July 2006 Archives

sparing the air


There were high temperatures in the Bay Area this weekend, and as such, there were many "Spare the Air" days. The official mission of Spare the Air Day is to encourage commuters to use public transportation on especially hot days, to reduce the air pollution. Transit agencies all over the Bay Area, from BART to MUNI, to probably even the Emery-Go-Round, offer free rides to commuters, as an incentive to ditch their cars for the day.

But ride BART on every Spare the air Day and you'll see the unexpected effect of free mass transit on a scorching hot day. Tourists and homeless people. After all, when you spend the whole day wandering aimlessly, harassing strangers, and searching for a place to pee, you might as well spend that time on an air conditioned train. The same thing holds true if you're homeless. Your average BART train is only slightly dirtier than a street corner in the Tenderloin.

When a train is crowded with people who have been sitting in hundred-degree heat all day, the air isn't exactly spared, if you know what I'm saying.

I'm not the only one to notice the dark side of sparing the air. San Francisco Chronicle bulldogs Matier and Ross exposed the madness of Spare the Air Day last week. They discovered accounts of "blaring boom boxes", "10 young males in white T-shirts and baggy pants...holding the door open and acting like they were on the playground", and even "food and drink containers (which are banned)". Who knew that saving the environment would come at such a cost? Maybe Al Gore should put that in his movie - you want to fight global warming, be prepared for food and drink containers and boom boxes.

As many of you know, Zembla has always been an avid chronicler of Warren G. and Nate Dogg. (See Warren G, You Useless, Useless Bastard and We Get Letters, December 2002 Edition) (Note: December 2002 is also the only letters feature ever to run on Zembla.)

Now, it seems that Zembla has not been alone in its efforts to expose the cultural significance of Warren G's music. Yacht Rock, Episode 7 discusses "Regulate", and how it is the inadvertant byproduct of the smooth grooves of the early 80's. This episode deals with an element of "Regulate" that I have never explored; namely, that the song is built of a Michael McDonald sample, "I Keep Forgettin'".

McDonald's lyrics insist repeatedly that things will never be the same again. Of course this is true for the robbers slain by Nate Dogg, but is that idea present in "Regulate"? Will things truly be different for Warren and Nate? Or will tomorrow bring another dice game, another car full of ho's, another trip to the Eastside Motel?

This new report raises one question of utmost importance: Due to his use of a Michael McDonald sample in his hit song, is Warren G even more of a worthless, worthless bastard? And the answer is yes. Warren G is indeed a bastard, and worth even less than previously estimated.

comedy competition recap, part 2

For those of you who couldn't make it to the Finals last night, a clip of the performance is available on Rooftop Comedy. To get the full effect, turn off your air conditioning and chug three or four beers before watching the clip. Things to look for:

1. Time of the clip = 6:59. Yes, that's right. One second short of an automatic disqualification for exceeding the seven-minute limit.

2. Inconsistent choreography.

3. My insistence on standing six-to-nine inches out of the spotlight, which might serve as a metaphor for my subconscious fear of success. Or maybe the stool was in the way.

4. Jokes-per-minute stats: Off the charts! Words-per-minute stats: All off those same charts! And to think I actually had an entire additional bit on my set list. It was roughly a ten-minute routine, sped up to fit into seven minutes, so you might half-expect to hear my high-pitched voice explaining how my good behavior over the past year deserves a hula hoop.

5. Hyphens-per-post: Deny the existence of charts.

All in all, this is quite a clip. Watch it, rate it, let Windows Media Player crash your web browser, and fall in love again with Sean Keane, for the first time.

comedy competition recap

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A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out to the final round of the SF Comedy Club Competition last night. As in the World Cup, it is an honor to simply make the Finals. Also like the World Cup, some people will make jokes about your momma. And sometimes you go home in disgrace.

First place: Mike Winfield
Second place: Debbie Campo
Third place: Nico Santos (See him tonight at the Cameltoe Show at the Purple Onion.)

After seeing Mike in the first round, I predicted he would win the contest. He kicked ass, and he's a worthy winner. I hadn't seen Debbie before, but the crowd loved her. One comic pantomined "home run" as she walked off stage, so second place was not at all surprising. Nico Santos is always a treat, and I was happy he did his "uncomfortable ending" joke. Congratulations all.

The Golden Ball went to David Wiswell, probably because they closed the voting halfway through, and the judges didn't see him headbutt Julian Vance. It was hard to tell what motivated David to do that, but lip-readers claim that Julian said something about retarded kids and their backpacks, and David just lost it. Also, I'm pretty sure Julian tweaked David's nipple.

Of the fourth place finishers (AKA losers), Kellen Erskine was again a standout. Many of my friends voted for him, and at least one of my family members thinks he's cute. If you're in the South Bay, you can see Kellen this weekend at the San Jose Improv, and you can make him your MySpace friend anytime. We'll both be performing at Ron's Farmhouse in Mountain View on Friday, July 28th, as well.

Fourteen people advanced to the Finals, out of an original group of 75. This means that, though they don't announce places past third, I did beat at least 61 people in this competition. 62 if you count Nathan Jackson.

