March 2006 Archives

In honor of the fact that I’m guest blogging on Sean’s page because he is at a bar mitzvah in LA, I thought I would delve into my amazing store of knowledge (SOK—that’s totally coming back later as a pun) of Jewish customs and traditions.

Bar mitzvahs, as you may or may not be aware, do not involve cutting off any part of a boy’s penis. They do, however entail him becoming a man. Personally I feel this still probably has something to do with the penis because what is a man without one? A woman? Or possibly a eunuch. Bar mitzvahs do not celebrate eunuchs. Possibly castrati. The bar mitzvah boy does have to sing at one point after all. Though it might be considered chanting. It’s in Hebrew whatever it is. Thus, I don’t understand it. I do understand the foot-stomping good time of ‘Hava Nagila’ which I’ve had stuck in my head all morning as I thought about Sean in LA stepping on champagne flutes wrapped in a napkin and being hefted around in a chair with his bride by his side.

The other day I played the train game with two Jews (Jacob and Jason). I was describing to them the newest version coming out from Days of Wonder, the parent company. It’s set in Germany and is called Märklin after some famous mini-train company. The exciting thing about it is that it introduces passengers and cargo to the amazingly intricate play of being a train mogul.

Erica snidely snarked, ‘You know what that cargo is? Jews.’

Jacob said, ‘Och, Germany, the fatherland. Mein Gott im Himmel.’

And Erica replied, ‘Auf Wiedersehen, mein morning message.’

Which has to do with her job as a K/1 teacher and nothing to do with Jews. Or bar mitzvahs for that matter (that SOK pun? Still coming). Jason, the other Jew playing trains, probably said something pithy. Or possibly, he just snorted whiskey out of his nose as he did with tea when I said, ‘HE fancies the cooch.’ while watching Carnivàle. I’m willing to bet that boys who haven’t passed their bar mitzvah yet fancy the cooch even before they can be religiously termed ‘men’. But it’s like Trix™, that cooch, and not for them.

We then made some inappropriate jokes about Knob.

Have you ever considered the fact that Jason is a Middle Eastern Jew and Jacob is a European Jew? Why are they friends? I think we should have a bar mitzvah battle where they fight to the death. In creamed corn. If only they had no penises and were sexy, sexy women.

My SOK needs some serious darning to fill in the holes (PUN!!!). I totally compared bar mitzvah boys to rabbits, didn’t I? Hopefully when Sean comes home to Zembla he will set the record straight about what really goes on at a bar mitzvah. But until that day of post-dating comes, you have Cassie and Christine still to look forward to, folks. And I am out of here. -Michele

l.a. story


I'll be in the City of Angels this weekend, to attend a bar mitzvah. It's my very first bar mitzvah, and possibly my first time in a synagogue. Luckily, I'm a licensed minister, so I can maybe step in if the rabbi has trouble or there's an emergency involving a yarmulke.

It's going to be a great trip. I'll visit the Warner brothers set, check in on my fantasy baseball double-play combination of Kent and Furcal, and stop in at CTU to help them set up a hard perimeter over some crucial location that only takes 7-10 minutes to get to by car. I'll be back with a full report Monday.

In my stead, please welcome guest bloggers for the weekend. They are Michele, Cassie Wu, and Christine/"Waffles". Please give them your love and support, plus lots of comments. As they say in Los Angeles, "Oh, I live in Los Angeles! I'm an attractive member of the film industry! I am way better than you, Sean Keane! Blah blah blah!"

that's what you say


The folks at VVV (OK, Cassie) recently put up a post about checking people out while driving. While that post is an invaluable guide for the lecherous- or romantic-minded driver, I feel that an important dimension of automotive people-watching was left out. To me, successful people-watching involves some people-resenting, even outright people-hating. That's where "That's What You Say" comes in.

That's What You Say is a fun game to play while you're driving with passengers, or just by yourself. Here's how it works: When you're driving, preferably while stuck in traffic, pinpoint another car that annoys you. Anything about that car could annoy you - it has a stupid bumper sticker, it's too big, it's too small, the driver tried to merge in an annoying way, you hate the driver's hat, whatever. Look at that car, work up some resentment, and then try to imagine what kind of things a jerk driver in a jerk car like that might talk about. Now you're ready.

In a mocking voice, improvise a short monologue for the jerk driver. "Oh, I drive an SUV! Look at my seventeen cup holders! Look at my bumper sticker! I'm gonna pray for the troops when I get across this bridge!" Then - and this is the crucial point - switch out of the mocking voice and say, very quickly, "That's what you say." That last part is key, because otherwise your passengers might think you are confused, and also religious.

Your improvised monologue need not rely on your snap judgments of someone's appearance, or your guess as to their ethnicity. I'm not gonna lie, though - accents and stereotypes make That's What You Say much, much easier. Paul Haggis was inspired to write Crash after a highly-charged game of That's What You Say outside of Culver City.

Q: Can I play That's What You Say outside the car?

A: Yes, but then someone might hear/punch you.

Q: How about pointing at the person for whom you are improvising your devastatingly accurate monologue?

A: That is not advised.

Q: Did Paul Haggis ever talk about what Crash and That's What You Say meant to him?

A: From an interview with Chinese Boat magazine:

"The message is that there are barriers between us in America. Sure, we say a lot of things while driving, but I wonder if we spend too much time saying, "That's what you say!" and not enough time listening to what you actually say. Yes, my locksmith is Mexican."

Q: Hey Sean, I don't have a car. Can I still play That's What You Say on public transportation?

A: Ooh, I have a Fast Pass! I don't have to worry about parking! I request stops by ringing a bell! That's what you (and I) say!"



Adam Morrison got a lot of flak after his team, the Gonzaga Bulldogs, lost to UCLA last Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. Morrison played pretty well in this game, but committed the cardinal sin of bursting into tears on the court after UCLA took the lead. Afterward, newspapers and the sports blogs alike debated the crying issue, with the two sides of the issue being, essentially:

a) Leave him alone! He was sad!
b) Adam Morrison is a huge pussy

For the record, I do not think Adam Morrison is a pussy, and I can only barely grow a better mustache than him. Compare:



However, I do think I can teach him a thing or two about crying. When I used to play Little League baseball, I was no damn good at all, even when I was only seven or eight years old. At that age, I had only two baseball skills:

a) Knowing how a force play worked, and
b) Crying after my inevitable strikeout or weak ground ball to the pitcher

I was a crying expert. The backlash against Morrison might stem from his lack of experience with crying, and his subsequent lack of crying fundamentals. He made a lot of rookie mistakes.

No smokescreen

You have to realize that crying will make people think that you are a baby. Once the tears start flowing, be ready to suggest an alternate hypothesis. When Young Sean would get thrown out on a close play at first, sure, he'd sob, but he'd also shout, "It's my allergies! I have allergies!" as my embarrassed coach led me back to the dugout.

If Morrison had tried this tactic, there might have still been a national referendum on his tears and manliness. But I think at least one reporter might think, "Well, the pollen count was fairly high in the Oakland Arena last Thursday. Maybe it was really getting to Morrison."

Pretending to be hurt

Almost as good as faking an allergic reaction is faking an injury. This is not quite as ideal, since you are admitting to being enough of a baby that you cry when you get hurt. A mystery allergy is highly suspicious, but the resultant tears are essentially involuntary. Morrison may have thought of the injury gambit against UCLA, but he acted too slowly. After the final buzzer, Morrison collapsed to the floor sobbing, as if he'd blown out a knee or snapped his Achilles tendon.

Unfortunately, he was crying before the collapse. A seasoned crier knows you've got to clutch your knee, grimace in pain, and limp a little at the first sign of watery eyes. To his credit, Morrison stayed down a long time and he cried a whole lot, but that still create a plausible injury scenario.

