Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm On Board With Full Body Scans

Hey now!

Last week some Nigerian fucker tried to blow up a plane in Detroit.

He didn't get the explosion he was looking for the first time around and instead only lit his pants on fire.

Now, this guy decided for some reason that it was best to blow up the plane not from the bathroom but from like row 15, seat A - thus drawing the attention of his fellow passengers who jumped on him and stopped him from getting a do-over.

This is now, including the shoe bomber, the second gie that tried to blow himself up with explosive chemicals they smuggled onto airplanes.

Had either succeeded, people would be going nuts but since they didn't we're all take a very blase' attitude toward this shit.

I'd put this in the 'shit we need to deal with right away category' and the thing is we have a way to deal with it.

Full Body Scan machines are essentially an x-ray through your clothes that can detect things like, oh-I-don't-know, explosive being smuggled onto a plane in order to kill everyone on board.

Yet, it seems these haven't been deployed in all airports because they are, one - too expensive and, two - too invasive.

First, I will respond to those who complain that it would be too expensive. We are spending trillions of dollars to invade foreign countries to kill mad people and build democracies all in the name of stopping Islamic terrorists from blowing up planes. This would be maybe a couple hundred million dollars. Sounds pretty cost effective to me.

Second, to you, the ACLU and privacy worriers who are concerned about full body scans cramping their style. Fucking blow me. Stop bitching. You know what I'd consider invasive? Being blown to pieces landing at Liberty International Airport.

Yeah, so someone you will never know will see you naked but they'll also see the explosive that terrorist is going to use to kill you.

I'm OK with that trade.

Just Because...Jersey Bitches

You know, why not. I'm officially in love with Snooki, by the way.

He Fixes The Cable?

There's an article in today's New York Times about a new book of essays inspired by The Big Lebowski. You should read it. It's pretty interesting, as articles about books go.

Anyhow, in order to flesh out this post, what do you think would be on the top of the list for the most obscure Lebowski quotes? And what would be the context in which you'd use them. Like a totally unobscure one would be going "Way to go, Donnie!" whenever something good happens. Or perhaps slightly more obscure, but perhaps not depending on the delivery would be going, "Phone's ringing, Dude," when the phone is ringing (that must be available as a ringtone, no?).

One of the best moments in my life (hyperbole? you decide) was when a whole bunch of you people who are reading this right now were over at my house on what must have been my birthday last year because that's the only time you gies are in my house in the daytime and I was telling everyone about the kids' show, Yo Gabba Gabba, which was created by someone who has a great drug dealer. We happened to have an episode on DVR so I put on the first couple minutes and then said "You can imagine where it goes from here," while hitting the fast forward button. Of course a couple of you immediately said, "He fixes the cable?", which just warmed my heart. And on my birthday, no less.

Incidentally, I think the most underrated character in Lebowski is Maude Lebowski. She's got quite a few quotable lines. And it's really fun to say, "He's a good man. And thorough," whenever the appropriate context boils up.

As the for the most obscure, the one that seems to never get recognized when I do it, almost certainly because of the delivery, is from when Maude is on the phone speaking in Italian and then she goes, "Que ridicolo, ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha". No one ever seems to get that one. It's one of my favorite parts of the movie.

A really good one was the title of Open Bar's former blog, Calmer Than You Are. It's really subtle. You almost have to be watching the movie in order to make the connection.

Any others?

PS - I love how Brand says, "Inner city children of promise, but without the necessary means for a, necessary means for a higher education". Where he repeats the "necessary means" part. I'd love to see a letterhead for the Little Lebowski Urban Achievers in which the phrase is written exactly like that. Someone with Photoshop skills should get on that.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Toilet Bowl 2009 thoughts -- the ever-shifting line of scrimmage

Cousin It had a nasty splitter.

Earlier today, the 2009 Toilet Bowl was great fun. More to come on that later.

For now, I'd like to discuss one particularly amusing aspect of how we play: kicking the ball at the line of scrimmage. Oh, how much fun it is, and oh, how the ethics around it have changed.

I think the general rule of pickup-style, schoolyard football games at pretty much any age level is that when a play is over, the following things occur: The ball is placed wherever the receiver was down; the offense takes a huddle several yards away; and the defense waits and can approach where the ball is -- the line of scrimmage -- but not pass it.

For obvious reasons, the line of scrimmage is a vitally important part of the game. It determines how far the offense must go to attain a first down and/or score a touchdown, which is the offense's primary goal.

