Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From the Home Office in Teaneck, NJ (UPDATED)

I have no idea what made me think of this - maybe I am just hungry today - but it dawned on me that Teaneck (the town in NJ where we all grew up, er, lived when we were younger chronologically than we are now) has a pretty decent array of good places to eat. And I don't mean nice fancy restaurants where you pay $42 for a piece of steak the size of a deck of cards, I mean actually good food that is not very expensive. To prove it, I have compiled a list of the top foods that Teaneck offers (or offered, in a handful of cases). A couple of caveats:

  • If you did not grow up in or spend a decent amount of time in Teaneck, stop reading. Right now. Go check your email or play Tetris. As far as you are concerned, this will be the single most boring post I have ever submitted to this blog. And yes, that includes this one and this one.

  • Let's consider this a first draft, or a nominating committee. Among other things, this list is very Cedar Lane-focused. That is due, of course, to how close I lived to Cedar Lane. I think half of the places on this list are or were within walking distance of my house. That makes a difference, of course, and I will entertain nominations to the final list that have yet to receive proper consideration. I've even left a blank below as a placeholder.

  • I also did not go to THS, which puts all food served from a truck, as well as nearby Teaneck Road establishments at a disadvantage. See item 2, above, and we'll take it under advisement. I am sure that I can revise this list with the help of the three other contributors to this blog, not to mention the comments from others.

  • Given the number of Teaneck residents who are orthodox Jewish, certain strict dietary restrictions are an integral part of the town dining experience. So noted where applicable.
And so, without further adieu, the top 10 list:

10. Sammy's Bagels. I know some people liked the old Hot Bagels up on Cedar Lane, and there were some big fans of the bagel place on Teaneck Rd., but Sammy's was an institution, and you could never go wrong there. It's still there, and yes, it's still Kosher for Passover.

Updated - 4.1.09: A lot of people are suggesting that Hot Bagels on Teaneck Rd. should have taken the prize here. And, while I will check with my dad, I seem to remember that for a while he would drive all the way over there to get our bagels, passing a few other bagel stores on the way. If that's the case, I will have to make that change.

9. Pioneer Pizza. A relic of bygone Saturday afternoons, not to mention intimate lunches for 35 (to OB's credit, after 18 years . . . success!). Some may have preferred Victor's (see below), and there might even be a Coliseum fan out there, but two slices of pepperoni and a fountain coke at Pioneer was incredible. Long gone, but hardly forgotten.

8. Wing Out (Vinny O's Buffalo Wings). The time: 2:12 a.m. The place: Vinny O's. The price: 10 cents. LJT and I were recalling the other day that back in 2000-01 we used to go to the bar every Thursday night, stay until 1 or 2 in the morning eating 10 cent wings, and get up to go to work on Friday totally unscathed. Those days are gone. But the memories of those wings linger. It's still there, but if you saw the calendar/place mats from December, then you already know that the only Elijah they are saving a seat for is the one who plays QB for the Giants.

7. Cheese Danish at the Butterflake. Best bakery around, bar none. The cheese danish was my favorite of their many caloric delights, but it was all good. It's still there, and yes, it's still Kosher for Passover.

6. Cheese fries at Cedar Lane Grille. This one has an important qualifier: it has to be after 2:00 a.m. and you have to be drunk. If it is, and you are, melted mozzarella cheese mixed with ketchup and piping hot french fries is as close to nirvana as I need to get. It's still there, but the mix of meat and dairy makes this a no-no for our kosher friends.

5. (intentionally omitted) - this is a placeholder for what I assume will be some nominations for other candidates that I've missed.

Updated - 4.1.09: General Tso's Chicken, Empire Hunan. Glaring oversight on my part. This was a Saturday night special in our family. 5:00 mass, followed by a call to the chinese place next door to the old Blimpie (holla!). We went with the egg rolls, fried dumplings, peanut noodles, and a double order of the General. Always ready in 15 minutes, always hungry 16 minutes later. Kosher for passover: are you kidding, I don't even think this is kosher for Christmas.

4. Italian Hero from Victor's. They lost out on best pizza to Pioneer, but they made an Italian cold cut combo that was dripping with oil, mayo and all sorts of deli goodness. I have not had one of these in at least ten years. I have also not had a heart attack in the last ten years. I cannot see how that could be a coincidence. It's still there, but do your shabbos shopping elsewhere, ok?

3. TBO Fries. If you are questioning the inclusion of fries on this list twice, then you never had TBO fries. Mrs. Brown made some bad ass fries, but I always thought Mrs. Sumler took them to the next level. "Talk to me, TV, talk to me." God that shit almost makes me cry. They are long gone, but never forgotten.

2. Hobo con Queso. This was a serious contender for first place. Hungover on a Saturday morning? Marino, proprietor of the Five Star diner, would fry you up some eggs, melt some cheese on them, and serve the resulting artery buster on a bulkie roll. He'd throw some bacon or sausage on there, too, if you asked. Marino was the kind of guy would would bring trays of iced tea to the bank next door every few hours whenever the the air conditioner broke. No wonder I used to let him in early to do his deposits and get his cash for the weekend. Kosher for passover: you gotta be hobo con kidding me.

You want some Lipitor with that?

1. Bischoff's Ice Cream. An institution for 75 years. Hands down the best ice cream around. This is one of those old-fashioned places that has withstood the test of time, and remains a town-wide favorite. Great ice cream, decent food, and a staff with a disposition worse than Open Bar during prohibition all combine to make this place synonymous with Teaneck. Still there, and there may be some kosher options in the pre-wrapped foods, but nothing off the menu, ok? Someone correct me if I'm wrong and I will revise.

