Pet Cobra

Blogger sucks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

More reading material for you.

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/29/magazine/29REPUBLICANS.html

Normally, I find David Brooks' insights about as compelling as Ann Landers', but here he makes a good case for why the Republicans have alientated so many people, and what they can do to move the party back to its roots - or back to what Alexander Hamiliton, the original compassionate conservative, had in mind. As Brooks says, Hamilton walked the walk, and today's GOP is not following suit. (Brooks foolishly argues that Bush is taking the party in a progressive/conservative direction; I have neither the bandwidth nor the typing strength to point out the gazillion reasons he's wrong.)

Like most Americans, I'm not watching the GOP convention either. It's funny that they're rolling out their token moderates (Giuliani, Ahnold, and McCain) to give the big speeches - when in fact the platform is clearly leaning to the far right (a near-fascist statement of support for the Iraq war, condemning equal rights for gays, and of course the "overturn Roe v. Wade" stance). It's all about the bait-and-switch. Which begs the question - who is their intended audience? Given that no opposing, or even on-the-fence, minds are likely to be swayed, it stands to reason that Ed Gillespie & Co. are trying to keep the fences propped up. The conventions are meant to be pep rallies, but this one has a different feel to it. The spectre of 9/11 is being raised to remind people of Dubya's decisiveness during the attacks and in the days following, but there's a bit of desparation to it all.


Bush is taking a lot of flak for flip-flopping on this comment made yesterday during an interview on the Today Show, referring to the war on terror: "I don't think you can win it....But I think you can create conditions so that those who use terror as a tool are less acceptable in parts of the world." Today, of course, he reversed himself and tried to explain away the comment.

The thing is, he's absolutely right. As long as someone is willing to die for a cause, and doesn't care who he or she takes with him, there will be terrorism. It's delusional to think that by destroying the Taliban, or Saddam, or even bin Laden, we'll stamp out terrorism. We've conveniently forgotten that the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil prior to 9/11 was carried out by Americans in Oklahoma City. Terrorism is a mindset, not an organization or a country. How do you defeat that?

Tonight I lace up the boots; returning to rugby practice for the first time since I twisted my knee. Full report tomorrow.


Monday, August 30, 2004

It's always kind of a bummer, the Monday after the end of an Olympics. You may think that the goofy sentiment in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies is naive (why is there always a Young Child as the centerpiece of these Vegas-style productions?), but during those 16 days, the Olympic events take center stage and give us a much needed break from the usual dreary news.

Now I have a couple of Fun Olympic Activities for you!

First, it's Pin The Quote On The USA Basketball Team Member. You have two quotes, one of which was said by NBA gangsta wanna-be Allen Iverson, the other by NBA resident nice guy Tim Duncan. Guess who said what:

1. "I'll try not to share my experiences with anyone....FIBA (the governing body of international bastketball) stinks."

2. "For as anybody who grew up in the U.S., and was able to be a basketball player in the NBA, you understand the things that your country has done for you and your family. It gave you an opportunity to be able to support your family and be recognized as a household name. It was just an honor to be able to do something like that, and I would advise anybody selected to a team like this to take that honor and cherish it. And honestly, this is something that I will cherish even without winning a gold medal. I feel like a special basketball player to make it to a team like this. You're honored to get a chance to represent your country, and what's better than that?"

If you guessed Quote 1 was A.I. - be pleasantly surprised that you're wrong. The first quote comes from Tim Duncan. The second quote was Iverson - after the U.S. lost to Argentina, ending their chances for a gold medal. It's easy to get patriotic when you're whooping your opponents. It's a lot harder when you're vilified at home (by guys like me) and booed and jeered at the Games. Good on ya, A.I. I think you've earned your nickname - that's The Answer of a stand-up guy.

Next, it's "U.S Softball/Women's Soccer Team Member or Adult Film Star?" Guess which is which:

Crysti Bustos
Lovieanne Jung
Cat Osterman
Jennie Finch
Tairia Flowers
Lauren Lappin
Jenny Topping
Joy Fawcett
Shannon Boxx

(Answer: sadly, no porn stars here. You'd never know from those names. Yes, Shannon Boxx is really on the U.S. Women's Soccer Team.)

60% of people polled by CNN indicate that they will not watch the Republican convention. Interesting numbers considering that the race is dead even. I'd be interested to see the numbers for undecided voters. In any case, the key question here: how many people are not watching because Brooks and Dunn are the featured musical performers?

Finally - and after reading the article I'm too dumbstricken (not sure if that's even a real word, but it's how I feel) to continue - here's Time magazine's interview with Laura Bush. Now, I'm lucky to be married to an intelligent woman with a mind of her own. Sometimes I don't think I express enough thanks for that, especially when I read things like:

TIME: Have you ever had a gay couple stay with you in the White House or in Texas?

LB: I'm sure we have.

Read on, and learn the true meaning of the word "vacuous": http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101040906/lauraqa.html

Friday, August 27, 2004

Woohoo! Friday! Productive day thus far: got some work done, went to the gym, ate my South Beach Diet lunch (curry-flavored tuna lettuce wraps and a small bag of pistachios), and I'm now ready to pass out. Every fiber of my being is screaming at my to walk over to the break room, where boxes of donuts eagerly wait for me to ransack and devour them. (Note: ordinarily, I rarely eat donuts. But when you haven't had an ounce of sugar for 5 days, all of a sudden you turn into Chris Rock in "New Jack City" over them.)

By now, of course, everyone will know that the USA Hoops Team will not be playing for the gold. ESPN columnist Jason Whitlock, who suffers from the notion that he's the next Ralph Wiley ("Who?", you ask? Google him.), equates failure to support the current "Dream Team" with racism, and argues that we need to back their play regardless. Read on:
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=whitlock/040826

Well, I couldn't let that go, so I emailed him this response:

"Ignorant crackers aside, there are a great many Americans who have been let down by this team. And it has everything to do with the American game, and how Americans should carry themselves in the Olympics, regardless of race or financial status.

There are a great many white and black Americans who long for the game to return to the halcyon days of Magic, Jordan (later career Jordan, anyway), Bird, Stockton-Malone. It's far too easy to single out black players - there are also way too many Ostertags and Bradleys, Scot Pollards and Jason Williams' on the court, white guys with no skills who are better suited to play on a NFL Europe team. Fundamentally, the rest of the world plays the team game much better than their NBA counterparts, and it's a joy to watch. When we get smacked around by Peurto Rico, it's an embarassment. When Larry Brown calls a time out with seconds left in a game we've put in the fridge, it's an embarassment. But when our guys continue to act and play like high schoolers, and refuse to step it up they way they should (Marbury scored 31 points! Hooray! He STILL won't play the point like it must be played), is it "unsophisticated" to call them on it?

