Saturday, June 30, 2007

Because BarBri Has Killed My Brain

Here's another video dump to keep you entertained on a saturday afternoon:

Liz Phair, Fuck and Run, live in 1995:
The grainy video sort of ruins her otherwise gorgeous looks, but, man, Liz Phair used to rock. I'm not like one of those people who always held it against Dylan that he went electric, but the difference between "Fuck and Run"-era punk and "Why Can't I"-era pop is just too big to ignore.

Remember the episode of Freaks & Geeks where Mr. Weir tells Nick that all of the 70's rock drummers he worships actually suck, makes him listen to Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich records and totally blows his mind?
Buddy Rich on the Muppet Show - One of the all-time great Muppet Show bits, if you ask me:

Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman - "Sing, Sing, Sing"
I may be one of the few people born after 1980 to be excited that stuff like this is on YouTube.

The Simpsons - The Best of Ralph Wiggum

Career Opportunities - Jennifer Connelly and Frank Whaley on rollerskates
John Hughes was well past his prime at this point. Fortunately for the men in the audience, Jennifer Connelly was not.

UVA Law School - BarBri Parody
Seven hours a day of this shit will make you go crazy. Just take my word on this one.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Joakim Noah says:

"Certainly coming from a sports family, was it a big advantage to be in a big city like Chicago? There are certain lucrative endorsement opportunities that the other eight picks will not have."
Noah: "Like I said, I'm very lucky. But to me, it's more about winning. I went to school in Gainesville, a small town. I've always been from the big city. I lived ten years in Paris, France. I lived the rest of my life in New York City. But I feel like Gainesville was a small town and I had a great three years over there and memories that I'll never forget. To me, you guys look at it as market and it's always about money and this and, oh, if I would have went last year, then would I have been a higher pick and it's money and money and you're talking about money. But to me, I feel like it's happiness. It's about being happy and winning makes me happy. I feel like I have an opportunity to win a lot of basketball games in Chicago, and to me, that's what's more important is the winning aspect of it."

Dude, you're very grounded and intelligent, you will have a good life and stay true to yourself, and we're happy for you. Your comment about bringing your grandpa from Cameroon to the draft made me cry a little. Yes, that question was obnoxious and I would have answered it with a lot less grace. But on draft night, when the money changes the lives of 95% of the people you're drafted with forever while your family goes from absurdly rich to slightly more absurdly rich, you should revel in your immunity to monetary pressures a bit less.

Yup, these are the things that happen in my head

Top 5 Twists in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that would appeal to me and me only:

1) Aberforth Dumbledore is really Harry's father. Come on, which bloodline is more fun to continue, the boring Potters or the legitimately insane Dumbledores? And little perfect Lily Potter had to have screwed up at some point. Such as by spending a night in the room above the Hog's Head.

2) The "wizard rock" band "The Weird Sisters" gets caught in a nasty crossfire between Aurors and Death Eaters. Hilarity ensues. And by hilarity I mean long-term incapacitation.

3) Dudley Dursley begs Harry for a job at Hogwarts so he can get away from his parents. At Harry's giggling, sadistic request McGonagall makes him Filch's understudy.

4) Kingsley Shacklebolt is sent on a special mission... To save Muggles from the snakes placed by Death Eaters on a mutha$%#^& plane!

5) The Weasley Twins and the Patil Twins... oh, I just grossed myself out.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reactions to the NBA Draft

The top ten picks have been discussed at such length, and for so many months, that I'm sick of talking about them. Let's look at the rest of the draft:

1) I have no idea what to make of the Trailblazers. Not only would I have chosen Kevin Durant over Greg Oden, I also think that Portland could have received more in return for Zach Randolph. He's a legitimate all-star, while Steve Francis, though a former all-star, has serious and possibly career-threatening tendonitis in his knees. Channing Frye, the other player the Trailblazers received in the deal, can back up both Oden and Aldridge, but is more of a career backup than anything else.

2) Having just said that about Portland, I really like what they did with their later picks. I've already written about how much I like Sergio Rodriguez; I think he's their point guard of the future. Now, they can team him with Rudy Fernandez, his teammate from the Spanish national team. Fernandez played very well in the 2004 Olympics and the 2006 World Championships, and is a definite bargain with the 24th pick. Whether he'll get on the floor with both Brandon Roy and Steve Francis playing ahead of him, I have no idea. You have to expect that Rodriguez and Fernandez will see a considerable amount of playing time together, since they've already been teammates for so long. With a backcourt of Brandon Roy, Jarrett Jack, Fernandez, Rodriguez, and what's left of Steve Francis, the Blazers could become legit in a hurry.

3) Keeping with Portland, I like the Josh McRoberts pick. I have serious reservations about McRoberts, because, though he is very talented, I think he is a bit of a soft player - he doesn't seem to want the ball near the end of close games. Having said that, he was ranked roughly 20th in the draft based on his talent and multi-dimensional skills, and for Portland to grab him with the 38th pick is a potentially enormous bargain. With so many better scoring options around him, McRoberts can concentrate on what he does best, namely run the floor, hit open threes, and pass well out of the high post. On the Trailblazers, he can leave the clutch-time shots to Roy, Oden and Francis. I think Portland just got itself a bargain.

4) Alondo Tucker is going to be a great fit for the Suns. He's best suited to play on a running team, where his relative lack of size won't hurt him as badly as it would on a more half-court oriented team like, say, Detroit. A first-team all-american, enormous college numbers, undersized for the NBA game, drafted 29th overall . . . Alondo has all of the makings of the next Josh Howard.

5) Aaron Affalo has a very similar game to Richard Hamilton, which makes him a natural selection to be Hamilton's back-up in Detroit. Plus, he is a proven winner and a big-game player. He's a good selection for a number of different reasons.

6) The LA Lakers got a deal on Marc Gasol, another Spaniard. He won't be a star in the NBA like his older brother Pau, but he's already good enough to be a solid rotation guy, and that's a good bargain for the 47th overall pick.

7) Nick Fazekas might be best pick of the second round of the draft. He, like Alondo Tucker, might have fallen victim to the "college senior syndrome," the rationale for which is: If he's such a great player, why hasn't he turned professional already? Well, he's averaged 21.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game for the past THREE years. How did he slip this far? Didn't anybody learn from Paul Millsap last year? He's the sort of player that San Antonio or Utah would normally be intelligent enough to select. He's going to be a good pro, you heard it here first.

8) The Spurs drafted Tiaggo Splitter, the 6'11" Brazillian. I've seen Splitter play in international competition; at the NBA level I think he'll be similar to, say, a Kurt Thomas-type player. Definitely a good value pick considering they took him 28th overall, but if I was the Spurs GM I would probably have chosen Fazekas instead.

ba-bum ba-bum ba-bum . . . BASS!

An old-school hip-hop-and-breakdancing study break for all y'all out there . . .

NBA Draft and Trade Rumors

1) ESPN just announced that Portland has announced that Greg Oden is going to be the #1 overall pick. If it was up to me, I would have selected Kevin Durant. I don't know what else to say. Everybody raves about Oden's defense and rebounding, but Durant actually outrebounded him by a considerable margin last year. I realize that Oden played hurt the entire year, but Durant is almost 6'10", with disproportionately long arms, and he has a nose for the ball. Oden may well outrebound him as a professional, but I predict that it will be by one or two rebounds a game, no more. It wouldn't surprise me whatsoever if Durant averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds a game as a rookie. He moves around the court in that effortless, springy, Tracy McGrady-type way, and his jump shot ranks with the very most elite NBA shooters, like Ray Allen and Dirk Nowitzki. My only complaint about watching Durant play is that sometimes he makes the game look too easy.

