128 participants, and decided ONLY by penalty kicks and you will get an idea of what he's done to the Chess Championship), has run the finances of the federation into the ground (it is now solely dependent on his largesse), AND claims he has been abducted by aliens with a secret plan to evacuate the Earth to save us from ourselves.

FIDE just had a new election for the presidency. Running against Kirsan was another billionaire patron of the game from Europe, who has had much experience running successful businesses and chess endeavours in the past. Naturally, Kirsan pasted that guy. (The opponent was Bessel Kok, on of the founders of SWIFT, recently in the news because of the bank monitoring, BTW.)

It's so bad some of us chessplayers wish that Chess was run as well and as corruption-free as professional boxing.

The Democracy of Nations sucks. :(

Black Friday: Another cycling scandal

Wherein not really surprising

While I've been busy trying to ignore the rest of the World Cup, I'm just realizing there's a huge drug scandal that will probably ruin the Tour de France. Spanish authorities raided a laboratory and came away with a big list of names. Let's round up some stories:

Tour Excludes Ullrich and Basso
The two favorites in the Tour de France plus an unannounced number of other riders including major contenders were excluded from the race on doping suspicions Friday, a day before the Tour begins here.

The biggest names on the list were Jan Ullrich of Germany, the winner of the Tour in 1997 and five times a runner-up, and Ivan Basso of Italy, the winner of the Giro d'Italia this year.

Doping Scandals Throw Tour de France Into Chaos
A sprawling doping scandal has thrown the Tour de France bicycle race into chaos, with three of last year's top four finishers forced out of competition just before the start of the three-week tour on Saturday.

In quick succession today, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Francisco Mancebo were suspended or withdrew from the race because of fresh evidence of involvement with banned performance-enhancing techniques or drugs. A number of other riders and team officials and one whole team have also been sidelined, in large part because of police raids in Spain that found banned performance-enhancing drugs and other items and were said to have implicated dozens of top riders and coaches.

Tour Favorites Barred in Doping Scandal
Tour officials did not immediately say how many other riders were barred from the race.

The Spanish doping scandal erupted in May when police carried out arrests and raids, seizing drugs and frozen blood thought to have been prepared for banned, performance-enhancing transfusions.

Since then, the names of riders said to have had contacts with Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor among those arrested, have leaked in Spanish media. Ullrich was among those named.

Then, after more leaks Thursday, Spanish authorities released details from the probe to Tour organizers and other cycling bodies, showing which riders were implicated in the investigation. It was on the basis of that official information that Tour teams decided to act.

McQuaid: Operación Puerto riders will be ejected from Tour
Union Cycliste Internationale president Pat McQuaid has written to all ProTour teams suggesting they ask their riders competing in the Tour de France, which begins Saturday, to provide a written statement saying they are not involved in the affair, known as "Operación Puerto."

"If a false statement is given," McQuaid said, "they would immediately leave the team and pay a large fine and those riders who refuse to give a statement would be replaced.

"If the UCI were to receive official information during the race, it would ask for the immediate withdrawal of any rider involved and that they should not compete until the end of the disciplinary process."

Names of Operación Puerto riders released

Tyler Hamilton
June 26, 2006
I was very upset to read the accusations against me and to see my name associated with the "Operacion Puerto" investigation in Spain. I have not been treated by Dr. Fuentes. I have not done what the article alleges. In addition, I have never been contacted by authorities in Spain regarding these allegations. Therefore, it is impossible to comment on a situation I have no knowledge of.

Phil Liggett
Originally 198 riders on 22 teams were entered for the 2300 miles race, but after Ignacio Labarto, the manager of the Communidad Valenciana team was also named as being under investigation, the Tour organizers immediately withdrew their invitation.

Now, with as many as 22 riders thought to be linked with Dr Fuentes’ list, the prologue this afternoon may see only 170 riders take the start in the Place de Bordeaux.

The opening seven kilometers time trial will be the hors d’oeuvre to the most open Tour for years in the absence of such star names and Americans, Floyd Landis and Levi Leipheimer and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde along with Australian Cadel Evans will find their favourite tag now more than deserved.

Britain’s David Millar, himself re-entering the sport today after serving a two-year suspension for using EPO in June 2003 when he won the World time trial title, could be the winner of this short time test.

Millar said yesterday: “I’m a little bit apprehensive and I feel ashamed, but I lied and cheated and now I want everyone to know that I am riding this race clean.”

And check in with TDF Blog for further updates.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Updated reading list

Wherein for those of you keeping score

Just finished Daniel Coyle's Lance Armstrong's War. It's an indepth look into Lance Armstrong and professional cycling and covers the 2004 season when Lance won his 6th Tour de France. This was released just before last year's tour, but I put off buying it until the paperback came out to get a postscript on the 2005 season. Well done book and Coyle also has the Outside magazine cover story on Floyd Landis. It isn't yet online, so go buy it. I'll have more on the book and other tour information as the TdF kicks up. I haven't kept up with who the contenders are this year, but with Lance gone it should be a wide open fight. Potentially as entertaining as the epic 2003 tour or the Hinault/LeMond war of 1986. Daniel Coyle is a past editor with Outside and I always recommend two stories of his as some of my all-time favorite magazine writing:

Next up is Reach of a Chef : Beyond the Kitchen by Michael Ruhlman. Honestly, I have no idea what this is about. I'm assuming it's a continuation of his culinary world explorations The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute and The Soul of a Chef : The Journey Toward Perfection. I also have his collaboration with Brian Polcyn, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing. I'm considering setting up a separate food blog to explore that book and other kitchen experiments. Ruhlman is also doing some blogging at Which you should be reading, anyway.

Then there's Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. Just out in paperback.

And I've just ordered the following from Amazon. Notice a theme here? Except for the first one.

Nothing shows off a refusal to proof-read and spell-check like seeing your work quoted in another blog

Wherein "waht" indeed

The blog A List Of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago wrote about the AFI Inspirational 100 movie list. I write a post attempting to skewer all 100 movies. Well, 69 movies, I was distracted. Now, Throwing Things is linking to my post linking to their post.

With this post the circle is complete.

To quote myself, my favorites:
13. Hoosiers," 1986. A man with a violent past and the town drunk find redemption through the manipulation of teenage boys.

39. "Star Wars," 1977. Inspired George Lucas to make another one, which inspired him to make another one involving those damned teddy bears. Inspired me to never again give him a single penny. Rot in hell, old man.

67. "An Officer and a Gentleman," 1982. Inspired me to never work in a grocery store. Chicks don't dig grocery clerks.

I am also overly fond of If the knife's a duplicate, we must acquit.

The revenge begins

Wherein the revenge begins...crap, I said that already

I'm not just grumbling about soccer, I'm about to do something about it. Yes, I will be coaching 4-5-year olds. Plan on half the time being spent practicing the "Italian" maneuver:
  1. Divide into pairs.
  2. Player 1 lightly taps player 2 on the shoulder.
  3. Player 2 falls to the ground screaming.
  4. For advanced players, I'll add grabbing the face and rolling around as if you are suffering convulsions.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

I'm over the world cup

Wherein I'll prefer to waste my time getting ready for the Tour de France

I am done. Stick a fork in me done. FIFA and their idiotic referee instructions have destroyed my enjoyment of these games. Between the stupid ass calls and the stupid ass diving and the stupid ass diving being rewarded with stupid ass calls, I can't take it any more.

We've yelled at the TV so often even our daughter is shouting "get up, you big baby!" This isn't healthy. So, no more. I might catch a couple minutes here and there, otherwise, whatever.

Screw FIFA and screw soccer.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Updated Round 2 Predictions

Wherein I'm still in the hunt

We have a pool at work and after group play it's all pretty tight. I think there were five tied for first place and I was in third, only three points back. Not bad considering I only picked 11 of the final 16.

Here's my original Round of 16 predictions. We pick again for the Second round and here's what I have.

Germany > Sweden
Argentina > Mexico
Ecuador > England
Netherlands > Portugal
Italy > Australia
Brazil > Ghana
Switzerland > Ukraine
Spain > France

England will probably beat Ecuador, but England has been very unimpressive and I hoping Ecuador will give me a small upset to pick up a couple points. I gave serious consideration to picking Australia over Italy. Talked myself out of it; I think it's possible, it just isn't going to happen.

If it did break this way, here's how I have the quarters
Argentina > Germany
Netherlands > Ecuador
Italy >Swiss
Brazil > Spain

Argentina > Netherlands
Brazil > Italy

And its an all South American final with
Argentina > Brazil

All those Eye-talians sound alike

Wherein an editor is required

Sports Illustrated can't be bothered to know who plays on the US men's soccer team.

Just like I can't be bothered to buy their magazine.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Which is worse?

Wherein another 45 minutes like this and cleaning the basement will be the highlight of my day

At the half, after the worst called penalty kick I can remember, Ghana is up 2-1. So I offer up two phrases for a vote. Which is more insulting:
  1. Ghana goes down easier than an Italian.
  2. Ghana goes down easier than a $10 Vegas hooker.

