Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Smiley Face Gang

I knew it!

Word has it that a few detectives are trying to link the "accidental drownings" of several college students in the Mississippi River (including at least one person passing through Iowa, apparently) to a growing number of Smiley Faces painted near similar "accidents" in other states.

I've always doubted that the drownings were accidental--maybe it's my fascination with serial killers (I am from the land of Dahmer, mind you), but there was always something wrong about those deaths. Hopefully more attention to the case will yield some results and help bring finality to the families of the deceased.

Blame the Video Game

A recent string of shootings in Chicago will probably be linked to today's release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Never mind that violence in major cities existed long before, well, video games. Somewhere, a generic activist organization is already working to blame this violent video game for the demise of the modern American society.

During the height of the Persian Gulf War, I was playing Super Mario Bros. 3, but I don't remember drawing comparisons between American fighter jets and Mario, who, if you don't remember, could fly. Still, now that I look back on it, the coincidences are startling. Did the US government become active in the conflict because of Mario's adventure? Only time--and money--will tell.

In the 1990's, my obsession with GoldenEye for Nintendo 64 only ended after I realized that the Columbine shooters probably used the game to target terrorists (though they pretended they were classmates). Thankfully, Marilyn Manson took the fall for that incident, and the video game industry was largely saved. How is it, though, that millions of people play these games, yet there aren't millions of murders?

Maybe, just maybe, it's us--and not the games we play.

Today, Grand Theft Auto titles are largely to blame for anything and everything wrong with America. It makes sense, really. The game is violent, so people become violent. The game celebrates crime, so we celebrate crime. It couldn't be any clearer that violent video games contribute largely to the collapse of our society; besides, look at what violent movies have been doing since, um, forever?

Thankfully for the creators of GTA, they can't be blamed for slowing the economy--rough estimates suggest that Grand Theft Auto IV will sell millions of copies in its first week of release. So, if anything, we can thank them for doing what President Bush's stimulus checks won't do: Make people go out and buy something.

P.S. Don't bother reaching me, I'm playing GTA IV.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Elizabeth Edwards does not enjoy bowling

It's becoming increasingly difficult to take the 2008 presidential campaign seriously. Before the Iowa caucus, the candidates were coming to town every week, we could ask questions and listen to their stump speeches in person. There was more to the televised debates than clarifying every statement taken out of context and played over and over. The level of discourse has lowered dramatically since candidates like Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson dropped out. Apparently, this changing dynamic has captured the attention of Elizabeth Edwards.

In a New York Times Op-Ed yesterday, the wife of former candidate John Edwards scolded the media for covering the trivial details about the campaign process and cutting out the real issues and serious candidates. It is understandable why Elizabeth Edwards would hold a grudge against mainstream media. Surprisingly, the op-ed is not in defense of her husband or the fact that his $400 haircut received more coverage than his platform; this piece defends Biden and Dodd more than her husband.

The title of her contribution is "Bowling 1, Health Care 0" because voters are more likely to know a candidate's bowling score than details of their health care plan. She states the timing for her topic is due to the up-coming Democratic primary in her home state of North Carolina. I still find it a bit odd to be bringing up candidates who dropped out several months ago. What can we do now but be nostalgic for the times when issues were actually covered? Is she urging NC voters to write-in Chris Dodd on the ballot?

No, she makes her point by urging everyone to demand a "vibrant, vigorous press... Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie 'Network' but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can - as voters - do ours."

I agree that the press is falling short in this election cycle, and I am grateful that she focused on other candidates rather than simply defending her husband. That said, I'm also disappointed in Mrs. Edwards. She focuses on the good old days early in the campaign when the candidates spoke out about issues, but she is very careful to stay away from any suggestion of who might get the all-important endorsement from John Edwards. Aren't we past a point when we can affect change by reminiscing about how great the second-tier candidates were, and speaking calmly to demand a more responsible media?

Elizabeth Edwards has always impressed me, but she disappointed me a bit on this one. She was known for being outspoken during her husband's campaign, and I think she's highlighting an important problem. I'm just saddened because I would much rather hear her advocate the Howard Beale approach.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What he said

From the newest issue of Time that showed up at my door today...

"It was them saying, We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you." Robert Bevelacqua, retired Green Beret and former Fox "News" military pundit, describing Pentagon efforts to influence news coverage via sympathetic analysts.