Let me back up for a second. All schoolyard games, be it Stickball, Kill the Man With the Ball, Asses Up, even Boot Tag are played within certain clearly defined rules. But at the same time, part of the enjoyment of these games is in the gray areas. Basically, anytime you can take even a slight advantage, you do. It's not so much cheating as it is a requirement to do everything you can to give yourself or your team an edge – but without breaking any rules outright. For example, in Stickball, the fair/foul lines were often determined by some agreed-upon object (a pole, something painted on the pavement, a fat kid). If the batter hit the ball in such a way that it was not perfectly clear whether it was fair or foul, the batter would naturally argue that it was fair while the pitcher argued foul. As the batter, it didn't matter if you saw that the ball sailed just a bit foul (“IT WAS SLICING!”) -- if it was close enough for you to claim that it was fair, you did. Arguments would ensue; you'd win some, lose some, whatever. The point is: Without actual referees managing the games, there are plenty of moments where you could give yourself that slight edge and in those cases, you would (or at least try) -- because who's gonna call you on it? And if the other guy/team does, what are they gonna do, fine you? Schoolyard games are very Darwinian in that sense: If you're not on top of your shit – paying very close attention -- you're gonna get fucked.

Now I’ll get back to my earlier issue. In the case of Toilet Bowl-style football, one particular rule (the line of scrimmage) is of huge importance, as I described above, yet falls directly into the gray area I also described above, but a little lower.

Back in the day, when we was kids an’ all, when the offense huddled and the ball was placed at its determined point, the defensive players would try their hardest to be very subtle about nudging the ball back. A few inches here, maybe a foot or two if you were lucky. But this was a very delicate operation. If someone on the offense caught you doing it, you would sheepishly move the ball back to its original, proper position. Ethics, right? But if you were caught again, things could escalate – the line of scrimmage was treated very seriously.

Anyhow (thanks, Chuck, now I’m doing it), while discreetly shifting the line of scrimmage in your favor was a known part of the game, the onus was on the defense to be honest about it – or at least try to hide it as best you could.

But now that we’re older, the tables have turned. And not, shockingly, in favor of the game’s integrity.

As today’s Toilet Bowl made quite clear, the defense (on nearly every play) will nudge, shove, or just plain kick the ball as far back from the true line of scrimmage as it can until someone on the offense takes the initiative and replaces it. It’s not subtle anymore. No need to hide it. The offense knows you’re gonna do it; it’s more a test of will. How much will the offense put up with?

And it’s fun. Sometimes you kick it hard enough that it actually hits the huddle. The defense laughs – the kind of laughter like after someone farts. (Hey, farts are always funny. Argue against that, shitsteak, I dare you.)

But anyway, it’s weird how things have changed. Maybe we’re jaded or something in our age, but the integrity of the line of scrimmage and the unwritten rule that if you moved the ball back while the offense wasn’t looking you at least had to be sneaky – that’s over. It has transformed into its opposite. No longer must the defense be careful; the responsibility now lies with the offense.

And yet… there are still those times where you really do try to hide it from the offense. And when you do it right – when you move that ball back a few feet without them noticing -- it feels AWESOME. Who knows how many times today the offense wound up just short of a first down or the goal line because a cunning defender deftly pushed the ball back just that much. I can think of one time that I did, and damned if that isn’t my favorite moment of the day.

It’s an evolving thing, this schoolyard sport/activity/tradition thing we do. Things once respected no longer are. Best not think too deep on such ethically challenging questions as this, though. It's just a game, right? And as a wise man once said, “All in the game, yo. All in the game.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Which . . . I Try to Defend the MTA (or at least the Subway)

As has been well-chronicled here, the MTA is absolutely terrible. The subway is in a perpetual state of construction, trains are over-crowded, and the MTA announces critical budget shortfalls that require service cuts and fare hikes about as often as the Mets let us down.

But after reading LJT's post about how awful the MTA is (and they really are), I have to wonder if maybe the system is just so big, and so over-utilized that they have no choice but to just band-aid over problems and keep the trains running as best they can. Here's the case:

It's Called the "Big" Apple for a Reason

The New York City subway system is the biggest in the country by every possible measure. But even that statement fails to convey the magnitude of this operation by comparison to others. A few statistics:

1. The New York City subway system moves 7,736,900 riders per day. That is more than double the total amount moved by the next 15 largest subway systems in the country (and two of those 15 - the Staten Island Rail and the PATH - are also in the New York metro area).