You compare Phelps, et. al. to the hoops team as money chasers. To an extent, that's true, but there are two major differences. The swimmers, gymnasts, track stars - they maybe get a few days every 4 years to actually position themselves to make some money off of their sport and life's work, and to compare what Carly Patterson will get from being on the Wheaties box to what AI brings in from endorsements alone is ridiculous. And unlike the Dream Teamers, the rest of the U.S. Olympic contingent knows what an honor it is to be good enough to go up against the world's best, and they are humbled by the fact that they've been tapped to represent their country. The Olympics, despite the many flaws, still serve to bring a little inspiration, pride, and hope to Americans, especially in times like these. We've seen every single Dream Team roll into their respective games like it's a summertime exhibition tourney against the Washington Generals. You're right on when you say that they don't care about the Olympics. But there are a great many Americans, black and white, athletes and fans, who do. And if USA Basketball can't respect that, why should they expect blind adulation in return?"

Of course, the email was kicked back to me; I'm sure his mailbox (ballstate68@aol.com) was packed to the rafters with responses.

So it appears that al-Sadr's militia are giving up their weapons and leaving Najaf. Wonder how long it will be before the Bush campaign starts spinning this? And does anyone recall the wisdom of letting other insurgents (i.e., the Saddam Fedayeen) just walk away from the fight? Reports from the Marines fighting in Najaf indicate that the al-Sadr forces fought with sophistication, coordinating attacks, fields of fire, etc. It's clear that many of them had previous experience fighting U.S. forces during the initial invasion. By granting them amnesty, we've almost certainly guaranteed that the fighting will flare up again.

International rugby matches (known as "tests") are on hold for a few weeks, but there's still regional action; South African clubs (my club of choice - Natal Sharks) and New Zealand clubs are vying for their respective national championships. In England, the Zurich Premiership league kicks off in a few days; I'll be rooting for Bath (as far as I know, the only British team to have been captained by an American, Eage great Dan Lyle). Since Lucas and I are the early risers, we'll watch a match (Otago v. Canterbury) over coffee and formula tomorrow morning. Father-son bonding at its finest.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/26/rnc.platform.ap/index.html

Guess they read my post yesterday. Still, one would have liked to see the word "welcome" dissent, rather than "respect and accept". Of course, that would further solidify their hypocrisy.
For a group that's all about "freedom" (how many times a day does Bush throw that word around?), they certainly don't seem to be too keen on applying it to their own ranks. Meanwhile, they'd better figure out who they can blame for this:

http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/08/26/census.poverty.ap/index.html

Speaking of freedom, more controversy is flying around another pro-Bush ad; the ad touting the freedoms that Afghanistan and Iraq are enjoying and their return to the Olympics, thanks to the Bush administration. The Iraqi soccer team has publicly stated that they resent Bush using them as his poster children, and both the US and International Olympic Commitees have asked for the ads to stop, on both legal (the Bush team did not get permission to use the Olympics in an ad) and ethical grounds.

We need to take a good hard look at the "freedoms" won for the Afghans and Iraqis before we start rolling out the "Mission Accomplished" banners again. Plunging two nations into anarchy is really nothing to be proud of. The Taliban is gone, but the warlords and opium growers are still there and are still calling the shots. And the hundreds of Americans and Iraqis who've died since Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech would probably have something to say about freedom in Iraq. Are Iraqis and Afghanis free to do things that under their previous rulers would have resulted in torture and death? Undeniably. But are they free from bombings, looting, reprisals from different sects? Are they free from the threat of starvation, thirst, disease, extreme poverty? We can pat ourselves on the back if - and that's a BIG if - Afghanistan and Iraq become true democracies. Painting a rosy picture while civil war rages only gives fuel to the many, many people around the world who resent us.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to what the President has to say (Quicktime required for this):

http://kintera.sitestream.com/ferrell_qt_hi.mov

On a personal note, Beth and I are on Day 4 of the South Beach Diet. Nothing but eggs, meat, poultry, fish, veggies and various types of cheese for the next two weeks. No carbs, no sugar, no alcohol. Happy to report that I am no longer on the verge of passing out at my desk! It's certainly made my rugby pre-season workouts that much less fun. What I crave more than anything: Grape-Nuts. There's a half eaten box in the cupboard, and it calls to me like a Siren.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

For starters, some laughs:
http://badgas.co.uk/lynndie/

Cheney is stirring up trouble! Publicly acknowledging that one of his daughters is a lesbian and stating that marriage laws ought to be left to the states! I'm fascinated by Cheney's daughter Mary; she has a fairly high profile role in the campaign (director of VP operations) - a campaign that holds as a central issue the idea that discrimination against gays and lesbians should be written into the Constitution.

I can't fathom it. How can Mary Cheney stand to be associated with such a complete bigot and homophobe like Bush? How can her father promote the idea that his own kid should be treated, at best, as a second-class citizen? Or work for a group that views his own kid as a hellbound moral degenerate?

As a parent, it makes me sad for her, and I feel a special kind of contempt for Papa Cheney. Lucas will know the difference between saying the right thing, and actually doing the right thing.

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=584&e=1&u=/nm/20040825/pl_nm/campaign_platform_dc

It's official! Moderates have no place in the GOP! It amazes me that there are still groups like the Log Cabin Republicans kowtowing to a party that wants absolutely nothing to do with them. I can't think of a more misguided sense of loyalty; it's on a par with Christopher's worship of Tony Soprano.

Benjamin Ginsberg, Bush campaign lawyer, has resigned. Apparently he gave "advice" to the Swift Boat Gang. "Advice" in this case is defined as "what to put in the ads, when and where to run the ads, oh, and here's a bunch of money".

Finally, Rulon Gardner announced his retirement after his final Olympic match. Smart money says we'll see him in the WWF this fall.

Monday, August 23, 2004

It's Monday, which seems to be an appropriate day for a Themed Entry. Today, let's talk about Whining.

The Springboks capped a remarkable summer by winning the Tri-Nations on Saturday. Until a couple of key players (backs Percy Montgomery - yeah, with a name like Percy you'd better be a rugby player - and Breyton Paulse) were "sinbinned" (yellow carded with an accompanying 10 minutes in rugby's penalty box), die Bokke were in control for the bulk of the match. Following the match, George Gregan, Wallaby scrumhalf (maybe after the November election I'll run a piece on rugby positions) loudly griped to the press about having a plastic soda bottle tossed at him by an unruly fan. "I just wanted to make sure we had some evidence of what was going on. I told them to hang on to the bottle. We'll be making a complaint about this," he was quoted as saying after giving the bottle to a field offical.

Waaaaaaaaaaaah.

The South Korean Olympic Committee is protesting Paul Hamm's win, saying that a scoring error (ugh- I'm not going to even try to explain) caused their gymnasts to win silver and bronze, respectively. They argue that Hamm should lose his gold, or at the very least Yang (the sivler medal guy) should get a gold as well.

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Russia gymnast (sensing a pattern here) Svetlana Khorkina, who came in second in the Women's All Around, declared yesterday that the fix was on (from CNN.com): "Everything was decided in advance. I had no illusions about this when the judges gave me 9.462 for the vault after conferring with one another at length. I practically did everything right, still they just set me up and fleeced me," she said in the interview published on Saturday.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH.

Bob Dole, on John Kerry's twenty year old testimony to Congress on war crimes in Vietnam: "Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam," said Dole, whose World War II wounds left him without the use of his right arm. Dole added: "And here's, you know, a good guy, a good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out."

