January 2006 Archives

to be young and in love and on bart


Everyone loves BART, and they love to be in love. From my observations and experiences, here are some tips for being in love and staying in love on the #1 Transit System in the World.

The Escalator

Holding hands with your girlfriend is extremely important. Hold hands as much as you can. Share the same step. If she stands behind you, on a different step, that means she probably doesn't love you as much as you thought. Say you let go of her hand, or both stood on the right side together. Would that be an appropriate testament to your love? No. You need to hold hands from the bottom all the way to the top.

Don't let go until the last possible second. It's best to break hand contact as close to the fare gates as possible, so that your love is preserved. With practice, you can go through the turnstiles side by side and never break finger contact, though one of you will have to be adept with your left hand.

And what about the other people on the escalator? Diana Ross said it best: "You can't hurry love." Those commuters behind you will just have to wait.

The Crowded Train

Sometimes BART is crowded. Obviously, you'd like to sit next to each other, so you can hold hands and talk, loudly. Sometimes, it's just too crowded. There's only one seat available. Now, ideally, you could get someone to move from a one-seat position to a different vacant seat, freeing up a double-seat. But sometimes there's not enough space, or the commuter is pissed off/annoyed/asleep/black. Then, you will be too scared to ask.

Sometimes you can find a seat behind your girl. This is acceptable only if you lean forward in your seat, keeping at least one hand on her shoulders or arms at all times. Two hands is obviously preferable. Keep up steady conversation, with your face close to her ear, so she doesn't start conversing with the person next to her and then break up with you.

If there is no chance to sit side-by-side, I think the best solution is to let your lady love take the free seat, while you kneel in the aisle next to her seat. You can hold hands over the armrest. And a little knee pain is nothing in the cause of true love.

Imaginary Girlfriends

When you spot your imaginary girlfriend on a BART train, it is important to not act creepy. Don't sit next to her, or even directly across to her. But make sure you choose a seat where you can observe her.

Watch her as much as you can. Try to read the title of her book or magazine, perhaps by pretending to tie your shoelace. If she makes eye contact, or even looks in your direction, immediately look away. Pretend to be reading your book, or the ad for the AIDS Marathon. She will think you are studious, or an athlete. A charitable athlete.

If she transfers at one of the Oakland stations, go ahead and follow her off the train. You can always transfer back to your previous train two stops later. Or, just ride along with her until she gets off, and then double back to your real destination. The BART fare will be the same, no matter how long it takes you to get to your eventual destination, because they understand about imaginary girlfriends.

When you're exiting the train or walking across the platform, that is the time to walk close behind her and try to smell her hair.

Another month, another appearance at the San Francisco Comedy Club, at 50 Mason. This time I'm not the headliner, merely part of the showcase. I wish there were a fancy term for this slot. "Sub-headliner" either sounds like I'm a super-powered comedian from Atlantis, or the headliner is practicing BDSM on me.

Nevertheless, I will be doing about ten minutes as part of a killer ensemble. Our headliner, Bill Santiago, is a rising star who recently taped a half-hour special for Comedy Central. To give you some perspective on this, I recently taped an eight-minute version of White Christmas starring Cabbage Patch Kids, for an audience of four people. Also performing in the showcase are Jerry Goldstone, Kevin Camia, and Zahra Noorbakhsh.

The show starts at 8:00, and admission is $10. As always, there is no drink minimum at 50 Mason, and there is even less in the way of bag checks for alcohol. The official promotional announcement is after the jump.

(Read Part 1, Part 2)

Handy: Truth or Dare, Tailor?

Tailor: Truth.

Handy: Tailor, if you could kiss anyone in Smurf Village, who would it be?

Tailor: Oh, smurf! I want Dare instead!

Handy: Too late! You have to answer, or you'll get smurfed!

Tailor: Fine (Deep breath) I think Smurfette is pretty cute. I guess I'd kiss her.

Handy: Oh.



Tailor: What is it?

Handy: Nothing. It's just - I have had a crush on Smurfette for a while now.

Tailor: Oh. Sorry - I didn't know.

Handy: I even invented a Smurfmobile for her.

Tailor: I made her a dress!

Handy: You should know, she told me I was her forever lover, you know, don't you remember?

Tailor: Well, after loving me, she said she couldn't love another.

Handy: Is that what she said?

Tailor: Yes, she said it. You keep dreaming.

Handy: I don't believe it!



Tailor: So, it's your turn. Do you want --

Handy: Dare.

Read Part 1

11. "Fond Farewell", Elliott Smith: When From a Basement on a Hill finally came out, I expected the album reviews to be more ghoulish, sifting through the lyrics of the songs to read it as a premonition of his death. This one's lyrics actually say, "A little less than a happy high/A little less than a suicide". Thankfully, most critics seemed to shun posthumous psychoanalysis, and no one said, "This song serves as a 'Fond Farewell' to Mr. Smith and his legacy", though you could really do worse for your last great song.

I have an old live recording of him doing "Fond Farewell", back in 2001, with slightly different lyrics. Elliott is wavering, and sounds tired and upset, which some might blame on drugs. I think he's actually frustrated by the two fans who keep yelling out the same request over and over. "Clementine!" "I Figured You Out!" "Clementine!" It's enough to make you want to stab yourself in the chest, I tell you.

12. "Queen Bitch", David Bowie:

The Life Aquatic exposed me to this one. It's one of the only times I have enjoyed Wes Anderson's bizarre fetish for having his characters walk in formation for no reason, because it allowed this song to play in its entirety. This song is kind of like a Velvet Underground parody/homage/upgrade. I didn't know what Bowie was singing in the chorus for a good while. Then I read the lyrics, and I'm still not completely sure what the queen bitch is supposed to wearing - "satin and tat"? "Bibberty bobberty hat"? I am fairly sure this is the oldest song on my list.

13. "Extraordinary Machine", Fiona Apple:

I could do without the bridge where Fiona Apple is singing so high the lyrics are almost unintelligible, but the rest of the song sounds like it was unearthed from a musical from an imaginary time in a past that never existed.

At this point in my list, I am struck by the amount of stuff I like here that's actually sincere, not self-mocking. Could this be the dawning of the New Sincerity Movement?

14. "Papa Was a Rodeo", Magnetic Fields:

It's a gay cowboy love ballad with a surprise ending. Magnetic Fields specialize in songs that manage to be simultaneously funny, sincere, heartbreaking, and sarcastic. This song has lines like, "I see that kiss-me pucker forming/ But maybe you should plug it with a beer"; "Home was anywhere with diesel gas/ Love was a trucker's hand", and "After all these years wrestling gators/ I still feel like crying when I think of what you said to me". Yet, the whole ridiculous premise ends up still being a moving, tender song, helped no doubt by Stephen Merritt's singular vocals.

This is the music that I listened to most this year, not necessarily stuff that was released within the previous calendar year. Some of it is fairly old, in fact. Because my music listening has moved predominantly to mp3s rather than full-length CDs, I'm doing it by song and not album. It's so much easier to skip the second half of Of Montreal's album when it's a matter of one mouse click, rather than having to walk to the stereo, get the new CD, replace the old CD - man, I ain't got time for that! There's important stuff happening at this desk that I don't want to miss!

In no particular order and without further ado:

1. "We're Both So Sorry", Mirah:

The song starts out strangely, with an autoharp strum, and halfway through the first verse, there's still almost no accompaniment. But then the horns come in briefly, and by the time we get to the first "I'm sorry 'bout so much, baby, but I know you'll understand", you're hooked. Or at least I am. Then, the second verse features Mirah singing, while another track of Mirah (I think it's also her) whispers the lyrics simultaneously, and it's really spooky. And then the verse ends with this slow-building crazy drum part, which carries into the next verse, and Mirah's voice gets higher, and the horns come back in, and it's all very dramatic and great.

2. "The New", Interpol:

My favorite parts:

1) The introductory guitar part
2) The crazy, screaming guitar at the end
3) "Baby, my heart's been breaking"

3. "Shine a Light", Wolf Parade:

This was the song I listened to the most from the album I listened to the most. My favorite part comes after the second chorus, when everything is really driving hard - drums, keyboards, guitars - and the backup singer starts in, and he's not even singing actual words, just this excited, "Uh uh oh OH" and it's really exciting. If I still swam competitively, I think this would be an excellent song to play before races to get adrenaline flowing. Except, come to think of it, I never especially did that while I was a high school swimmer. We did play AC/DC's "Big Balls" a lot, and sometimes when we were doing deck changes, Paskey would put on "Free Fallin'", but instead of "I'm free fallin'", we'd sing "I'm free ballin'".

This song is not about balls at all, unless I'm missing some Quebecois euphemism.

4. "Rebellion (Lies)", Arcade Fire:

Wolf Parade, Unicorns, and Arcade Fire are all from Montreal, and all have a disproportionate number of songs about ghosts. Wolf Parda has "Same Ghost every Night", "Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts", The Unicorns have "Ghost Mountain", "Haunted House", "Sea Ghost", and "Tuff Ghost", and that's not even considering all their songs not wanting to die or being ready to die. Is Montreal haunted? Haunted by terrible band names?

I would a sucker for any song that opens with a line about how "sleeping is giving in", even if it rocked significantly softer than this one does.