Update: Eric Wynalda, during the postgame show,"Bruce Arena screwed up this World Cup."

Another update: I'd be happy to never again see Beasley on the field.

Another another update: What a stupid sport. When's the curling season start?

Another another another update: Ouch, this'll leave a mark: Is it just me, or is Landon Donovan the JJ Redick of US soccer? (i.e overrated douchebag)

Another another another another update: This stat from Michael Davies:
Of all 32 teams in Germany, the U.S. will finish No. 32 in terms of shots on goal with four. The next worse is Trinidad and Tobago with seven. Iran have 19. England, 21. Germany lead the pack with 27.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Anyone listen to country?

Wherein wearing a cowboy hat don't mean shit

Jack Sparks is looking for comments before he updates his list of Top 100 Country Songs of All Time. While you're over there, don't miss his description of Larry Cable Guy.

I enjoy reading Jack even though I'm not much of a fan of country music. I do think his thoughts on the industry of Nashville country pretty much apply to the entire music industry. He has convinced me to buy two CDs: the Little Willies and Trailer Bride. I'm also interested in investigating Buck Owens a bit more.

Buck Owens:
I'm going to do things a little differently this year, because I can. For my money, 3 men irreversibly changed the genre. Hank Williams modernized it. Johnny Cash personalized it. And Buck Owens electrified it. If there were cute graphics and org charts and crap like that associated with this list, these 3 men would be at the top, and everyone else would be flowing out from under them, with sharp cutbacks and squiggly lines in between. That's not to say that I'm ignoring everything that came before them in a chronological sense; rather, I think these 3 men did more to shape and finely tune what we think of as country music than most of the stuff that came before them. So if you have your banjo in the back of your Honda Hybrid on your way to the bluegrass festival, don't send me an angry email about all the hillbilly jugband stuff, I don't think I'm making all that outlandish of a statement. As for the songs themselves, they embody 3 very different themes and stories in the Genre. Williams' song is the ultimate pastoral cry of isolationism in a post-WWII overly industrialized world; Johnny's song is the ultimate song of personal suffering and regret; and Buck's song is the kind of misery-laced, in-your-face dance number that made honkytonks blossom like wildflowers for a short time in this country.

Two and a Half Men

Wherein jokes are frequent

Anyone watch Two and Half Men on CBS? If not, I recommend it. Jokes are often lude and crude, no one has any redeeming social value, and it's probably the most consistently humorous show on right now. While the jokes may be crude, that doesn't mean they're stupid. Watch it for awhile and there's some real cleverness in it.

I started watching the show because of the Duck Man, but it's Charlie Sheen, playing Charlie--a frequent and unapologetic womanizer, who often steals the show.

Here's some sample dialogue from the show that ran last night Monday. Frustrated with his brother, Charlie is speaking with a therapist.
Doctor: Have you ever been in therapy?
Charlie: Massage therapy, does that count?
Doctor: No.
Charlie: I don't know, you pay a strange woman for one hour and she only gives you 50 minutes.
Doctor: Lets move on.
Charlie: Touched a nerve there, did I?

I'll have a bite of this and a bite of that

Wherein My Richard Blais postings are fast approaching Neal Stephenson levels; I guess the ultimate So Quoted blog would involve reading Neal Stephenson while eating at ONE.Midtown Kitchen. Or writing about Neal Stephenson eat at 1MK; yep that would do it. Actually, Stephenson writing about the kitchen could be quite interesting.

Previous mentions of Richard Blais and 1MK can be found:

For a bonus link, here's an interview with him in Food & Wine.

We went back last week for the tasting menu. Only available on Mondays and Tuesdays, it was ten dishes for $59. I think I'd read this was slightly higher; perhaps it varies some depending on the menu. Wine pairings are available, but as I was just getting over a summer cold/flu, I decided it was best to skip the alcohol. Not the case with the table behind us who looked to be absolutely looped.

Overall impression--an incredibly fun and entertaining evening. Some of the dishes made us laugh out loud, a couple we threatened to pick up and lick, and only one didn't really work for us. We were there for three hours and it flew by. A couple times we noticed there was a lengthy gap between courses, but it gave us more time to talk about the food. And we also used the time to sketch out some landscaping plans for our yard, so the time was used wisely.

Also to be noted: while I've been the one pushing to eat here, it's now The Wife insisting we do the tasting menu once a month. Can't argue with that.

We did our best to take notes, even though at times the descriptions were overwhelming. Didn't bring a camera, though I did see one group snapping shots. Chef Blais brought out about half the dishes himself and when he didn't come out, his sous chef showed up to explain what we were eating. We didn't catch his name, but he also was personable and helpful with any questions. Again, the waitstaff was very professional.

Looks like we ended up with eleven courses and it was a comfortable amount of food. I can't imagine what a 20-30 course meal like this would be like. Are the servings even smaller? Or do you just leave plumped up like that tomato sauce guy in 7?

To the food...

  1. Chips & Salsa
    Tortilla chips with a pico de gallo gel cube and tableside frozen margaritas

    A light-hearted introduction to the evening that eases you into a meal that will be different. On the chips are these perfect cubes of a yellowish gelatin. Took the juice from a pico de gallo and made salsa jello. Beautifully whimsical and the cubes had a very nice, intense salsa flavor. The frozen margaritas were created by whisking liquid nitrogen into a container of margarita ingredients. As the margaritas were freezing, a wave of liquid nitrogen fog flowed over our table. Gotta get me a tank of this stuff.

    Great tasting and the tequila went right to my head. Good decision to lay off the wine and I also skipped the champagne we were given. Next time.

  2. Shrimp Cocktail
    Shrimp with cocktail sauce pipette
    Very simple, just a perfect shrimp and cocktail sauce. However, the cocktail sauce was in the pipette and the pipette was in the shrimp. The idea being that as you bite into the shrimp, you squirt the cocktail sauce into your mouth. Probably could have used a slightly smaller shrimp. Required two bites and the first bite was without sauce.

    The wife is ordering pipettes so she can always eat shrimp this way; though she'll fill it with Datil Do-it hot sauce. What she really wants is a "shrimp cocktail twinkie." Shove a skewer through a shrimp, then use the pipette to fill in the hole.

  3. Summer Rolls
    Basil leaf with mozzarella topped with pineapple & balsamic vinegar gel cubes
    Simple combination of flavors with a small sliver of fresh mozzarella wrapped in a leaf of basil and topped with the sweet and sour of perfectly diced pineapple and balsamic gel. Obviously I need to figure out how to turn balsamic vinegar into gelatin, otherwise this is an excellent appetizer for home parties.

  4. Paté course
    Country paté, mustard and caviar, tempura fried mustard, raspberry relish?
    I present actual table conversation:
    The Wife: What's paté, again?
    Me: Well, a country paté is basically what spam is.

    Well, it is. I don't mean that in a dismissive way, but isn't spam essentially a productionized version of a paté? Anyway, 1MK makes their own patés and terrines--something I've been dying to try. In the F&W interview Blais mentions the Charcuterie book by Ruhlman and Polcyn. Got this for Christmas and it's drool-worthy. I need to schedule some time and make some pastrami. Start off with the basic pastrami and if that works, I'm thinking a salmon pastrami could be pretty good.

    Back to the dish. Wonderful paté, dense and chunky, the only complaint being there wasn't enough. At the time I wouldn't have pegged this as my favorite dish, but I'm finding, even a week later, that I'm constantly running my tongue across the roof of my mouth in some form of sense memory. The combination of texture and flavor from the grainy mustard and caviar is something I need to try again.

  5. Fried green tomato & ranch ice cream
    That pretty much says it all. Wonderful.

  6. Fish & Chips
    Sashimi Grouper, fried tartar sauce, malt vinegar gels, English peas
    Probably our least favorite dish. We're not really sushi people, so I'm not getting excited about this. It's mostly a texture thing, as there isn't a lot of flavor. Again the gel cubes provide an intense burst of flavor and the tartar sauce was nice (I'm guessing the tartar sauce is frozen, breaded, then fried--when you cut one open, the tartar sauce oozes out). I also hate peas. However, I did eat these and they weren't bad.

    Probably a hit with sushi fans, while it made me think they were being stingy with that paté. Not to nitpick, just chalk this one up to user error (meaning us).

  7. Shrimp noodles
    shrimp noodle in broth, pickled cabbage, wasabi, bonito
    I think we have the ingredients out of order. Was it a bonito broth? Whatever it was, the broth had an initial, intense flavor, and then just evaporated off the tongue without an aftertaste. Loved the noodles. Wonder how easy these would be to make in the home kitchen?