For you, Eric.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stupid Baseball Names (AKA Nate wigging out)

Every year, the NFL Draft gets me more excited than George Michael in a sex toy warehouse. I take the weekend off, and usually throw a big party, though this year I'm opting out of the party. I read up on all the prospects, I buy a disgusting amount of snack food and adult beverages, and I anticipate the draft like a kid on Christmas morning.

No shit. I'm very, very excited.

So I've been reading over all these draft guides and mock drafts, taking in all the names and bios, and all these names got me thinking. So...

In the spirit of Atari Bigby, Key-Yon Rambo, and former Philadelphia 76er World B. Free, I give you the two most annoyingly stupid names in baseball. I'm sure there's more to come.

  • Phillies CF Shane Victorino. Victorino? Really? The first time I heard this name, I was in the car listening to the Cubs play Philadelphia, and the announcer kept saying his last name over and over, without the "Shane." So I thought the guys name was Vic Dorino, or Vic Torino. It was only after the play-by-play guy said it over and over that I realized it was Victorino. He said it so much I feared my ears were bleeding, so I had to turn it off out of pure annoyance, I slapped the radio knob, literally yelling at my dashboard. Victorino? WTF? Why not Loserino, Achieverino?
  • Rockies CF Ryan Spilborghs. WTF? What, you had cups of Romulans, Talaxians, and Borgs, and you decided to spill the latter (who says dorks can't be funny)? What kind of drunk European ancestor, after eating too much rotted fish, decided on that name? Being in the midwest, I hear a lot of Fjellands and Torgenfels and other bizarre Scandinavian names, but Spilborghs? Blech. Never mind, I feel bad for the kid.

Uh, what?

I'm reading this story in the DI today about panhandling in Iowa City, and I read a comment from a city council member, Mike Wright, that really baffles me.

"Panhandling is a legitimate form of creating income."

Uh, what?

Please, someone tell me what I'm doing racking up thousands of dollars in debt and wasting years of my life trying to get a degree when it's perfectly acceptable (according to Mike Wright) to just go out and ask everyone else to support me? Why didn't I think of this?

It's not that there aren't truly unfortunate folks who need our help in Iowa City. It's not that there aren't homeless disabled veterans and moms down on their luck. But I can promise that there's also people who leave the house a few days a week in their scrappiest and go work the major area intersections for some "weekend money." I'm not kidding.

I've seen one guy in particular who likes to stand at Park and Dubuque. I've seen him put a Starbucks cup down gently (careful not to spill your latte!) so he could answer his cell phone.

I'm not saying they're all like that. I'm not saying the majority of them are even like that. But to describe begging as a legitimate form of income? Huh?

Mr. Wright, I'm sure your point was a good one, and I'm sure you're just trying to do the best thing, but you're very wrong. Panhandling is not a legitimate form of income. Hopefully that was just a slip of the tongue, because if you honestly believe that we should be content and accepting of poor people who have to beg for their lives then, well, you're just damned wrong. And stupid.

Why do I feel like Iowa City is more considerate of panhandlers than cars that need parking?

Why is Mickey Bleeding?

In yet another instance of outlandish profiteering, C3, an L.A.-based holding company has announced plans to build a $500 million dollar amusement park in Baghadad, directly adjacent to the Green Zone.

The company touts its initiative in humanitarian terms, with spokespeople pointing out that children and families in Baghdad have few "entertainment" options.

Apparently, entertainment doesn't include watching a Sunni's face get blown off, or listening to the soothing chorus of wailing sirens and thunderous mortar rounds.

And, although the amusement park will feature a skateboarding area, the most technologically advanced rides on the face of the earth, and plenty of mind-numbing carnival games, for it's unlucky visitors, it could quite possibly be the world's largest game of sitting duck.

In the past several weeks, the area surrounding the ironically dubbed "green-zone" has been smeared blood-red by violence. Rudimentary rockets have been lobbed over the compound's heavily fortified walls, suicide bombers have struck within blocks of resting G.I.'s, and the once iron-clad oasis of calm has been thrust into a dubious uncertainty.