5. "Gold Digger", Kanye West:

You have a dilemma, as a white listener of hip-hop, regarding songs that have the word "nigger" in them. I don't like to say the word, I don't even like to type the word, but I still like to sing along. So, here are some options.

the celtics throw up a whitewash


The Boston Celtics made a big trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday, swapping shooting guard Ricky Davis and disappointing center Mark Blount for Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi. People who know more about basketball than I do can analyze the tradeoff between Wally's excellent shooting and Davis's superior defense. I am excited about the deal because it puts Boston that much closer to being able to throw up a whitewash.

It's a fact. Boston loves white basketball players. It could be the legacy of Larry Bird, or it could be a testament to the racism of the city, but Boston will rally around its white cagers like no other. It's part of the reason why Boston hired former Caucasian star Danny Ainge back in 2003, though it wasn't until this offseason that the snowstorm began. Ainge signed marginally-talented Caucasian Brian Scalabrine to a free agent contract. Supposedly, Ainge found it significant that Scalabrine has the same brain type as Larry Bird, Jerry West, and John Stockton. He certainly shares with those players a genetic resistance to sickle cell anemia, something Ainge also considers extremely significant.

Ainge then traded away Antoine Walker, and received seven-foot Caucasian Curtis Borchardt in return. Ainge also dealt for Caucasian point guard Dan Dickau. Adding those three players to the team's existing paleface, Raef LaFrentz, the Celtics had a ploddingly-slow, fundamentally-sound quartet with a combined vertical leap of six-and-a-half feet. They were achingly close, just one white shooting guard away from fulfilling every aging Bostonian racist's dream of an all-white starting lineup. No slam dunks, but plenty of crisp bounce passes and awkward high fives on the bench. As a concession to Boston racists who are also xenophobic, all four were American, which is a fairly amazing feat in today's NBA.

Unfortunately, Ainge's snow-white dreams were dashed when Borchardt proved to be too injured, and was waived. Dickau tore his Achilles tendon in mid-December. Approaching the midpoint of the season, the Celtics were 17-25, six games out of first place. More importantly, they were down to just two Caucasians. Clearly, they needed to make a move. When Ainge called Minnesota GM (and legendary Celtic Caucasian in his own right) Kevin McHale to discuss swapping Davis for Szczerbiak, they did just that.

Szczerbiak is a standout Caucasian, blessed with a sweet jump shot and a last name with a string of four consecutive consonants, including two Z's. His outside shooting ability once drew comparisons to Larry Bird, because every white wing player gets compared to Larry Bird. It's the law.

However, Olowokandi has been a disappointment after being selected first in the draft back in 1998. One would think there'd be little gain in acquiring the Kandi Man, until you consider that he was born in England. He may not be a Caucasian, but Ainge is betting that fans will rally around his British citizenship, if not his skin color.

The Celtics can't yet throw up the whitewash, but a group of Olowokandi, LaFrentz, Scalabrine, Szczerbiak, and point guard Delonte West would constitute a group where every member was either Caucasian, red-haired, or British. Not too bad. With Olowokandi's contract expiring at the end of the season, Boston would free up money to make a run at a free agent like Matt Harpring, or Joel Pryzbilla, or Vladimir Radmanovic, or Keith Van Horn. If Warriors GM Chris Mullin is paying attention, he'll get on the phone right now and see if Ainge will trade Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson for Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy. Hell, Utah should argue that the suddenly-controversial Greg Ostertag
would look great in the green and white. If the Ainge plan comes to fruition, I will confidently state that next year's squad will be the most popular 30-win team in Celtics history.

Game Journal
Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Point Spread: Denver -3
Over/Under: 41.5


We start with a dramatic intro read by...ex-NFL defensive end and current old man, Deacon Jones. I realize that, while I can discuss at length the relative merits of National League shortstops of the 1930's, my knowledge of football history does not begin until The Catch. But by all accounts, Deacon Jones was a stud. He does alright here, though he's no Don Cheadle. My favorite part comes when he slips in a completely gratuitous potshot at Peyton Manning.

Deacon Jones gives way to a live shot of Invesco Field in denver, where the fans are waving the least-intimidating props I've ever seen. Orange pom-poms don't make me think the Broncos are out for blood.

The normally-excited Phil Simms warns both teams to stay calm, and resist giving in to the excitement of being but oen game away from the Super Bowl. As a sequel to last week's pink shirt, Simms is wearing a pink tie.

Jim Nantz and Simms assert that Jake Plummer's critics are just waiting for him to stumble, and that they will continue to await his failures until he wins a Super Bowl. It's interesting that Plummer's name is associated with interceptions, because at the beginning of his career, he was known for his fourth-quarter excellence and frequent comebacks. Simms says that the Broncos love Plummer because he shuns publicity and media attention.

With all the attention given to Plummer's long hair and unruly beard during this post-season, I find it interesting that no one mentions that the look is a tribute to college teammate Pat Tillman, especially given the NFL's usual enthusiasm for any tie-ins with the military. Perhaps that's because Tillman is no longer an ideal hero for the war on terror, once the facts about his death, and the government's cover-up came out. And while Plummer might shun publicity, he didn't shy away from ripping the government's treatment of the Tillman story.

That was a digression.

UPS Game Points:

1) Box Office Blitz: Both teams are going to blitz a lot. "Box office blitz" was the best blitz-related phrase they could find? Is this because the Sundance Film Festival is going on in a neighboring state?

2) Pressure Cooker Kicker: A kicker might have to make an important kick, and "kicker" sounds like cooker".

Those Game Points were so bad, I'm sending some packages Fed Ex out of spite.

Sideline reporter Bonnie Bernstein is wearing a leopard-print fur hat and a crazy, Kati Vol-esque scraf that looks like it's made out of Muppet. Her hair looks blonder than last week, but it might just be sunnier today. She tells us Jerome Bettis made a speech about getting him to the Super Bowl. Inspiring.

The team has added Armen Keteyian to the sideline, much to the delight of Simms. Armen tells us that Mike Holmgren made "the speech of the year" before the game, which consisted of...making fun of his players. Armen gives us excerpts:
"You defensive linemen from Cleveland, you're all busts."
"Todd Sauerbrun, no one wanted you."
"John Lynch, you're like 80 - why are you still playing?"
Reportedly this did not make anyone cry. Rather, it make them realize the "lack of respect" shown to Denver all year. Nantz agrees that the "lack of respect" message often works.

Five Broncos made it to the Pro Bowl, including the aforementioned Lynch. The Broncos were favored against the defending champs last week, and they're favored again today. Were any teams adequately respected this year? Maybe the 1-15 Texans? I can still imagine David Carr standing up in the locker room after the Reggie Bush Bowl and declaring, "Nobody gave us a chance at the first pick in the draft. What do you say now, unbelievers? Two and fourteen, baby!"

directions for the english-impaired

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On the way to work on Monday, I was stopped a by a tourist with a limited grasp of English and an urgent need for directions. The only word I caught was "subway". I pointed to the Powell Stations stairs behind me, and was met with a blank stare. Next, I tried a pantomine of going down the stairs, and, somewhat embarassingly, going through the automatic fare gates. The tourist still stared expectantly. Finally she opened her mouth and mimed something that looked really dirty, until I realized she was pretending to eat a sandwich.

"Oh, that Subway", I said with relief. She still wasn't sure I got it, but nodded when I said, "Eat fresh." Subway is right by office. I even knew the specials, but I decided it was too hard to convey "$2.99 six-inch" or "roasted turkey". I went through how to get there - three blocks down, on the left, can't miss it - but the tourist still looked distressed.

She shook her head. "Too far." Then she went into Old Navy, for some reason.

pdx-cursion, part 1: gutley

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In August, our good friends Aaron (not that Aaron) and Katie (not that Katie, or that one) got married just outside of Portland. The four of us were staying about three miles from the site of the ceremony, so we hired a cab to take us there.

The place were staying was a converted convalescent home. To their credit, the new hotel owners embraced their past, rather than pretending the safety bars and extra-wide doors in the shower were a luxury feature. Each room was named after one of its former residents, and said resident was immortalized with a wall portrait and brief biography. Our room was named after Marie "Cookie" Cobb, and her portrait was so scary that we left the closet door open so we couldn't see it. Mike and Jessica's room featured "Uncle Jim", whose biography claimed he "had the grip of a 30-year-old".

Perhaps the hotel's former incarnation was the reason the taxi company sent us the vehicle they did. It was a van with no middle seats, and an elaborate metal guard on its metal door, presumably to transport wheelchair-bound passengers. Since there were four of us, that meant Jessica rode shotgun, while Mike, Paul, and I, and our suits squeezed together in the way back.

The drive was a little awkward, since none of us could move laterally, and it felt like Jessica and the rotund cabbie were taking us to soccer practice. Soccer practice for cripples. Also, the cabbie was only going about 15 MPH. As is my habit in these situations, I was trying to defuse the awkwardness by talking a lot. We got on the subject of our recently-rediscovered friend Dan (not that Dan, and his teenage efforts to shed the nickname "Danny". Out of nowhere, our cabbie spoke for the first time.

"No one but my mom's allowed to call me Danny," he said. He let that linger there for a while, until I asked, "So, your name's Dan?"