This doesn't merit a "Waaaaah", so much as a "Shut The Hell Up." Kerry, along with dozens of other vets, testified to Congress about atrocities that they had witnessed. Does Dole also belive that those soldiers who've testified about the Abu Ghraib prison abuses owe the Iraq war vets an apology? And Dole should know that U.S. policy at the time was that any soldier/sailor/airman who was wounded in combat 3 times, regardless of the severity (and Kerry is still carrying around a piece of shrapnel, so it would seem to me that yeah, he probably bled a little when he got hit), was sent home. Finally, if you're going to publicly smear somebody, I'd recommend not referring to them as your "good friend", especially if you want to avoid looking like a bitter, senile jackass.

And speaking of, Bush today called for "that ad" (his words) to be taken off the air. Interesting timing, as connections between the Swift Boat Vets For Creative Recollection and Bush's financiers are starting to surface. There is a bit of Whining from our bemused President, as he wants all independant 527 ads to stop; including, presumably, the truthful one that links the Bush campaign to the Swift Boat crew.

So here's my advice to all the aforementioned Whiners.

Gymnasts: Accept the fact that you are circus performers, and not athletes. You're in a "sport" whose outcome is based on subjectivity. Don't like it? Play rugby. And watch out for flying soda bottles.

Bush: Do the smart thing and tell your lackeys to pull the plug on the Swift Boat ads. Because while lies are always exposed as such, the truth can be a nasty thing, and the 527 folks on Kerry's side will undoubtedly love the chance to educate the public about your "service", not to mean the booze, coke, and whoremongering.

Dole: The Viagara ads were creepy enough. Please remain in secluded retirement, so as not to frighten any more children with your ghoulish presence.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Let's close out the week by taking another look at those gallant American patriots, the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth. It's a lengthy article and very much worth your time (registration on the NY Times website might be required, but it's free and worth it for the Times Op/Ed and Book Review sections).

http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/20/politics/campaign/20swift.html

The plot thickens, and before too long I think we're going to have some interesting revelations about Karl Rove (Oz the Great and Terrible), Bush and some funny financial ties to this group. Karma is going to thunder down like a B-52 strike on these people. Rove and his cadre of dirty tricksters are, as we know, a bunch of swine, but these Swift Boat guys take the cake. They are a bunch of opportunistic liars, an absolute disgrace to the Navy and their country. The wheels are in motion; Kerry has filed a formal complaint with the Federal Election Commission.

Tomorrow is the big match, Australia v. South Africa for the Tri-Nations title. Should be a good one; the teams are actually evenly matched. Springboks by 10 ; they are on a roll.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

We are on the back stretch, heading into the weekend. About 3 hours remain before it's yabba-dabba-doo time, then on to Friday.

First, although I try to avoid discussing religious stuff, the following story is a bit sad:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5762478/
So let me see if I understand this: a Catholic priest can bugger an alterboy, and if he says a few Hail Marys he's in the clear, but this little girl is on the fast track to Hell because she's allergic to wheat? Wonder what God thinks of this. Personally, I'd say He'd side with the little girl, but unlike the Vatican I don't presume to speak for Him.

Then there's this guy. "Democrat" Zell Miller will be the keynote speaker at the Republican national convention. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=536&e=2&u=/ap/20040819/ap_on_el_pr/convention_zell_miller

I think he should be on the 2008 ticket with McCain. Then everybody wins. They could form a new party - the Republicrats. (Sounds better than Demolicans.)

People have been calling McCain a man of principle, and Miller surely sees himself in the same way - a guy who broke from the party ranks to do what he felt was the right thing. McCain seems to a bit less of a sleazy politico than Miller (I've never heard McCain boast about how the job he was chosen to do was, to paraphrase, a waste of time), but if either of these two truly stuck by their guns, they'd have switched parties years ago. But both have chosen to remain in and reap the rewards of their respective parties, because there's a safety net. Who wants to give up the party money and perks? Who wants to answer the charge of being the ultimate flip-flopper/traitor? It's a bit sad, but no one should be surprised, because at some point every successful politician realizes that holding office is a killer job with great bennies, and why jeopardize that? And I don't believe for a second that either of these two are looking to transform their parties. They're both either complete ego-maniacs who will say and do anything to keep themselves in the spotlight, or they're playing to their constituents who want senators who play on both sides of the fence. I think it's a combination of both.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/West/08/18/bear.beer.reut/index.html
Shoddy reporting on CNN's part. A claim that anyone, human or ursine, is a "beer sophisticate" because they choose Ranier over Busch shows that the reporter has obviously never tried either brand. Cat piss or dog piss - pick your poison.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Middle of the work day. My shoulders are killing me from working out yesterday, yet I blog on through the pain. I'm sure that my preparation for rugby will be an interesting addition to Pet Cobra, but practice doesn't start for a couple of months, so suffice it to say that for now I'm in the gym for an hour 4 days a week. I start my running tonight. Hope the knee holds up.

It's hard to put a name to the stupidest piece of the Bush administration's agenda, but if I had to pick, at this point I'd have to go with (drum roll please) Missile Defense.
http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/17/bush.missile.ap/index.html

Opponents of missile defense (namely, most Americans, including just about everyone in the Pentagon) are "living in the past", according to Bush. Which is why Bush wants to move forward with a system that was first put on the drawing boards 20 YEARS AGO. A system that is designed to defend against Eastern Bloc long-range missiles that are now either completely dismantled or gathering dust. A system that is by definition useless because it will never be 100% effective. Let's say we deploy a missile defense system that is, like most weapons systems today, about 70% effective in optimal conditions (in other words, if everything is perfect - no system malfunction, perfect weather, etc. ) And let's say that North Korea develops 5 long range nuclear missiles, which they proceed to launch at the U.S. Statistically, 3.5 of those missiles will be shot down. At least 1 will hit its target. (And if that's an acceptable loss, consider the short and long term damage inflicted on the U.S. by the comparitively small loss of two very large skyscrapers.) And that's a best-case scenario.

Not to mention that most experts agree that the biggest nuclear threat is a locally detonated, man or ground vehicle-portable tactical nuke. The type that a terrorist is likely to either steal, buy, or build.

Basing defense policy on Budweiser and cocaine-fueled Atari "Missile Command" sessions seems to me to be a bit unsound. Our money and energy will be better spent at working on overt and covert means of addressing the nuclear proliferation issues facing us today, although it may be too late for that. While we were busy chasing imaginary WMD's in Iraq, the North Koreans and Iranians have been busy as bees working on the real thing. And no one should be surprised when it's delivered via unmarked van, and not by an Atlas rocket.

More fuss over the planned withdrawal of troops from Europe and Asia. I'm on the fence about this. I think more than anything, this is a campaign tactic aimed at the majority of Americans who feel that it's time to bring our guys home...from Iraq, that is. And the fact is that we are severly overtaxed and need to redeploy additional troops to the Middle East, so those 70,000 troops that are being pulled out of Europe shouldn't be surprised when their flight home includes a six-month layover in Baghdad. Frankly, we need to have a military presence in Germany and Italy - that's about as close as we're going to get to having a quick jump-off point to the Middle East. (What about Turkey? Right. That worked out well for Operation Iraqi Freedom.) Unless, of course, we're all going to buy a Prius and take the high-speed magnetic rail to work. While it's hard to maintain the rationale that those troops are needed to provide security to Europe (I hear Poland is massing troops at the border - gonna get some payback for WWII), we're looking at the very real possibility of a resurgent Iran taking advantage of the power vacuum created by Saddam's overthrow (I can't believe I'm typing this, but - deep breath, steady - Tom Clancy painted a disturbing and very plausible scenario of this very thing happening in his book "Executive Orders").

