NaBloPoMo, day 30: In Conclusion

The last time I finished November with three rivalry losses and a sinus infection was 2007. The Christmas season didn’t get much better after that. Part of it was the comedown of returning from London, Paris and York to my workaday job, part of it was realizing I’d caught the bait and switch and that said job was essentially two shitty part-time jobs slapped together into a single sub-contract, and part of it was just wrapped up in the Dysfunctional Family Christmas ™ that really bottomed out that December. All in all, it was a prime capper to the third-worst year of my life (and the only thing keeping it out of second was that I couldn’t drink in 1986), and the new Kanye West single “The Good Life” mocked me from my iTunes. If one of our friends hadn’t scheduled a cocktail party for December 28, I don’t know how I would have made it through the trip.

This year looks brighter, football notwithstanding. I’m not going to be heading out of town for the holidays, in all likelihood, and the drama will be at arms’ length with my relations in the old country. I have a pretty good feeling about this Christmas season, although that may just be me being hopeful. Christmas is a season unto itself in my reckoning, set between Late Fall and Winter, and a time for ordinary service to be suspended in favor of lights, songs, James Bond flicks on the DVD player, and as much socializing as can be managed.

Christmas has always been a mixed bag for me ever since I got to be too old for toys. 1986 was particularly dreadful, because I literally knew every single present I was getting before I even went to bed on the 24th – and everything just felt empty. After that, my mantra was “I don’t care what I get, big or small or whatever, just surprise me.” Two years later, Christmas was movies and hanging out with my team and a riotous New Year’s party and I don’t remember a single gift I got except for a certain gray fedora that went on to be iconic for a year. 1994 may have been the best Christmas ever – me home from grad school in my big leather coat and a Vanderbilt cap while my girlfriend was out of town for two weeks and my high school gang was all back together, and school hadn’t yet gone pear-shaped, and we had the Internet for the first time and life was full of promise. Come to think of it, 2008 was pretty damned awesome, with the thrill of getting to leave my job for my current one and have three weeks to kill alongside a rack of great tunes and the sun shining on the green hills of California through December as Vanderbilt bore down on its first bowl game in twenty-five years and I watched Cal defenestrate Miami at AT&T Park through the haze of post-flu hangover.

So what about this year? It’s had its ups and downs, for sure. I remember in 2006, all I wanted was a dull moment after the whirlwind of…well, of the last ten or fifteen years, to be honest. I wouldn’t say 2010 was a dull moment, not when you start with Alabama vs Texas and drag your mother and her husband through five countries in two and a half weeks and get hailed on at a football game and bust out of the NCAA tournament on a shot you’ll be seeing on the highlights for twenty years and down a shit-ton of absinthe while watching the SAINTS win the Super Bowl and officially lift the ceiling on what your co-workers are prepared to believe about you. But it wasn’t nearly as chaotic as it could have been, and that’s more or less what I needed this time around.

There we go. I think I hit 500 words or so every day, which means I did about 15,000 words. It’s no NaNoWriMo, but that wasn’t on the cards this time out. Maybe next year – although if I had a nickel for every year I’ve planned to write my Great American Alt-History Novel for NaNoWriMo, I’d have 35 cents.

Merry Christmas to all…and to y’all a good night.


I was only vaguely aware of Police Squad! when it was on TV – I didn’t actually watch it, and I didn’t realize it was a spoof, so you can imagine how confusing the credit sequence was for me. I also didn’t see Airplane! until college at least (look, it was Alabama, what do you want from me?) so I was pretty cold coming into The Naked Gun over Christmas break in 1988.

We almost got thrown out of the movie theater. We were roaring. I mean, serious gasping-for-breath-Oh-God-I’m-gonna-die howling. I was literally, no lie, doubled over walking out of the theater, my gut hurt so bad. It was like I’d done three hundred crunches – which I pretty much did. Hell, years later at City Stages 1994, my buddy Ken was bewildered – “There’s no way Nordberg shot his wife!”

No human being alive before or since has made me laugh like that. Well done, Mr. Nielsen. People may argue for Barenaked Ladies or Molson XXX or Chris Jericho as Canada’s greatest export, but I was there and I know better and I say it was Lt. Frank Drebin.

NaBloPoMo, day 29: futures

A while back I made the observation that the universal signifier in TV and film for “this takes place in the future” is that everyone is wearing a long coat. Mind you, not the “this takes place right about now-ish” which used to be signified by Black President; this is the “this takes place 20 MINUTES INTO THE FUTURE (go back and watch Max Headroom. Edison Carter? Long coat. The Matrix? Come on.) Even with the new Sherlock series from the BBC, they made our hero’s trademark a longish grey coat which is apparently reshaping men’s fashion this winter in London.