He affirmed, and then added, "I had a different nickname, but until the reunion, I hadn't heard it since high school." Again, the awkward silence lasted a little too long, until I asked, "What was the nickname?"

"They called me 'Gutley'", he responded, and we all tried really hard not to laugh. He explained that his last name was "Gately", and so it was natural that his abusive high school football coach would yell "Dammit, Gutley!" at him when he made mistakes. The story got sadder when he explained that the team's football games were broadcast on local radio, and even the announcers called him "Gutley". Suddenly, being called "Danny" didn't seem so bad. What do you say when a cabbie spills his guts like that? Especially since, at this speed, we still had like fifteen minutes before we got to the wedding.

We rode the rest of the way in silence. When we arrived, we realized that this handicapped taxi-van lacked a meter, as well as a middle seat. Gutley rummaged through a box underneath his seat and did some elaborate reckoning involving a laminated map and a solar calculator. Normally, we'd have gotten out of the cramped seats, but the sliding door didn't open from the inside, even if you had the iron grip of Uncle Jim. Finally, after involving a compass and an abacus, Gutley told us our fare for the thirty-minute trip: $18. We paid him, waved farewell, and went into the ceremony, where there was a guy dressed up as the Log Lady.


championship game preview, 1/22/06

Pittsburgh Steelers (13-5) at Denver Broncos (14-3)
Point Spread: Denver -3
Over/Under: 41.5 points

Carolina Panthers (13-5) at Seattle Seahawks (14-3)
Point Spread: Seattle -3.5
Over/Under: 43.5 points

These figure to be some high-quality games today. I'm 5-3 picking games in the playoffs, which is nothing special, especially since I was most wrong about games I was most confident about. I'm also 5-3 against the spread, but I think everyone is: In every game so far, the favorite covered the spread, or the underdog won outright. I have no confidence in my ability to logically predict an outcome here, so I will offer a smorgasbord of theories to help guide your predictions and wagers.

Dominant Animal Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Hey there, you might protest. Steelers aren't animals! To that I say, a Steeler is a human being - the most crafty and dangerous animal of all.

Phil Simms Quarterback Grooming Theory: Steelers and Seahawks. This theory is almost the polar opposite of the Beard to Success Ratio Theory. Phil Simms likes a man that's "neater, trimmer, and better-looking", so Jake Plummer's mountain man beard clearly loses out to Ben Roethlisberger's beard, because Big Ben appears to shave his neck. Matt Hasselbeck is less likely to shave before the game, but his baldness gives him the neatness advantage over the wild-haired Jake Delhomme.

Most Niner Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Before the divisional round, I proposed the "Least Niner Theory" as an indicator for playoff success. My reasoning was that having been a 49er was like a reverse pedigree, and that a team that needed to look to San Francisco for players was not a team that inspired confidence. However, the team with the most former 49ers has gone 6-2 so far in the post-season, forcing me to re-examine this theory. Perhaps having experienced the misery and constant losing that go along with being on the 49ers, these players are revitalized by their move to a winning team. That might have been the thinking behind the Broncos' decision to acquire four former Cleveland Browns defensive linemen in the offseason. Someone blogging in Cleveland can figure out the "Most Browns" theory if they really want.

Google Disrespect Theory: Steelers and Panthers. Players and coaches on all four remaining teams will be claiming to be respected inadequately leading up to the game. To find out, who's truly disrespected, you have to go to Google. For the search string "'I don't respect' + [team name]", the clear winners were the Steelers and Panthers, as well as for the search string "[team name] sucks". The Panthers had an overwhelming total for the latter phrase, which I at first attributed to the presence of another sports team called the Panthers. However, even accounting for the college and NHL varieties of Panthers, the Internet still thinks Carolina is three times suckier than Seattle.

Honolulu Coaching Experience Theory: Broncos and Panthers: The Pro Bowl takes place the weekend after the Super Bowl in Honolulu's Aloha Stadium. While most sports assign All-Star Game coaching duties to the coach with the best record, the NFL makes the coach who lost the Championship Game lead his conference's Pro Bowl squad. Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher has led the AFC squad four times (and is undefeated!), which is the third-most coaching appearances ever, behind John Madden and Tom Landry, and tied with Marty Schottenheimer. Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren coached the 1996 NFC team. Denver coach Mike Shanahan has never led a Pro Bowl squad, nor has Carolina coach John Fox.

Dominant Cheerleader Theory: Broncos and Panthers: The Broncos have great cheerleaders, the Steelers have no cheerleaders. Easy call here. I haven't seen the Carolina cheer squad this post-season, but earlier this year, two Top Kat cheerleaders got into an altercation after allegedly having sex in a bathroom stall. Panthers clearly win this one.

Dustin Reed Favorite Band Hometown Theory: Broncos and Seahawks: I can't think of any bands that have come out of Pittsburgh, but I think Dustin likes the Apples in Stereo. The real difficulty comes in deciding between Carolina's Archers of Loaf and Seattle's Nirvana. While Dustin loves the Archers, he never had an Eric Bachmann sticker on his bass, so Seattle wins this one.

"Mike" Theory: Broncos and Seahawks: Denver and Seattle have far more Mikes among their head coaches. If I had evidence that either Holmgren or Shanahan had been named "Wade" at birth, I would pick them with zero hesitation.

Punter's Revenge Theory: Broncos and Panthers: Before the season, Denver traded its punter, Jason Baker, to Carolina, for punter Todd Sauerbrun. If they faced off in the Super Bowl, the stakes would be incredibly high, the reputation of the punters and the team's general managers hinging on every punt return, every touchback. And even though it probably won't happen, I would absolutely love to hear an extended exchange of trash talk on both sides. "What's up, Baker? You want to go, bitch? Snap the ball to me. I'll drop it inside the 20 right now. You can't call a fair catch when Todd Sauerbrun throws down, sucka."

Quarterback Snake-Similarity Theory: Broncos and Panthers: One might argue that Matt Hasselback's lack of hair is serpentine, or that Ben Roethlisberger's penchant for trick plays is deceptive, but Plummer and Delhomme have them trumped. No matter what, if your name is Jake, you are "The Snake".

Hypothetical Quarterback Nicknames From My Sister Molly Theory: Broncos and Panthers. Jake "Liquid" Plummer beats Ben "Mothless Burger" Roethlisberger. Jake "From Casa" Delhomme beats Matt "Portcullis" Hasselbeck (Hasselbeck -> Castle back -> portcullis).

Head Coach Mustache Theory: Steelers and Seahawks: This might be infair to the clean-shaven coaches in Denver and Carolina, but if they have a problem with it, there's a simple and elegant solution: Grow a mustache.



Clearly, the smart money should be on the Broncos and Panthers today. As for myself, I am going to test out the "Twelve Chips will Fit In my Mouth At Once" hypothesis and the "Jim Nantz Double Entendre Corollary" to the "Phil Simms Homoeroticism Theory".

(Read Part 1)

Brainy: La LA la la la la

Hefty: LA la la la la

Vanity: La LA la la la la

Dyslexy: ALL all all all all

(Extended silence)

Brainy: Dyslexy, it might not be working out with you in the a capella group.

tobey keith and confused germans

A few months ago, the upstairs neighbors needed a new roommate. They ended up getting a temporary German, who was going to stay for two months. Before he moved in, we got into a discussion about the great opportunity this presented us, in terms of potential for cultural disinformation and general harassment. Our intent was not malicious, at least, not completely.. We didn't want to deceive the new German as much as we were intrigued by the potential to spread false and bizarre American culture back to Germany itself. If we could convince the new German that certain sayings or practices were standard American fare, or at least done by cool people, he might pass it on to his freundes back home.

Of course, Germans are already cognizant of American culture. When Gene lived in Munich, the hot import beer was Miller Genuine Draft. Neighbor Britney warned us that Germans knew enough about America to be familiar with the short-lived WB series Wonderfalls (which Paul thought was a TLC song), and also cautioned, "He's German, not retarded."

That didn't stop us from making plans, though we knew from the start that we'd never have the discipline to keep the charade going long enough. We thought about using "buttfucks" as a proxy for bupkis, our hope being that the similarity in sound might the German feel that "buttfucks" was acceptable slang: "Hans, that guy didn't know buttfucks about how to set up a wireless network." The phrase was, "burn some hot rubber" would mean, put a record on the LP player

I thought the neighbors should insist on playing Axis and Allies, as often as three or four times each week. The new German would always have to play as Germany, though it might be presented as everyone else relenting and letting him play as his native country, every single time. "RISK? No, I think we'll try another round of Axis and Allies." Everyone would act all nice about it on the surface, but audibly take pleasure in thwarting Germany in the game, to the point of making taunting gestures or muttering curse words, preferably in German or Yiddish.

The new slang phrase we really liked was also going to to be the one hardest to say with a straight face. If we were talking about a song, or movie we liked, we'd say, "That gives me a boner." Now, it wouldn't be used in a sexual way; just to add emphasis or clarification. "I love that new Wolf Parade album. It really gives me a boner." Or, "Good Night and Good Luck was good, I guess, but it just didn't give me a boner." I think that would be way funnier if the guy saying it were wearing lederhosen.

