September 2003 Archives

asian-american children's names


Asian-American Children's Names: Just White People's Names From the 50s?

Or, I Am Not A Racist

I'll lay this out very simply. It is my contention that many names given to Asian-American children of my generation are simply white people names from the 1950's; that is, names like Henry, Frederick, Eugene, Carol, and Joyce. Or Hubert, My parents, both born in the 50's, have two such names: Dennis and Sharon. If I were to meet another Dennis or Sharon, I would assume that they were either white people over the age of 45, or college students majoring in Engineering or possibly Biology.

To be fair, some Asian-American teenagers have names that began to die out in the 1930's or 40's. Someone named Esther will either be an elderly white woman in a retirement home, or a Korean teenager.

What are the reasons for this? Several come to mind. Many Asian-American parents, some unfamiliar with American customs and names, will select their children's names based on the names of their American contemporaries. Due to the Baby Boom, said contemporaries will likely be white people born in the 50's. I am sure that, should there be a Caucasian diaspora to Asia, white people would similarly flounder in choosing baby names.

Also, there's the Bible. Both white people from the 50's and religiously-minded Asian-Americans of today might well embrace names from the Good Book, like Esther, Judith, Joanna, Mary, or Felix. By the 1970's, the Bible had become less of an inspiration for white people names than the television program The Bionic Woman. The secularity of today's white people names only makes the retro nature of Asian-American names stand out even more.

Finally, contemporary white people names make no damn sense at all. There's names based on countries, seasons, ancient Celtic words, state capitals, presidential middle names, and virtues. I doubt that these trends will remain consistent, but if so, in 2053, we may many Vietnamese teenagers named Austin, Dakota, Madison, Britney, and Taylor. And I for one will be proud to have my own children - Melancholy, Winnipeg, Milhouse, and Michael - play badminton with any one of them.

belated nfl review, week 3


The 49ers choked away a fourth quarter lead, the Raiders had their asses handed to them in Denver, and Terrell Owens wants the damn ball already. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Minnesota Vikings are all undefeated. It's the NFL, baby, where on any given Sunday, any team can win.

Actually, those above records aren't another of my indictments of the NFL's commitment to parity. Tampa Bay and Kansas City look like serious powerhouses. Miami and Denver look like pretty solid clubs. Tennessee and Indianapolis have a shot at the Super Bowl. It's the NFC that looks potentially embarrassing, beyond the Buccaneers.

Carolina hasn't lost, but their starting quarterback is Jake Delhomme. They only beat Tampa Bay by blocking a field goal and two extra points in Week 2, which was amazing, and screwed Martin Gramatica of the hated Gramatica brothers, but is not a great indicator for future success. Seattle needed a few penalty calls and a few tipped passes turned interceptions to beat St. Louis, at home, last week. They're nothing special. Some people seem to like the New York Giants, but they already lost to Dallas, due to an inability to kick off in bounds. I also think that running back Tiki Barber is going to give them bad karma. Last year, his team lost an incredibly heartbreaking game to the 49ers, blowing an enormous lead, desperately coming back in the final seconds, and eventually losing on a botched field goal snap. After this game, Tiki decided that he would be an honorary member of his twin brother Ronde's Tampa Bay Buccaneers, haunting the sidelines and hanging out with the team all the way through to their Super Bowl victory. After a debilitating loss, i just don't think it's appropriate to pretend to be a member of a different team to soak up postseason glory. Tiki and the Giants are going nowhere.

49er Game: Cleveland 13, San Francisco 12

Man, the Niners are depressing this year. They had a beautiful drive on their first possession, taking up nearly eight minutes of time. Unfortunately, after going for it on fourth-and-goal and failing, they got no points to show for it. When the team loses by a single point, an inability to score on two plays from the one yard line looms very large.

Terrell Owens Surliness Update:

It's Week 3, so it's about time for Terrell Owens to complain to the media about how he isn't getting the ball. Often Owens is portrayed as an arrogant prima donna when these complaints become public, but I don't think it's that big a deal for these reasons:

1) If the coach is going to call plays based on what the local paper's NFL reporter writes, the team has bigger problems than one disgruntled wide receiver shooting his mouth off.

2) Owens isn't coming back to the team next year, no matter what happens the rest of the season, so his relationship with the team doesn't matter much.