That's it . . . what did I miss?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Final Four

LJT and I had two correct projections for the Final Four, while Chuck and Open Bar had a grand total of none. I am giving myself the narrow win over LJT because (a) my four picks, total, lasted longer in the tournament (Pitt in the Elite 8, Duke bounced in the Sweet 16), and (b) my Cinderella team got out of the first round. (Our remaining picks are the same - UNC and UConn - so that result won't change).

But more importantly, with no correct Final Four projections between them, I think Chuck and Open Bar are asshole and vice-asshole, respectively, until the next NCAA tournament (OB's Cinderella pick getting out of the first round was the tie-breaker).

Hey assholes, go get me a beer and rub my feet.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Automated Coffee Machines, Pete Townsend and God

About a month or so ago, I got a coffee machine from Best Buy. It wasn't any old coffee machine, though. It was a magic coffee machine. It makes the coffee for me before I wake up.

OK, so a lot of people have coffee machines with timers but if you don't you should. It's great, you put the coffee in at night with some water and hit a few buttons and voila - coffee waiting for you when you wake up!

Pretty much from the early 1990s until 2009 I have been a wake up - shower - leave, one right after the other, type of guy. Now, I get up at 7 am (instead of 8) and drink my coffee. It's pretty nice to kind of hang out and wake up as you sip a cup of joe, I must say.

So, you should get a coffee maker that has a timer because you'd be cooler. Side Bar has one and ChuckJerry probably does, too. So, I guess I'm looking at you, Open Bar. I may be a caveman for not having a DVR but if I'm a caveman, you're a fucking gorilla.

So, I'm sitting there drinking my cup of joe and watching Morning Joe (Scarborough) on CNBC and as they go to commercial they play this song that I knew and kind of liked but never payed attention to.

I always heard the words as something like: Diana rah arah door (oooh) but never knew who it was.

I also never even gave it a second thought but this morning I liked it and googlee the words a few times and Pete Townsend kept showing up which I thought was weird because its a very mid 1980s sounding song, I think and I don't think of Pete Townsend as a contemporary of Cindy Lauper, Robert Palmer and Rick Astley.

But it turns out, it's him - and it's just him, solo and released in 1980. The song is "Let My Love Open the Door" and it's a great little song. Very catchy and nice and I can't believe that it's a Pete Townsend song because it doesn't sound anything like The Who, I didn't know Pete Townsend did much solo shit and I especially didn't know he sang.

Here's the song, enjoy:

So, anyway, it's been in my head all day and when I got home I googled the lyrics.

Some random person made the comment that it's about God, which seemed a bit strange but I think they are right. I think maybe it is about God but it's seems to be from God's perspective and kind of a bit tongue in cheek.

Not tongue in cheek as in mocking way, just in that some of the lyrics seem a little bit boastful and un-Godlike things to say (like the last verse - you're so lucky I'm around), which makes it nicer, in a way because it has a sense of humor instead of being preachy.

When people keep repeating
That you'll never fall in love
When everybody keeps retreating
But you can't seem to get enough
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart
When everything feels all over
When everybody seems unkind
I'll give you a four-leaf clover
Take all the worry out of your mind
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart I have the only key to your heart
I can stop you falling apart
Try today, you'll find this way
Come on and give me a chance to say
Let my love open the door
It's all I'm living for
Release yourself from misery
Only one thing's gonna set you free
That's my love
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart
When tragedy befalls you
Don't let them bring you down
Love can cure your problem
You're so lucky I'm around
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
Let my love open the door
To your heart

So yeah. Nice little song by a guy I didn't expect to sing it about something I didn't think it was about.

Coffee. Townsend. God.

What more could you ask for?

Pearl Jam? OK....

Steve Carell and Dane Cook? OK, but this is the last one.

Book Review: The Places In Between (Rory Stewart: Harcourt, 2006)

The title of this post is a misnomer, because I have no intention of "reviewing" this book in any meaningful way. If you want to read a review, check out this one. It is very good, and so is the book.

No, the purpose of this post is to share my two favorite lines from the book, which I just finished today. The author - who walked across Afghanistan, alone, in 2002 just after the American-led invasion - gives an incredibly raw and unadorned portrayal of that "fascinating, unfortunate country." These two lines capture it perfectly:
"Qasim left the room without speaking. I smiled at the man with the red lips but he just continued to stare. I took out my notebook and sketched Abdul Haq, who was sleeping on his back with his rifle across his thighs, his large chest slowly rising and falling. He had a clear, honest face. I found my fondness for him difficult to reconcile with what I knew of his enthusiasm for killing people and making small children cry," p. 79.
"The next day I went to watch the Buzkashi game taking place on a series of fields - some fallow, some plowed and planted - just to the east of the empty Buddha niches. Buzkashi a form of polo played with a dead goat instead of a ball," p. 262
Damn. Road trip, anyone?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Can't Make This Shit Up


Student: Yo Mista, how long did you have to go to school to be a teacher?
Me: After college I went for two more years to get a master's degree.
Student: Maybe I'll go for that.
Me: To be a teacher?
Student: Yeah, you guys make that good money. What's your network?
Me: My network?
Student: Yeah, I'll bet you make a lot of money. What's your network?

(a pause for my brain to translate this)

Me: Oh, you mean my net worth?
Student: No, I mean network. Like how much money do you have?
Me: No, you don't. You mean my net worth.
Student: No, I think it's network.
Me: It's probably not.