We never instituted any of this, lazy drunks that we were, and I had basically forgotten all about it until I was looking over Tobey Keith lyrics online (don't ask). On his "Shock n' Y'all" album, Tobey Keith has a tune entitled "The Taliban Song". Here is a representative verse:

Now, I ain't seen my wife's face since they came here
They make her wear a scarf over her head that covers her from ear to ear
She loves the desert and the hot white sand
But man she's just like me, naw she can't stand the Taliban

The chorus ends with the camel-herdin' Middle Eastern man riding away from the oppressive land of Afghanistan. They leave, but not before they "bid a fair adieu and flip the finger to the Taliban", a triumphant chorus that repeats a few times. The last time, however, the climactic line is altered slightly, and Keith sings, "We'll bid a fair adieu and give a big boner to the Taliban."

I could not understand what the hell this means. Is it just a side effect of friction, from riding on the back of the camel? But, no, I think maybe this is a sign that Tobey has spent some time in Germany. There's nothing sexual; it's just that leaving the oppressive fundamentalist regime, is so good, it really gives that camel-herdin' man a boner.

the adventures of Kid Press Corps!

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Jimmy McCarthy was an ordinary ten-year-old boy, until the day his class took a field trip to the printing press. It was there that a radioactive printer exploded, giving Jimmy the proportional journalism talent of a spider. With his newfound abilities, he became Kid Press Corps! Kid Press Corps was hired by an independent newspaper and moved to Washington D.C., to fight for the rights of kids everywhere.

Episode 1: Homework

Scott McLellan: I can take two more. Kid Press Corps?

Kid Press Corps: Scott, Jean-Jacques Rosseau once said, "You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again." And yet, millions of American children go home each night with hours of reading assignments, worksheets, and essays - no time to skip or play. My question is, when is this administration going to address the issue of homework?

Scott McLellan: Go ahead, next question.


Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
Point Spread: Chicago -3

My former roommate Gabe has been driving the Bears bandwagon since the beginning of the season. While Paul and I speculated about Andy Lee's shot at the Pro Bowl, and whether the 49ers would get the first pick in the draft again, Gabe was focusing on the Bears.

"Seven wins might be enough to take the NFC North this year. You never know. After all, they get to play the Lions twice. And the Niners, at home."

While guarded, his optimism proved to be correct, as the Bears won 11 games and earned the second seed in the NFC. It's Chicago's first trip to the playoffs since 2001, when they went 13-3, got the second seed in the playoffs, and lost in their first game. Like the 2001 team, the Bears are a defensive team that likes to run the ball. In their regular-season game against Carolina, the Bears won 13-3.

Carolina is back in the playoffs after one year away. They beat the crap out of the Giants last week for their third consecutive road playoff win, which is impressive. The Panthers also have a good defense, especially the defensive backs, and they have a great wide receiver named Steve Smith. I'm fond of Steve Smith, not just because he's my height, but because he had the best touchdown celebration of the year. Vikings cornerback and sex boat multi-tasker Fred Smoot talked trash to Smith before the game, and Smith responded by catching 11 passes for 201 yards, and, most insultingly, pretending to row a boat in the end zone after his TD. Ooh, that's a burn, Fred Smoot!

I think the Bears will take it, 17-13. Bill Swerski predicted Bears 158, Carolina -24.


This is my first exposure to FOX announcer Joe Buck since the World Series. One benefit of the 49ers sucking for these past two years is that the top FOX team never does their games, and I never have to hear Joe Buck. Sure, Curt Menefee isn't the best announcer, and he sometimes messes up players' names, and what down it is, and the pronunciation of basic English words, but at least he's not Joe Buck.

During his pre-game spiel, Buck isn't wearing his glasses. Has he had LASIK surgery? Maybe Joe only has to be fake-smart for baseball telecasts. Joe establishes his theme for the game: Bears quarterback Rex Grossman is quite inexperienced. Buck and analyst Troy Aikman are both wearing extremely shiny suits.

"Least Niners" Theory update: So far, the teams with the most former 49ers are actually 2-1. One could argue that, though the Colts had just one former Niner, kicker Jose Cortez, the incredible crappiness of said former Niner might outweigh Pittsburgh's raw ex-Niner advantage, but it seems that "least Niners" is not a reliable handicapping indicator. This game should put the theory to the ultimate test, as Carolina has three ex-Niners, and Chicago has none.

FOX has two sideline reporters working the game, Pam Oliver and Chris Myers. I guess they're expecting a lot of sideline news. Sicne the game is on FOX, you can be assured there won't be any of that liberal sideline bias you get on so many mainstream sports telecasts. Only fair and balanced injury updates for us today.

DISCLAIMER: I watched the game via Tivo. In a chat with my dad about an hour after the game's actual start time, he let slip that at some point, Carolina leads 16-7, and that it's "not a bad game".

Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts, 1/15/06
Point Spread: Indianapolis -9.5

Pittsburgh was 11-5 this year, Indy was 14-2. Pittsburgh lost 26-7 in their game in Indianapolis this year. I didn't write a preview for this game, simply because I had nothing interesting to say, and I'm picking the favorite. I think the Colts are going to win the Super Bowl, especially now that New England has lost. I actually thought Denver was a little better than New England, but I thought the Pats had a better chance to beat the Colts. Peyton Manning has a reputation as a choker, and his lifetime record is 3-5. However, he's 3-2 in the last two years, and 3-0 against teams that aren't the New England Patriots.

This also might be Jerome Bettis's last game, since he has strongly hinted that he will be retiring after the season.

In other pre-game news, Steelers linebacker Joey Porter complained that the Colts "don't want to play smashmouth football, they want to trick you. Not trick you like that, but they want to go in the hurry-up offense and try to catch you in something. They don't want to just call the play, get up there and run it. They want to make you think. They want to make it a thinking game instead of a football game." He also stated that the Steelers have a simple game plan: they run the ball, and they play good defense. Sometimes they do play-action.

Colts cornerback Nick Harper got stabbed in the knee by his wife. A few months ago, Harper got arrested for punching his wife in the face, so I'm thinking he may have deserved it. Luckily, cornerback isn't one of those positions where running and changing direction quickly is important.


CBS has the team of Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf announcing the game today, with Big Armen Keteyian working the sidelines. Our introduction montage features the song, "Time Has Come Today" and a Dick Enberg monologue about the nature of time. Montage themes:

Colts Coach Tony Dungy used to play for the Steelers.
Jerome Bettis might be concerned with the passage of time.
Time inexorably determines the outcome.
Tony Dungy's son died (this theme presented more subtly).

Dan Dierdorf continues the weekend's crowd noise theme by commenting the noise in the RCA Dome is "blowing us off our chairs". There is absolutely no way that Seattle's stadium is louder than this place, as FOX claimed yesterday.

Dierdorf on Manning: "How do you say this guy had a bad year? Well, he threw fewer touchdown passes. Not." Clearly, Dierdorf remains on the cutting edge of contemporary slang and youth culture.

Dierdorf also believes that a running quarterback would help Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure if he's referring to Ben Roethlisberger or if he thinks they should bring in Charlie Batch. (Roethlisberger will be referred to as "Big Ben" from here on out, for typing-related reasons.) Phil Simms would find Big Ben's neatly trimmed beard far more acceptable than that of Jake Plummer.

UPS Reliable Game Points:

Indianapolis: "Back in the Saddle?"
This Game Point refers to worries about Indy's time off, and whether that will result in rustiness. I am more concerned with the mixed mascot metaphor. Indy is the Colts, yet they're getting back in the saddle, in order to ride...themselves.

Pittsburgh: "Play It Again, Ben"
Dierdorf explains that this Game Point is about Big Ben taking revenge on the Colts for the earlier loss. It's a revenge game. You know, just like Casablanca. Technically, the Game Point should be, "Play it, Big Ben. Play 'As Time Goes By'."

Big Armen checks in, looking good on the sidelines. He says that Indy's crowd noise caused five false starts in the previous matchup with Pittsburgh. It seems that we are again going to be celebrating the heroism of yelling at the top of your lungs for no reason. Also, both networks are going with the assumption that the sole cause of false starts is crowd noise, rather than defensive pressure, or, say, your spastic quarterback changing plays at the line of scrimmage all day long.

New England Patriots at Denver Broncos, 1/14/06
Point Spread: Denver -3


My recording kicks in with the CBS pre-game show. Dan Marino is disrespecting Tommy Brady in a pre-game interview with questions like, "Are the Patriots the greatest dynasty in NFL history?" Marino learns that Tommy has become more vocal with his teammates this season. Why? He "has the respect of the guys." As does his butt-like chin.

We go to Invesco Field in Denver. Our first fan sign of the game says, "Cooking Brady Soup: We Want a SUPER BOWL Of It". OK, so the sign spells out the name of the network, awkwardly, in three of its ten words, so congratulations for that. That sign is weird, not very catchy, and frankly a little bit gross. Are the Bronco fans going to resort to cannibalism to end the New England dynasty? The sign is being held up by at least four people, because the slogan is just that good.

Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are announcing the game today. Last week, Simms got embarrassed when Nantz called him out for saying "Cincinna-tuh", and then Nantz felt bad and talked at length about how much he enjoys hearing Phil's Kentucky drawl. Then the two of them started making out.