That anyone, or any corporation, could propose building a sprawling, open-air, multi-million dollar amusement park amid such chaos is preposterous. Insurgents, as it turns out, are an inventive bunch. Give them three paper clips, a barrel of sand, and some diesel-fuel and they'll jerry-rig a fairly potent I.E.D. Imagine them salivating at the possibility of targeting thousands of people- all of whom are participating in Western style, roller-coaster debauchery- in a single stroke.

Don't give them fodder. Baghdad is not Orlando - there are not nearly enough fat people, and the endless stream of Asian tourists looking at Magic Mountain through the lens of a camera is wholly missing. For those hoping to invest in Iraq, start with clean water, reliable power, and reasonable health care. The thrill-rides and picture booths can follow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Penn Mightier than the Sword

So it's finally here. No, not graduation--the Pennsylvania primary. I seriously never thought it'd come. It seems like years since the last set of primaries, yet the argument hasn't changed. Obama's and McCain are running in first place and Hillary Clinton is vying for the last Wild Card slot.

Wait, I'm confusing politics with baseball again.

Today we have stories about Earth Day, a student potentially being charged with WMDs, and at least one American spy. Yet the talk of the town--every town--is Pennsylvania. Seriously, I haven't seen this much interest in this state since Boyz II Men sang "Motown Philly" back when I was a kid. I'm not one to make predictions...actually, I'm always making predictions...so here goes: Hillary wins, Obama loses, but the margin of victory is so minuscule that it again appears that Obama can't be stopped. Business as usual for the Democrats, right?

Who would have thought Howard Dean could actually have chosen a more stressful job than running for president? (Especially after that infamous, uh, "heeeeeyyyyaaah.") No, that didn't even come close to this. Rumor has it that the DNC was so confident that a Democrat would win the White House that Dean set up shop in the West Wing after taking over the party's reigns. The word "oops" comes to mind.

I'm not saying the Democrats can't win in the general election this year--they still have a hell of a chance. But after a primary season like this, will anyone care about the general? It's already feeling like a bad sequel to a first movie that stretched on waaaay too long.

Hillary Clinton: 52 percent
Barack Obama: 47 percent
Joe Pa: 1 percent

Friday, April 18, 2008


Bottom of the fourth inning, Cubs up to bat against the Pirates at Wrigley. Fukudome hits one into deep center, where the Pirates CF Nate McClouth underestimated the wind and had the ball drift over his head. McClouth had to run up to the ivy and grab the ball.

When he did, a fan dumped a beer on his head.

I laughed when I saw it. To McClouth's credit, he didn't skip a beat, grabbing the ball and getting it in quickly (but not quickly enough). It's funny, but dumb. Cubs fans at Wrigley, as a general rule, are drunken boobs (especially the ones in the bleachers). That kind of behavior is to be expected. The outfield bleachers are a motley gallery of shirtless ex-frat brahskis with their trophy girlfriends, spoiled brat burb-kids who took daddy's Land Rover dowtown to see the game instead of going to school, and well-sauced middle-aged gomers who spend the entire game yelling gynecological references about the opposing outfielder's mother. It's a freak show. I love Wrigley, and I will always love my Cubbies, but it's embarrassing.

What bothers me more than the waste of a $5 Old Style is the fact that, on the replay, WGN cut the footage of the offending fan.

I'm sick of the Tribune Co. acting like their fans are sacred. Things like this happen all the time, and the Worlds Greatest Newspaper, along with the rest of TribCo, sweep it under the rug. No wonder Reds announcer Marty Brenneman called Cubs fans the most obnoxious and annoying in sports earlier this week when Cincinnati was in Chicago. Brenneman's a jackass, but so are a lot of Cubs fans, and so are the heads at 435 North Michigan.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Absolutely Breathtaking Crap

Last night's Democratic debate was surreal. Gibson and Stephanopolous were shockingly inept and frequently painful to watch. It was like standing paralyzed as you see a six-year-old behind the wheel of a Suburban. Fear and loathing abounded, to say the least.

For what seemed like an hour, ABC's dunderheaded duo picked over the most irrelevant, picayune trash "issues" of the campaign. The "bitter" comments, which I'm still hard-pressed to believe are offensive. Is Obama down with the Weathermen? Of course not. As he pointed out to Stephanopolous -- whose sympathies were no mystery -- he was eight at the time. Does Rev. Wright love America as much as Barack Obama? What the hell does that even mean? Should we check his America-love gauge? Who, in fact, gives a damn?

