Changing the game

So Fred Thompson announced last night. On the Tonight Show, which – let’s face it – hasn’t been funny since Johnny Carson made the greatest exit of all time (he left, and that was it. Gone. One crowd-popping cameo on Letterman’s new show and that was it. Class.). Ol’ Fred Dalton Thompson thinks he’s just the guy to pull an Ah-nuld and ride a wave of acclimation all the way to the White House, where he can be a folksy take-no-guff Commander in Chief who can complete the Rednecking of America.

Ain’t. Gonna. Happen.

Believe me. I have two degrees in this shit. Once upon a time, I was a University Graduate Fellow at Vanderbilt, and I was really, really good at this, and the older I get, the better I was, but you can trust me. Ask anyone I know who told them nine months ago to keep an eye on Mike Huckabee.

Anyway, Thompson has no shot. He’s riding a wave of Reagan nostalgia among the True Believers, but there’s no future in that, because Reagan was changing the game; he was unlike any other GOP candidate in 1980 – or 1968, for that matter. Reagan was sui generis. Thompson is sui generic. He is exactly the same as every other Republican candidate; he is in fact distilled essence of 2008 GOP. He’s got a half dozen pat phrases, a couple of sure-fire zingers, and a meaningless do-nothing stint in electoral politics. And that’s all. There is nothing there that separates him from, say, Tommy Thompson or Sam Brownback, other than the name recognition that comes with a handful of mediocre movies and a role on the TV Series That Will Not Die, No Matter How Many Times I Go To Church And Weep Tears Of Blood In Prayer. When nuclear war finally comes, all that will be left is cockroaches, a few Cassidys from Mount Ephraim, and Law and Order. But I digress.

The bigger mistake is that he has completely dissed Iowa and New Hampshire. He has no organization, no ground troops, he’s done nothing to shore himself up in the Big Two states. Now this is not necessarily a bad idea in and of itself – Iowa and New Hampshire are inherently bad for the process, and someday, their power will have to be broken. And the way it will be broken is when one party has a tremendously charismatic candidate, with tons of money and a good staff, who can make himself a contender without bothering to devote any special attention to Iowa or New Hampshire. If, say, Bill Clinton were eligible to run again, and had all of Al Gore’s Google shares sold for liquid cash, he could blow off bothering to campaign ANYWHERE. He wouldn’t, of course, because he needs to campaign more than Dean Martin needed another drink, but he could. If Reagan rose from the grave, and had left instructions in his will to take Boise State, App State and George Mason in a parlay, he would win every primary without setting foot in a single state. The point is, you can only alienate the frontrunning states if two conditions are met:

1) You are a sure thing.

2) There are not so many candidates that pulling 31% counts as a landslide.

Those conditions are not met. Thompson isn’t leading anywhere; hell, he’s not even close to breaking away from the Rudy-Mitt-McCain pack. He’s stayed in it to this point for the same reason that the “Generic [other party]” always looks so good: because people can’t resist the ol’ tabula rasa. When you can dream of your perfect candidate, of course you love him – but when he comes to life, he invariably has bad skin, a phony streak a mile wide, an annoying tic you never noticed, and eventually, a spot of trouble involving a dead girl or a live boy.

So I hope Fred had a grand old night talking to the Mighty Chin last night. Ten years from now, we’ll look back on it as the high-water mark of the Thompson campaign.

Still trying things…

…among them the new version of MarsEdit. This blog is normally written in ecto, but a new version of the only other client that has ever tempted me at least warrants consideration. So here it is.

Meanwhile, I am still recovering from Saturday. Easily the greatest win I have been a part of at Cal, possibly excepting the first Axe in 2002. But in terms of a game that I attended in person and which staked the flag for the Golden Bears nationally, this is hands-down the biggest yet. My voice is back, although I think I am skating on the thin edge of a sinus infection. I have not yet gotten over the glee of all those orange-clad morons moping back on the BART. Yes, I am sure that there were some fine folks in attendance from the Volunteer State, but they were buried somewhere under a pile of hicks in orange whose mission in life was to fulfill every possible stereotype of the South. Loud, obnoxious, bigoted, ignorant in the extreme, and drawling unintelligibly. And ladies – do your research and don’t wear heels to a game taking place in a stadium more than 500 vertical feet above the damn BART stop. Almost as fun as winning the game was watching the UTards slowly realize that getting back to the hotel meant taking public transportation. Through Oakland. At NIGHT.

We went to Half Moon Bay this weekend. I forgot how much I love fog. I mean, fog cheers me up. It’s like I have some sort of reverse-SAD, where all the bright summer sunlight and heat makes me psychotically miserable, and I need cold and overcast to feel whole again. Although I think my powers are starting to return, as they do every fall, more or less…time to add the “September Songs” playlist back to the iPhone.