Simms is very excited to be at the game. He says he's excited, mentions how much excitement there is in the stadium, and says he's excited again. It apepars he's also wearing a pink shirt.

Some company sponsors the pre-game Points (I forgot to write it down, and they don't pay me) which are entirely free of content. The Points are "Confident, Almost Cocky" and "Assert Your Will". To make them even more meaningless, Simms says the Points apply to both teams equally.

Simm's analysis:

New England's offense: They can handle the blitz
Denver's defense: Blitz!

So, make whatever you want out of that one.

Denver's offense: Wear the Patriots down with running back Mike Anderson.
New England's defense: "It's all about the linebackers"

I feel smarter already. By the way, Phil Simms attended Morehead State University. He was also in Tau Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity whose Berkeley chapter is producing Stand Up For Stand-Up.

Denver's punter, Todd Sauerbrun, kicks off. Sauerbrun was allegedly a steroid user while he played for Carolina, and some speculated that his move to high-altitude Denver (and the steroids) might lead to some punting records. He might have set some, but since he's a punter, no one cares.

The Broncos line up for an eight-man blitz, which causes a New England false start. Or the crowd noise does. Safety John Lynch breaks through the line and disrespects Tommy with a celebratory fist pump. Tommy responds with a series of mocking fist pumps of his own. It's pretty funny.

In both games today, TV cameras have caught foamhead wearers among the home crowds. The Broncos foamhead is even more glorious on television, like a might foam steed ready to burst from the fan's head.

The Patriots seem to be hassling the referees quite a bit today. I haven't seen them very much this year, but it seems uncharacteristic from what I remember.

One thing the Patriots seem to excel at is beating blitzes by throwing screens. They killed Philly with them in last year's Super Bowl, and early on, they've done it to Denver as well. Denver is sending a lot of rushers at Brady on a consistent basis.

First bold coaching move of the game: New England goes for it on 4th-and-1 at the Denver 36. They don't get it, but I really like this decision. It's a difficult field goal, and a punt doesn't get you much in the way of field position. Most coaches aren't secure enough to do it, especially in the first quarter.

Ten minutes into the game, Jake Plummer still hasn't thrown an interception.

Plummer runs for seven yards and a first down. It was fast. Fast like a snake. Two seconds later, Simms says, "You see why he's called 'Jake the Snake'." I want to hear more variations. Plummer's run betrayed the defense again. He's poisoned that blitz with a venomous quick-read. Plummer takes a serpentine route through the defensive line.

Tommy Brady hits linebacker Al Wilson in the chest with a pass at his own five-yard line, but Wilson shows the proper respect by dropping the ball. On the next play, Tommy nearly tricks the Broncos, who are disrespectfully pointing at an apparent false start, but his receiver runs the wrong route and New England has to punt.

The first quarter ends in a scoreless tie.

Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks, 1/14/04
Point Spread: Seattle -9.5


We begin with sideline reporter Tony "The Goose" Siragusa welcoming us to Seattle's Qwest Field. He's standing and delivering a monologue about rain and crowd noise. According to The Goose, crowd noise is something that Seahawk fans "take a lot of proud in". By the way, Spike Lee cast The Goose in 25th Hour and made him do a Russian accent.

The crowd considers themselves the "12th Man" on the field, and they even have a 12th Man flag that they raise. Today, injured safety Ken Hamlin is raising that flag. Hamlin was nearly killed in a fight outside a nightclub back in October, when his assailants hit him over the head multiple times with a street sign. You know, that is a side of Seattle that Mudhoney and Pearl Jam really never captured.

Since FOX is already setting up crowd noise as their dominant pre-game theme, I have to say that I really hate crowd noise, at least, when it's crowd noise for the sake of crowd noise. I'm sure that there is a negative effect on the opposing team and their ability to communicate effectively, and I'm all for loud cheering in crucial situations, but what they seem to be talking about here is making noise simply for the sake of making noise. Not even yelling words, or singing songs, like soccer fans. Yelling, ringing bells, raw wordless animal shrieks, for nearly three hours.

The "Noise-o-meter" says 102 decibels, while FOX's graphic lists other loud noises, ranging from 110 to 140 decibels. Either the producers expected the fans to be louder, or they're trying to say, "At least there aren't actual jet engines in the stands, which would present quite a challenge for the Redskins."

Seattle has an excellent offense and a pretty good defense. Washington has a great defense and a mediocre offense. Also, about a third of Washington's players are somewhat injured.

First Quarter

Seattle gets the ball first, and on their third play, they go after injured Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs. A completion to WR Darrell Jackson goes for 37 yards. Announcers Dick Stockton and Darryl Johnston are talking about how the Seahakws clinched home-field advantage with a few games remaining, and how they have not been playing "meaningful games" for a month. Meanwhile, Washington has had to each of its last six games just to keep their season alive. I would still take "meaningful rest".

Interestingly, Johnston's nickname is "Moose". I don't think Dick Stockton has any nicknames, but definitely not any that end in "-oose".

Fumble! MVP Shawn Alexander fumbles the ball at the ten-yard line, without being touched by a defender. Because of the NFL's free agency rules, Alexander is probably going to leave Seattle after the season. There are an unusual number of running backs who might be playing their final games with their current teams this weekend: Edgerrin James in Indianapolis, DeShaun Foster in Carolina, Corey Dillon in New England, and Jerome Bettis in Pittsburgh. Maybe this means teams don't think running backs are all that important. Of course, last year running backs were three of the top five picks in the draft, and this year a running back will also be chosen first, so what do I know?

FOX turns overused cliche into concrete graphic with their look at some Redskins offensive players, under the headline, "Who is going to step up?" This is the same broadcast team that often identifies their "Huh?!" play of the game. I'm guessing that Santana Moss will have to step up, both because he's Washington's only good receiver and because he's like my height.

The Redskins are forced to punt, and the fumble ends up costing Seattle 53 yards. Perhaps Washington is already playing a field-position game.

McDonald's has chosen to stop trying to be funny in commercials. This one features a guy with red hair, dressed like Ronald McDonald, who sits down on a bench next to a Ronald McDonald statue. That's the whole ad. It reminds me of the year my sisters made a birthday card for Docta V that had a drawing of R-McD on the front, with a caption that just said, "You."

We return and The Goose, already desperate for something to do, is dunking a football in a bucket of cold water, to show how the Redskins prepared for the inclement weather. The announcers resist joking about Mark Brunell and his struggles with wet balls, but I do not.

nfl playoff preview, 1/14/06


Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks


The tough Washington defense faces off with NFL MVP Shaun Alexander in a...you know what, there's just no way Washington is winning. Seattle is the top seed in the NFC, Washington is the lowest seed. Seattle won 13 games this year, Washington won 10. Seattle has rested its starters for weeks, and had no game last weekend. Washington has had to win each of its games for the last six weeks. Seattle is playing at home, Washington had to fly cross-country for this game.

Nevertheless, I will be rooting irrationally for Washington today. For unknown reasons, the Redskins became my second-favorite football team, behind the 49ers, when I was pretty little. I have a feeling that one of my dad's friends tried to subtly brainwash me, probably Kevin O'Brien. Kevin was the one who got me and my sister t-shirts featuring "The Fun Bunch", and he also instilled with me the superstitious belief that one's sitting postion while watching a football game has a profound effect on the outcome of that football game.

So, though I have no real stake in today's game, and prefer Seattle's city, football philosophy, and their non-racist nickname and mascot, I'll still be pulling for the Redskins. And they are totally gonna lose, though their foamhead remains superior.

New England at Denver

Denver is really good, and so is New England. I think Denver will win, because they're at home, and it's a higher altitude, and they have a good pass defense, but there is no way I would wager on this game. I despise the Patriots, or more accurately, I despise Patriots fans. As such, my hatred for the team makes the game nearly unwatchable due to anxiety, and risking money would only compound the error. Damn you, Bill Belichick!

Tom Brady, the New England quarterback, ridiculously said that the Patriots "have been probably disrespected more than any team in the league this year", which was before a game in which his team was favored by more than a touchdown over a 12-4 opponent. It was also about a week after he won the Sportsman of the Year award. Nonetheless, I feel that Tom Brady has been disrespected in the past few weeks, specifically in the Keane house.

My dad's cousin's wife plays tennis with Brady's mother. Since she has done so for years, she remembers Brady as a kid, and as such calls him "Tommy Brady". Since we heard this, my entire family exclusively calls him "Tommy". "Think Tommy and the Pats are gonna win this week?" "Hope Tommy doesn't throw an interception." "Aw, Tommy feels disrespected."

It also makes me wonder why adult male quarterbacks still go by "Joey", "Bobby", or "Tommy" and still expect to command respect. There's a reason why there are a disproportionate number of "Drews" playing quarterback - they're avoiding the potential stigma of "Andy".

I'm going to predict a Broncos victory, mainly due to their foamhead superiority.





Clumsy: Um, Smurfette, could I talk to you?

Smurfette: Sure, Clumsy.

Clumsy: Your white dress look really pretty today.

Smurfette: Thank you, Clumsy.

Clumsy: I'm not good at this, but - Smurfette, we've been spending a lot of time together recently. Singing, getting captured by Gargamel, escaping from Gargamel, more singing. And I'm starting to realize that - I think I smurf you.

