Monday, April 30, 2007

Thoughts on Team USA Basketball 2007

Despite the fact the NBA playoffs will chug along for another month and a half, I figured I'd devote some time here to the upcoming FIBA Americas Championship, which will be held in Las Vegas from August 22 through September 2. For countries in North and South America, this tournament serves as the preliminary qualifier for the 2008 Olympics in Bejing, with the top two teams automatically advancing. The teams that finish third through fifth will earn spots in the 2008 Olympic qualifier next year, where they will compete against various teams from Europe, Asia, and Africa for the final Olympic berths.

Much attention was paid to last year's USA Basketball squad, mainly because membership on the team was determined by a Senior National Team tryout camp, as opposed to direct selection which had formed the "Dream Team" squads from 1992-2004. The new effort, spearheaded by Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski, was a response to the 2004 Olympics debacle, in which the United States finished sixth, displaying uninspired and disorganized play against finely-tuned, more cohesive squads from around the world.

The 2006 team's bronze-medal performance was considered disappointing by most, but I thought it was generally a good step forward. The US lost to an amazingly hot-shooting Greece team in the semi-final, before defeating Argentina - a team featuring a number of good NBA players that many thought would "teach us a lesson" in international-style basketball - by 15 points in the bronze-medal game.

Long story short, the US doesn't need to blow up the whole program and start over. However, I do think that minor changes should be made in both personnel and playing style. Below I have listed which players I would take to this summer's tournament if I were the head coach. There are two assumptions on which this roster is premised: (1) Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Jason Kidd, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Rip Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince will all stick to their previous decisions to not participate in the Olympic program and (2) Dwayne Wade will probably take the summer off to recover from his shoulder injury.

OK, here goes (starters in bold):

Chris Paul
Deron Williams

Kobe Bryant
Michael Redd

Carmelo Anthony
Lebron James
Josh Howard

Shawn Marion
David Lee
Chris Bosh

Amare Stoudemire
Dwight Howard

In my opinion, the main problem with our previous unsuccessful basketball squads has been a lack of definition of player roles, caused by a selection process based more on reputation andmarketing concerns than creating a good basketball team. Since 1992, the US has picked teams almost exclusively of guys that led their NBA teams in scoring. Most basketball players know that a good team needs both stars and players that fill specific important roles such as rebounding, ball distribution, defense, and hustle. In Team USA's case, it has been difficult to ask guys who average 25 points per game in the NBA to defer scoring responsibilities to guys who average 27 - it's still Mr. 25ppg's instinct to want to score, and this greatly disrupts offensive flow. The starters on my team are all good scorers, but the starting lineup is largely assembled to assuage certain egos. Reserves like Josh Howard, David Lee, and Deron Williams would get a lot of playing time, mainly because they have proven (1) while talented offensive players, they are willing to defer to more prolific scorers and (2) they are willing to defend people aggressively.

The toughest guy to cut from this year's crop was Shane Battier, a very smart player who always hustles, plays great defense, and is a decent three point shooter to boot. That said, I think this squad wins the tournament this summer, but only if they find a way to get LeBron James to (1) score without dominating the ball as much as he does during the regular season with the Cavs and (2) defend people on the perimeter.

Doonesbury on David Halberstam

As most of you probably know by now, the celebrated journalist David Halberstam was killed in a car accident last Thursday. He was 73 years old.

In the early 60s, years before the Gulf of Tonkien incident, his reporting exposed the exaggerations and fabrications used to justify American intervention in Southeast Asia. In later years, his books The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be shed light on the paths of power in modern America. Sports were his other major interest, and he is the author of The Breaks of the Game and Playing For Keeps, arguably the two best books ever written about professional basketball, and The Amateurs, hands-down the best book ever written about rowing, if not the best book written about any Olympic sport.

He was also known for his deliberately-cultivated public persona, which was both beloved and frequently ridiculed, sometimes by the same people. These classic Doonesbury strips, published at the peak of Halberstam's late-70's celebrity, are worth a read if you're into that sort of thing. If you're not, well, The Breaks of the Game and The Amateurs are worth a read, anyway.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Knocked Up!!!

I'm really excited about Knocked Up, the new movie from Judd Apatow, director of CSD favorites "Anchorman," "The 40 Year-Old Virgin," and "Freaks & Geeks."

Has any young actor stolen more scenes than Seth Rogen in the past five years? Its possible, but unlikely. He doesn't have traditional leading-man looks, but he's likeably and funny and easy to identify with, like Tom Hanks, or Bill Cosby. I'm excited, too, to see Katherine Heigl getting a vehicle of her own. I don't watch Grey's Anatomy for two reasons, because they show is awful and because I have a penis, but Katherine Heigl is gorgeous, funny, and has 'star' written all over her. Katherine Heigl was so much hotter when she actually had some meat on her bones (when are Hollywood producers going to realize this???) but she's still a knockout. Harold Ramis and Paul Rudd are as fine as comic supporting actors get. I don't know if this movie will succeed or not, but its hard to imagine a major-studio comedy with a pedigree better than this one. Here's the trailer:

Friday, April 27, 2007

What are the 100 Greatest Movie Lines?

Premiere Magazine's poll of the top 100 movie lines of all-time is now complete. Lists like this almost always suck, but their real point is to get people talking about movies, and at that they are usually successful.

My take: "Rosebud" and "May the Force be with you." For lack of a better term, they are the direct objects of their movies, but the pay-off isn't as great as the build-up. In my opinion, the coolest line in all of the Star Wars movies is at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when Han is about to be frozen in carbonite, and the Princess shouts out that she loves him. Like a total pimp, Han turns around and says "I know." before being frozen. That was cool. "Bond, James Bond" is also cool, but its not really a great line of dialogue, is it?

"I am the author, you are the audience, I outrank you!" is one of the funniest lines in all of movies, and I'm glad it is ranked as highly as it is. Can you believe that they left that line out of the musical? What sense does that make? I'd have put "that is one nutty hospital" in the top 20; that's possibly the funniest thing that Bill Murray has ever said.

"Easy, Jake, its Chinatown" should have been in the top five.

Demetri Martin Stands Up

Daily Show correspondent and CSD favorite Demetri Martin's early stand-up routines have recently been put onto YouTube. His style could be described as "sober Mitch Hedberg," but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. You can link to the videos here and here.

Via Lost In Texas.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Althouse Loses It . . . Again

For better or for worse, Ann Althouse is the public face of The University of Wisconsin Law School, at which I am a student. Every time she makes the news for engaging in some sort of silly blog war, our school's reputation suffers just a little bit. People read her angry rants and think, "Is this the best their law school has to offer?" Every time she accuses Jessica Valenti or Jill Filipovic of failing to live up to some arbitrary feminist standards, I get at least half-a-dozen e-mails from friends in other parts of the country, asking "What is Althouse's problem?" My classmates have received similar e-mails, too. Invariably, these arguments arise from incidents in which she accuses some other woman of being insufficiently feminist. Eventually, I got tired of reading about it and left a comment on her blog. Althouse responded in her usual defensive, surprisingly quick-to-anger style. That led to this argument, which began yesterday morning and is, presumably still on-going. Here's the transcript, which is taken from the comments section of one of Althouse's recent threads:

Ann Althouse (7:49PM):
It's been clear to me for decades that lefty men are not feminists. They pretend to be to the extent that they see that they have to be, but their perceptions are inadequate and they let the truth about themselves show at embarrassingly regular intervals.

They want to attack me because I won't get in line and serve the interests they identify as the correct one, and they attack me with blatantly sexist statements. Doubly sexist. And stupid as hell. I've seen it all before a hundred times. What makes me angry is that lefty women don't call them on it.

