December 2007 Archives

that's what tiggers do best

Driving down Guerrero Street today, I noticed a series of advertisements for "Grizzly Gulch", a new attraction at the SF Zoo. The promotional campaign could not have come at a worse time for the zoo, reminding a terrified public that, yes, other enormous alpha predators exist at the unsafe, negligent zoo. Judging by other safety standards in the SF Zoo, the grizzlies are most likely separated from the public by a six-foot-high fence of cardboard, and a sign with a stern warning telling bears to stay put.

(Speaking of things that are six feet high, check out The Six Feet or Taller Show, January 8th at 12 Galaxies.)

The SF Zoo could learn from a recent incident at the Hundred Aker Wood Zoological Gardens, when a Tigger escaped from its enclosure and bounced several visitors. One victim was found horribly bounced outside the Tigger habitat. Two other victims were...also bounced. All are recovering swiftly, still somewhat sore and annoyed at the Tigger. One of the as-yet unidentified victims commented, "Oh, bother."

The height of the moat inside the Tigger habitat was 16 3/4 feet. While that height well exceeds the recommended standard for tigers, it does not take into account that Tiggers' tops are made out of rubber, and that their bottoms are made out of springs. An official noted, "Look, we all agree that Tiggers are bouncy, trouncy, flouncy pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN. But we must remember that Tiggers are alpha predators, albeit cuddly ones."

According to eyewitness reports, the Tigger followed the victims to a house at the edge of the wood, where he bounced them repeatedly under a gold sign that read "Mr. Sanders". The attack stopped when the Tigger became distracted by a large quantity of extract of malt, and bounced away. Zookeepers tracked down the Tigger when he foolishly bounced into a tree, and was too scared to come down. The zoo's director extracted a promise from the Tigger that he would no longer bounce zoo visitors. However, officials were considering releasing the Tigger from the promise because he "looks so sad".

Managing director Christopher Robin explained. "Sometimes the Tigger gets too enthusiastic, and bounces people that don't want to be bounced. But to take away his bouncing might be to take away his most essential Tigger nature. After all, that's what Tiggers do best, and he's the only one. Oh he's the only one!"

exciting tolkien news

Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have resolved their differences and cleared the way to begin production on a Hobbit movie, to the delight of my self and other Tolkien enthusiasts. From the New York Times:

Settlement of the litigation freed New Line, which held the rights to make a "Hobbit" movie, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which has distribution rights, to cut a 50-50 financing deal: New Line will make the two films and distribute them domestically, and MGM will distribute them overseas. The untitled sequel is described as bridging the 60-year gap between the end of J. R. R. Tolkien’s "Hobbit" and the beginning of the "Rings" trilogy.

This is good news for me, since I've just finished the first draft of my screenplay for a LOTR-themed trilogy, called "Bombadil!" The first movie is about Tom meeting Goldberry and battling the badger-folk, and there's a subplot about the rising power of Old Man Willow. Movie two ends with a cliffhanger, when the barrow-wights capture Farmer Maggot, while Tom has developed a sore throat, and can't sing them away. The third movie will bridge the two-hundred-year gap between Tom's defeat of Old Man Willow and the beginning of the "Rings" trilogy, and features a seventeen-minute song called "Ring a Dong Dillo".


Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas
Part Two: Jingle Bells
Part Three: Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Ernie and Bert

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a sad song. The unspoken follow up to "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" is, "Because the year sucked pretty bad until now". The Christmas-specific lyrics make it slightly more optimistic, with, "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" replacing the original's "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow". Christmas makes some people really defeatist. "We Need a Little Christmas", from Mame is the same sort of song: Thank God Christmas is here, so we all don't just go kill ourselves. Most modern versions of "Need a Little Christmas" will omit the part about having "Grown a little leaner/Grown a little colder/Grown a little sadder/Grown a little older", because it's bad enough that it's cold and there's awkward family gatherings and it's December 22nd you still don't know what to buy for your little sister. Holiday albums don't need to remind you.