'Citizen Kane' had a good run

You might say I'm eager to see this upcoming motion picture:

Read This Fascinating Letter

This is a letter from an executive at AIG to the CEO of the company in which he offers his resignation. It was published in the New York Times op-ed section. I don't really have anything interesting to add, except that I found it pretty fascinating in the sense that it offers an interesting perspective on the whole bonus issue.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Top Four's Top Five

In honor of our second birthday, also known as the two year anniversary of the day blogging changed forever (who?), let's take a look back at our contributors' top five posts of the past two years. This is the top 5 as determined by me, and, as such, is highly subjective. PS - picking only 5 posts proved much harder than I originally thought, but switching to a top ten seemed like a lot more work. Plus, make sure you get all the way to the bottom in order to reach the single greatest achievement in Wheeere's Luke history, the ultimate post.

Notorious LJT - proving the theory that quality and not quantity is the secret to life...and blogging.
5: Wear Sunscreen

4: Shitequette, Jeebus, that picture still makes me want to puke.

3: Sigh, in which LJT breaks up with the Knicks

2: Music Soothes The Savage Beast Part I: Kodachrome and
Music Soothes The Savage Beast Part II: Lola Meets Natashka

1: September Eleventh, Two-Thousand and One

Side Bar - He'll be mad that I didn't include Boner Nomenclature, and in looking at the archives, I'm fairly certain he had a little thing for Sarah Palin.
5: Social Networking Sites are Stupid

4: Return of the Red-Eye, followed by
I'm All Thumbs, along with
Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

3: 199T(eaneck)

2: Play Ball! - in which we get the greatest line in our blog's history (naming rights, ha), a King's Quest screen shot, and an eerie prediction about Barry Bonds and the home run record. And all this in his first post. The Kevin Maas of blogging.

1: The Toilet Bowl 2007: A Short Story

Open Bar - the progenitor of this blog, and in many ways the glue that holds it together.
5: Open Bar's man-crush on Nate Silver, plus some stuff about sabermetrics, and yet another sneaky insult of Side Bar

4: Study by NASA says: Doing three things at once less convenient than doing each one at a time - I really like the tone of this post.

3: Things that are overrated: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak

2: God, I hope that's the sun coming

1: You know what's fuckin' awesome? America. Part III.a
You know what's fuckin' awesome? America. Part III.b
You know what's fuckin' awesome? America, part III.c

ChuckJerry - the heir to the Massengill fortune
5: Joe's Wedding

4: Cartesian Impasse

3: Hey Kids, If You Like Bruce Springsteen, You Might Like Jackson Browne Too

2: Fuck You, The Mets

1: Important Music

In an honorable mention way, I really liked the team effort of analysis that went into the last episode of The Sopranos. First by Side Bar, and then by ChuckJerry.

And finally, the greatest moment in Where's Luke history, less so for the quality of the post, than for the ensuing comment barrage.
No Static, Got an Automatic. Too Much of Anything Makes You an Addict.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Really? The First Thing, Captain Kirk?

Ok listen, I am a nerd. I will happily admit that I am a fan of Star Trek and I enjoy watching the various series and movies. I love the original. I love the Next Generation. I like Voyager. I've seen most of the movies, and I do not begrudge anyone who is a bigger fan than I am. If you want to dress up like a Vulcan and go to conventions, that's cool. If you want to learn to speak fluent Klingon, fucking go for it. If you want to build a replica of Captain Kirk's original captain's chair based on things like the "Starfleet Technical Manual" and the "USS Enterprise Bridge Blueprints", like the people in this article, and then put that chair in your living room, then build away, friend.

But then there's this:
"Mr. Veazie, a manager at Underwriters Laboratories, built the chair himself last year, and has been gratified to find, since installing it in the living room in May, that 'when someone comes in, it’s the first thing they comment on.'"
No fucking shit, dude. So you're saying that no one comments on your fucking normal couch in the living room? No one comments on your tiny bookshelf with your super sweet DVD collection sorted in color order and pictures of your family? The first thing the eye is drawn to in your living room is the elevated replica of the captain's chair with the buttons and everything? I'll bet that's gratifying.

What's Your Final Four?

I'm inviting all of my blog mates to post their Final Four selections so then someone will have bragging rights at the end of the tournament (probably Open Bar, who's got far more time to handicap this stuff).

ChuckJerry's Final Four
Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma
Pitt over Memphis in the final
Cinderella team: USC I'm going with VCU aka Virginia Commonwealth (I wanted to pick Gonzaga, but they're a 4 seed, and 10th in the nation)

Open Bar's Final Four
Um, weird, but Louisville, Memphis, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma (though until the first game begins, I'll be checking espn.com constantly for updates on Ty Lawson, which may alter my fourth choice)
Pitt over Louisville in the final
Cinderella team: Western Kentucky

Notorious LJT's Final Four
Kansas, UConn, UNC and Duke
Duke over UConn in the Final
Cinderella Team: The Teaneck Highwaymen

Side Bar's Final Four
Pitt, UConn, Kansas, UNC
Pitt over UConn in the final
Cinderella Team: Marlyand

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Messiah?


Student: Yo, Mista, we got our first softball game today.
Me: Oh yeah, who are you guys playing?
Student: I don't know. Some Catholic school. I'll look at the schedule.
Me: Ok.

(a few minutes later)

Student: Oh, here it is, Mista. We're playing Chris the King.
Me: Chris? the King?
Student: Yeah.
Me: Chris is not the king. You're playing Christ the King.
Student: Oh, yeah ok.

Point / Counterpoint: I Quit 24

I'm hoping by making this initial point, Side Bar will chime in and give a counterpoint as to why he is still watching, and apparently as engaged as ever.

The point here is that I quit watching 24 this season. When 24 didn't air last season because of the writers' strike, I didn't really miss it. I had watched every season up until then and I was certainly a fan of the show. I had felt, however, that the last couple of seasons had really left something to be desired.

