Sunday, July 31, 2005

I am NOT a Metrosexual

Every so often, a term comes along that drives me nuts. The best (or worst) example is "proactive". Businesspeople apparently needed a term to illustrate the opposite of "reactive". Deciding that "active" (the term that had, for the last couple thousand years, served this role) was too pedestrian, they opted for "proactive". And thus was ushered in yet another era of ridiculous and confusing corporate dialogue.

The newest buzzword that I hate is "metrosexual". Apparently, someone needed a term for a type of urban (no, not "black", but rather the actual definition of urban: a city dweller, you know, BEFORE urban meant "black") male that spends thousands of dollars on fancy clothing, skin and hair care products, and thousands of hours on making use of these products, and in all other ways prizes appearance over substance.

My choice, "pussy", apparently wasn't adequate.

I don't hate the term metrosexual as much as what it stands for. Unlike proactive, there really wasn't a descriptive word for this sort of behavior. That's because this behavior is a fairly recent phenomenon. At some point over the last decade, it became acceptable for men to, essentially, behave like women. Like most bad ideas, this started in the 1960s, albeit more innocently than the pre-eminent bad idea of the time, The Great Society. Around then, it was decided that maybe men should do more to get in touch with their feminine side. This wasn't an altogether terrible idea, considering that spousal abuse was pretty much accepted as a fact of life before that. But as time marched on, we kept falling down that slippery slope. It started as just trying a little harder to be more understanding and sympathetic towards women (not a bad idea) to effectively imitating their behavior (a really bad idea).

Now it's apparently okay for a man to spend 30 minutes styling his own hair. Crying for no especially good reason is totally cool. Blowing $2000 on clothes on a whim? No problem. And not only is this behavior acceptable, it's practically demanded. I suspect this has less to do with changing social mores and more to do with the desire of credit card companies, hair care specialists, skin care product manufacturers and high-end clothing stores to have more money flowing through their coffers, but no matter.

I'm not going so far as to petition to have man declared an endangered species but rather, to outline to you some important thoughts on the topic...

- Crying is okay only if you, or someone you love, has suffered an extremely personal and hurtful loss. Or if you're kicked in the balls, like, REALLY hard. Crying "just because I feel like a good cry" is unacceptable.
- I refuse to use any shampoo whose name I cannot pronounce on the first try. Pert is okay. Garnier Fructis is not.
- Speaking of shampoo, it should be bought in the grocery store. There is no need to buy it from your "stylist" at a 300% markup just because it contains some sacred oil found only in a particular tree in the middle of the Amazon rain forest.
- If I'm spending more than $40 on a shirt, it had better come with an accessory. Like another shirt.
- I'm not watching "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy", and you can't make me.
- Your hands don't need moisturizer unless they're so dry and chapped that they're bleeding. And even then, they certainly don't require the $30 brand at Bath and Body Works.
- Who needs Starbucks when you've got Hess Express?
- I'm a beer guy, but martinis, in and of themselves, are acceptable. James Bond is the ultimate male, and if a martini is good enough for him, it's plenty good enough for me. But martini bars are ridiculous. A martini has gin and vermouth. Or vodka, if you prefer. That's it. There's no apple, or blueberry, or butterscotch flavor to it. It's SUPPOSED to taste like paint thinner, that's the point.
- Speaking of beer, if I go to a bar where I try to order beer and they give me one of those "we're above serving beer" looks, I'm leaving. This is another strike against the martini bar.
- If I'm spending more than $10 on a haircut, it had better come with a happy ending.
- Don't strike a pose, just shake my damn hand, for crying out loud.
- If my hair takes more than 30 seconds to do in the morning, I do one of three things: 1. wear a hat, 2. go get it cut, 3. suck it up and deal. I don't endlessly primp myself in front of the mirror, ruing the fact that I didn't buy that shampoo that contains some sacred oil found only in a particular tree in the middle of the Amazon rain forest.
- I like NASCAR, and don't particularly give a shit what anyone thinks about it. Formula 1 is for sissies and Eurotrash.
- I refuse to go to any velvet-roped establishment with a bouncer deciding who gets in and who doesn't. A bar should be an egalitarian place: people coming together after a long week to drink booze and have fun. I will not allow my appearance and self-worth to be judged by some no-necked, clipboard-carrying, walking bicep muscle with a single digit IQ.
- On a related note, the only "club" I want anything to do with has one of two words in front of it: "golf" or "gentlemen's".
- I like my music with a big guitar, plenty of drums, and maybe a piano. So don't try to sell me on some great new blues or jazz sensation. If someone genuinely knows their stuff, that's great, but chances are, your average metrosexual knows just enough about the subject to spark a conversation with a cute girl at the bar, and in reality, this new blues sensation they're pimping is some kid from Aspen who's got a $75,000 per year trust fund financing his musical hobby. You can't sing the blues unless you have the blues, and as George Carlin said, "white people don't get the blues, they give people the blues."
- I will not own sunglasses that are worth more than the clothes on my body, I will not wear an outfit that is worth more than my car, and I will not own a car whose monthly payment exceeds my mortgage payment.