3) Owens is right - he should be getting the ball more. On the final drive of the second quarter, he caught four passes for 50 yards, and the team moved into field goal range in a minute and a half. In the second half, he caught two passes. Granted, the team only scored 6 points in each half, but the team's inability to get a single first down in the fourth quarter opened the door for Cleveland's comeback.

Scapegoating the Kicker:

Before the game this week, the 49ers cut placekicker Jeff Chandler, and replaced him with a guy named Owen Pochman. Chandler was selected in the third round of the draft in 2002, but couldn't win the job from XFL refugee Jose Cortez until nearly the end of the season. Up until then, the 49ers wasted a roster spot on an extra placekicker for countless games, while Cortez blew countless crucial field goals. Keeping multiple kickers is one of the stupidest things a team can do, though the San Diego Chargers are going one better this year and keeping two punters and four tight ends.

The 49ers haven't had much luck with the placekicker position over the years. Cortez was awful, probably the worst NFL kicker to ever keep his job as long as he did. He missed multiple last-second kicks last season, often on chip shot field goals, and his replacement, Chandler, wasn't a whole lot better. Since 1994, they've employed, then lost NFL kickers Doug Brien, Wade Richey, and Jeff Wilkins, all of whom have later beaten them with last-second field goals. Now, Pochman joins the squad, while I fully expect Jeff Chandler to beat the 49ers with a crucial field goal sometime in the next 12 months.

NFL Announcer of the Week:

Monday Night Football's Al Michaels was recently named the lead broadcaster on ABC's telecasts of the NBA. This means that Michaels will be teamed with both the insane John Madden and the even insaner Bill Walton. His broadcasting career from now on will be but a blur of "Boom!"s and "Horrrrible!"s, as he deals with the two wackiest, least-connected-to-reality TV commentators working today.

I would have thought Michaels might need the NFL's long hiatus to recover from having to deal with Madden, but apparently he's decided to take this broadcasting challenge head-on. It's like a heroin addict in the midst of withdrawal deciding that he might as well quit smoking that same week. A noble quest for Mr. Michaels, but I fear for his sanity. The best-case scenario is that he becomes really, really good at interrupting marathon stream-of-consciousness rants to describe game action.

Goodbye to Alameda County:

I moved out of Alameda County two months ago. San Francisco is a big upgrade, I feel, both for quality of life and a marked absence of Raider fans. Everywhere I went in Berkeley or Oakland, I would inevitably pass one person wearing at least one item of silver and black paraphernalia. Riding the bus, walking home, avoiding flaming stores on International Boulevard, those fans were everywhere. When I, along with four Squelch staffers spent 24 straight hours in a Super K-Mart in Oakland, we discovered that between 2 and 4 AM, everyone in the store was:

A) a Super K-Mart employee, or
B) wearing a Raiders jacket

The lack of Raider fans is refreshing. But not quite as refreshing as the knowledge that, since I no longer reside in Alameda County, the Oakland Raiders will no longer receive a single penny of my tax dollars. It's bad enough that I had to sponsor scumbags like Al Davis and Bill Romanowski as long as I did. The Raiders are out of my life, and they'll soon be out of playoff contention as well. Good riddance.

I moved very near to the Castro recently. It's a very nice place to live, but I sometimes feel like I'm missing out on a lot of the geographical benefits by virtue of my heterosexuality. Everywhere I go, there are tens of nice, handsome, well-dressed men, for whom I have no sexual interest. It's like an orthodox Jew moving to a beautiful neighborhood made entirely of bacon and ham hocks, albeit a pork-based neighborhood with a stellar array of restaurants, and used clothing stores.

If I'm not going to enjoy any hot hot gay sex, the least I could do, I figure, is get a decent haircut. With that in mind, I went out Saturday in search of a barber, nay, a stylist. I found a man named Ross, in a comfortable upstairs salon that had been converted from an apartment. Ross was from Boston, and he immediately put me at ease with his charming manner and professional confidence. I'm used to the suburban Supercuts experience, where one's semi-literate haircutter boasts a GED and a certificate from a cosmetology night school. Ross had not only gone to college, but he had opinions on literature, music, and comparative regional living experiences, based on culture and climate.