I don’t know how we wound up on the long coat. It’s a step up from spandex jumpsuits and shiny silver spacesuits with miniskirts (and come on, I don’t have the legs for it). And it gets away from the “everybody carries a death ray or a laser pistol or blah blah” that came from the fact that sci-fi was “Space Western” for a long time. (Firefly. Hell, they made their long coat the symbol of the fandom.) I think, ultimately, it boiled down to this revelation:

The future looks like the present, but different.

If I had stepped through a wormhole on Thanksgiving day and appeared to myself sixteen years ago or so, my earlier self would almost certainly have looked at me and said I was obviously from the future. Same Timex Ironman watch, but mine is sleeker and more rounded and has inverted Indiglo – but in almost all other respects is the same. Even the color scheme is basically identical. Same Birmingham Barons cap – but instead of a white B on a black cap with a red bill, the whole cap is black and the while B is trimmed in a red halo, and the hat is a low crown instead of the classic big square Fred McGriff front. And of course, the long coat – my green oilcloth engineer’s coat is just right for the look even before throwing the obligatory cyberpunk mirrorshades into the mix (yes, I picked up another pair of the Oakley Halfwire 2.0s in Ice Iridium). Give me something slightly futuristic for a sidearm, like a 5.7x28mm FiveseveN (the Battlestar Galactica pistol from season 2 on), and you’ve hit all the highlights. (And then give me a couple of Daleks and some polycarbonate-shattering bullets for the gun. Sometimes you just need something you can kill with a clean conscience.)

For the most part, the Sony Ericsson phones always did a good job of looking just barely futuristic. Maybe it was the font of the corporate logo compared to the Sony or Ericsson brand logos by themselves. My little white Nokia conveys the look well, especially since it’s got no carrier branding at all, while the MOTOFONE F3 is so damn thin (try a third of an inch thick) and so wild with the e-ink display that you can overlook its 1996-ish feature set. Come to think of it, the laceless Converse One Stars in gray canvas have the appropriate retro-future look.

This can be a trap, of course. Look at something like E.E. Smith’s legendary Lensman series in the 1930s, the forerunner of the whole Green Lantern Corps concept – they have planet-destroying weapons and faster-than-light travel with NO COMPUTERS AT ALL. DSL in the late 90s frequently came with the burden of PPPoE, because the providers treated it as just a faster species of dialup – notions of what you could do with a persistent high-speed connection were beyond them until people found their own application (Napster sold a LOT of broadband in 1999-2000). When Gibson’s Law is invoked (“the street finds its own uses for technology”), the rules can change in a hurry.

But by and large, if you assume the future will look pretty much like today, you’re not far off. Just make sure your coat is long enough. Meanwhile, my signifier for the future? A gender-swapped version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside”…

NaBloPoMo, day 28: through the haze

My Redskins bar is going away. I don’t know if I went into detail on that before, but the short version is that Dan Brown lost his lease. The rent went up, the property owners screwed him, he is bailing out. I left him a shot of Gentleman Jack and my card, and I hope to be there the night he opens his next place. Don’t know what the options are, but none of them are good (see last Sunday’s post for details).

So what to think about today? I’m still half lit and I have civic duties to discharge in an hour or so…

Well, mash-ups. I have been fascinated forever with the idea that you can cram two songs together and make more than the sum of the whole. I think the first one I got was in fall 2000, Eminem and Britney Spears, with the rap from “The Real Slim Shady” over the music of “Oops I Did It Again.” Which was just fine. But hell, years before that, I had visions of putting the rap from the Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” over Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion,” and if I knew one damn thing about ProTools or Garage Band or whatever, I would have done it already. Hell, “Mama Said Knock You Out” is just begging to be dropped over the beat from MC Hammer’s “It’s All Good” and there’s a remarkable overlap between Elton John and Billy Joel for an engineer with time and patience (trade beats and lyrics between “Keepin’ the Faith” and “Just Can’t Wait To Be King” and you can get two for one). Hell, some of the stuff that came out of Glee is just begging to be used as Quake music – how many kills could I have gotten to “Halo/Walking On Sunshine” back in the day?

Screw it, it’s Christmas time at last. Granted, there’s as many depressants flying around as in 2007, but inshallah there’s more of a coping mechanism now. Not to mention I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO TALIBAMA THIS YEAR. That ought to do for quite a bit. When you can bag the old country off in ten minutes on the phone instead of six long days in person where you have to drive out to find a cell signal, your life is much improved. At least we’re not bothered with bowl games at this point…sheesh.