2. The New York City subway system has 468 stations. The next largest? Chicago, with 144, and then DC with a whopping 86.

3. The New York City subway system offers 229 miles of service. No other US city has half that much. The closest are DC, Chicago and San Francisco, with 106, 107 and 104 respectively.

The subway is enormous. It takes almost 8 million people across a distance equal to the trip from here to Boston every day and stops at almost 500 stations along the way. Amtrak has a mere fraction of the riders and a fraction of the stations, but they still charge me $150 to go to Delaware for the day. The logistics alone are mind-boggling.

I just wonder if maybe the sheer size of the system makes it impossible to stay within budget, and service the population with anything remotely resembling a reliable, clean, comfortable and pleasant system. Imagine trying to operate Newark, LaGuardia and Kennedy airports in tunnels underneath Manhattan.

I'm just sayin' it's big, man

The City Never Sleeps

Here's the next problem: unlike it's "competitors" in Boston, San Franciso, DC, and elsewhere, the subway never closes. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If you want to take a train from Coney Island in Brooklyn to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx at 3:00 in the morning on Christmas, some dude will pull a train into the station and give you a lift. For $2.25.

Keeping the subway open all night is great (as anyone who has ever spent all of their money down in the west village with LJT can attest), but it has two enormous drawbacks for the average rider. First, you cannot do maintenance and improvement work when the subway is closed, because it is never closed. Of course, nights and weekends are still the best time to do construction, but it moves at a snail's pace compared to those systems that shut down for four, six or eight hours per night, because our guys have to let trains pass every 5-15 minutes. Second, it costs a tremendous amount more, by comparison, to operate a subway for 24 hours a day than it would to do so for 16, 18 or 20 hours a day. I couldn't find estimates on the web, but I have to assume that closing the subway for even four hours a night would save tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars per year, and keep fares in check for the next decade. But can you imagine? Anyone who lives in New York and rides the subway would scoff at the idea of it closing, even for just a few hours per night. Thousands of people would instantly have no way of getting to or from work, school, and home.

That and a Nickel, Dollar, Dollar-Fifty, Two Dollars, Two Dollars and Twenty-Five Cents Will Get You on the Subway

In June, the subway fare increased by about 12% to $2.25 for a single ride. That is a lot of money to take one ride on the subway. But there are loads of mitigating factors that make this seem somewhat reasonable.

1. The fare had not increased since 2003, a period of more than six years.

2. At some point after the introduction of the MetroCard in the late 1990s, riders had the opportunity of purchasing 30-day unlimited ride cards. For anyone who commutes to and from work 20 or more times in a 30-day period, this brings the actual fare down below the $2.25 per ride. And for those of us who commute to and from work, use the subway on the weekends, loan the card to Mrs. Side Bar when she needs to use it . . . (even though she never remembers to put it back in my fucking wallet when she is done so that I have to buy one of those paper-thin single ride things on Monday morning and miss the goddamn train that is pulling in just as I get . . .oh, what, sorry) . . . and pay for our MetroCards with pre-tax dollars, we are probably paying closer to the $1.50 per ride that was charged from November of 1995 until May of 2003.

3. And that's another thing. The increases in fares over the past few years (from $1.50 in 2003 to $2.25 today) seem drastic (some might even say 50%). But in reality those fare increases are somewhat delinquent (we were at $1.50 for eight years), and have stayed somewhat constant relative to inflation since the 1970s. See chart.


4. As I mentioned above, the New York City subway has 229 miles of service. So if you want to take that ride from Coney Island to Van Cortland Park (a 30-mile, 45-minute drive) at 3:00 a.m., it still costs only $2.25. Even though it costs the same amount to take the 1 train just one stop from my apartment to Open Bar's place (fuck off, it was cold). By contrast, cities like DC and San Francisco have instituted systems that charge based on the distance of your trip. You pay more to travel more. That seems fair to me, but here's the problem with introducing that in New York: by and large, people who live near and use the subway in the outer boroughs need to travel longer distances. But they might not be the ones who can afford to bear the disproportionate cost of the trip. That guy who lives in the Bronx and needs to take that trip to Brooklyn at 3:00 in the morning might not be able to swing $5.45 or whatever per trip. So those of us living and working in Manhattan end up subsidizing his use of the system to some extent.

So yes, $2.25 is a lot of money, but not everyone pays quite that much (except tourists, and fuck them, right?), and relative to the size of the system and the gradual rate of fare increases over the past 30 years, this fare seems to be in the neighborhood of reasonable.