One thing that Ross seemed to respond to right off is my newfound fatalistic approach to a haircut. I have no confidence in my own ability to choose a flattering hairstyle for myself. If in doubt about my coiffure, I will generally just put on a baseball cap. Only recently have I overcome my fear of styling products, or, more accurately, my fear of using a pomade or hair gel that will confirm to observers that, yes, I intentionally made my hair look that way.

I don't know what I want. I don't really know what looks good. I'm willing to put my appearance in the hands of a professional, someone whose entire income derives from knowing what will look good on someone like me. So I simply throw up my hands in surrender, hand over the keys, and placidly accept whatever haircut they choose.

This doesn't seem like a completely crazy approach. No one has to make specific orders for these kinds of services in other places. I don't go into the doctor and request certain antibiotics or throat culture analysis. I don't pick and choose components from the service pack when the IT guy comes to service my computer. I simply lean back, throw the I Ching, and trust in their professional judgment.

I think it paid off this time. I paid off, at least, a much higher haircut cost than normal along with a handsome gratuity. Still, I think that getting a shampoo, meeting a guy like Ross, and feeling like a human being made it worth the extra money. The true litmus test will come in the opinion of The Ladies, but I may need to stroll across the park to the Haight to gauge that one.

Pedagogue: It states on your name badge here that you're a pedophile.

Pedophile: That's right.

Pedagogue: I would not have thought one would be so open and brazen about such an ignoble pursuit.

Pedophile: Well, the way I see it is, women's feet are beautiful. I just can't get enough of them. And any fine-lookin' lady with a nice set of little piggies should know right up front that toe-sucking is my thing, just so there's no confusion or awkward moments.

Pedagogue: Excuse me? Am I to understand that you have a foot fetish?

Pedophile: That's what the card says, ma'am.

Pedagogue: Oh no. You see, "pedophile" is derived from the Greek root "paidos", which means "child", and "philia," which is "love of". "Pedophile" then refers to "love of children", and in the early 20th century became adopted into the vernacular as a term for one who has a sexual perversion in which children are the preferred object.

Pedophile: No way!

Pedagogue: You may have been confused by the Latin ped-, which does refer to the foot. The term that you are undoubtedly looking for is "podophile", or more correctly, "podophiliac", which uses the correct Greek root. Incidentally, many words in our common speech have the same root as "pedophile", like "pediatrics" or "encyclopaedia", an extension of paideia, which refers to child rearing, or the education of children.

"Pedophile": That is very enlightening. Can I ask you another question?

Pedagogue: Certainly.

"Pedophile": Are you wearing open-toed shoes?

belated nfl review, week 2


Hopefully, these aren't all going to be belated. To the games!

49er game: St. Louis 27, San Francisco 24 (OT)

The Niners came to the TWA Temporary Corporate Monkier Dome in St. Louis, and lost a heartbreaking game in overtime. The team rallied back to tie in the game's final seconds, but after wide receiver Cedric Wilson failed to get out of bounds on the final play of regulation, the Rams won the coin toss and quickly kicked the game-winning field goal.

While it is frustrating to watch the 49ers struggle against St. Louis, it is nice that the team has their traditional rival back. When I was younger, the Niners and Rams played many hard-fought games, including a Monday Night contest in 1989 which was one of the greatest football games I've ever seen. For nearly a decade, the Rams were horrendous, and the once-great rivalry and devolved into a bi-yearly ass-kicking.

All this changed after the move to St. Louis. The Rams didn't get better right away, but the 49ers did lose their home-away-from home advantage they enjoyed in the Rams' old home in Anaheim. Since the Niners had a much larger fan base, and Southern California was nearby, the stands would often boast tens of thousands of Niner fans at away games. Joe Montana never lost a game there. Instead, the Rams played in a large artificial-surfaced dome, which was generally packed with fans that actually supported the home team. Domes are notoriously difficult for road teams, due to the crowd noise, as well as whatever other noise the stadium staff can pump in.

Finally, the Rams made a huge improvement in 1999, the same year that concussions ended Steve Young's playing career. The Rams won the Super Bowl, while the 49ers limped to their first losing record in over fifteen years. The tide had turned. Last year, the 49ers surpassed the injury-plagued Rams, but this year, the teams appear to be fairly evenly matched again. As a fan, I'm glad to have the rivalry back. I enjoy close games with the Rams; I just don't like losing those games.