Frank Sinatra does a fine version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", but the one dearest to my heart is the Bert-and-Ernie duet for Merry Christmas From Sesame Street. HYAMLC follows an extended sketch where Ernie and Bert re-enact "The Gift of the Magi". Bert trades his paper clip collection to get Ernie's Christmas gift, a soap dish for his rubber ducky. Meanwhile, Ernie trades the rubber ducky for a cigar box for Bert to store his paper clip collection. The late Mr. Hooper returns the paper clips and the ducky, and a delighted Bert and Ernie pledge to "make the Yuletide gay".

The story is poignant, though it raises questions about the economy of Sesame Street. Mr. Hooper's grocery store apparently functions on the barter system, but one wonders how this model is sustainable. At the very least, Hooper would need some kind of trade agreement, where he exports paper clips and bath toys in exchange for baked goods, simply to meet the insatiable demand for cookies on Sesame Street. It's not clear how Ernie, Bert, or Big Bird would earn money in the first place. Only Oscar the Grouch has anything that resembles a business plan, but how much can he really get for redeeming bottles and cans? Perhaps all Sesame Street residents share in the lucrative sponsorship money paid out by letters and numbers.

My sister Megan and I used to sing this song for strangers when we were little, complete with all of the Sesame Street asides (Ernie says, "Thank you, Bert" after the first line of the song). The novelty of my speech impediment made up for our general inability to sing. Hearing, "Fwom now on, our twoubles will be out of thight" is both cuter and sadder. I sang the role of Ernie, which works because Megan is both more responsible and more OCD than I am. In addition, I have a round face, and Megan's jogging gait has at times been described as "doing the pigeon". Of course, as I've gotten older, I know there's only one analogue for my personality on Sesame street, and that's Othcar the Gwouch.

Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas
Part Two: Jingle Bells

Sweet Little Jesus Boy, by Andy Williams

Some Christmas songs celebrate the joy of the Christmas season. Reindeer, snow, family, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents - all hallmarks of holiday songs. Many people believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate all of those wonderful things in song. A few others believe that Christmas is the time to flagellate yourself over the actions of a Judean innkeeper in 0 AD.

"Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is more hymn than Christmas carol. If you tried to sing this while out caroling, people would probably slam the door in your face for bringing them down and making them feel ashamed. The song focuses on the poor accommodations given to the Baby Jesus before His birth. In my preferred version, Andy Williams sounds completely tormented with guilt over this two thousand-year-old example of poor hotel management. Andy didn't make Mary and Joseph sleep in a barn, but his voice conveys that he feels personal responsibility for their lodgings all the same.

Listening to "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is the Christmas carol equivalent of putting on a hairshirt. Play this song for your secular friends, and the War on Christmas would be won before it even started. The guilty Andy Williams sounds quite subservient to Sweet Little Jesus Boy throughout the song, calling him "Master" and "Sir". While it's certainly polite, I haven't often heard people use "sir" while praying. Of course, Andy also calls the Messiah "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", so maybe it's not completely respectable.

An interesting aspect of the lyrics comes in the repeated laments, "We didn't know who you were", and "We didn't know it was you". The implication is that normally, sending a pregnant woman out to a drafty barn to give birth among a bunch of animals would be perfectly OK; just not if she was carrying the Messiah. How many people did know it was him, besides Mary and Joseph?

Some Catholics feel guilt regarding the death of Jesus. While I feel that's being a little tough on yourself, I can at least see the logic. But feeling bad about the birth seems overly sensitive. Jesus came out of the whole barn experience perfectly healthy, and scored a whole bunch of gold, frankincense and myrrh, so it didn't work out terribly for him. Catholics wear crucifixes around their necks, not little gold barns. Seriously, Andy, cut yourself some slack on this one.

I love this carol because it is so over the top. There aren't a lot of carols that require the (faux-)emotional commitment of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", and I love belting it out in front of my shocked, giggling family. Or in the car. Or on my parents' answering machine, when they're not home, and don't especially want to hear the entire first verse when they come home shopping.