More interesting is this artice: http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/18/congressman.iraq.ap/index.html
I believe we're going to see more GOP reps and senators make similar statements. The Republicans are faced with a grim possibility - Bush winning the election, but the Dems gaining control of Congress. And in that case, impeachment suddenly becomes a very real prospect. The GOP will either have to stick by the President, or put some distance between Bush and the party. The smart money would be on the latter - especially as Bush's rating are already low. Americans, as George S. Patton C. Scott said, love a winner, and will not tolerate a loser. You see a lot - a LOT - of anti-Bush books out there, but where are the Bush-backing scribes? (And I'm talking about the Ann Coulters and Michael Savages - they are anti-"liberal", but I've only seen a couple of books that tout Dubya's greatness. No, I won't list them, even to hold them up to the ridicule they deserve, but I will say that one author, John Podhoretz, states that Bush is "the best presidential speaker since Roosevelt". JFK, Reagan? A couple of hacks, apparently.) Not a lot of people out there are sticking up for their guy. Being a Bush fan is akin to being a Clippers fan - there's really no way to justify it.

I'd actually cast my vote for the guy who vows to bring down the Baby Equipment Syndicate, and their most heinous cell, the Car Seat Mafia. Lucas has out grown his infant seat, so we needed to buy a bigger seat which we can use until he reaches 40 pounds, at which point we will need to buy an even bigger seat. I installed it (actually, reinstalled it - put it in a few days ago and thought it didn't fit right, only to find out that it's supposed to look like it's been crammed in) last night, a labor that prompted a slew of profanities and the fear that I had torn a bicep. The Car Seat Mafia could probably design a seat that you could use from birth to the magic 100 pound mark (the point at which they no longer have to be in a kiddie seat - the 1st year of high school, if I'm not mistaken) but of course you'd only have to buy one. And the Secret Order of Stroller Masons could also design a jogging stroller that works equally well at the mall or grocery store - but of course you'd only have to buy one. Still, the seat looks pretty sturdy, kind of like President Donald Pleasance's ejection pod in "Escape from New York", and given the way the drivers in my area operate (Del Mar and La Jolla Xanax-popping blueblood housewives in their battle-scarred Benzes) that's a good thing.

More Olympics tonight - too bad I already know what's going to happen. Curse you, MSN.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I hate the Information Age, I've decided. It's ruining the Olympics. In my job, I'm on the Internet for at least 5 hours a day. And try as I might, I can't avoid MSN, CNN, Yahoo, and Google. The good folks at these sites have decided to post Olympic updates as they happen, right on the front page, so the surprise is ruined for those of us who don't live in Greece.

These Olympics are shaping up to be one of the most bizarre in memory. Cheating Japanese swimmers (one used a dolphin kick to win a race; I don't know what that means either, but I'm sure before the week's end I will know everything there is to know about the dolphin kick and when it can and cannot be used), and Japanese Olympic judges who change the rules right before the start of events. The continuing idiocy of USA Basketball. The empty stands.

And I've found myself rooting for other countries. During a discussion last night with friends who were over for dinner, I made the point that the end of the Cold War was the worst thing that could happen to the Olympics. Remember when we used to envy/hate the Soviet Bloc for all of the things they did to tip the scales in their favor? Government-built and backed, state-of-the-art training facilities. Athletes who were doped to the gills (in the case of their swimmers, I mean this literally) on steroids. Professionals who were paid - WELL paid, by their country's standards - to practice and compete in their sports year-round. Sad to say, but the U.S. has filled the USSR's Olympic shoes quite nicely. What made the U.S. hockey team's victory in 1980 (arguably the greatest moment in American sports) so sweet was that these weren't uber-players, but a bunch of college kids. What made Edwin Moses so impressive was that he WAS a hurdler, a pure track guy, not a hormone-juiced, wanna-be NFL running back. We used to set an example; that despite being the richest nation on earth, we were above stacking the deck. Not anymore, it seems.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Saw a bumper sticker this weekend: "Somewhere in Texas, a village is in need of an idiot."

Thank God for sports. Although it's Monday, I'm energized following an exciting week of rugby and Olympics action. South Africa crushed New Zealand - my prediction wasn't even close. The 'Boks have turned the corner, as America's Village Idiot would say, and are favorites to win the Tri-Nations this coming Saturday, playing the Wallabies at home. And the Olympics are here; the Avant house is a crack den for Olympic junkies, the DVR set to record hundreds of hours of coverage on NBC and CNBC, giving us all the team handball, badminton, modern pentathlon, and table tennis we could possibly hope for. These are the REAL Olympic sports. Gymnastics? A parade of deformed circus freaks. Track? Cheaters all, with their steroids and horse tranquilizers. Diving? Call me when someone has the balls to do Rodney Dangerfield's Triple Lindy.

The fringe sports give us the best drama. These athletes train in obscurity, work day jobs to finance their efforts, bust their asses and make sacrifices in ways you and I can't even begin to comprehend, all for one shot at greatness every four years. Example:
http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/athens/fight/2004-08-02-lopez-cover_x.htm
World's best in taekwondo - and he trained in his garage. That's great stuff.

Which was why I found myself cheering for Puerto Rico in yesterday's Olympics hoops game.

The Dream Team was on the receiving end of a good old fashioned ass-whooping, and it was a joy to watch. I say this as a diehard NBA fan who can't stand the college game. Forget the fact that the clowns who wore the red, white, and blue couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat; the guys from Puerto Rico played for each other, for the pride of their team, and the pride of their country. (Jerry Buss - get on the phone and do what you need to do to get Carlos Arroyo to L.A. ) Iverson and his peeps are a disgrace to their country. Not for losing, but for eschewing the Olympic village to stay on a luxury yacht, for giving the impression during the opening ceremonies that they really wish they were back home in their mansions, and for talking smack to the Puerto Rican team during the final few minutes of the game (how do you say "Scoreboard" in Spanish?). I completely disagree with those who say we needed to send our best players (Kobe, Garnett, T-Mac, etc.). I remember watching the Barcelona Olympics, when we sent the first Dream Team, and while they were arguably the best team ever assembled (Magic, Bird, Jordan, Drexler, Barkley), you could tell that being there MEANT something to each of them. They knew how to represent. After each game, they took time to take photos with opposing players who idolized them, signed autographs for and talked with fans from all corners of the world, and showed up to cheer for their fellow Olympic team members - swimmers, runners, rowers - at other events. They had a level of respect for the Games that our current guys lack. My suggestion to Larry Brown: take your collection of primadonnas over to the Olympic Village, and have them sit down and chat with the members of the Iraqi soccer team. Ask the Iraqis how they feel about being in the Olympics.