Terrell Owens Clutchness Update: On 4th-and-8 with under thirty seconds remaining, the 49ers trailed by a touchdown. Everyone in the Corporate Moniker Dome knew, or should have known, that the ball was headed for Mr. Clutch, Terrell Owens. St. Louis blitzed, and Owens hauled in the game-tying score.

Terrell Owens Fanciness Update: Before the game, Owens warmed up wearing a skin-tight white bodysuit, looking like a member of the Ibiza bosled team. One could see the muscles of his impressive physique quite clearly through the rippling white Spandex/Lycra/body paint material, that is, if one were looking for that kind of thing. Of course, the insulated bodysuit was for a game played indoors, but when has logic ever stood in the way of fanciness in the past?

Mike Martz, Genius: Mike Martz is the coach of the Rams. The Rams have been known, for the past four years, for their innovative and complex offensive sets, often featuring four receivers and intricate timing-based pass patterns. Quarterback Kurt Warner has set records, running back Marshall Faulk has won the league's MVP award, and the team has scored lots of points. However, Martz sometimes seems to be more concerned with his own cleverness than actually winning football games. More specifically, he seems to forget that Faulk, one of the finest running backs in the league, plays for his team.

In the 2002 Super Bowl, the Rams were enormous favorites over the New England Patriots, the worst Super Bowl champions of all time. The Patriots' upset got an assist from Martz, who called an astonishing 50 pass plays, compared to 22 rushes. 22 rushes for a team that had the best running back in the league, and constantly faced defenses with five, six, or even seven defensive backs on the field. It was as if Martz was simply trying to defy New England, and prove that his genius play-calling could prevail even against a team geared to stop that very same plan. While the Rams outgained the Patriots by over 100 yards, and had 11 more first downs, they still lost.

Some of Martz's pass-craziness is responsible for the Rams' current quarterback controversy. Backup Marc Bulger has been elevated above record-setter Warner, with the justification being that the Rams win more with him. This is true, but:

a) Bulger has racked up his win totals facing inferior opponents, and
b) Martz himself has admitted to simplifying the offense and calling more runs for the less-experienced Bulger.

So, the Rams do better when they aren't passing 70% of the time. Indeed, most teams do, as unpredictability is an advantage, and running the ball has the added benefit of using up time, advantageous when a team is trying to give their own defense a rest. In the 49er game, the Rams ran 22 pass plays in the first half, and 7 rushes. They scored seven points. In the second half, after Bulger had taken some hard hits, the Rams went for 16 rushes and 17 passes, and scored 17 points. Will Mike Martz learn anything from this? History says no.

Putting the "ESP" in ESPN: Midway through the second quarter, Sean Keane thought Marc Bulger looked shaky. "If the Niners can put a hit on Bulger, I think he'll fumble," he loudly announced to two reliable witnesses. On the very next play Bulger was sacked, and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich recovered the fumble.

Sean also believes that the New York Yankees will play in the World Series this year, that the Phoenix Suns are a "sleeper" team in the NBA's Western Conference, and that Duran Duran's new album will suck. Place your bets now, sports fans!

Madison Avenue News: A Quiznos ad in the first half featured a man suckling from a mother wolf, easily one of the more disturbing images I have seen in mass-market advertising. I thought it might get so many complaints that it would never air again, but others have informed me that the Quiznos "Raised By Wolves" ad campaign is still going strong. What this says about our culture is unclear. Certainly, more research is necessary.

Bad NFL Announcer of the Week: The 49ers-Rams tilt aired on Fox, subjecting millions of innocents to Joe Buck's announcing. Through some combination of nepotism and FOX network dumbassery, Buck has become the lead announcer on both baseball and football telecasts. He exemplifies the FOX trend of talking about anything other than the game in progress, whether it's the Fan Cam, the players' and coaches' families, or songs tangentially related to players' names. Especially the songs. During the baseball playoffs last year, Buck thrice began singing "You've Got a Friend In Me" during games where Kirk "Woody" Rueter was pitching.

Buck believes that America would rather hear him "banter" with his other announcers than describe what's actually happening on the field of play. Buck believes America wants to hear him sing along with music leading into commercials, or occasionally and inexplicably during the game broadcast itself. Worst of all, Buck believes he is funny. He's still very young for an announcer, and I shudder to think I may have to endure his fakey unfunniness for another few decades. I also shudder to realize I'm already worked up about Joe Buck, and the baseball playoffs are still a week away. This is not good.