Pretending to be sad about something else

The last option for Morrison was to pretend something else made him sad, like the illness of a pet or a sad movie. Crying over failure at an athletic contest is frowned upon, but imagine if Morrison had taken a different tack at his postgame press conference: "Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's game-winning layup affected me very deeply, because it reminded me of that scene in the The Notebook with all the geese."

So what if that doesn't make sense? Sometimes love doesn't make sense!

Wait until the game is actually over

Even Young Sean waited to be called out before bursting into tears on the diamond. Come on, Adam Morrison! There's three seconds left, buddy!


in case of emergency

Greetings. This page has been only intermittently available, due to the ruthless attacks from desperate men and even desperater robots, an unholy alliance of computer geniuses and filthy data pirates that threatens the safety of our very Internet. Thanks to the tireless, jet-lagged diligence of our fair hero, things are coming back to normal around here., our former DNS provider, was DDOS attacked into paralysis. Even now, unscrupulous hackers kneel on its servers and taunt, "Why are you rebooting yourself? Why are you rebooting yourself?"

And where was tech support during all of this? At home! Washing their tights! That company needs an enema!

Now that we've danced in the pale moonlight with the devil that is one final time, Zembla should be a lot more stable. However, should some tragedy later befall us, there is now a contingency in place. In case of an outage, information and new posts can be found at Zembla's backup page, New Wye.

While "Zembla" is the distant northern kingdom in Nabokov's Pale Fire, "New Wye" is the university town in the same novel, the real-world setting for the novel's action, such as it is. Think of New Wye as more permanent than Zembla, but less fantastical, and certainly far more sparsely inhabited.

Also, Zembla appears to be a full week short of the original one-post-per-day plan set up at Christmas, due to technical issues, illness, and sloth. It's time to start posting in the now, but don't be surprised if the postless week of March 20-26 mysteriously fills up with content one of these days, like an unwatched pot boiling over, if the pot was full of liquid comedy and could time travel.

That last sentence was a little awkward, but as my functionally-illiterate plastic surgeon always said, if you gotta go, go with a simile!

more aussie comedy and legal issues

When I travel the world and meet Zembla readers, I always try to find out what they want from the site. From my hotel balcony, I yell to the hordes of fans, "What can I do for you, my bloggetty blog children?"

"Make more posts with fake dates!" some will cry.

Others yell, "Please, Señor Keane, more nitpicking examinations of songs with the word 'mister' in their titles!"

But by far the largest cry comes from readers who want to know more about the legal struggles of up-and-coming Australian sketch comedians.

Yes, my rascal friend down under has gotten in trouble again. This time, it's not the Muslims who are up in arms, but a company called Travel Australia. Travel Australia has a big campaign called, "Where The Bloody Hell Are You?", which you can watch on their main site, and also at

Travel Australia claims that the music in the parody rips off the music in the original ad campaign. They're not actually alleging plagiarism, or maybe they sort of are, but essentially the claim seems to be, "The music from your parody of our ad campaign mocks our original music too effectively. Please cease and desist."

You can listen for yourself and compare:

Original Ad.

Here Thar Be Parody.

Finally, the Ronnie Johns Half hour actually received a positive fatwah from the Mufty of Australia, which you can view here. I would suggest Travel Australia might do well to heed the words of Taj Aldin Alhilali: "Such understanding and good humour, introduced through satire, is very beneficial for Australian society."

muni goes to disneyland



The ad space in the Powell Street MUNI station has been bought out completely by Disney this month. The entire top level has nothing but advertisements for Disneyland's 50th anniversary "celebration" this year. When a theme park is hyping an anniversary or "discovering the magic" in their promotional materials, that to me means, "No new rides".

In the ads, characters appear to be wildly rejoicing at the prospects of an anniversary celebration. There's Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and...Chicken Little? Yes, Chicken Little gets invited to the party, ahead of Pluto or Minnie or any other characters that people care about. Did anyone see that movie? Wasn't Zack Braff involved? Does Chicken Little lack the ability to cry because of anti-depressants? Was Foxy Loxy an epileptic?

Besides Disney's attempts to force-feed Chicken Little to an apathetic public, the weird thing about the ad campaign is the portrayal of Mickey Mouse. First of all, he's wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Goofy and Pluto also have the ears, but they're carrying them, or whipping them around in a 50th anniversary frenzy. C.L. is nearly unrecognizable in his hat, but then again, he's pretty much unrecgonizable anyway. Mickey is the only one wearing his ears properly, which is odd, since he already has big silly ears. How does the ear cap even fit him? Aren't they smashed under the hat? Mickey is also holding a Disney gift bag, which contains a Mickey Mouse doll. That is a either a disturbing sign of Mickey's narcissism, or a quiet indicator that even Mickey is not immune to Disney's pervasive capitalist ethos.

This only furthers the tradition of public transit advertisements that ruin my interest in their product. In the past, I have had the same reaction to overblown marketing blitzes for Be Cool, Tom Waits and Robert Wilson's The Black Rider, and online syphillis testing. Advertsing on MUNI only causes me to transfer to the product the negative associations I already have about commuting.

One could argue that Disneyland is the perfect advertising partner for MUNI. After all, when I think of MUNI, I think of delays, funky smells, overcrowding, endless waiting in line to board poorly-maintained vehicles, and regular increases in ticket prices with no corresponding improvement in quality. All of those things can apply to Disneyland as well. Maybe it's not that Disneyland is advertising too heavily on MUNI; it's that MUNI should re-brand its light rail service as "MUNI's San Francisco Adventure".

(Read Part 1: The Unforgiven; Part 2: Funky Cold Medina; Part 3: Mr. Wendal)

(Lyrics to "Mr. Jones")

Not Everybody Wants to Pass as Cats

At its core, "Mr. Jones" is a song about ambition. At various places in the song, Adam Duritz proclaims his desire to be:

a) Beautiful
b) A lion
c) Bob Dylan

In comparison, the character of Mr. Jones has almost laughably modest ambitions. His only wish is to be "just a little bit more funky". One assumes that Mr. Jones wants to be a little more funky than he already is, rather than just a little more funky than Duritz, or else his ambitions are totally pathetic. Later, Duritz theorizes that you attain maximum funkiness when everybody loves you. So, we must conclude that either Mr. Jones has abandoned all hope of becoming a "big big star", or Mr. Jones is already extremely funky and the love for him is near-universal.

[Math note: There is a possibility that F(x), where x = funkiness, and y = belovedness, is an exponential, asymptotic function, in which case Mr. Jones has a slightly more logical attitude.]

Colors Are Meaningful, Symbols Are Symbolic

The key section of "Mr. Jones" is the second verse. It can be a challenging passage for the lyrical close reader. For one, Duritz's color symbology is difficult to follow. He announces plans to paint himself blue, red, black, and gray, but in the same breath admits that all of the colors are meaningful. Very very meaningful, in fact. What is that meaning? Duritz says he "felt so symbolic yesterday". Symbolic of what? Perhaps Mr. Jones is privy to this undisclosed system of allusions, colors, and symbols, or maybe it's something you pick up from stumbling through the barrio of North Berkeley.

There is a notable non sequitur here, about how, if Duritz knew Picasso, he would buy himself a gray guitar. I know Adam Duritz means that as a homage, but to me, bringing a gray guitar to go hang out with Picasso seems similar to wearing a band's t-shirt to their own show. It's just not cool to do that. Rejected lyrics for this section included:

"If I knew Matisse, I would buy myself a gray cigar."
"If I knew Ann Geddes, I would buy an aodrable gray animal costume for a baby."
"If I knew Jackson Pollack, I wouldn't have Mr. Jones pass me the bottle. I'd have him hide it so Pollack couldn't get to it."

Some of those lyrics are catchier than others.