2) Bill Simmons won't shut up about the personality differences between Oden and Durant. According to Simmons, Durant is obsessed with winning basketball games, and has very few interests outside of the game. Oden, on the other hand, has many interests outside of basketball, speaks openly about how as a kid he dreamed about being a dentist when he grew up, instead of a basketball player, and how he only plays basketball because, at his height, it would be stupid not to. According to Simmons, Durant has a winner's killer instinct, which Oden lacks. In response, I would only point to the fact that Greg Oden last lost exactly 17 basketball games since he started high school. That includes four seasons of high school ball, one season at the highest level of college basketball, and countless all-star games, basketball camps, and AAU Tournaments. Oden won three state championships in high school, in Indiana, the home of some of the best basketball high school basketball programs in the country. As a college freshman, he led a team to the national championship game despite playing on an injured wrist all season. Simmons shouldn't be so quick to knock Oden's competitiveness.

3) Oden was the author of my two favorite plays of the entire college basketball season: the shot he blocked against Acie Law (it must have been at least two and a half feet above the rim when he touched it) and the play in the NCAA Championship game when he basically swallowed Corey Brewer whole. Brewer drove in for a dunk, Oden went up to block the shot, kept on rising well after I expected him to stop, got both hands on the ball and just ripped it out of his hands. Brewer is 6'9" and an exceptional athlete in his own right; Oden's block made me jump off the couch with excitement. I look forward to seeing Oden and Durant go at each other for the next ten years.

4) The proposed 3-team trade between Minnesota, Phoenix and Atlanta is very interesting to me. Under the tersm of the deal, Minnesota would send Kevin Garnett to Phoenix, Phoenix would send Amare Stodamire to Atlanta, and Atlanta would send the #3 overall pick, the #11 overall pick, Zaza Pachulia and Anthony Johnson to Minnesota. I think that this is as close to a win-win-win as you're ever going to see. Atlanta gets an all-NBA 1st team player, fills one of its two desperate needs, which it could not have filled in the draft. It would still need to find a point guard, but with both Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups on the free agent market, Atlanta could get competitive in a hurry. They already have an all-star shooting guard in Joe Johnson, and they have three promising young forwards in Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Shelden Williams.

For Phoenix, Kevin Garnett is an immediate (though not a future) upgrade over Amare Stodamire; he gives Phoenix a very legitimate change to win a championship while its nucleus of Steve Nash, Raja Bell and Shawn Marion are all in their primes. Most importantly, it gives Phoenix a player who can potentially contain San Antonio's Tim Duncan, Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki and Utah's Carlos Boozer, three players who would otherwise pose the biggest obstacles to Phoenix's winning a title.

Finally, Minnesota would end up with three of the top 11 draft picks, and essentially a blank slate with which to work. They could take the best available player with all three of their picks. Just thinking aloud here, but what if they took Al Horford with the #3, Jeff Green or Corey Brewer with the #7 and either Acie Law or Nick Young at #11(depending on whether they consider Foye to be a point guard or a shooting guard). Zaza Pachulia is a serviceable (though admittedly far from elite) center; last year he ended up with a player efficiency ratio of 16.8, which means he is a solidly above-average starter. By way of comparison, Fabricio Oberto finished at 11.9, Erick Dampier at 14.9, Mehmet Okur at 18.1. By the end of the season, they could theoretically start a lineup of Pachulia, Horford, Green/Brewer, Foye, and Law/Young, with Craig Smith and Ricky Davis as part of the rotation. That's pretty good value for Kevin Garnett, on top of millions of dollars of cap relief. The Timberwolves might not become a playoff team right away, but they would actually become a somewhat deep team with seven quality players, instead of a team of a single superstar and a collection of failed would-be sidekicks.

5) Finally, Charlotte has made clear that it plans to trade the #8 overall pick. Some rumors have it going to Phoenix for either Boris Diaw or Kurt Thomas. I still think that a good trade could be made with San Antonio, bringing the rights to Argentinian power forward Luis Scola and perhaps an aging veteran like Brent Barry. The Bobcats already have a good core of young players; what they need is veteran leadership. Since they have more salary cap space than anybody else, they could trade the pick for a veteran, pick up a brand-name free agent, and suddenly be considered a legitimate NBA franchise. I don't know which trade I would like to see more; if Phoenix makes the trade, they would probably use it on Noah to lend Garnett a defensive helping hand. San Antonio probably use the pick on a young small forward. Either way, a veteran or two would do Charlotte more good than another talented young wing player.

6) Rumors have Grant Hill going to San Antonio as a free agent. Their "swingman by committee of players who were sweet in 2001" theme continues, as they would not have Michael Finley, Brent Barry and Grant Hill sharing minutes with Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen. I realize that Hill is getting up there in age, and has certainly had more than his fair share of injury problems, but wouldn't he be a great fit for a team with a philosophy like the Spurs? He could give Bowen a break as an on-the-ball wing defender, and he would give them a different look on offense; a point forward to compensate for Tony Parker's relatively low assist ratio. If you were Grant Hill, wouldn't you rather end up in San Antonio than anywhere else?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Most Important Basketball Article of Our Generation?

This article by ESPN's John Hollinger might be the most important basketball article I've ever read. Let me explain.

There's a famous baseball writer named Bill James. James believed that, when baseball players were evaluated, too much emphasis was placed on one or two specific skills (namely, batting average and fielding percentage for position players, and ERA and wins for pitchers. Over a span of about twenty years, James refined a formula to evaluating a baseball player's overall game, incorporation often-overlooked statistics such as on-base percentage, slugging percentage, stolen base percentage, range factor, and, for pitchers, baserunners allowed per nine innings. What James found was that the very most elite players in the game (as measured by traditional means) finished near the top of his ranking system. However, for a significant number of players, there were significant discrepancy between the perceived value and their ranking under James' system. Eventually, teams realized that, if James' system correctly ranked the best players, but ranked the rest of the league's players in suprsing ways, then there was a potential market in hiring under-valued players away from other teams, and letting other teams sign away your over-valued players.

Hollinger has invented or popularized a number of important basketball statistics, particularly in the area of handicapping a player's statistics based upon the tempo at which his team plays. In his most recent article, he has created a scale on which the future value of every player is represented by a simple number. Generally, solid NBA prospects score 500 or higher. Sure-fire all-stars score in the seven-hundreds. Kevin Durant just scored 870. The next-highest score since the year 2002 was Carmello Anthony, who scored 780. Greg Oden scored 667, while his teammate Michael Conley scored 637. This tells us a couple of things: Durant isn't just a stud, he is potentially a once-in-a-generation talent. Secondly, it emphasizes the degree to which Oden's success is, at least in part, helped by playing with Conley, and, to a lesser extent, Daequan Cook (470).

Its not a perfect system. For one thing, statistics don't reveal as much about a basketball player as they do about a baseball player, due to the team nature of the game. The system is based on black-and-white statistics, and, as Tim Duncan has recently shown us, the players whose statistics most understate their true value are dominant defensive big men (who alter or deter a lot of shots that do not end up in the box score.) Futhermore, an important statistic in Hollinger's system is "Usage Rate," or, in layman's terms, the percentage of possessions that end with the ball in a given player's hands. Players on great teams take fewer shots than they would if they were by far the best player on an otherwise lousy team, and there's no real way to adjust for this, because you can't ever definitively say exactly how many more or less shots a player would take in a different situation. This handicaps, for instance, University of Florida players Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford. All three are thought of as being among the top seven or eight college players in the country, so presumably they each had lower usage rates than they would have if they were carrying the flag for, say, a mid-tier major conference school like Oregon State or West Virginia.