The Subway is Fast as Shit

It's considered a sacred duty of every MTA rider to bitch and moan about the subway. I always do my part. "The C train is never on time." "The 4 is so fucking crowded." "The guy in the token booth is a dick." (yeah, we still call them token booths). But here is a little secret that we all know . . . I shouldn't even be telling you this, but here goes: the subway is, much more often than not, the absolutely best way to get around New York. You can get from Columbia to Penn Station in less than 15 minutes. You can get from the Cloisters to Times Square in 20. And you can get from Spanish Harlem to Wall Street in less than 30. The subway is fast. Yes it is crowded, yes it is dirty (sometimes), and yes the stations could use a major, major face lift. But 9 times out of 10 it is faster, cheaper (and probably safer) than a taxi.

LJT is definitely right that the MTA comes across in the popular media as a bunch of clowns who are either corrupt or clueless. But maybe they just need a better PR firm. The New York City subway is huge, old, and fantastically over-utilized. But it has been the cheapest and quickest way of getting around town for the majority of its existence. Given the demands on the system, I am not sure how realistic it is to expect too much more.

The Future Is Now

"The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel, or watch female wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home, or play Mortal Kombat with a friend from Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!"
-Chip Douglas aka The Cable Guy

First of all, I'll never miss an opportunity to say how much I love the cable guy. But, also it's amazing how well that quote actually fits in with the tone of this post. That movie came out in 1996 which is long before all of those things were entirely feasible, yet it was clear that every one of them was going to come true. Interesting. Anyhow, I read this article a few days ago about a guy who cancelled (for the record, I've decided that I'm going to spell cancelled with two L's from now on. I really don't like this one L spelling.)his cable TV service because he's able to use his XBox along with a couple other devices to watch all of his TV shows and play video games and surf the web and stream movies through Netflix. This guy is my hero. I mean, I guess I knew it was theoretically possible to hook this up and cancel your cable all together and not have to deal with absolutely terrible service that they provide, but this guy just went out and did it. He's a revolutionary.

Reading this article inspired me to change my Netflix subscription to the unlimited plan so I can run it through my PS3. In order to run it you have to get some sort of disc to put in the Playstation, which should arrive today, so I can't tell you yet whether it works well or not. But I will say that I have started to watch a lot of TV online. I have been watching Heroes online because, for some reason, I like it better that way. I have watched episodes of Lost online after having inadvertently missed one on my DVR somehow. The same is true of a Modern Family episode that I missed earlier this year. (PS - If you're not yet watching Modern Family, then stop reading this post and go to the ABC website and start watching it right now. I guarantee that Modern Family is more entertaining than the remainder of this post.) Additionally, this Netflix thing streaming through the PS3 is a fairly recent turn of events.

When I first got the PS3 the Playstation Network was essentially a small scale operation. I mean the scale of it must have been huge, but the scope of it was pretty narrow. It was basically just for playing video games online against other people. Recently when I updated to the new operating system a whole new world opened up. The new Playstation Network is an incredible thing. They've integrated movies and TV Shows and obviously you can still do the video games. You can do the Netflix thing and obviously also just browse the web. I'm uncertain as to the current state of their web browser, but in the past I know that it didn't really work properly with a lot of websites. That may have also changed with the recent upgrade of the network, but I don't know for sure.

Anyway, the one bad thing about cancelling your cable subscription is that you can't watch any live sports. This, for me, is a dealbreaker. There's no way I can go without watching the Mets, Yankees, Knicks, Giants, and Jets. Also the Sunday and Monday night football games and also the occasional interesting NBA game. At the same time, Time Warner Cable and the Fox Network are both grandstanding now about how that network may be removed completely from the cable system. If that happens, then we'll lose NFL football on Sundays. Whatever ass clowns are running Time Warner need to die immediately. Whoever is deciding to let the Fox Network go is probably the same gie who decided to take a perfect DVR system and replace it with an absolutely terrible DVR system.

Anyway, if they can work out that live sports thing, I will be among the first people to completely cancel my cable service and go entirely online. Something tells me that's going to be difficult, however.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again

Ah, the end of December.

Christmas trees, Menorahs, figuring out New Years plans (if anyone has anything to do, by the way, please feel free to invite me because I don't have shit to do) and.....that's right, you guessed it! The MTA getting a big, fat hard-on, bending New York City public transportation users right over and fucking them. No vaseline, either.

Every year this happens.

