Thursday, December 31, 2009

Long live the 80's !!!

It's hard to believe that yet another decade has come to its unofficial end (unofficial because technically, the new decade won't begin until 2011 -- mind your math, people!). Hard to believe for me, at least, because I'm still stuck in the 80's, aka The Greatest Decade Ever. What have any of the other decades in my lifetime contributed to popular culture? I was barely alive for the very tail end of the 60's, and they're noted for drugs and disgustingly dirty hippies. Thanks, but no thanks. The 70's are remembered for huge sideburns, Vietnam, and utterly heinous fashion. Thanks, but no thanks. The 90's were ridiculously nondescript -- the dingy grunge scene, and that's about it. Lame. And the 00's have been equally bland, apparently engendering tons of nostalgia for decades past from old fogeys like myself. My fave of those decades? The 80's!!! The new wave scene, those ridiculously goofy yet charming hairstyles, the metal scene, the "horny teenager" movies that have been much-imitated but never-duplicated, the over-the-top action flicks, the arcade scene... If you missed the 80's, you really missed out. So no, I can't quite let go of The Greatest Decade Ever, especially when there are still so many unresolved 80's dilemmas:


A) Who's Eileen, and why do I have to come on her?

B) Who really wants to hurt Boy George? Not me, although I WOULD appreciate him shutting the fuck up.

C) Just why DID she blind Thomas Dolby with science?


There were literally thousands of horrible plot devices in 80's movies... which of my personal top three offenders would rank as the worst one?

A) The little kid saying "It was paint!" and, in one fell swoop, leading Danny Glover to realize that the baddie in "Lethal Weapon" was in the same secret batallion as Mel Gibson.

B) María Conchita Alonso magically producing the microfilm with the unedited footage of Arnie's "Butcher Of Bakersfield" shenanigans on "The Running Man." And while we're on that subject, just where DID María Conchita Alonso hide the microfilm? I'm guessing it was inside her conchita. Man, I kill myself.

C) Daniel LaRusso actually defeating Steve McQueen's incredibly scary son. I can believe a one-legged Daniel-san managing to beat Billy Zabka, since he used The Crane, a move Mr. Miyagi described as "no can defend" -- but there's no way Daniel-san got past Dutch. I refuse to believe it.

Best exposure:

A) Joyce Hyser tearing off her tux and revealing her assets in "Just One of the Guys."

B) Jamie Lee Curtis "inadvertently" showing Dan Aykroyd the goodies in "Trading Places."

C) Phoebe Cates telling Judge Reinhold how cute she thinks he is by unleashing the puppies in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

D) Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. No, not really. But don't you wish it was true? I know I do.

Signature game:

A) Rubik's Cube. Obnoxious, but addictive. Bonus question: How in the hell were those people on "That's Incredible" able to solve it in mere seconds? Bonus questions II: Who the hell is Rubik?

B) Pac-Man. Still popular today!
C) Donkey Kong. Nowadays, you probably know it as SuperMario or some such crap. But it'll always be Donkey Kong to me.
D) Space Invaders: as quoted roughly a billion times by my pal Greg, "Space invaders... they invade your space. Get it? [Snickers]"

Sports injustice:

A) The Brownies. Don't get me started. I hate John "Horsefucker" Elway.
B) The Cavs. Michael Jordan's an asswipe. Don't even dream of arguing this. He's a piece of shit.
C) France. A very underrated source of sports heartbreak, because they should have won both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. The semifinal losses against Germany still make me sad, angry, and nauseous. Bonus gripe: Harald Schumacher is a disgusting Nazi thug, and the fucker belongs in prison. Bonus gripe II: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge may kindly burn in hell.

Signature look:

A) The new-wave hairdo, best exemplified by ridiculously long bangs -- aka, the "
Flock of Seagulls" look.
B) The
feathered bangs.
C) The
metal mullet. Just about every wannabe poser in my high school yearbook looks like this, so this one may be my personal fave.

Ah, so many 80's questions, so little time... Happy New Year / New Decade !!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sports nicknames

I love a good sports nickname, but can't help but wish there was a little more originality involved nowadays. I know I'm old, but we've just got to stop recycling nicknames. Kobe Bryant, you're not "The Black Mamba" -- Roger Mayweather is. Sam Peter, you're not "The Nigerian Nightmare" -- that would be Christian Okoye. LaDainian Tomlinson should be called "LDT," not "LT" -- those two initials are the domain of one Lawrence Taylor. And I could go on. We're just getting lazy, complacent, and unimaginative when it comes to nicknames. A few months ago, Toby Mergler penned an excellent column to that effect, which included the following three jewels:
  • Jose Canseco: "Flea Market" -- Every once in a while, you'll find something useful in what he says, but most of the time he's full of crap.

  • Tracy McGrady, "The Public Restroom" -- Because he's hard to find when you need him the most.

  • Dwight "Y-Axis" Howard -- Because his post game is one-dimensional.
Fantastic stuff! So, as the year draws to a close, I thought I'd make my own paltry contribution to this list by "honouring" some of 2009's biggest sports goats.

Braylon Edwards: "Edwards Scissorhands" -- because "Hands of Stone" was already taken by Roberto Durán. Edwards Scissorhands played himself out of town by dropping an inordinate amount of passes, then complained that the Cleveland faithful never liked him because he went to Michicrap. That's not the least bit true. Leroy Hoard went to Michicrap, and we adored him. Of course, Hoard was a productive back, a consummate team player, had a great sense of humour, and his interviews were an absolute joy. Edwards Scissorhands is a me-first, hypocritical, pass-dropping POS. The only consolation for the Cleveland faithful is that he's been equally maddening with the Jets, making ridiculous circus catches for 10 yards only to drop pretty much every perfectly thrown 30-yard rainbow. Loser.

Serena Williams: "Crown Victoria" -- because she has the biggest trunk. I actually like Crown Victoria, but that ridiculous hissy fit she threw because she couldn't handle the fact that she was getting her huge ass handed to her by Kim Clijsters earned her a spot on the list. Besides, I'm absurdly proud of myself for coming up with this hackneyed nickname.

Milton Bradley: "The Water Molecule" -- because he's bipolar. I can't believe this clown keeps getting chances. What's worse, the teams that sign him (and their fans) make the same mistake: namely, thinking that things will be different with them, and that The Water Molecule has turned a new leaf, and he's misunderstood, and he's a really nice guy, blah, blah, blah. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Bradley's crazier than a shithouse rat, and he's proven it time and time again. At this point, it's just a matter of when, not if, he'll go nuts in Seattle. It's a bummer, because after losing the Sonics and watching the Seahawks mail in their season, the Seattle fans deserve better, and are rightly optimistic about the Mariners, especially now that they've added Uncle Cliffy Lee to their already formidable rotation. But The Water Molecule will derail this team.
Bank on it.

Donte Stallworth: "Hungover Calculus" -- because you should never drink and derive. But all kidding aside, accidents happen. What people just refuse to understand is that they're MUCH more likely to happen when your reflexes and judgment are impaired, even if slightly. Stallworth flashed his lights at the poor pedestrian he ran over. If you see a guy crossing the street in front of you, don't flash your lights... HIT THE BRAKES!!! Now we're all left to wonder whether Stallworth would have been able to either stop, slow down, or swerve had he been completely sober.

Eldrick "Tomcat" Woods -- too obvious? Sue me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean!

This past Friday was the last day of school before the Christmas break. My Chemistry and Physics classes were finishing up their exams, but my Physical Science students were done. Not wanting to start a chapter only to have them forget everything over the break -- and trust me, they would -- I decided to cut them a little slack. The new schedule means that, at 49 minutes a class, I wouldn't be able to show them a movie. Luckily, a few years ago I snapped up the complete Mr. Bean series from Costco. The set includes the sublimely hilarious "Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean" holiday episode, which I played for my kids. Man, if only our labs were this much fun!

If your only exposure to Mr. Bean is from the awful movies that the TV show inspired (and this was the case with my students, who were in awe of Mr. Bean after the clips), you're in for a true Christmas treat:

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mystery Science Theater 3000 lives on!