Caring about your appearance is commendable for many reasons. But there's a limit to it. My hair is going gray, but I'm not dying it. And I'm definitely not putting frosted tips in it. And I know I've got a belly, and I'm working on it, but I refuse to become obsessed with the concept of washboard abs. Beauty is a female prerrogative, but we've retarded the development of generations of women by putting so much emphasis on it that an unattractive, yet capable, woman very seldom will go far in the world. An unattractive, yet capable, man has historically found the sky to be the limit. Yet this new emphasis on men being "pretty" would, if carried to its logical end, do the same thing.

We've screwed up one gender enough. Let's not make it two. Men are men, and women are women, and we'd all a lot happier if we learn to live with it.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Friday Ramblings

Apologies for the fact that I've been sporadic about posting lately. I've been writing a lot of material for drstats.com, the fantasy football website for which I get paid for my work. That doesn't happen here unless you click the google ad in the top right hand corner (hint, hint).

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You know how it's said that drug dealers never do their own stuff, and cigarette company executives never smoke? Well, I've noticed that a surprisingly high number of the hot dog vendors downtown are extremely attractive young women in absolute peak physical condition.

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Best article yet on the NHL lockout and subsequent deal: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/050729&num=0

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I'm not a Hindu, but I definitely believe in karma, at least in some form. That is, that good deeds and bad luck often have a way of coming back to reward you. One such example was from a time I went to the grocery store, and some little old lady in line behind me only had one or two items, so I let her go ahead of me. I went outside, bought a soda from the soda machine, and received two Diet Pepsis.

I recently had another example, although more of the "bad luck turning around" variety than the "kindness is rewarded" variety. Last weekend, I was playing poker with my friends Lan and Doug. We were playing Texas Hold'em and I had K-7 of hearts. On the flop, two more hearts come, the Q and 9 and on the turn, I make the near-nut flush (I don't think the ace of hearts was on the board). I go all-in, and Lan, after mulling it over, calls, saying, "I don't think you've got the flush." Bad news for him, as he turns over Q-9, for two pair. So he needs a queen or nine to stay in the game. There are four cards, out of 40 remaining (6 on the board, and three pairs of cards among the players from a deck of 52), that help him. If this were the World Series of Poker final table, Norman Chad would be saying "Harris is a HUGE underdog here and needs a miracle on the river." Meanwhile, Phil Hellmuth would be doing something obnoxious. Well, since I've already told you it's a bad luck story, you probably know what happens next. And if you don't, you're an idiot and shouldn't be reading.

Last night, on my way home, the radio said, "caller #4 wins Edgefest tickets!" I have no idea what "Edgefest" is, apart from being a concert in Buffalo, but screw it, I say, I'm calling anyway.
"Hello, 94.1."
"Am I caller #4?"
"Yes you are!!!"

I try to display the appropriate level of excitement, even though I have no desire to see this concert. But hey, I can finally say I won something on the radio. And maybe, karma has turned around that full house Lan pulled on me.

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Think you're a Simpsons Fan? Try this on for size: http://www.radioactiveman.com/simpsons/index.cfm

Questions can actually be for the most casual fan to the most intense, so if you're a Simpsons fan of any variety, it's a wonderful time-waster.