In the last few seasons they had really gone overboard with these terror scenarios and while I concede that what happens in each of their seasons is plausible, it just got less and less believable. At one point in their 6th season there was a nuclear bomb detonated in downtown Los Angeles, and that was in like the 6th episode. It just got more and more ridiculous after that. I really felt like they were stretching for new plot contrivances by the end of that season.

As great as the first 3 or 4 seasons were, was as bad as the 5th and 6th were. I felt like I knew what was going to happen at the end of every episode, because the arc of the show never really changed. I mean, how many different ways can you tell the story? Imminent threat, no leads, ooh we've got a lead, he won't talk, we'll threaten torture, we'll blur the line between interrogation and torture, he talks, we save the day despite some necessary casualties. Those necessary casualties were indeed shocking, weren't they?

And I didn't just quit the show this year because I thought it would suck. I watched the first 4 or 5 episodes. Then the next 3 or 4 episodes started building up on my DVR and I just didn't have an interest in watching them. It's just the same thing over and over again. Terrorist threats diffused at the last moment, Jack Bauer ruminates over his lot in life, so on and so forth.

I assume this season picked up after I stopped watching, Side Bar? Please to explain.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Things That Are Overrated: On The Road

I struggled for a moment trying to decide wether to put this in the overrated category, or just to make an arbitrary post about the book, but since my general conclusion was that the book is fairly overrated, I decided to use the pre-existing theme of the blog. I read this book last week, which also speaks to the lack of posting for those few days, for several reasons. Obviously it's highly regarded, so I figured it would be good. Also I'm into the classics, and this seemed like one of them. It's also just a good pop culture reference and I take my pop culture responsibilities seriously.

I'm not really certain where to begin. This book is one of the more influential works of the 20th century. There are plenty of songs and books, poems and movies that owe their existence to On The Road, but I can't really say that I connected to it. I think when the book was released it was met with praise about there being an underlying truth to it that transcends the time it was written in, but I don't think that's the case. I think the book immediately influenced people in the time it was written, but today it's pretty dated. Additionally, I'm not really in love with the prose that seems to be the defining trait of this novel.

A (very) short summary. This guy Sal is trying to make it as a writer and his not being tied down to a job or anything allows him to go all over the country to visit acquaintances who are spread all over. He hithchikes, takes buses, drives, and eventually works his way all over the country. At the same time this other dude, Dean, accompanies him a lot of the time. They rarely have a specific agenda other than to go around, listen to jazz, and pick up girls. There's a bit more to it, but that's the gist.

The summary is necessary in pointing out that the book is essentially autobiographical. Jack Kerouac sat down to write the book with the idea that he was telling his wife about his life in the years before he met her. The original manuscript had the real names of the people he encountered and everything, and were later changed during editing. I mention this because this wasn't a story that was created. There's no particular genius in just telling about things you did. With that being said, presenting that material in a way that's insightful or that leads to larger conclusions about life would certainly be a worthwile venture. But this isn't that. There is no analysis, there is no grand conclusion, it's all just exposition. This type of work could lead one to really analyze each scenario and decide what lessons one might have learned, especially given that the plot has essentially written itself.

As a result, the whole thing is really just kindof empty. The only time the prose really sings is in three separate sections when he's describing himself watching live jazz performances. Those sections are loaded with purple prose and captivating metaphors and are easily the highlight of the book. Outside of that, he might as well just be telling you about last night's episode of American Idol.

Now I think maybe the point of the book is that the whole thing is kindof empty. The book, life, and everything else. It is the defining work of the "beat" generation, so named because, in one respect, they are beaten down by life, and have, in one way or another, lost their way. But I didn't get the beaten down by life thing from the book. What I got instead was that this was a book about a bunch of losers who shirked thier responsibilities and allowed themselves to be easily swayed by thier ids, and drugs, and one guy who they all knew was a loser, but who was fun to be around until he no longer needed them at which point he would leave without a second thought.

There's an underlying sadness in this book. The main character, Sal, apparently a thinly veiled version of Kerouac himself, has no goals, no ideals, no plans, and no ideas of his own. And this is a book about a lost soul, in the same way that The Catcher In The Rye is about a lost soul, but it's completely different. These two books remind me of each other in the aforementioned lost soul wandering around looking for meaning type of way, but at the same time, On The Road is a far inferior version. What is great about The Catcher In The Rye is that there is a definite universality in the Holden character. We are not exactly the same as him, but we can identify with him and his journey. The style that Catcher is written in is similar to this one, though it is interspersed with Holden's interesting philosophy on life. And even though he's a lost soul, and even though he may never find his way, we at least know that he's striving toward something. The Sal character in on the road doesn't offer any of that. The one thing I know he's passionate about is jazz. Other than that, I can't say anything more about him other than the fact that he took these various road trips.

This is really where the book falls short for me. There is no underlying anything, other than sadness. I wish there was more beneath the surface and there really just isn't here. It's just a retelling of events. If we gave MMG 6 beers, he could recount an On The Road type of story about a fraternity party or a ski trip.

In conclusion, this book is overrated. It feels dated to me and the references feel stale. The Catcher In The Rye is just as old, but doesn't feel dated, and offers more than just a surface story. What's missing in On The Road, then, is that universal element, that timeless piece, the marrow.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

CNB-Deez Nuts

The other day Open Bar wrote a post about baseball and started the post off with a picture of two dogs fucking. He explained the picture by saying, "This has nothing to do with anything. (No. 5 on Google Image Search for "Dogs Fucking.")"

Well, my friends, this is numbers 5, 6, 9 and 12 on Google Image Search for "Dogs Fucking". How do you like them apples?