Another significant factor is that Hollinger's formula takes age into account, so that a player who puts up a given stat line at age 19 is considerably more valuable than another player who puts up the same stat-line at, say, age 22. This handicapping makes sense, but not as much sense as it makes in baseball, where everybody, even first-ballot hall of famers, spend several years in the minor leagues before breaking into the Majors. In basketball, lottery picks are expected to contribute right away. With the handicap, Marvin Williams came out ahead of Deron Williams in 2005, but that doesn't change the fact that Marvin is still learning the ropes while Deron is leading his team to the Western Conference Finals. Marvin could easily be playing for another team by the time he reaches his full potential.

Hollinger's is not a perfect system. Having said that, the current drafting process, which relies more on measuring, say, a player's vertical leap and shuttle time in a vacumn, without a ball in his hands, or by watching him take jumpshots in an empty gym without defenders on the court, is deeply flawed, and Hollinger's system is an enormous potential improvement. The important thing is that he put something out there which, presumably, smart people will tweak and refine over the next several years. Hopefully, this will mean fewer expensive busts and quick rebuilding turn-arounds for perpetually bad franchises like the Atlanda Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Lesbians Have Better Taste Than Straight Men

Apparently, my taste in women is more like that of a gay woman than of a heterosexual man in his mid-twenties. I say this because, in recent weeks, Maxim magazine, whose target audience is frat guys ages 18-40, and, a lesbian-oriented website, have both published lists of the 100 hottest women in the world. Maxim's list was chosen by its editors, and After Ellen's top 100 were voted on by their readership. One has to wonder if Maxim skewed its list towards malnourished starlets in an attempt to curry favor with their publicists, or perhaps whether those same publicists, shall we say, increased the balance of the editors' bank accounts in an attempt to rejuvenate their client's public image. Like the meaning of life, or the missing 18.5 minutes of the Nixon tapes, there are some things we will never know for certain.

Maxim's list seems to barely take faces into account, and contains a lot of women with pin-up figures who are nonetheless not conventionally beautiful. Somewhat predictably, the top of After Ellen's list is dominated by lesbian icons, mainly women who have recurring roles on "The L Word," or who have played famous lesbian characters in movies such as Under the Tuscan Sun. I've made the executive decision to remove the actresses who, in my opinion, are on the list for their lesbian icon status and replaced them with the next-highest-ranking woman on the list. That's probably cheating, but allowing the list to be dominated by actresses who portray lesbians is sort of like letting a world-famous singer join "American Idol" or a recently retired professional athlete compete in "Battle of the Network Stars." They're playing with a deck stacked in their favor. Thus, for the same of comparison, I will try to focus on those women who made the list because of their looks and personality, instead of by a casting director's whim.

I have to say, I find the AfterEllen list far more appealing, although neither list included either Jennifer Connelly, Beyonce, or Aishwarya Rai, on which grounds they should both be disqualified. But for now, let's break down the lists, position by position, like Dr. Jack Ramsey. As always, I encourage readers to weigh in on all of this in the comments section.

(One ground rule: Far sexier photographs of each and every one of these women are only a google away. Hence, all of these photos are realtively modest.)

#10 (Maxim) - Fergie - I have no idea what the Maxim Guys are thinking. Apparently its okay to look like an alien who's had a lot of plastic surgery, so long as you've got big boobs and a fake tan. Also, the whole "former meth addict" thing is a bit of a turn-off. She was so much better when she was just a pretty girl, once she gained sex symbol status and lost weight and got 10 plastic surgeries, she fell right off the charts. Today, Fergie wouldn't make my top 100,000, let alone my top ten.

#10 (AE) - Jodie Foster - I'm not quite sure what it is about Jodie Foster, but every lesbian-oriented ranking of the most beautiful women in the world has her in the top ten. Just a couple of years ago, one had her ranked #3. Jodie's in her forties now, but she's still gorgeous, and boy, could she get it done when she was younger. (She gets bonus points for being a daughter of Eli.) One general theme in the After Ellen list is that, the women are beautiful, but almost to a woman they are people you would MUCH rather spend time with than the women on the Maxim list. I mean . . . Jodie Foster is 13 years older than Fergie. Would you rather be stranded on a desert island with Fergie, or with Jodie Fister circa "Silence of the Lambs?" That's what I thought.

Also, it should be noted that if you disqualify Foster under the Lesbian Icon rule, Halle Berry steps into the #10 spot. Just sayin'.

#9 (Maxim) - Eva Longoria - Beautiful, if somewhat overrated. Eva has been on a LOT of magazine covers over the years, and she always looks super heavily airbrushed to me. When you see her in person, for instance at a San Antonio Spurs basketball game, she looks totally different. She's still really beautiful, though.

#9 (AE) - Keira Knightley - Keira's really skinny, but she has one of the most beautiful faces I've ever seen. Definitely a worthy top-ten selection.

#8 (Maxim) - Rhianna - Pretty girl, but top ten? Doesn't her head look a little too small for her body? And by a little, I mean "a lot."

#8 (AE) - Scarlett Johanson - I haven't met a single guy who doesn't love Scarlett Johansson. She's got major girl next door appeal and major Hollywood glamour and elegance. She would definitely be on my top-ten list.

#7 (Maxim)- Eva Mendes - Maxim finally got one right. There may be more than six women more beautiful than Eva Mendes, but there not six women sexier than her. Also, I love the fact that she hasn't starved herself in order to look more like every other acterss in Hollywood.

#7 (AE)- Natalie Portman - After starring in V for Vandetta and three Star Wars movies, she is every nerd's top choice. She's the top choice of a significant number of my Jewish friends. (At worst, she is their second choice after Sarah Silverman). After starring in The Professional, she was every pedophile's top choice. After attending Harvard, she's every rich, WASPy white guy's first choice. Those five groups account for a significant portion of the male population in this country. Oh, and she's really beautiful, too.

#6 (Maxim)- Ali Larter - Of course, Ali Larter is beautiful, but is there anything to recommend her over any of the other blondes who have taken a turn being the flavor of the month over the past ten years? I certainly don't see anything. And, as far as Texas high school football movies go, the prettiest "blonde girlfriend of a football player" character in that genre has to be Friday Night Lights' Adrianne Palicki.

#6 (AE)- Salma Hayek - You don't hear as much about Selma Hayek as you do about a lot of other gorgeous female celebrities, but she's a great actress and still a total knockout in her early 40's. And any chick cool enough to take a self-deprecating role in a Kevin Smith movie earns about a million brownie points with me.

#5 (Maxim)- Jessica Biel - I've always thought of Jessica Biel as being sexy, as opposed to clasically beautiful. Still, a worthy top-ten pick for Maxim, who is finally starting to get it right.

#5 (AE)- Jordana Brewster - I went to college with Jordana Brewster, and sat in her row in one of my film studies classes. In fact, she was scheduled to live right next to me my freshmen year, but at the very last minute she deferred for a year in order to film The Fast and the Furious, so her roommate got the entire room to herself. This is why I will always hold a grudge against that movie and its sequels. She's really pretty in person, though I wouldn't put her in my own personal top ten. Having said that, she's got the Justin Timberlake corrollary going for her. I don't think he's a very handsome guy, but in the past two years he's dated Cameron Diaz, Jessica Biel, and Scarlett Johanson, so its entirely possible that I'm just missing something that everybody else can see. She's dated Derek Jeter, Mark Wahlberg, Jay Penske, and Mark McGrath, all of whom are pretty cool guys, so for that reason I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Also, she has a lot of cool stuff working in her favor: she was born in Panama City, Panama, her mother was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model from Brazil, and her grandfather and great-grandfather were BOTH Presidents of Yale University. That's a lot for one girl to bring to the table.