Wade Garrett (9:39PM): I grant that the issue of whether to take their husband's name or not is a significant issue to a lot of women, though almost all of my female friends (say ages 25-30) who have gotten married in recent years have taken their husband's name, with only one exception.

I think its unfair to criticize a female writer for simply assuming that a mother has the same last name as her son.

Ann Althouse (10:52AM):
"I grant that the issue of whether to take their husband's name or not is a significant issue to a lot of women, though almost all of my female friends (say ages 25-30) who have gotten married in recent years have taken their husband's name, with only one exception."

Well, that supports my belief that feminist took a big step backward in the 1990s.

"I think its unfair to criticize a female writer for simply assuming that a mother has the same last name as her son."

Why did you say a female writer? What's the difference? Obviously, I think it's fair, but what's this business about criticizing women? It's ridiculously patronizing.

Wade Garrett (12:01PM): To the contrary, feminism took enormous strides forward in the 1990s. Having factions disagree about what to do next in the wake of enormous political victories is a sign of strength, not weakness. Don't pick out individual feminists with whom you disagree, arbitrarily declare them representative of all feminists, then use your disagreement with them as grounds to dismiss the entire movement.

Furthermore, I don't see how women taking their husbands' name is a sign that feminism took a step back. Some women choose to keep their name. Others don't. Still others hyphenate. Isn't feminism supposed to be about giving women choices, not imposing your own will upon other women?

Finally, the reason I said "female writer" is because you wouldn't have bothered to mention it if it was a male writer.

Ann Althouse
"Finally, the reason I said "female writer" is because you wouldn't have bothered to mention it if it was a male writer."

Bullshit. I sure as hell would have. You're revealing what's in YOUR head, not mine. Look to yourself, man. You think feminism made "enormous strides" in the 1990s? And I'm supposed to be impressed by what you think because... why? You are uninformed and you are a sexist. Deal with it.

Wade Garrett (11:59PM): Wow, you sure do get defensive in a hurry! You've called me a sexist in the month of April, which gives me something in common with, oh, about 100,000 other people. By assuming that a mother had the same last name as her son, she is guilty of sloppy journalism, but not of sloppy feminism.

With few exceptions (Raina, I know you're out there!), almost none of my female friends, almost all of whom are highly-educated professionals and all of whom share feminist goals, identify as Feminists. Why is that? Its because so many capital-F Feminists are a bunch of irrelevant baby boomers locked away in academia, who don't do or say anything that relates to the struggles most women have to deal with in their lives.

The feminist movement has achieved so much, and won so many important battles, that it doesn't know what to do NEXT. Leaders disagree about what needs to be done. Byzantine intra-movement turf wars develop and everybody tries to 'out-feminist' each other.

I'm a man, so of course I'm going to be wrong about all of this, but I always thought that feminism was about giving women CHOICES. The choice to vote, pursue a higher education, and work outside of the home. The choice of how best to balance your family and your career. Feminism isn't about scoring points at the expense of other women.

A recent mayoral election in Washington D.C. hinged over the issue of which of the two candidates was "more black." For serious. Both candidates were well-educated and accomplished in their fields. Could you imagine such a conversation being held in 1960? Probably not, but now that that's so much less to fight about, people have to invent battles they feel as if they can win. The same is true of contemporary feminism.

In the past year, you've picked fights with two of the most popular feminist bloggers in the United States, over stupid, catty little issues, such as how they dress, or how friendly they are with Bill Clinton. If you're such a feminist, then prove it to me, and to all of your other readers. Prove it by saying something yourself, instead of waiting, claws extended, for others to speak, so that you may attack them to prove your Feminist bonafides. Prove it by showing me a single feminist writer under the age of 35 with whom you agree about anything remotely approaching feminism. Prove it by talking about the issues that real women care about, instead of issues that women cared about in 1975. (Apparently, no feminist younger than Camille Paglia has ever had an interesting idea.) Keeping your own last name was a big issue for women of your generation, but as far as I can tell more women are taking their husband's last name than they were 20 years ago. The name issue is an OLD BATTLE. If you're a feminist, prove it by showing that you can have a discussion about feminist issues with other feminists, paticularly those of your students' generation, without criticizing them in all sorts of trite, petty ways that give Feminists a bad name.

Ann Althouse (8:32AM):
Wade: YOU just proved that you are a sexist for EXACTLY the reason I just told you you are. Women are allowed to attack just as men are. And women are susceptible to attacks just as men are. They don't get special immunity from attack and when they attack they should not be belittled for attacking and being women at the same time. I'm attacking on real issues, on the merits, and it is absolutely sexist to impugn me by saying I'm doing this as a jealous older woman. Shame on you.

Wade Garrett (9:25AM): Hey, if you say so. What should I do with all of the e-mails I got over night, saying "right on!"? They're all from women. I guess that makes all of us sexists, and it makes all of THEM self-hating anti-feminists. Thanks for clarifying that for us - we had been wondering where we stood on the issue.

Ann Althouse (10:29AM):
Wade, you're the only one who initially diminished your point of view because of your sex, so I don't give a damn if you have some women who support me. Do you have any idea how many times I have heard men claim not to be sexist because they have soem women who say they aren't? It's a damned cliché. And it's just a new load of sexism.

Wade Garrett (11:22AM): The remark about my gender was a joke.

The more defensive you get, the more you prove my point. In your own narrow view of the world, nobody is as feminist as you. Nobody can EVER be as feminist as you, and the fact that other women don't realize that is proof that they are the ones who don't understand feminism, not you. Its a circular argument.

So Long,

My old friend Jack Kukoda recently accepted a job as a full-time contributor to The Onion, which I read the way that Rabbis read the Torah. In fact, I like it so much that I think I'm ultimately going to be able to forgive him for closing up his riotously funny blog, Though my blog and his have almost nothing in common, he was one of the bloggers who got me interested in blogging in the first place. I don't know how much longer he'll have the site up for, but last Thursday was his last original post. Of course, we will continue to read his writing on the internet, only we won't know that its his writing. Good luck at The Onion, Jack!

Videos of Jack being funny can be found here and here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"20 years later, he's still a douchebag"

I chose the above title for this post prematurely.

I was originally going to write about Super Macho Man from Punch Out!! (Nintendo dropped the "Mike Tyson's" part after they decided it was a bad idea to have a rapist on the cover of your game). Last night I downloaded Punch Out!! on my Nintendo Wii and attempted to relive the glory days when school involved recess and crayons, the TV lineup was Duck Tales and Rescue Rangers, and my mom had Sunny D AND a Fluffernutter sandwich prepared for my snack. Life is long when you peak at six.

Back in the day, I could beat up the variety of ethnic stereotypes with ease until I faced Super Macho Man in the ring. Alone, his cocky sneer, ass chin, controlled pectoral jiggling, European man-speedo, Super Spin Punch (instant KO) and cruel laughter would have made him a memorable villain. All combined, they made him one of the top douchebags in video game history. In retrospect, I realize one of the reasons I was so filled with rage when I'd lose to him was because I lacked the right vocabulary and combination of truly heinous and brutal swear words to spew at him as he laughed and posed over my defeated body. Nice job, Macho Man, you only had 150 pounds on me. Can't wait for you to get skin cancer, you leather-faced beach rat.

As it was, I couldn't make it to him. I was tearing up the lower ranked goons, and even defeated Bald Bull's bull charge (hit him in the stomach on the 3rd charge!) first try, but I hit the wall on Mr. Sandman. I simply couldn't get out of the way of his jabs and Windmill Punch. I knew they were coming, but I just couldn't dodge as quickly as my six-year-old self could. Is this the realization that professional athletes experience, Brett Farve excluded, when they realize they've lost a competitive step? When I saw little Mac hunched over on the Game Over screen and knew my skills (the control in Punch Out!! is flawless) had eroded, I cried like I was Mark Messier retiring.