When the Sci-Fi Channel pulled the plug on Mystery Science Theater 3000 a few years ago, I thought it was the end of an era: the best and funniest television show of the past few decades was no more. But rejoice! The MST3K crew (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) are still ripping movies to pieces, and even better, they're no longer shackled by the Sci-Fi Channel's copyright constraints. Thanks to my boy Martin (aka G-Spot) for not only letting me know about this but hooking me up with two Rifftrax'd Bela Lugosi jewels this past week-end. You can preview and purchase their latest offerings on their website, Enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

That stinking Cold War crap

Those of us who love opera know perfectly well that back in the 50s, an ignorant bunch of misguided, McCarthy-led idiots wouldn't let the great Boris Christoff sing here because we just couldn't have an opera dude from behind the Iron Curtain set foot on the Metropolitan. Yes, those sneaky Bulgarian bassos might have ended the American way of life with their open-throated craziness! That story has never failed to annoy the shite out of me, and I've often wondered how many more phenomenal singers we / I missed out on because of that idiocy. Surely, a school of singing as accomplished as that of the Soviet Union would have produced more than one great singer during the Cold War years! Over the last few years, thanks to the advent of YouTube, I've been finding more and more relatively unknown Soviet-bloc operatic jewels. Zurab Sotkilava, Muslim Magomaev, Nicolae Herlea, Pavel Lisitsian, Irina Arkhipova... and the latest find: my Armenian brother from another mother, Barseg Tumanyan.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A boxer: blindsided

The title of this post is a tribute to / blatant rip-off of Harry Sylvester's phenomenal short story, "A Boxer: Old." In this particular case, however, the protagonist is not a likable boxer fighting two relentless opponents: the boxer in front of him, and the ravages of time. The blindsided boxer in this case is a petulant little sanitary napkin named Floyd "Moneyless" Mayweather. A few days ago, he called in a satellite radio show co-hosted by some dude named RA the Rugged Man, probably thinking he'd get tossed a few softball questions and then be showered with lavish praise. Instead, this RA character blindsided "Pretty Broke" Floyd with a ton of tough questions regarding his career, his legacy, and his obnoxious tendency to proclaim himself the greatest of all time while demeaning possible opponents. Mayweather's response was predictable: lots of shouting, lots of empty posturing, lots of references to his wealth, but very little substance. In a way, I felt bad for Moneyless, even though I absolutely despise him, because I thought the instantly confrontational tone of the interview was unfair. Be that as it may, the interviewer, while not the most knowledgeable and articulate person, did know his boxing, and raised some very valid objections to the way Mayweather's career has been handled.

Here is the interview, in two parts:

I'll speak on behalf of the Floyd haters (h8rs), since I genuinely despise Moneyless. Those of us who dislike the man but are still somewhat rational don't judge his on-the-ring performance based on his personality. When Moneyless dismantled Chico Corrales, I was disgusted by the outcome but dazzled by Moneyless' brilliant (and it WAS brilliant) performance. Same thing when he took apart a then-undefeated and highly lauded Hatton. And I, for one, can't blame Moneyless for fighting Baldomir -- Baldomir had beaten Judah for his title, then beaten Gatti. Moneyless fought Judah first (and make no mistake about it, Judah was considered the better fighter even after his loss to Baldomir) and then Baldomir for his title. No complaints there, at least not from me.

My problem with Moneyless stems from his obnoxious, abrasive, not at all funny personality. When people ask him (rightly, in my humble opinion) why he chose not to fight Margarito or Mosley (and he DID make those choice -- even his most staunch supporters cannot deny that), his answer is to discredit those fighters he chose not to fight. "Oh, you mean the Shane Mosley that lost to Forrest? Lost to Cotto? You mean the Margarito that lost to Paul Williams?" So what if they lost some fights? That's not the reason Floyd chose not to fight them. I guess I despise him because he constantly and unremittingly insults mine and all other boxing fans' intelligence with his tiresome rhetoric. Just tell us you were biding your time for better fights or waiting for a better build-up of fight interest, which I, personally, would be inclined to accept. That's what he did with Judah. If memory serves, their fight was hashed out months in advance, and even though Judah, in his inimitable idiocy, muffed things by taking Baldomir lightly and losing a lackluster decision to him, Moneyless followed through on his plans and fought Judah first. Hey, boxing's a business, fighters need to make money. Even the most ardent hater (h8r) can and should understand that. But Mayweather gets on my nerves because he's a liar, and a pretty shitty liar at that, and I just can't stand liars, especially the stupid ones who believe their own lies. Case in point: Pretty Broke Floyd swearing up and down that he didn't owe the IRS millions of $$$, then showing off his impressive mansion on an HBO fight preview show, all while proclaiming, "My shit is paid for... how 'bout yours?" only to immediately turn over roughly half of his winnings from his last fight to the IRS to, you guessed it, settle his million $$$ debt to the government. What a douche bag.

So I guess that's it for me. I just despise Mayweather's boorish, obnoxious, "let me reinvent the truth and then shout it loudly because that'll somehow give my lies legitimacy" spiel. If that makes me a typical old-fogey white h8r, then so be it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Couldn't have written it better myself...

... so I won't even bother to try.

The hard-luck life of a Cleveland Browns fan, by Geoff LaTulippe. You may also extend this excruciating pain to being a Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Cavaliers fan. Wait 'til next year...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Lamb of God and Metallica

I was lucky enough to go see Lamb of God and Metallica last week, courtesy of my awesome nephew & godson Patrick, who insisted on buying me a ticket as a birthday gift. Never go against the family! Five of us squeezed into my little Saturn, and off we went to Fort Lauderdale for a slice of heavy metal bliss. A few photo links from the event: the crowd waiting in line to get in; Lamb of God; the obligatory cammo-loving, tee-pee-dragging cracker-ass cracker shot; Metallica's laser show; Metallica performing; Metallica saying their goodbyes.

Lamb of God performed a slew of old favourites and a few songs from their outstanding new album, "Wrath." Unfortunately, they had horrible sound issues, so that the only thing that could be heard clearly were the drums, and even that was intermittent. As a result, their set, which should have whipped the crowd into a seething frenzy, seemed oddly subdued and left us all pretty unsatisfied. If you hadn't heard Lamb of God prior to this performance, you'd have been wondering why they weren't named Lamb of Valium. The phenomenal breakdown that takes place halfway through "Ruin"? Inaudible. The inhuman, braying screams at the end of every chorus of "Laid to Rest"? Inaudible. The relentless double bass pedal insanity of "Black Label"? Inaudible. I recorded a videoclip of "Walk with me in Hell" -- yet another phenomenal, driving song, reduced to garbled static and rhythmic pounding by the crappy sound set-up:

Metallica more than made up for the disappointment of Lamb of God by playing two and a half hours of solid metal. It's good to see Metallica finally remembering that they're a heavy metal band, and not some Top 40 radio-oriented shite band. I always felt that the Black Album was a seminal turning point for the band. It was a terrific effort, but it garnered Metallica enormous mainstream success, leading to a proverbial fork in the road: would the band get drunk on the success and keep trying for it, or would they continue to produce high-quality music, and if the success followed, so be it? Load, Reload, the Metallicats, St. Anger, and whatever other garbage they put out following the Black Album is, in my humble opinion, a product of Metallica loving their mainstream acceptability and catering to it. Luckily, they took an extended break and came to their senses. Their new album, Death Magnetic, is outstanding, and is the rightful evolutionary heir to And Justice for All and the Black Album. I think Metallica themselves admit this, because their set consisted of seven songs from Death Magnetic (they are, after all, trying to promote this new album), two from Kill'Em All, one from Ride the Lightning, two from Master of Puppets (including an all-time underrated jewel, "Damage, Inc."), two from And Justice for All, three from the Black Album, and just one from the aforementioned garbage albums. It's great to have "good" Metallica back! I was lucky enough to shoot a videoclip of one of my all-time fave Metallica songs:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Now + here = Nowhere ???

A friend recently shared a music video with me (love that Facebook feature) that was pretty disturbing: Depeche Mode's "Wrong." That, of course, got me thinking about music videos, and what a huge new thing they were back in the teenage years. You may not believe this, but those were the days when MTV and VH1 did nothing but air music videos, and artists / bands went crazy trying to one-up each other in producing visual images that went with their music. Some videos involved travel to exotic locations (love those mullets!), others just made sure to throw in prominently featured T&A (great song, great band), others simply went for sex and violence (albeit subdued by today's standards), and we even had videos paying tribute to other videos.

