October 2006 Archives

some tips for halloween

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1. Don't be a Halloween hater.

There's always someone at every Halloween gathering who has decided to critique everyone else's outfit. Sometimes their own costume isn't even that great, and yet they throw around criticisms and suggestions like they were the ghost of Versace. Saturday, my costume didn't pass muster with a hater.

"In the movie, I think V wears a hat. Where's your hat?" she queried. Obviously, I didn't have the hat, or I'd be wearing it. "Did your hat fall off?" she continued, her voice dripping with contempt for my incomplete costuming. Later, she found fault with Tha Docta's outfit, claiming that she "didn't think a homie would wear a necklace like that."

Putting together a costume, any costume, is worthy of credit on Halloween, even if it's incomplete or lame. Wearing a colorful wig might not be the most ambitious costume choice, but it's better than no wig at all. Mocking a costume only makes everyone uncomfortable, and less likely to dress up at all. Everyone's on the same team on Halloween. Let's show some spirit.

2. Beware of magicians.

I went out to a Halloween cocktail party on Friday night. A web company threw the party, and each guest got a card with the company's logo, good for one free drink. Soon after I arrived, I was introduced to a girl who was dressed as a magician. Not the top-hat-and-rabbit variety, but a more mystical, scantillier-dressed kind of magician. It was not just a costume, however. She was really a magician.

It is the sign of a really great or really terrible occupation when your work clothing is an acceptable Halloween costume.

The magician offered to do a trick for us, but first she needed a business card. I don't carry business cards, but I didn't want to wreck the trick, so I offered up my free drink card. Our cards went into her hands, magic words were spoken, and ta-da! They had been magically transformed into business cards for the lady magician!

We applauded, and she took a tiny bow. Then I looked down and realized I no longer had my free drink card. I tried to find the lady magician to sort things out - but she had disappeared.

3. Don't hand out Good & Plenty

Good & Plenty is one of the worst Halloween candies ever. I don't like the taste, but even the name and marketing of the candy seem flawed. "Good & Plenty" is made up of two adjectives that are only mildly positive. Both adjectives can also be used as a polite way to say you don't want to eat any more.

"Want some more of these bad-tasting licorice candies? They're pink and white, which is not at all indicative of their flavor."
"No. I'm good."
"You sure? Trust"
"I've had plenty, thanks."

4. Don't try to outsmart little children

Don't be the guy who thinks he's clever by choosing, "Trick" instead of "Treat". Saying "Trick" to a trick-or-treater is like choosing "Truth" every time in a game of Truth or Dare. It's technically acceptable, but everyone knows it gets a lot more fun when you're willing to get out the goodies.

Those kids thought you'd just give them a fun-sized Snickers bar, but they didn't consider that you might goad them into vandalizing your home instead. Way to go. You just outsmarted The Little Mermaid and a four-year-old Power Ranger. You proud of yourself? I hope they egg your house.

the magic hour


Tonight marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. We turn back our clocks at 2 AM tonight, and everyone gets an extra hour of sleep. Sunday will be full of stories of people who forgot to change their clocks, and showed up an hour early! These stories are eerily similar to those from March, when these same people told exciting stories about showing up an hour late! As I have said before, the only acceptable story about Daylight Savings Time is one that ends with the phrases, "And that's how they all died."

One special thing about the shift from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time is that the first 1-2 AM stretch doesn't really count. Once that period is over, we get a second 1-2 AM, like the first never happened. That first sixty-minute stretch is the Magic Hour. It's the one time in our 365 days a year when everyone gets a do-over. Ironically, it's also the only time broadcast TV will air reruns of Magic Johnson's former talk show, The Magic Hour.

Have you ever wanted to commit a petty crime for no reason? Have you had a secret crush on a close friend you've been dying to reveal? Do it in the Magic Hour. If it goes wrong, don't worry about it. Sixty minutes later, that hour will be lost to the dusts of time. The second 1:15 is the only one that goes into the record books.

It's the calendrical equivalent of a free play. We are all like the quarterback who notices an offsides flag just before the snap. He knows it's a free play. That's the time a smart quarterback calls an audible, and throws the long bomb. If it's complete, great. If not, the team will simply accept the five-yard penalty and move on. Be like that quarterback tonight, readers. When the Magic Hour rolls around, throw the long pass.

Unfortunately, San Francisco bars do not follow the principles of the Magic Hour, and thus you have to get your drinking done in the first 1-2 AM period. When last call occurs during the Magic Hour, that's also time to audible; i.e., order a round of shots. Like Las Vegas, what happens during the Magic Hour stays in the Magic Hour.

The flip side of the Magic Hour happens in the spring, when the 2-3 AM period disappears. Many is the poor soul who makes a date for 2:30 on the last Saturday of March, only to be stood up. Or the man who wants to quit smoking, and decides to have his last cigarette at 2:15. They are still alone, and still smoking to this day, victims of the disappearing time frame known as the Tragic Hour.

true crime update!

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More true crime on my street! Tonight, during the eighth inning of the World Series, I heard a police siren from the street below my apartment! I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter, just in time to see a uniformed police officer force a suspect to the ground, followed by an undercover officer delivering a kick to the guy's ribs. To be fair, he had not yet been cuffed, and it looked like the suspect swung at the undercover cop first. There was a subsequent shove from a late-arriving uniformed officer that seemed rather gratuitous.

It appears that there is a nearby crack den after all!

From what I could see from the window, it looked like an undercover officer or officers tried to make a drug buy, and pounced once the dealer produced the goods. The contraband was in a baggie, and I'm going to go ahead and call it crack, because that is the most exciting possibility. I saw four police cars, and unless there was another arrestee out of my field of vision, the SFPD had an impressive 9:1 cop-to-suspect ratio on the scene.

My intrepid roommate talked to a neighbor, who informed her that he saw the police sergeant involved "hugging some people" on a nearby street corner. He surmises that the sergeant "lives in the community", if not on our specific block, and has made a personal commitment to stopping the recent crime wave, i.e., taking the crack den down!

I must also note that while I questioned our neighborhood's potential racial profiling in my previous entry, this suspect appeared to be Caucasian. Why this makes me feel relieved is probably complicated, but I do indeed feel like less of a racist tonight.

true crime in my neighborhood

I drove home a few weeks ago to find our quiet San Francisco street full of police cars. I pulled over to the wrong side of the street and hopped out to see what was going on. Neighbors were out on the sidewalk, including my roommate. "They caught some car thieves," she told me.

As she said that, the cops led a large man to the back of a police car in handcuffs. A man who lives four houses down walked over to us. "That's the one who ran down the street," he said. "I saw him take off running, and then suddenly, there were two police cars blocking the street to block him. Very exciting."

Crime has been a problem recently. One house has been broken into twice, its door kicked down during broad daylight on two separate occasions. Someone distributed a blurry photo of the suspected burglar, though only the back of his head was visible. Neighbors were on high alert, which might be why the police were called so quickly about these new criminals.

My roommate pointed out the two vehicles that were used in the commission of the crime. One car was a fake roadside assistance vehicle. It looked legitimate at a glance, but upon closer inspection you could see that the car's flasher was crudely taped to the roof, and the "Roadrunner Road Service" logo was just a magnetic decal. Two cops were searching the other, more ordinary vehicle. Another neighbor from up the street walked over and explained that the thieves tried to force open parked cars, using the second car as a decoy. "Or maybe a getaway vehicle," he speculated.

The general consensus among the looky-lou neighbors was that the auto thefts were not connected to the residential burglaries, but who could tell? The woman next door hypothesized that the source of the recent lawlessness was a "crack den" located on a nearby street. Everyone had their own eyewitness account of the arrest, and a theory of what sort of organization might be involved in the crime wave.

Four-Houses-Down man had his chance to shine as the police walked down the street, looking for clues or contraband. FHD had heard a noise when the last suspect made his break for it, and successfully directed the cops to a knife dropped by the suspect. "Maybe I should become a deputy," he laughed.