Usually, they are upping the fares. I suppose this year, in a nod to the financial pain of New Yorkers due to The Great Recession, they're merely cutting services - although a previously scheduled 7.5% increase will take place in June

The New York Times reports, "The cuts would create more crowding on subways and buses, reduce frequency during weekends, late nights and weekday afternoons, and wholly eliminate two minor subway lines, the W and the Z. Service on dozens of bus lines would be reduced or ended, and disabled riders would find it more difficult to get around."

Additionally, the Metropolitan Grinch Authority plans to cut the free fares received by over 500,000 students.

These cuts don't affect me all that much, as I ride the PATH rather than NYC subways but, seriously, what the fuck?

It's like clockwork, every year the MTA is blindsided by a budget shortfall and either increases fares or decreases service or both. How is that possible?

Also, how does the media not expose this? From the same times report, "Nearly every bus, subway and commuter rail rider in New York stands to be affected by a punishing slate of service cuts that was approved on Wednesday by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which is struggling to fill a sudden financial shortfall of more than $400 million."

Sudden? Really?

Merriam-Webster defines sudden as:

This is about as sudden as Saturday Night Live coming on at 11:30 tonight or the five o'clock news unexpectedly popping on the TV screen at five o'clock, or it being hot in July.

How can the MTA claim to be broke and claim they never saw it coming each and every year?

I mean, is it just run by wildly incompetent people or are they just incredibly corrupt? It has to be one of the two, right?

The MTA board seems to always blame the state but I feel like the details are always mad fuzzy. And why would the state run NYC transportation?

What am I missing because my conclusion is that it's all just a big racket and the MTA is essentially a sixth crime family in NYC that everyone, including newspapers who are clearly on the payroll, pretends is a legitimate public benefit corporation.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Beatles Friday: Why Don't We Do It in the Road?

This is a lesser known but still dope song.

Only two Beatoos are on the track with Ringo on drums and handclaps and Paul on lead guitar, bass and vocals.

Here's something I bet you didn't know: it's about monkeys fucking.

Said Sir Paul:

A male [monkey] just hopped on the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular. Within two or three seconds he hopped off again and looked around as if to say, ‘It wasn't me,’ and she looked around as if there'd been some mild disturbance ... And I thought ... that's how simple the act of procreation is ... We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don't.

In Which I Compare My Old iPod With My New iPod

Some evil genius who works for Apple managed to invent an entire line of devices that become indispensible in your life almost immediately, cost like $300, and, like clockwork, break every three years. Then when you go to see if they can fix it they either say that they can't or that it will cost $150. Either way, you might as well just get a new one because they get better all the time. So, for the second time since I digitized my music collection, my iPod broke.

I don't want to hear from you about how you still have the iPod with the 4 buttons on top and it still works great. I take my iPod everywhere and I listen to it all day. I go running with it and I have it in my car and it gets a lot of general wear every day. I take care of it, but there's just an unavoidable depreciation that it goes through (that's probably not a good context for "depreciation") every day. But at the same time, there's no reason that it should simply stop working after a couple years. The Apple "genius" (seriously, Apple?) went on and on about how the iPod classic just has a regular hard drive and those moving parts just won't hold up to that wear and tear. I never had a walkman or discman break like this and there are a billion more moving parts in those.

Anyhow (see what i mean), I had to get a new iPod and there were many reasons why it seemed to make sense that I should get an iPod touch instead of a classic iPod. First is that the "genius" (for the love of Christ) was going on and on about the moving parts thing and how an iTouch uses flash memory and has no moving parts and will stand up better to the everyday use. I don't know if I believe that line of bullshit as the iTouch seems a lot more fragile, but it definitely doesn't have any moving parts, so I guess there's something to it. Also the iTouch is just cooler, isn't it. And since I'm 31 and married and have a kid and I've managed to hold down a job for 7 years now, I just have to take cool wherever I can get it. (I totally understand the 55 year olds in Corvettes now, by the way.)

So you'd think the iTouch must be better than the classic iPod in every conceivable way, wouldn't you, but, surprisingly, that's not the case. There are some things about it that are indsiputably amazing, but there are some minor annoying things that just bug me about it. First of all, it won't charge in my car. If I plug it in to the thing that's supposed to pump the songs through the radio and simultaneously charge it, it pops up a message that says chargin is not supported for some reason. So it does play the music on the radio, but it does not cahrge. I never had to think about my Classic charging because it was plugged into my car so often that it would always be at full charge. Now I have to worry about if it's charged or not before I leave the house or actually bring the charger with me and charge it at work or wherever. That's fucking ghetto.