It's been a schizophrenic campaign season, in that it has alternated long stretches of juvenile, gossipy tittle-tattle with occasional bouts of real promise. And that's just from the campaigns themselves! ABC completely deserves the tidal wave of opprobrium that they're getting right now.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Slurp, Slurp, Slurp

I, my friends, am a coffee fiend. Not those six-dollar, caramel laced, whip-cream infused confections that better qualify as cake-in-a-cup. I like coffee. Hot, black, and strong enough to stunt the growth of a T-Rex. From eighth-grade on, I've been a steady pot-a-day consumer. By this point, you could brew my java-saturated blood, label it dark roast, and sell it fair trade.

So, when Starbuck's announced last week that it was fomenting a revolution in the coffee industry, my interest was piqued. In a town where quaint, ma-and-pa coffee shops outnumber the hipster grad students who frequent them, a Starbuck's is the embodiment of pure evil. Akin to Wal-Mart, it's depicted as a greedy, corporate whore- peddling egregiously overpriced novelty drinks, crippling local startups, and smiling all the while.

But, apparently, Starbuck's was going to revolutionize coffee as we know it. It's method? Introducing a new, "smoother, bolder" blend of coffee that would star as their daily-workhorse. A fresh pot always on tap and consistent brews a guarantee. The new blend was dubbed "Pikes Place Blend," and its release was accompanied by an all out advertising blitz. Full page ads in the New York Times hailed 4/08/2008, the day it was introduced, as the second-coming of the Messiah.

Coffee connoisseurs the world over, however, were leary. While Starbucks focused on creating impossibly titled, chocolate-swirled "creations," the quality of its raw coffee dipped lower than ever. Even a light roast tasted like charcoal that had been simmering for two=days. It promised to eliminate the bitter overtones and burnt flavor. The Pikes Place blend, it said, was created after years of consumer research and careful testing. A medium-bodied, slightly fruity blend that appeals to the same crowd that sips on McDonald's and Dunkin' Donut's joe.

So, a few days after its star-studded introduction, I paid $1.80 for a cup of this proclaimed manna and took a deep gulp.

How was it?

Awful. Unlike its predecessors, the new blend has no distinct nuttiness. The dark, brooding flavor is gone. In its place is a homogenized
blandness paired with a weird, tingly sweetness. Indeed, the 6-dollar-cake-in-a-cup got their wish. A coffee that is so normal, so unremarkable, it exists merely as a vessel for half-and-half, cinnamon, and sugar. But, Starbucks, pulling from Wal-Mart's play book, got this one exactly right.

It's an American coffee, for the American people. Middle of the road, easy to swallow and easy to forget. I predict it will be hugely popular.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He's an elitist in the "nice" way

This is in response to Jon's recent blog and the ensuing comments. Courtesy of Encarta Dctionary by way of Microsoft Word:


1. belief in concept of superiority: the belief that some people or things are inherently superior to others and deserve preeminence, preferential treatment, or higher rewards because of their superiority
2. belief in control by small group: the belief that government or control should be in the hands of a small group of privileged, wealthy, or intelligent people, or the active promotion of such a system
3. control by small group: government or control by a small, specially qualified, or privileged group
e·lit·ist noun, adjective

I'm putting all presidential candidates (Obama included) in category #1 with one exception: the word inherently. I don't (necessarily) think they believe themselves "inherently" superior, but obviously they feel they deserve high rewards and preeminence or they would not seek the office of U.S. President. Anyone who takes a run at the presidency has a more-than-healthy level of grandeur.

I think we're all tired of the ad hominem attacks. Those of us who don't favor Clinton or Obama have the added frustration of hearing the supporters on either side blame the other candidate. Will someone of authority in the Democratic Party please stop the car, turn around and say, "You two knock it off or I'm going to turn this car around and no one gets to be President!"

An American Injustice

On May 5, 1993, three eight-year-old boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. The boys were stripped, bound, stabbed, and eventually tossed in a nearby creek. Three local teenagers were arrested and charged in connection to the murders despite an overwhelming lack of evidence against them. The subsequent trial was, in the only appropriate term, a witch hunt. From black clothing to poetry to heavy metal music, the prosecution (successfully) linked the deaths of Steve Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers to the defendants using circumstantial evidence and allusions to witchcraft and Satanism.