Upon reflection, the second verse really reads as if it was written by a non-native English speaker. If I had to write a poem in Spanish, I might produce something similar. The subject matter is very familiar from introductory Spanish classes - Adam Duritz lists his colores favoritos. Even when Duritz wants to really emphasize an adjective, he does what I would do, and merely adds an extra "muy" - the colors are "very, very meaningful". If there was a line about what Duritz ate for lunch, this verse could pretty much have been one of my essays for Ms. Costa's class in 9th grade.

Who Is She Looking At?

She's looking at you? No, no, she's looking at me?

Guys, she's not looking at either of you.

You're Very Well Read. It's Well Known.

Bob Dylan has his own Mr. Jones; he is the addressee in "Ballad of a Thin Man". We know Adam Duritz wants to be Bob Dylan almost as much as he wants to be a lion, which might account for the song's title.

Based solely on "Ballad of a Thin Man", what would Dylan have to say about this song? Would he find poetry in Duritz's struggle to believe, in order to be someone who believes, or would that idea still make no sense? Would Dylan appreciate the color symbology? Or would he realize that, amidst all the lines about "passing as cats" and flamenco dancing, there really is a compelling narrative about self-delusion and rock n' roll dreams, but Duritz sort of misses the thread. Something is happening, but you don't know what it is. Do you, Mr. Duritz?

iron comic iii

Whose routine reigned supreme? In the first Iron Comic show, it was Sean Keane who triumphed, with magical material about Wynton and Branford Marsalis, disgusting excuses for missing work, and a joke about ethnic food that suggested that, if you think the term "Indian restaurant" is an antiquated term for a place that serves Native American cuisine, it might be less than polite to try and make a "reservation". More detailed summaries of my winning routine are available via email or a tedious, awkward face-to-face conversation with me.

I won a certificate and a CD called, How To Become Funnier Than You Really Are. I haven't listened to it yet, which might explain why I am really not quite as funny as I am.

The second "Iron Comic" competition was won by Alex Koll. I was rocking 50 Mason that night, strep throat-style, so I missed the show, but Alex Koll has always been quite funny when I've seen him perform in the past. He's also a man of science, at least when it comes to retail dust masks, and I really respect that.

The Third Iron Comic show happens on Friday, April 7th, at the Make-Out Room in SF. Mr. Koll and I will be judging the competition, and performing feature sets while the Iron Comics frantically scribble jokes. They only get ten minutes per topic, this time. I won my event under the 20-minutes-per-topic rules, which makes me feel like a basketball player who won the NCAA title before they had a shot clock, or an old-timey baseball player from the days when it took four strikes before you were out.

The lineup is amazing, with the excellent Nato Green hosting, and five rock-solid comedians competing for the prestigious Iron Comic crown. In Donnie Brasco parlance, they're all friends of mine, though I'd venture that Brent Weinbach and Nico Santos are friends of ours.

After the jump, the official promotional information:

radio looky lou

If I was hired to produce a morning radio show, I think my first choice would be a "morning zoo" format. First and foremost, I love prank phone calls, even more than I love giving out prize packages to people who memorize the order of our six-song rock block. One of my favorite prank calls would be to combine the two. "Oh, so close," I'd say to Caller Ten. "You got the first five right, but Song #6 was...'You Just Got Pranked By The Zoo Crew'!" And then we'd play a clip of a cow mooing angrily and maybe also a monkey jabbering.

I might also use the name "Zoo Squad Alpha" instead of "Morning Zoo Crew". I haven't really decided yet.

What would set my morning radio show apart from the others would be the traffic reports. A lot of shows have their very own helicopter that overlooks the city and gives updates on what routes are congested. Let's face it, you can pretty much get that information from any radio show, probably accompanied by a weather report. We also probably couldn't afford the chopper anyway, given the budget for prank calls.

Instead, we'd have a program caleld "Radio Looky Lou". We'd send out interns (or as I would call them, Junior Operatives of M. Force Zoologico) to drive around in search of accidents, traffic stops, explosions, roadside fires, cargo spills, lost animals, and any kind of traffic slowdowns.

Our operatives would drive along very slowly, in order to describe the scene in as much detail as possible. What color were the cars? Was anyone injured or dead? Any funny smells? How exciting and awesome did the flames look? Our listeners want to know those things. Would you rather hear, "There's about a fifteen-minute delay on the Bay Bridge, metering lights are on", or, "The front bumper of the Mercedes is completely crushed, the driver's head is bleeding, and it looks like he may have wet his pants during the crash"?

Our motto would be: "Radio Looky Lou: We slow down and stare at car accidents - so you don't have to!" And after the motto, we would play a lion roar followed by a parrot saying, "Awk! Looky Lou! Awk!" And then that angry moo again.

in which i predict the weather

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Last Friday, oh what a terrible storm. There was thunder, there was lightning, there were sheets of rain, and there was even some hail. Before leaving my office for the treacherous walk to the MUNI station, I decided to figure out how far away the storm was.

I remembered from my scout training that you wait for lightning, then count how many seconds elapse before you hear the thunder. Then you take the seconds, and multiply by five, and that's how far away the storm is, in miles. Or maybe you divide by five, and that's how far away the storm is. The important thing is the counting, I think.

So I watched for lightning, and counted until I heard a thunderclap. By my scientific calculations, the storm was zero miles away. I got the same result using both methods, so I have a feeling it's pretty accurate. And with my newfound knowledge, I departed for MUNI, holding my umbrella aloft1 like a giant lightning rod.

1Some would recommend that I assume "The Lightning Crouch" to best protect myself from lightning strikes. However, it WILL NOT guarantee my safety, as there are NO SAFE PLACES when lightning is about.

When we left Santa Barbara, it was after 9:00. Michele drove, but I was ready to slide into the driver's seat at a moment's notice. I'd already changed a tire earlier in the weekend, so my testosterone levels were sky-high. I was ready to fill in behind the wheel, change the oil, catch a fish, get in a fight, pee standing up, and grow extra chest hair. Little did I know how much I would later need that courage.

Michele's highly efficient hybrid vehicle is able to go long distances without re-fueling, but we came to the end of our gas reserves as we neared King City, around 11:00. Foolishly, we followed the first exit sign that promised a gas station, even though it led us to the town of San Ardo.

Oh, San Ardo! Quiet, poorly-lit, and terrifying. We had a terrifying drive to the ramshackle gas station, fearing what kind of backwoods Monterey Countyites might emerge from their stills and mudholes to terrorize us. The gas station was closed, but honestly, I'm not sure we'd have been confident turning the engine off in such an abandoned, godforsaken place. Of course, I dealt with this be talking in a creepy voice and pretending to be a San Ardo resident, and continued to do so the most of the way home, stopping when Michele sounded serious in her threats to abandon me by the side of the road.

Eventually we found a bathroom, at a deserted 24-Hour gas station. The pumps worked 24 hours, at least, though the bathroom lights did not. My theory is that employees go home because it's just not safe to be within fifteen miles of San Ardo after dark. We were mostly terrified by the mere act of pumping gas out there, and that was all the way in Outer King City. All because of the trauma, the extent of the horror that is San Ardo, that just a few exits are not nearly far enough away.

Recently, we reminisced about our trip to King City, when Kristen showed us the receipt from that terrible, terrible trip. She warned that King City had probably been taken over by zombies by now, while I hubristically claimed that zombies were better than residents of King City. I was wrong to say that. I only said such a mean thing because I couldn't remember the exact name of San Ardo, so I took an unfair cheap shot at the City of Kings. My apologies. It turns out San Ardo is named after a ninth-century Benedictine monk, but only because someone at the post office rejected the name "San Bernardo" first. The residents probably didn't even notice the change.