I’m also toying with a new target: 1000 words a week, including at least one post of not less than 500 words. To force me to write in both burst and longer formats. And hell, maybe at least one 1500-word feature piece per month? If I’m serious about teaching myself to write again, I have to, well, put some words down. And learn not to start sentences with “and” all the time.

So am I on the wrong system?

I have seen a lot of personal blogs lately as I start looking for inspiration. Thing is, though, it seems that almost everyone I see is on WordPress, rather than MT. Now, I don’t see moving off MT anytime soon, as I don’t want to install anything more complicated than Blosxom, but I am a bit curious how WP wound up being the industry standard – I can’t imagine that the licensing agreement alone is what did it. So if you have your own blog, host it yourself, run it on WP – let me know how and why and etcetera.

Here goes nothing…

In thinking about this, my original instructions were 10 Things That Would Make “x”, Where “x” = Soccer Popular in the US or The NFL (Even) Better. And naturally, that got me thinking about my own sports interest.

The only teams that I could be considered a “supporter” of, in the strictest sense, are the Washington Redskins, Vanderbilt Commodores, Celtic FC and (for football purposes) the Alabama Crimson Tide and California Golden Bears. Supporter in a sense that not only do I keep track of how they are doing, but I endeavor to watch (or listen to) every game, own and routinely wear team colors and/or merchandise, keep track of off-field and off-season moves, etc etc. While I take a passing interest in some other teams (and Greenock Morton FC would fall under “supporter” if only I could see or hear their games, but not bloody likely), these are really the only ones I pay much heed to – which means that from January to August, my sports life is minimal (and from May to July, non-existent). The only sport that I have paid more attention to this year than the last is English football – in fact, it’s the only sport that has shown ANY increase in attention paid by me in the last 10 years. I no longer pay any attention to the NBA or NHL, I barely notice baseball, and aside from the Redskins, I could care less if the NFL falls into the San Andreas Fault and is ground up finely as the city of San Francisco heads north toward Seattle, because the NFL sucks.

That’s right, I said it, and I meant it. The NFL sucks. Out. Loud. It is the apotheosis of everything that is wrong with sport and with America, and I would have absolutely nothing to do with it in any way…if I wasn’t a Redskins fan. It’s a sickness.

So based on Raven’s question, considering what I like about their football and disdain in ours, 10 ways I would fix the NFL…

Continue reading “Here goes nothing…”

I’ll save some time…

…people always want to know what I think politically, so I’ll give you my one-shot quote:

“American politics is doomed until the last yuppie is choked to death with the guts of the last hippie.”

And there you go ;]

Maybe I’m behind the times…

…but I just now discovered the word Rejuvenile, based on the book of the same name. “Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes and the Reinvention of the American Grown-Up.” Huh. I don’t mind the cupcake as such, but the cult of obsession around them is a little odd. But then, you could say that about just about anything on the Internet – and as somebody following a Scottish soccer team I will probably never see, even on television, I can’t really cast aspersion. Kickball…well, when we were playing softball in DC, we had this constant swarm of drink-addled kickballers trying to use fields we’d registered with the National Park Service to use on the appointed day, so I developed a healthy sense of disdain for them…now, apparently, FourSquare is the big thing in Silicon Valley (trust me not to notice until it shows up on the front page of the Chronicle)…

…hold up a minute.

It was bad enough when my generation was tarred as a bunch of slackers en route to skipping right over us so that the children of the baby-boomers could be painted as the Next Big Thing (that would be the generation of Britney, Paris and Lindsey, FYI), but now apparently we’re all entering our second childhood…and that’s a good thing? Put me down as a Harrumphing Codger if you must, but I’m not sure I see the appeal. I spent my whole life desperately waiting for my chronological age to catch up with my mental age (yes, I was one of those poor cursed SOBs who was “gifted”). I went through eight yards of hell to get to be an adult, and I am not particularly interested in going back.

And yet.

I suppose you could make a case that this is all about people wanting to shed their overweening sense of responsibility for a while, one gob of frosting at a time. Believe me when I say that I see the appeal. However, I guess my problem is that I still don’t live in the moment enough – that once the cupcake’s gone, you have to throw the wrapper out and get back to paying the bills, or diapering the kid, or working on tomorrow’s presentation. Not that I have a kid to diaper, but you get the idea. Ultimately, I don’t think I’m satisfied by the momentary escape – I need to either be allowed to magically get my 20s back and make a better go of it this time, or else seal it off and work on making sure that what happens now is all to the good. I guess I don’t have the patience to substitute distractions for solutions.