I'm sure my esteemed colleagues will post part of the clip but tonight John Stewart ripped Jim Cramer a new asshole for about 30 minutes straight.

John Stewart's point has less to do with Cramer and more to do with the whole network.

Basically CNBC became a cheering section for Wall Street They reported what executives said as if it were fact but really never bothered verifying that it was true. They were a sensationalistic and reckless but, at the same time, portrayed themselves as sober and trustworthy.

She is pretty hot, though.

Now, because it's the economy the pitfalls of that are more readily and obviously tangible. If you lose half your worth in a year, you know that sucks pretty much right away.

But I think maybe equally, or even more, detrimental to the country is that the "news" channels like Fox, more than any other, but also to CNBC, which is almost as bad, is that the "news" channels aren't news channels, they're just big loud opinion channels.
Republican gentlemen prefer blonds.

But there really isn't anything wrong with that, I don't think.

The problems is that they pass themselves off as credible news sources but they're not. They're entertainment that is based on the news.

Democrat gentlemen prefer...............huh?

People investing in the market really want to hear that the market is great, Republicans want to hear that Democrats are Godless, wimpy, spending-happy assholes and Democrats love hearing about what small-minded, greedy douchebags Republicans are.

We love sensationalism, especially when it's what we already want to believe.

And yeah, CNBC did a shitty job and they were reckless and fuck them and we shouldn't take their word as Gospel and yeah Fox News is a just a propaganda machine for the right and, yeah, that's left us with a shit economy and a fucked up war.

I guess my point is that cable news isn't really news and, hopefully the last few years have made that clear.

So, after we're done roasting CNBC, maybe we should flip over boring PBS every once in a while or BBC and see what that monotone, fat old guy is saying.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Baseball on my mind

This has nothing to do with anything.
(No. 5 on Google Image Search for "Dogs Fucking.")

Usually when I bring up a baseball writer, it's because I think he's full of shit. I've done it here before, but I want to take a moment to point out two very well written and thoughtful articles I read today.

The first is by a guy named Ken Davidoff, who writes for Newsday. I'm especially happy about this, because Newsday's baseball coverage normally shits the bed, led by head shithead Wallace Matthews. (For proper documentation of his idiocy, please look here.) Anyway, I'm now a big fan of Ken's, because he finally did something I haven't seen any other New York writer do: explain to yankee fans why wanting to get rid of Alex Rodriguez is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad idea.

As you may have heard, A-Rod/A-Roid/A-Hole will miss the first few weeks (at least) of the upcoming season. And if you're a dumbass and listen to people like Mike Francesa or read any of the nonsense most NY Post/Daily News writers are saying, you'd think that losing maybe the best player of the last 10 years is somehow a good thing for the yankees. After all, A-Rod's an asshole, a cheater, a poor public speaker, probably a Nazi, and any other such drivel. (BRING BACK BROSIUS!)

However, reasonable people -- and it has now been proven that at least one New York sports writer falls into that category -- know better. Take it away, Ken:
All right, world, you have your chance now. For the next six to nine weeks, you'll get to see what life is like without Alex Rodriguez. You'll view the mighty, regal Yankees, rid of their "albatross." You'll look at Mr. Perfect, Derek Jeter, liberated from the cumbersome task of playing alongside one of the greatest players in baseball history. Based on what people have been saying out there, I'm betting the Yankees go 35-1 while A-Rod rehabilitates from arthroscopic surgery.
Beautiful. I'm tearing up already.
Somehow, the belief is now pervading that the Yankees will be better off without A-Rod: That he costs as much in anguish and headaches as he pays in home runs and walks.

I don't get it. It doesn't make sense on any level, and the only evidence used to back it up - that the Yankees haven't reached a World Series since they acquired A-Rod - could also be deployed to prove that A-Rod's a heck of a player, but he ain't no Clay Bellinger.
Mwah! I love it. If I were Jewish and my wife just had a kid, I would ask Ken Davidoff to snip the tip. Anyway, Ken goes on to describe how, yes, it's real easy to hate A-Rod for a lot of things (steroids, lack of media savviness, general douchiness), but man-oh-man can the jerk play baseball. And then he gets to my favorite part, something about which I've written before, A-Rod's postseason "foibles."
Has he underachieved in the postseason since he joined the Yankees? Sure, although not as much as you might think. If you could surgically remove his October numbers from 2004 through 2007, then install them into the 1996-2001 Yankees, Joe Torre would probably own five or six World Series rings, rather than four.
I'm not sure how accurate that is, but the fact that the yankees haven't won a World Series since 2000 has nothing to do with A-Rod. The very fact that the yankees (and many of their fans and especially New York sportswriters) consider a non-World Series-winning year a "failure" is beyond retarded.

Ken proceeds to the steroid issue for a bit (and very thoughtfully, too) before finishing with a goddamn flourish, as far as any thinking baseball fan goes. After describing how if the yanks get off to a good start without A-Rod, that just proves the idiots' point. But...
If the Yankees do struggle, however, if the new guys can't live up to the expectations and the old guys can't reach back for better days, then perhaps the haters will finally have their question answered. They'll finally realize the old "Be careful what you wish for" axiom. Nah. They'll probably just hate A-Rod all the more for getting injured.
God bless this man. Just try to explain this very insightful-yet-borderline-obvious commentary to your average yankee fan at the bar, and within moments I'll bet these names come up: Paul O'Neill, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, and the sainted-best-ever-third-baseman-of-all-time-'cause-he-was-so-damn-gritty Scott Brosius.

Okay, no more on that.