After twenty minutes, neighbors slowly began to return to their homes. But that didn't end the neighborhood's commitment to stopping crime. The crime watch is in full effect. Last Sunday, I came home from a run to find two worried neighbors standing on the sidewalk. They asked if I'd seen anyone "suspicious". I hadn't, but I also wasn't sure what "suspicious" means in the Castro. I had seen a guy in a skin-tight leather biker outfit, and another guy in assless blue jeans, but I was pretty sure those guys weren't who they meant.

"Did you see anyone in particular?" I asked. They explained that there had been someone knocking on doors, supposedly collecting money for his school. My neighbors didn't believe him, and threatened to call the cops. I asked what the guy looked like. They looked at each other, not a little guiltily, and said, "Um, he was, you know, black."

So, take heed, car thieves, home invaders, and African-American teenagers selling candy bars and/or casing the joints. We WILL jump to racist conclusions, we WILL call the cops, and we WILL exaggerate our own roles in stopping the hypothetical crimes.

the emotional kenny rogers

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Kenny Rogers is pitching like the reincarnation of Christy Mathewson and no one knows exactly why. Most of the media has decided that it's because he has become so emotional. Joe Buck devoted an entire inning to explaining how emotional Rogers had been in his Division Series start against the Yankees, emphasizing his apology to the Yankees in his postgame press conference. Buck made sure America knew Rogers "wasn't trying to show up the Yankees" by pumping his fist after every strikeout and shouting with every batter he retired.

It's not just FOX that is pushing the "emotional" theme. MLB.com writes, "If Rogers had any physical edge before, he seemingly had his usual emotional one after that." They also claim Rogers "channel[ed] his energy into his pitching." After his win over the A's, the AP wrote: Rogers was aggressive, part of a personal plan this month: Encourage his inner emotions, rather than trying to keep them in check.

Here's my question: Has Kenny Rogers had a reputation for being unemotional before this? Because I mostly remember him kind of being an asshole. He memorably failed in both of his stints in New York, particularly in the playoffs. In 2005, Rogers pushed two cameramen that were filming the team walk out of the dugout. Then, he shoved one of them again, throwing his camera down, and kicking the camera on the ground.


Rogers also broke a bone in his hand punching a water cooler a few weeks earlier. At the time, he kept a sticker on his locker that read "My Shitty Attitude Is None Of Your Fucking Business". Way back in 1994, Rogers shoved a beat writer out of the Texas clubhouse.

Now, Rogers has pitched 23 scoreless innings in the playoffs, and he's the toast of Detroit. Why is that? Apparently, it's his newfound commitment to fist-pumping, yelling, and showing up the opposing team. If I understand this argument correctly, Kenny Rogers was never this dominant before, because he wasn't enough of an asshole.

There have to be some real reasons he's suddenly unhittable. Maybe his changeup has been unusually effective against teams who rely on right-handed power hitters. Maybe the near-freezing temperatures in Detroit help keep long fly balls from turning into home runs. Maybe, since Rogers is 41, the extra few days of rest he gets are especially beneficial. Since he also dominates in the spacious McAfee Coliseum, maybe Comerica Park's large outfield helps Rogers, who doesn't strike out a lot of hitters. (Home ERA: 3.26; Road ERA: 4.41; three times as many home runs on the road in the same number of innings.)

All of these things are possibilities, and they might even be more important to Rogers's success than letting himself get aggro on the mound. Of course, maybe Rogers is constantly talking his feelings so no one notices he's secretly scuffing the ball. Maybe Rogers pumps his fist to confirm that there's still pine tar stuck to his hand. Maybe his eyes welled up with tears after the Yankee game because he was ashamed to be cheating so blatantly. Or maybe he's secretly frustrated knowing that his doctoring of the baseball has been revealed by his archenemies: television cameramen.

Whatever the cause, I expect Rogers to pitch Game Six of the Series, if necessary, wearing a bunch of Vaseline his emotions on his sleeve.

(UPDATE: Will Leitch has an excellent take on Rogers's emotions over at Deadspin:

"Kenny Rogers can not just decide he's a better pitcher when he releases his emotions; at that point, he is not 'releasing emotion' as much as he is 'yelling as a superstitious tic.' In other words: He is starting to look silly out there. He is yelling because he thinks it makes him a better pitcher, rather than because he is actually emotional about something.")

why myspace is jacked

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I have a MySpace, though I'm not a huge fan of the site. (But add me as a friend, readers!) It is basically unavoidable for an aspiring stand-up comedian such as myself to have a MySpace, and at least one person has found my gig via MySpace.

However, I feel that MySpace is poorly equipped to deliver news of personal tragedy. One of my distant friends from college committed suicide in the past year, and I found out via a one-line MySpace message. In MyFriend's defense, he had heard the news via AOL Instant Messenger, so relaying it through MySpace was not a ridiculous choice. Still, it was jarring to find, among seven bands asking me to check out their new album and three girls who might be prostitutes attempting to befriend me, a message that said, "[Friend] shot himself."

Because the message was so brief, I didn't believe it at first. I thought it might be an elaborate joke, or a much simpler joke in elaborately poor taste. I Googled my friend's name, trying to find an obituary or a news story about the tragedy and hoping I couldn't. There was nothing. Ultimately, my confirmation came from messages of condolence on my friend's MySpace. Now, nearly a year later, his page is still there, along with MySpace blogs detailing his affection for heroin and explanations of how anyone who dissed heroin addiction was no longer his friend. Most messages were about how much they missed our friend and how he was totally in heaven now, though one, months after his death, requested that our friend teach her to blow smoke rings.

In case you're wondering, the hierarchy of tributes to a dead friend goes like this:

1. Film
2. Painting
3. Song
4. Poem
145. MySpace comment

This callous treatment of a tragedy is not unique for MySpace. Another friend set up a page for our high school acquaintance who was sick with a mysterious disease that led to multiple organ transplants and a month-long coma. The page was intended to serve as a space for updates on the guy's medical conditions and for fundraising efforts for his family, as well as a spot for people to say, "Hey buddy, get well". But, being MySpace, it only took two days before the page was full of flashing text, animated .gifs, and embedded videos. My favorite message was one telling our comatose friend, "Dude, Welcome 2 MySpace" in a flashing, glittery font.

I don't have a suggestion, or a sophisticated take on the situation, but it is simply bizarre that I hear about a suicide or a colon transplant in the same way I normally hear about Arj Barker's newest CD release or my sister's roommate's "totally honest sex survey, 4 reals". Just this week, I thought of my dead friend again. Not because of a story, or a work of art, but because I got an automatic birthday reminder from MySpace. Thanks for making me cry, MySpace. Jerks.

When I used to work at a children's science museum in Berkeley, we constantly had problems with our parking machines. Jon Carroll memorably examined the parking lot issue in Bad Ideas Hither and Yon, and even after the museum's plaza construction ended, parking was a constant problem. Patrons could not understand how to pay, or the machines would not take certain denominations of money, or it would rain and everything would break. I suspect that the first problem was to blame most of the time, but we at the Front Desk were eager to report problems to Cal's Parking & Transportation office after the first complaint, because it meant we got to park for free that day.

When befuddled guests came to the Front Desk, I was usually the parking liason. I had a standard phrase that nearly always satisfied a frustrated would-be parker. "There's a problem with the machine," I explained. "You see, the system is...electronic."

Invariably, the guest would nod his head in commiseration. Even though I'd given him a throughly inadequate explanation, I had conveyed that no human being was responsible for his parking hassle, and implied that no human being could solve the problem. He and I were comrades, both victims of the unpredictable vagaries of the gods of Electronics.

I use "electronic" in the same way that a medieval man might say "magic" or "witchcraft". "Electronic" is a catch-call category for any number of computer-related devices and machines, but what it really means to me is, "something I don't understand". Why aren't the dinosaurs moving? There's a problem with the electronics. How does the reflex tester work? Electronics. People rarely asked a follow-up question, for fear of looking like they didn't know what electronics were. "Right, right," they'd say. "That makes sense. I was thinking it was something electronic."