I'm no economist, but this weekend's hurricane disaster in Florida is going to be one more nail in the coffin of the Bush administration. With reconstruction costs in the billions, not to mention the damage to Florida's agriculture and tourist industries, we'll all be waxing nostalgic over the days when we had a budget surplus to help the country deal with unexpected catastrophies. Bush has to grant Federal aid - remember, this is Florida, without whom...and thus the deficit will get a big bump and continue to grow at a horrid pace. The challenge for Kerry will be to address this without coming across as insensitive or indifferent to Florida's plight. He opted not to visit the state to get a firsthand look at the wreckage (a good move in my opinion - showing up there could easily be perceived as being opportunistic, using a disaster as a photo op). Kerry needs to remind voters that we HAD a surplus, which could have gone a long way to provide more aid than what Florida will get, but was pissed away by the Bushies.

Finally, it's official - my favorite band Phish is no more, having wrapped up their last concert in a weekend festival. Good news is that when they do the inevitable reunion tour in 10 years, Lucas will be old enough to go with me. I will then have to tell him why he can't buy one of the magic brownies the hippies are selling out of the backs of their vans.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Friday! After a moderately successful week at work, I'm ready to devote hours of my off-time to the Olympics. I look forward to tear-jerking stories about the Iraqi soccer team and the legally blind triple-jumper on the U.S. track squad. I'm fervently hoping that Phelps wins all of the golds in swimming, for no Olympic record should be held by a guy with a mustache. Add to that the spectre of terrorist attacks and big-name athletes failing drug tests - that's entertainment! Tonight's opening ceremonies will raise the bar for tasteless spectacles; not only will we have the standard hordes of children in Day-Glo outfits singing some stupid anthem accompanied by guys on stilts, we'll also get a re-enactment of the Greeks' finest moment, the Trojan Horse! Yes, Homer tells us that by sneaking in their troops using a fake peace offering, the Greeks were able to overrun Troy, slaughter the remaining Trojan army, burn the city to the ground, and take the women and children back to Athens for slave labor. A lesson in sportsmanship for the ages. I understand there will also be a re-enactment of Achilles' victory celebration after he defeated Troy's champion Hector in battle (he did a few laps in his chariot around the city of Troy, dragging Hector's dead body behind him for all to see.)

Hopefully you all had a chance to read that article I posted yesterday, concerning the reporter who apparently witnessed a group of Middle Eastern men rehearsing a hijacking/bombing while on a domestic flight. What I find most interesting about this is that, so far, none of the major print or broadcast media have bothered to report on it. The sheer incompetence of the TSA, and the inadequacies of our air marshall program (let's see - 12 guys armed with a bomb and God knows what else, versus one guy with a pistol, in close quarters, surrounded by dozens of civilians who are going to panic once the shit hits the fan. Did Tom Ridge come up with the air marshall program while smoking a joint and watching "Passenger 57"?) are not going to stop a hijacking, and a story like this could be proof positive of that. So why is it still relegated to the realm of email forwards and blog dorks like myself? Are we still so unwilling to directly confront our collective and ongoing failings in "The War On Terror" for fear of being branded as "soft", unpatriotic (or worse) by those in authority? (Sidenote: for all of his mockery of Kerry's reference to a more sensitive war on terror, it seems to me that Cheney is running one; not profiling Middle Eastern airline passengers who look suspicious is the very bleeding-heart-liberal thing to do). The biggest tragedy of this story is that it will probably remain an obscure, scary curiosity.

What does rugby have to do with all of this?
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/8/9/10434/03157

Four things to note about George Bush, rugby player. One, he's executing a high tackle (illegal to tackle around the neck - penalty against Yale). Two, he's leaving his feet during open play (illegal - penalty against Yale). Three, he's punching his opponent (incurring a red card - Bush should have been sent off for the remainder of the game). Four, it would have been open season on that bitch. Despite the roughness, rugby is considered by players to be a gentleman's game; cheap-shot artists (typically players with no skill to speak of) like Dubya are scorned and get what they give in spades from their opponents. I take heart in knowing that if Bush stayed in the game, it's very likely that someone gave him the boots or a nice shot to the ribs. That picture probably speaks more to Bush's character than anything else we've seen. Wonder he if practiced that right hook on Laura during one of his beer-and-coke binges.

Big game this weekend. Springboks v. All-Blacks, on 'Bok soil; Ellis Park in Joburg. It'll be a tight game, but New Zealand can't score tries this season. Springboks by 5. Go Bokke!





Thursday, August 12, 2004

I stayed up late last night watching "Kill Bill, Vol. 2", so I'm pretty tired. I'll let some others do the talking for me today.

"I couldn't get a job with the CIA today. I am not qualified. I don't have the language skills. I, you know, my language skills were romance languages and stuff. We're looking for Arabists today. I don't have the cultural background probably. And I certainly don't have the technical skills, uh, as my children remind me every day: 'Dad you got to get better on your computer.' Uh, so, the things that you need to have, I don't have. " - Porter Goss, Bush appointee to head the CIA, as quoted by Michael Moore in the transcript of "Fahrenheit 9/11". Well, at least he's honest.
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=584&ncid=584&e=9&u=/nm/20040812/pl_nm/bush_cia_moore_dc

"I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there. So I certainly wouldn't imitate it." - Alan Keyes, March 2000. http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southtown/columns/mcqueary/x08-mcq1.htm

"You know, I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it's the kind of interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously." - George Bush, 8/10/04.

O.k., let's explore this seriously. For the income tax to be abolished, and a national sales tax put in its place, we're realistically talking a 15 to 20% minimum national tax on goods (this is in addition to state sales taxes, averaging around 7%). Add to that fluctuations in consumer spending during recessions, and what we are looking at is another galactically stupid idea put forth by the Goofy Child-President (this is Hunter S. Thompson's favorite term for Bush, and I don't think there's a better description of Bush out there).

John Kerry, I beseech thee - use that intellect of yours, your best weapon against the Goofy Child-President and his Dark Father (Maureen Dowd's funny/creepy tag for Cheney), and for God's sake THINK before you speak! A "sensitive" war on terror? That won't play well with the Xbox Nation. At least put your "sensitive" war on terror in some sort of context. Here's some material for you to use.

"When I referred to being more sensitive in the war on terror, I meant that by working with and being more sensitive to our allies, I will be able to work with them to form a crack team of international commandos, representing the best of the best of the Free World's special forces, kind of like in Tom Clancy's book Rainbow Six, or Mission:Impossible, only more kick-ass."

I oughta be on Kerry's payroll. I'm working on my next populist speech, entitled "No, Cheney - go f**k YOURself!!".

Finally, I leave you to read and ponder this. I really hope the woman who wrote was making it up.

http://www.womenswallstreet.com/WWS/article_landing.aspx?titleid=1&articleid=711




Wednesday, August 11, 2004

So I've landed a bit of an audience; I'm a constant reader and regular Fray contributer on MSN's Slate. There I go by the moniker RuggerJay (Surfjay was taken, believe it or not). I posted a response to an article by William Saletan on Kerry's spinning of the stem cell issue, and the editors chose to include it in the Fray highlights section. The article is very interesting, and here's my response:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2104979/

So I've now undergone a metamorphosis - Surfjay is dead, long live RuggerJay. And my anonymity has been ended; I have unveiled my true name to the one or two of you readers who aren't personal friends of mine.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/08/10/philippines.cannibal.ap/index.html

What really upset the guests was that it wasn't a kosher meal.