  8. Aroma dome
    Smoked sea scallop, smoked mashed potato, wine sauce, pickled cucumber
    Wow. Think this might be The Wife's favorite. We seriously debated whether it would be ok to pick the plate up and lick it. Perfectly seared scallop, lightly smoked, with extremely buttered potatoes. Better get me some hickory chips, because The Wife is planning on me smoking some potatoes on the Weber.

    The aroma dome is interesting. As the plate is set in front of us, a wine glass is placed over the scallop. Underneath is a torched hickory chip and the glass fills up with smoke, imparting a subtle flavor to the scallop. Leave the glass there as long as you like.

    Chef Blais said he's working on a prototype for the aroma dome, though the wine glass worked nicely. My first thought was a Klein bottle, but after looking at it again, I don't see how it would work. Too bad, it's a neat piece of glasswork.

  9. Miso Barbeque Pork Belly
    Marinated with miso and cooked sous vide 72 hrs, eggplant marmalade, tomato marmalade, honey sauce & barbeque sauce
    I would have been perfectly happy ending with the aroma dome, then we get this exquisite pork belly. I'm thinking I've discovered my ultimate comfort food. This would be the perfect food for a frozen Minnesota day...worked pretty well for a hot Spring day in Atlanta, so no complaints. Paired wonderfully with both the eggplant marmalade and the tomato marmalade. Be sure to drag the eggplant through the honey. Barbeque sauce was a bit sweet for my taste, but that's me.

    Just great, I'm in my happy place now.

  10. Lime parfait and peach sorbet with fruit
    Dessert? More food? Yum.

  11. Chocolate cake with crème brulee sauce and praline gelato
    More dessert? Sated and satisfied, we were starting to shut down when they brought out the chocolate. Chocolate cake doesn't do it justice, but we were in sensory overload and didn't understand a damn thing anyone was saying. It was some sort of french pastry--a baked chocolate custard--crusty on the outside, velvety on the inside.

That's it. Whew. We'll be back in a few weeks. I've been quite lax the last few weeks about cooking meals or just working on new things. Maybe it's just the summer heat and a salad or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich just sounds better than an hour or so in the kitchen after work. But a meal like this is invigorating and has me looking through my cookbooks for new ideas. Gotta find some liquid nitrogen and gel sheets and get to work. Would also help if Chef Blais would schedule a Liquid Nitrogen 101 class. Or just let me come in and work evenings and weekends as a kitchen slave.

I do have some experience as a kitchen slave. A couple years ago I worked as an extra pair of hands in the East Lake Golf Club kitchen during the PGA Championship. Their executive chef was one of the instructors for a Culinary Arts Certificate class I took. Excellent class and since the last time I'd worked in a professional kitchen was many years ago prepping and cooking at a couple of Minneapolis pizza restaurants, very educational. Many days I wonder if I should switch professions and go back to the kitchen....Now I'm really digressing.

update: We'll be going back July 11 for a birthday dinner.

Monday, June 19, 2006

But all I wanted was a muffin

Wherein my displeasure was made known

So we had another of those useless and fake holidays--Father's Day. All I have to say about yesterday is that someone owes me a Sunday.

Back for Mother's Day, Allison blogged about the "worst mother's day tradition ever." That being schools handing out muffins for mothers. Alliteration being more important than fairness, dads get doughnuts. Oh, joy. So on Friday:

Did you get your doughnut?

No, I was really hoping for a muffin. I'm very disappointed.

Title is a reference to this song:
I went to your schools,
I went to your churches,
I went to your institutional learning facilities?!
So how can you say I'm crazy.

I think that would be hilarious on an infant t-shirt.

Seceding from the blogosphere

Wherein sounds like a good idea

Photodude defines the game:
When we talk about blogs in words and phrases like “audiovisual integration, high production value, professionalized” and seek to “attract the vast majority of readers,” have “influence in larger society,” and “the ad money that blogs will increasingly generate” ... we have to see what we are mirroring, indeed, trying to become.

The media. The very thing blogs often decry as biased and overly obsessed with eyeballs and income, to the detriment of substance.

Did I mention there is not anything wrong with this? Just realize the goals. Grow the audience, more eyeballs means more influence, and more ad dollars. These are the identical goals of the media, in all its many forms. This is why much of our media is so sensationalized. It draws eyeballs fast. The reliability and depth of the actual content becomes a secondary concern.

And in the blogosphere, you see similar sensationalism. Dave Sifry recently reported that “The blogosphere is over 60 times bigger than it was only 3 years ago.” That’s not a misquote: sixty times bigger in three years.

It might take some serious sensationalism to break out of that pack. Group blogs may be less prone to that approach, as they have the advantage of an efficient volume. But either way, note the shift: the goals have begun to precede and even pre-empt the content.

If eyeballs are the goal, you can’t wait for further news reports, or take 24 hours to reflect on a new development. You must post your pithy linkbringer within an hour or two, tops. Which leads to the effects Joe and Rick decry above. Cautious thought and conscious reflection are almost deliberately bred out of the process. That is, if you want to keep up with the Blogsters.

Oh, you might say that even if many blogs are moving towards the same goals as the media, it will be different for them. They’ll be able to stay true to their roots and beliefs, avoid sensationalism and partisan hackery in the name of growing the audience, and not spin every event towards a particular favored view. Right.

Which brings us from “wanting to be the media,” to “wanting to be the party.”

This past weekend we had the first of what I’m sure will be many YearlyKos conventions (“the convention, the first of what organizers said would become an annual event, seems on the way to becoming as much a part of the Democratic political circuit as the Iowa State Fair”), and it reminds me a bit of the old radio conventions I used to attend. You get to hang with your peers you’ve heard of but never met before, and all of you get collectively schmoozed by the record company and equipment company reps.

Oh, sure, they don’t have time for every PD from Podunk, Georgia, but they made sure they cornered and … lobbied ... the well known Big Boys in attendance. You know, the few that everyone knows. The ones with influence. Um, do you think it’s any different at YearlyKos or in the wider world of political blogs?

Even the bloggers know it: “Jennifer Palmieri, a deputy White House press secretary under President Bill Clinton, held a ‘pundit project training,’ where she told bloggers how to present themselves in television interviews — what to wear, how to sit and what to say.”

Grooming for my closeup, Mr. DeMille!

Again, there is nothing horribly wrong about this. As long as you’re not trying to fool yourself that you are doing anything new or different. People have been trying to get on TV for various reasons for ages. It’s hardly a secret that news networks have a lot of time to fill these days, and they’re not always picky about who helps them do it. When it comes to who gets the most out of such an appearance, recall that the game is rigged so that the house always wins. Your biggest hint should be when they cut off your glorious revelations in mid-sentence to go to a commercial break.

Eyeballs and income. Now everyone can play!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Stripes and Animal House: persevering against overwhelming odds...left off the list

Wherein I set the record straight

A few days ago, Throwing Things pointed to a new American Film Institute list: the 100 most-inspiring movies. Their number one selection is obvious and is also one of my most hated movies. Therefore, I must take issue with every selection they made. Especially, since truly inspirational movies such as Joe Versus the Volcano and Hudsucker Proxy didn't even make the cut for top 300 films.

Below is the list of the top 100 films. In addition to the linked discussion above, you can also participate in a discussion at Althouse (where I've left a few of these descriptions).

note:many of the descriptions I quote are taken from

now up to #69 and "Coal Miner's Daughter":

  1. "It's a Wonderful Life," 1946. Inspirational, my ass. It's a dark, deeply cynical movie. Guy gives up on his life's hopes and dreams to babysit a town of ignorant bedwetters. Screw showing George waht his life would be like if he'd never existed. Let's see what his life would have been like if he'd gotten on that train. Maybe he'd have become a banking genius and come back and bought out Mr. Potter. And that ending. Not only has Potter stolen the money, but the town's people scrape together what little money they have so George can pay him again. Let's see the sequel, where the S&L is closed down six months later and the only jobs available are as spittle collectors at the Potter estate.
  2. "To Kill a Mockingbird," 1962. A black man in the South can't get a fair trial.

  3. "Schindler's List," 1993. If you kill all the jews, who will work in my factory?

  4. "Rocky," 1976. Even an illiterate enforcer can dream about getting his ass kicked in front of a national TV audience.

  5. "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," 1939. Naive idealist goes to Washington and the first thing he does is to try and draft a pork bill to spend money on a pet project.

  6. "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," 1982. What? Where's the inspiration with this one? An alien is left behind (...left behind? I think it was the equivalent to driving an annoying pet to the middle of the woods and throwing it out the window, myself; but, whatever...), then contacts the other aliens to pick him up. Less inspirational is the lame revisionism of the twenty year anniversary release: Guns used by the agents in the 1982 were excised or digitally replaced with walkie-talkies, as was the line: "No guns - they're children." A reference to a
    "terrorist" was also changed to the word "hippie".

