Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike
Yesterday, amidst the hoopla of the Rob Dibble announcement, something of true significance happened. The great writer John Updike died. When I was in college, I had this bad habit of going to the library to actually study for my classes, but instead ending up roaming the fiction aisles, and reading novels. That's how I discovered John Updike (so it turns out, it wasn't such a bad habit).

When I heard that he had died, I immediately stopped everything I was doing to find the clip of his appearance in The Simpsons. I think he was Krusty's biographer, and I remember reading that he was disappointed he didn't get as much screen time as Stephen King and Amy Tan.

I never found the clip, but I was reading Henry Allen's story in the Washington Post today, and he mentioned something I had read before, but forgotten -- Updike's story about Ted Williams' last game in Boston. It's great stuff.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mr. Dibble Goes to Washington; Mr. Cranky Throws Up a Little in His Mouth
God. I don't know how much more of this I can take. MASN, the Nationals' supposed network, has announced that they've said farewell to arrogant, poodle-headed blowhard announcer Don Sutton, and welcomed, well, dumb-ass Rob Dibble to their television crew. Surprisingly, he used to play for the Cincinnati Reds. He was one of the Nasty Boys, as he'll be telling us every ten seconds. He was also a world class hot head. He reminds me of one of those big dumb guys that you go to high school with, who's constantly on the verge of snapping and hurting people. I guess on the positive side, I think there's a decent chance that he and Ray Knight will mix it up at some point during the course of the season.

This news comes right after yesterday's big news that the Nats have signed a contract with some pitcher named Gary "G-Love" Glover. Thanks guys. Since you're not going to add any player of significance, how about throwing me a bone and just firing Austin Kearns. Obviously, nobody wants him. Just cut him. Chalk the financial loss up to the money that you saved by not getting any free agents. I'm not entirely sure of what Chubby Dmitri Young's status is now, but sever ties with him, too. Do something. Please.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bigger Stronger Faster Dumber
I watched the documentary Bigger Stronger Faster a couple of weeks ago. It's by a guy named Chris Bell. He's from New Jersey; he and his two brothers became hooked on, to varying degrees, sports, bodybuilding and pro wrestling. As kids, they wanted to be like Arnold, pre-politics.

Chris' movie is a look into the steroid culture, which both of his brothers are a part of (sadly, his brother Mike died last month).  He has some tough conversations with his brothers and his parents, goes to a lot of gyms, and talks to people, several of whom question the whole steroid panic.  He decides to visit his Congressman, who happens to be  Rep. Henry Waxman, who led the congressional steroid hearings of a few years back, where a bunch of high profile baseball players came to DC, saw the sights and told made-up stories to Congress.

I expected Waxman to be a pretty sharp guy.  He's not.  Of all the people in this film, he comes out looking the worst, as you can see for yourself.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Surviving the Inauguration
Turns out, I did so just fine. I pretty much ignored all the advice, and did what I normally do on a weekend, which doesn't involve too much, mostly sports and movie-watching. I ventured out to go to a show on Friday night, and to take care of my errands throughout the weekend, without incident.

Comcast celebrated the Inauguration by not providing me with television service for a 24-hour period from Monday morning to Tuesday morning. Service was randomly restored, however, just before 10:00AM on Tuesday morning. Thanks, President Obama! Comcast, watch your back.

My girlfriend had to be at work at noon on Tuesday, so I listened to the swearing-in on the radio in my car. At about 12:05PM I was in my car, on 395 South from the Pentagon. At that particular moment, there may have been less traffic on 395 than at any other moment in history. It was cool. I felt like Will Smith in I Am Legend, and was tempted to stop in the middle of the road and hit some golf balls. (I didn't want to stir up the zombies, though.)

I had an excellent inaugural lunch at my sister's house, where I'm sure the food was better than at the Capitol. The menu had a Chicago theme, and I paid tribute to the new president's midwestern roots by drinking quite a few Leinenkugel's 1888 Bocks. I know Leienkugel's is from Wisconsin, but the only Chicago beer I'm familiar with is Old Style, and, if you've ever had one, I think you can respect my decision. Anyway, the lunch was great. And there were no seizures, except for a brief period when my dog seized a stuffed panda bear that wasn't a dog toy. He relinquished it, without incident, and then started eating some straws. Good boy!

My girlfriend and I watched/snoozed through the coverage of the night-time inaugural events; I think we went to bed when the President was at Ball #7. This morning I got up when it was still dark, and made my way back into the city. I fully expected Metro to be shut-down this morning, complete with Out of Order signs in front of the entrances. I was pleasantly surprised that it was working just fine. My train was uncrowded, so I sat down and happily considered how nice it was to be entering DC with the knowledge that George Bush no longer lives there.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Elaine From Seinfeld Starts Term as New American Idol Judge
I'm sometimes a little clueless about American Idol, so I may have this wrong.  But it appears that they decided to add a new judge this year, who is actually a character played by Julia-Louis Dreyfus, best known as Elaine from Seinfeld.  This is an unusual move.  It would have been cool if they changed the judges to Elaine, Jerry, George and pre-racist Kramer, but I'm not sure if I get just adding Elaine, and keeping the other judges.  