The format of the final round could use some tightening, however. Fourteen people is a lot to have in the finals, especially since only 27 advanced to the semi-finals. That's right - over half of the semi-finalists made it to the finals. It seems like there is a weakness in the comedy distillation process at that point. They don't finish the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and decide, you know what, it's gonna be the Sweet Twenty-Six this year. Billy Packer would shit himself, unless the extra teams were from the Big East and ACC.

Maybe cap the finals at eight, and if there's a tie or a voting irregularity, expand the field to a maximum of ten comics. I realize that this might have kept me out of the finals, but that's a theoretical price I'm willing to hypothetically pay.

That being said, it was a very good crowd, and an exciting event all around. It's the second-largest crowd I've ever played to in SF, after Iron Comic 3, though I think the Dave Attell show in Berkeley was still my largest audience ever. Patrons got to see a lot of excellent comics, and lost an average of six pounds each due to the sweltering conditions indoors.

What we witnessed outside: a bum urinating on the sidewalk; police officers apprehending a guy breaking into parked cars with a crowbar; other cops in an unmarked car surprising a guy trying to break into an ATM. Tenderloin fever - catch it!

How did I do? Technically, I finished in an 11-way tie for fourth. I drew the much-loathed #1 slot in the lineup. To give you an idea of how comics feel about going first, that spot is known as "taking the bullet". My slip of paper even said, "OH SHIT!" underneath the number one. Though I ultimately finished the evening a big loser, I felt good about my performance, getting a lot of crowd reaction while mixing up my usual set list. Even 50 Mason's lovely bartender complimented my set, saying she liked the extra energy I displayed. I got similar comments after Iron Comic - maybe it takes a competition, a time limit, or a drunken, heat-stricken crowd to get me to tell jokes quickly and with authority.

The real lesson is to keep working and writing jokes, and to convince your friends in the audience to strategically down-vote Nico Santos, even if they think he was the funniest. Besides, if I really want to find people drinking heavily in the sweltering heat, I can just go to Pleasant Hill and hang out with my family. Thank you! I'll be here all week! Be sure to tip your waitress and Cementhorizon!

Nobody Gives a Damn About Sonic Youth

I thought I might give a damn, and their first song, "Incinerate", was pretty good. But then Kim Gordon sang. She is a bad, bad singer. Kim introduced another song by saying, "This song was inspired by reality TV shows. It's called, 'What a Waste'." Their willingness to take a stand against reality television convinced me that Sonic Youth was still relevant.

I didn't hate Sonic Youth, except when Kim was singing, but I simply didn't care. I like some of their older material, but the band was doing songs from a brand-new CD. I was temporarily interested in the child taking pictures from the wings of the stage (Thurston and Kim's kid? A hipster child with a terminal disease who got hooked up by Make-a-Wish?), but then that bored me, too. They got their biggest ovation when frontman Thurston Moore threw up a peace sign on his way off stage.

I also didn't give a damn about the peace sign.

Misanthropy Section

Do I always hate certain crowd members at rock shows, or am I just a misanthrope? A little of both, I believe. There were two fans who stood out at this show. The first one was a heavyset balding fellow who stood in front of me. I think he was trying to save a place for friends arriving later, but the effect of his efforts was to place him uncomfortably close. And when he began dancing to Sonic Youth, there was far too much ass-to-crotch contact happening. He might have been unaware; he might have been a passive-aggressive sex offender. After holding him off with a forearm to the back through Sonic Youth's entire set, I eventually managed to move away.

Moving away brought me into the path of notable fan #2, a slimmer balding man. This guy was really happy to be there. I know this because he announced it to the crowd every five minutes. Slim Baldy appeared to have come alone, so he tried to make conversation with everyone around him. Everyone was avoiding eye contact well before Pearl Jam took the stage. Here are some things Slim Baldy did during the show:

1. Chain-smoked.
2. Begged a nearby behemoth for a hit off his joint, repeating, "I'll pay you. I need this." Later, he leaned over to awkwardly thank the behemoth. All I could make out of their one-sided conversation was Slim Baldy saying, "I don't want to be that asshole, you know?"
3. Was that asshole. You know?
4. Tried to lead the crowd in clapping during every other song. Sometimes, he was the only person in the arena clapping. It wasn't enough to simply clap and hope that everyone followed his lead. He had to campaign for the clap, sometimes on a personal basis. It was the rock concert equivalent of door-to-door fighting. His refrain was, "Let's get the clap going! Come on! Get the clap going!" I hope he gets the clap.
5. Dropped a lit cigarette on his own foot.
6. Shouted the lyrics to "Better Man", one second ahead of the crowd and Eddie Vedder.
7. Requested "Rats".
8. Told us it was the best night of his entire life.
9. Took four cell phone calls.
10. Elbowed a teenage girl in the back of the head.

Fuckin' Up

Pearl Jam covered Neil Young's "Fuckin' Up" in their second encore, and dedicated it to George W. Bush and his cabinet. Eddie Vedder also fucked up "Sometimes", the very first song of the night, so badly that they stopped after one verse and moved on to the next song. Since it was the first song, he couldn't even use the two bottles of wine he chugged during the show as an excuse. He also fucked up "Rearview Mirror" and "Whipping", but no one seemed to mind.