But it seems to me that, at least during the 80s and early 90s, videos tried very hard for the macabre angle. Some of the attempts were pretty lame, like this effeminately mulleted post-apocalyptic hodgepodge, or this would-be werewolf lunacy (great song, though!), this wedding gone wrong, or this utterly cheesy elevator ride down to hell. But some videos managed to be truly creepy, like this nightmare of being drowned, buried, and stung by gigantic mosquitoes, this unsettling claymation (and a phenomenal song to boot), and the grand-daddy of all disturbing videos:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Milton Bradley

It seems like it was only last week / last blog post that I mentioned Milton Bradley's insanity. And that's because it WAS that recent. Well, Milton's tired act just played itself out, again, in yet another city. The Cubs have suspended him for the remainder of the season. Bradley's always been talented, and he can be quite pleasant when he's not crazy. Sadly, those quiet interludes of sanity are becoming less and less frequent in the maelstrom of his craziness.

I remember Milton's tenure in Cleveland very well, and it was a lot like his tenure in every other team he's played for. Loads of potential, initial niceness, and a rapid descent into lunacy. During his breakout season with the Tribe, Milton tried to pick a fight with Travis Fryman because Fryman rightly took Milton to task for not running out a ground ball. Of course, Milton cried racism. When manager Eric Wedge benched Milton for not running out yet another ground ball, Milton accused the entire organization of being racist, sulked, pouted, and effectively ran himself right out of town. The Tribe ended up trading him for about a nickel on the dollar, and yet it was a textbook case of addition by subtraction. Milton subsequently played himself out of favor with the Dodgers (he went after fans in the stands), the Rangers (went after one of the radio broadcasters who criticized him for not running out a ground ball), the A's (tore ligaments on his knees while being restrained by his own coaches as he tried to go after an umpire), and now the Cubs (got into dugout confrontation with his manager, accused entire Chicago fan base of being bigoted, embittered, and stupid).

Where will Milton Bradley go from here? I imagine some desperate team will take a flyer on him next season. The talent is still there, and even though Milton has a Monopoly on bipolar stupidity, some team GM without a Clue will pay him some Easy Money and roll Yahtzee on crazy Milton. Good luck.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Crown Victoria breaks down

I didn't get a chance to watch last night's US Open women's semifinals live, because I was watching my beloved Buckeyes lose yet another heart-breaker they should have won. But thanks to the DVR, I was able to catch up and just finished watching Serena "Crown Victoria" Williams lose her match to Kim Clijsters. Down a set and trailing the second set 5-6, Crown Victoria was serving at 15-30, and committed a double-fault for match point because of a somewhat ticky-tacky foot-fault call. At that point, Crown Victoria lost it and went on a paranoid rant that would have made Milton Bradley proud. She spent the next couple of minutes alternatively preparing to serve out match point, then stopping, screaming obscenities at the line judge who called the foot-fault, then preparing to serve again, then stopping and ranting at the line judge yet again. Predictably enough, Crown Victoria's tantrum practically forced the chair umpire to penalize her a point for unsportsmanlike behaviour. Game, set, match. Would Crown Victoria have been able to mount an epoch-making comeback when facing match point against a player who appeared to have her number? Highly improbable, but not impossible. Regrettably, Crown Victoria's antics make the question moot.

I've always supported Crown Victoria, even though she's a textbook example of the "Gracious winner, sore loser" corollary. She heaps effusive praise on opponents after she's defeated them, almost to a fault, but when she loses, she refuses to give opponents credit, instead saying things along the lines of, "She made a lot of lucky shots, and I made lots of errors." Being a somewhat sore loser does not a sports villain make... but even the biggest Crown Victoria apologist might have a tough time defending last night's meltdown. I'm not passing holier-than-thou judgment here. I may not be a professional athlete, but it doesn't take a professional athlete to understand that emotions and frustrations are brutally magnified in the heat of competition, especially when the stakes are high. That having been said, Serena's "Ugly American" moment cost her the match, and possibly a few fans.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

One week down, 42 weeks to go

After a week and a half of excruciating new employee inductions, coma-inducing orientation and staff committee meetings, mind-numbing guideline sessions full of TLAs (three-letter acronyms), and the occasional respite of a school spirit speech, classes finally started this past Monday, and I finally got around to my job: teaching. Well, kind of.

On Monday, first and second periods were shortened owing to a pep rally, so all I did there was take attendance and distribute class syllabi. The remaining periods, I was able to do what I had hoped: namely, to introduce myself at length, and to have all of my students do the same. With some of the classes, this activity quickly de-evolved into a chaos of excited questions about my tattoos. Go figure.

On Tuesday, I went through the tattoo show-and-tell lunacy with my first two periods, then caught up all classes on lab safety. One of my Chemistry students astutely noticed we don't have a fire extinguisher in the room. At least he was awake!

On Wednesday, more flat-out chaos: I marched every one of my classes down to the Library so they could pick up their textbooks. Since all the Science classes were slated to pick up their books that day, the wait took up most of the class period. Upon our return to the classroom during one of my Physical Science classes, I noticed there were still some ten minutes left until the bell, so I asked the students to go ahead and start reading Chapter 1, to which one unfortunate soul replied, in shocked disbelief: "You want us to read? ON OUR OWN?" It's gonna be a long year.

On Thursday, finally! Lecture time. Well, lecture time for the first four periods, since the school photos "grade X students go during period Y" designation left me with only half of my Physics students during sixth period (the juniors left), and only one Physics student during seventh period (the seniors left). At least I was able to help her with her Algebra II homework.

Friday was doubly good: no more administrative garbage or interruptions, and since we have casual Friday at our school, I was able to wear jeans and tennis shoes. The jeans aren't such a big deal, because even my dress pants are comfortable. But the tennis shoes were a gift from God -- I have blisters on my heels from a week of wearing dress shoes. Time to splurge yet more money I don't have to buy a pair of fancy sneaker-dress shoe hybrids.

All in all, the first actual work-week of my new job was: exhausting, because I found myself leaving school and coming straight home to prepare lectures and activities for the next day; frustrating, because I (the whole faculty, really) had to deal with an absurd amount of transferring students, the class sizes are absolutely enormous, and all of our schedules were shifted around the day before classes started -- yes, you read that correctly, and in my case, it was actually the NIGHT before; but also very rewarding, especially when it comes to my Physics students, who are attentive, funny, and understand that once we're on task, I need them to stay focused. It was tough keeping some of my other classes equally focused, especially my non-honours, we-don't-want-to-be-here Physical Science students, but aside from the occasional "QUIET, please!" warnings, I had no disciplinary problems. And if that's all I have to worry about when it comes to discipline, then I'll be thanking God profusely, because that kind of restlessness was to be expected during the first week of school.

May the next 42 weeks be more like Friday -- a nice, relatively stress-free, routine learning / teaching experience.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

I just don't get it

I've tried, repeatedly, but I don't understand the fascination. UFC / Strikeforce / MMA / Affliction / Ultimate Fighting / Whatever just doesn't make it for me. Last night's card was advertised as an epoch-maker, because lots of supposedly spectacular match-ups would be televised, and the headliner was a battle of the best two female MMA / UFC / Whatever fighters. Well, I toughed out the entire card, again, and was disappointed and revolted, again. It isn't a problem of the sport being too barbaric -- even though I understand that all such fighting sports are barbaric -- because I love boxing. It isn't a problem of the sport being too seedy, because it's come a long way from those disturbing clips of that homeless dude fighting weirdos for cash or food; in fact, last night's event was as glitzy and well-produced as any stellar boxing card in recent memory. I can't even say, in good conscience, that it's a problem of a lack of skill, because I'm not well-versed on the finer points of take-down techniques, submission holds, or shoot (chute?) fighting.