#4 (Maxim)- Christina Aguilera - Leaving to one side the fact that she's always been too skanky, too skinny, and is not a very good singer, I'm not entirely convinced that she's not a transvestite. In other words, I disagree with her ranking on this list.

#4 (AE)- Tina Fey - Okay, so, on looks alone, Tina Fey is not one of the ten most classically beautiful women in the world. But she's so funny, smart, and likeable that she more than makes up for it. She might not rightfully be one of the ten most beautiful but she would make every man's list of "the ten women with whom I would most want to get stranded on a desert island." And she's on my own personal list of the Six Women I'd Marry Ten Minutes From Now With No Regrets. (More on this to follow.)

#4a (AE) - Sarah Shahi - Borderline disqualified on "lesbian icon" grounds, this woman deserves a place in the top ten for whatever reason you want to put her there. Her exotic good looks would make her the perfect choice to play, say, Carmen.

#3 (Maxim)- Scarlett Johanson - See above. Again, no arguments here. Not only would she be on my top ten list, but she's on the list of the Six Women I'd Marry Ten Minutes From Now With No Regrets. That's no small feat, Scarlett. No small feat.

#3 (AE)- Lena Headey - I don't know if I would have her ranked quite this high, but Lena's a gorgeous woman, and she looks just as good in a toga and no make-up in "300" as she does when she's dressed up for an awards show. A good "sleeper" choice.

#2 (Maxim)- Jessica Alba - Jessica Alba's gorgeous. No argument from me here.

#2 (AE)- Kate Winslet - Not only is Kate on the list of the Six Women I Would Marry Ten Minutes From Now With No Regrets, she's been on it since the first time I made up such a list, and is probably going to be on it for life. In addition to her gorgeous looks, she's great actress, has a great sense of humor, she's edgy, she always has something interesting to say, and she's NOT TOO SKINNY. In short, the total package.

#1 (Maxim)
- Lindsay Lohan - Good god, no, a million times no. Not only are her looks wildly overrated (as is the case for many once-cute child actresses who have grown up), but she's too fake, too skinny, too dumb, too drugged-out, too artificially bronzed, and too annoying. Other than that, I'm sure she's a great girl.

#1 (AE) - Angelina Jolie - After Ellen's readers are pretty wise. There are a lot of guys who would disagree with Angelina being #1 on this list, but almost nobody would have her outside of their top ten, and on most lists she would be in the top five. Straight men love her. Gay women love her. Gay men love her attitude and straight women want to look like her. That's why Angelina's the only pick for #1.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Just For Fun

A couple of old school music videos have been on my mind lately, for one reason or another. Here they are, thanks to the miracle of YouTube.

David Bowie - Modern Love: In my opinion, this is the great underappreciated Bowie song - just try sitting still when its playing. "Slow Burn" would also warrant serious consideration, but it came out in 2002, after Bowie had entered the "tour constantly and cash in on a career's worth of goodwill" stage of his career, so nobody really paid attention to it at all. Don't you love the shock of white hair and the untied bowtie? The man looks like a cross between Billy Idol, Tony Bennett and Stevie Nicks.

Joan Jett - Bad Reputation: Hey, its corny, but its also the theme song to Freaks and Geeks, which I just finished watching on dvd and not believe to be one of the handful of all-time great television programs. Not a classic, but what a great way to capture a mindset.

Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken: Yet another song that's guranteed to get stuck in your head. Camera Obscura's one of those bands that sort of sounds like any of ten other bands, while at the same time not really sounding like anybody. I like the way their videos harken back to MTV's early-80's glory days.

Bon Jovi - In These Arms: This is just Bon Jovi being Bon Jovi. At the risk of losing my Man Card, I've always liked the love song Bon Jovi more than the hard-rocking Bon Jovi, and In These Arms is one of his best.

Guns N' Roses - Patience: Until just a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't heard this song in years. Its such a weird video - Slash ignores a string of gorgeous groupies in order to play with his pet snake in his bed. I'm going to pretend I never saw that. Also, it contains what is perhaps the industry-standard whistle solo (Walk Like An Egyptian is its only competition).

The Replacements - Bastards of the Young: One of the great 80's alternative rock bands, these guys hated MTV so much that they refused to make a music video until their record label forced them to do so. The result is the greatest anti-music video I've ever seen.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"This is Definitely the Work of a Flamer"

The surprisingly readable Blender Magazine has an interesting article on the 40 "gayest" moments in rock music history. It hits all of the obvious points (Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time," George Michael's arrest, The Village People) but also provides some unexpected and long-forgotten gems, such as David Bowie and Mick Jagger's cover of "Dancing in the Street," which really needs to be seen to be believed.

Not surprisingly, my favorite "gay moments" all involve Elton John. My personal favorite is, when Elton John married Renate Blauel in 1984, in large part to buy himself some cover from those who rightly suspected him of being gay, Rod Stewart's manager sent him a telegram, which read "You may still be standing, but we're on the fucking floor." His practice of reaching out to and performing live with notorious homophobes is pretty cool, and often leads to memorable results. The best thing that happened to me in 1992 was his performance of "November Rain with Guns N' Roses, though after 15 years I can't get over how out-of-tune Slash's guitar sounds. Nonetheless, my personal favorite performance of this sort was when Elton and Axl joined Queen onstage to sing "Bohemian Rhapsody" a couple of years ago. Here's the video:

Friday, June 22, 2007

Flight of the Conchords

The long-awaited HBO series "Flight of the Conchords" debuted a couple of nights ago, and exceeded all of my expectations.

The basic premise is as follows: Jermaine and Brent are two bandmates from New Zealand, now living in New York City. They bumble their way through a 30-minute sitcom each week, punctuating their feelings with impromptu music videos, which are woven into the story line as if in a movie musical. The highlight of the first episode was the song "Most Beautiful Girl," embedded below. The entire full-length episode is up at the band's HBO website. Be sure to stick around for the "Binary Solo" during the closing credits.

Maybe I Should Try Al-Jazeera

Boston @ San Diego, Sunday

Matchup of Division Leaders: Check
Matchup of Likely All-Star Game Starters: Check
Chance to show world why interleague play is worth it, other than Batshit Tavarez "hitting": Check
More Papi at First Base Acting Like Padres He's Never Met Are His Best Friends: Check
National TV Coverage: Not so much

Whereas we've already been exposed to seemingly 100 Red Sox - Yankees game on national TV this season.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The National's Live Show on NPR

I saw The National in Madison a couple of weeks ago, and it was one of the best rock concerts I've ever seen, right up with the times I saw Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton. Last night, they played the famous 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., and NPR broadcast it live. The full-length concert is now available on their website, as well as an interview and a pretty cool slideshow.

Now that The National is a couple of months into their tour, bootleg videos of theirs are beginning to appear on the Internets. Here's a good one of them singing "Slow Show." A couple of days ago, I tried to explain this song's coolness to a skeptical friend of mine. I said "doesn't every girl want to hear the words 'you know I dreamed about you for twenty-nine years before I saw you?' I think they do." After that, she was sold.