BTW, yesterday’s raveout about Vandy scored multiple recs at Anchor of Gold. I may be drunk, but I’m not crazy.

And I’m not coming up with another hundred words just to pad it out to five hundred. Hit me up tomorrow.

NaBloPoMo, day 27: post-mortem


First off, ave atque vale, Robbie Caldwell. You handled twenty pounds of shit in a ten pound sack, between the circumstances of taking the job and the injury nightmare all season, and you did it with class and grace. Best of luck going forward. You deserved better.


I don’t want to hear any more garbage about “Navy’s offensive coordinator” or some up-and-comer from East Roast Beef or anything like that. We were on the verge of turning a corner two years ago and instead we dropped off a cliff. Meanwhile, Stanford is on the verge of a BCS bowl. Northwestern is playing in bowls on or around January 1 lately. Everyone else somehow figures it out.

Now hear this: It’s 2010 and our athletic teams are respectable-to-competitive-to-fearsome pretty much across the board, with one exception. It’s time for the trustees and the big-money donors to get out the checkbook and put together the money to go out and get a KNOWN GOOD BCS-CONFERENCE HEAD COACH. Somebody with a track record and a winning history, and if it takes $5 million a year? Consider it an investment in the credibility of a program that just lost to the 110th-ranked team in Division I football. At home.

No rush hires, no longshots, no rolling the dice – take the time and spend the money and GET THE RIGHT GUY. I’m sick to death of being a laughingstock, of being the odd team out when TEN OTHER TEAMS in the conference are going to bowls, of beating our “rival” once every quarter-century, of sitting around on Saturdays wondering “how are we going to screw it up this week,” of being the cautionary tale for my wife and her other Cal alums of “it could be worse.”

I don’t want excuses. I want WINNERS. And it has to start at the top. Now.


You couldn’t pick a more Cal scenario. The last day at Old Memorial Stadium, a winning season and bowl berth on the line, and the team manages to give up two huge plays and then the winning touchdown – just as the final gun sounds and the sun breaks through the clouds after hail – FUCKING HAIL OUT OF THE SKY – and as Washington celebrates in the corner, the “Chariots of Fire” theme is blaring over some sort of video presentation – and then the video screen conks out halfway through.

5-7. First losing record under Tedford. No bowl. Lost the Axe. Lost the last three games in a row, all at home, all to teams that had never won at Berkeley in the Tedford era until now. Six senior starters gone off a defense that carried the team. No prospect at quarterback. The running back almost certainly headed to the NFL, and his replacement a Smurf of a back with absolutely no business going up the middle on a modern Pac-12 defense. And a coaching staff that at the very least needs to replace an offensive coordinator and an offensive line coach tomorrow.

I’ve said it before under other circumstances, but this time it’s for real: Jeff Tedford and his staff are not currently fit for purpose as the on-field administration of California Golden Bear football. What happened from 2002-2009 is mostly positive, and deserves to be remembered fondly, but it is no longer germane in any way to the current situation. Jeff Tedford must be judged from now on based on 2010 and 2011. This team has struggled for three seasons ever since the ignominious collapse of 2007, and “look how far we’ve come” is no longer acceptable as an excuse.


When you choke away a 24-point lead in the Iron Bowl, you deserve whatever you get. And if Auburn winds up parading a national championship (which itself will probably be vacated in a couple of years), it’s no less than Alabama deserves after shitting the bed in spectacular fashion in front of God and a national television audience. The Tide will have this loss hung around its neck for the next 12 months, and it’s no less than they deserve.

Live by the and-0, die by the and-0.

Boise State now falls into the big pile of one-loss teams. Are they better than LSU? Than Stanford? Than a slew of Big Ten teams?

Who cares?

One thing’s for sure: the new Mountain West will be the superior of the Big East, the way thing are looking. And the new WAC may as well be I-AA.

NaBloPoMo, day 26: another world

(Not the soap opera.)

For years I have been broadly intrigued by the whole virtual-world concept, as best exemplified by the Metaverse of Snow Crash. One big virtual sandbox, the kind of stuff that you’d expect from the future (of which more later). And yet, once you go for an actual graphical environment, it hasn’t quite worked out like that.

The big example everyone points to is Second Life, which has been around for quite some time now. I created an account on it a good six years ago, but did very little with it. There were times, working at my first job in California, when I’d have a powerful machine and a lot of spare time and would just log in and meander around exploring. It was a great way to get away from it all, because it was so sparsely populated that it was easy to stay away from other inhabitants. The problem, though, is that since everything is built, everything has to be rendered. It’s not like a MMORPG where the bulk of the content is stored locally at install and you don’t have to download new sprites for literally everything in your field of vision as it appears.