For me, the biggest problem is that no matter what happens, MMA either fails to hold my interest or actually disgusts me. Last night was no exception. The four things that I remember the most from the two-hour program are not exactly selling points for the sport:
  • Prolonged stretches where the fighters just circled one another, followed by a quick takedown by one of the fighters, and said takedown resulting in prolonged stretches where the fighters grappled awkwardly on the floor, until the referee eventually reset them because the crowd would boo the lack of action.
  • Fighters taking entirely too much punishment. I don't think I'm being a hypocrite here. Boxing gloves are very well-padded, and I've actually experienced what it's like to get punched in the jaw by a gloved opponent. Sure, it doesn't feel too good, but to be honest, I've taken worse lumps playing soccer. I've also experienced what it's like to get pounded with a practically bare fist or get kicked in the thigh, and it's brutal. One complaint about MMA you'll never hear from me is that fights get stopped too quickly. In my opinion, the exact opposite holds true. Last night, some Armenian dude dropped his opponent with a crunching right hook, and there was no pause, mercy, or eight-count. Instead, the Armenian fighter immediately pounced on his helpless and halfway unconscious rival and landed at least five or six vicious blows on his face before the referee finally stepped in to wave off the contest. The bloodied and bruised loser was left to stare up at the lights with a thousand-yard glassy-eyed stare. It was scary and repugnant.
  • Testing is sorely needed in the sport, and I don't mean the "what multiple learning profile is Fighter X" type of testing. Yesterday's main event pitted Gina Carano, the supposed face of female MMA fighters, against an opponent who goes by the name of "Cyborg" -- I shit you not. Carano is a pretty good-looking girl, so I can see why the promoters would want to showcase her. As a bonus, her name allowed me and a group of equally immature friends to make roughly one million "pounding Gina" moron jokes. This Cyborg person, though... yikes. To quote the Steve Carrell character from "The 40-Year Old Virgin": her hands were as big as Andre The Giant's, and her Adam's apple was almost as big as her balls. She was more of a man than I'll ever be. Predictably enough, the good-looking but not very well-skilled Gina took a hellacious beating from Cyborg. I suppose we should be thankful there wasn't enough time for lots of grappling, or else Cyborg might not have known whether to throw punches or penetrate and thrust. [Shudders.]
  • There really don't appear to be too many rules. During the girl fight, while Cyborg had Gina pinned against the cage (yes, they fight in a cage -- draw your own conclusions), she was actually scratching Gina's face. I suppose that's pretty convincing evidence that Cyborg's a female after all, but still... that was just insane.

All in all, I was not impressed. Call me a stodgy old fogey, but I think I'll stick to boxing, where people try to punch each other's heads off in a civilized manner.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The fire sale from hell

To the remaining Tribe fans who haven't deserted the team after Larry Dolan took it over from Dick Jacobs, the current installment of the yearly fire sale does not come as a shock. Nonetheless, all of us are devastated by this latest round of trades. The CC trade last year was incredibly painful but understandable. CC was heading into free agency and had very honestly made it clear he would go to the highest bidder. Hence, getting something in return for CC before the foregone conclusion of his leaving at the end of the season made sense, even to CC's most ardent supporters. But this year's trades of Cliff Lee and Vicky Martinez are not justified by the same parameters. Both players had team options for next year, at roughly the same salary they're making this year. Why, then, not employ the same strategy as last year? That is, start the year with an intact roster, see if the team will contend, and, if things look bad as the trade deadline approaches, deal the marketable players who are heading into free agency for prospects. I like to think that we the Tribe Faithful understand that the salad days of Jacobs actually trying to field a winning team regardless of personal cost are over. We may be chronically afflicted with collective Sisyphus issues, but we're not hopelessly stupid, so we also realize that these are crummy economic times for everyone. But if Dolan hopes to make any money from his ownership stake in the Indians, he needs to field a competitive team.

Cleveland is a football town, and they'll support the Brownies no matter how putridly inept a team / coaching staff / managerial staff is in place. The attendance records for Browns games provides compelling evidence of this unconditional support. Since their return to the league, the Brownies' record of futility has been astounding, and yet they keep selling out game after game after painfully embarrassing blowout loss to the fucking Steelers game. Neither the Cavs nor the Tribe are granted the same luxury of seemingly unlimited support. The pre-LeBron Cavs were probably a few more lousy seasons away from being relocated (you can't convince me otherwise), and team owner Dan Gilbert has done a remarkable job of following previous owner George Gund's lead and investing oodles of money, time, and effort into building a first-class franchise. Sure, the fact that LeBron has blossomed into the league's best player hasn't hurt, but the point is still valid: unless you own the Brownies, you must spend at least some money to make money. The Cavs regularly sell out home games, and the crowd is enthusiastic and rabid, as it should be. The same scenario played out for the Tribe starting in the mid 90's and continuing into the early part of the current century. The new stadium, coupled with a team that actually started winning and became a perennial contender thanks to several shrewd trades AND lucrative player contracts (bears repeating: LUCRATIVE PLAYER CONTRACTS!!!), resulted in an unprecedented era of baseball success in Cleveland, as witnessed by the remarkable sellout streak of 455 consecutive home games.

If Dolan's only strategy for maintaining a positive bottom line is slashing the payroll, which GM Mark Shapiro has confirmed countless times, then the Tribe are in for a nasty free-fall of perennial rebuilding. Dolan would be better off selling the team to someone who actually has the capital to invest in team improvements and wait for those investments to mature, à la Dick Jacobs. Dolan would also be well-advised to sell the team before the average attendance plummets to the triple digits, something that was quite frequent in the 80's and early 90's. I used to work downtown back then, and can still remember walking to old Municipal stadium after work with friends and/or Fiancée No. 2 (she was a trooper), paying $5 for tickets, and, since the stadium would be practically empty, sitting anywhere we wanted -- even the ushers didn't give a shit back then, and with good reason: those teams were abysmal. I'm sure I speak for the remaining Tribe Faithful (all 13 of us) when I say that a return to those conditions would be nothing short of a catastrophe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Disturbing the priest

One of the all-time greatest rock songs, from Black Sabbath's sublime "Born Again" album. The indefatigable Ian Gillan does so much screaming and cackling in this song, that it's a miracle he had any voice left after recording it. I never pay attention to lyrics, but this morning, I was reminded of a nice little line from this song: "Watch out for religion when it gets too near."

I was still in my ratty PJs and savouring my last cup of late-morning coffee when someone knocked on my door. I went to have a looksie, and beheld two very well-dressed young men whose appearance and demeanour screamed "Jehova's witness." I usually shoo these types of visitors away, but for some reason, felt a pang of sympathy for these two youngsters who were braving the insufferable heat for the sake of their so-called duty. So, for roughly two minutes, I let them chat me up about Christianity and the Bible -- no use clamming up about my faith, since I loathe lying and my cross tattoos were plainly visible -- before wishing them a good day and advising them to stick to whatever little shade they could find.

As they were leaving, one of the kids turned back and, rooting through his briefcase, told me he had a pamphlet he thought I might find useful. I was going to respectfully decline, but again, felt so bad for these kids toiling away in the dog days of summer in the name of their faith, misguided though it may be in my opinion, that I decided, "let this poor kid hand me his leaflet; if nothing else, it might provide some laughable bathroom reading." Imagine my surprise when I looked at the pamphlet and saw it was entitled, "Depression and Anger." The Jehova young'un proceeded to explain that this pamphlet not only referenced several passages in the Bible dealing with the evils of depression and anger, but also provided several additional references (Biblical or otherwise fanatically Christian, of course) that would help, and I quote, "a Christian who had strayed from the path" overcome the root of these evils. In the immortal words of Jack Slater, "big mistake." I gave Jehova boy the Manson lamps, and asked, "Wouldn't this pamphlet be a more appropriate choice for someone who answered the door while wiping their eyes, or insulted you, or slammed the door in your face? That's the kind of person that might be in need of counseling, anger control, or simple etiquette lessons." The obviously nonplussed Jehova kid tried to rally, and replied, "We like to leave these pamphlets so that good Christians like yourself can use them to stay on the path." "Nice try, but the damage is done," I told Jehova boy. "If staying on the path means making unfavourable snap judgements of people who open their door to your unsolicited Saturday morning visits, I'd rather careen right off your path, for it leads directly to presumption, which, last time I checked, was a sin." Hey, I figured waxing poetic was the way to go. Jehova boy tried to stammer out a reply, but I politely and firmly told him not to bother, and sent him and his pal on their merry way.