Seth Rogen Interview Archive

Seth Rogen's had an interesting career. Between Freaks and Geeks, Undeclared, Da Ali G Show, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, and Knocked Up, Rogen's had an eight-year stretch of critical successes, but, although he wears numerous hats (writer, producer, actor) he was always sort of a "that guy" until the recent success of Knocked Up made him a star. Anyway, for all of you Seth Rogen junkies out there (and you know who you are), here's your fix:

Last month on the Conan O'Brien show.

From earlier this month on the Jimmy Kimmel show:

And a really old one with Craig Kilborn on the Late Show.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Return of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog

It had been awhile! Some of the language is pretty salty, so it might not be safe for work, but its almost as good as his Star Wars bit from a couple of years ago.

Yet Another Good Argument Against Tenure

Althouse is at it again. This time, she's claiming that Hillary Clinton's new ad campaign is elitist and that the onion rings used in the video are meant to represent her vagina. I'm not making this up - this woman has tenure.

If you think she says stuff like this for any reason other than to get attention, then I don't know what to tell you. I just think its sad.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Um . . . Not That Looks Matter . . .

But, if they did, this girl would have a pretty nice life ahead of her. I met this girl on Saturday night. Sadly, she wasn't wearing those heels at the time. She was with a bachelorette party, dressed in plain dark slacks and a thick-strapped gray t-shirt, as if not to upstage the bride. Needless to say, it didn't work - she could have been wearing plastic trash bags and the bride could have been stark naked, and it wouldn't have made any difference - all eyes were on her.

Her name is Rachel, she's a part-time model and a part-time bartender at The Underground in Chicago. We spoke for about 20 minutes, at the end of which she told me that she was a finalist for Spike TV's "America's Sexiest Bartender" competition. You can vote for her here. (She's in second place right now.) Apparently, she's dating James Rhine, the host of TV's Big Brother 7.

Five more photos of Rachel, as well as a video of her in her underwear, can be found here.

Things like this don't happen in Wisconsin very often. They must be savored when they do.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quick, dude, put this in your pocket!!!!

As someone who chose to pursue video games over law school, I find that while I am up-to-date on matters concerning issues like the Halo 3 beta and why the PlayStation 3 is screwed, I do find certain instances where a background in law would be relevant.

For example, based on this recent decision by the Supreme Court for car passengers' rights, does that mean that in True Romance, if the chick driving with Balki Bartokomous accepted and hid his bag of coke (without him sneezing it on her), things would have been peachy-keen when they got pulled over?

Doesn't this create a new loophole? Have your friend in the passenger seat pocket your weed and you guys are both free because they can't search him?

IF ONLY I knew people of the legal persuasion to help my rotted mind decipher the consequences of this decision! IF ONLY some of them read this blog...

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Feel the Goosebumps

Video of the 2007 Yale-Harvard varsity race is finally online. Thanks to Rob Swartz for putting together the sweet video.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Internet has 19 INT, 7 WIS and 4 CHA

Something Awful had a great article on "Wikigroaning", the more funner game than 2002's Googlewhacking.

"The premise is quite simple. First, find a useful Wikipedia article that normal people might read. For example, the article called "Knight." Then, find a somehow similar article that is longer, but at the same time, useless to a very large fraction of the population. In this case, we'll go with "Jedi Knight." Open both of the links and compare the lengths of the two articles. Compare not only that, but how well concepts are explored, and the greater professionalism with which the longer article was likely created."

Links are on their page, I enjoyed:

Modern warfare/Lightsabre combat

Debate/Comparison of Battlestar Galactica (1978) and (2003)

St Francis Xavier/Professor X

Japanese mythology/Japanese toilet

Hammurabi/Emperor Palpatine

Latin/Klingon Language

Trail of Tears/Tears for Fears

Women's suffrage/List of fictional gynoids and female cyborgs
Well, anyone got any good ones to add?

Nina's Spice of Life

UW law professor Nina Camic is the best photographer I know. She's travelling around Europe with her daughter Caroline, and filling her blog with gorgeous photos of Norwegian and Turkish landscapes, exotic food, and random passersby.

More of her photos can be found here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Yale Beats Harvard in the 2007 Boatrace

The radio broadcast of Yale's 0.5-second win over Harvard in the 142nd boatrace is now online. Admittedly, not everybody enjoys listening to rowing broadcast over the radio, but if you are one of those rare people, then you will really enjoy this. The race was so close that it took them five minutes to determine the winner. The joy and confusion of broadcaster Andy Card, (whose day job is coaching Yale's lightweight team) is always a fun guy to listen to, never moreso than when he's got a close race like this to work with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My Childhood Innocence Takes Another Serious Hit

As you may have heard, Don Herbert, known commonly as "Mr. Wizard," passed away yesterday at the age of 89.

I never saw the original "Watch Mr. Wizard" program, which aired on NBC from 1951-1965, but like many children of my generation I greatly enjoyed "Mr. Wizard's World," which Nickelodeon produced (with a sweet 80s-tastic intro) from 1983-1990. If you never watched the show, Mr. Wizard, typically with the help of a couple young volunteers, would explain scientific phenomena and conduct experiments in ways that were really accessible for young children. Herbert had a comforting presence, like a kind grandfather, who instead of telling war stories would explain static electricity ("It's like a small lightning bolt!") or photosynthesis.

The Washington Post has a nice obituary here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Pentagon's "Gay Bomb"

The BBC is reporting that as recently as the mid-1990's the Pentagon toyed with the idea of non-lethal chemical weapons aimed at destroying enemy cohesion and morale. One such proposal was to great a "gay bomb," full of aphrodisiac hormones aimed at making the enemy soldiers "get gay" with each other. Apparently, the idea was that, with so many hormones in the air, enemy soldiers would become so preoccupied with having sex with one another that they would be unable to fight effectively. I really, really wish that I was making this up.

I'd love to make fun of the military for spending millions of dollars in an attempt to develop such a patently absurd idea, but I feel as if doing so would just be piling on, like Ali throwing an inelegant punch at Foreman on his way down to the mat. But the next time a politician tells us that the military's determinations deserve deference and respect, maybe we should remind them of this.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bonafide Bad-Ass

I haven't reviewed Knocked Up yet, but since seeing it ten days ago I have been on an obsessive Judd Apatow kick, picking up copies of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and blazing my way through the Freaks and Geeks dvds.

Over the past decade, Apatow has carefully compiled an acting and writing troupe along the lines of what Preston Sturges did in the 30's and 40's, or what Woody Allen did when he still had his fastball (rougly 1975-1992). After a couple of promising false starts, usually on television networks unwilling to deviate from traditional formulas, Apatow has finally reached mainstream audiences to such an extent that he is basically releasing a movie every three or four months from now until mid-2008. The next movie up is Superbad, an adult-friendly, modern take on the John Hughes-style 80's movie, about two high school seniors who try to fit in as many good times as possible before they have to leave for college. Written by Seth Rogen, (star of Knocked Up), and starring Michael Cera of Arrested Development, this movie looks so good that, after watching it, I predict that you will never want to watch trite, corny movies like American Pie or Weird Science ever again. You heard it here first.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

NBA Finals Strategy Session

I often complain about how ESPN has jumped the shark in recent years; as they've consolidated their control over America's access to sports news, they've also dumbed their product down with product placements (the Six Pack of Questions, the Budweiser Hot Seat), low-budget original programming, annoying theme music and MTV editing, and loudmouth, low-IQ broadcasters (Sean Salisbury, Michael Irvin, Skip Bayless.)

Finally, ESPN has done something right. Their "strategy session" video reel, breaking down Game 1 of the Spurs-Cavs series, is the best package of its type I've seen in a while. Finally, ESPN is showing us how and why one team won and the other team lost, instead of just showing us a bunch of fancy dunks and trick shots.