Secondly, you can only work the thing by actually toucing the screen and interacting with the interface. It sounds stupid to say that you have to touch the iTouch to make it work, but it's really annoying. I can't just reach into my pocket and replay or skip a song. I have to take it out of my pocket, press the button, unlock the screen, and then do whatever I want to do. And you obviously have to look at the screen to do it, so it's far more difficult to do while driving. Or just sitting, for that matter.

Additionally, there is this feature where you can shake the iTouch to make it shuffle the music. This falls under the "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" category. I don't see why anyone would need to use this feature. Plus, unless you disable it, it mistakes anything for shaking. Things like, ahh, walking, or slipping into your shirt pocket. Until I realized what was going on and disabled it I had to take the thing out of my pocket in order to unshuffle it every ten steps. Freakin' stupid.

Also, I ended up getting only the 32GB model when i really should have gotten the 64GB model. I was only using 30GB on my classic, but I really need more room to expand, especially with the much greater video capabilities of this one. Really lacked foresight there, though it was also $100 more expensive, which is obviously why I didn't get it in the first place. The classic is less expensive and now only comes in a 160GB model, which is clearly more space than I need. I can't imagine who would need that much space on a Classic iPod with inferior video capabilities.

The one thing that does make this far far far cooler than a classic iPod is the applications, or "apps" as the kids are calling them these days. There are tons of free apps for cool games or any other sort of thing. Also you can pay for apps I guess, though I have yet to, and probably won't. And the video quality is way better with the bigger screen and everything. It's also much easier to navigate through the video section in the Touch than with the Classic. The apps alone really do a lot in terms of balancing out the bad things, but those minor differences are really really annoying on a day to day basis.

Friday Classic Video: Christmastime for the Jews

With a nod to our friends in the tribe . . . I had never seen this before last night. You might have to watch it a few times to catch all the great lines.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Colbert State of Mind

Props to EMT for sending this to me.

Viacom has blocked the video but listen to the audio. Video has been fixed. You're friggin' welcome.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Alicia Keys - Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Mamma Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeea

(Auth. note: My last post seemed like sort of a lazy way of contributing, but I imagine it will be the more enjoyable of the two).

This is probably wrong, but am I the only one who thought it was hilarious that Silvio Berlusconi got jacked up by some crazy dude in Italy the other day? (side note: in a sign that, beyond their penchant for talking with their hands, Italians also have a sense of humor, Reuters reports that sales of the statuette that was used in the attack on Berlusconi have increased since the incident).

And, as if the original incident wasn't bizarre enough, some other dude got arrested a few days later for trying to go into Berlusconi's hospital room. Apparently he just wanted to chat.

Maybe it is just me, but I think this is insane. We spent weeks talking about some gie who threw a shoe at George Bush (and missed - eeeeeee). And then this country was riveted (at least until we found out Tiger was banging every skank with a cell phone and a facebook page) by two people who got close enough to our President just to take a picture.

The Italian PM gets pummeled in the face and then some other dude tries to break into the hospital room where he is recovering to debate the cosa nostra or something. The secret service would get roasted to a crisp if that shit ever happened here. I'm just saying.

Blog Fatigue

We usually only do this when the blog gets stale, which is hardly the case this week. But still.

Our unofficial* spokesperson.

* Unofficial as in she never has and never will read the blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Open Letter to David Gregory



I've been an avid Meet The Press watcher for roughly seven years now.

I started to watch this institution of a TV show while it was under the care of your predecessor, the late great Tim Russert.

What made Tim so great was that he was uber-prepared. He asked tough questions and he let people answer those tough questions. If they didn't have an answer or their answer was bullshit, he stood back and let them make an asshole out of themselves.

I also enjoyed when he read a five page excerpt from some article and would get half the words wrong.

You are now the host of the show and I have to tell you, Dave, you're fucking it up.

You are the moderator and, so, your job is to moderate - not to be the focal point all the time. You're not a White House correspondent anymore.

I get it, you do your homework. That's great.

Yes, your guests bullshit and contradict themselves - they are politicians.

You hardly let them get a word out of their mouth before you start to cut them off to point out what hypocritical assholes they are.

Please give us, your viewers, some credit. We know if someone is dodging your question or bullshitting. You can ask tough questions and follow up if they don't truly answer without sounding like a kid crying to mom that their older brother is picking on them.

I know you think you are being a journalist, but really you're just being a fucking whiny bitch.

