January 2005 Archives

shakes vs. officer toughkins


I got pulled over on the way home from Tahoe Joe's tonight, driving the Corolla. Shakes' registration had expired in November, unbeknownst to me. I wasn't speeding or drunk or violating the law in any way, so I was probably as relaxed as I've ever been at a traffic stop. The cop looked about my age as well, lessening the intimidation factor even further.

We were eating dinner to celebrate my sister's successful move back home. Both of her roommates moved out at the same time, so she's back with mom and dad, making them almost as proud of her as they are of their 25-year-old undergraduate son. The complication is that mom and dad, giddy or depressed over the last of their children leaving home, converted two of the former bedrooms into "offices". For dad, that meant bookshelves, a desk, and the couch from the family room. For mom, that meant bags full of fabric, egg cartons, handmade greeting cards from preschoolers, books, quilt patterns, and seasonal teddy bears strewn wildly across the floor. In addition, my youngest sister recently began a semester in South America, and all her apartment stuff came to mom and dad's house. There is no space. Kelly had to rent a storage facility for most of her furniture.

A note on the seasonal teddy bears: My mom has teddy bears for every conceivable holiday. For Christmas, there are Santa bears, reindeer bears, mostly wearing red and geen doll clothes. For Valentine's Day, the house is decorated with bears holding or wearing hearts. There are Thanksgiving bears, Easter bears, and even one lone Independence Day bear with a tricornered hat and what looks like a bugle. For the most part, each season also has an accompanying flag, which goes on a pole next to the garage (The flags are bear-free). It is a serious business in the suburbs. Mom got very agitated about a neighbor flying their Valentine's Day flag two weeks ago, thinking it was ridiculously premature. I suggested she respond with a display of civil rights-themed bears in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, complete with a miniature bus. She told me to shut the fuck up.

Over a lovely mushroom appetizer, Kelly told us that her storage space was inaccessible after 9 PM. Not that she was planning to store additional items that evening, but the owner of the facility still gave her a stern warning. "The K-9 unit of the Pleasant Hill, PD, they use the facility at night for training the dogs," which was an obvious lie. No one is training police dogs at 10 PM at Stor-All, not on a school night, and especially not to provide free watchdog services.

While the cop was running the plates, two additional cop cars showed up for backup. The cop grilled me about the car's owner and my intended destination that evening. I asked what the problem was, and he lied that the car hadn't been registered since 2002. "That's a misdemeanor!" he shouted. "I could bring you in right now!" He was right to an extent, if by "bring you in" he meant "write a $20 fix-it ticket". It was an awkward dynamic. Clearly, he knew he couldn't arrest me and wasn't planning to, and I knew it, too. Was he showing off for me with empty threats and hollow intimidation? For the other officers? Maybe he was just sending a message to the whole fraternity of shiftless San Francisco punks like me, who like nothing better than to zoom recklessly down Contra Costa Boulevard at 35 MPH in badass early-80's Toyotas.

Still, I sat silently with my hands on the wheel. From one of the backup vehicles came the frantic barking of a police dog. To think, my traffic stop had delayed the important work of police animals and jeopardized the security of a discount multi-level storage yard. I hung my head in shame as he scratched off the old sticker, and received my returned license with a whispered thanks. Officer Toughkins reiterated his threat about taking me in, then advised me to get home as soon as possible. His final words were, "If I see this car out here again tonight, I'm gonna tow it." Which, you know, he also couldn't do.

Final totals:

Ineffectual police threats: 2
Tickets written: 0
Registration stickers: -1
Lessons learned: 1

There is something horribly sad and desperate about the NFL sideline reporter. This role is the province of former athletes trying to stay attached to the game, unsuccessful game analysts, and female sports journalists who have hit the glass ceiling. Only by the loosest possible definition of the word are they "reporters", as there is very little news occuring on the sidelines. With fifteen television cameras covering the event, there isn't a lot of unique insight provided by the sideline reporter, even after they stand on the field, exposed to the elements, while the higher-paid broadcasting talent sits in a heated, covered booth.

The sideline reporter also has the thankless job of the halftime interview. Usually, this involves chasing after the coach of whichever team is leading, in order to prompt a cliched exchange. "Coach, how are you going to approach the second half?" "Coach, what are you going to tell the team at halftime?" "Coach, can you find an answer for Kevan Barlow?" The coach is obviously not going to give away any real information or strategy, so he mutters a few cliches about being balanced, staying focused, and maintaining a balanced focus on fundamentals. I would prefer to see coaches dispense with the cliches and blantantly lie:

"Suzy, we're gonna run a double reverse on every single play in the second half. They'll never expect it."