"We Went For the Throat"

Common Sense Dancing is pretty stoked about Yale's victory in yesterday's 142nd running of the Yale-Harvard boatrace.

The Yale-Harvard boatrace is a specal event. First run in 1852 and contested annually since 1859, it is the longest-running sporting event in North America. Since 1859, it has been held every June, except during the Civil War and World Wars I and II. The standard distance for college racing is 2000 meters (1.25 miles), but since the Yale-Harvard race pre-dates the establishment of the standard distance, it continues to be raced at the distance of four miles, making it the longest rowing race held in the United States.

This year's race was the closest of all time, decided by somewhere between two and five feet.

I'll leave the details of the race to Jake and Paul, both of whom watched the race in person. I'm sure they'll have plenty to say about it over the next couple of days. I just want to congratulate Alfred Shikany, Hunter Swartz, Sean Lynam, Patrick Purdy, Charlie Cole, Andrew Collard, Pieter Morgan, Michael Smith, Jack Vogelsang. You'll never forget this day, and you've made hundreds of heavyweight alumni very, very proud.

Once upon a time, I was fortuntae enough to participate in this race twice. Although we lost both years, I consider those races one of the few unforgettable occasions in my life. Seven years later, I remember sitting on the floor of our boathouse with Andrew Persson, Jim Donahue, and Scott Proper, sipping water, coughing deeply, and still trying to catch our breath more than 20 minutes after the end of the June 2000 race. For a variety or reasons, I haven't been back to the race in a couple of years. If all goes according to plan, I won't miss another one for a very long time.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

From the Vault of Classic Skits

I really NBC's play-by-play crew of Mike Breen, Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, but the studio crew and the sideline reporters have been so lousy that I couldn't help but be reminded of this classic skit from the Dana Carvey Show.

Eleven years after it went off the air, the failure of The Dana Carvey Show still puzzles me. It wasn't very popular, but it featured, in addition to Dana Carvey, the young Steve Carrell, Stephen Colbert and Dave Chappelle, all of whom would go on to become enormous stars just years later. The writing staff included, in addition to Colbert and Carrell, Robert Smigel, Charlie Kaufman, Louis C.K., and Dino Stamatopolos. Between them, this cast went on to write or star in the most successful comedy programs of the next ten years. The least famous of these people, Stamatopolos, would go on to become the head writer for Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and Conan O'Brien, respectively. Though it was short-lived, The Dana Carvey Show was as close to a comedy dream team as we're ever likely to see.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Who's Better, Who's Best?

Try to guess the identities of these two NBA players. Their stats per 40 minutes are adjusted to account for differences in minutes player; their Advanced Percentages stats are adjusted to account for pace (possessions-per-game.)

UPDATE: Player #1 is Manu Ginobili and Player #2 is LeBron James.

Per 40 minutes
Player #1 24.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.3 steals,
0.5 blocks, 3.0 TO
Player #2 26.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.6 steals,
0.7 blocks, 3.1 TO

Player #1 FG% 46.4%, 3-point% 39.6%, Free Throw% 86.0%,
True Shooting Percentage 60.9%
Player #2 FG% 47.6%, 3-point% 31.9%, Free Throw% 69.8%,
True Shooting Percentage 55.2%

Advanced Percentages
Player #1 Rebounds 9.6% of missed shots, assists on 18.3% of possessions, commits turnovers on 10.9% of possessions that end with the ball in his hands
Player #2 Rebounds 9.6% of missed shots, assists on 17.7% of possessions, commits turnovers on 9.4% of possessions that end with the ball in his hands

When Player #1 was on the court, team scored 117 points per 100 offensive possessions, and on defense allowed 98 points per 100 possessions.

When Player #2 was on the court, his team scored 112 points per possession, and on defense allowed 100 points per 100 possessions.

How big is the difference between these two players? Which of them would you rather have on your team?

Adventures in Bush Appointments

From the administration that brought you Donald Rumsfeld, Bernard Kerik, Alberto Gonzales, and Harriet Miers: Surgeon General nominee James Holsinger.

From The Plank:

[Bush Surgeon General nominee James] Holsinger wrote that "[a]natomically the vagina is designed to receive the penis" while the anus and rectum--which "contain no natural lubricating function" -- are not. "The rectum is incapable of mechanical protection against abrasion and severe damage ... can result if objects that are large, sharp or pointed are inserted into the rectum," Holsinger wrote.

As Plank contributor Michael Crowley notes: "Sharp? Pointed? Somebody really has to explain to this man that gay men's penises look just like straight men's."

P.S. - The Plank's title for the post, "Pointless," is absolutely perfect.

P.P.S - From the post's comments section:

posted by drdannyu
"anus and rectum--which 'contain no natural lubricating function'"
Thank God for the free market.

We need not rescucitate Otto Bismark

Fred Kaplan has a strong article on foreign relations here. He does a great job of explaining non-Cold War foreign relations 101. However, I have a major quibble with the following section:

"In other words, the world has returned to its "normal" condition, to which the era of the Cold War was always an anomaly. (The era only seemed normal because its term, roughly 1947-91, extended through the entirety of most of our lives.)"

Kaplan is half right. The world no longer has two poles. Russia and America are no longer trying to outdo each other at all (Russia) or nearly all (U.S.) costs. However, the world is not the same as before the Cold War in a few ways.

One is nuclear weapons, duh. In this respect, there are two obvious points to make. One is that while the nuclear club will likely continue to grow, there are still only two powers that can annihilate the earth, or at least a serious fraction of it. In other words, there are still only two powers whose nuclear arsenal can literally render every other consideration under the sun irrelevant. This matters because it hangs like the sword of Damocles over every consideration of foreign policy. Until 1939 there was always total uncertainty about who holds ultimate power over all of our lives. Since the sixties, there has been no doubt, and no doubt remains to this day. No country can make a threat of all-out conventional war unless the US and Russia both agree to let that war proceed.

However, even at the shallow end of the nuclear pool, nuclear power deters. War has always been a good way to gain popularity for nationalist leaders. This is a more difficult proposition for nuclear powers. The leaders of Iran know full well that their regime cannot hope to survive a nuclear attack either made BY them against a fellow nuclear power (say, oh I don't know, Israel...) or AGAINST them by such a power. In other words, the thing that most minor nuke holders fear most -- regime change -- will be the overwhelmingly most likely outcome of any use of nuclear power, or any actions so threatening to the existence of a fellow nuclear power that it would be tempted to use nukes. Against this background, everyone must tread lighter.

In the non-nuclear side of things, life is different too. Don't let the Chechnya and Iraq fool you. The cold war is over, but militarily, the Uniter States remains the 800 pound gorilla, and Russia the 650 pound gorilla (with one of its paws resting on Europe, lest anyone forgets.) If either of these monsters used a fraction of their conventional power in a big boy war (you know, tanks airplanes, ships) no one in the world could stand up to them for any period of time. Importantly, this not only includes current weapons systems, but the capacity to replace such systems. China is not even close.

Kaplan is right that the new world is one of more multi-lateral tension. However, it is still a world where, for the reasons set out above, the very existence of nations is not threatened unless Russia and the United States agree they shouldn't exist. And that matters.

Quick Thoughts On Game One

I watched the first half of tonight's Game 1 of the NBA Finals with some friends at a bar, and the second half with my roommate in my apartment. Some quick thoughts:

1) Mid-way through the second quarter, the broadcasters pointed out that Cleveland had a lead, despite the fact that LeBron was not playing particularly well. Almost immediately after that the Spurs seemed to knock the rust off and outscored Cleveland by 17 points between then at the end of the third quarter.