And yet.

(An aside: I am currently under obligation to produce at least one 500-word blurb a week for this blog, to discipline me into writing and taking on topics that would not normally spring to mind. I haven’t decided yet whether these should be explicitly labeled or not, and have done one each way. However, I assure you that the menace of flightless waterfowl and virtual sports-entertainment were not at the forefront of my mind desperately banging on the door to be set free…but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch out for those slick little SOBs parading around as Linux mascots. CONSTANT VIGILANCE, donkeys, and don’t you forget it.)

Assignment #2 – WWE Presents Donkeymania

“Welcome back to the FU Center in Philadelphia! I’m your host Jim Ross here with Morty the Weasel! We have a real slobber-knocker of a main event for you tonight!”

“That’s right, JR – we have Stan Lee and Alan Greenspan, one fall to a finish, no disqualifications, no countouts, locked inside a steel cage. This might just be the biggest night in the history of our sport.”

“And yet, this was not our original main event.”

“That’s right, JR – we were first slated to match Cesar Milan and Tom Colicchio, but that was called off when there was a misunderstanding about Korean cuisine night on Top Chef. Then we scheduled Derek Jeter against Ted Allen.”

“Jeter went right up against Allen, all right, but not in a way we can show you even here on pay-per-view. So now we bring you our main event – And here come the competitors! First, the challenger, Stan Lee, being borne out on a litter carried by six pasty comic-store owners. Lee fighting in the ritual costume of his people, with the black jean shorts and the army surplus trenchcoat.”

“Don’t like seeing the knobby knees on our challenger, JR.”

“No indeed. And now the champion, Alan Greenspan, his golden throne being rolled into the arena while his attendants throw handfuls of cash into the crowd.”

“Hard to believe you could find that many topless virgins here in Philly, JR.”

“For a man with that kind of power and wealth, all things are possible. And now the locking of the cage, and our match is underway! Stan Lee circling warily from a distance, doesn’t want to show his hand too soon…Alan Greenspan with that sockful of quarters, a devastating weapon, and he lashes out but Lee dodges…well, the man who created Mr. Fantastic should know a thing or two about slippery dodges – and here he comes back with a burst of web fluid to the eyes of Greenspan!”

“Don’t know if that’s web fluid, JR.”

“Greenspan disoriented, unsure of where he is. He’s as crazy as a pet raccoon out there.”

“Being married to somebody from NBC News, some of the stupid was bound to rub off eventually, JR.”

“Greenspan is up now, making a move – and he increases the prime interest rate by a quarter percent! Stan Lee is trapped, unable to move, the inflationary pressure has him pinned in place…and Greenspan drops the rate by a half percent and the flood of easy money buries Lee under a pile of cheap commercial paper!”

“Don’t see how he’s going to dig out of that, JR. Looks like Greenspan will keep the belt for anoth–”

“My God! Stan Lee is hulking up! He is actually turning green! His jean shorts are ripping! My God! This is unbelievable!”

“He’s finding the range now, he’s out of the pile of bonds and stalking Greenspan…Greenspan going for a sack of money, but it’s all dollars! The depreciation has rendered it weightless!”

“And business is about to pick up! Greenspan running like a scalded dog, but Stan Lee unleashes those mighty green fists and beats the former Fed chairman like a government mule!”

And now Stan Lee is climbing the cage! He’s setting up his move, JR!”

“And Greenspan looking up – and it’s the Excelsior! Stan Lee has hit the Excelsior on Alan Greenspan and he is down! The ref runs in to count it…one, two, two and a half, two and three quarters, there’s a correction, two and one eighth, one and a half–”

“Greenspan’s bought the ref, JR!”

“And Stan Lee holds up one fist–”



“Punctured my eardrum there, JR.”

It’s a new world

I just got done watching the Celtic match from the weekend, where the highlight was Celtic’s 3-goal outburst in 5 minutes. Among them was another sterling free-kick from Shunsuke Nakamura, who is just incredible – Beckham wishes he could bend it like #25. And it’s amazing to think that 40 years ago, Celtic won the Champions League with a team composed entirely of players who lived within 30 miles of the stadium. Now, their most electrifying player is a 150-lb Japanese midfielder, and I’m watching them on satellite from California.