Currently, our house is having a great deal of trouble with our wireless router. Comcast has come out twice to attempt a repair, with no real results. The connection sometimes works well, sometimes works slowly, and sometimes doesn't work at all. We unplug wires, push in cables, and sometimes it comes back to life, and sometimes it's down for days at a time. There is no way to predict the results. It's electronic, after all.

I think the solution is to treat the router like a capricious deity. We will construct a tiny shrine for it in the living room, forbidding visitors to touch the router, or even look directly at it. In fact, we will no longer write down its name, referring to the device as R--ter. Every evening, we will leave an offering in front of the r--ter - a thimble of WD-40, a sacrificial burnt CD, the semen of a righteous man - in hopes of currying favor. We might even leave curry. We're already composing songs of praise for the r--ter, because what else are we going to do? It's electronic, after all.

a deleted scene from my sister's wedding

(In the back room of a community center in Brisbane, Don Keaneleone sits receiving visitors. Don Keaneleone knows that on this day, he must grant any request made to him.)

Bonasera: I believe in America, Don Keaneleone. America has made my fortune. And I have regulated my energy usage in the American fashion. I run the air conditioning all day in the summer, and my heater is on full blast in the wintertime. And when the gas company announced a rate adjustment, I did not complain. But this bill - 15 cents per kilowatt hour? It is disgraceful. I am not ashamed to admit I wept. And so I went to the Public Utilities Commission, and they said they would make an internal review. Internal review! Those animals will resort to rolling blackouts next! And so I told my wife, for justice, we must go to Don Keaneleone.

Don Keaneleone: What have I ever done to make you treat me with such disrespect? I can't remember the last time you invited me over to watch soccer, to share a salami sandwich with you.

Bonasera: What do you want of me? How much shall I pay you?

Don Keaneleone: You come to California, you have your natural gas central heating system, and suddenly you no longer need a friend like Don Keaneleone. You ask me to commit fraud for money.

Bonasera: I ask for justice!

Don Keaneleone: Here is a phone number to call. They will pick up your old refrigerator, pay you $35, and give you a 50% discount on the purchase of a new, low-energy model. However, some day, and that day might never come, I would like to call upon you to a service for me in return.

Bonasera: Thank you, Godfather.

Don Keaneleone: In fact, why don't you get me a fresh gin-and-tonic right now?

(Bonasera exits.)

Don Keaneleone: How many more?

Sean: Just one more. He's not on the list, but Molly's date would like to speak to you.

Don Keaneleone: Oh God. Send him in.

(Molly's date enters.)

Molly's Date: Don Keaneleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding. And I hope their first child be...a masculine child.

Don Keaneleone: Thank you.

Molly's Date: Also, do you think I could borrow fifty bucks? Payday's not until Wednesday, and...

Don Keaneleone: Get the hell out of here.

happy birthday molly!

Happy Birthday to my youngest sister, Molly, who has returned from the Southlands of Chile and Santa Barbara. I hope you have a lovely birthday, and I am sure we will drink a lot of beers together later today. In honor of your 23rd birthday, here are 23 apologies for bad things I have done to you over the years.

1. I'm sorry that when you were five, we played catch using a Cabbage Patch kid, and I threw the doll too hard and split your lip.

2. I'm sorry that when you chipped your front teeth in a pedicab accident in Santa Cruz, I changed the ring tone on my phone to "Snaggle". I'm also sorry that the ring tone is still "Snaggle", and I'm sorry that I still think it's a little bit funny.

3. I'm sorry that I horsed around with a shopping cart one day at Safeway, and ended up flipping over the cart and pinning you underneath it.

4. I'm sorry that I got openly jealous of the Skip-It you got from making county in breastroke when you were six. I didn't even want a Skip-It myself; I was jealous that I was so much worse at swimming than you.

5. I'm sorry that I made you and Kelly stay in the back bedroom while me and Megan had a party, one weekend when Mom and Dad were out of town. I hope that buying alcohol for you and your friends during high school could make up for that.

6. I'm sorry I laughed when Mom made fun of your flatulence before the rehearsal dinner.

7. I'm sorry I then tried to suck up to Mom by calling you "Dolly Fartin'".

8. I'm sorry that I got upset right after you were born because you weren't a boy. I blame Mom and Dad for telling me I was getting a brother named Kevin for months, even though they didn't know the sex of the baby.

9. I'm sorry I wrote a fake letter to the Teen Talk section of the Pleasant Hill Martinez Record pretending to be you, and telling the story of how you tried to dye your hair blond using lemon juice and a basting brush.

10. I'm sorry I sometimes assigned you difficult children for swim lessons because Kelly and I didn't want to teach them ourselves.

11. I'm sorry I hid underneath your window all those times, waited for you to fall asleep, and sang the "Stay Awake" song from Mary Poppins to scare you.

12. I'm sorry I often ruined your tape-recorded fake radio program, The Molly & Gina show, by bursting into the room and pretending to be "Delbert", an angry Southerner.

13. I'm sorry that when you really wanted a puppy for Christmas that one year, we bought you a puppy keychain instead, and laughed when you opened it.

14. I'm sorry I often stop listening during a conversation with you because I get distracted by the sports section or checking my email.

15. I'm sorry the earthquake of 1989 happened while you were riding your bicycle sans training wheels for the very first time. I probably called you a baby for not wanting to ride a bicycle for a few months after that. You ride a bike really well now, unless it has a taxi tied to the back of it, Snaggles.

16. I'm sorry I called you Snaggles again just now.

17. I'm sorry I convinced you to apply to the College of Natural Resources at Cal.

18. I'm sorry that so many of our friends and relatives named their dogs "Molly". I will never name a pet after you.

19. I'm sorry that I sometimes get frustrated by how long your email address is; however, "goodgollymissmolly" is 18 characters. Come on, Molly!

20. I'm sorry I complained about how far away you live. You obviously like living in a converted Army barracks and riding the bus for three hours every day, and who am I to judge you for that?

21. I'm sorry I didn't bring an air horn to your college graduation and blast it off when they read off your name.

22. I'm also sorry I initially forgot to put on deodorant that morning.

23. I'm sorry I ruined your birthday fondue that one year by bringing out the fondue pot without unplugging it, tripping when the cord became taut, and launching melted cheese all over the dining room, chandelier, and my own arms.

Here are some old entries about Molly in honor of her birthday:

Gender Confusion
Hide-and-Seek Champion of All Time

And here is Molly three Halloweens ago, dressed as a "Drunk Dial":


grudge two q & a

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On Saturday night, I saw Takashi Shmizu's The Grudge 2. Maybe you are considering seeing the film. Maybe you already saw it. Maybe you've never heard of it. I hope I can answer any questions you might have about the film.

What does the prologue discuss?

Anyone who dies in a fit of rage will haunt the world afterward.

Does anyone die in a fit of rage in this film?


Do they haunt anyone?


Do demons and other things jump out in a surprising manner?


Would you have enjoyed this movie more if you had seen The Grudge?

Yes and no. I would have certainly understood the mythology of The Grudge series better, but it wasn't at all a prerequisite for following the semi-existent plotline of Grudge Two. What I missed was that the revenge plotline of G-One featured a murdered woman who died in a rage, but the sequel retroactively grants her supernatural powers of revenge. In the original, she was mad about being murdered, but in the sequel, her restless ghost seeks vengeance for an innumerable series of wrongs.

The main thing I missed by not seeing G-One was that, having seen it, I would have probably never paid to see G-Two.

Was there any awkward dialogue?

SPOILER! Sarah Michelle Gellar is throttled and tossed off a roof by a vengeance demon or a ghost or something. Since these demons seem to have the ability to move people from room to room and floor to floor with no trouble, it's not clear why a ghostly hand needs to shove her, rather than phase her into a new location in mid-air. Nevertheless, SMG is tossed off a roof. After this happens, we cut to SMG's sister, Joan of Arcadia, walking out of the hospital, pursued by the journalist from Hong Kong, who speaks perfect Japanese and English. Here's the dialogue as we the audience wait for AMG's body to fall:

Journalist: I wanted to talk to you.
JOA: No. (Walks forward)
Journalist: Wait. I wanted to talk to you about your sister. (Finally, body falls.)