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Must be link day, but this one's an oldie-but-goodie, that I "rediscovered" when I found out that it's AJ Feeley's favorite website. I'm not sure what that says about the Dolphins QB situation...actually, yes I am. It says that Gus Frerrote's chances of being the opening day starter are greater than expected.

http://www.mulletsgalore.com

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A fond farewell to the one and only Doug Diesel, who is on his way to Albany as we speak. It's probably best that he's leaving, as I lost all faith in Doug's humanity during our bon voyage party for him. Those who know me know that I regard Bruce Springsteen as the greatest musician in American history. Oh sure, Copland, Sousa, Dylan and Presley are all fine choices, I admit. But
at the end of the day, it's The Boss for me.

After taking up a collection from our table to put some tunes in the jukebox, Doug, who to be fair was on roughly his 23rd beer of the day, started trying to dazzle us with his musical knowledge. First, he asked "who plays this song?" when "Freebird" came on. That was bad, but not as bad as this exchange...

("Born to Run" comes on the jukebox)
Doug: Oh, this is another great tune! It's...uh, "Born to Dance", by....um, Tom Petty!

I would have been less surprised if an alien had emerged from Doug's stomach and proceeded to do a vaudeville routine across the table.

Doug: What?
Phil: Please tell me you're kidding.
Doug: It's not "Born to Dance" by Tom Petty?

I've said it before, I'll say it again, my boy puts the "Ug" in "Doug". Nevertheless, we'll miss him.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Phunwin...at the Movies???

(You know how, on "The Wall", Pink Floyd had one song titled "In the Flesh" and another titled "In the Flesh?"? In building on my previous post, "Phunwin at the Movies", I bring you the above title. Clever, huh? No? Well, forget it, just keep reading and forget the stupid title.)

I don't go to a lot of movies. The "movie theatre experience" isn't exactly my thing. For one, I worked at a movie theater once, and I hated it. A job that requires me to wear a red vest with a crappy clip-on necktie is somewhat below what I deem to be my station in life (even though I was just a college student looking for beer money). So I sympathize with these poor lost souls and try not to give them more grief than absolutely necessary. Sadly, since I can't do that, I just stay away from the theatre.

The cost is always prohibitive: $8 for a ticket (sold by one of these poor lost souls above who, if provoked, will actually ask you to produce ID showing that you're over the age of 17 if you want to see an R rated movie), $4 for a soda (roughly the size of a mop bucket and, when consumed, so certain to cause bladder pain in the course of a 2 1/2 hour movie that they might as well call it "Prostate Blast Size") and $6 for a bag of popcorn (of which I'll only consume half before suffering from a butter-induced heart attack). And of course, you invariably sit behind some retired professional basketball player whose height and gigantic afro will leave you staring at the sides of the screen, hoping something happens there. Either that, or you end up sitting next to someone who likes to talk during movies, as though their comic genius or directorial insight is being wasted as a mere patron. By the way, if the skill of talking through movies was akin to home run hitting, my friends Mike and Alex would be Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

So, anyway, I usually rent or buy movies on DVD that I like or think I'll like. I am, I freely admit, nearly impossible to negotiate with when it comes to renting movies. I have previously held (mis)conceptions about every title, actor, actress, director and genre that are nearly impossible to change. Because of this, the spectrum of movies I'm willing to watch is pretty narrow. It's a problem, I admit. As a result, my wife and I can usually only agree on a movie rental if the moon is full, the stars are in perfect alignment, and the gods are content in the skies over Upstate New York. Since this is rare, we usually rent a pair of movies: one that she wants to see, and I grudgingly accept, and vice versa.

Recently, I was at the store looking for videos for us, and though the "action" and "adult" sections were tempting, I tried to strike a compromise by renting "Sideways" and "Be Cool". Sideways has been talked to death elsewhere, so if you want to read about someone else's review, be my guest. It managed to be clever and depressing at the same time, which of course made it a huge hit with the critics. I thought it was a 7 out of 10. Anyway, I'm talking about "Be Cool" for a couple reasons: one, because it's at once an example of everything that's right and wrong with sequels, and two, because I think it was in theatres for about a month.

It's easier to make a lousy sequel than a good one. But here's the thing: you almost exclusively see sequels of good, well-received movies. So it's hard to live up to that original standard. Moreover, the fact is that MOST movies that get made are crap to begin with. They have a "blink and you'll miss it" run in the theatres, or go straight to video. Sequels have the advantage of some name recognition, so they usually get green-lighted for the theatres. So they get more attention when they flop, as people say, "hey, another lousy sequel!" Well, considering that about 80% of the movies that get made suck to begin with, why should sequels get dumped on so much? I think it's a little unfair, personally.