Right now, the Mets don't have a fifth starting pitcher. In the offseason, Omar Minaya signed Tim Redding, Freddy Garcia, and Livan Hernandez, in an apparent attempt to disprove the rule that if you have no toilet, you can find a good toilet by acquiring three random toilets full of shit and somehow combine them and come out with a brand-new, shit-free, good toilet.

Oddly enough, after those signings the Mets' fifth-pitcher conundrum is still shitty. So a lot of Mets fans (myself included) have started to think again about the previously unthinkable: re-signing Pedro Martinez, who was himself quite a poop-stained toilet of a pitcher last year.

So now, what to do? Give Pedro a chance or not? As much as my heart tells me that Pedro can rediscover his awesomeness, my head tells me that the dude is washed up. I think yankee fans might recognize this quandary in the Bernie Williams saga a few years back, and more recently the Red Sox had to decide whether to re-sign Jason Varitek. A beloved player, but whose better days are clearly long gone, yet there is a need for someone to fill that position...

I don't think I can say it any better than Jason at Faith and Fear in Flushing. It's a tremendously written piece, and I think any Met fan can see what he's saying. But it certainly extends to any sports fan in this situation. (Just read the thing, that's why there's a link. What, did you think I was going to excerpt a bunch of of it and comment on it? Don't be ridiculous.)

And on a final note, the U.S. dropped its first game in the World Baseball Classic tonight. They lost to Venezuela, a team they demolished a few nights ago 15-6. But the only really interesting part, to me, was when Frankie "K-Rod" Rodriguez, the new closer for the Mets -- now pitching for Venezuela -- came in in the bottom of the 9th with a 5-3 lead. His first hitter? Jimmy Rollins. And what happened? He walked him. The leadoff man. With a 2-run lead.


I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

And on a completely different and ignorant note, I am an average white person. Can someone please explain to me the name "Rodriguez"?

A-Rod: Dominican Republic (though he played for the U.S. last time)
K-Rod: Venezuela (even though his nickname RHYMES with the first guy)
I-Rod, aka Pudge Rodriguez: Puerto Rico

Which: ???

If anyone here speaks Spanish, please explain. Three guys, same last name, three different countries? Sounds fishy, to say the least. And I know this guy at work whose last name is Rodriguez and he says he's Mexican. Should I believe him too?

Everyone named Smith or Jones is from America, that's just history. Like everyone named Corleone or Gotti is from Italy, anyone named Mohammed is an Ay-Rab, and a woman can't get pregnant if she's on top -- it's just gravity.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Very mature, guys.

Local government in Ohio. (Ohio, by the way, is still Champion of Places That Suck. I'd rather live in Darfur.)

Next topic: The drug problem at Thomas Convent.

The Second Greatest Line In Television History

Hyberbole? Sure, but it's pretty damn close.

In last night's episode of How I Met Your Mother, which I had been telling people about for years before Side Bar decided to watch it starting in season three and then claim that he always loved it, was one of the best lines in history.

When discussing Ted's ex-girlfriend:
Lily: "She was such a douche."
Marshall: "Yeah, she was like the heiress to the Massengill fortune."

I will be using that line in general conversation for the forseeable future.

Incidentally, if you're wondering what the first greatest line in television history is, it also comes from How I Met Your Mother. Incidentally, I blogged about that one, too. It was in the first season, circa the February 6, 2006 episode.

When Ted says he's going to wait a month to have sex with his girlfriend:
Barney: "The only reason to wait a month for sex is if the girl is 17 years, 11 months old."

PS - How I Met Your Mother is a great show, but if we don't actually meet the mother some time soon, I'm going to be disappointed. They've essentially abandoned the premise of the show.

PPS - I love that Bob Saget is the narrator.

PPPS - In this era of protracted theme songs so that there can be a minute more of actual TV show, How I Met Your Mother has a surprisingly good opening montage. It really captures the spirit of the show in like 8 seconds. And the tune is pretty catchy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Things That Are Overrated: Scarface

First of all, when I watch Scarface, what I find myself thinking is, "What freaking coke-head wrote this movie?" The answer, of course, is Oliver Stone, who was, in fact, a coke-head when he was writing this movie. The respective notions that this movie is a classic, is groundbreaking, is timeless, or is even inherently watchable are all ludicrous. Scarface does transpire in a frenetic, cokeheaded sort of way, but under the surface the movie is really formulaic, doesn't particularly explore any of its themes, and doesn't really resolve anything in a way that makes any sense at all. To say that this movie is a tragedy is an understatement, but just because everyone dies in the end doesn't mean you made some sort of grand statement about life.

I think the reason this movie is still even talked about today is because it seems to have a place in the hip-hop community as the movie that represents a particular kind of lifestyle that, as best I can tell, some people aspire to. I think the ruthless way in which Tony Montana handles things must have struck a chord with some people. And then a lot like the Yankees or slap bracelets, other people become fans without really knowing why, and without really understanding what they claim to enjoy.

I mean, there are other, much better, gangster movies. Goodfellas is a far superior movie in every respect, even down to quotability. Hell, even My Blue Heaven is a better gangster movie than this one. There are other, better, Al Pacino movies that don't get remembered with as much fondness. Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico come to mind. Donnie Brasco is better than this. The Godfather movies are clearly better than this one. And those are gangster movies with Al Pacino. Why choose hamburger over steak? Why this one movie stands out for some people over those others is really beyond me.

Also a lot of the movie is pretty silly. I mean, the scene with Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino dancing in the night club is just ridiculous. Michelle Pfeiffer is waving her arms all over the place like a wounded chicken. Al Pacino can't dance to save his life. I mean, he's supposed to be Cuban. And Michelle Pfeiffer does not play a very convincing cokehead. Just because you thumb your nose at the beginning of a scene doesn't mean you're a fiend.