What would the Strokes say about the work of Tokyo's security guards and police officers?

Tokyo cops, they ain't too smart.

What are the themes of G-Two?

G-Two features many family conflicts. Joan of Arcadia's mother is dying of cancer, and seems to hate her daughter. Joan says on a few occasions that her mother is indifferent to her. The journalist reveals that he never saw his brother in Hong Kong, though he lived down the street from him for years. We don't learn why they were so estranged.

Joan and SMG are similarly estranged, not having talked for years. Joan says it was because SMG "dropped a college application on her, just like Mom." Indifferent Mom apparently wanted Joan to go to college as well. Joan finally tells her cancerous mother that cancer mom can no long talk to her in such a dismissive manner before SPOILER! Joan is killed by a ghost/revenge demon. /SPOILER!

After reunions with estranged family members, subjects can expect live six-to-seven more minuts, tops. The lesson seems to be, stay estranged, otherwise you might be killed by a ghost/revenge demon.

Based on what you saw in G-Two, who in Japan speaks English?

High school girls, Japanese police officers in taped interviews with one another, and old shaman women in parts of rural Japan that can only be reached by traveling by bus and train.

Did Sarah Michelle Gellar have any insights about the film's bizarre, incomprehensible structure?

In the DVD extras of The Grudge, or G-Prime, Sarah Michelle Gellar explains that G-Prime is a "non-linear story, which means it doesn't have a beginning, middle, or end."

What is the weirdest scene in G-Two?

A girl goes to her friend's apartment to show off her new cheerleader uniform. The friend, quite affable earlier in the film, responds by silently chugging a half-gallon of milk. As the cheerleader watches with mild surprise, the friend begins vomiting the milk back into the bottle. Halfway through her vomiting session, the cheerleader gets a call on her cell phone. She answers, has a short conversation, and leaves, while the friend continues to vomit milk back into its container.

When does the film's cheapest surpise occur?

Cheerleader opens a closet in her house. She slowly looks at the wall, which is covered in snapshots of her family. Only after fifteen seconds does she notice her brother, who is sitting in the middle of the closet, unhidden, undisguised, directly in her line of sight, perhaps 30 inches away. Then, she gasps in surprise.

Is the big end-of-movie reveal surprising?

Not one bit. Even the slowest of moviegoers figured out who the girl in the hoodie was about 45 minutes before her identity was revealed. In fact, the only reason she was wearing the hoodie was to disguise her identity for the reveal - none of the characters in the movie would have been affected in any way by knowing her true identity.

Was the entire movie planned out before shooting began?

One friend commented that the movie seemed to have been shot on the fly. The scenes lead into one another so abruptly that they may well have been improvising.

"Cut! A cat wandered into the shot!"
"Wait. Maybe we can use that."

"Cut! You left your cell phone on!"
"Wait. Maybe we can use that."

"Is anyone going to eat this disgusting leftover bacon from the commissary?"
"Save it! I have an idea."

What are the powers of these ghosts/revenge demons?

1. Appearing in photographs, but then also the real world.
2. Shifting revenge subjects through small geographical distances.
3. Making black stringy hair grow on people.
4. Turning into black cats, which then turn into pale Japanese children.
5. Killing people and also making them disappear, but sometimes just leaving them as corpses to scare people.
6. Appearing in mirrors to scare people.
7. Text messaging.
8. Killing their abusive witch mothers via fear.
9. Making their dead victims appears as ghosts to scare future victims.

Can you stop the revenge demons?

No. They kill you if you visit the haunted house. Or if you know someone who visited the haunted house. Or live near someone who visited the haunted house. Look, the demons are going to kill you, OK?

What happens if you don't solve the mystery of the revenge demons?

You die.

What happens if you do solve the mystery of the revenge demons?

You die.

Does covering your windows with old newspapers you found in the trash protect you from revenge demons?


Why was that girl attending the International high school in Tokyo if her parents still lived in Chicago?

To learn Japanese kanjis and SPOILER! be killed by revenge demons /SPOILER!

Is G-Two scary?

It is, in the same way that someone coming into your office, sneaking around on all fours, and yelling, "Boo!" at random intervals would be scary. Since there is no story arc, goals, or plot points, it is not particularly suspenseful.

Finally, can I expect to hear a contortionist lady make a weird croaking sound for about thirty minutes?


Times I clicked the "repair" button on the wireless network menu: 42

Times I unplugged and then plugged in the router: 14

Emails received: 140

Non-spam emails received: 25

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animal excrement in my neighborhood


It seems that animal excrement has become a problem in my neighborhood. Though I have not personally noticed the problem, I have noticed a few signs addressing the issue. On the side of one apartment building, there's a notice that reads, "PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR DOG PEE HERE" in 32-point font. The notice appears to have been laminated. Up the street, there is a small, delicate rock garden in the dirt surrounding a tree. The most prominent feature is not the rocks, but a large drawing of a dog, squatting to defecate. The dog is surrounded by the universal "no" signal, a circle with a diagonal line through it.

What I gather is that Castro dog owners may not be especially diligent about pooper scooper laws, to the point that frustrated neighbors have been driven to Kinko's in despair. However, I'm not sure that these signmakers have thought things through. What is more disturbing - an occasional puddle of urine, or the words "DOG PEE" in huge letters, taped to the outside of your home, and unmissable during daylight hours? What would you rather look at - dog feces once a week, or a cartoon dog taking a crap, all the time? To my mind, the sanctity of the rock garden has already been compromised.

So we'll see how things shake out in the next few months. My fear is that the anti-poop sign becomes an inviting target for dogs to pee on, and angry dog owners have their pooches crap against the side of the pee-free building out of spite, and suddenly there's a six-foot vinyl banner denouncing dog urine on the pee house, and a metal sign with an even more explicit crapping dog cartoon in the rock garden, and then Didofoot gets a beagle puppy and can't come over anymore because of the pitchfork-wielding mob chasing puppies into Duboce Triangle and handing out surprisingly professional-looking desktop-published brochures about the health hazards of animal waste.

happy birthday kati vol

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Happy Birthday, Kati! Though your palindromic year of 22 is at an end, the magical year of 23 might prove to be even more magical, if inevitably less palindromic.

Here is an old post all about you and Gene: Dinner with Kati and Gene, A Review

And here is an old photo, featuring the same cast of characters:


In this clip, Cal running back Justin Forsett breaks free for a seemingly meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter of Cal's 45-24 win over Oregon. Musburger announces, "And we're over sixty [points]", referring to the game's over/under of 60. He's very aware of where the Las Vegas line ended up for this contest. Some places had it at 59 points, and I'm sure some had it at 61, which is why Brent mentions that some people were watching the extra point closely. In the words of my dad, "It makes you wonder if Brent had bet the over." Thanks to Dad for sending the video my way.


Musburger sounds genuinely thrilled about Forsett's score. Of course, Musburger often seems overly excited about plays that don't really warrant it. Maybe he really was happy to see Cal go up by a full 28 points, but the combination of glee in his voice and the unwillingness to outright say over/under on the air convinces me that Justin Forsett and the Bears made Musburger some money on Saturday. Maybe that's why he still works constantly at age 67. Musburger loves the action, but he really loves the action, partner.

marco! scutaro!

Game Journal
Game Three, American League Division Series
Minnesota Twins at Oakland Athletics

We have a little trouble at the gate, as Paul's celebratory "sweep" broom is judged to be too long. To shorten it might make it stadium-legal, but would result in an additionally-illegal jagged tip. The broom is in about as good condition as Brad Radke's shoulder, so it is abandoned.

