Monday, July 31, 2006

Dude, you've been called out by Keith Coogan

Wherein I think this is real

I think I've just gotten a comment from Keith Coogan. He left some excellent suggestions for my fuzzy blogpost Great musical moments in movies not involving musicians, so you can read those.

In the comments for that post, the prolific XWL wrote:
Dude, Keith Coogan tried to steal my girlfriend while we were both at Samohi.
(he was unsuccessful)

Mr. Coogan replies:
Dude, I did not try to "steal" anyone's girlfriend. I may have "spent some time" with "some of the girls" in Samo-hi, but that's it!

I say one point for Mr. Coogan and I offer a "well played, sir."

Mr. XWL, do you wish to respond? You will have two minutes, followed by a final one minute rebuttal by Mr. Coogan.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Warm sun and a place to lay

Wherein not that I expected anything less

Prodding XWL to discuss why he thinks Prince's Parade is the best album of the 1980s, he shocks and surprises. With a list of amazing breadth and reasoning, XWL provides the top 14 albums of the 1980s.

I won't argue with his list, even though two of my favorites didn't make his cut--Let it Be, Replacements and More Fun In The New World, X--instead let me point out a few things.
  1. I love that he mentions Wendy and Lisa. A valuable part of Prince's Revolution, their solo album is a mostly forgotten gem. Frankly, I lost track of them after their debut album, which is a shame. Turns out, Wendy and Lisa have kept busy. That site is a big ball of satanic Flash, but I'll let it slide.
  2. He lists Altered Images and Aztec Camera. I have two EP imports for Aztec Camera, no albums. But one is Jump, one of the great songs of the 1980s. How many albums did Altered Images produce? I have two and XWL somehow lists one I don't have. That's fookin' weird. Altered Images and Bow Wow Wow is what I was listening to when my best friend gave me a Boston album as a birthday present. I still have that Boston album and it's never been unwrapped. Always worth mentioning is that Clare Grogan also appeared in the movie Gregory's Girl.
  3. Oh, the Violent Femmes. Once overheard someone saying they'd outgrown the Femmes. How the hell does that happen? To me, they still sound as fresh as the day I heard them. Actually happened into a Hallowed Grounds concert without really knowing who they were (they were playing 1st Ave and I was at a party at 7th St. Entry, they connected and we could walk into the main room). Blew me away. A few years later, I got to ride a Mississippi paddle boat while they did an acoustic concert from Minneapolis to St. Paul and back. That was fun.
  4. Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. Really thought this was the direction hip-hop was going and I was excited. Turns out I suffered from premature speculation as the West coast gangsta rap ruined everything. For a comparison and contrast of how far we've fallen since the late 80s and early 90s, I recommend getting the Slick CD, The Art of Story Telling [iTunes]. Slick Rick spins circles around acclaimed rappers such as Outkast, Nas, and Snoop Dogg. Recommending individual tracks, get Memories and the Doug E. Fresh bonus tracks.
  5. Then there's the song-by-song breakdown proving why Prince's Parade is the greatest album of the eighties. And the argument is compelling. It's one of Prince's best albums, so by default it has to be considered

A brilliant, well considered list. If I were to consider making my own list, it would probably differ a bit. Aside from the two mentioned earlier, Dexy's Midnight Runners' Don't Stand Me Down would have to make the cut. I'd like to consider a spot for the Jazz Butcher. Then there's the compilations: Sun City: Artists United Against Apartheid, Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter, and Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Get those last three and you'll have a good start on what was good about the 1980s.

More Floyd Landis

Wherein so far I like his approach

Floyd Landis held a teleconference on Thursday. Outside Magazine has the transcript. Excerpt:
Q: I heard that if you drink beer along with cortisone that it can somehow lead to this abnormal testosterone reading. Have you heard this?
Landis: I have heard a lot of things because that is the subject right now. But, I am trying to be careful not to jump to any conclusions. I would like to hear things from experts who know exactly what they are talking about and not just speculation. I need to be careful not to jump to any conclusions, but there must be an explanation. I don't know if we will ever get an explanation because what I need to do now is to try to prove that there are variations in my testosterone and epitestosterone levels which are out of the ordinary.
As to what actually caused it on that particular day I can only speculate because when you race your bicycle every day I don't know exactly what happens.

From the TDFBlog is a link to Free Floyd Landis. Created by an anonymous someone who seems to have a lot of information on testosterone testing. Interesting stuff, but I'm being reading skeptically and awaiting confirmation from other sources:
And the word is that Landis' sample A was not tested using IRMS. In other words, this positive test result borders on slander and neglect. It is a disgrace that the UCI would not perform an IRMS test on sample A. Disgraceful, utterly. they have a definitive test at their disposal. Why not do it in the first place?

Friday, Landis held a news conference from Madrid, see velonews. I'm not finding a transcript from today's conference. From ABC News:
"I would like to make absolutely clear that I am not in any doping process," said Landis, wearing a baseball cap turned backward and a white shirt with the name of his Phonak team. "I ask not to be judged by anyone, much less sentenced by anyone."