And finally: Kurt Warner probably didn't deserve his benching this week, but the benefit was that, for the first time in four years, I watched a Rams' game and didn't have to see the freakish and intense Mrs. Kurt Warner in the stands. I am willing to reserve judgment on Mrs. Marc Bulger, for nothing can be as bad as Warnerette. a_brenda_m.jpg

osama bin laden: making the video

(With the release of yet another alleged missive from the embattled Al Qaeda leader, Zembla is proud to reprint Osama Bin Laden: Making the Video, which originally appeared in the Heuristic Squelch)

Excerpts from "Osama Bin Laden: Making the Video"

An Al Jazeera Exclusive

Friday, 4:30 AM

Carson Sabarmati: What's up, privileged elites of the Arab world? We're coming to you from Detroit, Michigan, site of the shoot of Osama Bin Laden's new video, a video that will premiere on Al Jazeera in just 30 minutes.

Osama Bin Laden: When Al Jazeera approached me, I knew we had to shoot this video in Detroit, you know what I'm saying? Detroit is where the true fans are at, and I hope a lot of the militant fundamentalist Muslims in the Lower Michigan area come out to the shoot.

(Speeded up film of Bin Laden climbing into jeep, shaking hands with film crew, spitting on the American flag, shooting a rifle, and kicking a puppy)

* * * *

7:15 AM

OBL: (Picks up a green jilbob from the clothing rack) Now, this looks pretty fly. But I'm not sure if it'll seem too decadent. (Selects new item) This dishdasha is from Versace, and it kinda says, Saturday night, hitting the club in downtown Kabul. Saudi Arabia will love this look. (Picks up hooded white cloak) This jalabiyah realy says "mujahadeeni," but I don't know... let's just go with the same camouflage thing I always wear. Give me that white cap, too.

* * * *

Radio Interview
8:43 AM

DJ: We're here on KMSM here in Detroit, talking with famed terrorist Osama Bin Laden. Osama, thanks for coming out.

OBL: Well, I don't usually visit pop stations, but I'm making a video for Al Jazeera, so it's all good, you know what I'm sayin?

DJ: We appreciate it. So, the new single is a 45 minute speech about Israeli human rights abuses in the occupied territories, and the scores of civilian casualties from the US bombing of Iraq.

OBL: Yes, it's a cause I feel very strongly about.

DJ: So, what made you choose Dr. Dre to produce it?

OBL: Ever since his N.W.A. days, Dr. Dre's slick beats and anti-authority attitude have been an inspiration to all oppressed peoples. Plus, he said Nate Dogg might be willing to do a guest vocal. He's got such a sweet voice, you know?

DJ: I hear that, Osama. We'll be back in a minute with Osama Bin Laden, but first, here's Cat Stevens with "Peace Train."

(Bin Laden slaps forehead)

* * * *

The Vision
11:52 AM

Director Hype Williams: Osama had a vision for this video. First, he was going preach into the camera in High Arabic for an unbroken 40 minutes. Then, he was going to fire his rifle at a target a few times. Then, a little more preaching. That was all cool, but I had an idea to switch it up a little.

OBL: Look, I've showed off political Osama, I gave y'all militant Osama, and now it's time to show off the playful side of Bin Laden.

(Clip of OBL and Mase on a speedboat, with four girls)

Director Hype Williams: Underneath those birkas, and chadors are some fineass honeys. Just take my word for it.

* * * *

12:48 PM

OBL: We shall continue until we win this battle, or die in the cause and meet our maker.

(Camera explodes, killing camera operator, key grip, Best Boy, and Al Qaeda cofounder Muhammad Atef)

Hype Williams: Cut!

OBL: OK, who's working security? Cut off their hands.

* * * *

1:54 PM

Carson Sabarmati: The video has just been delivered to Al Jazeera's office by a blindfolded courier. He's been wrapped in a carpet and driven in the back of a jeep, flown blindfolded in a cargo hold of a prop plane, and then spun around ten times so he won't be able to remember the way back. So now, Bin Laden fans, and Al Qaeda operatives looking for coded messages, enjoy the new OBL video world premiere. Peace out.

chasing 170

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(Barry Bonds drew his 2,063rd career walk last night, moving into second place on the all-time list, ahead of the great Babe Ruth. In honor of this achievement, Zembla reprints an old essay from the 2001 season, when in the midst of trying to break Mark McGwire's old record of 70 home runs, Barry quietly approached the single-season walk record, which he would later shatter in 2002.)