This brings us to "Be Cool, which was the sequel to "Get Shorty". That's the first problem: Get Shorty needed a sequel like I need a severed head. Shorty was one of the smartest, funniest comedies I've ever seen. This is because Elmore Leonard is a very smart, funny writer. It tied up the loose ends and left everyone happy. Not surprisingly, it was a huge hit. I don't know if Leonard saw dollar signs and penned a sequel on his own, or if the studio said, "hey, will you write a sequel?" and backed a dump truck full of money up to his house. In any event, Be Cool followed.

The movie opened with a big "this movie is rated PG-13" banner, which I couldn't remember seeing on a DVD before. That became relevant quickly. For the first five minutes, I had high hopes. Our hero, Chili Palmer, has moved to LA and is a successful movie producer, who's looking to get into the music business. The car ride that opens the movie, with James Woods, is a wonderful self-parody, and gave me hope that the rest of the movie would be the same way. Chili starts talking about how he hates sequels, and hated doing "Get Lost", the sequel to "Get Leo", a pretty thinly veiled reference to Get Shorty. He then rants about how the movie industry has become too corporate, and that unless your movie has an R-rating, you can't say the F-word more than once. "You know what I say? F**k that."

Sadly, that's where the self-parody ended. The rest of the movie is basically Get Shorty, with minor modifications in dialogue and casting. I mean, there is *NO* originality here. Witness...
John Travolta plays Chili Palmer again, our hero.
Uma Thurman plays Edie, a talented but struggling music executive who's looking for much more (the Karen Flores role, played by Rene Russo, was a talented but struggling actress who's looking for much more).
The Rock plays Elliot, an imposing but ultimately sensitive and decent bodyguard (the Bear role, played by James Gandolfini was precisely the same thing).
Harvey Keitel plays Nick, the ruthless music exec who can't stand Chili (the Ray Barboni role, played by Dennis Farina, was a ruthless mobster who couldn't stand Chili).
Christina Milian plays Linda, a talented singer who Chili takes under his wing to help out, but gets manipulated by all sides (the Harry Zimm role, played by Gene Hackman, featured a hack director who Chili takes under his wing to help out, but gets manipulated by all sides).
Steven Tyler plays himself, the guy who can help make Linda's dream come true (the Martin Weir role, played by Danny DeVito, featured a famous actor who could make Harry's movie big).
Vince Vaughn plays Raji, the bad guy who stands in the way of Elliot's dream and manipulates him to his own ends before getting his comeuppance (the Bo Catlett role, played by Delroy Lindo, featured a bad guy who stood in the way of The Bear's dream and manipulated him to his own ends before getting his comeuppance).

They also added Cedric the Entertainer as a Suge Knight parody, a rap music mogul who's not shy about using violence to get what he wants. Because that role seemed a bit too original on its face, they had Cedric rip off both Samuel L. Jackson's "Ezekiel 25:17" speech from "Pulp Fiction" *AND* Jack Nicholson's courtroom scene from "A Few Good Men". Sound crazy? Watch it and see for yourself.

So there was ZERO originality here. None at all. But here's the thing: it's still a funny movie. If you'd never seen Get Shorty, you'd think this was a funny comedy with a little action and some clever lines to it. And that's the thing about your average sequel: on its own merits, it might not be a bad movie, but it's inevitably judged against the original. And unless it brings something new to the table, it's not going to stack up as well. Seriously, how many sequels are universally judged to be better than the original? Star Trek II and Terminator 2. That's it. That's the list.

I shouldn't have to be extolling the virtues, such as they are, of a movie like "Be Cool". But that's how lousy Hollywood is right now. The creative talents of Tinseltown have been absolutely exhausted. And because of that, you have to grade this stuff on a curve. We shouldn't have to talk up rehashed sequels that offer the same characters, the same plot and the same warmed-over jokes, but that's where things are now.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to draft the script for "Bull Durham 2: Nuke's Revenge".

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Good Call, George

It seems my skepticism yesterday was pointless. The Supreme Court nominee will be Judge John Roberts, a much stronger candidate for the Court than Judge Edith Clement.