Thankfully, a Swedish metal Nintendo cover band knows how I feel (downloads section). "My best...just wasn't good enough."
PS: And what's with referee Mario being on the take? NICE SLOW COUNT ON 9, JERKSTORE. Seriously, the mafia ruins almost everything.

A question Jim Gray will never ask

Josh Howard of the Mavericks had the following to say to Henry Abbott of Truehoop/ESPN:

What did you study in college?
"Religion. At Wake Forest, they always try to put athletes in sociology and communications because they are not hard. Really, when I looked at it, I thought about what would happen if I got injured and basketball was over for me? I don't like broadcasting. And sociology -- I'm a black man with a single mother. I know all there is to know about that already. I decided to study what I like in life, so I got a degree in religion, and Wake Forest happened to have the best religion program in the country. Spent a lot of time analyzing the Bible, comparing and contrasting different books, figuring out what makes sense. I had one religion class that had nothing to do with religion at all. It was about the African unconsciousness. It didn't make sense, but I had to take it."

Re-read that again. That, as my former roommate used to say, is speaking some truth. Why am I even blogging when an NBA small forward spontaneously speaks in terse, powerful essay form where each sentence intelligently raises a host of relevant issues? Oy-vey. Read the whole interview here.

"Y'All Got To Be A Pussy Pilot, Y'All"

Yet another Alexyss Taylor video. And this time, she's angry. My usual Vagina Power warning applies; this video is very Not Safe For Work, nor is it for the easily grossed out, Dr. Elliot Reed types.

This woman has gone from total obscurity to something of an underground folk hero in the span of about two weeks. You've gotta love the internet.

I've previously blogged about Vagina Power here.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the tip.

Fun with the Scissor Sisters

If you've ever seen a music video by the Scissor Sisters, you know that they have a certain...flair. They're 2004 single "Take Your Mama Out," besides being ridiculously catchy in a 1970s Elton John kind of way, has a completely over-the-top music video that can only be reasonably challenged by The Darkness and Queen. "I Don't Feel Like Dancing," the biggest single of their most recent album, is a solid pop song as well.

Which brings me to one of the better finds on the internet in some time - a site that allows you to put whomever you like into your very own "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" music video. For example, here's one starring Wade Garrett and James Dalton (apparently The Deuce isn't as tough as it used to be).

All you need are pictures of your buddies and about 5 minutes. The internet continues to amaze me.

PS - Fun Fact: the Scissor Sisters' name derives from the sex act common among lesbians. Scissor me timbers!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

2 Thumbs Up

Roger Ebert has been on a rocky road to recovery since last June when he had some cancerous growth removed oh his salivary gland. Though he cannot speak (hopefully just for now) due to a tracheostomy, he will attend his film festival in his first public appearance since his illness began, not caring what he looks like. I'll give 1-1 odds there's a magic moment, like Muhammad lighting the torch , where he'll give an inspirational "thumbs up" and the crowd will go wild and people will be moved.

I very much enjoy Ebert's critquing and miss his reviews and Answer Man column, even though he occasionally whiffs. No problem, he's human, and you begin to understand his patterns. Ebert is excellent in that you can feel his love of a good movie, and watch as he decimates those steaming piles that insult our intelligence. Quite a wit, he also destroyed Rob Schneider in the latter half of the Deuce Bigalow:European Gigalo review.

Get well soon, Roger!

"The Re-Branding of America"

If you have a minute and care about such things, I'd recommend checking out Andrew Sullivan's column on Barack Obama today. Sullivan, as always, raises a number of interesting points, not all of which I agree with completely. I do think, however, that he gets the following things right: (1) The US currently has a crisis of Presidential leadership we haven't seen since the end of the Carter Administration (2) Obama's recent foreign policy speech outlines a specific and prudent approach to the massive challenges we currently face in our foreign policy, and (3) The election of Obama would serve as a clear sign to our foreign allies that we hope to move on from the acrimony, arrogance, and divisiveness that has characterized our relationships with, well, just about everyone since Bush's election.

Apologies for quoting at length, but I thought this section was particularly well done:

Obama brings something no one else does to this moment. By replacing one of the most globally despised and domestically divisive presidents in American history with a young leader half-Kansan and half-Kenyan, America would be saying something to the world: Bush-Cheney is not who we are. America is not what it has come to appear to be. This country is among the most culturally and racially and religiously diverse on the planet. America has long been a powerful and vital beacon for human rights - not, as recently, the avatar of torture, rendition and executive tyranny. The simple existence of Obama as a new president in a new century would in itself enhance America's soft power immeasurably, just as a clear decision to leave Iraq would provide much greater leverage for diplomacy and military force in a whole variety of new ways. Obama would mean the rebranding of America, after a disastrous eight years. His international heritage, his racial journey, his middle name: these are assets for this country, not liabilities.

I particularly appreciated Sullivan's praise of Obama's speech. While Obama lacks the experience of many of the other major Presidential candidates, the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh/National Review axis has consistently promoted the narrative of Obama being "all style and no substance," a narrative that self-hating, jackass "liberal" columnists like David Broder and Joe Klein were predictably happy to spread far and wide. Of course, the problem is that it's much easier to just hear someone say Obama hasn't presented specific policy ideas than it is to actually look up whether or not he has. Hopefully over time Obama will be more successful than Gore and Kerry were at getting his vision and message across (and through obstructive mass media filters).

The Plight of the Bumblebee

Today's New York Times article on the disappearance of the honeybee is a little half-assed, but definitely worth reading. Albert Einstein once said that, if the honey bee was ever to perish, humanity would suffer an international famine within four years. A significant number of the foods we eat - fruits, vegetables, and nuts - can only be pollinated by honey bees. Even if humans can make do without those foods, so many of the animals that we eat do rely on them, so that protein would be much more difficult to come by.

Decades after Einstein's warning, the human population has enormously increased while the honey bee population has decreased, never moreso than in the past couple of years. There are a number of theories as to why its happening - some say pollution, others say global warming, genetic engineering, or blame the high-fructose corn syrup fed to bees in commercial farms, instead of more natural foods. But perhaps the most alarming theory is that electromagnetic fields generated by cellular telephones interfere with the bees' navigation system, so that they leave the hive to find food or whatever and are never able to find their way back. Electromagnetic fields are nothing new, but whereas they were once confined to big cities and industrial plants, the spread of cellphones and more or less turned entire continents into low-level electromagnetic fields. If this theory is proven to be true, will humans make the sacrifices we need to preserve our food supply, or, as Bill Maher asked on a recent "Real Time," will we literally talk ourselves to death?

Thoughts on Mom Jeans

It's been a really long time - maybe since high school - that I've seen a girl under the age of 25 wearing jeans with an actual waistband. Generally speaking, I think that low-rise jeans are a good change from the super high-rise "Mom Jeans" that were popular in the 80s and 90s. However, most guys will remember at least a few different occasions - maybe in a college dining hall before immediately losing their appetite? - when they noticed that the low-rises work for some people better than others.

Is there a happy medium to be found? Mischa Barton and Jessica Simpson lead the way for Modified Mom Jeans. I'm not completely sold yet, but I will say that pressed-together plummer's crack will NEVER be the new cleavage, so perhaps new styles could be helpful. Of course, ridiculously skinny girls should feel free to continue with their regularly-scheduled low-rise wearing.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin

As I'm sure you all know by now, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin died today at the age of 76. Considering the current course of Russian politics, it's hard to tell exactly what Yeltsin's legacy will be. I generally agree with Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, who this morning wrote: "It's hard for me to see where [Yeltsin] won't be one of those figures whose positive moments, even if brief and episodic, were profound enough in their importance to outweigh the longer periods of lassitude, corruption and drift."