Back to the zombies. Now, I would venture that, while my funny voice and insults certainly portrayed the San Ardonauts as quite simple, possibly retarded, certainly inbred, probably homicidal and cannibalistic, I was not actually saying that they were zombies. I would posit that a resident of San Ardo is worse than a zombie; a zombie only wants to eat your brain, not your whole body, and a zombie will neither attempt to have sex with you nor one of its own siblings.

I would feel bad if this page became an extremely high search result for "San Ardo" on the web. If a resident of San Ardo decided to look up their town, and the resulting link pretty much called them names, it would be a little mean.

On the other hand, there's little evidence that anyone from San Ardo can read, let alone operate a computer. Michele theorizes that any Comcast installers brave or foolish enough to visit San Ardo were undoubtedly molested and/or killed already, so it's unlikely they have any internet access whatsoever.

It would be like Reese Witherspoon and angry teenage girls on Matt's page. Except that Reese Witherspoon was up for an Oscar, and San Ardo will never win an award for anything, ever. Maybe "Best Place To Confront Your Own Mortality Along Highway 101". Or, "Best Place To Train Your Army Of Undead Zombies To Attack King City".

If our trip to Santa Barbara became a movie, with actors personifying each of the key cities, Santa Barbara would be played by an alcoholic version of Keira Knightley. King City would be Jon Favreau in a heavy phase. San Ardo wouldn't be an actor at all, just some weird toothless old man that hung around the set with no discernible job, smelling like black licorice and unfiltered cigarettes, masturbating behind the craft services table. But not on March 7th, because that is the Saint Ardo's feast day.

sean keane scoops the onion



Compare and contrast the last section of my piece, The Mailman Doesn't Deliver On Sunday, with this recent story from The Onion, Todd Helton Disappointed To Be On Area Man's Fantasy-Baseball Team. Not only does The Onion use the same joke as in my feature - a real baseball player demands a trade from his fantasy baseball team - they even use the same player. This might mean I have some fans in Madison, but most likely, it's a big coincidence. Maybe, Todd Helton secretly has a keen interest in fantasy sports, and both The Onion and I have picked up on it, independently and subconsciously.

When I worked for The Heuristic Squelch, it seemed like The Onion was constantly scooping us for jokes. We once had to pull a piece about video game villainy at the last minute, after The Onion put Mario on the cover that same week with a similar premise. It was worse when we couldn't do anything about the simultaneous comedy. Because of the long turnaround time for printing, we'd often send in an issue, then groan to see The Onion hitting the same topic, four days before our magazine was going to come out. We were ripping them off enough with our newsflashes, so it was terrible when we'd also inadvertantly run identical features about the recall election.

But this time, I am 18 months ahead of those smug cheese-eaters. That's right, The Onion! You ain't all that!

Ironically, Todd Helton's terrible start nearly doomed my own fantasy baseball team last year. By making fun of Helton and the "Colofraudo Suckies" in print, then subsequently drafting Helton in the first round of my draft, I was tempting fate. When Helton hit .250 in May, with very little power, I blamed the article. I even tried to trade Helton for over a month, but got no offers. It was a good thing I didn't. In the second half, the first baseman carried my team, Operation Shutdown, to the fantasy baseball nerd title. Mr. Todd Helton, you and your altitude-inflated statistics are welcome on my imaginary baseball team anytime.

(Read Part 1 2 3)

Sometimes I worry about repeating jokes too much in my stand-up act. Should I try more untested material, or should I stick with my bread-and-butter jokes about speech impediments, hoping that through repetition comes power. Comedy power.

Young Sean would have no trouble with this issue. Young Sean had joke books, funny things from the newspaper, something that he imagined his stuffed animals might have said. Young Sean was not at all shy about sharing those with Mom and Dad, and even less shy about repeating the funny items if Mom and Dad did not audibly appreciate them.

"Did you hear what Way Watto thaid about the Fowty-Ninahs? It's pwetty funny. I'll wead it again." You never knew when someone just needed a funny joke repeated three or four times in order to realize that, yes, they were glad Young Sean didn't say "Banana" again.

When I went to LA with my pals Allen and Tyler, we passed a restaurant called "Twain's", and I made a joke. They didn't catch what I said the first time, but, like Young Sean, I persisted. I tried the same joke the next day when we drove past Twain's a second time.

The joke: "Guys, do you think that's a wailwoad-themed westawaunt?"

This time, they thought it was pwetty funny.

why joe buck sucks, part 1


Fox announcer Joe Buck is terrible, but he's impossible to avoid. As the top play-by-play man for both football and baseball, Buck bothers America eight months a year. Here's an example:

In 2003, the Chicago Cubs played the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the playoffs. If you are unfamiliar with the Cubs' history of futility, just know that they haven't been to a World Series since 1945, and they haven't won the World Series since 1908. 1908 was the last time they won a series in the postseason. So when the Cubs took the lead in the decisive Game Five, it was a pretty exciting event.

Since this was a Fox telecast, there were plenty of shots of little children and old people in Cubs gear, players' wives, and praying fans. When starting pitcher Kerry Wood was still in the game, the director had taken to showing his wife, Sarah, about every two minutes. Kerry went eight strong innings, so they showed her a lot. There were so many shots of her reactions that Wood asked Fox to stop filming her quite so much in subsequent games.

When Joe Borowski came in to close the game, it was definitely a milestone in Cubs history, one that might be recorded and re-played by devoted fans for years. Borowski struck out Andruw Jones for the final out, and Joe Buck's historic call went like this:

"Sarah Wood will be celebrating with her husband tonight!"

Yes, for the Cubs' first series win in 95 years, by all means acknowledge the starting pitcher's wife first. Joe Buck is a douchebag.

UPDATE: If you dislike Joe Buck, check out SportsCentr.

playing doctor

Health care is a large issue today, both in America and on Cementhorizon. Last year, I worked only part-time while back at school, which meant I no longer qualified for health insurance. Suddenly, my medical provider was the University of California, and my doctor's office was the Tang Center. Going to the Tang Center for medical care is a lot like getting your haircut at a barber college.

You should only visit the Tang Center if you absolutely have to. I went last year after a sore throat got unbearable. My "doctor" was a guy wearing a Sports Medicine polo shirt who didn't even have a stethoscope. He examined my throat and prescribed Ibuprofen. Dr. Polo also suggested it might be herpes that was bothering my throat, because that's what every single person at the Tang Center does. If you come in with a sprained ankle, you get an STD test. If you re-fill a prescription, they'll take blood just in case. If you come in to pick up an informational pamphlet on nutrition, you might not leave without a painful swabbing. It's just the Tang Center way. And in case you're wondering, ladies, I passed.

My second doctor wore a white coat, which instantly inspired confidence. She gave me actual antibiotics, which made me even more confident, and she also prescribed Vicodin, which made me give her a big hug. The only scary part of this visit was her insistence that I go straight to the emergency room if my throat swelled up so much that I couldn't breathe. "Is that really a possibility?" I asked. "Gotta go," she replied, and left the room.

After about a month, things weren't a lot better, so I saw my final Tang physician, who suggested Ibuprofen, Sudafed, and a screening for chlamydia. "How about Wal-buprofen, Wal-phed, and a copy of my successful test from last month?" I countered. She was fine with that, but insisted I take an informational pamphlet on safe sex.

Once I returned to full-time employment, I was covered by an HMO. Using the haircut analogy, this is like switching to Supercuts. The best part of my comprehensive coverage is that my doctor is ridiculously hot. Well, technically, my doctor is male, and not particularly hot aside from the inherent hotness that goes along with possessing a medical license, but I usually see the physician's assistant. She is maybe thirty years old, Asian-American, long-haired, and gorgeous. She's very informative and smart, we have a completely professional relationship, and I would marry her in a second.