Apparently, though, things changed overnight. When I watched CNN last night, everyone came out and said that, barring a big surprise (i.e. "Judge Roberts, is it true that you made a sex tape with Paris Hilton?"), Roberts would be confirmed. Suddenly, the word is that it will be a partisan battle. The pro-abortion groups, predictably, are leading the charge.

Jeff Greenfield made an excellent point last night: "The Supreme Court is not 'The Abortion Court'". There is not, nor should there be, any single one-issue test that a candidate for the Court must pass. Actually, I stand corrected; a nominee for the Court must be able to uphold the Constitution, a test that I'm not altogether confident some of our current Justices pass. In any event, a candidate's stance on Roe v. Wade is not the sole determinative issue of how good a Supreme Court Justice will be. Yet that's precisely how many of these advocacy groups (mostly on the left, but there are a fair number on the right as well) view this process.

Here's another problem with "The Abortion Court"; even in the unlikely event that Roe v. Wade was overturned, it would not immediately signal the end to all abortions anywhere in America. The counterargument in Roe wasn't that abortions are somehow morally abhorrent and should be outlawed; rather it was that there's no fundamental right to have an abortion, and that the question ought to be left to the states to decide for themselves. Abortion would continue to be unfettered in places like New York, New England and California, where most of these activists and their constituents reside anyway. No one seems to get this.

In any event, no one's entirely sure where Judge Roberts stands on the issue. He wrote a brief arguing for the overturn of Roe, but he was advocating for a client. Lawyers take positions for their clients that they disagree with all the time; the fact that Roberts wrote this brief tells us nothing about his stance on Roe. No matter, this appears to be the hook on which the liberals will hang their hats.

As usual, I'm probably getting worked up over nothing. Given the bipartisan support that Roberts ultimately had for his appointment to the DC Circuit in 2003, it seems unlikely that 40 Democrats will filibuster this to death.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Supreme Court Nominee to be Announced Tonight

Word is that President Bush is poised to nominate Justice Edith Brown Clement of the Fifth Circuit to the Supreme Court.

I am underwhelmed.

Slate, for once providing a useful public service, was good enough to provide some information on likely candidates to the High Court, of which Clement was one. Clement's legacy on the Fifth Circuit has been....well, there hasn't been one. And that worries me greatly. I'm worried that Bush is going to get "Soutered", like his old man did. I hate dumb insider Washington terminology like that, but really, it's appropriate. The GOP has an abysmal track record of selecting Supreme Court justices that reflect and maintain conservative views once they make the big time...

Bush 41 selected David Souter and Clarence Thomas. Thomas, obviously, has worked out well, but Souter joined the Court's liberal wing early on (some writers characterize him as a moderate, which is laughable).

Reagan selected Antonin Scalia and elevated William Rehnquist to Chief Justice. Those moves worked very well, but he also selected Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy. Picking one conservative, promoting another and selecting two moderates puts Reagan at the top of the heap, it seems.

Ford gave us John Paul Stevens, who is now in his third decade anchoring the Court's liberal wing.

Nixon nominated Harry Blackmun, Warren Burger, and Lewis Powell. Somehow, despite that track record, he managed to give us Rehnquist, too, which saves him from being a total loss.

Eisenhower made the biggest mistake of all, nominating Earl Warren to the Supreme Court. At least he admitted it, though; Eisenhower later said that nominating Warren to Chief Justice was "the biggest damn fool mistake I ever made." As an additional kick in the nuts, Eisenhower nominated William Brennan to the Court.

Say what you will about the Dems, but at least they know where their bread is buttered. You've got to go back to Kennedy's nomination of Byron White to find a Supreme Court Justice chosen by a Democratic president who didn't walk a liberal line. And at least White had the decency (as they'd see it) to resign when Clinton was in office.

A friend of mine brought up a fine point the other day. He was frustrated by the fact that Bush seemed to be focused on being the first president to nominate a Hispanic to the Supreme Court. Since Clement is not, it seems, Hispanic, this particular point may be moot, but the larger one remains, which was, "why not just pick the best person for the job?" There was at least as much pressure on Bush to find a woman to fill O'Connor's seat as there was to find a Hispanic. (Given this, one wonders why Bush didn't find a Hispanic female conservative with some judicial credentials and call it a day.) Clement's slim track record is somewhat reminiscent of Souter, in that the nomination itself is likely bulletproof, but how much does anyone know about her?