Please calm the fuck down, you're ruining a formerly great show.


The Notorious LJT

Refining My Palate

I'm 31 years old now. This is irrelevant to this post except as a frame of reference. (Irrelevant but awesome side note: I was looking around Facebook a while back and on this one girl's profile under favorite music she had written "I like everything. Accept country." This is an amazing turn of events. One the one hand, she's clearly trying to say "I like everything except country", but the way it comes out it's like a plea for people to accept country music because that is among the genres she loves. For some reason, this particular typo makes me happier than anything else on most days I think about it. (This isn't a typo. What is the word for what this is?) I thought about this just now because I very nearly wrote "accept" in place of "except" because of this particular story and then I realized that no one would know what I was talking about.)

So anyhow, in all of my years I was never a particularly adventurous eater. There was a time when I would eat McDonald's for dinner every day. There was a time when I would eat steak for dinner every day (In high school many times a week for dinner I would eat a steak, frozen hash brown, string beans, and chocolate milk. At the time the steak with chocolate milk combination was among my favorite things, but as the years have gone by my relationship with milk has somewhat soured. (bazinga)) Even today I'm not a super adventurous eater. I still only eat plain pizza. If left to my own devices I would most likely eat roasted chicken for dinner every single night. In my younger days I would never even have considered eating fish for dinner. To the extent that I would definitely have just skipped dinner rather than eat fish.

For whatever reason I have branched out a little bit from that staple diet, and today at my house we eat fish for dinner somewhat regularly and I have also gone out and tried other new things. One of the things that I would never have even considered eating that today I genuinely love is sushi. In particular, I love salmon and avocado rolls. Salmon is my favorite fish. I still don't particularly love other fish (I have tried others) but I do really enjoy salmon. It's strange because I know a lot of people who say that they do eat fish except they don't eat salmon because it's especially fishy, but I don't really get that from salmon.

Anyhow, I don't really have a point for this post except to say that I genuinely love this particular meal. (I have a real tendency for starting new paragraphs with the word "anyhow".) I've also come to love the wasabi that comes with it and the salmon avocado roll along with the wasabi and soy sauce has become a staple of my diet. This is strange in that probably as little as 4 or 5 years ago I would have never even thought about trying this, and today I truly love it. I guess I'm glad I decided to branch out a little bit.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Most Fucked Up Christmas Carol

I know I'm not the first person to come to this realization, but literally just yesterday it occurred to me that "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is like one of the single most fucked up songs in the history of the world. It's about essentially an omniscient and omnipresent dude who has the capability to ruin your life if he sees fit.

That motherfucker can see you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake. And as this is such, you'd better not shout, cry, or pout because he's coming to town. I feel like this is a song that probably has like 4 more verses describing all the fucked up things Santa would do to you if you pouted too much but we never hear them, like the national anthem.

Who wrote this song? I mean, I can just imagine some down on his luck guy with 3 kids who never gets a moment's peace just sitting there around November 7th one year like, "You know what kids, you better stop acting like jackasses because Santa Claus is coming to town. You don't have to listen to me but Santa Claus sees you when your sleeping and he knows when you're awake."

How in the world did this song become a holiday standard? It's a fucking vindictive and creepy song. And we sing it like it's "Silent Night" or something. Can we start some sort of committee to get this song out of the Christmas rotation? We can just play the Hanukkah song instead or something.

Prince is Weird, Just Ask Kevin Smith

I've never been a huge Prince fan, although I can appreciate his music.

One time during my sophomore week in college, "Kiss" held the coveted song of the week spot - much to the chagrin of my neighbors who apparently didn't understand that it had to be blasted multiple times in a row at full volume.

In any case, Bill Simmons a/k/a ESPN's Sports Guy was talking about him on a podcast a few months ago and he and his buddy Jack-O were saying how amazing of a guitarist he was. I had never thought of Prince as a tremendous guitarist as much as a little weird man that dressed in women's clothes and who wrote some dope pop songs.

But, some googling appears to confirm that he is a pretty amazing guitarist.

The clip below is a tribute to George Harrison at The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Watch the clip. This could be the greatest guitar solo ever. Also, watch Dhani Harrison's (he's the one who looks exactly like his father, George Harrison) face when Prince falls backwards off the stage. Amongst the band member's are Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and some other guy who I assume is a famour musician (but obviously not that famous since I don't know who he is). Prince destroys all of them. They're not in the same ballpark, it's not even the same fucking sport. The solo starts at 3:31 if you're too impatient to watch the whole thing.