Amid all of the home run hoopla, with front page updates on Barry Bonds' hitting statistics, and the "Bonds vs. Gonzalez vs. McGwire" section of, another important offensive record is within Barry's reach. It's older than McGwire's record, older than Maris', and even older than the Babe's sixty home run season. I'm talking, of course, about the single-season walk record.

Back in 1923, Babe Ruth, the Prince of Patience, the Baron of the Base on Balls, walked an astonishing 170 times. Since then, only a few players have even come close to equaling the Babe. McGwire set the National League record back in 1998, the same year he broke the home run record. McGwire walked his way down to first 162 times that year, a fairly amazing walk-per-game average. Only Ted Williams has ever walked even 162 times, and he did it twice. Barry set the old National League record with 151 back in 1996, when Matt Williams broke his foot and Barry's lineup "protection" consisted of such sluggers as Glenallen Hill, Bill Mueller, Steve Decker, and Jay Canizaro. Career-wise, Rickey Henderson is the career leader, passing the Babe this year, but never walked more than 126 times in any single season.

The Babe is #2 on the career charts, and Williams is right behind him. With the five years Williams lost to the war, he might have ended up with 2,600 career walks or so, making him nearly uncatchable. As it is, he's #3 all-time. Barry is, not surprisingly, the highest active player not named Rickey Henderson on the list. He's eighth all-time, likely to pass Mel Ott for seventh place later this year, and, barring injury, could become the all-time leader by mid-2004. This year alone, he's moved up from 13th place, passing some luminaries (Stan Musial and Harmon Killebrew), some less-than-amazing players (Darrell Evans and Ed Yost), and one convicted tax cheat/ compulsive gambler (Who do you think?)

Right now, Bonds is on pace for 163, which would break the National League record. He's walked six times in the past two games, making him a serious threat to the record. If he heats up the walk engine like he did in June (averaging nearly two walks per game), Barry is a serious threat to the record. I'd like to see this story start to get some serious coverage. I want a walk counter on the right field wall at Pac Bell. I want Major League Baseball to fly in Ruth's surviving relatives to Giants games if Barry gets close. I want to hear Dusty Baker complain in post-game press conferences about how pitchers are "refusing to pitch around Barry."

This is how I imagine the quest turning out. Barry has 70 homers and 170 walks on the last game of the season. The Giants need to beat the Dodgers to clinch the division title. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, score tied, bases loaded, Barry comes to the plate. He stands stock-still as a 3-2 Jeff Shaw fastball comes in just a centimeter off of the outside corner. I'd like to think that Barry would still take the time to remove his elbow guard before slowly trotting down to first base, as the crowd and his teammates go wild.

I just hope Barry doesn't start wearing a hat that reads "W.K." for "Walk King," a la Pete "Hit King" Rose. Whatever the result, I'm rooting for Barry to pass Big Mac - and rooting nearly as hard for him to pass the Babe.

belated nfl preview


Are you ready for some damn football? You're damn right Zembla is. The NFL has returned. It's the nation's most popular professional sport, just ahead of baseball and probably NASCAR. It seems like, just as in presidential elections, the American South is most important in terms of popularity and success. Football is the one professional sport where players' contracts aren't guaranteed, where Pro Bowl players are forced to renegotiate their contracts weeks before the season begins to avoid outright release, where the union has little power, and where suspected drug dealers and admitted racists like Bill Romanowski can end a teammate's season with a haymaker punch and receive nothing more than a one-practice suspension. The NFL has no loyalty to players, coaches, or fans. At its core, it's an attractive, alcoholic, womanizing playboy in league form, with franchises skipping town on a whim, extracting money for stadiums, and suing their home counties for millions of dollars while the always-forgiving, co-dependent fans forgive everything.