The A's have come under fire for their cheap, low-ride operation: inadequate staffing, no postgame parking lot staff, closing concession stands for no reason. Oakland is an amazingly cheap organization. Their most controversial move has been covering the entire upper deck in tarps, to lower the stadium's seating capacity (and presumably cut down on staffing needs). We see another side of this cheapness on the way to our seats, when a sign informs us that the bathrooms will not open until 1:15, fifteen minutes after the first pitch.

Maybe the janitorial money saved has gone to fireworks. The A's shoot off fireworks before and after player introductions, and during the national anthem. The momentum slows a bit when they announce second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez, and the crowd asks each other, "Who?" There is a post-anthem flyover from what looks like a giant transport planes. They can't get fighter jets? It's Fleet Week!

Rickey Henderson throws out the first pitch. He is wearing a tan suit with sunglasses, and there is an enormous medallion around his neck. Rickey's pitch goes a little outside, but Rickey wants Oakland to know that Rickey is available to fill in if Oakland needs a backup middle infielder. Rickey has always wanted to end Rickey's career in Oakland.

Before the game, all fans were handed rally towels, a cheap knockoff of Minnesota's Homer Hankies. Paul received a rally towel at Pac Bell Park the previous week, which he says was "significantly nicer". Pieces of the towels are coming off every time a fan waves one.

Top of the first: Trouble in our Plaza Reserved section from a fan in a tattered cap. He's in the first row, and declares his intention to stand for the whole game. He also berates a pair of Twins fans sitting two sections away. I write down a prediction: "Fourth-inning ejection". Quote: "Look, I'm not a total asshole, but I really want to stand." If you're qualifying how much of an asshole you are, that's a good sign that you're a pretty big asshole.

Middle of the first: At 1:18, the newly-opened bathroom already smells like weed.

Bottom of the first: The cheer of, "Bro-ken! (Clap clap) Shoul-der! (Clap clap)" fails to distract Brad Radke, and he gets through the first inning in an efficient 14 pitches. By my count, he's got about 65 pitches left. The guy in the hat sits down, so maybe he really isn't a total asshole.

Top of the second: Canadian Justin Morneau leads off for the Twins. At the World Baseball Classic this spring, correspondent Mike B reports that one fan cheered for Justin the whole day, but called him "Monroe!" the whole time. On an 0-2 pitch, Monroe! gets a double, the third hit pitcher Danny Haren has given up in the first three batters. Inexplicably, Torii Hunter bunts Monroe over to third on the first pitch. Before he's even thrown out at first, I've written, "Dumb play". Right now, Hunter is hitting better than anyone else on the team, but apparently, he thinks he's Derek Jeter.

Rondell White follows with a fly ball to left, not deep enough to score Monroe!. Jason Tyner, who has hit one home run since Little League walks. The guy behind us starts heckling the home plate ump, even though we're deep in the left field stands. Jason Bartlett strikes out to end the inning.

Danny Haren pitch count: 30.
Me smacked in the face by a rally towel count: 2.

Middle of the second: The tarps do not completely cover the upper deck of the outfield. The area above home plate seems to be devoted to the media overflow, which is about 40 unhappy people. The tarps now read "WELCOME TO AKLAND".

Bottom of the second: The playoff slump of the much-maligned Eric Chavez ends in a big way, with a giant home run to right. I was maligning the hell out of him, but that was a pretty nice swing. Payton swings at the very next pitch and singles.

Nick Swisher follows with a long at-bat featuring five straight foul balls. Swisher seems to understand that, against the wounded Radke, this is a war of attrition. Even though he eventually strikes out, Swisher is reminiscent of the boxer that pounds his opponent's upper arms in every clinch, in hopes he can't raise his arms by the late rounds. With a broken shoulder, I doubt Brad Radke can box anyway.

Marco! (Clap clap) Scutaro! (Clap clap) Zembla favorite Marco Scutaro delivers once again in the clutch for Oakland. The man is amazing in late innings, in RBI situations, and in games that I attend. Through two innings, Radke has already thrown 40 pitches. The trainer might have to put a few staples in his armpit in the dugout.

Top of the third: Dirty-named Nick Punto grounds out, and manages to stay on his feet as he runs through the bag. Haren gets a 1-2-3 inning.

Bottom of the third: Jason Bartlett is having a tough defensive series for Minnesota. He fumbled a sure double play in Game 1, and has generally looked terrified at all times that a ball might be hit in his direction. Here he bobbles a grounder and barely throws out non-speedster Jason Kendall. On the next play, he's too nervous to do anything but wave weakly at Kotsay's grounder as it rolls by. Apparently Brad Radke's fastball did something to anger Milton Bradley, because he hits an enormous blast to dead center. Even though he knows it's gone immediately, he runs really hard around the bases. 4-0, Oakland.

Top of the fourth: There's a reliever warming up in the Minnesota bullpen, and that's really not something you want to see in the fourth inning of an elimination game. In the beer line, one fan presents his theory as to how the upper deck closure shuts out opposing fans. Because Minnesota didn't know if they were playing New York or Oakland until the last day of the season, they didn't have time to get tickets for road games. Indeed, I have only seen about thirty Twins fans this afternoon. It will be interesting to see the effects in the ALCS, as the Tigers-Yankees winner might not be determined until late Sunday night. Torii Hunter hits a no-doubt homer to get the Twins on the board, and I am doubly glad he decided to bunt in the second. 4-1.

Bottom of the fourth: Poor Brad Radke drops an easy popup to allow D'Angelo Jimenez to reach. It was the easiest defensive chance of the game so far, and he completely biffed it. Paul asks, "Doesn't the pitcher usually let a real infielder catch those?" Yes, yes he does. Maybe Radke has a broken glove hand as well? The gaffe isn't that surprising, considering Radke hasn't practiced in months due to his shoulder. On a day he's not pitching, Radke is the Walter Sobchak of the Twins: He doesn't throw on the side, he doesn't take infield practice, he doesn't turn on the oven, and he sure as shit doesn't roll!

Kendall follows with a single, and we're witnessing the very last of Radke's career here. No way he comes out for the fifth. Kotsay flies out to end the inning, and Radke wanders into the dugout. I am disappointed, as I wanted the error to hurt Radke in the game, not just hurt his ability to raise his arm over his head at age 45.

Top of the fifth: Punto singles with two outs. An overconfident Jason Kendall whizzes a pickoff throw into right field. Joe Mauer, having a rough series, grounds out to second.

Bottom of the fifth: Bradley shocks the entire stadium with a drag bunt that just misses the third base bag. First the pickoff throw, then the bunt - Nick Punto may need to change his pants. Radke is indeed out of the game, replaced by a lefty I've never heard of named Perkins. Thomas singles to right, just deep enough that there's no throw. Chavez slams a double off the left field wall, missing a home run by a few feet. Any other player in the league scores on that play, including many retired and/or deceased players. However, most fans are just happy the Big Hurt wasn't thrown out at third.

Juan Rincon comes in, and Ron Gardenhire is getting serious. On the first play, Jay Payton grounds to shortstop, and...Frank Thomas is running? He's out at home by about 90 feet. There's an awkward play at the plate, where Frank tries to slide, but it's sort of half-assed, and Mauer looks embarrassed for him as he makes the tag. In those situations, the catcher is like a squad of cops collaring a drunk. "Frank, you want to do this the easy way, or the hard way?" Rincon gets out of it, and the game is still too close for me.

Top of the sixth: With one out, Monroe! singles. Hunter resists the urge to sacrifice and instead hits a double. The tying run is at the plate, and we want The Duke! Duchscherer is only just warming up, so it's up to Haren for the time being. Rondell White singles, scoring Monroe! and THERE'S A PLAY AT THE PLATE! Milton Bradley, star of the game, throws out Hunter on a very close play at home. I was surprised he didn't score easily, but Bradley played it perfectly. Best of all, Rondell White didn't even advance to second on the throw. Jason Tyner does not homer, and that should be it for Danny Haren. Oakland 4, Minnesota 2.