Finally, I need to mention that the "Boy" part of the title is extraneous. It sounds like one is describing a sweet long-haired child, perhaps one with an affinity for carpentry and a distrust of money-changers. Maybe that's what Mary actually called Jesus, much like my mom called me "Seany Boy". I could see Jesus getting rebellious around age thirteen, and insisting on being just plain Jesus, or at least "Sweet Jesus", and then getting embarrassed when Mary accidentally called him Sweet Little Jesus Boy when dropping him off at the temple in front of all his friends, who started called him "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" in high, mocking voices:

"Ooh, sorry Sweet Little Jesus Boy! We didn't know it was you!"

And then Jesus would run off to hang out with lepers and plot ways to make Andy Williams feel unnecessary guilt a few milleniums later.

fun facts about "uhf"


Weird Al's UHF is one of my favorite films. It was once my sister Molly's favorite as well, until it was replaced by Sixteen Candles, then Life Is Beautiful, then Slackers, and finally She's The Man. Impeccable taste, that one.

Here are some fun facts about UHF, via Wikipedia:

  • Despite his silly name and wacky behavior, Michael Richards's "Stanley Spadowski" is actually based on a real person. His name? Stanley Snadowski.
  • Crispin Glover wanted to play "Crazy Ernie", but Weird Al didn't think he was right for the role. I guess he wanted someone really unbalanced.
  • The "Spatula City" sign was placed on a real billboard and, for some reason, was left up for months after shooting was done. Tourists and spatula enthusiasts were often tricked.
  • Extras from "Wheel of Fish" received the fish used in the scene as a thank-you. One extra foolishly traded his fish for the unknown contents of a box, which turned out to be empty. He's so stupid!

Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas

This year, my little sister Molly (AKA "Guatemolly") will be in Central America on the special day. I don't know how she'll celebrate - putting extra lard in the Christmas beans, taking an extra hour to steal wireless internet.

She'll be spending Christmas with more orphans than Daddy Warbucks and Miss Hannigan combined, though it is unlikely they'll sing about a New Deal for Christmas. They would probably call him "Papa Guerradolares", however.

When I was in middle school, my Spanish class received a handout with Spanish-language Christmas carols, which I proceeded to sing incessantly in front of my little sisters. By far, the greatest of these was Spanish-language "Jingle Bells":

Cascabeles, cascabeles
Tra la la la la
Qué alegría
Todo el día y Felicidad

Loosely translated, that's, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, tra la la la la, such joy all day, and happiness." I can only assume that there are no sleighs in Mexico.

This was such a hit that I had presents addressed to "Spanish King" for at least two years. So it was to my great delight that I learned that Guatemolly was singing carols with her orphan charges

Cascabel, cascabel,
Música de amor.
Dulces horas, gratas horas,
Juventud en flor.

Cascabel, cascabel,
Tan sentimental.
No ceces, oh cascabel,
De repiquetear

Roughly, that's, "Jingle bell, jingle bell, music of love. Sweet hours, pleasing hours, youth in flower. Jingle bell, jingle bell, so sentimental. Don't stop ringing, jingle bell."

The simplicity of "Jingle Bells" allows for a variety of interpretations. Our primary Christmas albums growing up were:

1. A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
2. The Andy Williams Christmas Album
3. Merry Christmas From Sesame Street (which appears to be out of print, and the new version is unfortunately infested with Elmo.)


Each album has its own spin on "Jingle Bells". Frank goes for a swinging version, with backup singers announcing their love of "J-I-N-G-L-E, B-E-double-L-S". For Sesame Street, Herry Monster thinks the song is about "crashing through the snow", but his favorite carol is "Wreck the Halls", so what do you expect? Andy Williams has, "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells", an expanded, brassy version that includes the line, "From the top of the chimney to the top of the world!"