While his importance and legacy will likely be debated for some time, one thing can never be taken from Mr. Yeltsin: he served as the inspiration for a Missouri-based pop act called Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin, which got a well-deserved mention in The Onion's Best Band Names of 2006. Surprisingly, despite their goofy, please-pay-attention-to-us name, these guys are actually pretty good, too:

Video comes by way of Matthew Yglesias.

You're not using that paper for writin'...

As I read Ms. Kinder's article, I desperately searched for a point. Now, I haven't read her book, so this reaction is to the article alone. After some searching, I determined this was her thesis:

"That is precisely why I stand by the spirit of the book I wrote fresh out of college, eyes wide and luggage light. The best time to do what you love is immediately -- as soon as adult life presents the chance, before it diminishes the likelihood that you will. If the original Delaying cast is proof of anything, it's that what first looks like a departure from "real" work is often the beginning of a more appetizing career."

This point sets up and handily defeats a straw man. No serious person argues that there is not a plethora ("jefe, do you know what a plethora is?") of useful things people can do coming out of college. That this was not readily apparent to me and Ms. Kinder in the fall of 2002 at Yale is a spectacular failure of that institution, not a serious position. If the point Ms. Kinder is making is that Yale, on an institutional level, provides no useful or at least not self-interested, guidance to its students regarding their post-graduate lives, the point is well-made. But if the piece is an apologia for not going straight to grad school/consulting/finance, why is such an apologia necessary? Surely no one can blame people working hard for what seem like useful things, requiring judgment and intelligence.

Society needs two things from young, smart college graduates. One is hard work. The other is some degree of self-awareness, and awareness of world conditions. Hard work is the conceptually easy piece. You either do, or you do not. Awareness is the hard piece. It requires an objective look at the world and an equally objective look at one's own abilities. It is an educated person's duty to determine how she may best contribute to the world. It is also her duty to try to determine the difficulties and challenges of this route. In this endeavor, she is likely to make mistakes, but she must remain ever vigilant and correct her course accordingly.

But enough with the platitudes. In helping young people with the awareness part of the equation, it seems that many people who are now in their mid-twenties were failed by their institutions. "Find yourself" is ridiculous as an aspiration. No one can find themselves anymore than they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps. One's self needs to be found. But a lot of help goes into that. Ms. Kinder's "Delayers" took a huge risk when they went off the beaten path. But it seems wasteful and bizarre from society's viewpoint that she, and 8yearoldude, poetess and organismal biologist respectively, feel like they're "off the beaten path" in the first place. Why is this so? Assuming they are working hard, they are working hard in very traditional areas.

What I see in this is a market failure between colleges and parents. Without any research into this whatsoever, I am going to opine that it seems that parents are trying to play it safe, but are in reality playing a dangerous game to their own detriment. Parents are in the market for the most prestigious school, but they do not stop to think why that school is good for their kid. Why do they do this? Because while getting into college is hard, planing for the future, and paring down options is harder on every level. There are many voices saying it is not necessary to make choices, ever (40 is the new 10! retirement is the new conception!) but this is not true (again with the platitudes.) Nevertheless, it seems very much that the attitude when we wuz comin' up was that you just got into a great school, and then it did not matter! You could do anything you want with a Yale degree! Of course this is not true, not even close. And even if in theory a person with a Yale degree can do anything, this is certainly not true of each individual with her limitations. Immense care and constant vigilance goes into figuring out where the individual fits into society. The onus of this CANNOT most efficiently be on the shoulders of a sleep-deprived 21 year old.

Parents need to approach the college market as consumers that are looking for a) a school which will fit their child's development into a truly useful adult and b) a school which thinks about how it will help their child pare down their options. The experience of paring down options is painful, but it is less painful if done starting at age 17 and continued through age 30 than if done through panicky fits and starts. In other words, it seems that the Delayers took necessary and useful decisions. Those decisions only appeared risky, radical, and stressful because of the egregious lack of foresight of everyone involved.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Not A Delay, But A Detour

Colleen Kinder is good people. Even if she wasn't, she'd still be a Buffalonian, a Yale grad, a former competitive rower, and a redhead, any of which suffice to land a girl on my good side. Her latest article, "Not A Delay, But A Detour," appeared in this morning's edition of the Washington Post. Like me, she is now a graduate student at a somewhat-isolated midwestern public university, but her life since graduation has been dramatically different than those of most of her classmates, and, if I had to guess, far happier as well.

I'm sure that some will say that you have to be pretty privileged to put off the 'real world' for so long, or to adopt her "roam the globe, make the world a better place" attitude, and they're probably right. They're also missing the point. If you went to a good college, its likely that your first job, and those of your friends, will be the worst jobs of your lives. Does that make sense? I can't be the only 27 year-old Yale graduate who has friends who hate their jobs in the finance and consulting industries. Shouldn't your first job be your BEST job? If you can't enjoy your work in your early 20's, what makes you think you'll enjoy it in your forties or fifties? For that matter, how many people do you know who went blindly into investment banking (or medical school or law school) because it was expected of them, because it was what Smart Kids From Good Schools are supposed to do, without pausing to ask whether it was the right fit for them? The article, like her book, is worth a read.

Also of note, the "Bird Man" of her article is my good buddy 8yearoldsdude, author of Clovers In the Atmosphere.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Drinking With Bob

As long as I'm posting videos of crazy people ranting about nonsense, I thought I would go ahead and post a video of Drinking With Bob. Bob, a native of Queens, New York, reguarly posts 'angry white guy' videos on YouTube, apparently after drinking half a pot of black coffee. Entertaining in a scary sort of way.

(via Rachel)

More Vagina Power

My post on "Vagina Power" is bringing a ton of new readers to Common Sense Dancing. Welcome! This woman's website has been down for the past couple of days, presumably due to receiving more traffic than your typical late-night cable access show's website is accustomed to receiving.

In other vagina-themed news, a Florida woman is suing her employer, a phone-sex company, because her jobs requires her to masturbate so much that she's developed carpal-tunnel syndrome. Absurd lawsuits are one of Common Sense Dancing's favorite subjects, and this is one of the best.

How Not To Write A Resume

The Best of Craig's List has become one of the truly must-read sites on the entire internet. "Ways Not To Write A Resume" is as good as last month's Top Ten Law Firm Interview Questions, though perhaps a little less applicable to my friends and classmates. I've long been convinced that the hiring process brings out the worst in everybody involved. Read these articles and decide for yourself.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vagina Power

Do not attempt to play this at work. You will get fired. But you might die laughing.

Thanks to Jenny for the tip!

Will Ferrell's "Viral Video"

In case you haven't seen this already, here's a new short video clip produced by Will Ferrell called "The Landlord," which premiered at Funny or Die earlier this week:

I'm a big fan of so-called "viral video," or internet-based clips that bypass typical motion picture and television development processes and can be distributed quickly via blogs and e-mail. Wade has commented previously on the most successful such video of late, Alanis Morissette's takedown of Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas. I think this medium is particularly appropriate for a comedian like Ferrell, whose talent is often criminally wasted in movies (e.g. Blades of Glory, Talledega Nights, Curious George, Bewitched, Kicking and Screaming, etc).

New York's Jerkiest Lawyer

Trying to find the jerkiest lawyer in New York is like trying to find the hottest stone in hell, or maybe a needle in a stack of needles. Having said that, I hope I never have the pleasure of meeting this guy. My favorite quote: Heller was disbarred for basically "being an asshole," and in this profession, "that takes some doing."

Wait, they play soccer between World Cups?