He'll be on Larry King tonight. Not even that will get me to watch his show. Update: So I watched the show and while this isn't exactly a news flash Larry King is an idiot. I swear there were 3-5 occasions I thought Landis was about to laugh out loud. Larry was pushing the anti-American angle, called Landis a "race driver" at least once, but my favorite question had to be "So I hear you were drinking the night before. What's that going to do?" Sounded like he was calling Floyd a drunk

Don't underestimate the little man wearing a raincoat and a speedo

Wherein yeah he's that good

Matt Welch discovers youtube and goes on a linking frenzy dredging up old music videos. He finds the Prince performance of Purple Rain that changed his life:
...before this American Music Awards bit, I thought Prince was an awful limp-wristed so-and-so. Seven minutes later, he was just about my favorite musician, and I had all kinds of confusing new ideas.

Good discussion in the comments. I haven't purchased a Prince CD in years so it's easy to forget just how influential he was. Or the fact that besides breathing new life into R&B, Prince is one of the greatest rock guitarists that has ever lived and the Revolution one of the greatest rock bands.

All of which reminds me that months ago I meant to write about how A Love Bizarre on Sheila E.'s Romance 1600 is a followup to Erotic City. Drafting that, I uncovered a Jon Bream article I'd forgotten. Bream, reviewing Parade in 1986 [google cache], wrote:
"Girls and Boys" seems like the final part of the trilogy Prince started with "Erotic City" and "A Love Bizarre," which he wrote for Sheila E. The song has all the tricks - sly funk set to spare synthesizer rhythms, a slinky saxophone and funky guitar intertwining with the drums, soulful vocals in his middle register, falsetto scat singing with female harmonies, plenty of French words ("Under the Cherry Moon" was filmed in France), and a brief rap section.

I'd forgotten the article, yet bits and pieces burrowed in deep. I've always assumed there was a third song, just couldn't remember which one; now I see this is a Bream theory. I'm pretty certain that if there is a third song to complete the triology it isn't Girls and Boys. It's a great song, it's just too much of a stretch to fit. If I'm forced to pick from Parade, I think I Wonder U makes a better choice...especially if it was about 7 minutes longer.

Here's a task, if you have nothing else to do this weekend. Is Erotic City and A Love Bizarre two-thirds of a triology? And if so, what's the missing piece?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Landis tests positive for testosterone

Wherein I don't know

According to Cycling News, a sample taken after his Stage 17 victory has tested above the allowed threshold for testosterone. This was the A-sample. To be considered confirmed, the B-sample must also test positive and this testing must be done with the rider's representatives present.

For updates on this, follow Cycling News or TDFBlog for a roundup of all stories. I don't have a comment on this yet--let's wait and see if it's confirmed--but for my general comment on performance enhancers in sports, read my earlier This is me and my energy post.

Who took Irwin Maurice Fletcher? And how can we get him back?

Wherein I've always liked his journalism quote "In this business, there is no such thing as a wrong question. There are only wrong answers."

XWL has a problem with a Fletch prequel. Thing is, Fletch Won is based on an actual book by the Fletch author, Gregory McDonald.

A few thoughts. I was a huge fan of the Fletch series and when I heard Chevy Chase would play him I thought that would be perfect. Then I watched the movie and it sucked. Ass. Hard. Really hard. I think this was the curtain rising on the fact that Chevy Chase really wasn't that funny. Looking back, he never was funny. He's probably SNL's worst weekend update anchor and his filmography is one giant train wreck. I'll give you Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Vacation, but except for a handful of lines, and that hand is missing a couple fingers, he's the least funny person in both movies. His mugging and tumbling are embarrassing cries for attention. Then there's the ruining Memoirs of an Invisible Man, another one of my favorite novels. There is nothing nice to be said about that movie.

As far as fans of the Fletch movie go, the second movie, Fletch Live seems to be unloved. Weird thing is, I liked that one. Even weirder, even though it wasn't based on a Fletch book it sounded more like McDonald than the first movie did.

Fletch is an interesting character. There's a lot of humor in the stories, tinged with plenty corners of darkness. In Fletch, he's pretty much a prick and he's sleeping with an underage hooker. Subsequent novels tone down the prickness a bit, though Fletch remains mostly a friendless loner. Subsequent, up to a point. The Fletch series started in 1974 and by the time of the movie in 1985, any substance and style was rapidly falling off. Characters and plot twists were being replaced by trying too hard to be witty dialogue. The same problem as the movie. After the movie, it seemed that McDonald gave up trying and the few novels I did read came off as an attempt to write a script for Chevy Chase.

Then there's the problem with continuity and timelines. The novels do not take place in sequence. For example, the seventh novel, Carioca Fletch, takes place almost immediately after Fletch. This isn't necessarily a problem, except in latter novels details are forgotten and former events no longer make sense. Starting with Fletch Won, published in 1985--the year of the movie--and continuing through the horrid "Son of Fletch" books, Fletch's history is essentially rewritten. All of a sudden he's a rookie reporter in Los Angeles; his past as a very successful investigative reporter for a number of other papers in a number of cities is forgotten, along with his being an art critic. Mention of a father is also lost as his personal life is reinvented. Bits and pieces of earlier characters and plots make small appearances, though nothing makes sense.
update: reading descriptions of the books, this "rewriting" may have started as early as "Fletch and the Widow Bradley" (1981). It has been 20-25 years since I've read some of these..