As we approach the 15th anniversary of the crime, it's important that we reflect on the grave injustices within our criminal justice system. The West Memphis Three, as the defendants came to be called, remain incarcerated--Damien Echols, the supposed ringleader, is on death row. I first learned of the case while in high school. Several documentary filmmakers worked on a series of films about the murders, dubbed Paradise Lost. When I first viewed the film, I was 17 years old--about the same age as the accused when they were arrested. I, too, liked Metallica and Stephen King books, and some would have been correct to label my own short stories as "disturbing." Heavy metal, horror novels, and a creative mind wasn't enough to throw me in prison, but it was certainly enough to lock away Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley for life.

Some years later, it occurred to me that, at the time of the murders, I was the also the same age as the victims, too. The case haunted me, and I need to know more. I began researching the case, watching documentaries and reading books about it. I often seek updates on the WM3's website, and the last year has been promising for the Three. In December 2007, Larry King interviewed Damien Echols live from death row, a sign that change may be coming. As DNA evidence becomes more reliable, we can only hope that the West Memphis Three will be granted another day in court--this time, I pray they'll be exonerated. Sure, mistakes were made by local police and the community, but burying those mistakes out of embarrassment will only cost three more lives.

As the anniversary nears, I'll surely write again about this case. Until then, to quote from one of my favorite T-shirts, Free the West Memphis Three.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Seinfeldian blog about nothing

I realize that we’re expected to write about current events and politics, but try to think of an unfunny episode of Seinfeld when you read this blog about nothing. I just can’t help myself. Today it’s not politicians or government antics that are irritating me, it’s my alarm clock. It’s not just any alarm clock, it’s the hellspawn of morning greetings and it’s more exasperating than waking up to Ted Kennedy with a bullhorn.

I won’t go into details about my ability to sleep through anything, but if heavy sleeping were an Olympic sport, I’d be on my way to Beijing in a few months. Perhaps someday I’ll be wealthy enough to hire a staff of people to lift me out of bed every morning and set me down in front of a cup of coffee. Until then, I need to cut my addiction to the snooze button, so I started to find more unconventional methods.

I considered the adorable little robot Clocky. This little alarm clock with wheels will jump off your nightstand and hide from you so that you can’t hit the snooze button. Think of it as having an alarm clock running loose in your house. This may be worth the investment in amusement value for someone with pets, but it’s not practical for my small apartment and it’s no match for my fortress of furniture, shoes and laundry throughout my tiny bedroom.

I finally decided that a product called Sonic Boom should do the trick, but it has quickly become my arch nemesis. It’s hard to gauge what 113 decibels sounds like, but just think “Air Raid Siren.” Not only does this thing feel like someone’s drilling sharp objects into your ears, but it shakes the bed to wake you up. There’s a little extension that you put under your mattress and this is no gentle nudge, this is more of a quake.

So, desperate times takes desperate measures, I started using the alarm clock and it’s made me a miserable human being. It can’t be healthy to wake up every morning feeling like you’re waking up in WWII Europe during an air raid. I’m still deciding if it’s worth it to wake up pissed off at the entire world, even if it is in a timely fashion.

I haven’t even mentioned the cruelest part of this instrument Satan: The size of the snooze button is about ½ cm. What evil engineer came up with this idea? It’s awful. I’m awake, I’m functioning, and I’m blogging. Just be wary the next time you see me and if we start to argue, make sure I don’t have any sharp objects.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Elite me

I think Hillary Clinton's recent broadside of outrage over Barack Obama's remarkably incisive analysis of the forgotten American working class is painfully staged, and drags the standard of debate active in this primary campaign still lower. Once again, as soon as Obama actually began to discuss issues -- and to offer a remarkably cogent argument why Pennsylvania should vote for him -- the Clinton camp freaked out and went into witless pandering overload.

As an overdue preface, here's the gist: Obama pointed out that working class folks in the Rust Belt have been getting screwed over by the decline in manufacturing jobs over that last 25 years, and that little has been done to help remake their communities. Therefore, he noted, incomes fall and people get bitter and search for something to "cling to" like "guns and religion." Hey, he's right! The fall of the unions, the decline of industrial jobs; this has made the Rust Belt measurably worse off.