I know soccer had its 15 minutes last summer and most Americans won't pay attention again until 2010, but this goal by Lionel Messi, a 19-year-old Argentinian currently playing for FC Barcelona, is definitely worth checking out. My experience in Buffalo's Delaware Park summer league taught me that dribbling past five or six defenders is never easy; I can only imagine it's much more difficult against Copa del Rey-quality competition. It's definitely the best I've seen since Maxi Rodriguez's beautiful goal for Argentina against Mexico in last summer's World Cup.

Both of these plays would have a home in this sweet montage of Soccer's 50 Greatest Goals, were it not compiled about a year ago.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Halo vs. Metroid

This fan made clip has it all: Exciting action, romance, surprise, fanboy craftsmanship, sexual tension and a dance party.

Kurt Vonnegut

Wade has previously discussed the recent passing of Kurt Vonnegut here on CSD. Even if you don't like his writing or disagree with his views, you have to acknowledge that this is one of the more unnecessarily mean-spirited obituaries ever broadcast. I bet you're shocked that it was brought to you by Fox News.

Via: Andrew Sullivan

Notes on the NFL Draft

Kissing Suzy Kolber, one of me and Wade's favorite blogs, has an absolutely killer post about Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn today. Big Daddy Drew, one of the more inventive and clever sportswriters on the internet, nails a number of points about the NFL Draft right on the head.

First, he is absolutely correct that virtually every year, a cabal of NFL personnel directors, GMs, and "draft gurus" arbitrarily decide that at least two quarterbacks, regardless of quality, should be first round picks. While it is generally agreed that quarterback is the most important position in the game, it makes little sense to spend such a high pick on someone who isn't first round quality simply because they play an important position. When a team does that, they punish themselves twice: not only do they waste an opportunity to draft an impact player at a different position, but they also must eventually play the medicore player at their most important offensive position. Drew points out David Carr and Alex Smith as examples, but he easily could have added Jim Druckenmiller, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Akili Smith, Cade McNown, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, Aaron Rogers, and Jason Campbell, and that's just in relatively recent drafts.

Which brings me to Brady Quinn. I've always been a bit of a hater when it comes to Notre Dame, so I might be a little biased here, but I believe Big Daddy Drew is correct that sportswriters and NFL executives are basically willing Brady Quinn to a high draft position. And why? He certainly wasn't all that impressive against major opponents in his four years as starter at Notre Dame. This past season, he looked completely overmatched against Michigan, USC, and LSU, which were the only Top 25 teams Notre Dame played. Putting up sweet stats against Navy, Air Force, Army, and North Carolina isn't particularly difficult, and there were other games - specifically Georgia Tech, Michigan State, and UCLA - in which his stats didn't really tell the full story of how shaky both he and the Notre Dame offense looked.

What's more likely is that Quinn - being white, tall, articulate, and good-looking, not to mention a star at Notre Dame, the country's most high-profile college football program - is filling a psychological need for NFL people to have a stud quarterback to praise incessantly. While he generally seems like a standup guy, mark me down as a skeptic of Quinn's ability to become an elite NFL quarterback.


The Raiders, a once proud franchise who have been a complete joke since their Super Bowl massacre at the end of the 2002 season, own the first pick in the draft. Currently it is widely believed that they will select JaMarcus Russell, the 6'6'', 265 pound cannon-armed quarterback from LSU. Although I don't feel Russell is subject to exactly the same overhyping that Quinn is, I do think he is a slight reach for the #1 pick. He did a good job of completely torching weak secondaries (like the weaker SEC teams and Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl), but was prone to bad performances against quicker defenses (e.g. 24/41 with 3 INT against Florida, 3 INTs against Tennessee, and no TDs against Auburn). While not immobile, he also lacks a certain inventiveness/improisational skill that is so important as an NFL quarterback.

If I were the Raiders, I would, without question, take Calvin Johnson, the WR from Georgia Tech. Johnson is a once-in-a-decade athlete (imagine a 6'5'', 240 pound guy who can run a 4.35 40-yard-dash and has a 45'' vertical leap - for those who don't know, that's basically football's version of Bill Brasky), and has a knack for making both big plays as well as tough catches in traffic. Perhaps most importantly, he does so without the destructive ego prevalent among many elite wideouts. On the contrary, Johnson put up outstanding numbers - without any complaints - despite his offense being led by Reggie Ball, one of the more infuriatingly inconsistent quarterbacks in major college football throughout his four years as Georgia Tech's starter. I would say get Johnson in place and prepare to have a Pro Bowl player at a key position for 10-12 years. As far as their need at QB, I'd suggest finding a decent veteran to take the QB reigns for a year or two until they find a younger guy to take over.......OR THEY COULD HAVE JUST TAKEN MATT LEINART, A READY-MADE SUPERSTAR, WHEN THEY HAD THE CHANCE LAST YEAR! Morons.

Conan O'Brien Makes Aaron Sorkin His Bitch

The West Wing is my all-time favorite television show, so I'm always inclined to give Aaron Sorkin the benefit of the doubt, but, having said that, this Conan O'Brien parody of "Live From Studio 60" is one of the sharpest skits I've seen on NBC in a long time. In the interest of full disclosure, I start laughing the second Conan O'Brien walks on screen, so I'm not the most objective critic. Nonetheless, this video shows Conan O'Brien making fun of Studio 60 for not being funny as it criticizes Saturday Night Live for not being funny. And how is that not funny?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Green Power

The New York Times had a great article by Thomas Friedman on the United States becoming more green.

The green movement is certainly long overdue (though Friedman's been pushing it for years now), it's great to see some momentum on the issue. I never understood why this green movement took so long, as it could truly be win-win for the American public. Being more green would be better for national security (sending less money to terrorist producing oil countries, shortening our supply lines in Iraq) as well as buiness (lowering operating costs, focusing on lifecycle costs). Even Wal-Mart is helping out.

I never really cared whether people were trying to save the whales or make a buck (Mother Nature and "Father Greed", as Friedman puts it), the end result is a better outcome. If America steps up with the leadership in the green movement, it could help stem the rising tide of Anti-Americanism in the world.

You don't even have to bring up "the environment" or "curbing global warming to prevent climate change" to see the benefits of green. And we may want to address those problems, too...

Um, Okay . . .

Is this letter, published in a Utah paper, parody, stupidity, or undiagnosed schizophrenia? You decide.

Rolling Stone No Longer Matters

Rolling Stone, once a cultural icon of the 60's counter-culture, which featured music reviews of cutting-edge artists, incisive political writings, and serialized literature such as "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "The Bonfires of the Vanities" has now gone the way of Maxim and ESPN The Magazine, and that is a shame. On the other hand, if you want to see Rosario Dawson and Rose McGowan wearing nothing but machine-gun bullets, look no further.

"25 Songs With A Secret" is the latest example of its low literary standards. Is that the same thing as "25 Songs With Secrets?" Or are they all sharing the same secret? Where the editors asleep that day or something?

"Louie Louie" doesn't have a secret, just mumbled words. "Born in the U.S.A." doesn't have a secret, just plain-as-day lyrics which are occasionally misinterpreted by Republican presidential candidates like Ronald Reagan and Bob Dole. "One" doesn't have a secret, merely ambiguous lyrics. Only an idiot would think that Elvis Costello's "Alison" is about murder. Everybody knows that "She Bop" is about masturbation, and that "Hey Jude" was written by Paul McCartney for John Lennon's son Julian. This might actually be the least-insightful list of all time. Way to go, Rolling Stone! I'm sure that Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe, Annie Leibovitz, and P.J. O'Rourke would be proud.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mr. Belding Is A Lecherous Old Man

My friend Kathleen Wilhoite went to the Palms Casino in Las Vegas to blow off some steam over spring break. Everybody loves Las Vegas' gambling, casinos, and beautiful people. What nobody loves about Vegas are the washed-up sitcom stars who cruise casinos hitting on happily engaged women. And who might this washed-up sitcome star be? Why, its none other than Dennis Haskins, Mr. Belding from Saved By The Bell! Doesn't he look like hell? I think he's aging in dog years or something.