Like Epic Castle, for instance. This tech demo for the iPhone and iPad is basically just a setting you can walk around. There’s nothing to interface with – no objects or enemies or other players. All you can do is walk around on the set of the game. And not a huge set, for that matter – but so well rendered and visually appealing that it’s a great place to disappear into for five-space. And since it’s all local to the phone, there’s no networking to deal with.

In between, of course, is the MMORPG, exemplified by World of Warcrack. Er, Warcraft. It was HUGE when I worked at Apple, such that some of my co-workers were in on the original beta. I tried to get into it, I really did, but it lasted for about two weeks in 2005. A big part of that was down to the fact that it ran like crap on a 12″ PowerBook G4. A bigger part of it was the fact that it was, well…work. Run run run run run run run run run run run, kill two wolves, run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run, trade skins for mug of cider, run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run run, get gold for cider…stupefyingly boring, and that’s before getting to levels where you basically have to coordinate with large groups of people to “raid” – look, the only thing I’m organizing a group of people for involves drankin’ and Irish rebel songs.

Problem is, I would like a wide-open sandbox-type environment, but it’s so bloody difficult to do – your options are basically fantasy game or sluggish as hell. Thing is, I am given to understand that the coming thing is Lego Universe, which adds some whimsy to what should theoretically be the kind of broad-spectrum experience I’d like to try out. I’m curious to see if they split the difference. Then again, I’m having a hard time thinking of the last video game that I played for more than 20 minutes before going on to something else…

NaBloPoMo, day 25: Thanksgiving

“Twas founded by the Puritans to give thanks they were delivered from the Indians, and we keep it to give thanks we are delivered from the Puritans.”

Of course, I had to emigrate to be delivered, but whatever it takes. I am grateful for all those who stayed behind the kudzu curtain, holding down the few blue spots to be held, but I am thankful that I can repose here in Silly Con Valley, on the front edge of the future…

NaBloPoMo, day 24: the reunion

I don’t know exactly when it was that I first realized that the night before Thanksgiving is some sort of national high-school-reunion night. Not the kind with the punchbowl and the banners in the school gym and the awkward pictures, but the kind where you meet up at the dive bar with your old pals and enjoy having a few pops while you brace to deal with your family. It was the exact feeling I got from my one or two trips to the old Ugly’s in Mountain View.

And it didn’t really work out for me that well. I still knew some people from high school, but the ones I’d kept in touch with were all out of town regularly, and even if they weren’t, circumstances have conspired to put me forty miles from downtown when I’m in the old country – and most of the good stuff is on the far side of downtown. Not that I couldn’t use a few stiff drinks to deal with my family at the holidays, but it just wasn’t on the cards. And so I spent Thanksgiving 2007 in London, and 2008 in a state of steady tension until I could get back to Silly Con Valley and the green hills of December. I stayed here for Thanksgiving in ’09, but thanks to a crap-ton of football and my own laying down the law, Christmas in the old patch was broadly tolerable (and I have the efforts of Team Black Swan East to thank for that).

That Christmas is also when I met up with an old high school pal, a year ahead of me, who has been something of a linchpin for the alumni community both in town and in the general 2-hour driving radius. Which means that I was able to go to my 20-year reunion this summer and have an awesome time. Which means that if I were back in the old country, I’d have something to do Wednesday night – or more likely Friday night – for the first time. Which would be great, and also totally necessary, because…well, the drama is out of hand.

In a way, it’s fortunate that I’ve known since August that I won’t be traveling at the holidays this year, and I’m grateful for it, what with the assorted family meltdowns back home and the choice between the nudie cancer machine or the third base grope in the airports, not to mention the assorted trauma that usually goes along with flying during Amateur Week. But I won’t be where I can clink a glass with my fellow sons and daughters of the old mustard blockhouse, and for that I am truly regretful.

Because more than anything else, that’s the thing I’m most grateful for this year that’s different from previous years. I’m thankful for my wife, my house, my car, my job, my iPhone 4, and for Vanderbilt Commodore basketball, of course – but for the first time in longer than I care to remember, I have a past. Not some black hole with no pictures and no friends to remind me, not a few dusty artifacts taking up closet space as tangible proof that something happened for me once, but actual human beings whose eyes bugged and jaws dropped as they shrieked my name, who knew the old stories and told them without so much as a prompt, who proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only were the old days as crazy as I make them sound, I may have undersold it in the retelling.

In 2010, I finally became a Tree again. And for that, I am truly, deeply thankful.