"Look, it's obvious we can't stop Corey Dillon, so we're just hoping he pulls a hamstring, Pam."

"At halftime, I plan to tell the team to load up on amphetamines and painkillers, Armen, while I myself will enjoy a large glass of whiskey."

The saddest sideline reporter moment from the football weekend came from CBS's Armen Keteyan. Just before the start of the second half, Keteyan told the announcers what the Patriots coaches said during their halftime speeches. The content of the speech was the usual, "Stay focused, don't look at the scoreboard" stuff one would expect, but the sadness came when Keteyan revealed he'd gotten his information by listening at the locker room door. The image of an adult male kneeling in a concrete hallway, furtively straining to hear a football coach repeat cliches about giving 110%, was too much for me.

In the playoffs, the networks double their sideline presence, so the reporters are either twice or half as worthless, depending on your perspective. They might as well just send a comedian down to make stuff up, which is sort of what FOX does with behemoth Tony "The Goose" Siragusa* (Click on "MORE" for a perspective on The Goose from last year).

Sideline guys are so sad, you almost forget how pathetically insecure the color analysts are. Broadcasters such as Troy Aikman and Joe Theisman, although Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, still feel the need to drop names and remind the viewing audience of their popularity, by way of their personal relationships with coaches. Aikman delights in delivering insipid insights, presumably gained through these inside relationships: "I was talking to defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, and he told me they have got to cover these Atlanta receivers." "At breakfast, Andy Reid told me they need to run the ball." "While I was rubbing his shoulders in the sauna this morning, Donovan McNabb told me he believes in this football team."

Theisman is content to merely name-drop assistant coaches, crediting them every time the team makes a successful play. Quarterback sack on a blitz? It's the result of the defensive scheme, thanks to the defensive coordinator. Quarterback throws for a touchdown when the defense blitzes? It's the play-calling by the offensive coordinator. There is a valuable drinking game to be made about ESPN's entire Sunday night crew. Drink once when Theisman mentions a coordinator. Drink again if Paul MacGuire prefaces a replay with, "Watch this! Watch this! You see this?" And if a Hall of Fame quarterback propositions any member of the broadcast dream, drain whatever is in your hand.

More thoughts from the playoffs:

The sad march of technology: Wireless technology has been a boon for the NFL. Coaches can stalk the sidelines unencumbered by their headsets' cords, and quarterbacks can communicate directly with coaches and coordinators via devices in their helmets. I miss the days when Joe Montana would come off the field and talk to the offensive coordinator on a huge rotary phone on the sidelines. Invariably, my dad would announce, "Joe's ordering a pizza!" Also invariably, I would crack up.

Does Robert De Niro have a gambling problem?: Or maybe a drug problem. Or a shady accountant. Whatever the reason for his need for cash, it seems like he hasn't turned down a movie role for about six years. He did an American Express commercial that ran during the game. In his newest film, he shares top billing with a ten year old girl. Somebody get him a good script and keep him away from the dog track.

Erection pills and the NFL: The NFL and the TV networks have been very cautious about offensiveness since last year's Super Bowl. Prematurely balding FOX announcer Joe Buck had a hissy fit after Randy Moss pretended to moon the crowd in Green Bay. FOX pre-emptively changed the name of one of their pregame programs to "The Best Darn Sports Show Period". CBS has an elaborate setup to enable five-second delays on all live broadcasts, just in case there's stealth nipples about. This does not extend to advertising, however.

Erection pills are one of the firmest supporters of NFL telecasts. Levitra commercials pop up about every other commercial break, urging the fans at home to get a fucking boner already. Is Randy Moss's dancing really more harmful to a young viewer than hearing, "If an erection lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention"?

These advertisements have moved from raising awareness of impotence remedies, and now appear focused on brand differentiation. Levitra suggests, "If you're on another ED medication, maybe you should switch." I can't wait to see how Viagra responds to try to separate themselves, and build a strong, unique boner pill identity.

"Alone In The Dark": Heavily advertised suspense movie starring Christian Slater and Tara Reid, and also a description of how you'll end up if you go to see this film in a theater.

Fan signs: This is a pet peeve of mine from way back. Look, if you're going to spend the time making a sign on posterboard with paints or markers, and hauling that sign to the game, and then annoying the people in your section by holding up the sign, you ought to make sure it's a good sign. Have a friend check the spelling. See if anyone laughs. Some Philadelphia fans had Randy Moss-related signs, proclaiming the stadium to be a "No Moon Zone", or asking Moss, "Boxers or Breifs?" (sic) Those signs could have been kept at home.