Mike McCready Is A Swell Guy

I was in front of Mike McCready for the show, which was a real treat. He raced around, made faces, talked to fans, pointed at other fans, and threw approximately two hundred guitar picks into the crowd. If you made eye contact with McCready, he tossed you a pick. If you missed the pick, he threw you another one. Twice, he tossed heaping handfuls of guitar picks into the crowd, willy-nilly. His haircut and glasses were equal parts ridiculous and magnificent.

McCready played many killer solos, some on songs that usually don't even have solos. "Even Flow" and "Corduroy" stood out for me, but he was on fire the whole night. There were a few occasions where McCready called bassist Jeff Ament over to his side of the stage, but not for any musical reasons - he just thought of something funny, and wanted to tell Ament, even if they were in the middle of a song. The last time that happened, Ament was laughing so hard that he careened into an amplifier.

Jeff Ament's Unorthodox Mic Stand

Jeff Ament provides backing vocals on many songs. His microphone is set up about six feet off the ground, and points straight down, meaning that Ament stands under the microphone and throws his head way back when he has to sing. When Eddie Vedder had to use that microphone later in the show, he made a "What the fuck?" face. Because that is indeed a freakish arrangement. And because Eddie Vedder is at least six inches shorter than Jeff Ament, and thus could not reach the microphone.

Song Distribution By Album

Ten 3
Vs. 5
Vitalogy 3
No Code 3
Yield 0
Binaural 1
Riot Act 0
Pearl Jam 8
B-Sides and EPs 2
Covers 4

Is Eddie Drunk?

During the extended middle section of "Rearviewmirror", Eddie stood with the guitar over the back of his head, staggering slightly. "Man is he drunk," I thought. But then they put a spotlight on Eddie, and he used the guitar to angle the light back into the crowd, moving it along the balcony and into the general admission crowd on the floor. It was a cool effect, and I felt bad for doubting Eddie's sobriety. Slim Baldy informed us that Eddie was "doing The Wave", because Slim Baldy doesn't know what The Wave is.


Eddie sang "Last Kiss" from amidst the crowd, thanks to a V-shaped wedge in the middle of the crowd. He might have had some security guys with him as well; I was only tall enough to see the top of his head as he sang.


Points addressed:

1. We were a great crowd.
2. San Francisco has been very kind to Pearl Jam
3. The band regrets how much energy their tour uses, and how much carbon it produces. They are making unspecified environmental efforts in an attempt to counter the damage done, including an interview that pre-empted sound check, and may have led to the "Sometimes" fuck-up.
4. Eddie was drinking only Northern California wine, "as you do".
5. Jeff Ament listened to a lot of punk rock growing up, and is the reason the band brought out The Avengers to do a song.
6. Seriously, the crowd was great.

The Avengers

A punk rock duo called The Avengers came out to sing "American In Me" with the band. Sample lyric: " It's the American in me that makes me watch the blood running out of the bullethole in his head." If they were the real Avengers, the Comics Code would have prevented the depiction of a bloody bullethole, the guitarist would have wielded the hammer Mjolnir, and the woman singing would have been able to grow or shrink in size using Pym particles.

The set list is after the jump.

the handsome man gap


The publication of the 2006 Handsome Man Team (thanks Deadspin) has made me consider the handsomeness of my favorite team, the San Francisco Giants. The only Giant to appear on any of the three previous Handsome Teams is Barry Bonds, as an outfiled reserve. With his swollen head, hair loss, weight gain, and bacne, I don't think Bonds comes close to qualifying for the team anymore. You can't blame East Coast bias in the selections, because the Oakland A's are well-represented. According to one female Giants fan, the Giants "might be one of the all-around ugliest teams".

One change to this year's team is the absence of J.T. Snow. For nine years, J.T. played first base for the Giants, a long tenure that seemed to have as much to do with his good looks as his fielding ability. While Snow's lack of power and inconsistent hitting frustrated many, Snow's admirers defended his defensive ability, his rescue of Darren Baker during the 2002 World Series, and the way his ass looked while doing all those things. When Snow departed to Boston as a free agent, the Giants did little to fill the void of handsomeness.

So who are the candidates for Handsomest Man on the Giants? Let's examine the candidates.


Jeremy Accardo, RP: Accardo was the player mentioned most often in my informal handsomeness survey. Accardo earns points because of his handsomeness out of the bullpen, a traditionally weak position for male beauty. However, when a relief pitcher is your best-looking player, it is a bad sign for the overall handsomeness of your team.


Moises Alou, OF: Alou is not bad-looking, but two factors make him lose any and all handsome points. First, he pees on his hands to toughen them up for hitting. Second, his father Felipe looks like a turtle. When fans see the Giants manager, they are given a horrifying glimpse into Moises's testudinal future.


Jason Ellison, OF: One woman said Ellison might be the handsomest man on the Giants, but I don't see it. I may be biased against him due to his disappointing play, which includes a series of awful defensive plays in the outfield. For a player whose primary job is as a defensive sub in the late innings, this is especially bad. Ellison has just been demoted to Fresno, as the Giants have called up the far less handsome Tood Linden.


Steve Kline, RP: Kline is not an especially handsome man to begin with, and loses points due to his filthy hat. Kline wears one hat, one undershirt, and one pair of socks for the entire season. Kline says, "I like to see how bad and smelly it gets at the end of the year." Though in theory, one's body odor is separate from one's handsomeness, Kline is not doing himself any favors. The black Giants cap is a little more conducive to grime than his old Cardinals hat, but it's still gross.