Having such an unreasonably attractive physician alters the dynamic of the checkup. When she gently suggested that my cholesterol could be lower, it was like a slap in the face. I resolved to get into better shape before my next doctor's visit. Sure, some might say that jogging four or five miles isn't the best way to deal with a possible bronchial infection, but I wanted to look my best. I've never had to wear a hospital gown that ties in the back, though I still try to do a few sets of squats the night before a physical, just in case.

Once, I complained about my struggles with insomnia. Dr. Hotness told me, "It's important to keep boundaries in your house. You don't want to work or do a lot of things in your bedroom. If you're going into the bedroom, you want it to be that you're getting some, or you're going to sleep." I responded with a classy, embarrassed, "Nnnnhunh. OK.," then stared at the floor, blushing. Then she had to do the ball test, and while I wish it had been more special, with candles or champagne, or some cuddling, at least I had remembered to do my scrotum exercises the night before.


This week, Sports Illustrated published an excerpt from Game of Shadows, a book by two San Francisco Chronicle writers which details the steroid use of Giants star Barry Bonds. The published excerpt details the progression of Bonds's steroid use in very specific detail. According to the book, Bonds used designer steroids, human growth hormone, female fertility drugs, insulin, cattle steroids, and even something called "Mexican jumping beans". SI's selection also accuses Bonds of drug possession, adultery, and tax evasion. His mistress tells the authors that Bonds once choked her, and struggled with sexual dysfunction.

With all of this damaging, titillating information available already, one wonders what's left in the book to entice buyers. The answer is, plenty. Zembla will be presenting excerpts from Game of Shadows that are even more shocking than what already appeared in SI. Today we present the story of another one of Barry Bonds's illicit extramarital affairs.

Part One: Thunder Pup

Barry Bonds and Shawon Dunston began their relationship in 1998, after Dunston came over from the Indians in a midseason trade. Bonds insisted that Dunston keep the affair secret, since he'd gotten "too much s---" from the media in the past for dating utility players. Dunston moved on to St. Louis in 1999, but the two rekindled their affair when Dunston re-signed with the Giants before the 2001 season.

In just over two years, Dunston had noticed dramatic changes in Barry. He was much more muscular than in the past. Barry had begun shaving his head, suffered outbreaks of acne, and Dunston noticed that his testicles were significantly smaller than in the past. Bonds claimed he wasn't doing anything beyond taking flaxseed oil and studying extra game film.

In addition to the physical changes, Bonds had developed a vicious temper. Back in their shared hotel room, Bonds often shouted at Dunston, "Why do you f------ swing at everything? Would it kill you to take a f------ walk, you punk bitch?" In July, Dunston could only watch, hurt, as Barry dallied with right fielder John Vanderwal on a long road trip. Still, there were flashes of Barry's former tenderness. After Bonds hit six home runs in a weekend series against Atlanta, he and Dunston shared a Jacuzzi in the clubhouse.

Dunston told Bonds that, the way he was hitting, he might break Mark McGwire's single-season home run record. Bonds said, "F--- that white boy," and then promised to buy Dunston a Mercedes Benz if he did break the record. Then the two made love on the clubhouse floor.

Bonds made good on his promise. However, he had to hide the purchase from his accountants and Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who might ask uncomfortable questions about the money and gifts being lavished on Dusnton. As a result, Bonds paid for the car entirely in cash, which he obtained by selling jewelry, equipment, and hair dye stolen from Jeff Kent's locker.

On October 5, 2001, Bonds hit home runs #71 and #72, in a loss to the Dodgers. The Giants held a postgame story to commemorate the record, during which Bonds wept and a demonstrative Dunston hugged and consoled him at the podium. When Bonds initially became emotional, Dunston told the crowd about the new Mercedes, though he said the gift was "from a bet" they'd made about Bonds winning the home run title. Though Barry smiled for the camers, inside he was furious that Dunston had betrayed the secrecy of their bond, risking financial trouble with both the IRS and Bonds's ex-wife, Sun.

Things would never be the same after that between Dunston and Bonds, though their relationship continued through the 2002 season. Bonds became increasingly abusive and overprotective regarding Dunston. After losing to the Angels in the 2002 World Series, Dunston planned to re-sign with the Giants. His plans changed when he got a phone call from Bonds.

"I need you to disappear," said Bonds.
"What do you mean, Barry?" said Dunston.
"Did I f------ stutter?" Barry replied. "F------ retire, dawg!" Before the stunned Dunston could reply, Barry had already hung up.

For months, Dunston wondered if the Mercedes incident had ruined his relationship with Bonds, or perhaps the stress of losing the World Series had disappointed Bonds to the point he couldn't be with a teammate anymore. Dunston blamed himself, the flaxseed oil, even Giants pitcher Felix Rodriguez. Only later did he learn that his rejection came because a different veteran player had caught Barry's fancy: Outfielder Marquis Grissom.

a tribute to woody

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Judging by appearances, you'd never dream Kirk Rueter would be a professional athlete. He's skinny, gangly, and bald. He has huge ears. His fastball goes about 85 miles per hour on a good day. His nickname is "Woody", based on his resemblance to the cowboy doll from Toy Story - not a ringing endorsement of athletic prowess. It was like watching your fifth-grade math teacher on the mound - only the teacher somehow wins two-thirds of his decisions. Yes, for nearly a decade, Woody was an essential member of the Giants rotation, good for 180 innings and double-digit wins every year. On Monday, after thirteen seasons and 130 wins, Kirk Rueter called it a career.

It seems like batters underestimated the guy as well. You'd see hitter after hitter shaking their heads after facing Woody, wondering how after seeing nothing but 78 MPH pitches, they only managed to hit a weak dribbler to shortstop. As a fan, you tend to think of toughness and competitiveness in terms of physical strength or aggressiveness: the pitcher who pumps his fist after a strikeout, the batter who screams at the ump. Rueter wasn't demonstrative, or physically gifted, but in his own way, he was as competitive as any guy in the league. He hardly ever missed a start, and in important games, Giants fans trusted Rueter with the ball. (I still think the Giants would have won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series if only they'd started Rueter instead of Livan Hernandez.)

Rueter was a unique pitcher, in that he sustained a very successful major league career for many years without ever striking anybody out. The only way you can get away with that in the major leagues is if you limit your walks, you don't give up home runs, and don't let anyone steal bases. It also helps if you're left-handed. Rueter was great at holding runners, but at first glance, nothing special when it came to walks and homers. His real talent was his absolute refusal to give in with runners on base. Most of his home runs happened with the bases empty, and most of his walks came with men on base. If the batter wasn't willing to swing at a garbage pitch on the corner of the plate and dribble it back to the mound, Rueter was perfectly willing to put guys on and avoid the big hit. Nate Silver discussed the craftiness of Rueter back in 2003, using much more math than I have here.

He's the best example of a guy whose peripheral statistics (walks, strikeouts, won-loss record) belie what an effective pitcher he really was. Rueter tended to have good won-loss records, but the team's record in games he started was even better. In 2002, his official record was 14-8, but the team went 25-8 in his starts. He didn't always work past the sixth inning, but he nearly always kept the team in the game.

Rueter was quite possibly the best defensive pitcher in the league, though he never won a Gold Glove. He had a great pickoff move, was impossible to run on, and even more deadly on bunts. When Rueter was on the mound and J.T. Snow was playing first, Giants fans probably saw more forceouts and double plays on sacrifice attempts than any team in the league. Rueter pitched with a lot of exuberance, but best of all, the guy worked fast. He got the ball back from the catcher, and pitched it immediately. No dilly-dallying, no pacing around. Fielders and fans alike loved the fast pace, as Rueter was one of the few guys in the league who might get through a game in under two hours.