And that's how Bible-pounding zealotry transformed a nice Saturday morning coffee session into me standing on my porch in my PJs, looking like a disheveled swarthy hillbilly, and arguing semantics with two suit-clad Jehova's witnesses young enough to be my kids. Watch out for religion when it gets too near, indeed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Alexis Argüello (1952-2009)

I've been a boxing fan for as long as I can remember. I guess it was unavoidable, given that my Dad was a boxing fan and, predictably enough, I took most of my behavioural cues from him. But my formative years need some credit here, too. The late 70's and the 80's were strife with boxing greatness. Heck, even the silver screen saw Rocky, a movie about a pug and his struggle for respect, win an Oscar. Unlike today, where the most charismatic champions are robotic Russians or dim-witted obnoxious loudmouths, the great champs of my childhood and adolescence were larger-than-life figures whose only concern was fighting the best, without worrying about sanctioning fees, purse splits, favourable match-ups, "getting my due," or whatever other pathetic excuses today's paper champions use to dodge good opponents. In those days, I liked a lot of fighters, but there were five guys whom I worshiped with an adulation that bordered on the maniacal: Salvador Sánchez, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Azumah Nelson, Julio César Chávez, and my all-time favourite, Alexis Argüello, by far the greatest boxing champion of my lifetime. Two days ago, Argüello passed away in his native Managua, Nicaragua, after suffering a gunshot wound to the chest. Argüello had been elected mayor of Managua, and although at this time his death has been decreed to be a suicide, the circumstances are decidedly suspicious.

I first saw "El Flaco Explosivo" in a televised bout against Arturo Leon, and during the pre-fight introductions, I remember being more impressed by Leon, a squat, muscular guy with a thick build, and thinking that Argüello was too thin, spindly, unassuming and unimposing to pose much of a threat against Leon or, for that matter, any other boxer. Of course, boxing matches are not won and lost based on appearance, something that became rather obvious when Argüello started following up his surprisingly quick and stiff jab with explosive right crosses. Leon managed to go the distance, mounting a few rallies here and there, but had absolutely no answer to Argüello's well-balanced, non-stop arsenal. As luck would have it, his next championship defense, a rematch against Alfredo Escalera, was also televised in Uruguay. Argüello delivered an even more impressive beatdown, knocking the rugged Escalera down three times en route to a late-round stoppage. Just like that, I was hooked. Here was a guy who was as relentless, ruthless, and unforgiving in the ring as he was decent, sportsmanlike, and gracious outside of it. This may seem hard to believe, considering today's "me me me it's all about me" chest-pounding, trash-talking athletes, but as soon as the refs finished counting out his opponents, Argüello's first move was to help the vanquished foes to their feet. This is not a romanticized exaggeration. No fighter was as universally loved outside the ring, and arguably no fighter was as universally feared inside it.

I was lucky enough to see quite a few of his subsequent fights, especially once we moved to the States, where Argüello was remarkably popular. The fact that he'd learned to speak very good English and even starred in a Lite Beer commercial with Billy Martin (Argüello's over-the-top "I got to meet thees guyyy!" punchline brings a smile to my face even to this day), as well as his crowd-pleasing, take-on-all-comers style, endeared him to an American audience that was, to be honest, just as xenophobic then as they pretend not to be today. For me, the summit of El Flaco's career took place in late 1981, when he took on media darling and tough-as-nails challenger Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and TKO'd him after methodically pounding him into submission over 14 brutal rounds. Immediately after the stoppage, he went to console the heartbroken Mancini, and promised him he'd be a champ someday. Mancini, a super-nice guy whose life saw plenty of tragedy and adversity, did indeed go on to win a championship, and to this day, credits Argüello with teaching him how to behave like a champ both inside and outside the ring.

Rest in peace, Flaco.

Monday, June 29, 2009

All hail Dr. Ivo

No one's ever going to accuse me of choosing my sports allegiances wisely. Oh, sure, when you grow up in Cleveland, you root for Cleveland teams... unless you're a pathetic front-runner whose name rhymes with Smebron Smames and decide you like the Yankees, Bulls, and Cowboys instead! But I think this stubborn allegiance to teams that have a preternatural ability to build up your hopes only to crush them in the most painful way imaginable translates into bizarre preferences in other sports. How else to explain my ridiculous current infatuation with unlikely tennis "hero" Ivo Karlović?

Dr. Ivo (GREAT nickname!) is a gangly 6 ft. 10 inch Croatian giant with pretty limited mobility and an all-around game that's mediocre at best... but he's through to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon based on one thing: an absolutely blistering serve. It's not just the speed that kills opponents; the angles and bounce are obscene owing to his height and almost supernatural wingspan, and when his mechanics are on, as they've been over the past few weeks, his accuracy is surgical. I watched his match against Top 10-ranked French player (and uncanny Muhammad Ali lookalike) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Dr. Ivo was actually blasting aces past French Muhammad Ali (FMA) on his second serve. He's that confident in his serve. Playing against Dr. Ivo right now is like playing a game of service chicken: get ready for a tiebreaker and pray you can return a couple of his bombs for a mini-break, or else you're done. That's exactly what happened to poor FMA, who was reduced to guessing which side of the court to cover, like a soccer goalie facing a penalty kick.

What's not to like about Dr. Ivo? He's got a great nickname. His serve is the biggest weapon in all of tennis. He stutters (yes, you read that correctly: he stutters!). He looks even more drawn in and skeletal than Ivan Lendl, one of my all-time faves. And as if all that weren't enough, his post-victory celebration routine is delightful, especially when it's performed in front of thousands of shocked British matrons. Here's the final-set tiebreak against FMA, including Dr. Ivo's little Ron Jeremy victory dance, and with some patriotically biased, exuberant commentary courtesy of the Croatian Sports Network:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fun with Facebook

I've been on Facebook for a few months now, thanks to a friend who moved to another state and insisted I sign on so we could stay in touch. At first, I didn't think too much of it and hardly ever checked my profile or inbox, until my niece Sophie advised me that many of my relatives, including some from Uruguay, wanted to become "Friends." Lo and behold, Facebook has turned out to be a pretty convenient way to maintain contact with not just far-off friends and relatives, but also with local yokels. Sure, exchanging Facebook shouts with your officemate as you're literally sitting in the same room is somewhat gay... but still fun, especially when we're discussing our loser boss and how disgustingly pungent his breath and B.O. are, all while he's also in the room!

There are, of course, several drawbacks to internet social networks. One of my many pet peeves with Facebook is
the "like" button. There ought to be a "don't like" button to go with this. Friend X posted a link to his awesome new website? I "like" this. Friend Y posted a photo of his two-year-old daughter clad in a hat and binoculars and nothing else? Since I'm not a Catholic priest, I "don't like" this! Now, if it had been a similar photo of his bra-burning wife... nah, she's like a sister to me, and since I'm not from Kentucky, I still "don't like" this. Here are a few more Facebook "like" and "don't like" shenanigans:

Applications / Games:

I love birthdays but suck at remembering dates, so the Birthday Calendar application is an absolute
Godsend. The movie rating app is pretty cool too, especially when you compare your ratings with those of your friends.

Don't Like:
Just about everything else. No, I will not join your "family" in Mob Wars. No, I will not buy you a
Margarita using Drink Buddies (what the hell is that, anyway???). No, I will not play Pet Society with you. Please go away.

Groups / Causes:

I love to hate Turks. They are a repugnant, greasy, foul-smelling, and amoral breed whose national
pastime is forced sodomy. Joining a "Turkey sucks!" group, gleefully bashing the murderous bastards, and then laughing at their pathetically incoherent replies is nothing short of delightful. I also like the sports team groups.

Don't Like:
Just about everything else. (I sense a running theme!) No, I will not join the "Britney is the
best!" group. No, I will not donate to the "Save the Michael Vick dogs" cause. I don't fucking care. Please go away.


Reconnecting with distant family and friends... just too cool for words.

Don't Like:
I feel rude for doing this, but if I don't know you, I'm not accepting your friend request. I know
it's a social network, and regular rules might not apply, but I can't help being paranoid any more than I can help the fact that my hair is black. If I've never met you, please go away.