Here's hoping President Bush knows what he's doing.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Happy Trails, Pound for Pound

Rasheed Wallace called Larry Brown "Pound for Pound". Not because of the old phrase "pound for pound, the best ____ in the world", but because his initials were LB. Or, if you prefer: lb. I always got a kick out of that.

Brown's departure from the Motor City will cap one of the, pound for pound and year for year, greatest tenures in coaching history. Brown made the Finals 100% of the years he coached the Pistons, and brought home an NBA title 50% of the time. Skewed numbers, you say? Well, yes they are. He coached two years in Detroit. But then, that's the nature of Pound for Pound's tenure: just like you can't judge Jermain Taylor, the new consensus pound-for-pound best boxer in the world today, against the heavyweights, you can't judge Brown against guys like Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson. Brown has never been in one place long enough to build a legacy.

I think Larry Brown is a phenomenal basketball coach. Most others would agree with me; how many coaches have won an NBA title and an NCAA Championship? I'll give you a hint, it's a real short list. In fact, it's got just one name on it. That said, his time in Detroit has come and gone. For all his greatness, Brown has a lot of problems. For starters, he's as xenophobic as Dick Vitale. (Bet you never thought you'd see the word "xenophobic" in a sports-related post, did you?) Brown's refusal to let Darko Milicic, Carlos Arroyo and Carlos Delfino develop with playing time may have helped doom Detroit in the playoffs. When Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess got hit with foul trouble, it might have been nice to have a big man around who could eat up some minutes. When the Pistons' offense stagnated, as it often did, it might have helped to have a high energy point guard who could energize the team, or a swingman who could fill it up. That's what Joe Dumars picked up those guys to do, trusting that Brown would do his part in giving the playing time to let them develop. He didn't.

Brown's famed "wanderlust" was no help, either. The most frustrating incident I read about happened in the tough Miami series. Chauncey Billups and Joe Dumars were sitting in the locker room, trying to devise a way to beat Miami's pick and roll defense, which had been giving them problems. Brown was outside talking to gossip columnists about how he wanted no part of Cleveland and blah blah blah. Billups, somewhat like the kid who's waiting for his dad to get home from work, said to Dumars, "it sure would be nice if he [Brown] was here." Brown's open flirtation with the Cavs was absolutely inexcuseable, and it's probably what led to the current state of affairs. And Brown was in the wrong, without question; you can't look for another job at the most important time of the season like that. If he had turned the Cavs down immediately, or even said, "wait until after the season", the team would likely have waited for him to make a firm commitment to come back next year, given his health problems. As it is, Brown's health is probably a convenient scapegoat for this whole situation, one that allows both sides to come out looking reasonably okay.

Still, none of this should tarnish Brown's legacy. The Pistons almost surely knew what they were getting when they hired Brown. The man jumped from Philly to join them. You can't expect a great deal of loyalty from a guy who jumps from one ship to your own. It's like stealing a hot girl away from her boyfriend; sure you can expect a few months of good times, but in the end, she's probably going to find some guy with a faster car and a bigger wallet. Or whatever. So what did the Pistons get out of the deal? One championship and two Finals appearances. Not bad at all.

Flip Saunders will probably coach the Pistons next year, and he'll surely do so with a mandate from Joe Dumars to develop Milicic, Delfino and Arroyo. Saunders isn't the coach Brown is; not in a million years. But he's a good coach, and he'll come in with a clear direction. Brown came in with a clear direction, too: win a title and take the team farther than Rick Carlisle did. He did that. Now, Joe Dumars knows that the Pistons need to plan for the future. It's not enough to win a title and keep leaning on the same group of veterans. Teams that are great for a long period of time mix in new talent and stay strong that way.

So long, Pound for Pound. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

An Open Letter to President Bush

Dear President Bush:

May I call you George?

No? Okay then, Mr. President. I write you with regard to a subject that's soon going to be the most important item on your desk, if it isn't already. As you're well aware, there is now an opening on the United States Supreme Court. I would like to offer my service to you, and to this country, as the newest justice on the Court.