If someone wants to redo Fletch I'm all for it. Though I'd only use the novels prior to 1985. And the first three are the cream of the crop: Fletch, Confess Fletch, and Fletch's Fortune. At that point, switch over to the Flynn series. Flynn was introduced in Confess Fletch and is an international spy hiding out in the Boston police department. It would need a bit of updating as it was written in the mid-70s. Part of Flynn's backstory is that as the son of Irish diplomats, he spent Word War II in Germany and joined the Hitler Youth to smuggle photos and intelligence to the English. The first Flynn-only novel, Flynn (1977), actually involves Arabs blowing up a plane over Boston. Checking the wiki listing, I see McDonald had a fourth Flynn novel in 2003. I'll have to pick it up. Despite my wanting to erase about half of McDonald's catalog, there is still a core group of books I enjoyed and would recommend--try to find a copy of Who Took Toby Rinaldi? There's also a Skylar series I'm unfamiliar with and I'll have to see what that's about.

While XWL has his reasons for fearing a Fletch prequel, they are not the correct reasons. It starts with a belief that the Fletch movie is worth watching and that a prequel would be insulting to its memory. No. The prequel as proposed is wrong because it's based on the sequence of novels that suck. Fletch needs to be redone to remove the awful stench of Chevy Chase and there's the original core of seven (or fewer) novels that can do that.


Perhaps I won't take a look at the latest Flynn novel. Here's a clip from Patrick Burnett "penngos" review:
Far from being one of Flynn's standard, entertaining romps, this fourth outing is a ponderous, pedantic drudge. In the intervening years while Gregory McDonald was off creating the dull "Skylar" and the flavorless "Son of Fletch" books (not to mention the awful works of "literature" he foisted on an unsuspecting public), he seems to have forgotten how to write for someone truly clever, not merely bombastic. Flynn now seems older, world-weary. This might be acceptable if the character had aged a dozen years in the interim, but this book takes place only a few weeks after the first one, "Flynn".

That's what I was hoping to avoid. A Gregory McDonald interview.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"I suspect the answer to be a depressing one"

Wherein for a happier time, watch Bourdain's Decoding Ferran Adria

Author and chef, Tony Bourdain, was filming Travel Channel's No Reservations show in Beirut when the shelling started. After hiding out, he and his crew were evacuated by the Marines.

He participated in a Washington Post discussion and here's two of the Q&As:
Are the majority of the Lebanese people you spoke to more anti Israel or Hezbolla? Do they see Hezbollah as a benefit to their country?


Anthony Bourdain: I can only tell you what I saw in my limited experience. As it happened, I was standing with a Sunni, Shiite and a Christian when Hezbollah supporters started to fire automatic weapons in the air celebrating the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers as a few supporters drove by the three people I was with all instantaneously took on a look of shame and embarrassment as if a dangerous and unstable little brother had once again had once again brought the whole family into peril. At no time during my 10 days in Beirut did I ever hear an anti-Semitic or even explicitly anti-Israeli statement. To the contrary, there was a universal sense of grim resignation and inevitability to what Israel's reaction would be. Dating to the first seconds after Hezbollah started firing in the air, we were a largely Jewish crew. The last person to leave us as Lebanese fled in droves, was the Shiite from south Beirut. We had to plead with him to leave us and join his family. His house was later destroyed.

Washington, D.C.: Do you think anything you filmed in Lebanon will make it onto the show?

Anthony Bourdain: We're trying to figure some way to show how beautiful and hopeful Beirut was before the bombing, how terrible a thing it is that happened, what we've lost, the pride and hopefulness and optimism that was smashed. The surprising tenderness and sensitivity of the Marines who evacuated us. We're struggling with a way to tell that story without it being about me or about us. It will not be a regular episode of No Reservations.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Two Floyd Landis stories

Wherein I thought I'd waited too long to use these

Daniel Coyle, who has Landis profiles in the LA Times and the NY Times, also has a profile in the July Outside, The New American in Paris:
Getting the lead is one thing; managing it is another. Landis spent the next four days employing the sort of race tactics he'd learned at Postal, using the ample horsepower of his Phonak teammates—including Koos Moerenhout of the Netherlands, Alexandre Moos of Switzerland, and Nicolas Jalabert of France—to chase down threats. He also negotiated with other teams that shared interests in winning stages, an act of political control for which Landis required a different sort of afterburner.

The crux moment arrived in Stage 6, on the way to Cannes. Halfway into the race, a group of 19 broke away, and none of the other teams were willing to help Phonak chase them down. With the gap widening and the race becoming dangerously unstable, Landis decided to send a message.

At the base of a climb, he ordered his team to the front and told them to go full throttle. They blasted for three, five, ten minutes, and when everyone behind was gasping and hurting, Landis turned to address the peloton.

"You want more of that, motherfuckers?" he asked loudly. "Because if you do, we've got plenty."

The race went smoothly the rest of the way.

Coyle also authored the 2005 book, Lance Armstrong's War. It details the world of cycling around Armstrong during the 2004 season. As one of the stronger Americans and a former Postal teammate, Floyd Landis gets a chapter to himself. Landis started out as a mountain cyclist before moving to road racing:
to generalize: roadies thought mountain bikers were Neanderthals and hippies; mountain bikers thought roadies were effete Euro-poseurs. Landis did not enjoy being perceived as a hippie, much less an unskilled one....So Landis set out to correct things.