And who in the world thought that this hairstyle for Gina was right for anyone, let alone a girl who's supposed to be beautiful? Gina Montana, your brother is a drug kingpin and you own a beauty salon. Can you get a haircut that doesn't look so silly, please? It's distracting.

And what was the whole deal with the subplot about Tony's unnatural incestuous fascination with his sister? If you're gonna put that in the movie, then at least explain it. All they did here was that every time Tony's sister was on the screen they would show a close up of his eyes and play some high pitched synthesizer music. And from that we are supposed to infer every aspect of their relationship past and present. And the same is true for most of the themes in this movie. No words, no exposition, no flashbacks, just synthesizer music.

And let's be honest, there is just far too much synthesizer music in the movie for me to take it seriously. This is the most '80s movie this side of Manhunter, the 1980s version of Red Dragon with Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter. Side Note: get a hold of both Manhunter and Red Dragon and watch them both consecutively. It's astounding. But Scarface is a very dated movie. For me, it has too much synthesizer, crazy neon colored sets, like Frank's office, which we are to believe has 3 black walls, a black ceiling, and one wall with a huge mural of palm trees near the beach at sunset.

And an I really supposed to believe that Al Pacino, Robert Loggia, and F. Murray Abraham are three Cuban criminals? Michael Corleone, Feech La Manna, and Antonio Salieri? Was Joe Mantegna unavailable?

In summary, this movie is overrated. It is hyper violent, hyper '80s, untertold, and over dramatized. The best part of the movie, however, is when he's in the tub and he goes, "Look at them pelicans fly. Come on pelicans!"

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CNBC should thank Jon Stewart for that nice new asshole

One of the best Daily Show demolitions ever. And all because Rick Santelli's such a pussy, he wouldn't come on the show.

I Discovered Manny

I can't help myself. I know it's wrong, but there's something I really love about Manny Ramirez. I know he quit on the Red Sox. I know he likes to beat up 65 year old dudes. It's just that...well, I can't explain it. I think what I like most about him is that he genuinely doesn't give a fuck. About anything, it seems. I imagine that Manny Ramirez is a lot like Forrest Gump or a caveman or some such thing. At any given point in his head he's just thinking things like, "See ball. Hit ball." or "Food good. Eat food." or "Long hair cool. Grow hair long." Plus, I still contend that he made the greatest play in the history of baseball.

Anyway, this has been the week of Manny for two reasons. First was the ongoing saga of his re-donk-ulous contract negotiations with the Dodgers where they just went around in a big circle and the news media reported all of it for some reason. Second is that a book about his life has just recently been released.

All this reminds me of a story. The story is less about Manny than about a guy I work with, but it's pretty good. You've got to understand a little about this guy for the story to make sense. He's a Jewish conservative from Ohio. Translation, he's a walking paradox, and he's paranoid about everything. He's the type of guy who talks about conspiracy theories with genuine seriousness. He's also really into sports and betting on sports. A couple years ago he handicapped the Kentucky Derby to the first four places and won thousands of dollars. Anyway, once you get this guy started, he doesn't stop. If you bring up a topic that he's interested in, then the conversation is over and you have to listen to his whole conspiracy theory about Barack Obama or Jews from Brooklyn or the state of education.

So one day he was in the room when I was talking with someone else about baseball. Somehow Manny came up and that got him started. Here's his story: "I used to work at Goerge Washington High School (in Washington Heights. Manny's alma mater). And I really liked baseball, so I used to go to a lot of their games. One game, I was behind the backstop and I could see all the catcher's signs. So I started yelling out what pitch was coming. I'd go 'fastball' or 'curveball' on every pitch. After the game some people from the other team started chasing me and were going to beat me up. I ran all over and somehow got away from them (I forget the details here). Another time there was a playoff game and the other team was really good, so they had some scouts there watching the game. I started talking to a couple of them and they said they were there to see guys from the other team. Eventually I started talking to the scout from the Cleveland Indians and I said to him, 'You know we have this guy on our team, Manny Ramirez, who's pretty good. I think you should take a look at him.' He had never even heard of Manny before, but wouldn't you know a few months later he gets drafted by the Indians. And the guy had never even heard of him."

So there it is. This guy discovered Manny Ramirez. This guy is responsible for his success. Never mind the fact that Manny was an all-city player for 3 years and the player of the year in his senior year. Oh yeah, did I mention that he hit .615 in his senior year and had 14 home runs in a protracted high school season? Nope, it was all this guy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Zazoo, Yaw Wicked Retahded. subtitled: Lost Talent

I saw yesterday that Nomar Garciaparra signed a one year deal with the Oakland A's a couple days ago.

Circa 1996 there was a lot of talk about the new generation of shortstops who would change the game of baseball. Leading this charge was the trio of talented and presumably beautiful young players, Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciaparra. Until that point, shortstop was not a position you expected to get much from on the offensive side of the ball. Guys like Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel were considered as good as you could get at that position. Cal Ripken, Jr. had a bit of power, but was objectively limited in both defense and offense relative to what were considered superstars of the game (I'm not trying to front on Cal, he was definitely in the 95th percentile).

Anyway, these guys were gonna change the game. A-Rod was the standout and Jeter was the leader, but the guy who I honestly thought was gonna be the most valuable of the three was Nomar. I love Derek Jeter, but he was never on the same level as these other two gies from a pure talent standpoint. What Jeter brought and still brings to the table is consistency (Jeebus, look at Jeter's 1999 season. I must have taken that one for granted). I thought that Nomar was the best defensive shortstop and the best pure hitter among the three of them.