Bill Clinton appeared on The Daily Show Monday evening. While he did a good job debunking the Swift Boat Veterans For Getting Their Pockets Lined With Soft Money attack ad, overall the interview was surprisingly uninteresting. Jon Stewart seemed to be over-awed (is that a word?) by Bubba's presence and came across as very nervous and unprepared. What was interesting was Clinton's apparent chastising of the Kerry campaign for not returning fire when attacked by Bush on the economy, Iraq, etc. Counter BS with facts, argues Clinton, and you'll win every time - it's why he crushed Bush the Elder in 92. (Apart from the NASCAR/WWF crowd, is there anyone out there who, when comparing him to the genius we now have in the White House, can still truly claim to be a Clinton-hater? If so, I'd like to hear from you! Give me 500 words on the following topic: "Dubya is a better President than Bubba because..."; the winner will receive two tickets to the Monster Truck Rally and a gift certificate to Billy Bob's Giant Belt Buckle Emporium.)

So auditors have now put a figure to the Halliburton "billing error". $1.8 billion unaccounted for, out of $4.18 billion that Halliburton has billed. Do the math. That's 43%. Considering that the average American demands to speak to the manager when he/she is charged for a large Seasoned Curly Fries when, in fact, they ordered a medium, I'm a bit surprised that more people aren't upset about this. Then again, this story is being buried in the Business sections of most papers and websites (it did make the front page on Yahoo.com, though). The optimist in me believes that this is because there are just too many Bush scandals going on, and there's only so much room on the page. The realist in me knows that Filipino cannibal weddings and the half-ton man who lost 300 pounds are what the average voter is really concerned about (both Top Stories on www.cnn.com today; check it if you don't believe me). Again, why the Democrats are laying off this is a complete mystery - it's a potential dagger, as they say in hoops. (A dagger, you ask? Hypothetical example: Lakers are up by 12 against the Kings, with 2 minutes left in the game. Kobe - we'll avoid discussion of his whole deal for now - makes a three point shot. That's a dagger.)

Well, my day is just beginning. The weekend is rapidly approaching, and with it the big New Zealand - South Africa match; on Friday I'll offer up my predictions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=584&e=1&u=/nm/20040810/pl_nm/campaign_bush_dc

Let me see if I can understand the direction the candidates' "for/against the war" argument (I wouldn't call it a debate, because that would imply a degree of intelligence, something that both sides are lacking right now). The Bush campaign is trying to paint Kerry into a corner, and nail him for flip-flopping. Ok, fair enough, but is it going to bring any undecideds into the Bush camp? I doubt it, and Kerry is squandering the chance to take the debate and throw it back in the president's face. A tip of the hat to an old "Saturday Night Live skit - Kerry's response should be this: "The country was lied to. The question is moot." Why isn't Kerry doing this? For the life of me, I don't understand why the Democrats have not taken the gloves off and called bullshit on this attempt to steer people away from the heart of the matter - that at some level, there was a concerted effort to mislead the public over WMD's. Does anyone besides me remember Colin Powell standing before the UN, giving false info about mobile anthrax labs? Did anyone read the reports of "Curveball", the CIA's Iraqi asset-in-place who ADMITTED making up tales of weapons caches in order to galvanize the U.S.? I don't know what makes me angrier - the fact that the administration keeps grasping at straws to justify the war (first, WMD's, then "Saddam poses a threat to the region", then "Saddam had dealings with Al Qaeda") or the fact that collectively, we've given them a free ride and are not holding them accountable. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? That's the quote for our times - who watches the watchmen? The Kerry campaign needs to make the hard call here - giving the populist answer or having the true strength to ask and demand answers to the questions that should have been asked months (and hundreds of lives) ago. Come to think of it, we all need to make that call.

Potential blow to the Republicans: Colin Powell will not be attending the GOP convention, according to MSNBC.com. The one stand-up guy in the administration is distancing himself more and more from the Bush team, to his credit. I was hoping that Powell would have resigned by now, especially after being made to look like a fool in front of the U.N. (see previous). If you read his autobiography, you know that he is a man of principles, and this can't be good news as the GOP is struggling to keep the faith with party moderates. Plus that leaves the Republican Party with only 2 black people, Condi Rice and Alan Keyes. (Think I'm joking? Watch the convention coverage and pay attention to the shots of the crowd. It'll be whiter than a BYU pep rally.)

Big day for Dad Stuff today: "Kill Bill, Vol. II" and "Madden 2005" hit the stores. Regarding Xbox - after weeks of dropping hints, Beth hooked me up and got me one for Father's Day. I wouldn't call myself a "gamer". I have a grand total of three games; "MechAssault" came with the Xbox and I bought used copies of "Splinter Cell" and "Racing Evolution" at EB, the video and computer game store, where I go to find peace while Beth goes to Nordstrom and Express. I've yet to buy a non-pre-owned game; they run upwards of $55 and the prices usually drop by half a couple of months after their release. It's a funny thing, this upswing in video game popularity. The circle closes - a large chunk of Xbox and PS2 devotees are guys (and gals) my age; we remember the days of Pong and Asteroids, and long to recapture our misspent youth.

One more political jibe: U.S. News and World Report runs an article this week detailing the "surprising" success that the Pakistani government has had in nabbing al Qaeda operatives. This is as surprising as the Mexican police finding out who the cartel people are, or the Sicilian police identifying Mafiosi. It's really not hard to pinpoint the guys that have been bribing you to look the other way for years.

Preparation for my personal voyage into rugby continues. I've been going to the gym four days a week, and ordered a new pair of boots yesterday. The OARFU full team practices begin in mid-October, and my goal is to be as physically ready as possible. And thanks to my good friends at BALCO, I will be a sterile, muscle-bound freak, prone to fits of uncontrollable psychotic rage. Barry Bonds, you are an inspiration to me and a whole of other kids out there!

Friday, August 06, 2004

TFGIFF. Lots to cover today, so let's get to it.

The anniversary dinner was excellent. We ate out on the deck, overlooking the wishing well and garden where we were married four years ago. The lovely view was marred by groups of Neanderthal-esque Arizonans lumbering into the scene to take photos with their antiquated Polaroid One-Step cameras. "Zonies" are a filthy people, and a massive wall should be erected around their state to prevent them from escaping and unleashing their depravations on the rest of our fair country. Governor Arnold, if you truly are a man of the people, you will declare war on Arizona, and lead our National Guard into battle against these modern day Huns. You can do it, and the people will follow you. I envision you, Governator, resplendant in your "Commando" costume, camouflage face paint and sleeveless fatigue shirt, addressing your legions - I think you'd do a hell of a job with Shakespeare's "once more onto the breech" rally speech from "Henry IV". But I digress. Many compliments were bestowed by Prado staff and patrons upon Lucas, who was perfectly content to sit in his carseat and stare at the lights, umbrellas, and people. He is remarkable well behaved in public, unlike his father, who was chastised for making fun of a fellow diner with a horrifically large Adam's apple. Poor guy looked like a python swallowing a small puppy.