He showed up for his first road race wearing a garish jersey, a visored helmet, and a pair of brilliantly colored Argyle socks, pulled high. He made his way slowly to the front row...wheeling a bike with a monstrously big 56-tooth front chain ring, so large that it resembled a pie plate. A slow crater of disgusted amazement widened around Landis....Then in a loud voice that rang with Mennonite clarity, Landis said what he'd planned to say, a reading from the First Book of Floyd:

"If there's anyone here who can stay with me, I will buy you dinner."

Laughter. Landis remained quiet, then replied.

"You shouldn't laugh, because that gets me angry. And if you make me angry, then I'm going to blow you all up."

More Laughter.

The race began, and Floyd rode up to the leaders. Then past them. He pressed the pace, slowly at first and then faster and faster, pushing his pie plate until it hummed, until the others felt like they were trying to follow a motorcycle.

"You like my socks?" he asked. "How do you like them now?"

They gasped for air.

"I'll take that for a yes," Landis continued. "How about if I go a little farther up the road, and you can tell me how they look from there?"

Landis won his first race by fifteen minutes, including a stop to repair his punctured tire. He won his second race by 45 minutes.

"Get Floyd emotionally involved and there's no way he'll back down," Geoghegan said. "He qill go until his heart literally explodes."

Landis is attacking!

Wherein probably won't work but what the hell may as well try

Cycling News describes Stage 17 as:
The final act in the 2006 Tour's Alpine Trilogy is the longest yet. At 200km, it contains two category one, one category two and a category three climb, with a final ascent of the steep Hors Category Col de Joux-Plane, where Lance Armstrong cracked big time in 2000, before a wild plunge to finish in Morzine. An early break can get an advantage on Stage 17, but can they hold it all the way to Morzine?

Shit, this could get interesting:
14:02 CEST 85km/115.5km to go
Landis is doing what Pantani did in 2000, when Armstrong almost cracked on the Joux-Plane. Pereiro had better take care - Landis was 'only' 8'08 behind. Landis continues with the bidon in his hand. He does everything his own way, that's for sure!

At the top of the Saisies, Landis is under three minutes behind the leaders, and over three minutes ahead of hte yellow jersey group, which is about 30 riders strong and led by Vicente Garcia Acosta.

14:13 CEST 94km/106.5km to go
Landis descends like a demon, and is now 1'56 behind the leading nine. He was renowned for doing this as an amateur rider - generally giving the pros a hard time.

Current race situation

Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile - best on GC at 49'57), Pavel Padrnos (Discovery Channel), Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC), Daniele Righi (Lampre-Fondital), Juan Manuel Garate, Patrice Halgand, Christophe Le Mevel (Crédit Agricole), Philippe Gilbert (Francaise Des Jeux)
Stéphane Auge (Cofidis), Bram Tankink (Quick-Step-Innergetic)
Luca Paolini (Liquigas)
Floyd Landis (Phonak - 11th at 8'08) at 1'56
Group maillot jaune (30 riders) at 6'04

That is one pissed Mennonite.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"He looks bad today, as bad as a David Hasselhoff music video"

Wherein I doubt you can show me a finer day of competition in any sport any time this year

A day like this is why a Tour de France mountain stage can be one of the most exciting sports events you can watch. I'm reading text updates every few minutes and can't wait to watch the three-hour replay tonight.

It's the second day in the Alps with four vicious climbs and another summit finish. Guys are burnt from yesterday's l'alpe d'Huez finish and no one has stamped their authority on the race. Floyd Landis has looked strong, but hasn't ridden anyone off his wheel. With today, another mountain stage tomorrow, and a time trial Saturday, I consider this race a tossup.

...With the race concluded all I can say is "dude, that rocked!" It had an epic breakaway, a valiant chase, and world talent blowing up like Gordon Ramsay over a broken sauce. I've never raced but used to do a fair amount of distance riding. Plenty in the 100-125 mile range and a handful over 150 miles. Worst ride was maybe an 80 miler I attempted about a week after recovering from the flu. Had a couple climbs steeper than I thought and I had a total bonk 50 miles in. I was completely destroyed and it took me almost three hours to go thirty miles. So to watch a major contender just completely run out of gas as his hopes float away knowing there's not a damn thing he can do is gutwrenching. And utterly compelling.

For race highlights:
  • Cycling News has the complete stage report. This is one I keep minimzed and refresh every 10 minutes. Also where the title quote came from.
  • TDFblog covers the final climb

If you've never watched cycling and want to learn what goes on in a race, I always recommend Frankie Andreu's diaries. He's an American who rode support for Lance for a few years. He's retired and now shows up on OLN doing mind-numblingly boring reports and interviews from Le Tour. Still, his diaries are often funny and provide insights into cylcing tactics, team dynamics, and occasionally gossip.
  • 1998 TdF.
    Tonight at dinner our French rider Jean-Cyril was talking with our French waitress about what was for dinner. Tyler interrupted asking a question in English, and the waitress answered in English. Jean-Cyril surprised that the lady spoke some English said, "Ah, you speak very good English" The waitress turned to Jean-Cyril and responded, "Thank you, and you speak very good French." We were laughing the whole nightlong. She thought because we were an American team that we all were Americans.