And now I’m watching a Premiership match. It’s Everton and Spurs, two teams in the second tier of my interest, but think about it – I’m watching the Premier League, from England, live from my recliner in my house in California – which I live in because I met and married a girl from Silicon Valley, who I met as the result of a group of Internet friends who led me to live in Washington DC at the time…

How different is it now? Twenty years ago, there was no public access to the Internet, no cheap mobile phones, no digital satellite TV, and long-distance telephony was expensive, not something given away as a free spiff to encourage you to get the service. Twenty years ago, if you chanced to meet a girl who lived a few states over, you were limited to cards and letters and hoping your parents wouldn’t notice the phone bill. Now we live in a world where long-distance relationships are practically routine, and living in DC and carrying on with a girl in California is hardly more difficult than carrying on with a girl in Baltimore.

So at some level, I am wildly envious of the kids these days, especially any who were in my situation in their youth – sure, maybe you’re stuck in some semi-rural exurban backwater a forty-mile drive from your friends, but as long as there’s a computer, a broadband connection and a $20 prepaid mobile phone, you don’t have to be alone. That right there should be all the justification we need to make sure there’s broadband everywhere in this country. Not the normal policy prescription, I know – but it’s stunning to imagine how profoundly different my life would have been in my teens and 20s with the application of 2007 technology.

Of course, as soon as I say that, the wireless router hangs. It’s not all cloudcuckooland here…

4 for 4

Celtic, Morton, Newcastle and the Redskins all win on the same day. hopefully a harbinger of Saturdays to come.

The Penguin Menace

I don’t think people really grasp the extent to which penguins have been working to infiltrate our society. It’s been going on for years now, and nobody seems to have noticed. To understand the threat, we have to go back and see where it began.

The earliest days of the penguin plot against America can be traced to the 1980s. It was not an obvious conspiracy. Pengo looked for all the world like a bad Dig-Dug clone, not the penguin foray into computing. Opus seemed like an amusing cartoon character, not an attempt to insinuate the penguin into the consciousness of newspaper readers as an amusing and harmless creature. And Mario Lemieux seemed like a swift-skating sniper, not the human face of the flightless waterfowl empire slowly biding its time for takeover. Coincidences? How can anyone possibly think so?

But the penguins’ long game would not come to fruition for decades. Having softened up a generation and made them receptive to the notion of the penguin, they were content to lie in wait…for the children.

Don’t believe me? Look back on the last three years and watch the dominoes fall like hammer blows against the foundation of human society:

2005: The penguins, in cooperation with the French, launch the cinematic assault known as March of the Penguins. Produced in cooperation with the nest of treasonous vipers known as the National Geographic Society, this stunning piece of propaganda was a lightning strike into the heart of American political culture, seducing the right with its depiction of monogamous mating in even the most trying and tempting condition while luring in the left with…okay, I have no clue, but it won an Oscar so clearly Hollywood took the bait hook, line and sinker. Morgan Freeman narrated this picture and if you have the voice of God, you have won a smashing coup on the “hearts and minds” front.

2006: Happy Feet. With the willing collaboration of the Hollywood fifth column (see above), the penguins produced a staggering work of self-engrandizement that would have put Leni Riefenstahl to shame. This all-singing, all-dancing festival of manipulation was every bit as potent as its predecessor – conservatives were so distracted by the message of environmentalism that they failed to grasp how the film is objectively pro-penguinist. And Hollywood – well, they gave this film an Oscar, snubbing a Pixar feature for the first time ever. Think of that – in only two films, the penguins managed to triumph over the forces of Steve Jobs. At this point, any thinking person should have been terrified – but worse was yet to come:

2007: Surf’s Up. it’s a penguin movie – about surfing! Penguins don’t surf! From the days of Pablo and Chilly Willy, we have known that penguins are cold-weather creatures, yet here they are depicted in warm climates – and we accept this depiction. When the penguins reach our shores, we will not be alert, we will not be aware – for we will have come to assume that it is perfectly normal for penguins to inhabit temperate or even tropical climates!

At this point, it hardly seems worth it to mention the Discovery Channel’s insidious Planet Earth – a slow, steady drip drip drip of penguinism to keep us lolled into complacency. But that’s not the worst of it by far. No, indeed – the penguin menace extends into cyberspace. Club Penguin – a massively multiplayer online game that targets kids! It teaches them to build igloos! It teaches them to waddle around in the show! IT FEATURES A SECRET AGENT PROGRAM! Right under our noses, our children are being turned into the fifth column for the forthcoming penguin onslaught – and we are paying them to do it! The Disney corporation gave Club Penguin $350 million – with the promise of another $350 million if profit targets are reached – to place this program under the Disney banner! Right now, the ice that freezes Walt’s head is the training ground for the enemy within!

The penguin menace is real, my friends. We know they exist. We know they are plotting. The evidence is incontrovertible and plain as the beaks on their tiny speckled faces. The only question – the unanswerable question, the horrifying unknown –