The NFL prides itself as being the top league, though an objective look at its stability reveals problems. Fans and the media are always bemoaning the problems of baseball, while extolling the virtues of pro football. What goes unnoticed, in all of the plaudits about financial health and parity, is how the NFL stacks up. Baseball has had no teams change cities since 1970; the NFL has had six teams relocate since then, with the Raiders moving twice. Currently, fully half of the teams in the National League have a shot at the playoffs; even with a much higher percentage of teams making the playoffs, the NFL rarely has so many contenders with a month to go. Player movement between franchises is significantly higher in the NFL than in any other sport. Also, the whole idea of "parity," that any given team can win any given Sunday begs the question of what it means to be a good team, in general. Personally, I feel that the triumph of the mediocre New England Patriots in the 2002 Super Bowl mostly means that winning the Super Bowl simply does not mean as much as it used to.

That being said, I love the NFL, partially because it infuriates me so. I also fully realize I have still not adjusted to the demise of the 49er dynasty. Growing up, the 49ers were good every single year, without fail. A 10-6 season was a disappointment. For many of my formative years, the 49ers started Joe Montana, and had Steve Young, likely one of the best five quarterbacks in the league, earning millions of dollars on the bench, just in case of emergency. Now, in the wake of the owner's racketeering conviction, and the advent of the salary cap, the once-proud 49ers are reduced to the level of peon teams like the Rams and Eagles. It's a shame.

The game is still very entertaining, and I follow it voraciously. Last year, I watched a majority of the Monday Night Football telecasts, altered last year with the addition of John Madden to the broadcast team. Madden is getting older, and in my opinion, clearly losing his mind. He will talk at length, lovingly, obsessively, about the bodies of 300-pound lineman. These monologues with continue throughout several plays, as embattled play-by-play partner Al Michaels vainly attempts to describe the action on the field. He is obsessed with an ABC gimmick called the "horse trailer"; a horse trailer that accompanies Madden and the MNF team (along with Madden's enormous RV, the "Madden Cruiser") to every game. At the end of each game, Madden selects the best players, whose picture is displayed on the side of the horse trailer. Of course, the mentally ill Madden rarely chooses just one player, so that the horse trailer is often bedecked with four or five players from any single contest.

The surreal highlight of the season, however, came in the pre-Thanksgiving telecast, when ABC sent a "turducken" into the announcers' booth. A "turducken" is a turkey, stuffed with a chicken, which has itself been stuffed with a duck. It's a fairly disgusting amalgamation of poultry, but it's yet another Madden obsession which the ABC crew not only tolerates, but encourages. In the middle of this game, while important football plays were occurring, ABC and Madden took a break to explain the mechanics and origin of the turducken, culminating in Madden forcibly dissecting the turducken with his bare, bloated hands. Al Michaels had to leave the booth. Shit, I had to leave the room. Let it be known: John Madden has lost his mind.

Besides the turducken and the horse trailer, the one thing that I wish would disappear from the NFL is the fake reverse. In every single NFL game I viewed last year, there was at least one play in which the quarterback dropped back, faked a handoff to the running back, who then, without the ball, faked another handoff to a circling wide receiver. In all this deception, I never saw this trick play result in substantial gains, partly because two of the team's players were busy horsing around in the backfield, partly because the best deep pass threat was invariably pretending to take an imaginary handoff, but mainly because, every team in the league did a fake reverse every single week. Actual trick plays are fun, but NFL teams are copycats. Enough of the fake reverse, I plead!

The local squad, the aforementioned 49ers, faces an interesting season. Gone is former coach Steve Mariucci, fired due to a regime change in ownership and his conservative coaching style. The 49ers always tried to run the ball a lot, controlling the ball and the clock, but never seemed to put teams away, or play especially aggressively. This was most notable in the team's second-round playoff game against the eventual champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 49ers, down by multiple touchdowns nearing halftime, chose to run out the clock rather than attempt a score, with a minute remaining and two timeouts. While Mariucci was successful, the 49ers seemed to play at their best when scrambling for comebacks, throwing passes willy-nilly and clawing at victory, as in their comeback victory against the New York Giants the previous week. Perhaps the new coach will have more of a foot-on-the-throat mentality.

This season also might mark the final campaign of superstar wide receiver and Zembla favorite, Terrell Owens. Owens has always been an enigmatic player, by far the finest of the 49ers' post-championship era, which admittedly is like being the best cast member on "Star Trek: Enterprise", or penning #1 hits for the Jefferson Starship. It is not Owens' fault that the team did not rise to his level of play; he has generally been an unbelievably clutch player, carrying the team to their fantastic playoff win last season with his tough pass-catching and borderline-insane sideline encouragement. He also caught, versus double coverage, the last-second, game-winning, playoff-advancing touchdown pass back in 1999, versus the Green Bay Packers. He is the most difficult receiver in the league to tackle, routinely knocking down defenders and grabbing extra yardage.