But how dare he say that! How dare that mean ol' Obama insinuate that you Rust Belt voters are anything other than Mama Hillary's special little guys and gals (of the month)! What a big meanie?

What a joke. Her response was more saccharine and pious than diet communion wine. I hope Pennsylvanians are smart enough to realize when somebody's blowing smoke up their smokestacks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Earth, water, and air for Clinton!

From WTHI in Terra Haute...

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Before Former President Bill Clinton arrived in Clinton, Ind. Friday morning, he made a surprise visit to the Clinton for President campaign office in Terre Haute.

The office was destroyed late Thursday night by fire.

Former President Bill Clinton met with fire officials investigating the scene.

Officials say the fire appears to be electrical, but they've called in the state fire marshal calling it a high profile fire.

Dammit, fire! You're so sexist! I'll bet you wouldn't burn an Obama office!?!? Y'know, fire, just because someone speaks eloquently doesn't mean that person is better than you or me.

You just wait until the superdelegates hear about this, fire.

CBS' annual befouling of the airwaves.

CBS does some good things. Their national news isn't one of those things, and neither is hour drama (they seem to be stuck in this forensic detective rut), or NFL coverage (an abysmal group of pre-game anchors and some truly unskilled game analysts). CBS does an outstanding job with NCAA tournament coverage, and their shining moment comes nearly every weekend when they cover a golf tournament. CBS is very, very good at golf coverage.

And that's great if golf on TV is your thing. It's not, for me. It's not most of the time, I'll say that. Golf is great when you're stretching out on the couch after a big family meal, ready for a nap. It's great when it's in HD, then again I'd watch almost anything on HD, maybe even crappy CBS forensic dramas.

Maybe not.

And still, I'll watch. It's a major.

But the Masters coverage is different. Every year, when the Masters rolls around, CBS goes through this incredibly disgusting display of maudlin behavior that makes me rush not to the fridge for a beer but to the hallway closet for a few belts of pepto-bismol. The segways to commercials, the displaying of the leaderboards, highlights of earlier play are all shown while this..."music" plays. And when I say music I'm using the term very loosely. What they play is a somber, sleep-inducing combination of the softest piano keys intertwined with gentle acoustic guitar strumming. "Music" that would be overkill for even the most depressing of funeral visitations or memorial services. "Music" that makes me picture some old fart in his wheelchair, sitting in a private hospice room, gumming jello and smiling feebly while the logo of his nursing home is superimposed onto the screen.

I hate it. It's terrible. It makes the broadcast unwatchable.

The normally soft voices used by analysts during a golf broadcast become even softer, like their trying not to wake the kids, or the viewing audience for that matter. Jim Nantz creeps me out because he mutates from capable analyst to over-emotional menstruating gasbag. And when he gets excited, the soft voice becomes slightly more masculine and drawling, so he sounds like he's doing his best Barry White impression. "Ahw, guuuurl, bury that ball deep into the hole."


The promos for the Masters employ the same horridly soft keys of the piano, the screen is fuzzy as if recollecting a sacred memory, and Nantz's cooing blather comes through the speakers; "A tradition unlike any other, the Masters, on CBS." When one hears this, it's hard to imagine good old Jim is still wearing pants when he cradles the mic in-studio to deliver this holy scripture.

I would normally think that any deviation from FOX Sports' bloviating, screaming, graphic-laden garbage would be a welcome change. The overly-masculine in-your-face treatment that FOX gives every sporting event is pretty bad too, but the Masters on CBS is something different. It's life-altering in it's horridness, it's annoying, and I wish they'd stop.

I've gotta go. I have to run to the store and grab more kleenex, refill my prescription for Prozac, because coverage of the second round starts in a few hours. I've gotta be prepared. My mom's on speed dial, but hopefully things won't get that bad.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Rice-a-Roni, the Arizona treat

From CNN's "Ticker" blog-

"In a new poll conducted by Marist College and WNBC, a McCain-Rice ticket would beat a ticket that includes both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in New York -- a state that reliably votes for the Democratic candidate."