Their picture reminded me of this bizarre and VERY not-safe-for-work YouTube clip, also starring Dennis Haskins which might take 1st prize in the "strangest thing that's ever happened" contest. Without ruining it for those of you who haven't seen it, it features Dennis Haskins, an intoxicated Tony Romo, a rockin' cover of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," and a whole lot of awesome.

Raphael is the Terrell Owens of the TMNT.

Yes, this movie came out about a month ago, but I didn't see mention of it at CSD, and I figure the nostaglic topic would ride here.

You can tell a lot about a person by their favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. For example, if someone likes Leonardo, you know that they are a born leader, full of loyalty and discipline, striving to perfect and hone their skills, and smart enough to choose the hands down raddest weapons, the twin katana blades. All and all, a champion choice.

Donatello fans show they value wisdom and knowledge. Some may remember Donatello's bo staff being the most/only useful weapon in the original TMNT NES game, a confusing choice on the developers part to believe that a piece of wood was more powerful than razor-sharp Japanese steel like Leo's weapons.

Then there's a drop off. Michelangelo fans are clowns and stoners. Sure you want him at your party, but he's going to eat all your food. Chances are he'll hit himself in the head with his nunchucks for comic relief, but Shredder's not fucking around, son, there's no room for some "Whoops, Whoa" Bill & Ted moments. And Orange is such a non-ninja color, it's not even funny. And in the NES game, he was only good as a damage sponge in the underwater dam level. God that game sucked, but I kept playing it for the turtles.

And that leaves Raphael. Clearly suffering from a short weapons complex, he's got a chip on his shoulder that constantly endangers the balance of the team. Sadly, Raphael fans have confused "being a badass" with "being a dick." Raphael is the Terrell Owens of the TMNT. He's a cancer to the team, and movies are spent trying to undo the consequences of his actions. You would think he would have learned after his arrogance led to his ass-kicking in the first movie, but he's all set to be a dickwad in the new movie, stealing the spotlight from Leonardo, who appears to be the only one taking his ninja training seriously.

Anyway, the movie was pretty good for a nostalgic trip, but obviously see Grindhouse over this. CG was totally the way to go as they could actually ninja fight, rather than use wet willies as their primary means of attack, as they did in TMNT 3. Yes, that entire movie was a lower point in turtle history than Vanilla Ice's rap. Thanks for nothing, Jake Taylor; you deserved that lame marble board game my mom got you that remained in the packaging forever for taking us to see that movie instead of Lasertron.


-OK, I'm bitter about Raphael because he beat my boy Leo in a one-on-one fight. It was a cool scene, and the fact that I cared so much that Leo lost made me remember the good old days when the Turtles had a larger sway in my life.
- No Shredder. Here's hoping he's in the sequel


Intro Inspector Frank Bumstead

Since Wade is recovering from his full-body plastic surgery makeover, he asked a select few of us who were too slow to come up with excuses to fill in for him. I am one of those men.

-Inspector Frank Bumstead

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fun With Yale Alumni Class Notes

Like all modest donors to Yale's Alumni Fund, I receive a bimonthly copy of Yale Alumni Magazine. My favorite feature of the magazine has always been the Alumni Notes, in which graduates send their elected Class Secretary short updates on recent events in their lives. They're great for a number of reasons - for one, Yale graduates often go on to do really interesting things, which allow me to forget, if only for a brief moment, that I decided to spend two years after college working as a corporate paralegal.

Class Notes tend to have similar themes: weddings, births, career changes, geographical relocations, etc. Thus I was a little thrown when I read the following item in the January/February issue, which was submitted by one of Wade Garrett's classmates:

Jon Nathanson (MC) here, writing to inform the Class of 2002 that I recently had the pleasure of attending Matt Vogel's (MC) coming-out-of-the-closet party, held at the very posh New York apartment of Matt's long-time companion, Julian. It was a wonderful affair - full of singing, drinking, and merrymaking. We're all very happy and proud that Matt finally made such a momentous leap forward in his life. Ever the showman, Matt leapt out of a giant wedding cake and announced "Here I am, world! Take me or leave me!" Please join me in congratulating Matt and Julian as they embark on what is sure to be a magical journey together for many years to come."

One might think this would quickly raise some red flags as possibly being a tall tale. However, I can only imagine that I wasn't the only Yale graduate who found this story to be somewhat plausible. Yale has a disproportionately gay community - "one in four, maybe more" is a common phrase on campus - and having seen events such as Yale Coming Out Day, during which guys dressed in drag ran through the doors of a fake "closet" on our main quad, I hardly placed Nathanson's story out of the realm of possibility. It was with some surprise then that I read the following submission, which was printed in the March/April edition of the magazine:

Jonathan Nathanson wanted to submit the following retraction regarding Matt Vogel: "I would like everyone to know that the item I submitted about Matthew Vogel's alleged 'coming out party' in last month's issue was, in fact, a silly and foolish prank. In fact, Mr. Vogel is a heterosexual, does not reside in New York City, and does not even know anyone by the name of Julian."

So how was Nathanson able to slip the original submission by the magazine's staff? Apparently an editor less naive than myself attempted to contact Matt Vogel to ask about the story's validity, except, according to the magazine's retraction, Nathanson set up a fake e-mail account in Vogel's name to verify the story. Great pranks are definitely a fringe benefit of going to college with kids smarter than myself.

For his part, Vogel seemed to take it in stride, writing "Would that my life were as exciting as Jon made it out to be in last month's issue!" adding that he's currently finishing up law school. Perhaps the magazine's retraction sums it up best: "We did not contemplate that someone would go to such lengths to publish a false submission to the class notes."

While I read the class notes in real time, hats off to IvyGate, which covered this topic earlier this week.

Jake Taylor here

Hey everyone,

My buddy Wade is going to be spending some extra time at the Double Deuce the next few weeks, so he's asked me to fill in with some posts now and then - hope you enjoy, and be sure to leave any feedback in the comments section.

Four New Contributors Join Common Sense Dancing

As of tonight, four old friends of mine are joining Common Sense Dancing: Jake Taylor, Frank Bumstead, Peter Venkman and Paul Smecker. I'm not going anywhere, but from here on, Common Sense Dancing will be a team blog. They're all smart and wickedly funny, and I gurantee you'll like their stuff. I'll let them introduce themselves over the next couple of days, as they see fit.

Go See Grindhouse

I saw Grindhouse last night, and I can't stop talking about it. In case you haven't seen the previews, the movie is a homage/parody of 1970's drive-in double features, complete with previews for non-existent coming attractions with 70's-sounding names, such as the vigilante film "Machete," the combination horror/matrial arts film "She-Werewolves of the SS," and the holiday-themed slasher film "Thanksgiving," set of course in Plymouth, Massachusetts. The first of the two features is a horror movie, the second is a gearhead driving movie of the type that makde Steve McQueen famous. In the spirit of the old-fashioned grindhouses, both movies are "missing reels," and the theater management apologizes for the inconvenience. The missing reels work on various levels: they remind everybody of the technical difficulties grindhouse patrons encountered. Since both missing reels contain sex, its fun to hear the audience's collective moan when the "sorry!" placard pops up on screen. And, of course, they give the moviemakers something extra to include on the dvd. Once the movies resume, they are marked by grainy film, out-of-focus scenes, shockingly choppy jumps from one scene to another. They are all digitally drawn in, on purpose, to imitate the analog film defects that theater owners of generations past couldn't avoid. Part homage, part parody, part Simpons-style orgy of references, this movie holds almost endless appeal to hardcore movie buffs.