Comments / Tags:

In case you couldn't tell, I love a snarky comment, especially when I'm the one firing away. Adding
snide, derisive remarks to friends' photos or status updates is one of life's greatest joys. The photo tagging gimmick is also terrific -- I've been tagged as a bathroom sink (I'm a compulsive hand-washer) and as a congregation of worms (still trying to figure that one out). Good times!

Don't Like:
Surprisingly, not too many objections here. I may not reply to every comment, or comment on every
item, but, thankfully, none of my cronies are needy, so no worries or recriminations here.

Status / What Are You Doing Now?:

I like quick updates along the lines of "Going on vacation" or "Just got engaged!" I also
like fun / goofy takes on this. Months ago, a few of us were on a crazy Austrian Death Machine trip, and status updates along the lines of "DD is a war machine" or "JNA just came up with a sweet song title" just added to the hi-jinks.

Don't Like:
People using this forum for über-creepy public overshares. "Friend Z is swearing off men forever. I met a great guy at the club last night, and we exchanged numbers, but when I tried to call him, the number was out of service. What is it about me that draws me to these cruel betrayers? I can't take it any more. Aren't there any good guys out there? And to my guy friends, why do you guys act like this? I'm so sick of you all! J/K! But for real, I am pledging a life of celibacy until I find a good guy, and if, in the meantime, my vajeen dries up like a pile of sawdust in the Sahara, then so be it. LOL!" Yikes.

All in all, Facebook has turned out to be a pretty pleasant surprise. Now, if I could just stop people from trying to drag me into other social networks...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A scatological anniversary

Today (June 11) marks the anniversary of France's greatest contribution to humankind. No, I'm not talking about the constitutional separation of religion and government, nor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, nor France's myriad philosophical, artistic, gastronomical, nor sartorial gifts to the world. On this day in 1857, Joseph Pujol, aka "Le Pétomane" (translated as fart maniac or "fartiste"), was born in Marseille. This gent was a baker by profession, but he had the remarkable talent of being able to fart at will. He actually developed a stage routine where he played a type of flute with his anus ("La Marseilleise" was, of course, a show-stopper), farted to blow out candles stationed several yards away, and even re-created animal sounds and other assorted noises with his "gift." His act was successful enough to warrant a two-year run at the famous Moulin Rouge, and allowed him to eventually found his own traveling show. He eventually retired to his bakery, but not before establishing a legacy that lives on to this glorious day.

Happy birthday, Monsieur "Poo-hole" !!!!!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Obsessive-compulsive behaviour

It's neither funny nor fun, even though that's how it's portrayed in the popular media. Friends who've witnessed my obsessive-compulsive quirks think they're a hoot, and delight in telling me I remind them of that annoying twit Monk, or, even worse, that buffoonish and grotesque Jack Nicholson character in "As Good As It Gets." Well, if OCD is so bloody wonderful and mainstream, why isn't there more help for those of us who are at its mercy? I don't mean better living through chemistry, although Zoloft seems to help, albeit with egregious and oftentimes hilarious side-effects (I once drove halfway to work before I noticed I'd forgotten to wear pants). By help, I mean having products tailored to OCD geeks. For example, those little containers of anti-bacterial gel are fantastic; no matter where I am or what the circumstances, my hands are guaranteed to be germ-free. We need more products like that!!! It seems like it was scant weeks ago that I prepared a new set of socks, although it was almost two years ago. Why aren't there pre-labeled socks out there? Every time I go through the prep routine, I worry that I'm not applying equal marker coverage to each sock, that the numbers are bigger on some pairs than others, that the positioning of the numbers is uneven from pair to pair, etc. NOT GOOD!!!

I'm convinced that there's an enormous amount of money to be made by tailoring to me and my fellow crazies. Some things, like the compulsion to step over every "threshold" (cracks, doorways, first & last stair steps, etc.) with my right foot, or insisting on multiples of 13 for any meaningful transaction involving numbers, just can't be helped by OCD-friendly products. But pre-labeled socks, numbered boxers, colour-separated candies (you wouldn't believe how much more pleasant the candy-eating experience is for me once I've separated my M&Ms, Skittles, Nerds, Jelly Bellies, etc. by colour)... having these would be rapture! And since we have organic stores, why not OCD-friendly stores where the aisles, products, and brands are arranged in alphabetical order? And those are just the tip of the iceberg. But no... instead of putting things in the correct, well-organized order, the happy-go-lucky, slovenly, know-nothing idiot masses not only refuse to share this burden, but actually exacerbate it with their sloppy, uncaring ways. Filthy bastards.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Static-X at Revolution Live

Last month, I caught the second date of the Sno-Core extravaganza at Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. I'm not overly fond of seeing rock concerts in tiny, overcrowded venues -- too many tiny club concert experiences from my teenage years, including one where I got so claustrophobic and nauseated from the stench of weed and/or cloves, that I almost passed out and ended up missing the show -- but I couldn't forgo the chance to see Static-X doing their "Disco from Hell" routine.

The opening band was a local one by the name of Venejer, and they were OK. The most memorable thing about them
was the lead singer's Bulletboys-like habit of bugging out his eyes while hitting his high notes. Venejer wasn't supposed to be in the line-up, but had to step in because the singer from Saliva had some sort of emergency surgery (an appendectomy, if memory serves). So, we got Bug-Eyes McGee instead of "Click, click, boom." Sounds like a pretty good trade-off, as I'm not a Saliva fan. I can't say the same for the red-headed cougar who hit on my friend Greg (aka Jamaican Jesus) while expressing her disappointment that Saliva wouldn't be performing that day, because, according to her, she had brought her daughter (!!!) to the show specifically so they could see Saliva. Yikes.

The second band, called The Flood, was an unexpected bonus, in that they were an unapologetic Tool clone. The
singer sported what Greg described as "the world's first artificially receded hairline" and wanted to be Maynard James Keenan so badly that I ended up rechristening the band A Perfect Tool. A Perfect Tool might not have won any points for originality, but Tool-worship aside, they were very, very good. I hope they'll find success.

The third band, Burn Halo, tried really hard, but didn't make it for me. If The Flood wanted to be Tool, Burn Halo wanted to be Guns'n'Roses. They brought tons of zeal and energy, but little in the way of musicality. Lots of fancy guitar work and screaming, but a bit boring for my taste.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity of sound-checks, falling props, and false starts, Static-X took the stage.

They put on a hell of a show, and their set list was a really well-balanced representation of their body of work. I realize they've been around for 15+ years, but I find it hard to believe... singer Wayne Static does so much screaming, it's a miracle his voice hasn't given out yet. It's also worth noting that Wayne married a former porno movie "star," and she brought the band drinks a few times during the performance, wearing nothing but panties and pasties. I don't know whether it was a combination of the alcohol, the excitement of kicking off a tour in support of their new album, or a very happy mixture of both, but Static-X genuinely seemed to be having as good a time as the appreciative audience, evidenced by the constant goofy banter between Wayne Static and bassist Tony Campos:

Wayne: We're gonna play you a song from our new album!

Tony: Should they guess which song?

Wayne: Sure, why not? Guess which song from our new album we're gonna play?

Drunken audience [knowing perfectly well that it's their new single]: Stingwray!!!!!!!!

Wayne: Wow! These guys know their stuff!

Tony [pointing to some random dude in the audience]: I think this guy was at the show last night and gave everyone the answer!

Wayne: Hah hah hah hah!!!

Tony: Hah hah hah hah!!!

[End goofy banter]

But the funniest moment of the night had to be Wayne's rambling ending address, in which he updated everyone on Saliva's return, thanked The Flood and Burn Halo, and mentioned "the first band" and how he could hear them from backstage and they were really good but he couldn't remember their name. A stagehand kept yelling "Venejer" in Tony's ear, and he'd relay a discombobulated version of it to an increasingly tickled Wayne:

Stagehand: Venejer!

Tony: What? Venison?

Wayne: What's that?

Stagehand: Venejer!

Tony: Vegemite?

Wayne: Huh?

Stagehand: Venejer!

Tony: Vajener?

Wayne: What? Vaginal? Are you fucking kidding?

Tony: Vajener!

Wayne: Well, thanks to Vagina, or whatever the fuck, for stepping in for Saliva!!!

Tony and Wayne: Hah hah hah hah!!!

Venejer [backstage]: We're gonna have to change our fucking name!