Bottom of the sixth: One thing that makes Marco Scutaro so popular is his ethnic ambiguity. Is he Latino? Italian? All races can embrace his scrappy, underdog talents. The A's don't do anything, so the highlight comes when a guy in the second deck leaps for a foul ball that lands fifteen rows above him.

Top of the seventh: Officially, Justin Duchscherer is known as The Duke, and he's the A's pitcher I trust most. However, a minor contingent refers to him as The Douche, due to his uncanny ability to clean up in a tight situation. He's helped this inning by the team's uncannily accurate defensive positioning. Bradley barely moves to catch Luis Castillo's liner, and we're headed for the seventh inning stretch.

Seventh inning stretch: When the game is a sellout, the crowd is less forgiving of an elaborate calisthenics routine. The "Stretch" part is really just an expression.

Bottom of the seventh: There is a bar behind first base that looks like a nightclub. It's packed with people, there's a velvet rope, and what appear to be bouncers. There are women in this bar of a caliber rarely seen at A's games, and never at Raider games. Maybe they come to Raider games, but their faces are painted and they're wearing spiky costumes and they're Raider fans, so they're tainted forever. Once Frank Thomas receives an two-out intentional walk, I head back to my seat.

Dennys Reyes is in the game to pitch, and he is pretty fat. However, he looks a lot less fat than I remember - he's in Bob Wickman territory, rather than Rich Garces territory. Honestly, it's not like you lose a lot in being a morbidly obese relief pitcher. Your job has virtually no physical activity to begin with, and there's no guarantee you'll pitch on any given day. It's totally acceptable to eat a hot dog in the bullpen. Or five hot dogs. Today, I think Dennys Reyes ate two hot dogs, at most.

Reyes goes 3-2 on Chavez, and then poor Frank Thomas has to run down to second on two consecutive foul balls. The eighth pitch nearly drills Chavez, and Reyes might have simply gotten sick of that at-bat and decided to go have a snack in the clubhouse. The Twins bring in Jesse Crain to face Jay Payton, and I wonder why they don't use closer Joe Nathan. Sure, it's the seventh, but one run ends the game at this point. It looks like Crain has gotten out of the inning, but Monroe! botches the grounder and the bases are loaded. In Canada, that's 1.13 errors.

Nick Swisher comes up, the poster boy for Billy Beane's oft-discussed Moneyball approach. The A's are criticized for not doing little things to score runs in the playoffs; Swisher's main skill set is power and selectivity. Moneyball wins out, as Swisher coaxes a seven-pitch walk to score a crucial insurance run. Then, things go crazy.

Marco Scutaro comes to the plate. If Swisher's at-bat was validation, I saw this at-bat as a validation of all the Scutaro supporters out there who champion his clutch abilities, applaud his defensive versatility, and make homemade t-shirts with his name on the back. With the bases loaded, Scutaro hits his fourth double of the series and clears the bases. The A's are up 8-2 and the crowd is going wild and chanting "Marco! (Clap clap) Scutaro! (Clap clap)" Sometimes one group will yell "Marco!" and another group will yell "Scutaro!" It goes on for a full five minutes. Marco Scutaro hasn't had people cheer for him this way since Little League, if even then. When Scutaro gets his hat and glove from Jimenez, Jimenez gives him a huge, father-returning-from-the-war hug. You don't see a lot of midgame on-field hugging in baseball, but it was completely appropriate.

[Editor's note: Scutaro grew up in Venezuela, so he did not play Little League. In addition, his father was Italian, and his mother was Spanish. They both died before he reached the big leagues, and Scutaro promised his mother on her deathbed that he would make the majors.]

Eighth inning: The game is out of reach. Everyone is deliriously cheering and chanting, almost apart from the action on the field. The Duke appears to be throwing every pitch straight down the middle of the plate, which is how we like it. Monroe! goes deep with two outs, and the fans stop cheering for about three seconds. Then a fan throws the home run ball back onto the field, and it's all cheers again. Torii Hunter makes an out by accident for the first time and the A's are three outs away.

Ninth inning: Ken Macha does an NBA-like thing and lets The Duke warm up in the ninth inning, so he can get an ovation when he's removed before the first batter. Huston Street comes in to pitch. I trust The Duke more, but it's a five-run lead! Who cares?

Rondell White singles, and Lew Ford comes in to pinch-run. Not that it matters, but this is a bizarre situation in which to use a pinch-runner. Maybe Lew Ford's dad brought snacks for the team, and Gardenhire feels bad not letting Ford get in the game after that. Jason Tyner does not follow with a home run, and instead hits into a double play, highlighted by a sweet turn by none other than the new mayor of Oakland, Marco Scutaro. Lew Ford was in the game for approximately 23 seconds.

There are two outs. The A's are up five runs, and a fan behind me calls the umpire a "fucking idiot" for not calling a strike. Jason Bartlett singles, and aside from his poor baserunning and unceasing defensive failures, he's had a pretty good series. Luis Castillo flies out to left and it's over. The A's have won a playoff series for the first time in 16 years. The Dodgers look like a bunch of suckers now, huh?

Postgame: A woman in our row begins tossing confetti. Perhaps inevitably, Kool & the Gang's "Celebration" plays. Swisher, Street, and Chavez get together for a "Go Bayside"-style high-five. We speculate as to whether the ban on alcohol in the Oakland clubhouses, created after Esteban Loaiza's DUI arrest, will be lifted for the playoffs. Our questions are answered when Loaiza appears on the Jumbotron, spraying a cop with champagne. Bobby Kielty is wearing extremely silly goggles. He'd smoked a celebratory joint by the top of the eighth, we agree. For some reason, a groundskeeper drags the infield.

In the stands, the crowd begins chanting for Scutaro again. All the way out of the stadium, fans do not stop yelling "Marco! Scutaro!" It is amazing and touching that the fans have assigned credit for the biggest win in a decade to the least-heralded player on the team. But lest we get too sentimental, remember that Scutaro also has an extremely fun name to chant.

how the a's can still blow it

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I'm attending the playoff game between the Twins and A's this afternoon, and while I'm excited, I am under no delusions that Oakland will actually win. This is the third time in six years that the A's have taken a 2-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs. Both times, in 2001 and 2003, they proceeded to lose three straight games and the series. Since 2000, the A's have lost four first-round series, all of them in five games. When they have a chance to eliminate their opponent in the Division Series, the A's are 0-9.

But Sean, you might say. The A's are in great shape. They beat Johan Santana, the best pitcher in baseball, in Game 1. He hadn't lost at home in over a year! They won another game on the road, meaning that they've got two home games before Minnesota even has a chance to tie it up. The opposing pitcher in Game 3 has a "stress fracture in his right shoulder that keeps him in near constant pain". Minnesota's Game 4 pitcher has a 5.94 ERA and weighs over 250 pounds. Forget it. They're losing in five.

What can go wrong? Plenty.

  • Dan Haren injures his shoulder in a bar fight at Crogan's. He leaves Game 1 after an inning and a third. Reliever Gil Heredia is ineffective.
  • Milton Bradley is ejected and suspended for biting an umpire.
  • Nick Punto stops sliding head-first into first base and legs out three infield hits a game.
  • Marco Scutaro and D'Angelo Jimenez break their hands high-fiving one another.
  • Joe Mauer fouls a ball off his shin, which bounces up and breaks Jason Kendall's nose.
  • Rich Harden spends Saturday morning enjoying some "socialized medicine" with fellow Canadian Justin Morneau, and his effectiveness drops quicker than the value of the loonie.
  • Federal agents burst into the Oakland dughout and arrest Ken Macha for his participation in an elaborate Dot Racing gambling ring.
  • Oakland decdides to prove they can play "little ball". Jay Payton strikes out twice trying to bunt, and Frank Thomas is caught stealing four times. Joe Morgan cheers.
  • When Ron Washington falls ill, the team brings in Jeremy Giambi to coach third base.
  • Radke heroically keeps the game close for six innings, and Minnesota's stellar bullpen handcuffs the A's hitters for the remainder of the game. Also, Nick Swisher is stabbed by a drunken Raider fan in the parking lot.
  • Every time an A's runner heads home, they shove the catcher and yell at the umpire instead of simply touching home plate. Somewhere in Arizona, Eric Byrnes weeps with pride.
  • Relief pitchers Kiko Calero and Justin Duchscherer fall into severe depressions when they realize how silly their names are.
  • Frank Thomas eats fifteen rancid Dollar Dogs and falls ill, not realizing that Two Dolla Wednesday was a full nine days ago.