Lest I be accused of being a complete Kerryboy, I was somewhat dismayed by the comments made by JK about how he would have reacted when given the news about the planes flying into the WTC. Much has been made over Dubya's blank look and apparent freezing up when his reading session with grade schoolers was interrupted by the annoucement. Kerry yesterday played Monday morning quarterback (see this article: http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/05/kerry.911/index.html), saying that he would have immediately wrapped things up with the kids and rushed out to handle things. Maybe so, maybe not. My response, and I believe I speak for most Americans, would have been something along the lines of: "Excuse me, children, but I have soiled myself and need to change my trousers." In any case, Bush can and should be judged on his wildly uneven post-9/11 anti-terror record; the things he's screwed up over the past three years far outweigh what he did or didn't do in the 7 minutes after the attacks.

http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/meast/08/06/iraq.main/index.html

Kurt pointed out that there seems to be a trend developing: the administration using enemy body counts as a measure of success in Iraq. Good on ya! This strategy worked out well in Vietnam, so let's go with it! Yikes - doesn't anyone realize that if we fuck up in Iraq, Sylvester Stallone will make "Rambo IV: Back to Baghdad"?

On to the rugby. This weekend brings us Australia v. New Zealand. The NZ All-Blacks (so named for the color of their uniforms, perhaps the least creative team name in the history of organized sports) count among their numbers the Scariest Human on The Planet, forward Kees Meeuws - remember the Ice Monster in "The Empire Strikes Back", the one that knocks Luke out and hangs him by his feet in the cave, presumably to dine on/have relations with later? Shave the Ice Monster down, put him in a New Zealans uni, kick him in the nuts to REALLY piss him off, and you have Kees Meeuws. The Wallabies have the intangibles on their side, namely home field advantage. It's challenging for visitors to play when 80,000 drunks are shrieking the lyrics to "Waltzing Matilida" for 80 minutes. My prediction: Australia by 3.

Here then, for you neophytes watching the sport for the first time, is my list of Fun Things To Look For In Rugby.

1: The Boots. Rugby players wear very special shoes - referred to as "boots" - which enable them to play safely. Rugby boots have 8 cleats, each about an inch long and made of bright shiny aluminum. Again, this is for safety - the long cleats give them the traction they need to run on slippery grass surfaces. The tips of the cleats are rounded, again for safety - don't want anyone to get scratched, do we? Thus, rugby players can safely put their cleats on the backs and legs of opposing players and rake them, giving their opponents long red welts. Which they do. Constantly. Fun!

2. Great Camera Work: When you watch sports on TV, you inevitably get shots of various fans in the stands, cheering, wearing funny costumes, etc. On American TV, you see fans of all ages, men and women, boys and girls, fat and thin. I suspect that the same 3 teenage boys run the cameras for all of the international rugby matches. Either that, or the crowds that show up for the matches consist entirely of hot chicks in tight clothing.

3. Bizarre terminology: Example - a rugby ball does not go "out of bounds", rather, it's "in touch". Which at first makes no sense, because you're not supposed to touch the ball if it's out of bounds. But that's ok, because any contact sport that incorporates the terms "ruck" and "maul" must be cool.

4. Joe Rokocoko: All-Blacks winger. In U.S. football terms, he's like the running back. Except that unlike U.S. football players, he plays offense and defense, without pads, running pretty much the entire time during the course of two 40 minute halves. Right now he's the best in the world at his position, and is truly amazing to watch.

5. Drop goals: One way to score in rugby is by drop kicking the ball through the goal posts. Sounds easy, right? In a rugby drop goal, you have to drop the ball so that it takes a bounce before you kick it. This is hard; try it with a football and you'll see. Add to that the fact that you do this while the game is on - in other words, there's a bunch of guys running at you to tackle you - and your teammates are not allowed to block for you.

I'll have more of these in future installments. I go now to mourn the passing of Rick James, who has left us for a better place. He was, and ever shall be, a Superfreak. I leave you with the following to ponder: if Mary Kay Letourneau and her boyfriend were a man and a girl respectively, would the media still be wondering if the two were going to live happily ever after?

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Drove the Xterra in to work today, a rare treat. The Xterra makes an ideal babyhauler, and does not have the emasculating effect of a minivan (although the new Nissan Quest is pretty cool - reminds me of the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle in the old Gerry Anderson "supermarionation" show Captain Scarlet. How's that for an obscure pop culture reference?). And of course the truck, still in its (final? I was hoping) resting place in the parking lot, started right up when I tried it. We renewed our AAA last night, so I have 4 tows if/when the damn thing goes ass-up on me again. Unfortunately, I'm too old to qualify for "Pimp My Ride", so it looks like the Ranger will be with us for a while longer, clinging to life, a pale shadow of its former self. Nancy Reagan, I know how it must have been for you these past few decades.

I now present what I deem to be, hands down, the greatest Bushism ever. I give you George W. Bush, quoted at a speech given earlier today:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

For more on (more-on? I made a funny!) this: http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/08/05/bush.ap/index.html

I do give the President credit - there are times when he has emerged as a thoughtful and concise orator. Here, for example:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/graphics/packageart/bush/bush_tsg.mov

How about using this clip in a campaign ad? "George Bush - because what America needs now, more than ever, is a drunk who makes fun of others."

Today is my fourth wedding anniversary. Apparently there is a tradition of theme gifts on anniversaries (i.e, silver, gold, etc), and we found out that there are two themes for the 4th - "linen", which makes sense in a way, as this is probably an Olde Custom dating back to when Druids walked the earth, and "appliances", which seems to have been concocted by the evil holiday syndicate controlled by the Illuminati (known to outsiders as "Hallmark"). Needless to say, Beth and I will not be giving each other matching monogrammed trash compactors. We will be heading to the Prado restaurant, in the heart of Balboa Park, for a nice dinner - tradition, since that's where we were married. A wonderful wife, an amazing baby boy - who could ask for more? (Can't go without one more political jab: there's lots of talk about "the sanctity of marriage", and how if we allow same sex marriages "the sanctity of marriage" will be undermined. I'm pretty sure that if gay and lesbian couples were allowed to be married, my marriage would survive. In fact, I'm quite positive that preventing other people from getting married really has nothing whatsoever to do with high divorce rates, infidelity, spousal abuse, etc. Of course, I could be wrong - Peterson and Hacking and O.J. could have killed their wives because they were distraught over the fact that gay and lesbian couples may be allowed to wed, thus violating the sanctity of their marriages.)



Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Here's an interesting history lesson. Being a WWII-era buff, I was a bit surprised by this; I'd never heard of General Smedley Butler. Two things are striking: one, that the U.S. may have come periliously close to a Fascist coup d'etat, and two, that a mother would curse her son with the name of Smedley. Props to Kurt for forwarding this:

http://home.iprimus.com.au/korob/fdtcards/Butler.html


It's often said that those who fail to learn their history are condemned to repeat it. I was reminded of that about 15 minutes ago, when I strolled out to the parking lot and once again was reminded why I should have sold my POS Ford Ranger when I had the chance. Deader than Jerry Garcia. Any sentimental attachment I've felt towards that truck, which I've had for 10 years, is gone, replaced by fear (once, the gas petal FELL OFF just as I was driving it across some train tracks) and loathing (no A/C + no power steering + summer temperatures = sweating through new Banana Republic polo shirts bought to look nice at work). I wonder if my insurance carrier would be suspicious if I were to report that my truck was repeatedly hit by, oh, i don't know, a sledgehammer-wielding maniac.