The previews alone offer more humor and originality that most entire movies; for instance, "Machete" is about a Mexican hit-man who gets hired, then set up for failure by a wealthy and shadily-mustached American businessman. When he swears vengence upon those who set him up, he adopts the catch-phrase "You just fucked with the wrong Mexican" as the narrator says, "when you hire Machete to kill the bad guys, you better make sure the bad guy . . . isn't you." If that was a real movie, wouldn't you want to see it? "She-Werewolves of the SS" comes across as a paranoid Cold War-era monster movie, until a well-known ham actor, perfectly cast as a martial arts master, shows up to take on the SS single-handedly. "Thanksgiving" is what Scream should have looked like, sending up every corny convention of the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises.

The first of the two features is called Planet Terror. It consists of 90 minutes of over-the-top action scenes, butt-kicking by gorgeous amazonian women, corny one-liners, and absurd amounts of gore. Indeed, part of the fun of seeing it in the theater is sitting in the dark with 300 strangers, and hearing the collective groans at the splattering blood, cheers at the exploding bad guys and gasps at Rose McGowan's exposed legs. A sinfully good time was had by all.

The second feature, Death Proof, contains tons (some might say too much) traditional Tarantino dialogue, with extended takes of people sitting around, drinking, riffing on philosophy, drinking, sex, and obscure aspects of pop-culture. It concludes with an extended 30-minute car chase, refreshingly free of computer-generated graphics, in which two classic American muscle cars chase each other through the back woods of Tennessee.

The're a scene near the end of Death Proof in which the muscle cars jump off a back road and onto a divided highway, full of conservative SUVs. As the sports cars duck in and out of traffic, the slower-moving SUVs into each other, or off the road, to avoid them. In many ways, it serves as a metaphor for the rest of the movie. Wasn't it great when movies were made for the sheer joy of making movies? When filmmakers could take risks and experiment with new techniques and styles, without having to cater to the boring taste of mainsteam society? There's a scene in Planet Terror in which, out of desperation, a young child is given a gun and ordered to provide back-up for his mother, one of the movie's heroines. The little kids kills himself by accidentally shooting himself in the face. Do you think that scene was test-marketed? Do you think they put that into the script after polling a sample audience? Hell no. Those techniques are the main reason why so many big-budget movies suck - there's so much money at stake that no audience is willing to take any larger of a risk than is absolutely necessary. The low-budget blaxploitation, sci-fi, kung-fu, and car-chase movies of the 1960's and 70's took all sorts of risks, and developed a considerable portion of the language of modern cinema. Unfortunately, many of these individual movies are long-forgotten. Grindhouse seeks to recapture a lost era of American filmmaking. After seeing it, my question is, why did that era every end?

Surprise!! Abstinence-Only Sex Education Is A Waste of Money

The Federal government spends $176 million of your dollars on abstinence-only sex education. A new study suggests the intuitively obvious: it doesn't work. At all. In fact, that average age of first intercourse for the children receiving sex education is exactly the same - 14.9 years - as it is for kids who do not. Clearly, this entire program exists to appease the vultures on the religious right, who jump at any oppotunity to force their beliefs down the rest of the country's throat. Of course, the Bush administration and those on the right argue that this means they should spend MORE money on abstinence-only education.

To state it more simply: The government spends a fortune on this type of education every year. It has been proven not to work. It takes up valuable time in school which can be better spent teaching out children how to think. And yet, the government spends more than half a million dollars per person on it every year in order to keep Bible-thumpers happy. How is this a good social policy?

This is unrelated, but speaking of wasting students' time, I spent the first hour of my Advanced Legal Writing class on friday listening to my professor talk about her hobby of Reiki Energy Healing. That deserves about as much time in law school as abstinence education deserves in middle school. Then we spent the next 15 minutes being asked which type of fruit would we be, if we had to be a fruit? I swear, THIS is what my law school tuition dollars are going towards. Isn't tenure a terrible thing, when this sort of shit is allowed to happen?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

Everybody forgets this, but Tenacious D got its big break via a six-episode miniseries on HBO in 1999. HBO has a new mini-series coming out, called The Flight of the Conchords, unseriously billed as "New Zealand's fourth-most popular folk-parody duo," who are supposed to become 'the next Tenacious D.' I've only see a couple of their bits, but I've enjoyed everything I've seen.

Here's a video of them in action. One of my female friends send this to me and said "everybody who's ever been in a relationship can relate to this," which raises some serious questions about their mating habits, but . . . let's just move on.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Its Like I've Got A Fever

Few things in the world of sports are better than playoff hockey. Stanley Cup Fever is spreading like wildfire amongst the fans of the Buffalo Sabres, and with good reason. Like the Phoenix Suns in the NBA, the Buffalo Sabres play with a free-wheeling, attacking, make-decisions-on-the-fly style that the NHL has been sorely lacking since the Edmonton Oilers dynasty fell apart in the late 1980's.

The Sabres' success in last season's playoffs came as a surprise, even to their longstanding fans. But after blowing out the Flyers in the first round of the '06 playoffs, a series punctuated by Brian Campbell's crushing hit on R.J. Umberger, the Sabres turned a corner, and went deep into the conference semi-finals before a rash of injuries to five of their top six defensemen ended their run at the Stanley Cup. In case you were wondering, the entire purpose of this paragraph was to provide a context for Campbell's check on Umberger.

This year, the Sabres' success took nobody by surprise. If this video doesn't make you want to run out and turn on a hockey game, you better check your pulse.

The Top 100 Movie Lines of All Time

Premiere Magazine has a ranking of the 100 best lines movie lines of all-time. They've only posted 100-51 so far, so I don't want to get too critical of the list, because they can redeem themselves by doing a crackerjack job on the Top 50. Having said that, 100-51 suck. I mean, they are BAD.

My first observation is that they chose a lot of weak lines from great movies, like Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction, A Few Good Men and A Hard Day's Night. For example, from the movie Rushmore, the line "Oh, are they?" is just brilliant, and the question "Were you in the shit?" is much funnier than the answer "Yes, I was in the shit." Secondly, there are too many tough guy one-liners from movies that are clearly trying too hard to create memorable catchphrases. "Yippie kay-yay, motherfucker!", "I'll be back" and "I've had it with motherfucking snakes on this motherfuckin' plane!" are three such examples. Thirdly, they try too hard to include hit movies, like The Lord of the Rings, which, even though they are sweet movies, don't have one stand-out memorable line. For some reason, they chose "Precious," what does it accomplish? There's no pay-off of any kind; it is merely an adjective.

I would have put the "war room" joke from Dr. Strangelove in the top ten, possibly in the top five. Similarly, I would have put "I want you to hold it between your knees" in the top 50, possibly in the top 25, and definitely higher than the mid-90's. Also, I would have put "Michael . . . we're bigger than U.S. Steel" line in the top 40.

What do you think? And what are your predictions for the top 10?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Madonna Is Turning Into Ruth Bader Ginsberg

I'm old enough to remember when Madonna was the most beautiful Italian-American woman in the whole country. I don't know what happened on the set of Evita, but ever since "Take A Vow" she's come to look more and more like Ruth Bader Ginsberg with every passing year. What do they put in the water in Argentina? And should my friends Solange Rousset and Britta Lindberg, who have recently vacationed there, be worried?

I don't read Althouse much anymore, but I've created quite a stir over where with my statement that Madonna was once the best-looking Italian-American woman in America. Most of Althouse's readers seem to think that title belongs to Marissa Tomei. Personally, I don't see it. To be fair, Marisa Tomei is beautiful, she's better looking than Madonna, and she's aged infinitely better, but Madonna was smokin' hot in the 1980's before anybody had heard of Marissa Tomei, because she hadn't yet stolen Judy Davis' oscar. For almost the entire time I was in elementary school, Madonna was the hottest woman on tv. Chronologically, I'd go like this:
1984-1991 Winner: Madonna
1992-1997 Winner: Tomei by a small margin
1998-2007 Winner: Tomei, in a TOTAL landslide.