Okay, I'm only guessing about Venejer deciding to change their name, but after that hilarious debacle, it wouldn't be a bad idea.

Here's a videoclip of Static-X tearing it up with "Dirthouse" -- 'twas a great show!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Gang That Couldn't Pitch Straight

There are many reasons why the Indians find themselves in last place more than one month into the season.

The offense is sporadic and bumbling -- they either strike out or hit homers. The team leader in RBIs (DeRosa) is batting in the low .200s, the leadoff hitter (Sizemore) leads the team in homeruns, our most powerful hitter (Hafner) is on the DL after it looked like he was FINALLY getting back into hitting shape, our second most powerful hitter (Peralta) is in a woeful season-long slump, and the team's overall fundamental approach to hitting is laughable; I can practically guarantee that no other team can match the Tribe's propensity to strand guys who get on second with none out or third with one out or less.

The defense is astoundingly poor, due in no small part to management's insistence on slapping together an alignment eerily reminiscent of a patchwork quilt put together by a blind guy. At any given time, the Tribe will field a catcher at first base, a shortstop at second, a third baseman at short, a DH at third, and a utility infielder in left. It's a miracle they don't throw out the one-armed man from The Fugitive (let's not forget that whole saga was inspired by a real-life murder that took place in Cleveland) in right field.

The starting pitching is similar to the hitting, as epitomized by Lee, Pavano, and even Laffey's outings: they either produce what I call high-quality outings, where they go 7+ innings while giving up two or less runs, or they get shelled early. Carmona's sinker isn't sinking, and Reyes has been a huge disappointment.

The situational managing has also been atrocious. I can't remember the last time the team manufactured a run, executed a successful hit-and-run (and some of the guys on the team can both hit AND run -- wake up, Wedge!), or even called for a timely pitch-out. What about pitching substutions? I'm so glad you asked, since this leads us to...

The Bullpen From Hell. This unit is, by far, the biggest reason for the Tribe's sorry showing thus far. How bad is the current crop of "relievers"? I'm looking back on the days of Ernie Camacho, Dave Otto, and Scott Scudder with something approaching nostalgia. It's hard to believe that the bullpen actually got worse once the team finally got rid of the human grease fire known as Joe Borowski... but they did. After yesterday afternoon's collapse, where The Gang That Couldn't Pitch Straight gave up a hard-fought lead for what seemps like the fiftieth time this year (and this estimate might not be too far off, as they give up leads multiple times a game), the bullpen's collective ERA is a ghastly 6.50, and they lead the league in blown saves by a wide margin. Even with the mediocre starting pitching, the Tribe's hit-or-miss offense has managed to keep them in games and/or give them the lead numerous times, only to have The Bullpen From Hell give it back without recording nary an out. Up until recently, the only decent relievers on the roster were two dudes named "Sipp" and "Chulk," and they both managed to catch the pitching equivalent of the Swine Flu yesterday, combining to produce a seven-run Toronto inning that negated some clutch-hitting heroics that had resulted in the Tribe taking the lead the previous half-inning. Relievers are supposed to put out fires, not set them and then exacerbate them. I don't know whether there are any viable options in our minor league system... but at this point, anyone not named Rafael Perez, Rafael Betancourt, Jensen Lewis, Kerry Wood, "Sipp," or "Chulk" is a viable option.

A bullpen this incendiary deserves a moniker. Here are some options:
  • Pyroclastic Flow
  • Arson, Incorporated
  • Ball Four
  • The Napalm Gang
  • The Opposing Hitters' Stimulus Plan
  • Chemical Accelerant
  • Hanging Slider
  • The Molotov Cocktail
  • Meatball Buffet
  • Ulcer Catalyst
  • The Kerosene Klan

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Great start

The Cavs started their 2K9 playoff run by dominating an aging, completely overwhelmed Pistons team, dumping them 4-0 and winning every game by a double-digit margin. With the possible exception of Game 3, in which the Pistons actually played great defense and the Cavs' back-court shot roughly 0.0% from the field, the Cavs were in complete control, so much so that not even their most pessimistic, woe-is-me, just waiting for the other shoe to drop fan (read: yours truly) can find fault with the team's performance. Sure, I'll be on the verge of nervously puking my brains out come the next round, especially if the Heat is our opponent; Wade is a terrific player, and is perfectly capable of single-handedly carrying his woeful supporting cast, not to mention overcoming the inexperience and overall ineptitude of the Heat's Coach Kumar. Still, if the Cavs maintain their focus and continue with their relentless hustle and suffocating defense, I like their chances.

It would be especially sweet to see this current line-up go all the way (PLEASE, GOD!!!), considering not just their talent but also their off-the-charts chemistry and likeability. They've definitely joined the short list of my all-time fave Cleveland teams, right there with the '95 Indians (minus Albert Belle, of course) and '86 Browns (Dixon & Minnifield, who unknonwingly co-created the Dawg Pound by barking at each other after pass break-ups or big tackles, and Bernie's breakout season). Bron-Bron and his choreographed pre-game team poses, the insane Mo Williams and his running floater, which he's christened The Mo-Flo, Big Z and his all-bald coiffure that makes him look like a seven-foot-three Lithuanian Nosferatu, Sideshow Andy, Delonte's gibberish syntax/accent, the return of Joe Smith, Coach Brown's colour-coordinated old-lady glasses... and this awesome spoof commercial to get the team and the fans pumped up for the playoffs:

Go Cavs !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ye Olde Shakespeare Day

Today, April 23rd, marks the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth (1564, Stratford-upon-Avon) as well as his death (1616, New Place). Why, then, are we still calling for a National Shakespeare Day, not only in the States, but also in the United Kingdom? This day should have been designated to The Bard centuries ago.

There is plenty of debate when it comes to assigning top-dog status to someone in any branch of the humanities. Who was the greatest composer of classical music? Some claim Mozart, others claim Beethoven, still others claim Bach. Who was the greatest composer of opera? Some claim Verdi, others claim Puccini, still others claim Wagner (yuck!). Who was the greatest painter? Rembrandt? Van Gogh? Monet? The same debate can rage in pretty much all areas of the fine arts... except when it comes to English-language literature. There is no greater writer in the English canon than William Shakespeare, regardless of era or genre. I would like to go as far as pronouncing The Bard to be the greatest writer ever, but cannot because of my embarrassingly thorough ignorance of non-Western literature. Nevertheless, I cannot fathom the fact that we have idiotic designations like National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day or Lazy Day, but no Shakespeare Day on April 23rd! Disgraceful.

A few links of interest:

Join the cause and heed the call for a National Shakespeare Day, both in the UK and the US.

Brush up on The Bard's greatness -- here's his complete opus, courtesy of MIT.

Read about The Bard's life, theatre, and conspiracy theories about his authorship.

Browse through this plethora of Shakespeare resources, courtesy of Palomar College.

And, if nothing else, insult a friend, co-worker, or insignificant other, Shakespeare-style!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A short Easter feel-good story

The place where I work is adjacent to several large, disturbed woodlands that house a homeless camp and myriad birds. We have woodpeckers that have bored their nests right into the overhangs, have seen various cardinals, have had ibises walk right up to our door, and hear pheasants caw-awing in the near-distance every day. Our building's windows have a mild tint and are completely reflective, so much so that the woodpeckers perch on the structure and peck at their reflection. When you combine the reflective windows with the woodlands' proximity, it stands to reason that it would only be a matter of time until a bird slammed right into the windows, and this finally happened a couple of days ago. The bird in question was a tiny indigo bunting, and it was really shaken up by the collision -- when I first went out there to check on it, it was trembling uncontrollably and couldn't even pretend to move away. I continued to check on it periodically, and was enough of an insensitive jerk to take advantage of the bunting's inability to fly away to snap a picture:

Now, when it comes to animals, I've always been a firm believer in the Humans Should Not Interfere doctrine. We have a really idiotic perspective that the cute and fuzzies are worth protecting and nurturing, while the not-so-cute and fuzzies are not. Even worse, we've gotten into the habit of looking at the animal kingdom as a surreal, archetypal western novella: the cute and fuzzies are Good, and the not-so-cute and fuzzies are Evil. I, on the other hand, don't subscribe to this garbage. It may be a byproduct of being a pretty unattractive guy, but with the notable exception of the opposite sex, appearances mean nothing to me. As a result, I do not assign more or less worth to an adorably cute indigo bunting than I would to the nefarious-looking turkey vulture or the creepy colony of ants that would scavenge the adorable bunting's carcass. So, against the pleas of co-workers and customers, I saw to it that the bunting was left alone to live or die. At some point in the day, when one of the co-workers went to check on the bunting, it had recovered enough to hop/fly into the bushes.