Speaking of maniacs, Reuters reports today that Illinois Republicans are going to select either Alan Keyes or Andrea Barthwell to run against Barack Obama for the Senate. Both are probably better than their previous choices. The first was Jack Ryan - no, not the guy from the Tom Clancy books; this was the guy who was married to Jeri Ryan, the hot blond Borg chick from "Star Trek", and who showed not only his love for her but for the GOP's morals and values by taking her to sex clubs and encouraging her to be part of the show (folks, you just can't make this stuff up!). The second was Mike Ditka, who used to coach the Chicago Bears and if you subscribe to the theory of truth in advertising had "male problems" which Livitra helped him overcome (no pun intended). But that's not the funny part. The funny part is that the GOP picked Keyes (a radio talk show host who is from Maryland and has lost two Senate bids there - he'd actually have to move to Illinois) and Barthwell (former U.S. deputy drug czar; she's had 2 years experience in that position and no prior work in government at any level) because they are African-Americans, like Obama (who is a Dem rising star, in part due to his great speech at the convention). I'm not sure who thought that blatant Republican tokenism would be a good idea, but it'll be really fun to watch the blowback.

The Springboks have the weekend off; New Zealand can win the Tri-Nations if they beat Australia. If you've never seen rugby, this match (on live on Fox Sports World at 2:30 AM PST; TiVo it!) is an ideal way to get into it. The two are obviously rivals, and watching the New Zealand tribe perform the haka is always cool. Here's more on that (watch the streaming video):

http://www.nzrugby.com/history/history_haka.asp

While it's true that what Beth refers to as "the little shorts" the players wear run somewhat counter to our Jordan-esque taste in athletic garb, having 250 lbs of solid muscle screaming out a Maori war chant at you has got to be a bit unnerving. My match predictions, along with a primer on Fun Things To Look For In A Rugby Match, will be posted Friday.


Finally, I have coined a new phrase: "He/she had more fun than Mary Kay Letourneau at a Cub Scout meeting." The Today Show devoted a combined 30 minutes to Letourneau's release from prison today. Which, do you suppose, would do more to raise the intelligence of the person watching it - the 30 minutes of coverage of Mary Kay, or watching 30 minutes of any episode of "Saved By The Bell"?







Tuesday, August 03, 2004

From today's New York Times: "Much of the information that led the authorities to raise the terror alert at several large financial institutions in the New York City and Washington areas was three or four years old, intelligence and law enforcement officials said on Monday. They reported that they had not yet found concrete evidence that a terrorist plot or preparatory surveillance operations were still under way."

Which brings me back to "The Village": I think the movie will be remembered more for its timely themes. We're in our own Village, complete with monsters who lurk on the fringes waiting to get us when we drop our guard. Or so the Bush administration would have us believe. More reports have indicated that this intelligence (is this really the right word for this kind of misinformation? How about specurumor?) was obtained LAST MONTH. Any time the public needs a jolt (i.e., more bad news about the economy or Iraq, or a rise in the polls for Kerry), the warning flags go up.

My goal these days is to get a reasonable answer, from pro-Bush people I know, to the following: "Halliburton is currently being investigated for fraud and price gouging which has cost the country millions of dollars, and auditors have revealed that the company lost over $16 million in government property in Iraq due to mismanagement. Last week, the administration awarded another $500 million contract to Halliburton despite this. Are you OK with this, and don't forget that Cheney is currently being paid on a $33.7 million retirement package that Halliburton gave him when he stepped down as that company's CEO." Go to www.halliburtonwatch.org for more on this. Oh yeah - the company is also being investigated for it's business dealings with Iran. Yes, THAT Iran. So like I said, if anyone can explain this to me, please do.

On to more important things. The Springboks dropped their first two Tri-Nations games, the heartbreaking try-at-the-fulltime-whistle loss to New Zealand, and this past Saturday's defeat at the hands of the mediocre Australia side. I've become a huge rugby fan over the past few months; indeed, my goal is to play for the Old Aztecs RFC this fall, and I've been hitting the weight room with that in mind. Backtrack a couple of months ago - I decided that at the ripe old age of 35, I needed a new hobby. Surfing had lost its grip on me - I find that it's much more fun to wake up at 6 on weekends and play with Lucas than load up the truck with board, wetsuit, etc. and drive up and down the coast looking for waves (which haven't been there all summer - really one of the flattest I can remember). Not to get all soft, but as a working parent you can never have enough time with your kid, and the ocean ain't going anywhere anytime soon. Anyhow, I went out to try my hand at touch rugby with the Old Aztecs team - they do this twice a week during the summer. Did well my first practice, twisted the hell out my knee the second and have been gimpy since. The regular season practices start in mid-October, and I'll be ready to go by then. A 35 year old dad, playing a sport that most people quit in their late twenties. Jesus.

Monday, August 02, 2004

We took what's becoming our tri-weekly trip to L.A. this weekend to see Beth's parents (wife, inlaws, respectively). This gives us the chance to go to a movie; Lucas (5 month old son) gets to spend some quality time with the grandparents. We always approach these trips (no, we don't have a babysitter that we can leave the kid with and yes, I am willing to make a 2+ hour drive to see a movie and no, I don't particularly enjoy spending every third weekend with the inlaws but therein lies the genius - I don't see a lot of them, they don't come down to visit us, Beth is happy that Lucas sees the grandparents - everybody wins) with serious contemplation - when you have a baby, movies are a luxury and a bad choice stays with you. So it was with high hopes that we went to see "The Village".

Earlier today I posted the following response on Slate; one of the Fraysters argues that Shyamalan and David Lynch are very similar, both being the most "subtle" filmmakers working today:

"How subtle can a director of suspense films be if he chooses to go by his eerie middle name? Of his films, "Unbreakable" is the closest to showing Night's full potential - more than any other, it shows Night at the top of his game, combining deft, atomspheric visuals with an intelligent script ("The Sixth Sense" falls apart when one considers that the movie is not played out in real time - at some point, wouldn't the good doctor realize that EVERYONE is completely ignoring him?). Shyamalan has painted himself into a corner - we demand his patented trick endings and misdirections, and one wonders how much more money he'd make if he just released his movies straight to DVD, so that viewers could pause each scene to look for clues. In some ways, "The Village" is his most subtle work (the villagers seem to struggle with the language as if the formal speech is not quite natural, and the village itself is, as my wife put it, straight out of Pottery Barn), but the clumsy way that the plot's secrets are revealed is anything but (William Hurt's character opening up the box of secrets to reveal the Elders' pasts, not to mention revealing the storage shed to Ivy). In fact, why reveal anything at all? A satisfying conclusion would have been for Shyamalan to do what he does best - keep us in Ivy's point of view, and leave us to wonder about what exactly lies in the Towns outside the woods. And thus, to debate about the central question he raises in the movie - would we live in ignorance if it kept us from harm?"