Noah Lowry, P: Lowry might have been the captain of SF Team Handsome were it not for the birthmark under his right eye. It is superficial to disqualify the man over something like this, but major league handsomeness is all about superficiality.


Mike Matheny, C: Mentioned in the writeup of the 2004 Handsome Man Team and currently out with post-concussion symptoms, Matheny has filled Brent Mayne's old role as wavy-haired veteran handsome catcher. While it could not cushion his skull from major brain trauma, Matheny's glorious hair launches him into the handsome debate. Given the Giants' recent history with craggy-faced backstops like Benito Santiago and Yorvit Torrealba, Matheny is a breath of fresh air as a catcher who wears his mask for protection, not out of shame.


Matt Morris, P: While the facial hair of most major leaguers ranges from "disgusting" to "unfortunate", the beard works for Matt Morris. One female associate pegged him as "hot" before the season began, but failed to mention him as a Handsome Man candidate this week. He has become a much more consistent pitcher recently. While on-field success shouldn't really affect one's handsomeness, we all know it does. Reportedly has "very nice eyes".


Jose Vizcaino, IF: I didn't know This Guy I Know was so good-looking. Probably too old for any all-handsome consideration, but he's definitely a bench player with a starting-caliber smile.


Omar Vizquel, SS: In the 90's, Vizquel was a legendary hearthrob among Cleveland Indians fans, when he was probably the only Venezuelan in the state of Ohio. He fields well, and in his spare time, Omar sings (scroll down to "Omar sings 'Broadway'"). He's past his prime, and better-looking when he wears a cap to hide his baldness. Also, while Vizquel is good-looking, his looks are not exceptional for a shortstop, traditionally one of the handsomest positions in baseball. If this were 1999, Vizquel would be the clear winner here, but he is simply too old.


Randy Winn, OF: One fan argued that Randy Winn, despite his non-traditional facial features, Randy Winn was indeed a handsome man. She is simply wrong.

The Giants farm system has done a poor job of developing handsome over the years. Prospects like Jacob Cruz and Armando Rios didn't stick with the big club, and they weren't all that handsome to begin with. Jesse Foppert failed to live up to his potential, either as a handsome man or an ace pitcher. And if your farm system can't develop handsome players, you are forced to overpay for marginal handsomeness on the free agent market.


Fred Lewis is the only guy who looks like he has the combination of baseball talent and handsomeness that might contribute at the major league level. If Linden falters, don't be surprised if Lewis takes over as the fifth outfielder in September, and the #1 outfielder in ladies' hearts.

the new yorker gets "hip"

From Where Hip-Hop Lives, by Ben McGrath:

    Gravy's own words - his rhymes - are less jarring, by comparison, tending to fall safely within the established motifs of gangsta rap: boasting of sexual prowess (one's "bitches"), complaining about "dick-riders" (i.e., copycats), declaring war on the police, and laying claim to neighborhood terrain...He drew a distinction between "the hood" (where "not a lot of dudes got computers in they cribs") and "the streets", a larger, amorphous place where public opinion crystallizes.

The whole article is pretty "dope" (not meaning the drug, but rather, an adjective signifiying something's perceived high quality). Check it out, "homies" (one's friends, or "peeps").

(Part 1 2)

It was the summer of 1994. The Contract With America was still just a glimmer in Dick Armey's eye. The players' strike was about to ruin Matt Williams's attempt at the single-season home run record. Gavin Rossdale taught us that we lived in a wheel, where everyone stole, and when we rose it was like Strawberry Fields.

I was in a teen theatre production of Bye Bye Birdie playing my usual role of "Chorus". As a chorus member, I had much less responsibility in the way of rehearsing, or changing costumes, or appearing on stage in any form whatsoever. What I had a great deal of time for was making stupid jokes with other mediocre performers backstage.

Most of these jokes were completely asinine. We had a long-running gag where we'd pretend someone else had a spot on their shirt. "Is that mustard?" Dave would ask. Or, "Whoa, you're going to go on stage like that?" When the other person looked down, they got flicked in the nose. Is it a sign of immaturity that I still find that hilarious?

We also ripped off older, funnier people. We did characters from Saturday Night Live constantly, particularly Jon Lovitz's Pathological Liar character. Sometimes the jokes would be tangentially related to the show. "Oh yeah, I know Conrad Birdie," Chad would say. "Taught him everything he knows. Yeah, that's the ticket. I wrote all his songs." Most of the time we'd repeat the Lovitz bits verbatim, discussing "my wife, Morgan Fairchild. Whom I have slept with," even though we had only the vaguest idea of who Morgan Fairchild actually was. Or what sleeping with someone was, for that matter.

The childish antics did pave the way for the Devil Mountain Improv League, which was founded by many of the same sarcastic, ungrateful punks from the Bye Bye Birdie ensemble. Former roommate Mike had an actual speaking part, but he was an honorary member of the crew, despite his tendency to fall for the mustard trick.

At the cast party, our director took time to thank the many parents who'd volunteered to help out with costumes, music, and stage crew. Of course, our group paid no attention, choosing to focus instead on repeating the same jokes we'd been making for two months. Loudly.