It's the most populist of carols: secular, malleable, and easily translatable. My favorite recent version comes from Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons. If nothing else, it is the definitive NBA rendition of "Jingle Bells". Remix!

"I'll Be Home For Christmas", Frank Sinatra.

When we'd listen to this song at my grandma's house, she would get sad about my uncle, who lived in Los Angeles, and never did come home for Christmas. It is unclear whether he did come home for Christmas in his dreams. Having never lived more than an hour's drive away from my own parents, I can't relate to the specifics of the song. There's also never been snow, mistletoe, or "presents on the tree" at one of my Christmases.

I'm not sure how far back in Christmas tree history you have to go to find the time when presents were hung from the tree. I think it's clear that any presents that can be successfully suspended from branches are probably some crappy-ass gifts. I bet people that put presents on the tree also open their presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. And yet, our singer is so sad and lonely, these tiny tree gifts haunt his dreams.

I've never been away for Christmas, though once I was in Utah on my dad's birthday. If I had to write my own version of this carol, it would be something like:

"I'll be home for Dad's birthday
You can count on me
Please make us hike
And ride a bike
And watch British soccer on TV

Dad's birthday will find me
Nursing my sore feet
I'll be home for dad's birthday
As long as there's salami and animal cookies to eat."

The Keane family home always shows the influence of holidays, usually in the form of seasonal teddy bears. At Easter, there are teddy bears holding eggs and teddy bears in rabbit ears, though no teddy bear on the cross. On Halloween, there are teddy bears in tiny ghost costumes, teddy bears dressed as witches, and teddy bears dressed as pumpkins. I'm waiting for mom to buy a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that a middle-aged receptionist might wear that says, "This Is My Costume!"

Mom has rejected my idea for a mid-January tableau of polar bears seated at the front of a toy bus, while brown bears sit in the back, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Besides, January is when our house is filled with hundreds of snowman decorations, before the boxes of heart-toting teddy bears come out for Valentine's Day.

Christmas has the most holiday bears of all: Santa teddy bears, bears in Clement C. Moore-style night shirts and stocking caps, but no teddy bear nativity scene yet. This year, my mom has taken the holiday decorations to a new level, by dressing up our Toyota Previa as a reindeer.


Already, the minivan has been shunned by other Previas and befriended by an elf that wants to be a dentist. Also, Santa Claus started acting like a real asshole to the Previa.


My parents insist that, even though the car is over a decade old, it has never handled better on foggy nights.


I'm not sure if this can be topped, short of teddy bears in muttonchops re-enacting Civil War battles for Memorial Day. What I am sure of, and what I'd gladly shout out with glee, is that this reindeer minivan will go down in history (like Columbus!).

the mitchell report

The Mitchell Report came out this week, exposing the names of many baseball players who used performance-enhancing drugs. They listed 86 players, but there's probably a lot more, as Mitchell didn't seem to have many sources. Players named feel into a few broad categories:

1. Bay Area players implicated as BALCO customers.

2. Players who bought drugs from former Mets bat boy Kirk Radomski.

3. Players implicated by former player Larry Bigbie.

4. Players discovered in the course of an investigation into Florida pharmacies and clinics.

5. Players named by trainer Brain McNamee (Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite).

This says to me that there's a lot of other PED users in baseball that didn't come up in this report. The report is heavy on former A's, Mets, Orioles, and especially Giants, but unless this bat boy was the lone source for steroids in MLB, there's a lot more names out there.

The Giants specifically had a lot of terrible relief pitchers that turned out to be juicing. They were awful, yet cheating all the while. Finding out these players were cheating is like learning that Steve Buscemi got a face lift. Among those pitchers were:

- Jason Christiansen, who threw 126 innings in his four years with the team, with a 4.57 ERA. For this performance, Christiansen earned a little over eight million dollars. He's most famous for getting into a fight with Barry Bonds when Bonds threw Coca-Cola on him.