If you haven't already discarded this letter, and possibly had the Secret Service arrest me for wasting your time, I appreciate your willingness to hear me out. You see, Mr. President, I feel I would be an ideal choice for you to make your mark on the Supreme Court. For starters, I'm a lawyer. And unlike that Gonzales guy, I'm a good enough one to have advised you of that little thing called "the Geneva Convention" that he somehow managed to overlook.

I'm also a member of a demographic that you're ardently pursuing with your well-considered plan (pardon the brown stain on my nose) for private Social Security accounts; the under-35 voter. I understand the importance of making the GOP a "big tent" party by appealing to the Hispanic voter, but Mr. President, there are far more under-35 voters in this country, and we're dramatically underrepresented. Sure, that's largely because most of us don't bother to vote, but never mind that now.

You want to leave a lasting legacy with the Court? I'm 28 years old. I'll outlive every one of these old farts (maybe I should call them The Brethren of Old Farts, out of respect and all) by a good 40 years. Even Justice Stevens, even though I think it'll take a nuclear blast to wipe him out. With advances in modern medicine and the renewed commitment to physical and mental fitness that would come with an awesome responsibility like this, you might get 70 years of solidly conservative opinions out of me. Let's see your boy Scalia do that.

I'm palatable to the conservative wing of the party; I'm anti-abortion, a strict constructionist, and willing to roll back probably 2/3 of the vastly overreaching federal legislation of the last 30 years. Like your cowgirl pal, Justice O'Connor, I'm a tremendous states' rights advocate.
I'll put a leash on the out of control monster known as the commerce clause.
But I'm not anathema to the Democrats in the Senate: I'm young, I'm from New York and am sufficiently ambivalent about unimportant crap like prayer in schools. And if that doesn't work, I'll drink Ted Kennedy under the table just to get him to vote for me (or keep him from making the vote...whichever).

I didn't go to Harvard or Yale Law School, I went to Buffalo. I ask you, Mr. President, how many white, under-35, male attorneys who graduated from Buffalo and have never served as a judge before (oops, can't believe I copped to that) are on the federal bench now? We're a minority, sir. It's time that we be given our due. Be the first to nominate one of us to the Supreme Court. Be a trailblazer, Mr. President.

Yours Truly,
Phunwin

P.S. If you're not going to pick me, one of those 4th Circuit guys would be a nice choice. I'd settle for taking their spot in the federal judiciary.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I Watched My Namesake Today

Well, only for a minute. Just returned from vacation, and my wife was watching Dr. Phil this afternoon. While catching up on email and the various rumors from around the sports world (Larry Brown still hasn't decided what he's going to do, of course), I heard this from the TV: "A 20 year old man wonders if it's okay to collect Care Bears, next."

Ordinarily, I have a strict anti-Dr. Phil philosophy. I think he's a pompous, obnoxious, self-righteous windbag (and yet, I like listening to Rush Limbaugh...go figure). But when I heard about a 20 year old man who enjoys the company of Care Bears, well, I had to spare a moment of my time. So, like a moth to a flame, I joined my wife on the couch.

Indeed, truth was stranger than fiction. Apparently, this demented and twisted soul has a massive Care Bear collection, which he enjoys talking to, playing with and role-playing with. Eww. He also runs a Care Bears message board and occasionally counts himself as an oversized member of their number, with a life-size Care Bear costume. Captain Care Bear then asked Dr. Phil, "how can I get my friends to stop making fun of me?"

Since I cannot possibly come up with a smart-ass comment worthy of addition to that story, I'll just move on to the joke of the day...

An old Italian man lived alone in the country. He wanted to dig his tomato garden, but it was very difficult as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

Dear Vincent,
I am feeling pretty bad because it looks like I won't be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I'm just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. If you were here my troubles would be over, I know you would dig the plot for me.

Love, Dad

A few days later he received a letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
Not for nothing, but don't dig up that garden. That's where I buried the BODIES.

Love, Vinnie

At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son:

Dear Dad,
Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That's the best I could do under the circumstances.

Love, Vinnie

Friday, July 01, 2005

Random Pre-Vacation Thoughts

Before heading on vacation for a week, to a place where I don't even get cell phone reception, let alone have internet access, I thought I'd share a few topical thoughts with you, dear reader...