However, the cast party taught me a lesson about paying attention that I'd failed to learn in six weeks of rehearsals and eight performances. The director presented an award to her middle-aged assistant, a mom to two of the cast members. She said some very nice things about her commitment and sacrifice, and how the show couldn't have happened without her. "This gift goes to Carol," she said. And in the brief silence before the applause began, one voice rang out from a completely different conversation.

"Whom I have slept with," I declared.

inside the attore's studio


JAMES LIPTON: We're back at the Actor's Studio with Italian striker Fabiano De Gunto. Take us through the next stage of your career. You finished summer school at Juilliard, and you wanted to sign with Palermo.

FABIANO DE GUNTO: Yes I did. But the manager didn't think I was ready. He said I had some work to do before I could fall into a place on the squad. So I joined an improv group.

LIPTON: Dadi Assalitti. (Audience applauds)

DE GUNTO: We had a very popular game where audience members would shout out a part of the leg, and the actors had to improvise a scene based on an injury to that part of the leg.

LIPTON: But you did more than that to prepare. You visited with war veterans. Amputees. Survivors of horrific automobile accidents.

DE GUNTO: From my time at Juilliard, I was familiar with the Stanislavsky Method. I shadowed these people for weeks, asking myself, "How does a man wince when his knee is dislocated?" "If I were truly hurt, what would my cries of pain sound like?" Eventually, even I began to believe my act. (Pause) I also grew a greasy ponytail.

LIPTON: And at the next transfer period, you were playing for Palermo. (Sustained applause.) Did your preparation pay off in Serie A?

DE GUNTO: Serie A has some of the most talented actors in the world. To play with thespians like that, you almost can't help but raise your game. Also, we all have to act like the games aren't fixed.

LIPTON: Tell me about the on-field medical treatment.

DE GUNTO: I like the stretcher because it's so theatrical. Even the most cynical fan has trouble doubting one's wounds when one is being carted off the field on a canvas litter from the 1920's.

LIPTON: And the so-called "magic spray" that trainers use?

DE GUNTO: That's just water. (Applause.)

LIPTON: You made an immediate impact on Palermo, drawing penalty kicks on runs to the box three times in your first five games. On one play, despite not being touched by a defender, you lay on the ground covering your face for over five minutes until the referee gave your opponent a red card. (Applause.) How soon did you leave the sidelines?

DE GUNTO: 45 seconds later. (Sustained applause.)

LIPTON: We have reached the lightning round. Who are your greatest influences?

DE GUNTO: All the legends. Baggio. De Niro. Reggie Miller. Vlade Divac.

LIPTON: What is your favorite part of a game of Texas Hold 'Em?

DE GUNTO: The flop.

LIPTON: What is your favorite Olympic event?

DE GUNTO: Diving.

LIPTON: What is your favorite four-letter word?

DE GUNTO: "Ouch". (Applause)

LIPTON: Now let's take questions from some of our students?

STUDENT #1: Yes, Mr. De Gunto. I was wondering if you feel that your team's style of constant flopping, pleading with referees, and faking injuries goes against the spirit of soccer? Aren't you a ashamed of yourself?

(DE GUNTO falls with an anguished cry, covering his face, rolling from side to side, and clutching his ankle. Lipton sends off the questioner, who will by rule be required to miss the next Inside the Actor's Studio episode.)

the road to the finals

On Wednesday, I advanced to the finals of the San Francisco Comedy Club's third annual competition (scroll down). This marks the first time I have reached the final round of a competition since the great Heuristic Squelch Leg Wrestling Championship of 2002. Before that, it was the eighth grade spelling bee, when my hopes and dreams of county spelling bees and free t-shirts were dashed by the word "loggia".

You can watch a clip of Wednesday night's show right here, courtesy of Rooftop Comedy. Listen for the sounds of Sean's Dad and Sean's Mom, conveniently seated just below Rooftop's camera. If you like what you see, why not give that clip a nice rating? If you don't like what you see? I think the expression is, "If you don't have a nice star-based rating to give, don't give any rating at all".

The finals are on Wednesday, July 19th, at the San Francisco Comedy Club at 50 Mason. Show starts at 8 PM. Until I hear differently, I will assume that admission is still going to be $10. Since the awkward comedy chaff has been separated from the hilarious comedy wheat, the final round should be the tastiest, funniest night of the whole competition. Each comic gets a full ten minutes to show his or her stuff, with the audience the ultimate arbiter of who will win, and who will be sent to the Masondrome to battle for his life against some of the Tenderloin's fiercest hoboes.

Until then, my fellow finalists and I will pose for photos with the SFCC Competition trophy*, train with fanatical Eastern European jokesmiths in their secret comedy facilities, and talk smack about one another in the media. I plan to focus on how I have been disrespected the whole competition. "Nobody gave me a chance," I'll say. "I remember all the haters. 'Sean Keane is too short'. 'His skin is too pasty and white'. 'He'll never get a suntan or win a stand-up competition'. 'Iron Comic was a fluke'. That's why I say, how you like me now, voice in my head?"

Seriously, come to the show. July 19th. Comedy. Beer. And maybe, finally, I'll get a little bit of self-respect.