The moral of this rambling story: leave the beasties alone, whether the end-result is desirable by our idiotic standards (the bunting recovered and flew away to live happily ever after) or whether the end-result conforms to the savage reality of life (the bunting did not recover, died in the bushes, and was supped on by The Conqueror Worm). So long as we don't interfere, the animal kingdom will benefit.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old age and nostalgia

Maybe this is a byproduct of advancing geezerdom, but more and more often, ordinary things have acquired the rosy tinge of bittersweet nostalgia. The latest case in point is my would-be alma mater, Cleveland State University. When I first enrolled there waaaay back when, the school's basketball program had just skyrocketed into the national limelight by first reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament and becoming America's underdog sweetheart du jour, only to come crashing down harder and faster than Satan following his expulsion from Heaven (the God of the Old Testament will ALWAYS be the one I cite -- vengeance is mine, bitches!) due to an astounding double-play of ineptitude courtesy of then-coach Kevin Mackey: first, the program was slapped with an almost infinite variety of violations, and scholarships were banned for what seemed like an eternity; and almost immediately thereafter, coach "McCrackey" was arrested just after leaving a notorious Chester Ave. crackhouse and charged with driving drunk, being all hopped up on the crack cocaine, and attempting to perform sodomy on a statue of General Moses Cleavland. OK, I made the last one up, but it was still an acutely embarrassing slap on the face of an embattled city that was still trying to get over the "Mistake by the Lake" moniker that was bestowed upon it thanks to the Cuyahoga River catching fire and the tumultuous reign of Mayor Dennis "I bankrupted the city and furthermore believe in space aliens, and this unfortunate combination somehow makes me worthy of repeatedly running for the US Presidency" Kucinich.

Now, a few hours after Cleveland State's return to the NCAA Tournament after a 23-year absence came to a whimpering end, I found myself yearning for a glimpse of the ugly collection of scattered utilitarian high-rises on the edges of crack city that made up Cleveland State's not-quite-downtown campus, and fell to remembering "the good old days": being there for the inauguration of the Convocation Center, running down dozens of flights of stairs (I hated elevators even back then) to feed the parking meter on 22nd Avenue between classes, waiting for a chance to use the disgusting pay phones on Fenn Tower because the then-fiancée would cut me off for a week if I didn't check in periodically, feeling like I'd wandered into Antarctica whenever I walked the 24th Avenue building wind tunnel from hell in the dead of winter, waiting in line forever at the understaffed computer lab for my hated Pascal class... it was, as they say, the best of times, and the worst of times.

And yet, embarrassing pussy-tickler mustache student ID photo notwithstanding, I now wish my tortuous, long-winding college path had never strayed from Cleveland State. CSU Vikings, welcome back into the fold o'frustration: Wait 'til next year.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Watchmen on IMAX

Went to see "Watchmen" on IMAX last night. What better way to describe the experience than by rewriting a popular song's lyrics to reflect the goings-on?

Here's KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" -- cue it up and sing along:

Two, three, four...

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

Well I went to see Watchmen on a Friday night

And it shouldn't have been so traumatic

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

But Doctor Manhattan was naked throughout

Saw his big blue cock on an IMAX screen

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo

I couldn't stop throwing up in my mouth

I said no more sausage, I can't keep watching

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

But the big blue cock was shoved in my face

I said hey, film-makers, won't you spare me?

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo

But they said no, no, no, no-no-no

They said no, no, you'll have to stare at dick

No, no, no, no-no-no

They said no, no, look at this big blue dick

Yuuuuuck, boo-hoo

And I thought Kelly Leak was a crappy actor

Yet he did a great job as that Rorschach cat

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

But Doctor Manhattan dominated the screen-time

Why did Snyder choose to flaunt that blue weenie?

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo

You had Malin Akerman clad in tight leather

Abundant beauty for the world to see

Woo-hoo, woo-hoo

I said hey, film-makers, Carla Gugino

Is as hot as a cauldron, won't you bare her rear?

Boo-hoo, boo-hoo

But they said no, no, no, no-no-no

They said no, no, you'll have to stare at dick

No, no, no, no-no-no

They said no, no, look at this big blue dick

Booooo, boo-hoo

No sausage for me, yeah

Booooo, boo-hoo

I said no, no, no, no, no, no, no

No more blue cock for me

I said no, no, no, no, no, no, no

No more blue cock for me

Big blue cock on an IMAX screen

Would've gouged my eyes out, 'cause that's all there was to see

Big blue cock on an IMAX screen

I'm scarred for life because I've even seen foreskin

Saturday, February 28, 2009

On nocturnal fruit harvests and spiders

The loquat is the most delicious fruit in the world, bar none. It's got tons of tart sweetness, which, along with chocolate, is pretty much my kryptonite. Most of my favourite things are tart but sweet: strawberries, raspberries, concord grapes, sour Skittles, women... so, it's hardly surprising that the Warheads-like loquat would rank pretty high up on my list. What is surprising, at least to me, is the fact that very few Americans know this fruit, much less eat it. The loquat tree is an exotic from China, but it has spread worldwide within its moderate to sub-tropical climate range. We used to have loquat trees in our house in Uruguay, there were plenty of loquat trees in California, and there are plenty of loquat trees here in Florida. The fruit is not only sublimely delicious, but is also chock-full of Vitamin A and fiber, and hence doubly beneficial for those of us who are myopic, plagued by zits (it's the chocolate, but I can't stay away!), and chronically constipated.

My neighbours had a beautiful loquat tree that yielded a copious bounty right around this time every year, but it was, alas, struck down last year by one of our tropical storms. We rescued a viable branch and planted it in our backyard, and although the results thus far are encouraging, it'll be a while before the branch grows into a fruit-bearing tree. There are, luckily, quite a few loquat trees in our neighbourhood, and a few weeks ago I talked to one of the loquat homeowners about, ahem, picking her fruit. I got her permission, as well as an oddly fearful vibe from her. I'm either crazier-looking than ever in my old age, or the "Hey, I live a few houses down the street, and was wondering whether you eat the fruits from this tree. You don't? That's a shame, they're delicious. Oh, you didn't know they were edible? I assure you, they are. You won't try them? Again, that's a shame. Would you then mind if I came back to harvest these when they're ripe? Excellent, thanks! I've got two lemon trees that yield hundreds of grapefruit-sized lemons practically year-round, and I'll gladly bring you some as a gesture of appreciation" exchange somehow led her to believe her life was in jeopardy. Whatev.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the fruits were ripe for the picking, and made a mental note to stop on my way home and snag a handful. In my scatterbrained craziness (I guess the loquat lady might have had good reason to look at me as though she were seeing the ghost of Dahmer), I finally remembered that it was loquat-pickin' time as I was coming home from the gym. Since I'm a glutton, I didn't stop to consider that climbing a tree in someone else's backyard at roughly ten o'clock in the evening might result in a call to the police or, even worse, in some overzealous "I don't call 9-1-1" gun-totin' cracker putting a few bullets in my ass and asking questions later -- those epiphanies only occurred to me after a friend pointed out that I was lucky neither of those scenarios took place.

I, however, beg to differ, since roughly a minute into the picking, I brushed a spiderweb and felt something crawling on my forearm. I HATE spiders and am absolutely terrified of their eight-legged alien ways. It being a very dark night, my imagination sprung into arachnophobic overdrive, so I jumped off the tree and stamped around the yard like a crazed wino while slapping hordes of imaginary spiders off my body. I eventually collected myself, grabbed my very meager harvest and went home, where I found that about half the fruit I'd picked was not yet ripe (damn you, colour blindness!), and that I'd actually been bitten in the forearm. That's the sixth time I've suffered a spider bite -- what are the fucking odds? I'm a city slicker, for crying out loud! No matter, because the loquats were absolutely delicious, as always.

I'm going in again tomorrow... spideys, beware.