Malibu or Jeff Spicoli?

The author of Pointed Prolixity sent this to me two days ago, and Bill Simmons posted it on his blog today, which means that at least 10 other people are going to send it to me in the next five days, so I thought I'd go ahead and blog about it and get it out of the way. This video, from the thankfully-defunct American Gladiators, features some Oakley-and-spandex-wearing cheesedick named Malibu talking about how he recovered from an injury by lying on the beach "with a babe and a brew." The audience applauds loudly. What are they cheering, exactly?

I was in the fifth grade when American Gladiators made its debut. Between 1989 and 1995, it was difficult to have a conversation with an American boy between the ages of eight and twelve without the subject of American Gladiators coming up within five minutes. I never watched American Gladiators, and, worse yet, I never watched professional wrestling, sins which, in an earlier decade, would have been enough to get me accused of being a communist sympathizer. I just never saw the appeal. Now this dreck is being broadcast on ESPN Classic. This bears repeating: after 100 years of professional baseball, 80 years of pro football, and fifty years of professional basketball and hockey, not to mention countless Olympic competitions and boxing matches, ESPN chooses to broadcast American Gladiators. I asked some terrorists, and they said that American Gladiators is reason #4 why they hate America. What the hell is going on over there?

The Perfect Graduation Gift

New from South Africa, home of Executive Outcomes, necklacing, the Rapex, and Dave Matthews, its . . . the Swordcane!

Thanks to Emphemera for the tip.

Fergie Gets Owned

By now, most people who care about this sort of thing have seen Alanis Morissette's cover of the Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps." Lyrics have never been the strength of the Black Eyed Peas, but "My Humps'" forced rhymes, made up words, cringe-inducing euphamisms for female body parts, and bad grammar ("we do it on the daily," "the boys they try to sex me," "gonna start some drama") just make me want to put my foot through the radio. As you might imagine, I spent most of the fall of 2005 wanting to do exactly that.

Sorry Fergie, but when Alanis Morissette covers your rap song and blows your version straight out of the water, its time to consider retirement. Many of Morisette's little touches, like the chopped hair, the bad clothes, and the douchey back-up dancers seem totally ridiculous, until you realize that they've all been lifted straight out of the original video, and Morisette's simple arrangement and somber vocals emphasize the absurdity of the original lyrics.

Last week, Perez Hilton reported that Fergie sent Morissette flowers and a card telling her how much she enjoyed her version of the song. There weren't many things that could have lowered my opinion of Fergie's intellect, but missing the parody in Morissette's video is one of them. Let's see: she's a horrible singer in a horrible band, and she has more plastic in her face than my Optimus Prime action figure. Why do gossip sites and tabloids breathlessly report her every move? I just don't understand the appeal.

Here's the video:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut, Dead at 84

Kurt Vonnegut died a couple of hours ago. He was 84 years old and living in Manhattan at the time of his death.

The New York Times obituary is really well-done, and there's not much I can add to it other than to say that Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the best novels I've ever read, and that everybody should read it. I've enjoyed everything of his that I've ever read, but Slaughterhouse-Five hit me like a slap in the face.

Much has been made about Vonnegut's prominent role in the counterculture of the 1960's and 1970's, and deservedly so. Like best antiwar works from that era - Catch-22, The Armies of the Night, M*A*S*H, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Vonnegut's books have aged remarkably well, and aren't any less effective when read outside of their original cultural moment. It is worth noting that Vonnegut is of my grandparents' generation, not my parents' generation. At the peak of his powers, he was a hero to radical college students almost thirty years his junior. Too often the culture wars of the 60's are cast as "old vs. young," but Vonnegut, along people like Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Dr. Benjamin Spock, and William Sloane Coffin, proved that the age of your body and the age of your ideas do not have to be one and the same.

Book Review: Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent"

I read Bill Bryson's "The Lost Continent" over spring break last week. It is laugh-out-loud funny and charming as hell, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

In 1988, Bill Bryson's father died of a heart attack. Bryson, who had been living in London for almost 20 years as a journalist, decided to mark the occasion by borrowing his mother's ancient Chevette and returning to all of the vacation spots his father had taken his family when they were children. His dual goals are to revisit his childhood through the eyes of an adult and, along the way, to try to find the perfect American small town, a real-life amalgam of all of the charming small towns he remembered from a childhood of black-and-white television shows. That's as noble of an idea for a book as any, and after ten pages I was hooked. I laughed out loud on the A-train, I laughed out loud on my flight to Chicago, and I laughed out loud on my bus to Madison. In retrospect, its amazing I made it home alive.

Some choice quotations:

"The Ike and Mamie Eisenhower farm was great. I can't remember the last time I had such a good time in a Republican household. You are greeted at the door by a fragrant woman with a chrysanthemum on her boson, who tells you a little about the house, about how much Ike and Mamie loved to sit around and watch TV and play canasta, and then gives you a leaflet describing each room and lets you wander on your own so that you can linger or stride on as it pleases you. The decor was quintessentially 1950s Republican. There was a big TV console in a mahogany cabinet, table lamps made out of pieces of driftwood, a padded leather cocktail bar, French-style telephones in every room, bookshelves containing about twelve books (usually in matching sets of three) and otherwise filled with large pieces of flower gilt-edged porcelain of the sort favored by homosexual French aristocrats. When the Eisenhowers bought the place in 1950, a 200-year-old farmhouse stood on the site, but it was drafty and creaked on stormy nights, so they had it torn down and replaced with the present building, which looks like a 200 year-old farm house. Isn't that just so Republican? I was enchanted."

"I was really unsettled by the way television stations in America can jump back and forth between commercials and programs without hesitation or warning. You'll be lying there watching "Kojak," say, and in the middle of a gripping shootout somebody starts cleaning a toilet bowl and you sit up, thinking 'What the-' and then you realize it is a commercial. In fact, it is several minutes of commercials.. You could go out for cigarettes and a pizza during commercial breaks in American and still have time to wash the toilet bowl before the program resumed."

"Somewhere during the seventy miles between Great Bend and Dodge City you leave the Midwest and enter the West. The people in the towns along the way stop wearing baseball caps and shuffling along with that amiable dopeyness characteristic of the Midwest and start wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots, walking with a lope and looking vaguely suspicious and squinty, as if they thnk they might have to shoot you in a minute. People in the midwest like to shoot things. When they first got to the West they shot Buffalo. By 1895, there were only 800 buffalo left, mostly in zoos adn wild west shows. With no buffalo left to kill, Westerners started shooting Indians. Nowadays, thank goodness, both have made a recovery. Today there are 30,000 buffalo and 300,000 Indians, and of course you're not allowed to shoot either, so all the Westerners have left to shoot at are road signs and each other, both of which they do rather a lot. There you have a capsule history of the West."

"The chain hotels in Savannah are all about as appealing as spittle on a johnnycake, as they say in Georgia. Actually, they don't say anything of the sort in Georgia. I just made it up. But it has a nice Southern ring to it, don't you think?"

"Every woman at K Mart has at least four children and they all look as if they have been fathered by a different man. The woman always weighs 250 pounds. She is always walloping a child and saying "If you don't behave I'm not gonna bring you back here no more!" Its the place you would go if you wanted to buy a stereo system for under thirty-five dollars and didn't care if it sounded like the band was playing in a mailbox under water in a distant lake. If you go shopping at K Mart you know you've touched bottom. My dad liked K Marts."