    It did inspire a sweet, young Drew Barrymore to turn into a whore: drinking alcoholic beverages by the time she was 9, smoking marijuana at 10, and snorting cocaine at 12.
  7. "The Grapes of Wrath," 1940. The only reason there's anything inspirational about this movie is because John Ford pissed all over the original story. The movie ends on an upbeat note, however, in the book...not so
    cheerful. Here's a summary of the final chapter:
    The rain continues to fall. On the third day of the storm, the skies still show no sign of clearing. Rose of Sharon, sick and feverish, goes into labor. The truck has flooded, and the family has no choice but to remain in the boxcar. At Pa’s urging, the men work to build a makeshift dam to keep the water from flooding their shelter or washing it away. However, an uprooted tree cascades into the dam and destroys it. When Pa Joad enters the car, soaked and defeated, Mrs. Wainwright informs him that Rose of Sharon has delivered a stillborn baby. The family sends Uncle John to bury the child. He ventures into the storm, places the improvised coffin in the stream, and watches the current carry it away. The rains continue. Pa spends the last of the family’s money on food.

    On the sixth day of rain, the flood begins to overtake the boxcar, and Ma decides that the family must seek dry ground. Al decides to stay with the Wainwrights and Agnes. Traveling on foot, the remaining Joads spot a barn and head toward it. There, they find a dying man and small boy. The boy tells them that his father has not eaten for six days, having given all available food to his son. The man’s health has deteriorated to such an extent that he cannot digest solid food; he needs soup or milk. Ma looks to Rose of Sharon, and the girl at once understands her unstated thoughts. Rose of Sharon asks everyone to leave the barn and, once alone, she approaches the starving man. Despite his protests, she holds him close and suckles him.

  8. "Breaking Away," 1979. No complaints, great movie and truly inspirational. All the characters find purpose in their lives. Should be noted that this movie also contains one of the most heartbreaking moments on film and it goes by so quickly it's easy to miss. After they've won the race and everyone is hugging and kissing, there's Daniel Stern realizing he has no one to celebrate with or to tell him he'd done good. Brutal. The most inspirational message of the movie? College girls are easy if you speak with a foreign accent.
  9. "Miracle on 34th Street," 1947. Another list this movie belongs on is "Psychiatric oddities." Back in the 1930s and 40s, there seemed to be a thing about how gentle people only interested in the welfare of others were dangerous psychotics who should be locked up and lobotomized. See also, "Harvey."
  10. "Saving Private Ryan," 1998. A good man, Tom Hanks, leads his men on a fool's errand to save one man. They all die. Moral of the story: war sucks.
  11. "The Best Years of Our Lives," 1946. Oh the jocularity: "the difficult, traumatic adjustments (unemployment, adultery, alcoholism, and ostracism) that three returning veteran servicemen experienced in the aftermath of World War II."
  12. "Apollo 13," 1995. If you're a hot shit pilot riding on top of a rocket, you'll get all the fame and glory while the engineers who saved your ass are mostly forgotten. I don't recall anyone giving Gene Krantz and his crew a ticker tape parade.
  13. "Hoosiers," 1986. A man with a violent past and the town drunk find redemption through the manipulation of teenage boys.
  14. "The Bridge on the River Kwai," 1957. This description is stolen from Icepick: Who am I supposed to be inspired by, the crazy colonel who does a bang up job helping out the enemy, the lying American enlisted man who goes on a suicide mission to avoid ending up in the stockade, or the commandos that end up having to kill their own troops to accomplish the mission?
  15. "The Miracle Worker," 1962. Isn't it great to be deaf and blind!
  16. "Norma Rae," 1979. It's fine for a fictional movie, but for it's depiction of real events, it's a bit lacking. from a 1980 article:
    What didn't really happen is that everyone lived happily ever after once the union won the election. For one thing, there is still no contract signed between J.P. Stevens and the ACTWU in Roanoke Rapids.

    A spokesman for J.P. Stevens in New York said that the boycott of its sheets and towels has not been effective, that sales and profits last year were higher than ever.

    The movie, which won an Academy Award for Sally Field but not a cent for Crystal Lee Sutton...

    Some of Cyrstal Lee Sutton's life and times were dramatized in "Norma Rae," but after the victorious election that ends the movie, the real-life scene was that she had to find a job. The first one she got after she was fired from J.P. Stevens in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., was at a fast-food fried chicken stand in another town. It was the worst job she ever had. This was after she'd been fired from J.P. Stevens for "insubordination," and after her story had been written up and was about to be dramatized on celluloid as "Normal Rae."

  17. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1975. Fight the system and we'll scramble your brains.
  18. "The Diary of Anne Frank," 1959. Never trust the Dutch.
  19. "The Right Stuff," 1983. Tell it to screwed over Chuck Yeager.
  20. "Philadelphia," 1993. Hard to find a more blatantly manipulative movie. As the movie tries to show homosexuals as normal people--because Americans are by nature stupid and ignorant and it helps to rub our stupidity and ignorance in our faces--it never shows them in normal and affectionate situations. There's no kissing; and scenes showing Hanks and Banderas in bed together were cut out of the release.
  21. "In the Heat of the Night," 1967. A black detective from
    Philadelphia finds he has a lot in common with a gay southern sheriff:
    Gillespie: You know, you know Virgil, you are among the chosen few.
    Virgil: How's that?
    Gillespie: Well I think that you're the first human being that's ever been in here.
    Virgil: You can't be too careful, man.
    Gillespie:...I got no wife. I got no kids. Boy...I got a town that don't want me...I'll tell you a secret. Nobody comes here, never.

  22. "The Pride of the Yankees," 1942. If you're a famous athlete, perhaps one day you too can have a fatal disease named after you.
  23. "The Shawshank Redemption," 1994. An innocent man spends twenty years in prison being buggered by psychopaths. His only way out is to become an embezzler and tax cheat. Eventually crawls through a pipe of shit.
  24. "National Velvet," 1944. Other than horses are nasty, smelly animals, I know nothing about this movie.
  25. "Sullivan's Travels," 1941. This would be inspirational, if Hollywood had paid attention to the epiphany of the main character:
    He succeeds in understanding that his attitude toward the poor had bordered on patronization. He finally realizes the uplifting power of laughter, and decides to return to his true calling - the making of entertaining comedies to entertain rather than to edify.

    ...and stopped making moralizing crap like The Best Years of Our Lives and Philadelphia; and idiotic lists like this.
  26. "The Wizard of Oz," 1939. A girl accidently kills one
    woman. The polite thing to do would be to hand over the dead woman's shoes to her closest relative. Instead, Dorothy keeps the shoes and willingly, and without compunction, takes another woman's life in exchange for a way home. However, this all could have been avoided if Glenda had just sent Dorothy home in the first place; instead of sending her to Oz for no explainable reason.
  27. "High Noon," 1952. Great movie, but where's the inspiration? John Wayne called the film's ending "un-American."
    There is no time for triumphant celebration - theirs is a hollow victory. Kane helps Amy board their packed buggy, brought to them by the faithful teenage boy. Then, he disdainfully looks around, reaches for his 'tin' badge, takes it off, contemptuously drops it into the dusty street, and turns to leave.

    Without support from the people, Kane will no longer be their leader. Silently, without a backward glance or goodbye, he and Amy ride off into the distance from the community of weak, fickle onlookers in the saved, unremarkable town of Hadleyville ("a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere," according to the Judge). The contemptible crowd that was unwilling to fight to preserve its law and order remains silent as the buckboard goes out of view, accompanied by the title song's famous melancholy ballad.

  28. "Field of Dreams," 1989. Struggling to make ends meet, a farmer destroys his only means of income and abandons his family to kidnap an author. Luckily, some ghosts intervene and all is saved. A message we can all take comfort in.
  29. "Gandhi," 1982. Better to be assassinated by a religious fanatic in a free India then to be beaten as a subject of the British.
  30. "Lawrence of Arabia," 1962. Why has the Mideast been in such turmoil for the last century or so? Blame the British.
  31. "Glory," 1989. About how one white man treats a minority with respect. Then they all die.
  32. "Casablanca," 1942. An allegory for limbo as refugees wait for either the hell of the nazis or a heaven sent airplane ride to the Americas. Inspirational message: never get too close to women or the French.
  33. "City Lights,". Even a blind girl, as long as she's attractive, will have men give her money.
  34. "All the President's Men,". The venal, self-important story of the Washington Post's tragic pursuit of our country's greatest president is not inspiring. Nor is the fact that this story is responsible for making reporters thinks they're more important than the story.
  35. "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," 1967. Here's an interesting history of the film. If true, interracial marriage was still illegal in seventeen states when this movie was released. Considering the times, the actions of the people involved in the making of this film admirable and even inspiring. The movie, on-the-otherhand, is a moralistic 2x4 with no redeeming artistic value.
  36. "On the Waterfront," 1954. Serves as Elia Kazan's excuse for naming names in front of HUAC.
  37. "Forrest Gump," 1994. One of those movies you either love or hate. I happen to enjoy it, but inspirational? No way. What's inspirational about a person, who without anyone self-awareness whatsoever, just stumbles from one situation to another? Just his luck, his fortunes almost always improve, but it's just luck.
  38. "Pinocchio," 1940. As long as you have a magical fairy to help you out of sticky situations, you too can learn from your mistakes.
  39. "Star Wars," 1977. Inspired George Lucas to make another one, which inspired him to make another one involving those damned teddy bears. Inspired me to never again give him a single penny. Rot in hell, old man.
  40. "Mrs. Miniver," 1942. Didn't know this, it was all propaganda:
    Under the influence of the American Office of War Information, the film attempted to undermine Hollywood's prewar depiction of England as a glamorous bastion of social privilege, anachronistic habits and snobbery in favour of more democratic, modern images. To this end, the social status enjoyed by the Miniver family in the print version was downgraded and increased attention was given to the erosion of class barriers under the pressures of wartime.