2) Cleveland's done a good job of handling eastern conference playoff teams with strong wing players, but they haven't had to guard a real center yet, and the good point guards they've encountered so far (Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups) have been pass-first types. Tonight, they showed that they are going to struggle against a penetrating point guard and an all-NBA caliber big man. Cleveland has a great front line, but none of them is a good one-on-one match-up for Duncan.

3) Tim Duncan must have had ten "hockey assists" tonight.

4) The Cavaliers ran three different help-side double teamers at Tim Duncan on a single possession tonight. That's the best way to slow Duncan down (it would slow anybody down) but for how long can they afford to leave Finley, Bowen, and Brent Barry open from 3-point range? It didn't kill them tonight, but it will in the near future.

5) San Antonio has the best home crowd in the NBA. People always seem to forget this, probably because they're on television all the time, and familiarity breeds contempt. They certainly know when to rise to their feet to give their team an emotional boost to sustain a run, or to end a Cleveland run.

6) Tim Duncan's dunk in the final minute of play was one of the more emphatic exclamation points I've ever seen. Ginobili brought the ball up the left wing, and tried to feed it into Duncan in the wide post. Anderson Varejao was fronting Duncan, making the entry pass difficult. Robert Horry cut to the high post, Duncan sealed his man and rolled to the basket, and Horry one-timed a touch pass from Ginobili to a rolling Duncan for a vicious slam. Here's the video (its the last clip in the highlight reel). Its the top teamwork play of the playoffs so far.

7) I enjoyed this exchange between Mark Jackson, Jeff van Gundy and Mike Breen:
Breen: When Anderson Varejao first came to the NBA, he didn't speak a word of english, and he credits his teammate Zydrunas Ilgauskas with helping him learn to speak english and adjust to living in the United States.
Van Gundy: The first word that Varejao learned was "flop."
Jackson: Its a good think that he had somebody like Ilgauskas to learn from, because if he tried to learn from some of the guys I grew up with, he still wouldn't know how to speak english.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Missing My Class Reunion, or, "My Midwest"

"[Gatsby] stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. But it was all going by too fast...and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever."

I'm missing my five-year Yale College class reunion this weekend. I don't really know how I feel about it. I have had enjoyed each of the perhaps fifteen visits I have made to New Haven since my graduation, and there are no more than five views in the world I find more beautiful than the view of Yale's campus from the intersection of Prospect and Trumbull Streets, which one passes on the short drive to Yale from the I-91 off-ramp. In my four years at Yale I studied under world-famous professors in world-famous buildings, and was surrounded by the most talented peer group to which I will ever belong. It is a great school, and I miss it.

If I still lived on the east coast, I would not think twice about spending the entire weekend up there, reliving my bright college years. As it is, I live in Madison, Wisconsin, more than 1,000 miles from New Haven and more than 1/3 of the way across the country. Getting from a small midwestern city like Madison to a small New England city like New Haven isn't easy, as every trip involves at least two forms of transportation in addition to an airplane, usually some combination of bus and train), but getting to New Haven and back without missing a significant chunk of my bar review course is almost impossible.

Even though I'm going to be able to attend, my approaching class reunion has led me to reflect on the ways I've changed over the past five years. By convenient coincidence, the Yale Club of New York recently had a "Prohibition Party," photos from which were recently put up on Gawker and By all accounts the party was a lot of fun, and some of the costumes are really cool, but such a party is almost entirely off the average Wisconsinite's radar screen, and not just because fancy felt prohibition-era gangster hats are difficult to find on State Street.

"Prohibition Parties" are sometimes called "Gatsby Parties," as if all of these intelligent and well-read people have forgotten that the narrator thought that Gatsby was sort of a dick, or that the novel that bears his name - indeed, which has lent its name to an entire era - is about a Yale graduate from Minnesota who gets fed up with the decadence of the New York lifestyle and moves back to the midwest. Eighty years later, how much has changed? Should young, privileged Ivy League graduates take pleasure in going to Gatsby Parties? If you stopped the average person on the streets of Madison and asked them what 27 year-old Yalies do for fun, I bet they would come pretty close to describing this picture. When I was new in Madison, it used to confuse and offend me that people would jump to conclusions about me simply because I had gone to Yale. Looking at this photo after three years of living in the midwest, I can sort of see where they are coming from.

Most days, the majority of young Yale alums in New York get up in the morning, go to work, work hard, come home, have dinner and a glass of wine, watch tv for a couple of hours and go to bed, just like young professionals everywhere. These days of routine never get talked about in gawker, or in the New York Times. When Gawker sends photographers to the Yale Club, it is to take photographs of the types of parties that are unique to the Yale Club. Young alumni happy hour? Boring! Young alumni Prohibition party? Call some photographers! Since the mundane parts of their lives don't get reported on, to my fellow Madisonians, the New York Ivy League lifestyle doesn't take place in Manhattan, or even in the Hamptons or on Martha's Vineyard. It takes place in Fairy Tale Land. Its not an entirely accurate portrayal, but nobody in Wisconsin, even the rich, well educated people, have ever been to a party like that. Its nobody's "fault," its just how it is.

This was a costume party, the type of blow out you go to once every couple of months. I'm moving back to New York City (more specifically, Brooklyn) in September. I'm sure I'll feel differently about this sort of thing once I've spent some time back on the east coast, but from time to time I am reminded of exactly how long it is going to take me to re-adjust. This is one of those times.

All of this notwithstanding, I am looking forward to seeing New Haven again, too. After all, its been a while since I've been to Pepe's Pizzeria:

Lost In Texas Just Earned Some Brownie Points

The title of this post by Lauren over at Lost In Texas made my day.

Altmouse, if you're out there, please consider getting back into blogging. The blogosphere needs you!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hitting the Nail on the Head

I'm admittedly not very good at explaining to people why I find Manhattan nightlife so excruciating at times, but this post by Jason Mulgrew at Everything is Wrong With Me does a great job of registering how I generally feel about the situation. His main point is that the way he and his friends approach going out inhibits their ability to meet "new women," but throughout the piece he manages to touch on pretty much every reservation I have about the whole scene. Here is one of my favorite passages, excerpted at length:

I do not like bars that are crowded. I do not like bars at which it takes a while to get a beer. I do not like bars in which people dance, as dancefloors are breeding grounds for douchebags. I do not want to have to yell to have a conversation. I do not like being surrounded by dudes who are out only to crush pussy, and, should that not work out, fight...what I’m trying to get at is that the bars that my friends and I go to - bars that some would call "unpretentious" but others might call "dives" and even others would call "health code violators" - typically do not count many women among their patrons.

Because of this, I imagine he frequently ends up going to the same crowded, loud, douchebag-filled bars he dislikes. Despite most people feeling at least a little ambivalence about the Manhattan bar/club scene, the night Mulgrew describes in his post is how just about everyone I know, male and female, approaches single life every weekend. Why? Who knows, but I'm looking forward to moving this summer.

(Thanks to my buddy Tom for the link).

2nd Circuit Court of Appeals V. The FCC

Today in New York a panel of 2nd Circuit judges ruled in favor of broadcast television networks NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox in their lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission. The networks sued on the grounds that the F.C.C. curtailed broadcasters' right to free speech when it expanded its defintion of obscenity to include so-called "blurted expletives," or profanities uttered out of frustration or excitement.