In 1999 and 2000 Nomar really started to hit his stride. He hit .357 and .372 respectively. For a while in 2000 it looked like he might hit .400. And his OPS in those years was 1.022 and 1.033 respectively. As I understand, an OPS over 1.000 is pretty good (you'll have to ask Open Bar about these new metrics. He's the one who loves Nate Silver). Then in 2001 he had a freak injury. As it turns out, he was never the same again. He was in Boston in 2002 and 2003, and he played 156 games each year, but he just wasn't the same. At the time Boston traded him in 2004, he was hitting .321, but I guess he wasn't really tearing it up in other areas.

The point is that he, in my opinion, had the potential to really be a legendary type of player. A-Rod (steroids aside) and Jeter I think are sure fire hall of famers. Nomar is definitely not. He's turned into a journeyman and a piece of the puzzle, rather than a lynchpin for a franchise.

We'll put him on the list with Grant Hill, Bill Walton, Larry Johnson and Anfernee Hardaway of gies who would have been legendary but for nagging and unusual injuries. Side note: as I understand, Bill Walton, in the one season he was healthy, dominated the league and led the Trailblazers to a championship nearly single handedly. He was also the guy who allowed UCLA to continue its dominance in the 1970s under John Wooden. On a different list is gies like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry who would have been hall of famers except that they self destructed. Bill Walton impression: "It's a shame that Nomar had that freak wrist injury. He was never the same after that. He'll go down in history as the guy with the most talent who got a bad break and had it taken away from him along with guys like Grant Hill, Anfernee Hardaway, Larry Johnson, Demar Bonnemere, Scooter Baskin, and myself."

On a related note: this isn't worth a whole nother post, but look at how far Dontrelle Willis has fallen. I'm not expert, but this particular case was very predictable. His motion was a disaster from the start and now that he's lost control of his pitches, his mechanics seem to be on the verge of irrecoverable.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Old School Album of the Day: August and Everything After

The Counting Crows are a good band. I like a lot of their stuff, including many of the things they put out after their first album (particularly their second album), but I'm gonna focus now on this album, which is probably (definitely) their best. August and Everything After is just a really beautiful record. Can you still call albums "records"? For that matter, can you still call them "albums"? I'm missing my point. The point is that I wanted to highlight this album because I'm not sure if it really got much play back in the day, and it's definitely worth getting if you don't have it.

This album for me just packs a huge emotional punch. The songs are really catchy and the lyrics are really deep. It's an interesting combination. You get hooked in by the tune, but then you start thinking about the lyrics and it hits you all over again. It's a bit like hearing the album again for the first time once you start to listen to the lyrics.

I'm not really sure where to go from here. I could definitely talk about each song individually and why I like it, but that seems unnecessary. All of us know (and love?) Mr. Jones and 'Round Here. Imagine a whole album of songs as catchy as Mr. Jones, and then also really meaningful in retrospect. I particularly like "Sullivan Street" and "A Murder of One".

The one song I do want to talk about specifically is "Anna Begins". It's easily one of my favorite songs ever. It never gets old. I could listen to it over and over again for the remainder of eternity. Beautiful song, intriguing lyrics (should be a good game). If you don't know this song, then download it today.

Funny Thing About Baseball

Studying baseball statistics is really an interesting practice. I find it to be pretty interesting that the sport that relies most heavily on statistics, and the one in which peoples' statistics are used to judge them most heavily is also the sport where the statistics between players, teams, and eras are the least comparable from an objective standpoint.

Let's take the largest, and probably least relevant, issue, steroids. Assuming a lot of gies were taking steroids circa 1990 through 2004 and were not taking them much outside of this window, then those stats are, in one way or another, skewed. How much they are skewed is really beyond the scope of this post. It also seems like something that would be really hard to determine, certainly from my perspective, but just aknowledging that they are skewed is enough.

The more important issue here is really the arbitrary nature of the baseball field. Can you imagine in the NBA if you went to Boston to play the Celtics and whenever you went there the basket was 9 ft. high istead of 10? And going into Cleveland the court was an extra 20 feet longer. And in Phoenix the 3 point line was 5 feet farther back. All of those are ludicrous notions, but in baseball they are completely acceptable. Guys who call themselves "purists" will tell you that's what adds to the charm of the game. I'm somewhat surprised that no one makes a bigger deal of this to be honest with you.

If Joe DiMaggio didn't play in Yankee stadium with a 500+ ft. left-center field, he would have had conceivably hundreds of more home runs. If Babe Ruth didn't play in Yankee Stadium with a 300 ft. right field porch, he would have certainly had fewer home runs. Nearly every stadium built since Camden Yards has shrunk the dimensions of the field it replaced, and made it far easier to hit home runs. There are some exceptions, PetCo Park in San Diego and the new CitiField come to mind, but for the msot part fields are shrinking. Would Ryan Howard be nearly as valuable a player in any other stadium? Ryan Howard must hit more opposite field home runs than any other player in baseball. He's got tremendous power to the opposite field, but it doesn't hurt that they play their home games on the Clubhouse Field (Clearly the Middle Field would be more conducive for MLB games).

Home runs is the easiest statistic to point to relative to the arbitrary nature of each field, but is certainly not the only statistic that's affected by it. Smaller fields mean fewer doubles and triples. Different size fields mean different defensive alignments, and what I'm sure are significant differences in fielding percentages and assists, put outs, things of that nature.

The point here is that comparing gies from the days when a lot of fields were cavernous to today when fields are much smaller, and comparing guys directly who play in different home stadiums is, in many respects, and exercise in futility. No one tries to control for field size or other conditions that confound the statistics. I'm not saying they should, but then we should also not point so heavily to those statistics when we talk about baseball players.