Smurfette: Clumsy, I smurf you, too - but I don't smurf smurf you. I smurf you as a friend.

how to pick up girls

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I went to see my friend Marc and his new band A'tris perform at Blake's on Wednesday night. I showed up a little early, and spotted two friends sitting in the restaurant section of Blake's, so I sat at a neighboring table. I normally don't like sitting at a table when I have no intention of ordering food or drink, but it was nearly nine o'clock on a Wednesday night, and my friends were sitting at one of only three occupied tables.

I sat for a while, talking to Abbie about life, love, and Pittsburgh. I have no concept of Pittsburgh, beyond whatever I gleaned from reading Wonder Boys, which might not even be set in Pittsburgh proper, now that I think about it. There's the Three Rivers, which Abbie informs me are not all that impressive, though there are three. I know it's in the Rust Belt, but I have even less of a concept of the "Rust Belt". Narrower than the Bible Belt, but twice as flashy. And ten times as rusty. Surely there's more than steel mills, but what?

It's a five-hour drive from Philly, Pittsburgh is. They're as far apart as San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the difference being you might visit Los Angeles for fun, whereas you'd probably only go to Philly on a dare, or as some sort of punishment. Or "medical school", if you like cheese steaks, disappointing postseason performances from local sports teams, or the nation of Belgium. I imagine there are also a lot of Guidos there.

That was a tangent. So the restaurant, she was empty. A clear sign of this came when our other friend arrived, with an accordion strapped to his back. An man with an accordion might well be the canary in the coal mine that is restaurant occupancy. If a man can freely walk in with such a bulky, unwieldy, and downright obnoxious instrument on his back, and nary a patron bats nary an eye, then the restaurant is empty. And worse, potentially the site of an impromptu accordion jamboree.

Also, accordions are extremely sensitive to carbon monoxide.

Nonetheless, during our chat, I heard a man's voice behind me, speaking to the three girls seated at the table near the door. I couldn't see the man's face, or that of his partner, but I'm glad I could not, for the awkwardness was bad enough as it was. The man said, "Hi. This place is pretty crowded, so..."

At that point he paused, possibly because he realized the absurdity of what he had just said. Or he saw the accordion, and was momentarily terrified. One girl began to say, "What?", and though I was secretly hoping she'd say something about how she didn't accept the premise of his question, he charged forward before she could continue.

"So, we were wondering if you minded if we sat down here?"

Another painful pause ensued, as I stared down at my lap, hoping this would end soon. One girl said, "Yes".

But that was not the end. Because he had asked such an awkward question, he had to get clarification.

"Do you mean, yes, you mind, or, um, yes, we can sit here?"

It was unbearably awkward. If this scene were in a movie, the score would have to be composed on accordion. I half-shouted a question about Flashdance, proximity to the Erie Canal, Wonder Boys, I don't even remember exactly, just so I didn't overhear any more.

Not long after this, we headed downstairs to the show. I caught just a brief glimpse of the tableau. They sat around the table:
Girl, Boy, Boy, Girl Girl

And their moods were:
Embarrassed, Stoic, Embarrassed/Weepy, Enraged, Embarrased/Leaving, respectively.

The lesson, as always, is, Berkeley is full of nerds.

stand up for stand-up, 1/25/06


The Sean Keane stand-up comedy rocket ship to stardom takes a detour into the East Bay this month, at Stand Up for Stand-Up. This event takes place on Wednesday, January 25th, in 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building, at 8 PM. Is that just a clever name for a nightclub, you might ask? After all, I do perform at a place called 50 Mason. But no, in this case, 2050 VLSB is a lecture hall on the UC Berkeley campus, albeit a modern and spacious one. Admission is free.

So, if you've been hesitate to cross the bridge into the city to see the comedic stylings of Sean Keane, or if you live in San Francisco and are eager to cross a bridge to see the comedic stylings of Sean Keane, or if you like getting stand-up comedy for free, this might just be the show for you. I'm working on some new material about the Facebook, and how much finals suck, and, of course, ways to tell whether or not you are a redneck/Stanford student. "If you've ever lost a tooth opening a thousand dollar bottle of champagne, you just might be a redneck Stanford student." Trust me, it's gonna be awesome.

Official announcement after the jump:

the importance of articles


Articles are important. Consider the images evoked by each of the following sentences.

1. My boyfriend is in a band.


2. My boyfriend is in band.


3. My boyfriend is in The Band.


Word choice matters. Articles matter.

When he was still at UNLV, Larry Johnson was one of the most dominant college basketball players in history. My dad still uses him as a reference point for college centers and power forwards he considers potential superstars, having compared both Elton Brand and Emeka Okafor to the college version of LJ in the past. Unfortunately, Johnson was never really the same after he hurt his back during his third year in the league. Even though he made a few All-Star teams, and had an extremely popular shoe commercial where he dressed up as his own grandmother, LJ didn't live up to expectations.

Eventually he ended up on the New York Knicks. Before the 98-99 season, he re-invented himself and his game. He converted to Islam. He became a vegetarian. Lacking the leaping ability and strength that he had before, LJ developed a perimeter game. He took far more three-point shots - and made more of them - than ever before. Perhaps most importantly, he started throwing up The Big L.

Right fist clenched, elbow bent, pointing at the roof. Left arm perpendicular, left fist pointing at his right elbow. It formed a great big L. L for Larry. Larry Johnson would run to the other end of the court holding the Big L high, infuriating the other team and probably some of his own fans, and then he'd set himself for some half-assed defense.


I'm not sure it occurred to Larry that making an "L" with your fingers usually signifies "Loser". But maybe it's different when you use both arms, I dunno.

The Big L gained its greatest fame during the 1999 NBA Playoffs, when LJ was fouled while attempting a three-pointer against the Indiana Pacers, and ended up converting a game-winning four-point play. Of course, between the successful shot and the subsequent free throw, LJ threw up The Big L, and that became the lasting image of the game.

The post-game interview was classic:

LJ: Praise Allah.
Reporter: So, Larry, were you just in the zone?
LJ: No, no. No zone. Allah Akbar.
Reporter: Um, that's a prayer...

Eventually, the Knicks went all the way to the Finals, where LJ made headlines for refusing to talk to the media, then cursing about his unwillingness to talk to the media, then finally talking to the media and calling the Knicks a band of "rebellious slaves", then getting criticized by Bill Walton, then telling Walton he should "check his history and see how many slaves his ancestors had." Tremendous stuff. Incidentally, the Knicks lost in five games to the Spurs, and LJ shot 2-18 on three-pointers.

My favorite response to The Big L came later in the Pacers series, and may or may not have been a shot at Larry Johnson's Muslim faith. One of the Pacers' guards (I think it was Travis Best) sunk a three-pointer, and then made a very LJ-like arm gesture as he ran down the court. When asked after the game, the player stated that he had thrown up "The Big J". Which stood for Jesus, of course.

chad johnson, hero

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Chad Johnson and the Cincinnati Bengals square off this afternoon against the Steelers of Pittsburgh, in what is probably the most fascinating of the weekend's wild-card playoff matchups. Now, I could have easily said, "Coach Marvin Lewis and the Cincinnati Bengals" or "Quarterback Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals", but I feel like Chad Johnson is the real standard-bearer for this Bengals team. This is their first appearance in the playoffs since 1990, and while Palmer, Rudi Johnson, interception machine Deltha O'Neal and rookie of the year Odell Thurman are big parts of the team's success, Chad Johnson is the proverbial straw that stirs the literal drink that is Bengals football.

Mr. Johnson is an excellent receiver, but where he has truly excelled is in elevating the theatrical, performative side of professional football-playing. Johnson makes lists of opposing cornerbacks, and decides who has and has not covered him adequately. He will occasionally guarantee a victory against a noteworthy opponent, which is at its core a wholly meaningless gesture, yet there's bravado to it. In 2003 he did this against the unbeaten Chiefs, and then he backed it up with a win. He has concluded that stopping Chad Johnson is impossible, saying, "If I had to stop myself, I probably wouldn't be able to do it, either."

Wide receiver is a unique position in the NFL, because it is completely at the mercy of other players in order to make an impact. Even if a receiver runs perfect routes and consistently beats his defender, his success is predicated on the coach calling his number on a play, the offensive line delaying the pass rush so he has time to break free, the quarterback spotting him and delivering the ball. And yet, when a wide receiver is truly on his game, there is really no more devastating weapon, as any 49ers fan weaned on the exploits of Jerry Rice can attest. Such is the paradox and tenuousness of the NFL wide receiver. It may be why wide receivers often seem so volatile: the conflict between their potential impact on a game and their accompanying lack of control over same.

For some reason, Chad Johnson is in some circles a polarizing, controversial player. Observers will lump him in with Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, the former who criticizes every quarterback, coach, and team he plays for, and the latter who is rightly known for giving minimal effort when a play does not concern him directly. Chad Johnson is quite serious, supports his teammates, and works hard, to the point of sleeping at the team's practice facility so he can watch game film longer. So why is he considered a cancer by some?