First of all, this story appears two posts above a story about how Obama and Clinton will never run together cleverly titled "Pelosi again says joint ticket won't happen." Pelosi says this because, well, IT ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN. And frankly, I'm tired of hearing people talk about it.

Secondly, McCain would open himself up to a world of hurt should he take one of the key architects of the Bush administration as his running mate. That said, people don't vote for VP, which is why some Obama supporters wouldn't automatically opt for Clinton should she run at the top of such a ticket, and it's why some Clinton supporters wouldn't automatically opt for Obama should he run at the top of such a ticket. Those groups would cry sour grapes and support McCain.

Third, this poll is shit. I'm sorry, but there is no way McCain beats Obama or Clinton in New York. Not in this election, not this year, and not on these issues. You're not going to find any other numbers to back this New York thing up. Period.

Fourth, A JOINT TICKET WILL NEVER HAPPEN. EVER. SO SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT IT. Seriously, I don't like being annoying all-caps guy, but I'm tired of seeing morons at anchor desks doing a circle-jerk over Obama/Clinton Clinton/Obama. Pipe dream, folks. Knock it off.

Blogging Ain't Easy

Forced to blog, I hover over my keyboard, a can of Pabst in front of me, a half-empty bag of Cheetos to my side. All around me is dark, save for the ugly flicker of my low-resolution monitor. Caught up in the never ending blogging treadmill, if I don't devise a clever post, write it coherently and publish it before deadline, my iron-fisted editor will surely take notice.

Well, maybe I don't have it so bad, but apparently many bloggers do.

The problem, the New York Times reported in an article earlier this week, is that most bloggers are paid on a per-word or per-blog basis. When ideas sometimes flow slowly and words don't always spew forth, this can lead to a tremendous amount of stress. The crush to publish a huge volume of blogs leaves many bloggers chained to keyboards and monitors for hours on end. Fueled mostly by pop-tarts and mountain dew and with little exercise save for licking the crumbs out of a Pringles can, bloggers health often suffers.

According to the Times, at least three bloggers in the past year have died from heart attacks directly contributed to their unconventional lifestyles. What's most disturbing is the end result of all of this red-eyed, caffeine addled grind work. Blogs, by and large, are inaccurate, illogical, and irrelevant.

Everyone has opinions, and any nim-wit with a dial-up modem and a few spare seconds in their parents' basement can crank out blogs. Sorting out actual journalism from trash becomes a real dilemma.

As I write this blog, I wonder why anyone would want to read this. Enough with the stress, enough with the perpetual push to blog. Shit, wait a second, my sources are telling me Britney Spears was just spotted pooping on an owl. Society must know.....a blog is forthcoming.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


You need to read this whole post. Yeah, you.

That second piece is from 1954, and is probably the best expression of my own somewhat scattershot foreign policy views.

I'm torn between taking heart and freaking out that there has been brilliance and prescience in every age. On the one hand, isn't it comforting to know that there are eternal verities, of a sort? On the other, doesn't it frighten you that we still don't pay attention to them?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Here is your answer, boys

I know the ed board has been discussing (complaining) about what purpose the Photo Op serves. I have an answer courtesy of my friend (and my friend's friend. But I didn't actually talk to him, that was word of mouth.)

I told my friend that the Photo Op will still be on the Opinions page after we're all dead and buried. My good friend who has a brilliant mind said, "Do you want to know why you have a Photo Op? I'll tell you why. I went out with the guys from class last night and our waitress was really hot. Then, today in class, S. passed around the Opinions page and said, 'Did you guys see this? Does anything catch your eye? Anything look familiar?' and a picture of our waitress was on the bottom of the page."

Oh that's not all! (As if that wasn't reason enough to keep Photo Op.)

It turns out that S was smitten with said waitress/photo op victim. Now, when they go back to the bar, he can say, "Hey, you know what I did one time? I [whatever the hell her photo op answer was] and it was great!" and she'll say, "Oh my God! I did that, too! That is so awesome! What are the chances? We're both hot, and we both had the exact same experience! It's like destiny!"

They'll totally hit it off, and later, when he tells her that he passed her photo op answer off as an original thought just to meet her, she'll fall in love. By that time, stalking her photo op won't be weird at all b/c it'll be a charming story to tell their Grandkids.