  • 1999 TdF.
    George, being the nice guy that he is, decided he was going to toss one of his bottles to a guy waiting on the side of the road. He gently tossed it at him and it hit him square in the chest. It almost knocked the guy out. George didn't realize that when your going 40km/hr a water bottle can became a bullet when you throw it at someone. Even worse was that the bottle was half-full.

  • 2000 TdF.
    After completing two of the mountains my group was flying down a descent. The group was all strung out in one line and at the bottom of the hill the road shot straight back up for the start of the third climb. I was sitting in the middle of the group and as I looked up the road I saw this brown blur cutting across the fields in front of us. We were going sixty km/hr downhill and this blur, which I thought was a dog, was sprinting at about twenty km/hr. All of a sudden the brown blur, like an arrow, shot straight into the group and hit Guesdon (Francaise des Jeux) on his bike and leg. That's when I saw it was a deer. Amazing as it sounds Guesdon didn't crash but the deer was messed up . When I passed the deer it was on the ground having convulsions, I think it broke it's neck. Guesdon later on had to do a bike change but other than that he was fine. One last thing about my group, on the last climb Ritssel (Mercury Card) looked like he was in a huge gear. I looked at his rearwheel and I swear it was only a 21 instead of a 23. I asked him, why he was riding a 21? He looked at me in shock, he thought he had a 23 and couldn't figure out why he felt so bad.

Monday, July 17, 2006

"So the family is just getting together for a round of cornholing, feel free to join us"

Wherein possibly the worst name ever for a game

Just back from the wilds of Cincinnati where we narrowly escaped being cornholed. Signs everywhere advertising cornhole games and cornhole bags. And isn't it just fun to say cornhole? So, what is cornhole? According to our guide for the weekend, it's best described as a retarded version of horseshoes. Great for the preschooler in the family, yet for some reason hugely popular with all ages.

Or it could be described as a slanted board with a hole in it with the object being to throw the bag of corn in the hole--cornholing.

If that isn't weird enough, the best place to get ice cream is at the gas station. Many of the stations are owned by the United Dairy Farmers and more people show up to buy a cone than to get gas. The peach was excellent, by the way. Then there's two competing chains selling Cincinnati chili. But no decent bagel shops. However, alcohol can be bought on Sundays.

Arrested Development had a running gag about a cornholer. Couldn't find any clips of that, so here's the Chicken Dance. And Mr. Roboto. Though, perhaps, and circling back to the topic of the cornhole, perhaps a discussion of Dr. Funke's dual careers is worth watching. Then there's this outtake.

Cincinnati--it's in Ohio.

Update: Arrested Development had a running gag about a cornballer, not a cornholer. However, Lucille referred to it as cornholing: Because he’s your brother, and you run around with everyone else, going on bike rides, making cornholes. Everyone’s laughing and riding and cornholing except Buster. mp3

Friday, July 14, 2006


Wherein I'm almost out of here

I've noticed a lot of chatter about vodka. You might think this could happen organically and just be a coincidence. But you would be wrong and naive. As everything is a part of a greater conspiracy, we must assume that each of these people have been coopted by the vodka and potato cartels to wean ourselves off the superior American grains and barley.

None of these people are to be trusted.

  • Let's Drink Vodka Moderately. It's really about Mongol celebration of Genghis Khan, but Vodka is in the title and that's what most people will read. Let's drink vodka! Why, yes, let's!
  • Michael Ruhlman wants you to think it's all about not putting vodka in a martini. A clear example of subliminal programming. A careful reading reveals that "vodka" is mentioned 35 times. vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka, vodka. After awhile, vodka is all you see. I'm on to you Ruhlman--toadie of the tundra.
  • Even James Lileks is part of the vodka cabal. In one paragraph, "vodka" is used seven times and three different brand names are presented for our pleasure. What does that 7 mean? Well, if you autosummarize that paragraph seven times, you are left with the following message: Happy at home. Clearly, despite whatever he says about grass clippings and tequila, what burrows into your brain is "Vodka makes you happy at home." I'm on to you too, Mr. almost but not quite living in Edina but still close enough to be called a cake-eater Lileks.
  • Interestingly, Lileks mentions vodkapundit, the one person you'd think would be talking about vodka but isn't. It's all subterfuge and misdirection. Let's take a look at what he is talking about: Auburn, Rumors, and the New York Times. Oh geez, he's whining about an investigation that maybe shows SEC football players are a little creative in their lack of actual school work. If there's anything more annoying and headache inducing than an SEC fan, I have yet to encounter it. The only cure is the sweet, sweet pull of vodka straight from the freezer.

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing. Foucault's Pendulum


Wherein discuss I'll be back Tuesday

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Looks like we have a race

Wherein no spoilers

Even though yesterday was the first mountain stage of the Tour Day France, no one stood out. Probably all were playing it easy for today: 5 major climbs with a summit finish. Starts off a wee bit tentative, then gets interesting on the Col du Portillon, then gets very interesting on the Puerto de Beret with a 3-way sprint for the finish. Is there a new yellow jersey tonight? May be...may be not...I'll just say that Dessel rode hard and you'll need to watch the OLN coverage to night to find the results.