They've evidently given Julia-Louis her choice of clothing and accessories from Paula Abdul's wardrobe, including those really huge rings that look like they came out of a gumball machine, but probably cost more than my college education.   They've tried to funny her up.  They've given her a name, Kara DioGuardi, that's completely unpronounceable (nobody can even pronounce her first name).  Her musical "cred" includes working with Hilary Duff, Ashlee Simpson and the Pussycat Dolls (now, that's funny).  And she's engaged to a teacher-turned-bodybuilder.  But that's about it.  Mostly, she's just kind of bitchy.  On the show I saw, she turned on a girl who has serious enough psychological problems that she thought it was appropriate to wear a bikini to the audition.  The girl wasn't a bad singer, but Julia-Louis/Elaine/Kara went after her like she had stolen her bodybuilder husband.

I know Julia-Louis has had a hard time finding a good gig, post-Seinfeld. But I don't think this is going to work either.  We shall see.

Mike Wise Thinks Mark is a Funny Name
I don't really get Mike Wise's column in the Washington Post this morning. The article is about yesterday's loss by Georgetown against Duke, at Cameron Indoor Stadium.  There were a lot of heckling Dukies, and an apparently wrong, and costly, technical foul against Georgetown.  While it doesn't seem like a particularly great column, and, frankly, it's just not that interesting to me, the puzzling part is when he refers to Duke kids caked in blue paint with names like Taylor and Mark.  Huh?  Is he saying that Mark is a particularly prepped out name?  Like Rogers Chapstick or James Bottomtooth IV?  What the hell?  I think most of the kids that I hung out with in elementary school were named Mark.  And I went to elementary school at Pine Springs in Falls Church, which is hardly Sidwell Friends.

I don't get it.  Maybe it's just an editing mistake.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Smithereens Day!
I'm going to see the Smithereens tonight at the State Theater in Falls Church. Accordingly, here's a fairly recent clip of them doing Room Without a View, at a club in Austin. Austin makes me think of this place. (I'll try to be home fairly early, so as not to clog up the roads for out of towners here for the inauguration.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Pacino and DeNiro Combine for Awful Movie Promo
I have not seen Righteous Kill, the big deal of which was that Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino were in a movie together, which they hadn't been in since Heat, in which they shared only one scene. But I know that it's been heavily criticized, and the only person that really seemed to like it was Larry King, which tells you something.

If Larry King's praise isn't enough to scare me off from this movie, the commercial that they're now running on TV certainly is. DeNiro and Pacino are sitting in a car, and Pacino says to DeNiro something like "You don't believe in miracles?" DeNiro responds "You pick up the check some time, I'll believe in miracles." Thud. Someone that's making a movie has both those guys in it, and comes up with dialogue like that? Making matters worse, DeNiro plays a character named Turk and Pacino goes by Rooster.

Speaking of old guy actors who are pretty much just phoning it in these days, another movie that I haven't seen is Gran Torino. Apparently, it's one of the best movies ever, and Clint Eastwood is amazing. When I see the clips, I think, hey, so Clint Eastwood is playing a gruff old guy with one facial expression -- menacing. Just like all his other movies. I think Clint Eastwood is OK and everything, but I think that people that gush about every single thing that he does need to remember that he made two movies with a monkey. And they weren't comedies, he didn't even crack a smile.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Helpful Tips for the New Depression
I love all the experts who are coming out of the woodwork to advise us on how to deal with various aspects of the New Depression (N.D.).  I heard one of them this evening, on a local all news radio station that I keep on in my dog's room to keep him company.  It's a good station; their business reporter, in particular, is an excellent fellow.

This evening we were treated to an expert with advice for the poor people who lose their jobs, and, consequently, their insurance.  The healthcare situation in this country was ridiculous even before the N.D., I hate to even think about how much worse it will get.  We will find out, though.

Anyway, this woman had some simply brilliant advice for people that have lost their insurance:
  • If you have a spouse that has insurance, see if you can get in on his or her plan.  That's some great insight there.
  • Get another job that comes with health benefits, even if it's part time.  Pure genius.
  • Finally, you could always just go to an insurance company and buy an individual policy from them.  I guess with all that money you're not making from the job that you no longer have.  Thanks for that.
My dog kind of cocked his head and gave me a funny look when this was over.  Now he's in his crate, busily studying up on healthcare.  By Thursday, I think he'll be ready to be on CNN.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Northern Virginians to be Sent to Guantanamo for Inauguration
It was just announced that, in order to not inconvenience the wealthy, politically connected individuals that will be descending upon the DC-area to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama, all Northern Virginians will be transported to Guantanamo from January 16-21.