  • Bobby Kielty tears his ACL running on the torn-up, football-destroyed outfield turf.
  • In the ninth inning of Game 5, the A's pinch-hit Adam Melhuse for Thomas in order to get the platoon advantage. "It's called playing the percentages," explains Billy Beane. "It's what smart general managers do to win ballgames." Melhuse strikes out looking.
  • Eric Chavez continues to play exactly the same as he has every postseason.

cheese and stuff girl

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I am in love with a girl who works behind the counter at Cheese & Stuff. She has pretty blond hair, a warm smile, and an accent that is probably Greek. I can't remember a time when she didn't work at Cheese & Stuff, though it's sometimes hard to remember my own life before I first met her. I began coming in for the sandwiches, but I got so much more.

Once, I ordered a Middle Eastern plate just so I could hear her say "tabbouleh". Then I pretended I didn't understand, so she'd say it again.

About a year ago, I switched to the Deluxe sandwich, and I noticed that she started looking at me differently. Maybe she appreciated my healthier diet, with the addition of tomatoes and sprouts to the standard sandwich. When she asked me if I wanted mayo or mustard, I said "Light mayo", and I thought I saw her raise one delicate eyebrow. Of course, the Deluxe sandwich costs thirty cents more. She's not dealing with a cheap college student anymore. Instead, she's talking to a financially secure man who appreciates the finer things in life. Roast beef. Swiss cheese. Her eyes. Then when I pay, I get a parking validation ticket, even if I didn't park in the garage that day, just in case she's wondering if I have a car.

One of the side benefits of my romance to the Cheese & Stuff girl will be my stronger relationship with Sam, the proprieter of Cheese & Stuff. He'll be on track to become my new new father-in-law, or uncle, or whatever the relationship to my beloved happens to be. I could even help run the store. I have some ideas. For example, I'd de-emphasize cheese, and start focusing more on stuff. Together, we could normalize the prohibition against spitting, though Stanfurd fans and knife-chasing would remain strictly forbidden. Sam knew what he was doing when he set the standards.

I don't know the name of the lovely girl from Cheese & Stuff, and I doubt she knows mine. But that's not important. I'll just call her "Mrs. Keane".

man man? yes yes!

Man Man @ The Independent, 10/3/06


I have a soft spot for bands that play a lot of instruments. I knew that the Man Man show was going to be entertaining when during the second song, the guitarist put down the sticks with which he was also playing xylophone, and picked up a trumpet. My first clue that the show would be special was when I saw one band member painstakingly positioning a stuffed jackalope next to the drum set. These were professionals.

All five band members drummed at different times in the set, sometimes all at once. The bass player also played a harmonium and a recorder. The lead singer mostly played keyboards, though he had drumsticks. He also provided the most dramatic moment of the concert when he stood on a bench and dramatically played an improvised percussion instrument: a handful of spoons that he threw as hard as he could into a small metal bowl. The bowl wasn't miked, so the effect was essentially inaudible, but it was quite exciting to watch. Other instruments played by the band included a metal pot, a harmonium, a toy keyboard, a French horn, two different saxophones, a glockenspiel, plastic noisemakers, and this thing that was probably some kind of horn, but honestly looked like a glass bong.

Man Man's stage arrangement helped keep the energy up. They crowded all of their instruments as close to one another as possible, and the whole arrangment was pushed up to the edge of the stage, right next to the audience. The band members didn't speak at all between songs, and seemed to communciate with each other via head nods and pointed glances. There was highly coordinated jumping, dancing, and seamless position changes.

The average break between songs was 3/4 of a second. Every band member wore head-to-toe white, though each brought their own flair to the look. The lead singer wore cut off white jeans and a polo shirt. One guy had a tank top and white jeans. 60% of the band wore headbands. The guitarist had a two-month-long beard and a headband with the rising sun on it. 80% of the band has ridiculous facial hair.

The downside of Man Man was that while the performance was memorable, the songs really weren't. It's now about two hours since they left the stage, and I can hardly remember what the songs sounded like. I remember that some of the lyrics sounded like gibberish, and the frantic drumming, and that the band began one song by meowing in unison, but little else about the melodies. However, that might be because I didn't know their music going in. I'm certainly going to check out their collection now, but I don't know if it will compare to the madcap, near-psychotic energy of the live show.

A quick word on the crowd. Four middle-aged African-American women attended the show in full-on Geisha gear - kimonos, black wigs, face paint, and chopsticks in their hair. They pushed up to the front and seemed to know all the songs - jumping at the same time as the band members, singing along, and generally rocking the fuck out. I have no idea why they were dressed this way for Man Man, but online research indicates that this was the Urban Geisha Revenge. There were also two audience members waving peacock feathers. Again, no idea, but it didn't seem out of place.

Here is an interview with Man Man from Pitchfork.

The opening band really sucked. Even their name sucks: The Pink Mountaintops. They had seven members, but only played about 30% of the instruments that Man Man did with their five guys. Appropriately, they displayed roughly 3% of the energy of Man Man. One girl stood at the side, swayed, sang inaudible backup vocals, and played hand-held percussion instruments in the exact same rhythmn for every song. Maybe this is sexist, but we both assumed she was someone's girlfriend. The other girl had different hand-held percussion instruments, and added inaudible "lead" vocals on one song. They had a second drummer who faced away from the audience the whole time, but banged his head like Animal. Drummer #2 might well have been homeless. During zero songs was the extra drummer even remotely justified. There was a ghastly smoke machine that coughed up huge clouds of smoke at unpredictable intervals. The rhythmn guitarist looked like a roadie who no one had bothered to kick off stage. I was pretty sure they were all really stoned, but I can't discount the possibility that they realized how bad they suck, and the self-awareness was crippling.

In a way, the Pink Mountaintops were a wonderful band, because making fun of them with my friend JD gave me a lot more joy than their aggressively mediocre music gave me pain. The lead singer sang with vocal inflections that evoked a heroin-addicted Conor Oberst attempting a Cockney accent. JD asked where I thought he was from, and I replied, "Indie-ana." JD didn't have a specific guess, but he theorized that the band came from "somewhere incredibly depressing". When they finished their last song, no one realized they were done for a couple of seconds. Then the crowd replied with applause that was, if possible, even more half-assed than the Pink Mountaintops' playing.

Theory: The teams that I like always lose in the postseason, and the teams I hate most will find a way to prevail. So here's a preview of the upcoming baseball playoffs based on who I hate most, since those teams are going to win. For a balanced perspective, I will include teams and players that my parents and family members really hate.

Here's a guide to what our family hates:

1. Affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers. We are Giants fans, and so we hate the Dodgers. I hate former Dodgers for years after they leave the team. When the Giants signed Orel Hershiser in 1998, my father gave him a standing boovation on Opening Day. It took me five years of watching Dusty Baker as a hitting coach before completely trusting him. If Tommy Lasorda ever set foot in our house, the carpet would probably burst into flames under his feet. We're not crazy about former members of the Yankees, Mets, or Angels, either.

2. Wronging the Giants. If a pitcher beaned Barry Bonds anytime in the last decade, or sparked a bench-clearing brawl, or hit a significant home run to beat the Giants, he's on the list.