Still, Owens has his weaknesses. His signature play last season involved catching a touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks, then removing a pen from his sock, singing the ball, and handing it to a fan. This would have been a really stylish move, had he given the ball to a kid, or some loyal 49er fan behind the end zone. Instead, he gave it to his financial advisor. Not cool. Also, simply by being a wide receiver, Owens is part of a bizarre fraternity of effeminate one-upsmanship. Jerry Rice used to write "Flash 80" on a towels hanging above his backside. Receivers routinely wear the tightest uniforms, the most ridiculous hairstyles, the most elaborate on-field fanny packs, and engage in the most slap-fighting, trash-talking, and fake injuries worthy of an Argentinian soccer player. Owens is amazing, Owens is a superstar, but Owens is still a fancy-pants wideout, so all adulation and praise is tempered slightly.

The 49ers have begun the season with a 42-point thrashing of the Chicago Bears, all might be good in the NFL world. If you're a friend of mine, rowdy or not, feel free to come over one of these night, provided that you, too, are ready for some damn football.

dear john

| 1 Comment

(Inspired by the Johnny Cash tribute at Carthage)

You were a comic master
In drama you were no slouch
I always figured you'd be done in
By some accident with a couch

Allen and Matt would argue
You were funnier than Farley
I still thought you'd be the Peter Tosh
To Chris's slapstick Bob Marley

ABC has lost a genius
Laughs are coming heaven's way
You can room with female angels there
'Cause St. Peter believes you're gay

So chin up, Mr. Roper
Janet, Chrissy, please don't cry
Jack Tripper's cooking breakfast now
In the Regal Beagle in the sky

Q: Why did the Silver Surfer have to leave his job as a herald?

A: He was Ga-lactose-intolerant!

Q: What came out of the Hulk's nose whenever he ate strawberries?

A: Mucus!

After a long hiatus, Zembla returns with new content for the first time in what feels like years but is in reality only a fortnight. In the interim, time and attention normally directed blogward have gone towards other activities and artistic pursuits. First, the phenomenal success of "Henry David Thoreau, Newlywed" has led to a veritable deluge of offers and interest. Much of my time since then has been devoted to working with composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz on the libretto for the musical version of the story, tentatively titled, Transcend!

Another rival for blog time has been the job. Tirelessly, without ceasing, and at least 35 hours each week, I have strove to freeing the political prisoners of this state. Phone calls, mailings, legal briefs that someone else writes and researches, I do it all, just so long as said political prisoners file their appeals in a timely manner and can show some proof of their indigence. Some would say, "Sean, you are a saint for helping those people." I must respectfully disagree. I am a goddamn saint.

There was also a four-day coke binge. I didn't get a lot done.

The most exciting new development is that I have been back on the stage, at the comedy clubs in Berkeley where I first made my name and reputation. I realize that there are numerous Americans who cannot read, who do not own computers, who can only settle down and enjoy comedy brilliance in an environment that features beer on tap and barmaids with facial piercings. So I have taken the comedy to the people, to the stage, which sadly came at the expense of loyal Zemblan readers. Writeups will appear in this space, though that will provide but a hollow echo of the power of Sean Keane Live! Maybe readers could simply imagine the pink cheeks, the nervous darting blue eyes, and the melodious nasal monotone voice as they read Zembla, or at least do some shots to get in the right mood.

But fear not! Construction has finished on the brand-new Zembla Studios, in the heart of San Francisco's Duboce Triangle. Zembla has cleaned up, put down the pipe, and is again presentable for company. There's going to be so much comedy, so much brilliance, so much joy emanating from this website that you might have to turn down the brightness on your monitor just to protect your eyes. Zembla will not be the deadbeat dad of Cementhorizon any longer, but will become a loving, attentive blogfather to readers young and old.

So, leave a comment, fellas. Explore the Horizon of Cement, fellas. Zembla'll never go away. Zembla'll never go away. Zembla'll never go away again.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2003 listed from newest to oldest.

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