So, you see? (Since dialogue translates so well to blog-print, I'm sure you understand how cool this is.) The editorial board photo op provides a service. You're like the Chuck Woolery of the Opinions Page! You're cupid.com without the .com. Way to go, ed board!

One more thing. That same day you brought so much joy to a bunch of guys by putting this girl's picture in the paper, Jon printed one of my blog entries on the very same page; right in the center; above the photo op. (it takes up a fair amount of space.) No one even noticed that I had something published in there. They passed it around to a group of guys who knew me, knew I was a columnist for a DI, one of the guys is my actually my best friend, and nobody glanced high enough on the page to notice my name.

It turns out, a familiar face on the Opinions page is sometimes the best part of the entire paper.

Bump in the Night

It's a 150-year old building that used to house the criminally insane. Inside its crumbling stone walls, demented inmates once howled, misinformed doctors dug into patients skulls and pierced their gray matter with draconian lobotomy tools and young people with treatable mental disorders were labeled "nuts" and subjected to a lifetime of agonizing institutionalism. What was once the Johnson County poor farm and asylum now sits abandoned. With a past that echoes the premises of many a B-rate horror film, the foreboding gray building begs the question- do tormented spirits still mill around the building's hallways, unable to escape from the raw trauma they were once exposed to? Is the building haunted? Apparently, some people are eager to find out.

Though the plan has come under fire in recent days, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors is kicking around a proposal by the county Historical Society to send a team of paranormal investigators to the sight to conduct research.

The Carroll Area Paranormal team would conduct the tests for free, using thermal-detection equipment, hyper-sensitive recording devices, and special "aura" detecting gear to capture any unusual activity at the 153- acre sight.

Officials say the investigation is not prompted by any particular spooky occurrences, but is instead a chance to look into an often-asked about possibility. In what could be dubbed a preemptive search for ghosts, the team will try to find "them" before they find us.

Tours of the site are conducted on a regular basis and tourists frequently ask if the place is haunted. The county board of supervisors hopes to clarify the answer by allowing the paranormal team access to the sight.

But, the build up and hype surrounding this issue is quickly spiraling out of control. Many Iowans are pointing out the ridiculousness of the whole concept. Why should we allow a troupe of tech-savvy nerds who've watched one too many episodes of the X-Files conduct a pointless and utterly inconclusive experiment.

Ultimately, the storm of publicity induced by this proposition can not hurt the Johnson County Historical society or the poor farm. Anything that forces people to reassess an oft-forgotten facet of history is a good thing. Sometimes, it takes a jolt of the bizarre to grab peoples' attention. And, in that regard, Casper can act as just a viable historian as Howard Zinn.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April Fool

There are certainly a lot of candidates for this prestigious award, and I couldn't decide on the eventual victor until just a few hours ago. Thank God a fool emerged on this day to accept the honor.

Today, April Fool's Day, former Marquette University basketball coach Tom Crean rises above them all. Perhaps I'm biased. Okay, of course I'm biased. A Milwaukee native, I grew up watching Warrior (that's not a typo and doesn't need to be corrected) basketball. I spent my freshman year of college in the Milwaukee area and saw just about every home game that season. Now, it seems, Crean is Big Ten-bound as ESPN has announced he's finalized a deal to make him the new head coach at Indiana.

Crean led the Warriors (er, Golden Eagles) to the Final Four when I was in high school and has remained one of the best coaches in college basketball. Sure, Marquette hasn't had much luck in the NCAA tournament the last few years, but they were literally a shot away from the Sweet 16 this year until one of Stanford's Lopez brothers (who can tell them apart?) hit a last-second shot in overtime to win the game.

The Hoosiers haven't had the best of luck this season. Former coach Kelvin Sampson was removed after multiple violations that rocked the program. From what I'm reading around the web, it doesn't look like Indiana is going to bring a great deal of talent to the floor next year; but if anyone can whip them into shape, it's Tom Crean.

Still, Marquette's a better bet in a better town, even if it's not a better program. More frustrating yet, I was really banking on Marquette for graduate school next spring. No, a coaching change isn't going to keep me away, but I'll be mourning this loss for a while. What kind of year of 2008 shaping up to be? Brett Favre retires, Tom Crean leaves town...seriously, if the Brewers don't deliver soon, I'm going to Boston College.

Ton Crean: April Fool for 2008.