It's the same reason that he should be celebrated. Chad Johnson has taken touchdown celebrations to a new pinnacle this season. Many touchdown celebrations seem self-glorifying, but Chad Johnson tailors his for geographic regions. He includes props and cinematic allusions. The difference between his stuff and that of Terrell Owens is that Johnson doesn't seem to be mugging for attention, or showing up the opponents, like Owens. Instead, his routines are basically just goofy, with their sole purpose being to entertain the fans, home or away. He clearly loves playing football and he's a happy guy.

And unlike Owens, Chad Johnson is legitimately funny. Against the Chicago Bears this year, Johnson scored and did an Irish jig in the end zone, which was either a reference to Bruce Willis's similar dance in The Last Boy Scout or a subtle dig at Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who recently fathered a child with a woman who had previously sued Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley. He threw autographed gifts to the crowd in a game against Buffalo. Against Baltimore, he picked up the end zone pylon and putted the football like Tiger Woods. He proposed marriage to a cheerleader. He even claimed to be keeping a deer in his garage at home, to be used in a touchdown celebration later, and reporters dutifully reported it as fact.

So, Chad Johnson is really good, and he makes the game more entertaining. If the Bengals pull off the victory today, Zembla will feature its own victory celebration, with a look at some other notable sports displays in past years.

[NOTE: A few hours before the game, Johnson spent time with tailgaters in the parking lot, thanking them for their support. Even though the Bengals fell short today, dude, the starting QB tore his ACL on the first pass of the game. Hard to come back from that. Chad Johnson still played like a winner today.]

ain't no excursion on this fare


A few months ago, there was a fake BART station outside the N-Judah stop, near my old house. It seemed to show up overnight, sitting on a stretch of grass in Duboce Park, alongside the MUNI tracks. The fake station looked a little bit like Embarcadero, if you looked at it from Justin Herman Plaza.


(Photo courtesy of David Dewar and The N-Judah Chronicles.)

At first I thought it might be an elaborate plot to create confusion among European tourists ("Das ist BART, ja,?"), or a stunt by Duboce Triangle small business owners to divert people on their way to the Lower Haight, but soon I learned the truth. It was a set built for a Will Smith movie.

Immediately I began to imagine all the wonderful possibilities. I figured it had to be an action movie, probably one where Will Smith was a smooth, wise-cracking cop who played by his own rules. It would be called Rapid Transit, or maybe Trans Bay, or even Smelly Train. There'd be a rap single released two weeks before the film. The song would have the same title as the movie, and the beat would be chosen at random from the Pure Funk compilation. "Smelly Train" would go to #1 on the charts, even though Will Smith doesn't use no cuss words, or no profanity.

This set was probably built for the scene where he chases the alien/robot/terrorist into the station, and then right before he punches him/it/him, Will Smith could say, "Insufficient fare!" Or, "Ain't no excursion for this fare!" Or, "Approaching…Ass Whup in Five…Seconds." Or, he and the rest of the transit cops could chase down an innocent Brazilian guy and shoot him in the head five times, and then Will could ask to see his ticket.

I think it would be nice if Will could find a part for his old friends. Like, DJ Jazzy Jeff as the train driver, or Carlton as a commuter who watches Will subdue the alien/robot/terrorist, and then says, "Damn!" Kevin James could be the sweet, painfully-Caucasian station agent that Will has to convince to let him skip "Add Fare". And then they do a dance together!

Then I remembered that movie shot where I live have a terrible track record. They shot a few films on campus while I was at Berkeley. Patch Adams featured a crappy, beardless Robin Williams in a somewhat-serious story. If it's supposed to be a meaningful film, then you just can't let Robin Williams shave. Boys and Girls located Berkeley across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and…that's all I know. No one saw that movie. Though I wasn't there yet, Junior was also shot on campus, even though the movie was set at Stanford, and I got questions about it when I gave campus tours. The reason they used Berkeley's campus instead of the actual Stanford was so moviegoers didn't ask each other, "Why are they doing important experiments on fertility at an enormous Taco Bell?" And while The Matrix wasn't filmed nearby, both sequels were.

The Will Smith movie is going to be just as lame. It's called The Pursuit of Happyness, and it's a heart-warming rags-to-riches tale about a guy who lived in a BART station, with his young son, while he studied to become a stockbroker. And Will Smith's son is played by Will Smith's son! Maybe he can do a verse on the single. In doing research for this post, I read the release date had been pushed back to next December, for "Oscar-related purposes", which if anything makes me want to see the movie less. Someone else compared it to Radio, which seems like a real slap in Will Smith's face. However, I wouldn't mind hearing Will Smith rhyme about being a retarded mascot for a high school football team in the South, backed by the P-Funk's "Flashlight".

More photos

I can only dream he was really chasing an alien here

the safeway magazine rack

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Observations from the magazine rack at Safeway's checkout line:

Us Weekly had a box on its cover featuring a picture of Lindsay Lohan in a bikini. The article within promises to reveal the diet secrets of Jennifer Lopez and Ms. Lohan:


Directly below Us Weekly, Lindsay Lohan was the sole cover subject of Vanity Fair. Their story dealt with her confessions of drug use and her struggle with bulimia.

Gene checked Us Weekly, but their Lindsay Lohan diet tips didn't mention vomiting or cocaine.

Also, People has a feature about the 20-year anniversary of their "Sexiest Man Alive" feature. Matthew McConaughey is the reigning hottest man alive, until he is dethroned and/or killed. For some reason, it seems completely appropriate that the Formerly Sexy Man picked to write the issue's introduction is none other than Patrick Swayze. I don't have a joke here; he just seems perfect. The albino woman from Gummo would agree.

A quick glance at the All-Time Sexiest Men Archive reveals that Nick Nolte is easily the Least Sexy Man ever chosen. John F. Kennedy, Junior is the only Former Sexy Man who is no longer Alive. Denzel Washington is the only Black Sexiest Man, though there have been a Scottish Sexiest Man, Irish Sexiest Man, and British Sexiest Man Alive in this same time period.

Other winners:

Sexiest Man in the Cast of Alive: Vincent Spano
Sexiest Man Dead: Steve McQueen
Sexiest Mann Alive: Leslie
Liveliest Man Sex: Brokeback Mountain

whoa nellie

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Last night, the Rose Bowl may have marked the last broadcast of college football legend Keith Jackson. Keith is 77 now, and he's been around forever, though some might reasonably argue that he's slipping a bit these days. I'm a big fan, partially because of his folksy demeanor - it's kind of like if you had a sleep-deprived Dan Rather narrating football action, complete with references to animals and family farms. For example, Jackson has said that, while he may not retire right away, by 2011 he "will have become the shop steward for the International Porch Setters Union." He also once said, "That's meaner than a Georgia Bulldog looking at a yard full of kitties."

It's a poetic way of speaking that I'd call antiquated, only I don't think anyone spoke like this in the past, either. Just Keith Jackson. Keith avoids possessives - he doesn't say "USC Trojans", he says, "the Trojans of Southern California". He is definitely the only sports announcer who opts for "times out" as the plural form of "timeout".

The thing I like best about Keith is his total disregard for all of the other stuff that isn't describing the game. The trend in sports broadcasting, particularly on the rapidly ESPNizing ABC Sports telecasts, is all about entertainment and synergy. Everybody is on message, enthusiastically hyping the network's other shows during their own broadcast. Keith Jackson just doesn't give a damn, and he's too popular for there to be any consequences for this.

Last night, he had to read a promo for the new, horribly-titled show, "Emily's Reasons Why Not". Keith got about halfway through the scripted pitch, seemed to get thrown by the weird title, and just sort of trailed off and said, "Yeah, I don't know." Producers were throwing down their headsets in disgust, and Keith just shrugged. He's not watching that show.

My favorite example of this came maybe fifteen years ago, during some nondescript Pac-10 telecast. Keith's partner, Bob Griese, was reading a promo for a TV movie called "Dillinger", airing that evening on ABC. ABC had been running ads for the movie during just about every commercial break. Griese went through the whole pitch: the exciting story of legendary gangster John Dillinger, starring Mark Harmon and Sherilyn Fenn, TV movie event of the fall, don't miss it, tonight, very exciting, only on ABC, check it out. After Griese finished, there was a short lull, and Keith said, "Mark Harmon? As John Dillinger? I don't know if I buy that...", thus undercutting the entire promotion.

I bet those ABC executives were madder than a Michigan wolverine tangled up with a porcupine. And Keith didn't even notice, and went right on calling the game.

muni journal, 1/5/06

On the inbound M train this morning, the man sitting across from me laughed out loud. If you audibly laugh on MUNI, and you are not in conversation with another rider, this usually means that you are crazy. However, it appeared that he was simply struck by an especially funny passage in his book.

This intrigued me. What was he reading, I wondered. The book was on his lap, so I couldn't see the title. I glanced surreptitiously around my own book and waited. When he finally got up, the mystery was revealed: Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, by funnyman Jimmy Carter.


It's a quarter to eleven on New Year's Eve. We're playing a horribly ill-advised game of Trivial Pursuit. Nothing can kill a party faster than playing Trivial Pursuit, except for playing Tetris. Our game is worse, because it's not being played as a drinking game, and because the cards are from 1981.