Or just go read the OLN stage highlights and the final climb at

Tomorrow is flat and downhill, so basically a rest day for anyone in contention.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I'm confused and hungry

Wherein if you want a true Coney Island dog you have to go to Flint, Michigan. Don't stop in Detroit, they don't know what the hell they're doing. That's the truth and if you know what I'm talking about you know I'm right. And don't try to tell me that any chili dog is a coney; that ain't right.

Article in the NY Times about organic hot dogs. Interesting article that presents a confusing picture of what "organic" really means. Does it mean grass fed? Lower fat and sodium? Nitrite free? A number of competing dogs are presented with the claim that organic weiners are finally beginning to equal the taste of conventional franks. Which I find odd. I'd think following the same process with a grass fed carcass as with a grain fed carcass, you'd end up with pretty much the same product, tastewise.

The confusing part comes near the top as the author writes "The key is that the curing code has recently been cracked." Pretty much declaring that organic hot dogs can't have sodium nitrites or nitrates. Ok, if someone can reinvent the curing process, that could be a good thing, or last a different thing worth trying. One problem, as Michael Ruhlman points out, the truth is obscured for marketing. Sodium nitrite is being replaced with celery juice. What is celery full of? That's right, nitrites:
Nitrite is a chemical that is found in green leafy veg, such as spinach and celery. There's nothing wrong with celery juice in hot dogs--in fact it's probably important in addressing the botulism concern in any smoked sausage, the main reason for nitrites in hot dogs--but to claim that these hot dogs don't contain nitrites is likely misleading.

I am not an advocate for nitrites (or the different sodium nitrate which is used exclusively for long term dry-cured sausages), I don't think we should put it in our soups and stews and ice cream and coffee, but I am an advocate for accurate information. Information on nitrites and their effects on our health, how cancer-causing nitrosamines are formed in foods containing nitrites, and how dangerous they are is sketchy at best. I'd like to know more.

Michael and Meg have both mention The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Another interesting sounding book and Meg has a recap of a discussion between Michael Pollan and Ruth Reichl. Basically, what we consider better for us is constantly being redefined. We'd like to think that buying organic benefits a local farm, but when Wal-Mart gets into the organic business we should realize instead of a small farm we're most likely speaking of a factory farm in China. Not to bash Wal-Mart or international trade...just saying that's the way it is. If you're capable of knowing you only support small, independent producers, then good for you. For most of us, we're still closely reading labels and doing the best we can. Sometimes convenience and cost wins out.

I'm still a few books away from ordering The Omnivore's Dilemma. Until then, I think I'll have time to order some pork belly and nitrites so I can cure my own bacon. Mmmm, bacon.

Academic Honesty

Wherein this story is fiction and I'm sure no one could imagine something like happening in the real world

It's been awhile since I've run a Neal Stephenson excerpt. I should probably dig up a conspiracy excerpt from Interface; until then, enjoy this segment from Cryptonomicon.
Avi’s telephone call, some eighty hours ago, arrived in the middle of a major interdisciplinary conference called "The Intermediate Phase (1939-45) of the Global Hegemony Struggle of the Twentieth Century (Common Era)." This is a bit of a mouthful and so it has been given a pithy nickname: "War as Text."

People are coming from places like Amsterdam and Milan. The conference’s organizing committee—which includes Randy’s girlfriend, Charlene, who actually gives every indication of being his ex-girlfriend now—hired an artist in San Francisco to come up with a poster. He started with a black-and-white halftone photo of a haggard World War II infantryman with a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. He worked this image over using a photocopier, blowing the halftone dots up into rough lumps, like rubber balls chewed by a dog, and wreaking any number of other distortions on it until it had an amazingly stark, striking, jagged appearance; the soldier’s pale eyes turned an eerie white. Then he added a few elements in color: red lipstick, blue eyeshadow, and a trace of a red brassiere strap peeking out from the soldier’s unbuttoned uniform shirt.

The poster won some kind of an award almost the moment it came out. This led to a press release, which in turn led to the poster’s being enshrined by the news media as an Official Object of Controversy. An enterprising journalist managed to track down the soldier depicted in the original photograph—a decorated combat veteran and retired tool-and-die maker who, as it happened, was not merely alive but in excellent health, and, since the death of his wife from breast cancer, had spent his retirement roaming around the Deep South in his pickup truck, helping to rebuild black churches that had been torched by drunken yahoos.

The artist who had designed the poster then confessed that he had simply copied it from a book and had made no effort whatsoever to obtain permission—the entire concept of getting permission to use other people’s work was faulty, since all art was derivative of other art. High-powered trial lawyers converged, like dive bombers, on the small town in Kentucky where the aggrieved veteran was up on the roof of a black church with a mouthful of nails, hammering down slabs of A/D exterior plywood and mumbling "no comment" to a horde of reporters down on the lawn. After a series of conferences in a room at the town’s Holiday Inn, the veteran emerged, accompanied by one of the five most famous lawyers on the face of the planet, and announced that he was filing a civil suit against the Three Siblings that would, if it succeeded, turn them and their entire community into a flat, smoking abrasion in the earth’s crust. He promised to split the proceeds between the black churches and various disabled veterans’ and breast cancer research groups.