In addition, Woody was by all accounts a great guy. He was a regular guest in the broadcast booth, bantering with Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper on days he wasn't pitching. In fact, between his visits to the booth, his smart pitching, and the endless stories about "The Shed", Rueter probably gave Krukow a good 10% of his material in a given year. This year, Kruk is going to be forced to talk about the kangaroo court more than ever.

Woody's career with the Giants ended badly, with ineffective pitching, a move to the bullpen, and even a battle with gout before he was released. He'd lost some of his speed and control, and a guy like Rueter didn't have much margin for error to begin with. Still, he'd earned the love and respect of the fans. Even though I was hoping he'd just retire last year, I was sad when the inevitable release happened. I'll miss seeing #46 out there every five days, befuddling hitters with junk, smiling goofily, and exuberantly running off the field after inducing a rally-killing double play. When Kirk Rueter Day happens this year, as it inevitably will, I'll be giving him a standing ovation. But I hope we keep the cheering brief. Woody likes the game to move along briskly.

last thoughts on kirby puckett

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Kirby Puckett died on Monday, at the ridiculously young age of 45. I wasn't a Twins fan, but I liked Kirby Puckett. Everybody liked Kirby Puckett. He was a ten-time All-Star, won six Gold Gloves, and along with Prince, was one of only two black men to live in Minnesota during the 1980's.

I watched SportsCenter with my dad Monday night, when they reported on Puckett's passing. Tim Kurkijian did the report, and the whole thing seemed kind of lazy. They began with a look at the 1991 World Series, where Puckett hit the game-winning home run in Game 6. Kurkijian asserted that Game Six was when Puckett truly became a clutch player, when the Twins won the championship. He neglected to mention the championship they'd won four years earlier, or that the not-yet-clutch Puckett had hit .357 during that World Series.

Kurkijian decided to focus on something much more important than a world championship. He decided America needed to know that in 1988, Puckett became the first player to collect 234 hits AND drive in 121 runs since since Joe Medwick in 1937. Yes, the prestigious 234/121 Club. ESPN also put together a shot of Puckett singling to center, followed by his teammates applauding on the dugout steps, as if they were celebrating him reaching 234 and 121.

Maybe because I am used to rooting for assholes, I don't really care about whether a player is a jerk off the field. The golden image of Kirby Puckett got tarnished by a series of incidents after his retirement, but for me, it seemed kind of irrelevant to my relationship with Puckett, the ballplayer, especially since he was retired when the bad stuff came out about him. It's not as if I liked Kirby Puckett for his charity work. I liked him because he got lots of hits, ran fast, made crazy catches, and was shaped like a bowling ball.

An exchange between me and Dad:

Dad: Puckett was pretty young to have a stroke. Do you think he was on 'roids?

Me: I don't know. Kirby wasn't exactly a cut dude, Dad.

Other things I remember about Kirby Puckett:

- The way the Twins announcer would do an over-the-top, WWF-style introduction of him before important games, starting with, "Batting third, and playing center field" in a relatively normal voice, and then screaming, "KIRRRRRRRBEEEE PUCKETT!!!!"

- In 1987, the Cardinals beat the Giants in the NLCS, and I was absolutely heartbroken. Though I would learn to hate the Cardinals even more in 1988, after the Will Clark-Jose Oquendo-Ozzie Smith brawl, my distaste for St. Louis made me an unjustifiably rabid fan of the Twins in the subsequent World Series. Looking back, the Twins were probably the worst champs of my lifetime, their triumph based on obnoxious towel-waving and an even more obnoxious home ballpark. But they did not have Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Vince Coleman, or Whitey Herzog in their dugout, and for that I loved them.

- One of the reasons I like baseball is that having an unconventional body type is not an impediemnt to success. You don't see this is in other sports. Players under six feet are a novelty in the NBA, while even a semi-retarded Latvian can stay in the league for years provided he's seven feet tall. But some of the greatest baseball players do not look like studs: Greg Maddux, Yogi Berra, Tony Gwynn, Kirk Rueter - they all don't look like what you'd think as "athletes". On a related note, I bet Tony Gwynn will be renewing his gym membership before the end of the week.

oscar roundup

I showed up at the Oscar party at six o'clock, thinking we'd be just in time for the beginning of the show. Of course, the show began at 5, so I missed crucial awards for costumes, makeup, special effects, animated feature, and live-action short, as well as Fat Clooney's Best Supporting Actor award. I'll tell you what I didn't miss out on: the baked potato bar. In fact, the sundae bar was out as well. This was very promising.

"Did they change the starting time when they moved the show to Sunday night?" I asked someone. I'm not sure if they did or not, but I was informed that the telecast moved to Sunday in 1998. I am not exactly an Oscars regular.


Lauren Bacall presented a tribute to film noir, which does not slow the Oscars down for no reason, at all. Bacall may have been unable to read the teleprompter, or she could have been pausing at irregular intervals for noir-related reasons. She's a true femme mortelle, after all.

Dead People Ceremony

It was kind of a weak year for dead people in Hollywood. I thought Richard Pryor was the clear favorite to get the most applause, with Chris Penn a distant second. However, dark horse candidate Anne Bancroft had much more memorial support than Penn, though she couldn't match Pryor. The academy knew it. Pryor was slotted into the "anchor leg" of the dead people list, so that the applause for dead people would finish strong leading into the commercial break. Pryor got a brief shot of his Sunset strip concert, and then, confusingly, a lingering shot of Brewster's Millions.

Honestly, the crowd seemed disappointed in the dead of 2005. I'd like to see them occasionally stick a living actor in there to throw people off - "Wait, Abe Vigoda?" - or finish really weak, putting the biggest dead star second-to-last, and ending on a random Eastern European cinematographer. The best suggestion I heard was to shift the focus away from honoring the people who died the previous year, and toward predicting which attendees were not going to live until next year's ceremony. Then they could actually enjoy the applause.

"Celebrating their final Academy Awards this year are: Lauren Bacall. Choreographer Jesper Callahan. Key grip Sonny Vallibona III. And Lindsay Lohan."


Eric Bana and Jessica Alba came out together to present some award I've already forgotten. They engaged in some banter about being in a room with four beautiful women, and then she was like, what about four beautiful men, and it was like, oh snap, Jessica Alba, and Emalie declared that the Oscars are hetero-sexist. How about "four beautiful potential partners", Oscars? "Four POWs of either gender, or both". Let's go.

Is Robert Altman Fucking with Us?

So, Altman had a heart transplant eleven years ago. It really seemed like it might be a weird joke. His lifetime achievement award was introduced by a rambling, overlapping speech by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. Because that's a Robert Altman trademark! And it's annoying in his films, too! After that, Altman gave a meandering speech of his own, punctuated by shots of his wife and some guy who looked like Weird Al's cousin. "Strange Al" looked like he might be rubbing up on Altman's wife, as well. Then, when everyone at our party had turned him out, Altman dropped that bombshell about getting a heart transplant in the mid-90s. Some people didn't hear it, and others felt like they must have misheard it.

Of course, he's got a movie coming out, so the whole heart business is probably a big fat publicity stunt.

Socially Conscious Films

I was in the kitchen with Garrick during one of the many tribute montages. From where we were, it was tough to tell what was being tributed. One person said they were honoring Spencer Tracy. Another person said he thought it was all about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Finally, we learned it was about socially-conscious films.

Garrick was very proud of Hollywood on that front. "Of course. Because of all the social issues Hollywood addresses. Like..."

"Hemophages," I said. "The struggles of hemophages. And lycanthropes."


I began chanting "USA!" after an American broke the string of French or Kiwi winners. Emalie endorsed my nationalist preferences, but wondered why it was surfacing right now.

"It's how I was raised," I told her.

"You were raised in a xenophobic home," she said.

I agreed. "A xenophobic, heterosexist home."

Then we booed the South African winner of Best Foreign Film.