There are a lot of questions about "Mork and Mindy" and President Ford, plus references to ABSCAM, the genius of supply-side economics, and the "wild Hottentots of Rhodesia". Finally, my moment of glory arrives. I am asked an Art & Literature question about where one might find the O'Connell Street of literary fame. For the first time in my life, I find myself wearing the correct answer on my clothing.

"Dublin", I say, popping my zip-up sweatshirt in triumph. I am fully zipped up, so there is no gap between "Dub" and "lin". All of the other players stare in admiration, and I pose for celebratory photos with the card.

Then Gene starts denouncing the Times Square ball as a false god and the moment is over.


I'm at a New Year's Day party in Bernal Heights. Approximately 60 Irish relatives are crowded into this house, roughly 10% of whom are named Michael. Another 15% have Michael as a middle name, and 10% got Michael as their confrimation name. There's still only one Dennis in the house.

I am talking with my cousin, who is not a Michael. He is however home from Kuwait, and more recently, Arkansas. He admires my zip-up sweatshirt. This compliment is not completely selfless, for he adds, "I have the same one."

He has good taste, I think. Then I realize, I cannot remain silent and take credit for this zip-up sweatshirt, fine as it may be. I inform my cousin that I deserve no accolades for choosing this apparel, because it was a gift from my stylish sister Kelly. He laughs.

"My sister Kelly bought me my Dublin sweatshirt, too."

And there we are. Two stylish sweatshirts, two stylish sisters, both named Kelly. Two conclusions: Irish people do not have a lot of creativity in their nomenclature, and great Kellys think alike.

My cousin's little brother asks, "So, what does that Dublin represent?"

"A soccer team", I answer, at the same time my cousin says, "Just the city."

We pause. "Maybe you should ask Kelly", suggests Michael.

EDIT: The triumphant Trivial Pursuit moment, courtesy of Kristina and Mike:



[EDIT, 1/20/06: The photos clearly show that the question was not about Arts & Literature, but Geography. The entry also deals with the difficult nature of questions in 1981 Trivial Pursuit, then the photo shows a card with a few rather easy ones: "Which of the Seven Dwarves comes first alphabetically?", "Is the African Queen a boat?", "Fill in the blank: ______ Queen of Scots." In short, my memory is unreliable, and my life is a lie.]

the highlight of my new year's day

My 89-Year-Old Great Aunt: So I hear you're a comic.

Me: Yeah, I have been doing some shows recently.

My 89-Year-Old Great Aunt: You know my son John? He thinks he's a comedian.

blogging the reggie bush bowl


With the 49ers' win over St. Louis last week, some of the luster is gone from the Texans-49ers tilt, AKA the "Reggie Bush Bowl". As recently as two weeks ago, this game had the potential to be a matchup of a two-win and a one-win team. That's historic futility. However, it's now a two-win team versus a three-win team. The Saints, Jets, and Packers all enter the day with three wins, so the stakes in this game are not quite as clear. The Titans get Reggie Bush with a loss, and probably draft second or third with a win. The 49ers have poor odds for the #1 pick even with a loss, and might fall as far as the #7 selection with a victory.

Conclusion: There are a lot of teams that suck this season. Are you ready for some football?

First quarter

I don't wake up from my nap until nearly three minutes into the game, just in time to see Alex Smith take a sack. He did manage to avoid a safety or fumble, at least. I fell asleep after Carolina took a 24-point lead on Atlanta. Even the promise of Jim Mora the Younger throwing equipment on the sidelines was not enough to keep me awake.

Elsewhere in the NFL, both the Packers and Jets have won their morning games to finish at 4-12, while the Saints have lost. I can't find confirmation one way or another on the Internet, but it looks like Houston will pick first with a loss, and second with a win. Even if the 49ers lose, I think the strength of schedule tiebreaker means they'd pick after Houston. So, for the Niners, this game is at best the D'Brickashaw Ferguson Bowl. Still, that's better than it being the Haloti Ngata Bowl, I guess.

Andy Lee just punted the ball 18 yards out of bounds. I guess he's a D'Brickashaw fan.

My old roommates and I used to talk up Andy Lee's Pro Bowl chances, based on how much he'd punting, given the 49ers' sorry offense. We thought his punting might get really good, given all that practice, and if he set the single-season punt record, Pro Bowl voters couldn't possibly ignore him. We failed to anticipate how often Alex Smith was going to fumble, so Lee didn't get quite as many chances as we expected. Still, that pathetic shank was his 98th of the season, which leads the league. He'd need 17 punts today to tie the record, which is impossible even on this terrible team.

The Texans drive down to the 3, but have to kick a field goal. With all the hype attached to the #1 pick, it's important to remember that both teams' wretched quarterbacks were the first selections in their respective drafts. At least the Texans can blame Jeff Tedford.

Alex Smith has been sacked both times he's tried to throw a pass so far. I think the color guy is Rich Gannon, and he really hates Alex Smith. Football telecasts have been a wasteland in the Bay Area. The 49ers get the absolute dregs of every network's announcing rotation. The only game they've played that even had a sideline reporter was the gimmicky Sunday Night game in Mexico City, and even then, the announcers included Joe Theisman and Paul Maguire. "Mira a este hombre. Estas mirando? Ahora, miralo, miralo - estas mirando? Bam!"

Continuing his efforts to improve the team's draft position, Andy Lee has his next punt blocked. I don't think he's going to Honolulu.

Houston starts from the 49ers's 25. So, they got slightly worse field position from the punt they blocked, compared to the one Andy Lee actually kicked. They waste little time in scoring, only I miss the whole scoring drive because my sister Molly is watching The Best Man on cable. She asks, "Oh, is this game important?" and I can't lie. I steal the remote back just in time to see Andy Lee punt again. This time, it goes 22 yards.

Philadelphia is leading Washington, 10 to 7, and I wish I were watching that game instead.

On the last play of the first quarter, Alex Smith completes his first pass. It gains one single yard.

Second Quarter

"Alex Smith is doing a great job commanding the huddle", according to our crack broadcast team. Smith then does a poor job commanding the football, bouncing a pass into the arms of a Texan defender.

My dad is very happy with the ten-point deficit. I am having a tougher time rooting against the 49ers, though I know a high draft pick is better than a meaningless win. It probably doesn't matter, since the San Francisco offense has shown no signs it can score ten points in a game.

In The Best Man, the guy from Hustle and Flow is playing poker with Taye Diggs and Michael from "Lost". Molly and I think Taye Diggs is about 5'6". IMDB claims 5'10", which we agree is a goddamn lie. Also, the movie was directed by Spike Lee's cousin.

Grudgingly, we return to the game, where Gannon says the 49ers are "playing a field position game", which is announcer-speak for "unable to get a first down". The 49ers follow this comment by allowing a 25-yard punt return.

After another punt, the 49ers put together a real drive, based on surprisingly competent passing by Smith and some very solid rushing. The continued quality play of running back Frank Gore makes Don Criqui suggest that maybe the Niners don't need a running back like Reggie Bush. Then he comments that Gore is having surgery on both shoulders once the season ends. Also, Gore tore ACLs in each leg during college, and his knees were repaired with ligaments taken from cadavers. This is not a franchise running back here.

Alex Smith throws his first career touchdown pass to Brandon Lloyd, after the announcers unsuccessfully attempt to jinx him by discussing his no-TD streak. Gannon also manages to slip in a dig at his former backup, Bobby Hoying, who started eight games in 1998 and threw zero TD passes.

With just 18 seconds remaining in the half, Tony Banks enters the game for Houston, to take a knee. Tony Banks, who I believe is the worst quarterback ever to take a snap in the Super Bowl, is the game's X Factor. If Banks is quarterbacking, it is anyone's game in the second half.

"I bet they told Carr to fake an injury", snarls my dad.


I can't properly enjoy the halftime highlights, because I'm unsure whose victories help the 49ers' strength of schedule tiebreaker, but they are mostly quite sad. Saints QB Todd Bouman fumbles a snap, and makes one of the weakest attempts at a tackle I've ever seen. Bouman's elevation to the starting job may yet get New Orleans the #1 pick, and it was done in the guise of disciplining old QB Aaron Brooks. Coach Jim Haslett is still totally getting fired, but this was a brilliant move. Maybe the Saints should give him that five-year extension he demanded after all. CBS also shows Herm Edwards giving an inspirational postgame speech, because they think he's getting fired on Monday.

The CBS "Fantasy Notebook" shows Alex Smith has surprisingly not-terrible halftime stats. He's 11/14, though for only 82 yards. The more interesting thing about the Notebook is that CBS apparently thinks completion percentage is a big part of fantasy football.

By the way, Joe Theisman picked Jim Haislett as his Coach of the Year.

state of the zembla


It's a new year for Zembla, though not an anniversary or anything. The site looks slightly different, the sidebars are slightly less cluttered, and links on old posts work again. But that's not all that the new year promises for this site. Lo, there shall be a post every single day in 2006. Maybe the posts will be short, maybe they won't be that great, and maybe the posting dates will be artificially manipulated so that it appears that a post went up on a certain date so as to preserve the at-least-one-post-per-day standard, but there's going to be some kind of content every day. That is my New Year's Resolution to you, the readers.

Also, I'm gonna try and drop like fifteen pounds, but that shouldn't affect the site.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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