*trophy may not exist

When I was nine, I fell off the monkey bars at school and hit my head. I went home, and my dad took care of me, though he didn't exactly understand what he was supposed to do.

Dad: Here we go. Home again, safe and sound.
Sean: Thanks, Dad.
Dad: I'll go get your pajamas.
Sean: I don't know if I should be in pajamas. Mom said I'm supposed to stay awake.
Dad: You sure?
Sean: Pretty sure.
Dad: Tell you what. Lie down on the couch and think about it for a few minutes while I get those PJs.

Dad: Knock knock. Hey buddy, how you doing?
Sean: My head kind of hurts still.
Dad: Want me to turn off that overhead light for you?
Sean: No thanks.
Dad: You know what helps me when I have mild brain trauma? This "Sounds of the Ocean" CD. The first eight tracks are just wave noises. I'll let you enjoy them. (Leaves room, turns off light.)

Dad: Son, I brought you some dinner.
Sean: Wow, turkey. A really big plate of turkey.
Dad: You know what they say - "Starve a cold, feed a head injury". You really should have that turkey with a chardonnay, though.

Sean: A Room with a View. Are you sure you want to watch this movie, Dad?
Dad: Yes. I hear it's great, but your mother and I have never made it through that one. I think I was just tired when we rented it.
Sean: OK, put it on.
(Opening credits roll. Dad falls asleep on top of the remote.)

Ten Years Later

Doctor: Sean, your father has a severe case of pneumonia.
Sean: Get that chicken soup away from him! (Slaps tray out of orderly's hands.)
Mom: I'm sorry, Doctor. He's been irritable since he came out of the coma.

ESPN's soccer announcers have been justifiably derided for their suckiness. The games have been broadcast both on the ESPN networks and also Univision, and I have usually opted for the Spanish-language broadcast. I think there are a sizable number of viewers who have chosen to watch the games with inferior picture quality, being broadcast in a language they don't even understand, in order to avoid ESPN's Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa.

I haven't studied Spanish since 1997, but I still find the Univision announcers more intelligible than Balboa. In Germany's match against Argentina, Balboa repeatedly insisted that the penalty shootout could involve "all eleven guys". This is tantamount to a baseball broadcaster, in the bottom of the ninth, yammering that both teams needed to be prepared to play 18 innings. As it turned out, only four guys on each side took penalty kicks, just seven short of Balboa's prediction. Balboa also stressed how he was "unimpressed" by the German goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann, minutes before he saved two penalty shots to win the game.

One nagging annoyance of the early World Cup games was the Bottom Line. Because games were shown on ESPN2, a running ticker of scores and sports news ran constantly below the action. This would have been convenient were the games on early in the morning, when no other sports were happening. Hell, most NBA players are just going to bed at 6:55 AM, the time many World Cup matches started. At 6:55, there is no sports news, with the exception of the game you are currently watching. Yet for ninety minutes, ESPN devoted 10% of their screen area to information about probable pitchers, NBA playoff scoring averages, and leaderboards for obscure golf tournaments.

That wasn't the only way that ESPN encroached on the viewing area. Instead of a small box showing team names and the clock, ESPN went for a huge bar across the top of the screen, about four times the amount of space they needed to say, "Still tied, 0-0."

For the knockout round, it got even worse. An extra title bar was placed above the score bar, which said, "Quarterfinals - Fifa World Cup - Live". It's 8 AM! Who is watching this by mistake? It's as if ESPN is catering to the developmentally delayed, or perhaps disoriented alcoholics. Otherwise, these drunks and simpletons might wake up confused as to why ESPN was televising a friendly between Germany and Argentina. Fortunately for them, no matter what point in the game they wake up, the title bar is there the whole match.

The graphics were similarly horrible. ESPN thinks nothing of placing a graphic in the center of the screen, obscuring the action. Often the graphic is only tangentially related to the game at hand, or says something self-evident. The team that scores first usually wins? You don't say! We were treated to a twenty-second, half-screen graphic during Germany-Argentina that listed each team's remaining subs - Germany: 0; Argentina: 0.

Other Cup notes:

  • One reason to watch Univision is the emotional, vaguely incoherent calls of important moments. When Germany won the penalty shootout with Argentina, here was the Univision call:

    "El Alemán! El Alemán! Yes! Jens! Yes! Jens! Yes! Jens! El Alemán! El Alemán! Jens! Yes!"

    Also of note is that announcer Andres Cantor has defected from Univision to Telemundo, taking his trademark "Gooooooooool!" call with him. As a result, goal calls on Univision feature a shorter, staccato burst of "Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol!" rather than one drawn-out "Goooool!" Kind of like if Cake did a cover version of Andres Cantor's goal call, minus the inevitable trumpet solo.

  • Jens Lehmann reminds me of a taller, German version of Mike B. He's got curly hair, a slightly receding hairline, and two days of beard growth. Lehmann also looks sleepily grumpy in a way I remember from living with Mike B., a look that says, "I'm getting up to build Pepsi displays at 5 AM, and you guys are still up drinking malt liquor and playing video games."

  • Most valuable information gleaned from the Bottom Line: "The U.S. Paintball Championships will be pre-empted by the World Cup Quarterfinals. They will be shown at 9 PM ET." Get those TiVos ready, America!