  41. "The Sound of Music," 1965. I present Captain Georg Ritter von Trapp's inner monologue: Screw you Austria! I'm schtupping a nun, so we're out of here!
  42. "12 Angry Men," 1957. The film is a powerful indictment, denouncement and expose of the trial by jury system. So, as those problems have all been fixed--and the innocent always go free and the guilty are always punished--look upon this as a depiction of a harsher, less informed time. As Henry Fonda argued, "If the knife's a duplicate, we must acquit."
  43. "Gone With the Wind," 1939. Scarlett O'Hara, a slave-owner, has trouble getting laid.
  44. "Spartacus," 1960. It was fun while it lasted, then those who weren't returned as slaves were crucified. Isn't there something about "winning a battle doesn't mean you've won the war?" If not, there should be.
  45. "On Golden Pond," 1981. Growing old sucks.
  46. "Lilies of the Field," 1963. Well-intentioned Southern Baptist helps out German nuns in the Southwestern desert. If not for the comforting presence of Sidney Poitier, it is clear that white folk would still be scared of the black man.
  47. "2001: a Space Odyssey," 1968. Man has no control over his destiny. This movie is so inspirational that Oliver! won best Oscar that year; 2001 wasn't even nominated. Even worse, Planet of the Apes was given a Special Honorary Oscar for makeup, even though it was clearly inferior to 2001.
  48. "The African Queen," 1951. So I'm reading a description of the movie and thinking to myself: "Self, the African Queen would make a great amusement park ride." Then I read:
    There is a remarkable resemblance between Disneyland's 'Jungle Cruise' attraction and this film.

    That Walt Disney, what a genius.
  49. "Meet John Doe," 1941. Wasn't the depression and the war bad enough without these bombastic handwringers telling us how bad off we were from the depression and the war? No? Sorry I asked.
  50. "Seabiscuit," 2003. Another horse movie? I don't get it. Hit the horse with a stick and it runs fast. Whoot.
  51. "The Color Purple," 1985. This movie inspired many people to denounce the film and the director, Steven Spielberg. Some, because a white man directed the movie. Others, because the lesbianism of the original story was left out.
  52. "Dead Poet's Society," 1989. No. There are many things wrong with the movie and I'll skip them for now....But, we have one kid who blows his brains out because he couldn't live with his father's disapproval. And we're supposed be sympathetic with the teacher who forced this confrontation? This is an evil, evil movie.
  53. "Shane," 1953. Inspires sheep ranchers everywhere to hope for a friendly ex-gunman to ride through town.
  54. "Rudy," 1993. If you whine and complain enough, people will feel sorry for you.
  55. "The Defiant Ones," 1958.
    Ebony and Ivory
    Live together in perfect harmony
    Side by side on my piano keyboard
    Oh Lord, why don't we?

  56. "Ben-Hur," 1959. In many ways, this movie's message is about "no taxation without representation." As such, I think we'll find it to be a primary influence of the Boston Tea Party.
  57. "Sergeant York," 1941. A drunken barfighter gets religion and becomes a conscientious objector. Drafted into World War I, he ends up killing lots of Germans and becoming highly decorated. Inspirational message: go with what you're good at.
  58. "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," 1977. The dumbest aliens in the galaxy show up to play Simon.
  59. "Dances With Wolves," 1990. First time I played blackjack was in Deadwood, SD at a casino owned by Kevin Costner. Playing a $2 table I won $60 in ten minutes. Costner is a genius and this movie is brilliant.
  60. "Sounder," 1972. The thing about your dad and dog dying is that it distracts from the fact that you're living in an oppressive, racist society. Kinda like stepping on someone's foot makes them forget about their headache.
  61. "Braveheart," 1995. William Wallace is executed in 1305. In 1320, Scotland's sovereignty was recognised by the major European dynasties. Today, they deep fry Snickers.

  62. "Rain Man," 1988. So to be good at blackjack all I need to do is teach myself to count cards? That's good to know. Thanks, Dustin!

  63. "The Black Stallion," 1979. Horses, bah.

  64. "A Raisin in the Sun," 1961. The story of a black family living in a small apartment in the inner city of Chicago...DY-NO-MITE!

  65. "Silkwood," 1983. We haven't opened a nuclear power plant in about thirty years, gas is almost $3 a gallon, and I'm supposed to worry about someone who drove off the road?

  66. "The Day the Earth Stood Still," 1951. Inspiring messages in this movie: Humans are instinctively violent; humans are selfish and uncaring; if we refuse to cowtow to a condescending alien, he will have us destroyed. Perhaps in a nonviolent way?

  67. "An Officer and a Gentleman," 1982. Inspired me to never work in a grocery store. Chicks don't dig grocery clerks.

  68. "The Spirit of St. Louis," 1957. The true story of a man who stayed awake for 33 hours to win a $25,000 prize. Lucky for him, two Frenchman died the week before trying to win. James Dean was supposed to have played Lindbergh, but then he had a little car trouble.

  69. "Coal Miner's Daughter," 1980. Is it wrong that I prefer Sissy Spacek's singing over Loretta Lynn's?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Guess the controversy

Wherein found at Bainbridge

An open letter:
What ever the origin, what emerged was, unfortunately, a kind of organizational self-righteousness. Self-righteousness has wrecked havoc in the guise of good throughout history. Once the self-righteous come to believe in the absolute correctness – political or otherwise – of their point of view, they proceed with a zeal that leaves no room for reasonable doubt, thoughtful consideration, or fairness.

...Arrogance may not be a criminal offense or cause for civil action, but it smells bad and it may be a cause for litigation when it leads to careless, irrational, arbitrary, capricious, and ultimately harmful behavior.

Any idea? Maybe a little more will help:
Imagine a scenario in which we bow to the NCAA and remove every vestige of our connection to our traditional nickname, and we earn the right to host one of the exempted schools, say Florida State, in a championship game. Your policy would allow Florida State to come into town with its logo and nickname proudly displayed, led by someone who paints himself up like an Indian “on the warpath” and carries a flaming spear. He could ride into our stadium on a horse and lead FSU fans in a tomahawk chop and an Indian chant. This, while our fans, then the obvious victims of an unfair and irrational policy, seethe in rightful anger.

The NCAA is trying to force University of North Dakota* to change all logos and nicknames. The phrase abitrary and capricious is used five times. Letter is written by the university president and it's a good argument. Of course, anyone paying attention to how poorly the NCAA treats its member schools and the students it's supposedly there to protect won't be surprised by any of this.

*edit. I incorrectly referred to the school as NDSU.

A conversation

Wherein it's important to set boundaries

Scene: mother-in-law is showing wife an advertisment for a Disney movie-of-the-month club.

Mother-in-law:...look, they have Brother Bear.

Me: Can't get that one.

Mother-in-law: What?

Me: We can't watch Brother Bear, because of Phil Collins.

Mother-in-law: What?

Wife: Phil Collins...

Mother-in-law: What? Phil Collins isn't in it.

Me: He wrote the songs.

Mother-in-law: What?

Wife: Phil Collins wrote the songs for the movie.

Mother-in-law: What?

Me: Look, Phil Collins wrote the songs and we don't allow Phil Collins in the house. Same with Barney. You have to draw the line somewhere.

Mother-in-law: What?

Wife: Nevermind...what else do they have.

Today's affirmation: I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, and doggone it, people just beat me

Wherein a separated at birth

Bruce ArenaStuart Smalley

Monday, June 12, 2006

Don't blame me, I'm just the coach

Wherein he wasn't entirely incorrect

After a horrible loss, Bruce Arena throws the team under the bus:
And then, after the 3-0 loss, it grew even more brutal, somehow. Bruce Arena started attacking his top players, who were forced to defend themselves when they just wanted to get to the bus and have a sip of bottled water. Arena, Mr. Secrecy, suddenly became way too open and honest with the media. He broke the rules, went after his own guys when they were at their lowest. Kicked them when they were down, a red card at the World Cup.

“Landon showed no aggressiveness tonight,” Arena said. “We got nothing out of Beasley on the night. Kasey, for whatever reason, puts (the ball) up field when we have nobody.”