3. Weird batting stances/dirty equipment/excessive spitting. This is my mother's pet peeve. Shirts covered in tobacco juice and helmets caked in pine tar are but, but what Mom really hates are unorthodox batting stances, particularly ones in which the batter appears to be crouching down and cheating his way into a walk. I think this started with Rickey Henderson, and continued through Craig Counsell. Mom isn't too thrilled with how Luis Gonzalez or even Moises Alou stand in the batter's box, either.

Last year's Houston Astros may have been my mother's most hated team that played outside of the Los Angeles area. My mother despises Craig Biggio (filthy helmet, weird batting stance, allows himself to be hit by pitches), Lance Berkman (destroys the Giants, appears to wear mascara), Roy Oswalt (weird-looking), and Roger Clemens (dude, everyone hates Roger Clemens). To complete the hatefest, the Astros brought back Jeff Bagwell to pinch-hit and DH in the playoffs, and my mom hates him most of all ("That batting stance is bullshit. Stand up!") It was quite a hateful team, so of course they made it to the World Series. Her most despised player, A.J. Pierzinski, was a playoff hero for the White Sox. If you go by the Hate Index, you can get a good idea of who will be playing in the Fall Classic.

San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals

I have hated the St. Louis Cardinals since the day that Ozzie Smith sucker-punched Will Clark back in 1988. I have hated Tony LaRussa almost as long. My dislike of Tony is neither logical or reasonable. Seeing his face makes me want to euthanize a stray animal, just to stick it to ARF. The playoffs are generally satisfying for a Tony-hater, because LaRussa will inevitably make a huge managerial blunder that knocks St. Louis out of the playoffs. Whether it is leaving in his starting pitcher to hit for himself in late innings (2001/2002), bungling Mark McGwire's pinch-hitting appearances (2000), or wasting pinch-hitters to obsessively gain an insignificant platoon advantage (every single year), Tony can be counted on for one strategic meltdown every year. The Cardinals will keep three catchers, three lefthanded relievers, and at least one injured hitter on the playoff roster every year until Tony hangs them up.

The Padres are an interesting team, hate-wise. As a division rival of the Giants, they should provoke a lot if ire. But, they really don't. Maybe it's because Padres fans are so rare outside of San Diego. Even in San Diego, Giants fans would often form a majority of the crowd, back in the Qualcomm stadium days. Maybe it's their general lack of success. Maybe it's their hard-hitting local news and stellar fine dining.

Mike Piazza is a perfect example. He's a former Dodger, and a former Met, and he's Tommy Lasorda's godson. Yet, in the navy blue and khaki of San Diego, it's hard to feel that strongly about him.

Cardinals Hate list

Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols (Dad thinks he's on steroids), Juan Encarnacion (Dodger ties, beat the Giants in 2003), Yadier Molina (residual anti-Molina-Brothers bias from the 2002 World Series).

Cardinals Hate Index: 9.

Padres Hate list

Third base coach Glenn Hoffman (Dodger), pitcher Shawn Estes (failing to slide into second base in the 2000 NLDS, getting tagged out, and injuring his ankle [see injury to insult]), Mascot "The Friar" and his hideous creation Franken Friar (terrifying).

Padres Hate Index: 3.

Prediction: St. Louis in 4.

the contra costa times loves zembla

In today's Word of Mouth column in the Life in Perspective section of the Contra Costa Times, Deirdre Ruscitti of Clayton Valley High School endorses this very website. Deirdre likes Henry David Thoreau, Newlywed, which is one of my favorite pieces as well. As is Part 2. You've got great taste, Deirdre. We can be MySpace friends anytime.

As a result of this plug, and the site's excellent Meebo plug-in, I got to talk to some old friends I hadn't heard from in years. If you happen by the page as a result of the CC Times plug, and I'm online, feel free to say hello. What else am I going to be doing - working? Ha, it is to laugh.

Once again, thanks to Deirdre, and do check out the Contra Costa Times. I delivered the paper for five years, wrote fake letters to the paper for nearly as long, and my parents still subscribe. Tony Hicks and Gary Peterson are stellar columnists, and their comics section is twice as big as any other local paper. It's your only source for in-depth reporting about Pacheco, so pick up a copy today!

your wedding q&a

My sister Megan got married on Saturday. I performed the ceremony, and emceed the reception. Obviously, people have questions about how it went:

What was the best line in the wedding ceremony?

Discussing the happy couple's first date, a group rollerblading excursion, I said, "That's why rollerblading is known worldwide as the most romantic of all the wheeled sports."

What was the funniest line in the vows?

My sister reached out to her techie husband with a promise to "honor and respect computers and electronic gadgets."

What was the slickest improvised line?

After my little sister read a Pablo Neruda love poem, and mentioned that Neruda had three wives, I stressed that the poem was definitely written about the third and final wife, AKA, "the keeper".

Were there any nearly-uncomfortable racially-insensitive fakeouts during the ceremony?

My sister's husband Nevin was born in Hong Kong, and came to California by way of Toronto. I remarked that, upon meeting the groom, our family was a little worried about cultural differences. After all, my sister had never dated...a Canadian before. Would we have to learn the metric system? Would she ever be able to eat American bacon again? Thankfully, we got along OK, and he's never called us hosers.

Any logistical issues?

The "ring warming" ceremony had each guest handle the wedding rings before they came back up to the front for vows. As we feared, we got to the vows before the rings made it through the crowd. I needed to kill time, so I went with the tried-and-true tactic of spending a few minutes teasing my mother. It went smoothly, except that I somehow concluded that, since their parents had been married a combined 68 1/2 years, the new couple only had to stay married until they were 96. Yeah, I don't know where I was going there.

Who made the best toast?

The newly married couple originally met at a party for Cal's hiking club, CHAOS. In his toast, my dad discussed our family's tradition of grueling hikes for birthdays and holidays (spearheaded by my father), and how Nevin nearly always had an excuse for missing out on the hikes - being on call for work, mild injuries, sleepiness, etc. He concluded that Nevin had only joined the hiking club in order to meet women - and as the crowd roared with laughter, my dad said he was very happy that he had done so, and met Megan.

What was the most common drink at the reception?

Gin-and-tonic. The deliciousness of Tanqueray and Tonic may be the first thing that my octogenerian great-aunt and Snoop Doggy Dogg have ever agreed on.

How was the reaction to the ceremony?

It was generally pretty positive. It may lead to more ministerial work, but it is more likely to lead to larger standup comedy audiences in the near future. In that vein, Nevin has given me until the end of his honeymoon to create an acceptable web site to promote comedy and/or ULC ministry work, and he's promised to hype it up in thank-you notes. Leave any suggestions for domain names or web designers in the comments section. Seankeane.org is not really going to cut it.

Did anyone suggest that you become an actual priest?


Were gin-and-tonics involved in that suggestion?

One would assume.

Was there any singing?

Everyone sang happy birthday to my grandmother. Happy 75th, Patti! Also, my little sisters and I sang a song called "Tying the Knot", to the tune of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".

Isn't that a difficult tune to sing a capella?

Oh yes.

Who caught the bouquet and garter?

Traditionally, the single woman who catches the bridal bouquet is the next to marry. The same holds true for the single man who catches the garter. For the first time in my wedding-going life, each half of a long-dating couple caught the flower bouquet and garter. It wasn't rigged at all, as both made impressive, athletic grabs, diving and leaping around the floor. The bouquet knocked over four or five drinks, a testament to Megan's underrated throwing arm. Sadly, my youngest sister did not add to her impressive record of three bouquet catches, the first of which occurred when she was eight years old.

Who was the best dancer?

My cousin Casey absolutely dominated the dance floor. When she turns twelve, that girl is going to be unstoppable.

How many folding chairs will fit in your grandmother's truck?

At least 173.

Who signed the marriage license?

As officiant, I signed the form, and my little sisters both added their names as witnesses.

Did you say, "Can I get a witness?"


Are you proud of yourself for that?


Sean, did you find love this weekend?

Only for Yoplait yogurt and the MTV reality show Two-A-Days. Now if Repete can stop running his mouth and get his head in the game, Tuscaloosa County ain't gonna know what hit 'em.

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