  • Budweiser is the official beer of the World Cup, in Germany. Cassie says, "It's as if they had the World Cup in the US, and the official soft drink was Tab."

  • Univision didn't say what they were pre-empting. I'm going to assume it was a telenovela.

  • England's Peter Crouch is absolutely fascinating to watch. Crouch is 6'7" and approximately 105 pounds. He reminds me of the protagonist of the 1981 Scottish classic, Gregory's Girl. Or a giraffe. Crouch seems to have a normal-sized torso, but ridiculously long legs, which do not prevent him from doing The Robot when he scores a goal. Cassie gasped nearly every time he got the ball, both in hopes that he might score and in fear that his wee fragile legs would break, and he'd have to be put down like an injured racehorse. It's constant fascination coupled with fear.

    You're a freak, Peter Crouch! You're unnatural!

  • At different points in their game with Germany, Argentine players surrounded the referee and began arguing with and abusing him. It was like watching the famous Globetrotter circle, only with far more ponytails.

  • You see far more balding players during the World Cup. In the post-Jordan era of American sports, balding players of any race tend to immediately shave their heads. Not so with international footballers. While many do indeed choose the shaved-head look, there are a significant number of World Cup participants with receding hairlines and what look like sweaty combovers.

    According to Baldness.com:

    A bald athlete has a special appeal. Athletes are so often exemplars of the human body, stunning combinations of speed, strength and agility. To see a bald athlete is to be reminded that he is human, that in most regards he is just like me.

    Maybe these footballers are simply unashamed of their baldness. One might say it's refreshing for a player to simply accept his hair loss naturally without resorting to extreme measures like the razor. And how does the naturally balding athlete look? Honestly, kind of gross and terrible.

safe sex advice for pirates

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Wearing a condom be not an effective deterrent to scurvy. Anyone who tells you different is no kind of pirate health expert, and ought to be keelhauled.

Thar not be enough plunder in the world to compare to the benefits of disease-free genitalia.

Polly the Parrot says, "Awk! Learn how to use a dental dam! Awk!"

Keep your swagger, sheathe your dagger.

Eyepatches should not be shared. Pink eye be a curse that be attached to no treasure.

Beware of splinters! The only safe sex with a wooden appendage be no sex at all. But if ye be determined, make sure to have sandpaper and whale fat on deck.

Do not put anything, anything into the mouth of a crocodile. Thar be too many buccaneers that have learned this the hard way.


William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840. Our annual canoe trip to the Russian River is tentatively planned for Sunday, July 30th. Let's see how these two match up!


Canoe trip: At 9 AM, we depart from Safeway, located at Church & Market. Barring attacks from the Shawnee tribe, we should arrive in Guerneville by 10:30. If you don't leave from San Francisco, meet up there at 10:30. We're going with a new company, King's Kayak and Canoe Rentals, and doing the Forestville-to-Guerneville run.
King's is located at 16258 Main Street, in Guerneville. Canoes must be returned by 5:30, so the earlier we arrive, the more precious river time we'll have.

William Henry Harrison Presidency: William Henry Harrison was in office for only thirty days, before dying.


Canoe trip: Historically, canoeists often pick up lunch at Safeway, before we head up north. If you are a member of the Safeway Club, the savings can be significant. Show up at 8:30 or so if you're planning to do some pre-river shopping.

WHHP: Mostly focused on hard cider. Not a Safeway Club member, but WHH was a Freemason.


Canoe trip: Tipping a canoe or kayak will probably will get your stuff wet, which should include water, towels, lunch, and your favorite glass-free river beverage.

WHHP: It's a battle, a nickname, and Tyler, too!

Middle names

Canoe trip: Optional

WHHP: Required

Dealing with the Elements

Canoe trip: Bring sunscreen, river shoes, a swimsuit, a sun-deflecting hat, and a change of clothes.

WHHP: Go to your inauguration in freezing weather without an overcoat, and deliver a two-hour speech, the longest inaugural address in American history. Later, die of pneumonia.


Canoe trip: A two-person canoe rental costs $50 for the day. A two-person kayak is $45. Solo kayaks are $30. Cash only.

WHHP: A failure to enact Henry Clay's proposed "American System", the expulsion of President John Tyler from the Whig Party, sectional conflicts, and the tyrannical reign of evil twin brother Henry William Harrison.


Canoe trip: If you decide to join the canoe fun, let me know ASAP so we can reserve our spots.

WHHP: Before William Henry Harrison died, he laid ill in the White House. Doctors treated him with opium, castor oil, snakes, and various snakeweeds. In other words, Vice President Tyler knew he was a dead man well in advance.

July 30th Itself

Canoe trip: Sun, fun, and friendship.

WHHP: Already dead for nearly four months.

Famous Last Words

Canoe trip: "No thanks. I put on plenty of sunscreen already."

WHHP: "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."


Canoe trip:
2003 -
WHHP: Official White House Biography

Clearly, the canoe trip wins. Feel free to express interest, concerns, and spirited defenses of Daniel Webster in the comments.

ucsb graduation, 2006

The Class of 2006 graduated from UC Santa Barbara two weeks ago, including my sister Molly. UCSB holds all of their graduations on one weekend, a decision that led to our family staying 40 miles away, in the town of Buellton, just a few miles from Solvang Danish Village.