As there were already signs of dissension, I doubt this will work as a motivator. More than a few people have been unhappy with some of Arena's latest decisions and at the end of this World Cup I expect we'll hear more than a few choruses of Hang the Bastard:
Hang the bastard, hang him high.
Hoist his body to the sky.
It's as nice as a day can be.
Won't you come to the hanging with me?

Hang the bastard, hang him well.
Send his sorry soul to hell.
When his neckbone snaps we'll know.
When [Arena] won't be [coaching] anymore.


Avoiding the cliché

Wherein it doesn't last long as the first comment dives back into anti-American bigotry

Sean Ingle:
I found myself chatting to some lads from Memphis. Preliminaries over, I asked the obvious question: "So, do you fancy your team's chances against the Czech Republic?"

"Sure," piped up one. "After all, we're fifth in the Fifa world rankings."

There was a pause, before the four of them erupted into laughter.

"And the Czechs are second!" cried another, bringing the house down.

That exchange - self-effacing, intelligent, humorous - was typical: every American I met seemed determined to wage war against the cliché of the ignorant US Soccerball fan.

Song: England 2 Colombia 0

Wherein she's British, so nil is acceptable

From Kirsty MacColl's excellent Tropical Brainstorm. Unfortunately, also her last album.

England 2 Colombia 0
Oh you shouldn't have kissed me and got me so excited
And when you asked me out I really was delighted
So we went to a pub in Belsize Park
And we cheered on England as the sky grew dark

Oh you shouldn't have kissed me cause you started a fire
But then I found out that you're a serial liar

You lied about your status
You lied about your life
You never mentioned your three children
And the fact you have a wife
Now it's England 2 Colombia 0
And I know just how those Colombians feel

If you hadn't passed out while I was talking to your friend
It could have really ended badly cause you very nearly had me
If he hadn't taken pity on my heart full of desire
I might never have found out you're a serial liar

You lied about your status
You lied about your life
You forgot you have three children
You forgot you have a wife
Now it's England 2 Colombia 0
And I know just how those Colombians feel

It is not in my nature to ever pick the winning team
Sometimes I think I'm happy then I remember it's a dream
Now it isn't in my nature to ever pick a winner
I always pick a bastard who would have me for his dinner

I can never possess the object of my desire
Cause he's bound to turn out to be a serial liar
OK I didn't mention my kids, I thought I'd wait a bit
But I am free and single and he's a lying git

Cause he lied about his status
He lied about his life
He forgot he had three children
He forgot he had a wife
And it's England 2 Colombia 0
I know just how those Colombians feel

So I got into a taxi and sobbed all the way home
Called my friend up in Sao Paulo and cried down the phone
I played some tragic music and I lay down to die
But later I woke and I hadn't stopped crying

You should never have kissed me, you tasted of deceit
Your perfume was Adultery but I'm not a piece of meat
So I'll be the one that you couldn't acquire
I found out in time you're a serial liar

You lied about your status
You lied about your life
And I pity your three children
And I pity your poor wife
Now you can go to Hell
I'm going to Brazil
Still it's England 2 Colombia 0

Trashy limeys and other bedtime stories

T&T keeper, Shaka Hislop, is writing in The Times:
YOU KNOW, I DON’T THINK AN easy-going Caribbean outlook is the first thing managers look for in a goalkeeper, but there is the odd occasion when it is just what you need. At 5.40 on Saturday evening, I was preparing to be on the bench for the biggest match in Trinidad & Tobago’s history, but then my good friend Kelvin Jack suffered an injury in the warm-up.
“Shaka, you’re playing.”
“No worries, boss.”

There was no time for stage fright or pre-match jitters. It was the game that I’d dreamt of my whole life, but I didn’t have to contend with any of these kind of emotions. One minute I was out, the next minute I was in. That suited me fine.

To be honest, though, I did feel something different out there. I’m a guy who likes to soak up the atmosphere in games I play in. I like games to hold lasting memories and maybe that has been to my detriment at times in my career, but here things were happening and they were just flashing by. I don’t know whether it’s a case of being “in the zone”, as they say, but it was different from what I’ve felt for a while — understandably so because of the game and what it meant to us.

What did it mean to a 37-year-old who has been around the block? It meant everything. It was the proudest day of my career. I think it would have been even if I hadn’t played — I was happy with the role I played in the qualifying campaign and I didn’t really expect too much more — but Saturday’s match completed the jigsaw for me. I know now I’ll be a happy man when I retire.

I was always going to be once we qualified, but from the time the first whistle went I knew that a big part of the jigsaw had been fitted. And then for things to go as they did, well, I think I’ll die a happy man.

It was a perfect day. Well, not quite perfect because I really felt for Kelvin, but I was just so proud. For us to get a draw against Sweden in our first game in the World Cup finals and for me to make a few decent saves along the way, it felt great.

But, to me, even more important than the point we won was the point we proved — not only to ourselves, but to the people of Trinidad & Tobago and I think also to people all over the world.

When we went out on to the pitch before the game, it seemed that 75 per cent of the crowd was made up of the yellow of Sweden. The rest of the stadium seemed to be neutral except for a few little pockets of the red, white and black of Trinidad & Tobago. OK, I thought. But then, with ten minutes remaining, it seemed the whole crowd was chanting for us. That was mouthwatering. It told me we were winning some friends, which is what we came here to do.

Decent humor
Calcium? Just a fad.
Seriously, English people -- it's time you drink some milk. David Beckham broke bones in his left foot two months before the 2002 World Cup, leaving him less than 100 percent; then this year striker Michael Owen suffered a foot fracture, and fellow striker Wayne Rooney could be limping throughout this year's tournament with a broken bone in his foot. So what I'm suggesting is some calcium. Just a glass of milk a day. Give it a try. And not only does calcium strengthen bones, it does wonders for teeth. Not that you all have any teeth problems, of course. I was simply stating one of the added benefits calcium provides.

White trash Englanders, #1
What Jason is describing is a regrettably accurate assessment of England's culture these days. It's not just the chavs, it's everywhere. (Try going to Disney World in the summer and you'll see). The country has developed an overbundant supply of loutish, laddish morons. I go back there to visit family every year or so and find it generally very depressing. It's like watching the lead lap in the race to the bottom.

White trash Englanders, #2:
In anything other than winter, the Englishman abroad can generally be described by any two of the following three adjectives -- drunk, tired and hot. The England team who just beat Paraguay 1-0 were tired and hot and therefore complete pants.

The 30,000 or so England fans who are here in Frankfurt to cheer on their team, both in and outside the stadium, were largely drunk and hot. And therefore sang rather well.

By the second half the England team were very tired and very hot. And the fans were very drunk and very hot. And that's (mostly) why the singing died down in the second half. The other contributing factor was the England team's pantsness.

In ascending order of pantsness then, here are my player ratings:

No one, none of the England players delivered a completely pantsless performance. Torsten Frings for Germany yesterday evening? Absolutely no pants.

John Terry
Rio Ferdinand
Steven Gerrard
Frank Lampard

Lampard was man of the match and he probably lasted better than any England player on the field, but John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were the pick of litter for me. However drab you and the world media might label England's performance, Paraguay never really looked like scoring and England will not be easy to knock out of the World Cup if no one can score against them. Oh crap -- but there are those penalty shootouts after nil-nil draws and we've always been terrible at them. Gerrard, in his World Cup debut, started strong, so "committed" in the tackle, switching so well with Lampard it looked like they might finally be able to play with each other. And then he got tired and hot.

Joe Cole
David Beckham
Peter Crouch
Paul Robinson

Previous Entries
• Day 1: I kiss football
• Complete World Cup coverage

Not quite pants but definitely disappointing, Joe Cole linked up horribly with Ashley Cole on the left and seemed to take every opportunity to cut inside and towards goal without much of an exit strategy. He will have better games in this World Cup and Ashley Cole's ineptitude did not help. Beckham stayed in position and defended well but failed to provide enough scoring opportunities for the forwards -- and that is his job. Beautifully taken set piece, though, which created the own goal in the second minute. The only positive for Peter Crouch is that he will learn from this game -- the Paraguayans, as promised, played him extremely physically, the Mexican referee gave him no help, and he wilted under the pressure. He worked hard though, tackled back and ran all afternoon.

Michael Owen

One of the poorest games I've ever seen the Newcastle striker play in an England shirt. Almost anonymous until he was substituted. No English player looked tireder and hotter.

Gary Neville
Ashley Cole

The substitutes, Owen Hargreaves and Stewart Downing didn't play long enough to receive a rating on the above scale but I'll give them both those really long, below-the-knee cargo shorts which they don't let you wear at respectable golf clubs.

The most worrying aspect of England's performance for me was the ineptitude of the fullbacks. Gary Neville gave the ball away continually and looked like he'd never played with Beckham before in his life. Ashley Cole seemed to fall over every time he had the ball, or the ball was anywhere near him. He looks nowhere near match fitness.