The organizing committee pulled the poster from circulation, which caused thousands of bootleg copies to go up on the World Wide Web and, in general, brought it to the attention of millions who never would have seen it otherwise. They also filed suit against the artist, whose net worth could be tallied up on the back of a ticket stub: he had assets of about a thousand dollars and debts (mostly student loans) amounting to sixty-five thousand.

All of this happened before the conference even began. Randy was aware of it only because Charlene had roped him into providing computer support for the conference, which meant setting up a Web site and e-mail access for the attendees. When all of this hit the news, e-mail began to flood in, and quickly jammed up all of the lines and filled up all of the disk capacity that Randy had spent the last month setting up.

Conferees began to arrive. A lot of them seemed to be sleeping in the house where Randy and Charlene had been living together for seven years. It was a big old Victorian house and there was plenty of room. They stumbled in from Heidelberg and Paris and Berkeley and Boston, then sat around Randy and Charlene’s kitchen table drinking coffee and talking at great length about the Spectacle. Randy inferred that the Spectacle meant the poster furor, but as they went on and on about it, he sensed that they were using the word not in a conventional sense but as part of some academic jargon; that it carried a heavy load of shadings and connotations to them, none of which Randy would ever understand unless he became one of them.

To Charlene, and to all of the people attending War as Text, it was self-evident that the veteran who filed the lawsuit was the very worst kind of human being—just the sort they had gathered together to debunk, burn in effigy, and sweep into the ash-bin of posthistorical discourse. Randy had spent a lot of time around these people, and thought he’d gotten used to them, but during those days he had a headache all the time, from clenching his teeth, and he kept jumping to his feet in the middle of meals or conversations and going out for solitary walks. This was partly to keep himself from saying something undiplomatic, and partly as a childish but fruitless tactic to get the attention he craved from Charlene.

He knew the whole poster saga was going to be a disaster from early on. He kept warning Charlene and the others. They listened coolly, clinically, as if Randy were a test subject on the wrong side of a one-way mirror.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Wherein this is a very good idea

The Chicago Manual of Style. You either know it and hate it, or you've never had to deal with it. For lovers of words and anyone who ever had to deal with a style guide, I recommend the Chicago Manual of Style Q&A. The editors answer questions with a sense of humor that I've found most users of their book are lacking.

I've also found that the online search feature is the easiest way to use the CMS. So I'm very happy that they're putting the whole thing online!
The Chicago Manual of Style Online is coming soon! Scheduled for release in September 2006, the Chicago Manual of Style Online offers the fully searchable text of the 15th edition in an affordable, subscription-based resource. At an introductory price of $25 for one year (regularly $30), the Chicago Manual of Style Online brings to the computer desktop all the tools that writers, editors, and publishers need. If you are a registered member of the Chicago Manual of Style Web site, you will be among the first to know about the official release of the new Chicago Manual of Style Online. If you have not yet registered, please go to our members page to sign up now for e-mail announcements about changes to the Chicago Manual of Style Web site and the release of the online edition. The CD-ROM edition of the Chicago Manual of Style will also be available in September 2006. For more information, go to

You may forward and repost this message. Copyright 2006 by The University of Chicago.

For those about to rant I salute you

Wherein a good one can also substitute for a cardiovascular workout

Rants are entertaining. The best rants are informative. I could unleash a hellish scrant (screechy rant) about what a piece of shit UPS is, but other than rehashing the typical arguments about their lying, incompetent customer service and their shit delivery, what would be learned other than I hate UPS? Not much.

So, here's a few recent rants from others that I've enjoyed.

Brian Tiemann, in Red Man's Burden, wants to know if anyone cares about history anymore?
Does anyone have any interest in seeing anything good about our own culture's achievements? Are we so determined to heap blame upon ourselves for sins real and imagined that we'd rather commit cultural seppuku than dare to express that humanity as a whole is better off today than we were back when a healthy adult lifespan was forty years and a man would be considered a world traveler if he went more than ten miles from his own village?

Callimachus cares about history as he rips Mark Kurlansky into a thousand little pieces, then soaks them overnight in boiling salt water. Don't let the even, controlled tone fool you. This is a rant. Cal picks up the history book and beats Kurlansky to a bloody pulp and exposes him as a fraud (Kurlansky seems to have learned his history from the movies). It goes on and on and on and never wavers or becomes uninteresting. Kurlansky does have a couple books I was interested in. Note the *was*. Screw that, I want a Cal book on the founding fathers.
The whole piece veers schizophrenically between an attempt to be scathing in denouncing the worthless Founders and an attempt to be scathing in denouncing modern America for not being true to their vision. He wants to hurl rotten tomatoes at that marble statue of Thomas Jefferson and beat you over the head with it at the same time.