Interpretive Dance

There was a song from undeserving Oscar winner "Crash" that bribed its way into a Best Original Song nomination. When an unknown woman came out to perform it, there was a mad rush to the potato/sundae line in the kitchen. Those people missed one of the more fascinating moments in Oscar history. The singer performed in front of a flaming car, surrounded by a multiracial assortment of interpretive dancers, all slowly fleeing the fire, and racism, evfentually overcoming their racial prejudices through very slow interpretive dance and hugs. Two dancers appeared to be re-enacting a sexual assault on one side of the stage. I didn't see "crash", but I can say with confidence that this musical performance was better than "Crash".

Three 6 Mafia also had interpretive dancers for its Best Original Song nominee, "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp". Do dancers normally dress as characters from the film and re-enact crucial scenes, via interpretive dance, or is that new for this year? They didn't have little people dressed as hobbits behind Annie Lennox two years ago. I think I would have remembered that. Anyway, I thought the dancers did a good job of conveying the difficulty of pimping when bitches are talking shit.

I'm a fuckin' idiot

Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not look comfortable at all in delivering his acceptance speech for Best Actor. In fact, he looked like a Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie character, cringing and shrugging, and shielding his eyes with the award envelope. He was about fifteen pounds and a pair of short shorts away from being Scotty from Boogie Nights. "Dirk, do you like this Oscar? I just wanted to make sure you thought the Oscar was cool - I'm really drunk right now. If you didn't think it was cool, Dirk, I was gonna take the Oscar back."


Before the Best Actress award was announced, another guest assured me that Felicity Huffman will win. I told him I thought Reese Witherspoon had it in the bag. She sang, she played a famous person, and unlike Joaquin Phonix and Jamie Foxx, there's little chance she'll spend the next year going around still pretending to be that famous musician. Plus, a Huffman-Hoffman winning combo would mean they'd have to let Letterman come back and host.

He offered to bet five dollars on it, giving me the field versus Felicity. I laid down a five, but told him I only want Reese. If that bitch Judi Dench won, we'd both keep our money. When Jamie Foxx opened the envelope, I found myself five dollars richer. Up yours, Holohan!

Gil Cates Hates "Crash"

The music and lights cut off the acceptance speeches for Paul Haggis & Co. after the Original Screenplay award, and also after the Best Picture nod. I've never seen people played off the stage by the orchestra after Best Picture, because, you know, the show's over after that. ABC takes a strange commercial break afterward, and returns to the telecast only for Jon Stewart's awkward goodbye. My theory is they had to clean up the flaming trash angry attendees threw at the stage to protest the "Crash" victory.

Peer Pressure

Cassie was telling a story about pescatarianism and her vulnerability to peer pressure, standing next to her co-facilitator from Cal's Female Sexuality De-Cal class. In that class, they try to create an environment which fosters an open, comfortable discussion of sex, and relationships, and all subjects in that vein. As such, the language used in the class is designed to be as inclusive and non-judgmental as possible. You don't say "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", you say "partner".

Cassie got to a stage in her story that involved our mutual friend and his girlfriend, and I mentioned that she said "partner". Of course, she was with her co-facilitator, so that made sense. Seconds later, after another couple joined our group, she had switched back to "girlfriend". Peer pressure.

The Tub

For some reason, our tub is filthy. I'm not sure I can invent a scenario for what might have happened in there. If anyone has a good lead, let me know.

UPDATE: An anonymous tipster has informed me that, because the music was most audible in the bathroom, a group of people (I don't want to single anyone out, but their name rhymes with shmanarchists) had a dance party in there, and some people danced in the tub. On the plus side, the oppressive capitalist structure of our bathroom has been overthrown, just like it was at Noe Street.

Attention Ladies

According to more than one beautiful woman, my bed is extremely soft and comfortable, and my comforter smells nice.

I slept alone last night.

What Do You Do?

At college parties, the standard icebreaker question is, "What's your major?" At grown-up parties, it shifts to "What do you do?" For years, I have been making the mistake of giving long answers to small talk questions. Someone asks me wh at I do, and I explain, "Well, we provide representation for indigent defendants, provided they were presented by a public defender at trial, and their offense was a felony --", at which point the person's eyes have already begun to gloss over. Small talk, long answer.

However, I can now fall back on my default college party answer of, "Actually, I'm a filmmaker". It's even a little bit true now. When you say you're a filmmaker, people are instantly interested. They want to know the details of your religious road comedy about surfing, your buddy cop movie about mismatched UCPD officers, how you're planning to do the puppetry for the marijuana-smoking robot. Small talk becomes large talk. People have input about casting choices. They suggest titles, and offer to call friends who work for production companies. People get excited - about your job. Honestly, I should have become a filmmaker years ago.

The incorrect answer to the standard icebreaker question is, "I work for Raytheon and there are eight full-size beds in my townhouse." On a related note, I'm proud to announce that Zembla is now the #1 Google result for "worstie".

International Beverages

The array of available adult beverages was simply breathtaking, as our gathering had an "international" theme. A few guests were confounded by the recipe for White Russians, which stipulated that drinkers use an "old fashioned glass" for their cocktail. "What is an old fashioned glass?" one confused former bass player asked. "Should it look like an antique?" I thought we might have to break out the "No Sex Before Marriage" and "The Guy Should Be THe One To Ask The Girl Out" coffee mugs for the occasion.

In reality, an old fashioned glass is simply a heavy glass that holds 8-10 ounces of liquid. It is ideal for drinks served "on the rocks", or chilled shots that contain juices. An old fashioned glass is one Leo McGarry could appreciate - thick, with a heavy base.

We have a few of those glasses, but we didn't know those were what we were looking for on Saturday night. So we opted for the disposable plastic cups, or as I like to call them, "newfangled glasses".

Newfangled glasses are pretty great in their own right. I love the sound a melting ice cube makes when you drop it onto a flimsy plastic cup from just the right height. Too high, and you knock the plastic cup onto its side. Knock the plastic cup over, the paper umbrella will get wet too fast in the drink. But you get those things right, and it's absolutely the newfangledest White Russian you could ever hope to drink. Plus, there's a paper umbrella inside.

Back in the late 90's, a large majority of the non-sports television I watched was programming that aired after midnight. When you can't go to bars, but you don't want to go to bed before two, you and your friends have limited options. That's the time when we fell in love with the blond woman who did overnight news updates for KRON, with her little shoulder shimmy after, "More news at the top of the hour". It's also when I developed my controversial theory, "Andy Richter Never Says Anything Funny On Conan".

This evening, we were watching a Ricki Lake Show about troubled teens, or out-of-control teens, or teens who strip, or even out-of-control teen strippers who love trouble. And stripping. These teens were not so troubled that they needed Backstage Boot Camp, but they were certainly not in control. I'm not sure all of Ricki's guests were strippers or strippers' family members, but at least one of them was a proud stripper.

When it came time for Ricki to go into the audience for questions, she made a beeline for an extremely short and demonstrative African-American male, who had some choice words for the proud stripper.

"You gotta respect yourself," he began. "You gotta focus on school, not stripping."

"I go to school. I get good grades! You don't know me!" she countered.

He looked like he was waiting for just that opening. "Well, I've got a 4.0, and I'm not taking my clothes off for nobody!" Then, as the audience erupted in applause, the guy broke into a broad grin, and began dancing in place. He held up four fingers on his right hand, and his left hand formed an "O". Swaying and raising the roof, he repeatedly mouthed "Four-Point-O". It was like he was raising the roof with the 4.0 itself. It was awesome.

I guess the guy thought the stripper was saying that you had to strip if your grades were good enough, but I'm glad he stuck to his convictions. For a while, Docta V and I would make the "Four-Point-O" gesture to each other in public, when something particular un-smart happened. It wasn't quite as annoying as the 867-5309 thing, but then again, not many things are.