To conclude, England were dull but three points is all that really matters. Sweden are struggling against Trinidad and Tobago in the second game, and by tonight, England might have effectively already qualified for the next round.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

World Cup Day 2

Wherein technology let me down

Taping issues denied me most of the day's games. For a more complete rundown, check out Pooh's update.

I caught the first half of England-Paraguay and it was one of those games both teams should have lost. Watched most of it on fast forward and even that was uninteresting. England gets the win, though I doubt there's much celebrating over the performance. Let's see what The Times has to say:
IN AN embarrassing echo of their lame excuses for quarter-final defeat by Brazil in Japan four years ago, England blamed a substandard performance in their opening match in the World Cup yesterday on the summer heat in Frankfurt. After watching his team labour to a 1-0 win at Waldstadion courtesy of a Paraguayan own goal, Sven-Göran Eriksson said: “We suffered because of the temperature.”

England, gifted a third-minute lead by Paraguay’s captain Carlos Gamarra, did not play well, but Eriksson insisted that he was satisfied and “extremely pleased”. When it was pointed out that he was in a very small minority, he added: “We will need to play better, and we will.”

Just imagine the wailing when they actually lose. I'm a big fan of the England team, but one of my favorite pastimes is watching England fans cry after being booted out of the World Cup. And they are weepers. One of my favorite moments was the 1998 Argentina-England match. Phenomenal game and I'm watching it in a bar with a couple hundred ex-pat Brits. After the loss, just full-on snot-nosed blubbering. Embarrassing it was.

World Cup Day 1

Wherein I hate that leprechaun jockey guy ESPN2 is using as an announcer

Notes and comments will be brief and sporadic over the next few days. I've been whomped by some nasty bug and after leaving work early, spent the rest of the day doped up on flu medicine. I'm barely functioning this morning. Then, if I'm up for the travel, Sunday is a wedding requiring a 4-hour roundtrip.

Germany 4 - Costa Rica 2
Ecuador 2 - Poland 0

And we're off. As I've picked Germany and Ecuador to advance, it was a good start for me. Germany and Costa Rica was entertaining, if a bit sloppy. Two brilliant goals from the Germans, plus two others should have lead to a more comfortable win. However, suspect defense let Wanchope slip in for two to keep it close.
"The German defense was deplorable," Costa Rica striker Ronald Gomez said after the game. "They were really slow, and we got behind them with ease. They won't reach the final."

Nice to see the Germans playing aggressive offense, they just better pay more attention on defense. It's really too bad that when Wanchope was a high school exchange student in California, he didn't stay and change citizenship. He's a wonderful player to watch and would have made the perfect finisher that USA has been lacking.

Ecuador and Poland surprised me. Poland had control most of the game. Very patient, short passes, probing for a hole. Ecuador looked primed to provide a porous defense, but always closed up at the last minute. Ecuador played conservative and took advantage of some very poor defensive play by Poland.

Germany looks ripe to be beaten in this tournament. However, Poland doesn't look ready to challange them, so they'll probably advance. Germany and Ecuador as the top two still looks good; wouldn't be surprised if Ecuador beats Germany.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

World Cup Round 2 Predictions

Wherein I reserve the right to redo this after my Round 1 picks blowup

Earlier: group play predictions

Edit, June 9, 7am: For the first round I swapped Switzerland and France. This altered some of the second round matches.

Round of 16
Germany > England
Argentina > Mexico
Paraguay > Ecuador
Netherlands > Portugal
USA > Croatia
Switzerland > Tunisia
Brazil > Czech Republic
Spain > France

Germany > Argentina
USA > Switzerland
Netherlands > Paraguay
Brazil > Spain

Germany > USA
Brazil > Netherlands

Brazil > Germany

Photodude is back

Wherein he's much better about covering Atlanta than I am

After a long absence from the web, looks like Mr. Scott is resuming regular blogging. From Delivered via postcard:
I intend to write something about “The State of My Politics” before long, but for now let’s just say I that if you asked who disgusted me more, Michael Jackson or your average politician, I’d have to think about it long and hard before I could speak. I’ve seen precious little that could qualify as “Good News” this year, and that certainly includes the political world.

My complete disgust with this administration and Congress, and corresponding inability to vote for a Republican for dogcatcher this year, had put me in an rather unpalatable position, even though my current Congressperson is a Democrat. You see, her name is Cynthia McKinney. And I was faced with the choice of voting to increase the majority control of the Republican Congress I loathe, or vote for Cynthia McKinney. And “loathe” fits her pretty well, too.

But then … I was delivered.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Vanity 6 is something of a warrior goddess

Wherein I'd like to see what they could do with Blister in the Sun

I wish I could remember how I got there to give proper credit, but I stumbled across a new site, Moistworks. Lots of great commentary on a variety of music. What hooked me was the straight-faced deconstruction of Nasty Girl, a minor hit for the Prince constructed "Vanity 6." Apparently, the number 6 referred to the number of breasts in the group.

It's a wide ranging discussion over two posts. Links to both.

Nasty Girl #1:
I like your reading - that she's Vanity channeling Prince imagining what it'd be like to be a woman imagining a guy imagining her as a nasty girl - but I also want to ask, do you really think she wrote this song? Because if she didn't, then it's more like Prince channeling Vanity imagining Prince imagining what it'd be like to be a woman imagining a guy imagining her as a nasty girl. If we were in college, this is the point at which I'd write, "And so, as you see, the text literally deconstructs itself;" and the point at which our TF would make a little red exclamation point in the margin.

Nasty Girl #2:
Re: Fellatio. You know, at 33 I don't feel 15 years past my sexual prime. But I have to admit, fellatio didn't even occur to me. Funny, isn't it, that you and I had completely counterintuitive gender-specific reactions. Or, did we?

Re: Nina Simone's "hoo-hoo." Would you mind just saying that again?

Re: Danceability. I referenced the Gang of Four yesterday and, well, their ethos amounted to playing danceable songs in which the undertone was always "Stop! The very thing you're now dancing to is killing you!" A mixed message if ever there was one. But then, there are lots of songs like this - songs which use the form against itself. (The first truly political rap song, How We Gonna Make The Black Nation Rise, by Brother D. with Collective Effort - "While you're partying through the night/The country's moving too to the right" - or even Young Tiger's anti-bebop-"Calypso Be," which you'll find in a post way lower down on this page - both fit the bill.)

World Cup Group Play Predictions

Wherein I'm not putting money on any of this

As noted in an earlier post, I'm picking the Czech Republic and the USA to advance from Group E. For what it's worth, I'm predicting the USA will defeat the Czech Republic, tie Italy, and defeat Ghana.

For the rest of the groups, I won't share my entire spreadsheet, I'll just give you the order they'll finish. Top two teams from each group advance to the round of 16 and single elimination.

Group A
Costa Rica

Group B
Trinidad and Tobago

Group C
Serbia and Montenegro
Cote d'Ivorie

Group D

Group E
Czech Republic

Group F

Group G edit, June 9, 7am: I swapped France and Switzerland
Korea Republic

Group H
Saudi Arabia

I'll go with Jay Leno

Wherein Albert Brooks delivers this so perfectly it's hard to believe he did not write it

My favorite quote from Broadcast News:
What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he's around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I'm semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing... he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance... Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women.

Who ya got?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Some World Cup ground rules

Wherein let's get this out of the way now so I won't have to yell at anyone later

Consider this either a warning or a heads up, but this site will be almost exclusively World Cup posts for the next month. As such, I have a few rules in place to maintain order. Failure to follow these rules in the comments will result in deletion or mockery. Probably deletion, because it's just faster.
  • Say ZERO. If you are an American currently living in one of the 50 states, it is ZERO, not NIL. Speak American you pretentious queen-sniffing twit.
  • Likewise, it is field, not pitch. A pitch is something thrown at a person holding a baseball bat.
  • I know soccer is boring. We all know soccer is boring. So don't bother. Just because the comments are open doesn't mean you have to leave one.
  • Andrés Cantor is dead. Find a new catch phrase.
  • It is acknowledged that ESPN sucks. Move on. However, you may acknowledge particularly egregious examples.
  • As I expect plenty of people will be watching the games on tape delay or TIVO, I'll avoid spoilers in the titles. Spoilers are allowed in the post body and comments, so read at your own risk.

That's it. For now.
Tomorrow, I'll reveal my picks for group play. Thursday, it's my picks for Round 2.