I have no particular love lost for the suddenly-in-the-news Kenny Rogers. The Gambler contributed heavily to my worst moment as a sports fan. Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS, the Mets were playing the Braves (as an aside, has any team played more memorable Game Sixes than the Mets?). They had clawed back from a 3-0 deficit to make it 3-2, after a game 5 that ranks among the greatest in Mets history. A win in game 6, and the Braves would surely be buried under the weight of mo-MET-um. (like that pun? Me neither, let's move on...)

The Mets went down 5-0 early, but came back to take the lead. Armando Benitez, his right arm nearly dead from overuse, gave up the tying run, and to extra innings we went. The Braves had runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out. Rogers came in and Bobby Valentine ordered him to intentionally walk the next hitter (it may have been Brian Jordan, but I can't remember for sure) to load the bases for Andruw Jones. I knew this was a terrible idea the moment it happened. Never mind the fact that Jones was likely fast enough to beat out most double play balls. Jones was a patient hitter and Rogers lived outside the strike zone. His effectiveness depended heavily on batters swinging at junk. With the bags juiced, the margin for error was zero. That's a bad thing when you walk as many hitters as Rogers does.

You can probably figure out what happened next. Jones, almost surely given some sage advice by his hitting coach, stood like a statue and made Rogers work the strike zone, which he didn't, and the winning run walked home from third base. I stared at the TV in a catatonic state of disbelief. That was the worst moment I've ever had as a sports fan. Worse than Miami's loss to Buffalo in the 1992 AFC Championship. Worse than Keith Smart beating the 'Cuse in the '87 National Championship. Worse than the 'Canes getting robbed by the refs in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.

Anyway, Kenny was in the news this week for taking out a cameraman for no apparently good reason. It made for great TV, and the guy was okay, and moreover, The Gambler's probably looking at a lengthy suspension. So there's winners all around.

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Justice O'Connor resigned today. On any other website, that would be the top story, but I'm not exactly shocked. This has been in the works for awhile. I'm just upset that she couldn't drag Ginsburg and Breyer into retirement with her. Suffice to say, this might put an end to the recent detente in the Senate over filibustering judicial nominations.

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Coming Soon: The Best Damn Politics Show Period, the first ever news program co-broadcast by FOX and CBS News. Featuring your hosts, Phil and Nick. At the end of every discussion, we'll agree to disagree, shake hands like gentlemen, and beat up Tom Arnold.

Honestly, who wouldn't love a show like that?

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One other thing to dislike about Rogers, he apparently didn't watch "Bull Durham". If you watch the video, Rogers goes after the cameraman and leads with his LEFT hand. Kenny, you need to heed the advice of Crash Davis: "never punch a guy with your pitching hand!"

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I'm spitting into the wind on this one, but I'm leading a one-man fight against the proliferation of Phone Jail. I think that 75% of my calls to customer service are for reasons other than the standard "press one for..., press two for..." variety. The old "enter 0 and they'll give you an operator right away" trick never works anymore. That used to be like a secret cult; only a few people knew about it, but now it's too widespread. Now, if you hit 0, they give you the "that is not a valid entry, please try again" spiel. So, despite being a square peg in a round hole, and a square peg urgently in assistance of a living, breathing human, I am forced to enter a wide variety of codes and numbers, each time risking a mistake due to my lack of dexterity that will cause the call to be terminated, my account closed, and my cat kidnapped and held for ransom.

I called my bank today to order new checks. After entering my social security number, account number, mother's maiden name and weight in kilograms, they brought me to this menu...

"Press 1 for your account balance. Press 2 to change your mailing address. Press 3 if you'd like to call us a dirty word."

*Beep*

"Press 1 for racial slurs. Press 2 for gender-based epithets. Press 3 to select from a list of vulgarities commonly used by longshoremen. To create your own dirty word, press 0."

*Beep*

"Please use the keypad to spell the word you would like to call us. Use the pound sign as a hyphen and the star key to signify that you're adding a new word."

*Beep-boop-beep-beep-bop-boop-bop-beep-beep-boop-boop-beep-beep*

"M-O-T-H-E-R-D-U-C-K-E-R is not a valid entry. Please try again."

Yup, just like spitting into the wind.

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On that, I wish you all a very happy July 4th weekend!