(In researching this post, I came across the Wikipedia entry for Maury, which is excellent. The writer deserves a 4.0 of his own.)

on posting dates and post-dating

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I'm writing this at 2 AM on a Sunday morning. Yet, this will be date-stamped late Friday night. The reason is that I want to have a post every single day. Not necessarily for any real reason, beyond the fact that I promised to do it in my State of the Zembla address on January 1. Come to think of it, even the post announcing that there would be daily posts was itself composed after its supposed date. At 9:44 on January 1, I was still talking to the Keane cousins about accidentally going to a gay bar my first week in San Francisco (the subject for a new post, perhaps?).

There's no real reason that Zembla needs to be a daily endeavor. The site doesn't cover breaking news. I have no real idea of what the readership even entails, except that it's greater when posts get linked on Deadspin, and Allen tends to read several weeks at a time in big Dutch RSS text gulps. Nor is it an issue of merely keep ing the post count up. It's March 4th, but there have been far more than 62 posts this year. Maybe 65, 66, in fact. Truly, there's more Zembla than anyone actually wants.

In the early days of Cementhorizon, there was more of an informal competition to get one's posts and comments to appear at the top of the main page. Just for the sake of history take a gander at how the old girl used to look. Events? News stories? What a different, more innocent world it was, back in 2002. I do miss the polls a little, shamelessly stolen for the most part from the old Squelch poll site, including my favorite:

What is your reason for crushing a lot?

  • I'm a player

  • I'm not a player; I just crush a lot

These days, CH sites are updated so infrequently, there's no real race. The frantic post/comment rat race has been replaced by general malaise, as readers get their self-worth from things like "loving relationships" and "rewarding careers" and "international travel", rather than the sweet temporary high of being the most recent poster. I personally like to fly under the radar. There's a post every day, somehow, but when did it go up? Most Zembla pieces are written on scraps of paper and pocket-sized notebooks, but only committed to cyber-immortality between midnight and 3 AM. If I were Doc Brown, I'd have finished the wiring job for the Clock Tower four or five hours late, waited for my future self to time-travel from the Old West, then zipped back to 9:54 PM or so to connect the cables.

This might be all hullabalooing over nothing. It's not clear whether people generally read the site via the Cementhorizon main page, and even if they do, whether fake posting dates confuse people, making them think there's no new content, and driving them into the cybernetic arms of Digital Johnny. In fact, I acknowledged the likelihood of fake dates in the original posts. Still, when a friend referred to post-dating a blog post as "pulling a Sean", I knew I had gone too far.

Post-dating posts. Will I ever stop? Yo, I don't know. I might have an answer "tomorrow", but it probably will have been written three weeks from yesterday.

the legend of edward 40-hands


Gene posted about the runaway popularity of our Edward 40-Hands photo album, thus there is no better time for an explanation of the phenomenon that is Edward 40-Hands.

The rules of the game are simple. Take two forties, open them, and then have a friend duct tape one forty to each hand. Then, drink the forties. Once the forties are empty, you can untape your hands. Hands cold? Better start drinking faster. Need to pee? Better start drinking faster. Drinking too fast? You sure you couldn't be drinking faster? The first to finish his or her forties is the winner.

I learned about Edward 40-Hands from my little sister, Molly, who learned it at UC Santa Barbara. All I ever needed to know about excessive, self-destructive drinking, I learned in Santa Barbara. Anytime you see me with alcohol directly stuck to my body, via tape, glue, rope, paste, or some kind of industrial epoxy, you can safely conclude that, whatever activity I'm engaged in, it originated within the Goleta city limits.

The game takes its name from the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp classic film Edward Scissorhands. There are a lot of similarities between the film and the game. Just as Edward has scissors instead of hands, for the duration of the game, participants have large bottles of malt liquor instead of hands. Both the film and game value style and atmosphere over plot and character development. Like the film, early incarnations of the game inevitably featured a scary, hyper-aggressive Anthony Michael Hall. The film and game both have important lessons about overcoming your limitations. Edward had unfinished hands, but he could trim a hedge into the shape of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. After consuming eighty ounces of malt liquor in about an hour, you'll feel like you could do the same, but instead you'll sit around gushing about how Depeche Mode's Ultra is such a great, great album, and how come more people haven't heard of it?

In our game of 40-Hands, we deviated slightly from the official rules. Normally, I think you have to keep both hands taped until both forties are empty. It's like the challenge where you try to drink a gallon of milk in an hour: if you use the bathroom or vomit, you get disqualified (Or, if you're a batboy for the Florida Marlins, you get suspended for six games). We allowed players to free one hand if that hand's bottle was empty, which in retrospect may have been wussy. Tami only taped twelve-ounce beers to her hands, because she wanted to participate and also not die. I think it's legitimate to go the twelve-ounce route if you're small and not trying to prove anything, though I know somewhere in Isla Vista, Molly is shaking her head in disgust.

I was the winner, but it could have been any of us. Well, not Hammack, because we had too big of a head start. These were all nationally-ranked, champion drinkers, with the perforated livers to show for it. And Edward 40-Hands isn't about winning or losing. It's about going past your limits and bringing innovation to the game. Like smoking with forties taped to your hands. Or reading the New Yorker. And let's not forget bleeding profusely. As you can see, Dustin was almost as excited as I was about that last one.

So there you have it. Edward 40-Hands: A drain on Cementhorizon's bandwidth and all of our brain cells. It's still the most successful drinking game based on a Tim Burton film, though "Pee-Wee's Big Bottle of Jack Daniel's" and "Batman Returns Fifteen Dollars' Worth Of Empties" also have their charms. Remember, Edward 40-Hands is a game for legal adults. Please don't play Edward 40-Hands and drive, especially if the bottles are still taped to your hands.

barry bonds: cross-dresser

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Barry Bonds made headlines this week, dressing up as Paula Abdul for the Giants' "American Idol" parody on the first two days of spring training. Observers were amused and horrified by the spectacle of Bonds in drag, complete with blond wig, fake breasts, and exposed, steroid-swollen shoulders. That Bonds's drag show coincided with the start of filming for his new ESPN reality show was mere happenstance. True Giants fans know that Barry Bonds has made a number of cross-dressing tributes to his favorite reality television programs during his Giants career.

1993: Mired in an eight-game losing streak in September, Barry tries to fire up his teammates by dressing as Real World cast member Tami. His lip-synced performance of "I'm a Slave(To Your Lovin')" is met with huge applause and laughter from his teammates. The scene turns ugly when Will Clark drags an underwear-clad Barry out of the dressing room, against his will, for an encore. A frightened Barry shouts, "It wasn't not funny!", and Clark is not re-signed after the season.

1999: This Week In Baseball attempts to exploit the new reality dating show craze by pairing up major league ballplayers for their own Blind Date segments. Barry dons a dress ("Just to be funny, man") for his outing with third baseman Charlie Hayes. The date goes sour after dinner, when Hayes attacks pitcher Todd Stottlemyre, claiming he was being taunted. Barry tears ligaments in his elbow separating the two men, and a pop-up bubble queries, "Is he on the juice?"

2002: Giants regulars produce a Survivor parody video for manager Dusty Baker's birthday. The video turns heated when Barry is voted out at a mock tribal council, and angrily denounces Jeff Kent as his torch is snuffed. "We had an alliance, dawg," shouts Barry. "If I ever saw you in the desert, trying to wash your truck, I wouldn't stop to give you any water to rinse the suds off." For some reason, Barry is wearing only a coconut bra and an improvised skirt made from his tribal buff.

2005: Reliever Jason Christiansen gets into a fistfight with Barry over who gets to play Naima in the clubhouse tribute to America's Next Top Model. Barry eventually leaves the team to continue his rehabilitation in Beverly Hills, preserving his dignity and manicure.

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