A menu

Wherein this was entertaining

Last week I had a cooking class with Richard Blais. I covered most of the class in Cooking With Blais at Begging to Differ. Go read that for information on Iron Chef America and having fun with liquid nitrogen--including the 10-minute ice cream. Spreading the wealth, this post will cover the recipes:
  • Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon and Horseradish
  • Zucchini Ravioli with Lemon and Basil
  • Panna Cotta with Rubarb Jelly

He did hand out menu sheets, but I've also scribbled plenty of notes on them. I'll try to combine them into something that might make sense. For example, Blais listed some herbs, but frequently threw in handfuls of other herbs. These are, for the most part, simple recipes and offer plenty of room for improvisation.
Grilled Shrimp with Watermelon and Horseradish
serves 4
16 shrimp (21-25), peeled
4 slices of watermelon, maybe 3x3 and up to 1/2 inch thick
2 Avocados, sliced
4 T prepared horseradish
.5 C Sour cream
.5 C Mayonnaise
1 T White truffle oil
1 T sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro, basil tarragon
Extra virgin olive oil
Lime juice and zest

  1. Season and marinate the shrimp with salt and pepper, olive oil, basil, tarragon, cilantro. Chill.
  2. Slice watermelon, de-seed, and lather in olive oil. Season with cilantro, salt and pepper. Set out to room temperature.
  3. Slice avocado, and splash with lime juice
  4. Prepare horseradish sauce by mixing: horseradish, sour cream mayonnaise, truffle oil, sugar, salt and pepper
  5. Grill shrimp until barely transluscent. Shrimp should still be warm when served
  6. Plate: shrimp and avocado on watermelon, dollop of horseradish sauce, sprinkle with chopped herbs. Alternative is to dice everything and toss and serve as a salad with a dollop of horseradish sauce.

For the horseradish sauce he offered another technique that requires owning some sort of nitrous oxide Whipped cream dispenser. These are easy to come by. Basically, you use it to create a foam out of the sauce. Use it for all sorts of things; Blais likes to use mashed potatoes with it. Pretty much anything can go into it, you just want to strain it first to filter out anything that might clog it. To help give body to the foam, he did add five gelatin sheets. A little harder to find, but link is to Amazon and you get 20 sheets for $7. It's like powdered gelatin, but stronger. Soak it in water until it's like a jelly fish, then pull it out and add to whatever.

Zucchini Ravioli with Lemon and Basil
serves 4
3 zucchini thinly sliced lengthwise
2 C ricotta cheese
.5 C lemon zest
salt and pepper
White truffle oil to taste
olive oil
.5 C chopped tarragon
.5 C chopped parsley
.5 C honey
2 T coriander, toasted

  1. Slice zucchini on mandolin and marinate (lemon juice, grated garlic, salt and pepper, oil. Chill.
  2. Make cheese mixture (farce): ricotta cheese, basil, salt and pepper, tarragon, lemon zest
  3. For sauce combine honey, coriander, truffle oil, rosemary, sage, parsley. Heat.
  4. Grill (or broil) zucchini until pliable. Just a few seconds.
  5. Wrap zucchini around a spoonful of farce.
  6. Bake until just warmed through. If you heat too long the cheese will melt and spill out.
  7. Place the ravioli in the center of the plate and surround with a drizzle of sauce.

He also made a second "quick sauce" not on the recipe handout. The quick sauce is what he calls "bubbles" at the resturant. It's lighter and frothier than foams. Also simple to make and the only odd ingredient is lecithin. If your grocery store doesn't carry it, try a health food store. Here's what I wrote down for the bubbles and as soon as I get some lecithin, I'll give a shot.
  1. 2 cups stock, herbs, parmesan cheese, garlic. Reduce to 1 cup
  2. Add 2x milk to stock. I should have gone over these notes right after class. I think that means if you've reduced to 1 cup, then add 2 cups of milk. This will definately need a test spin.
  3. heat to warm, but do not boil.
  4. Add a couple tablespoons of lecithin.
  5. Grate parmesan.
  6. Hit it with an immersion blender until extremely light and airy. Spoon over food.

Panna Cotta with Rubarb Jelly
serves 4
500 ml Heavy cream (1.75 cups?)
3 vanilla beans, split and scraped
200 g sugar (a little less than a cup)
4.5 gelatin sheets
800 ml buttermilk (call it 2 cups?)

Kind of a pain he switched to metric here.
  1. Combine cream, sugar, vanilla beans until boiling.
  2. Bloom gelatin shets in cool water.
  3. Melt gelatin sheets in cream mixture.
  4. Chill, then add buttermilk.
  5. Pour into serving cups and chill until set.
  6. For the sauce, he cooked an equal amount of rhubarb and strawberry until syrupy and spooned over cooled panna cotta.

Twenty from the unplayed list

Wherein I still have 947 songs loaded that the iPod has not played

The next twenty songs, played randomly:
  1. Timidity, Zap Mama
  2. I'm Gonna Shock You, Daddy, Ursula 1000
  3. My Future, My Reality, Julia Sweeney (from her cancer show God Said Ha!)
  4. Isitha Ihliziyo, Mahlathini
  5. Human Touch, Rick Springfield (I blame the wife)
  6. Teach Me Tonight, The McGuire Sisters (pretty racy for a 50s song)
  7. When I win the lottery, Camper Van Beethoven
  8. Feels Like Home, Randy Newman (from Faust, sung by Bonnie Raitt)
  9. Something to Talk About, Bonnie Raitt
  10. Regimental Company March, The Gordon Highlanders
  11. Shock the Monkey, Peter Gabriel
  12. Slavonic Dance No. 1 in B Major, Dvorak
  13. Tee Nah Nah, Tuts Washington
  14. Look In My Eyes, The Chantels
  15. No One Said It Would Be Easy, Sheryl Crow
  16. Moira, Poets of Rhythm
  17. Sally Sue Brown, CC Adcock
  18. Bonnie Keliswater, Irish Rovers
  19. If, Bread
  20. The Devil, Urban Dance Squad

Monday, June 05, 2006

England radio bans England

Wherein this is the kind of crap you get if you start allowing offensive speech laws

Radio 1 bans use of England:
RADIO 1 have banned World Cup songs that contain the word "England".

A Radio 1 insider said: "We've been told songs that contain the word England repeatedly can't be put on the playlist because we don't want to upset anyone who isn't English."

But the main factor in deciding to playlist a song is musical merit.":
Radio 1 has banned World Cup songs that mention England - in case they upset Welsh, Scots or Irish listeners.

Bands who use the E word will get the red card from the station's all-important playlist.

But they claim no official ban:
The BBC Radio 1 controller, Andy Parfitt, has denied that his station has banned World Cup songs that mention England.
The Daily Mirror reported this morning that the station had banned England songs so as not to upset listeners in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The station's all-important playlist, which lists the songs that can be played during daytime, does not feature any World Cup songs that mention England, despite there being two currently in the Top 40.

As far as speech laws go, Germany is much worse outlawing anything to do with the Third Reich. Throwing Things links to a story about England fans waving inflatable Spitfires and even John Cleese is campaigning against fans using his Basil Fawlty impersonation. England may be known for its hooligans, but most of Europe (at least Spain, Italy, and Eastern Europe) has the most vile, racist fans around. So I'm not getting too worked up about Englanders chanting "2 World Wars, 1 World Cup." Doesn't even approach the level of throwing bananas at black players. Here's a couple links I added in the comments.

The Sun:
DECENT soccer fans fired a broadside at the sick senors of Spain last night over disgraceful racist taunts aimed at black England players.

Stars Ashley Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Jenas endured vile monkey chants as England lost 1-0 to Spain in a “friendly” in Madrid on Wednesday.

But yesterday England fans threw the taunts back in Spain’s face and sang: “One Armada and NO World Cups.”

It was an ironic twist on the terrace chant aimed at German rivals - “Two World Wars and one World Cup”.

The Guardian:
"Dream on, ambassador. No one who has ever been to an England v Germany game - with its incessant singing of the Dambusters march and its What's It Like to Lose a War? chants - is likely to share that optimism. It is a fortnight since the Beckhams, no less, were compelled to cancel an RAF Spitfire and Hurricane flypast at their pre-tournament party. The other day the Daily Mail dubbed the England team's Baden-Baden headquarters "Stalag Sven". A new era in Anglo-German sensitivities? I don't think so."

The Star:
An England soccer supporters group said Thursday that citizens of World Cup host Germany won't get offended if they hear fans singing about World War II.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has asked England fans not to sing soccer chants that reference the "The Dam Busters'', a 1954 film based on real-life incidents of British planes bombing Germany during the war.

Bonus Link: For an example of where an overemphasis on not being offensive gets us, read the Done With Mirrors post and comments, Picture This.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Respect our robot overlords

Peter Crouch is the dancingest mofo on the planet

Be forewarned, if Peter Crouch scores a goal during the World Cup, the world's most popular dance will become the robot overnight. At 6 feet 7 inches, he's all geeky lankiness, but all the dance floor he's smooth as butter. Near as I can tell, his dance was captured at a Beckham party. Then people started laying grooves on top of it. Then he whips it out after scoring a goal against Hungary.

Here's some youtube links:

If you want to study the moves, the BBC breaks them down frame by frame.

Dang, watch the guy in the orange shirt.