The U.S. Secret Service and other top officials had previously announced that bridges from Virginia to DC would be closed, and had recommended that residents stay in their homes for the long weekend. After further consideration, it was determined that this next step was necessary. An unnamed Secret Service spokesman noted that, "If Northern Virginians were permitted to remain in their homes, they would still be consuming resources that should be diverted to the inaugural celebration. Electricity, gas, water, bandwith, food, alcohol -- we cannot risk the possibility of a shortage of these resources for the wealthiest of Americans who will be participating in the festivities. Many of these guests have spent the last 20 years destroying the U.S. economy, and it is important that they are able to celebrate without being hindered by citizens pursuing their everyday, mundane lifestyles. And Guantanamo is actually pretty nice this time of year. There will be no waterboarding, and it's not that bad if you're not being waterboarded. It's similar to Tijuana."

The federal government has contracted with AirTran to have Northern Virginians flown to Guantanamo, which raises the possibility that many residents will end up spending five days in an airport, waiting for their plane, with no updates whatsoever from the gate agents. Or they could end up in cheap hotels outside of Atlanta.

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine worked with federal authorities in developing the plan. He noted that there are still some problems that need to be resolved. "Many Northern Virginians are very active on eBay, selling many of their personal belongings in order to survive the oncoming Depression. We are working to have some type of internet access available at Camp Guantanamo. We don't want this plan to result in the people of Virginia getting bad eBay feedback."

This move also seems to be a precursor to another rumored aspect of the inauguration. An anonymous U.S. Treasury Department official has suggested that at different points during the inauguration, federal bailout money is going to be dropped from helicopters hovering over various inaugural events. "This whole plan," the official noted, "was developed as a way to transfer tax dollars from rank and file Americans to the elite, who have lost billions in the recent economic crisis. Without this injection, many of them would not be able to pass on contributions to the politicians that they must influence. Also, ski season is here, and skiing is an expensive sport. Like golf, but in the winter. If Northern Virginians were allowed to remain in the area, no doubt they would attempt to participate in these cash drops, as many of them are desperate to pay their mortgages."

In coming days, more details of the Guatanamo weekend will be released. Officials are currently in negotiations with Huey Lewis and the News to provide some musical entertainment, and there has been discussion about a three on three basketball tournament.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

New Gourds
My favorite band, The Gourds, released a new disk yesterday, it's called Haymaker. I listened to part of it on my iPod while walking to the subway yesterday. Though it was cool, I was suprised at how long the first song was. Then I realized I had my iPod on repeat. Oops. So I haven't heard much more than the first song on the disk. But I'm sure the whole thing is great.

In celebration, here is them playing Lower 48. Not only is the musicianship excellent, but there is some great dancing by Kevin Russell, which further illustrates how he was robbed when he got beat out, by deadbeat Redskin Jason Taylor, in Dancing With the Stars. I think Kevin could have also had more than 3.5 sacks this year. He's big, but quick and crafty.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Good Thing I Don't Gamble
About that Chargers game last night.  Oops.  The hottest team in the NFL and the MVP of the league played poorly and should have lost in regulation.  The Colts' best play was in the second quarter, when Manning caught the Chargers' defense unaware, and did that play that's caused so many arguments among 12 year olds in the backyards and vacant lots of America, as he took the snap before the defense was ready and passed to Reggie Wayne for an easy touchdown. Norv Turner's request for a "do-over" was denied. Unfortunately for them, the Colts continued to play like 12 year olds for the rest of the game.  The Chargers didn't play much better, but Darren Sproles (about the size of the average 12 year old football player) was unstoppable.  Sproles' had a bigger than usual role for the Chargers, as their star, LaDainian Tomlinson didn't play much because his groin had apparently become detached from the rest of his body.  That hurts, I guess, and I can understand why he didn't want to talk to Andrea Kramer about it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Gold Star Lock of the Week, For Free
I don't bet on sports.  There's a grey area there, I guess, because of my fantasy baseball team, fantasy football team (that's actually charity -- I give money to other guys in my league), weekly NFL pool, the NCAA basketball tournament pool that my friend invented and various NCAA basketball tournament grids that I participate in.  

Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I don't bet on NFL games anymore.  If I did, though, I would bet all that I could afford on the Indianapolis Colts over the San Diego Chargers on Saturday.  The game is currently pick 'em.  The Colts have won nine games in a row.  The Chargers, though playing at home, were 8-8.  Norv Turner, who seems like a perfectly nice guy, is their coach.  The Colts are relatively healthy, and I think Peyton Manning is sick of his little brother getting all the attention.  If you have a mortgage, bet it on the Colts.