Michael Ruhlman, an excellent author and a great chronicler of chefs and the kitchen industry, starts his day with a food rant about people "motivated by self-interest or ignorance":
We need smart voices to get us out of these woods. Where is Steingarten? Jeffrey, you scaly curmudgeon, speak up! We can’t lay it all on Pollan—he did his part. What about someone with real power to sway the American masses. Rachael Ray! How about it? She affects the cutesy Suzie next door but I know for a fact she’s got a pair of brass knuckles in the pocket of those fat pants of hers. Emeril! Millions listen nightly to you! Put down that tube of Crest and teach people about the food we eat! Wake up! It’s not about the ducks and the lobsters. It’s about the corn and the oil. About big business and powerful lobbying in DC. They want your money and that’s all they want. They want your money and you can give it to them or withhold it. Make good choices about what you buy and what you eat and what you feed your kids.

And the great thing about that rant is he calls out the chef/vulgarian, Anthony Bourdain, who responds:

...on the subject of cruelty to mollusks (I'm FOR it!), the Chicago foie ban (see Chicago Tribune--or was it Sun Times in which I am quoted as referring to Chef Milhouse as a "gutless punk"--guess I won't be getting comped at Trotter's any time soon) and other noble yet probably "lost" causes. The fucktards at Whole Food, however, have done us a real service by providing the most ludicrous example of "animal welfare" concerns with their public hand wringing over the fate of shellfish. Comedy Gold. Extraordinary that in a time when we're force feeding PEOPLE at Gitmo--and when hundreds of thousands of PEOPLE are starving to death in the Sudan and elsewhere, that there is no more burning issue on the minds of educated, well-fed, financially comfortable citizens than whether or not a clam feels pain--or whether a duck can handle what any respectable adult film ingenue considers routine.

Feeling a little rundown? Need a pick me up? Read those three rants and you should be good to go.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Another questionable referee decision

Wherein instant replay should be the law

It's important during this time of World Cup griping to remember that incompetent referees and debatable calls are not just restricted to card-flipping morons. Every sport has their zebras we'd all like to see hunted down like the lion food they are.

The latest, apparently erroneous decision denied a scrappy newcomer his seat at the champion's table. Perhaps with review, he would have had his reversal of fortune:
Suddenly, Kobayashi appeared to regurgitate -- a move that results in automatic disqualification and that speed eating experts call "a reversal of fortune."

As Kobayashi lifted a cup of water to his mouth, a spray of bread chunks and wiener bits shot into his cup, which the 170-pound champion immediately gulped down. Chestnut, unable to spit out words, pointed and gestured toward judges to draw their attention to the slip.

"The judges found a quarter of a hot dog in his cup," said Patrick Chestnut, Joey's older brother who witnessed the spew from the front row as he cheered on his brother. "If that's not grounds for disqualification, what is?"

Gersh Kuntzman, the judge who ruled in Kobayashi's favor, saw it differently.

"The effluvia never touched the table," Kuntzman said, a distinction he claimed was part of the International Federation of Competitive Eating's official rules.

"When the hot dog came up, and some of it came out his nose, Kobayashi sucked it back down. To me, that's the testament of a champion and great athlete."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Being English on July 4

Wherein Davies had yet to see the English muff their penalty kicks

Michael Davies, writing for ESPN, contemplates degrees of nationalistic antagonism:
I have lived in the United States for seventeen of my forty years. Many British born, revolutionary war generals had lived in the colonies far less long when they took up the rebel cause and led battalions of farmers armed with pitchforks against the British crown -- or rather the thousands of German mercenaries the German King of Britain had sent to the New World to defend the colonies against the troublesome mob who refused to pay taxes to him.

I am a patriot. I can never give up my allegiance to the British Crown which paid for my primary school education, to have my appendix removed and not only my entire college tuition, but gave me about $2000 a year to spend on beer and haggis at the University of Edinburgh. To this day I pay vast amounts of taxes in the US and yet have no vote (plenty of taxation without representation). I love America, and would have loved it back in 1775. But I have no idea whose side I would have been on in Operation Yankee Freedom. Given a chance to take a pot shot at a German soldier with a musket, though, it might have been a difficult opportunity to pass up.

It was a long time ago, that pesky revolutionary war thing. And though I have no doubt, we would have done horrible job running your country (and your teeth would be horrible) -- it still kind of hurts.

But you, lot, do seem to like the English (who you fought against) a lot more than you like the French (who were on your side). Most of you, though, are not nearly anti-German enough. So I imagine it's going to be difficult for you to understand the true depth of my sadness at the Germans having beaten Argentina today.

I think Germany and France are playing the best ball right now, and I also think the trophy is Germany's to lose. However, due to my poor performance in picking 2nd round games, I have fallen down the ranks of the office pool. My only shot to get back in is to pick against the frontrunner. Therefore, in a craven effort to win $70, I have selected Italy and Portugal.

It's the Fourth of July

Wherein song lyrics

The band is a groovy little gang called X. Currently on tour, so check them out before they get too popular.
She's waitin' for me
when I get home from work
oh, but things ain't just the same
She turns out the light
and cries in the dark
won't answer when I call her name

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

She gives me her cheek
when I want her lips
but I don't have the strength to go
On the lost side of town
in a dark apartment
we gave up trying so long ago

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July

What ever happened I
so dry your tears and baby
walk outside, it's the Fourth of July

On the stairs I smoke a
cigarette alone
Mexican kids are shootin'
fireworks below
Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July
Hey baby, Baby take a walk outside