Injuries: My favorite type of injury comes when a player is hustled to the locker room for unknown reasons, and the broadcasters can't even find footage of where the purported injury happened. At those times, I like to imagine that the player is not being treated, but instead being told that his kids have been kidnapped by gamblers. If he returns to the field and plays poorly, it might be the injury, or he could be throwing the game. You just never know.

Troy Brown goes both ways: Brown is a wide receiver for the Patriots who this year, at age 33, started playing defensive back as well, due to some Patriot injuries. Now, a few defensive backs have played wide receiver part-time over the years, like Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey, but that was more of a novelty. Also, they were young. Brown is the third DB, so he plays quite a bit, and especially in crucial third-down or long-yardage situations. Not only is he succeeding, he intercepted three passes this year. Really, this story still hasn't gotten nearly enough attention. The equivalent in another sport would be J.T. Snow responding to the Giants' bullpen woes by becoming the closer, and then racking up ten saves in October. Beyond that, it's just cool that in an era of football where some teams are so specialized they have separate kickers for field goals and kickoffs, it's heartening to see a guy knock down a pass on one play, return a punt on the next, and then catch a pass for a first down on the third play, as Brown did verus Indianapolis. I bet he'd wear a leather helmet if it weren't against the rules.

i know, they're called doctors


Not a lot going on in Zembla these days. My computer monitor at home doesn't work, and I only work part-time. Why only part-time? Well it's because I'm going back to school, back to school, only partially to prove to my dad that I'm not a fool. While many of my peers are finishing masters degrees, studying for the bar exam, and beginning their medical residencies, I will be putting the academic pedal to the education metal in hopes of emerging with a bachelor's degree. Still, it's a lot better than meeting professors, lawyers, and doctors at the ten-year reunion and not having a college degree, so I'll take it.

Currently, I am enrolled in four different English classes. One deals with Irish writing in the early 20th century, and another is on James Joyce, an Irish writer of the early 20th century. It's called synergy, friends. My other two courses are a study of the second-greatest blind poet of all time, John Milton, and a strange History/English hybrid course about the cities and literary traditions of New York and Philadelphia. Since my own college career could be described as a strange History/English hybrid (or "train wreck"), I think this is right up my alley. Old Man Alley, to be specific, right by the intersection of Disappointment Way and Wasted Potential Boulevard.

After two days of class, no one seems have noticed that I am way too old to be at Cal, or they're too polite to say anything. I credit this to two factors:

1. The baby face: My features are soft and doughy, and often always flushed with pink. If I can still get carded in every bar I step into, I can blend in when I'm in a college classroom.

2. I'm still not the oldest: There are always a few seniors in Berkeley classes, particularly in the English Department, and I'm not talking about students with more than 90 semester units. Sometimes, they can be a delight, sharing their wisdom and experiences with all. Mostly they slow things way down, asking for things to be repeated, passages explained, and their food to be mashed up. Studying The Faerie Queen many years ago, one of my aged classmates was vexed by a certain passage. The professor's explanation of the thematic issues did little to ease her confusion, and it helped even less when he explained where Spenser had made an allusion to Ovid. Finally, she exclaimed, "I just want to know what happens to the Redcrosse Knight in this part, OK?", and he consented to give her a literal summary.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Hey Sean, what about those college girls? Aren't you excited about that?" Actually, I'm not, which may be explained by two factors:

1. I'm older now, and my tastes have matured with me: Sure, in the past, the presence of nubile freshman and sophomore girls would have thrilled me, their beauty only rivaled by their freshness. Now, perhaps, I want something more in a woman. Perhaps I want someone old and wise enough to relate on an intellectual level, putting aside petty physical concerns in favor of a more cerebral match. Or, perhaps...

2. Girls at Berkeley just aren't that hot.

Obviously, further investigation of this topic is necessary.

What I'm really looking forward to is the beginning of class discussions, which will be happening tomorrow. I plan to wow my classmates with tales of 56K modems and grunge rock. "Seriously, everyone wore flannel, and most people still had all their pubic hair. We sent email with carrier pigeons, and we used to have to carry checkbooks, not like now with your fancy debit cards and PayPal accounts. I'm sorry, professor? Oh, I think it symbolizes the disconnect between Philadelphia's reputation as the nation's primary cultural center and the growing reality of New York's predominance in that area. Also, we all carried pagers!"

Hopefully, all this book-learning won't distract me from attending to Zembla, but seriously, who am I kidding? The posts will be infrequent, full of incoherent ramblings about Dublin and unreadable Middle English puns. Maybe I'll get a new monitor, sure, but my ten hours each week on BART are going to severely cut into my Zembla time. And though I've spent a long time typing this one out, you really are only supposed to use the computers for twenty minutes at a time. Research takes precedence. This is a university, goddammit.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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