- Mike Stanton, who earned eight saves with the Giants at the tail end of 2006, before helping the Dodgers win the wild card at the end of the year. Fun quote in that story: Brian Sabean claims that the Giants will not have any high-salary signings in the off-season, a few months before signing Barrys Bonds and Zito to mega-deals.

- Matt Herges, mentioned in this space as one of the Rockies' Refugee All-Stars, and as a horrible, horrible pitcher back in 2007.

One wonders what these pitchers might have done absent the performance-enhancing drugs. Would they have thrown pitches underhand, and let batters choose the location, all while burning piles of the owner's money and telling embarrassing secrets about the catcher? All i know is that I won't be satisfied until all of Matt Herges's pitching statistics are expunged from the record books, and as such, the Giants are retroactively awarded the 2004 National League West title.

the nfl and the rebus

One of my favorite things about football season is the signs that fans display in the stands. They range from awkward phrases that try to incorporate TV network names ("Cooking Brady Soup: We Want a SUPER BOWL Of It"), to misspelled knocks at opposing players (Eagles fans asking Randy Moss "Boxers or Breifs?") to inappropriate commentary on national tragedies:


My favorite is the "D-Fence sign". Usually it's a team effort - one fan holds up a cardboard D, while another holds a section of picket fence. Since the cancellation of Concentration, the D-fence sign is easily the most common example of the rebus in contemporary American society. And most of the time (and 100% of the time at Raiders games), you can assume the person holding it has no idea what a rebus is.


While D-Fence may have peaked in popularity, I can't endorse any of the spinoffs such as "Off-Fence" (generally with a cardboard light switch) and D-Fence inventor Big Lo's confusing pro-Seattle "Sea-Fence" sign. However, I do think "Sea-Fence" would infuriate Raider fans more than a regular D-Fence sign would, because it involves words, and Raider fans don't know how to read.

the table of bad jerseys

Three weeks ago, I found myself at a Marina sports bar for the epic Patriots-Colts matchup. The game lived up to the hype, as both teams played like champions. We did our part to drink like champions, and as the Sunday Night Cowboys-Eagles game approached, my companions and I were still sitting, sipping water and speculating about whether Tommy Brady's mediocre first half performance was due to a fight with Gisele.

As a Pats fan in a Randy Moss jersey walked toward the exit, and Annie slapped him five, a curious group occupied the table in front of us. It was a motley group of football enthusiasts with an even motlier collection of jerseys. Here was the lineup, clockwise from the seat closest to the giant TV:

- Skinny white guy in 49ers Alex Smith jersey.
- Drunk girl in too-tight, pink, Donovan McNabb Eagles jersey.
- Large man in what looked like a homemade Dallas Cowboys imitation-jersey t-shirt, with a list of Dallas championship years on the back.
- Filipino man with a shaved head and an earring, wearing a Bluetooth earpiece and a Michael Vick jersey.

It was the sports bar equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys Not one of those jerseys should have been worn in public, and the fact that all four were at the same table defied probability. Perhaps they met in a Shameful Jerseys Yahoo group and decided to meet up. These were one step above wearing a USC Trojans OJ Simpson jersey, and a half-step below rocking one of those half-Giants, half-A's baseball shirts. Even in the douchebag-rich environment of the Marina District, these people stood out as really big douchebags.

The Vick jersey was by far the most objectionable. "What kind of message is he trying to send?" mused Annie.

"He's saying, 'I don't even want to talk to a woman today'", I replied. "What do you think the Bluetooth is for?"

"Dogfighting updates," said Annie.

"I say, hands-free phone calls to other douchebags."

On TV, Donovan McNabb threw an ill-advised interception. Vick Jersey and Dallas T-Shirt leaned over to taunt Pink McNabb Girl, while Alex Smith Jersey spilled his beer, probably due to his unusually small hands. By cheering for the Cowboys, Vick Jersey had nearly doubled his douchebag quotient, and was just a backwards Red Sox cap and some Kobe Bryant armbands away from reaching a new pinnacle of assholery. We got the hell out of there before any spilled over onto us.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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