This is an interesting case for a number of reasons, and I cannot get into all of the issues here. But the 2nd Circuit's ruling is a sharp rebuke to cultural conservatives, who have been appointed to Federal agencies in alarming high numbers in recent years.

The F.C.C. was created by Congress to regulate the public airwaves. Traditionally, its posts have been filled vertically, by hiring people who have worked their way up the broadcasting-industry ladder over the course of their careers. Under the Bush administration, the posts were filled laterally, by moving lobbyists and politicians into the F.C.C. from other positions in the government. As a result, the F.C.C. is now dominated by people who have made a living in conservative politics, instead of in the industry they regulate. Guess what effect this has had on the F.C.C.'s regulations?

After several well-publicized incidents, such as Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" and Bono's blurting out the word "fuck" in his surprised reaction to winning an MTV Music Award in 2004, the F.C.C., in its infinite wisdom, decided to enormously broaden its obscenity standards, and increased the fine for violating those standards ten-fold, from $32,500 per instance to $325,000 per instance. Under the new rules, "blurting" profanity out of frustration, excitement or surprise is obscene. When a soldier says "fuck" as he ducks machine-gun fire in Saving Private Ryan, that is obscene. When an on-field microphone catches a baseball playing saying "shit" as he's hit by a pitch, that is obscene. And when a foreign liberal like Bono says "fuck" on MTV, that, of course, is obscene. Previously, only the uses of those words that applied to actual sexual or excretory acts were considered to be obscene.

The 2nd Circuit today held that such rules are "arbitrary and capricious" restrictions on free speech. Good for them. There are so many social conservatives in this country who want to turn broadcasting back to the 1950's, when it was illegal to portray a pregant woman (or even say the word 'pregnant'), married couples had to be protrayed as sleeping in seperate beds, and it was against the rules to sympathetically portray any criminal or vigilante (remember, these are the same people who consider any attempt to understand the motivations of terrorists to be "blaming America first.") Most absurdly, it was acceptable for a jazz singer like Fred Astaire or a game show host like Chuck Barris to say "making whoopee" or other euphamisms for the act of sexual intercourse, in the full knowledge that everybody watching at home knew exactly what they meant, but unacceptable for a character in a drama to say "shit" in a moment of anger or frustration. How did more people raised in the 1950's not grow up to be total pussies?

As you may imagine, social conservatives have been criticizing the "New York judges" who are now allegedly taking rights away from parents and allowing filth to enter good, god-fearing American living rooms. They of course went out of their way to emphasize "New York" because they hate Jews, gays, blacks, immigrants, city dwellers and coasties, in no particular order. They could just as easily have said "Connecticut," "Vermont," or "United States appellate" judges, or just plain "judges." Furthermore, referring to them as such obscures the fact that the lawsuit was brought by FOX, of all the networks. Criticizing Fox won't work, because so many members of their base love Fox News. So, rather than describe it as plantiff v. defendant, they've chosen to characterize it as Judges v. Defendant. Sometimes, I weep for the future.

What happens next is a little unclear. The F.C.C. can appeal to the entire 2nd Circuit (instead of just the usual 3-judge panel that decided this case), or it can appeal to the United States Supreme Court, where Justice Scalia is known to be a staunch defender of the power of Federal regulatory agencies to set policy. Let's hope that in so doing they don't send television back to the 1950's.


This fall, the Republicans were swept out of both chambers of the legislature, largely due to concerns about the Iraq situation. (I refuse to call it a "war", it's more complicated than that. ) Back then, many pundits whispered (by which I mean posted on the Web) statements that Rove wanted the Democrats to win, so they could share the blame for the next two years.

I do not consider Rove to be a genius. He has made too many mistakes, and Bush's wins are only arguably attributable to Rovian tactics. However, I fear that the Democrats ARE getting set up here. Comes now this poll, making me worry further. Americans are losing faith in the Democratic Congress for failure to do something about Iraq. However, the public has no earthly clue what they'd like done. If I had to guess, they want US soldiers to stop dying immediately, but do not want the government to take any action that would be perceived as admitting defeat. And we all know that is not possible in this case, and the Dems are kind of understandably flummoxed . Understandably, but vulnerably. But Iraq is not the only source of concern:

"Among the nearly three-quarters of Americans expressing a pessimistic viewpoint, about one in five blamed the war for their negative outlook, and about the same ratio mentioned the economy, gas prices, jobs or debt as the main reason for their dissatisfaction with the country's direction. Eleven percent cited "problems with Bush," and another 11 percent said "everything" led them to their negative opinion."

The Democrats cannot fix ANY of these issues. The economy, except for the housing market (other than preppy parts of Brooklyn, dammit) is doing well overall. Job creation has been mixed but overall, moderately good to average. Gas prices are what they are: there is no way on God's green earth the Dems can do anything about them. Neither can they do anything about debt; remember, Congress just passed a mean, nasty toughening of the laws of personal bankruptcy that many Democrats voted for, I believe.

The Democrats have produced majorities, but they have not produced a leadership that can tell America bad news. Worse, they have not produced leadership that can tell America lukewarm news, which, outside of Baghdad, is the kind of news we have. John Edwards tries, bless his heart, but how far can he get? Obama has stepped up on health care, to a degree; he has not stepped up on anything else.

Further, it is alarming that the public discontent does not concern any of the real problems the Dem Congress can fix. Chief among these (because the Democrats cannot "win" the "war" -- I cringe when I call it a war even in hipster quotes!) is exercising oversight over the administrators in the executive branch, and preventing the nomination of ideologue judges. These are harms that MUST begin to become undone, because the damage that has been done is enormous. The Dems have made a decent start on this. They can also support Dr. Rice's admittedly belated and clumsy push for a diplomatic approach and help her stand up to internal pressure (hem, cough, "cheney" cough.) These may not sound like ambitious goals, but they are given how much damage the Bushies have done to our beloved reasonably smoothly functioning republican democracy. Will the Democrats be appreciated for them? Will they have time? Will they stick together? Let's hope.

Monday, June 4, 2007

In Case You Forgot

Tom Brady hasn't won any Super Bowls or knocked up any models in the past few weeks, so I'll post this interview with the cast of Ocean's Thirteen to remind you that there are indeed people out there who are richer, better looking, and more charming than you.

P.S. - Apparently they cut out an important part of the transcript, which reads:

That's Hot

Paris Hilton is irrelevant to the point that it's not even worth making fun of her, but if anyone does it, it should be Sarah Silverman.

Also, Jack's reaction is great:

To paraphrase one of my favorite college professors, this video lends new currency to the word "PWNED!"

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The National Is Stuck In My Head

Over and over and over again this week, I've been listening to "The Boxer," the new record from Brooklyn indie rockers The National. It is a fantastic record; in my opinion its even better than their 2005 effot "Alligator," which The Onion's A.V. Club ranked as the best album of 2005.

Indie music is supposed to present an alternative to the excesses of mainstream rock, but sometimes it does so at the expense of being annoyingly inward-looking, preachy, and self-indulgent. On reason I love The National is that they arrive with a refreshing lack of pretension or hype, and just deliver a lot of really good songs with dark lyrics, good beats and tight playing. "The Boxer"'s first single, "Mistaken For Strangers," might be the song that elevates The National from mere college radio darlings to the rarefied air of late night talk show guest appearances and Zach Braff-movie soundtracks. Here's the video:

Friday, June 1, 2007

All Bollywood, All the Time, continued

This is the last one from me, I swear....

All Bollywood, All the Time

Its officially crazy Indian music video day at Common Sense Dancing. This is one of the best of the genre.