Stinky Sunday

It wasn't until arriving at the ceremony that I realized my mistake. In our haste to get out of the hotel and on the road to the university, I had neglected to put on deodorant. At first I thought, "No big deal. It's not that warm. No way this ceremony last more than two hours, right?" But ten minutes in, when I was pinning my upper arms to my sides to avoid releasing my pungent underarm stink into the atmosphere, I realized that I had unwittingly created a Stinky Sunday for myself.

I changed shirts before lunch, but the damage was already done. Stinky Sunday it was.

Class Gift

What would the UC Santa Barbara Class of 2006 donate to the university? I suggested a waterslide. My dad thought it would be a gigantic bong. Instead, they created an endowment to help underprivileged students, and I felt bad about mocking them. I am still holidng out hope that the students will donate something memorable to Isla Vista. Maybe an endowment for the fire department, to deal with burning couches.


We'd left my sister at about 1:30 the night before, as she promised to "continue to rage" and her roommate told us mimosas were scheduled for 7:30 AM. At this point, Molly had not yet received her official graduation name card. The next morning, when Dad asked if she'd gotten any sleep, her snap reply was, "Absolutely not."
I would not have been surprised to hear the dean announce, "Milly Kane", only to be met with snores from my napping little sister.


A girl sang what seemed to me like the slowest national anthem in history. I wish I'd timed it. The crowd of graduates was huge, and the crowd of spectators even more so. The one graduate who stood out had fashioned a large green arrow on a signpost, which read, "Here I am". The dean rhetorically asked graduates, "Don't we have the coolest chancellor in the UC system?" How the hell did they know, I wondered. Also, in regards to the coolness of UC chancellors, see faint praise, damning with.

UCSB is in the top 2% of North American schools, though Dad was more curious as to where they ranked on Playboy's list of top party school. The students followed up their half-hearted applause with delayed cheers when the dean discussed the Supreme Court's affirmative action rulings, probably because the reference came out of nowhere. Dean Non Sequitur continued with his speech, "A List of Random Shit That Happened in the Past Decade", going on to mention Enron, Hurricane Katrina, watching movies on your computer, the 2000 election, the digital revolution (?), Iraq, and cell phones. He concluded by telling graduates, "You're the greatest generation." Then Tom Brokaw and a group of grizzled WW2 vets shot him down in cold blood.


At every college graduation I have attended in California, there has always been someone outside selling tropical flowers and leis for graduates to wear/hold. Because earning your bachelor's degree is quite similar to disembarking from an Aloha Airlines jet. "What do they give graduates at the University of Hawaii?" asked Kelly. "A bunch of leaves they picked up off the ground," I told her.


The commencement speaker was Wilma Mankiller. Watch out boys, she'll assume leadership of the Cherokee Nation! She's a Mankiller!

The dean's introduction lasted longer than Ms. Mankiller's actual address. He went through her litany of personal tragedy: kidney transplant, lost foot, near-fatal car crash, and a two-day trips to Buellton with her parents. When she finally got up, Ms. Mankiller said, "I get a lot of interesting comments about my name". Her speech related exactly zero of these interesting comments. Instead, she dissed Suze Orman and told the graduates not to conform to society's idea of what being a woman means. Her ultimate advice to the graduates was, "Your duty as graduates is to be respectful", a welcome contrast to Dean Non Sequitur's message: "Because you have cell phones, you must defeat Hitler."

Ms. Mankiller also expressed appreciation that the university had sent an elder from the Chumash tribe to welcome her at the airport. The Chumash tribe will also be welcoming superstar Lionel Richie on July 6th and 7th. Mr. Richie also refuses to conform to society's expectation of what a woman should be.

Secret Codes

My other sisters and I passed time writing each other Hangman puzzles, and communicating in secret code. The complicated code (A=1, B=2, C=3,..., Z=26) was developed by Megan at age 9, when she had run away from home, to the backyard. Megan and I had a great time exchanging coded messages during the ceremony, but Kelly got frustrated by our "nerd code".

"I've got a quick message for you two," she said, "So pay attention. Six. Twenty-One. Three. Eleven. Twenty-five. Fifteen. Twenty-one."

El Pronunciador

At first, I was unimpressed with the dean who read off the names. His reading seemed uninspired, almost robotic. But when he reached a string of Latino surnames, the man absolutely caught fire. He trilled his rs, really lingered over the consonants, and generally injected the proceedings with a great deal of energy. He didn't stop when the Latino names did, either. The string of Japanese names that followed got the same treatment. When they finally subbed in another pronunciador (there were over a thousand names), you could tell the crowd wanted to give him an ovation, like a workhorse starting pitcher being lifted for the closer.


El Pronunciador said Molly's name correctly, though you could tell he was disappointed by the diphthong in her last name. We broke with family tradition and did not sound airhorns when we heard her name. The family two rows behind us brought many airhorns. Ms. Mankiller spent the rest of the day playing no-limit poker. The closest anyone came to a Hangman was head and torso, plus one arm. Mimosas didn't actually happen at 7:30, as some girls opted for coffee, and others opted to skip the orange juice. Dad cracked the secret code fairly easily. And I put on deodorant twice, to no avail.

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