Anyway, this clip inspired more googling and I came across this very bizarre story about him on YouTube.

Basically, Kevin Smith (of Chasing Amy, Mall Rats & Clerks fame) tells this story how he tried to get Prince to OK his using of one of his songs in an upcoming movie. Prince won't let him use the Prince version but invites him to Minnesota to film a documentary. Kevin Smith goes and bizarness ensues. (It takes a while but it is a hell of a story.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Beatles Friday: You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)

One of the most unusual and least known songs in the Beatles catalogue is "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number), released as a "B" side to one of their best known songs, "Let It Be".

It is delightful in its silliness.

They began to record it in 1967 but did not complete it until 1969 and it features Brian Jones, of the Rolling Stones on saxaphone.

John Lennon got the title off of a phone book slogan and worked the eight words into a great little song.

Paul said of it, "John Lennon turned up at the studio and said, 'I've got a new song'. I said, 'What's the words?' and he replied 'You know my name look up the number'. I asked, 'What's the rest of it?' 'No, no other words, those are the words. And I want to do it like a mantra!'"

The song goes through five sections, each of which get progressively more bizarre: first is a rocking group singalong, followed by a kind of reggae beat section, then a cheesy lounge singer type thing, then what can best described as a bunch of muppets talking and, finally, a couple of unintelligible old British guy mumbling to a jazzy tune.


The Jersey Shore, Part 2


I was considering watching a bit of the televised catheter insertion that is "Jersey Shore," but what's the point after seeing the above clip of "star" Snooki getting decked? (By a Queens high school teacher, no less, which by the Associative Property means that Chuck also hits women.)

Having not watched the show at all, I'm already positive this is the best part in its entire run.

Anyway, I guess I'll use this whole incident to discuss one of LJT's favorite activities, as proven by his frequent walks of terror through the living room anytime his sisters were there: hitting chicks. Specifically, when is it okay?

We all know that men aren't EVER supposed to hit women, blah blah. But I think we must make room for a few instances where it's morally acceptable to lay the smack down. Let's give it a shot:


1. If she intentionally assaults your balls. This is really the one that inspired this whole list. At this point, I haven't even come up with a #2, but I really do want to make this clear to women: If it is never okay for a man to hit a woman, then it is never okay for a woman to maliciously go after a man's balls. I think that's fair. I understand that there are accidents, and those are forgivable (to a point). But any intentional or pre-planned attack should be met with severe consequences. In such cases as the one below:

I might even go so far as to recommend something like this as retaliation:

On to the next one...

2. Um, if she won't just shut the fuck up already?

Seriously, I'm not sure this list needs to be longer than one item. I was thinking about including something like "If she cheats on you with your worst enemy," but I figure that's grounds for killing her cat or anonymously emailing her dad a video of her blowing you -- not hitting.

Now, I realize that in the clip at the top, Snooki didn't appear to violate Rule No. 1. However, I still support the guy's retaliation because, well, basically because I hate reality television like you would hate some guy you caught sodomizing your dog with an old shovel, and Snooki is exactly what I hate about it whittled down to its essence. The attention-whoring, vapid, intentionally ridiculous, staggeringly idiotic, not-at-all-real nature of 99.9999 percent of anyone who's ever been on a "Jersey Shore"-like reality show (especially anything on MTV) -- that, if anything, deserves to be clocked in the face.

But if you've got any nominees for the Times It's Okay to Hit a Chick list, pass 'em along.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Jersey Shore

Unlike the rest of my co-bloggers who have renounced their New Jerseyness, I revel in it.

Some of us are not ashamed of our roots.

On the recommendation of SideBar's brother, "5'10" and Diesel", I started watching the new reality show, "The Jersey Shore".

And, as a former honorary Teaneckian may say, Bro, let me tell you - it is a-dash-mazing.

It is a typical reality show in that they take a bunch of people, stick them in a house and let the drama unfold. In this case, however, this is the trashiest trash that ever trashed.

First of all, the nicknames are tremendous: J-Woww, The Situation and Snooki are all-time-great monikers.

Secondly, these people are unabashed guidos and, yes, guidettes - terms they use with pride.

Finally, they just have the greatest lines ever. "Ham and water", "I don't sell t-shirts, I'm a bar tender. I do great things", "I'm like a praying mantis, after I have sex with a guy I just want to tear their head off", "My abs are so ripped up, it's called "The Situation"", "I'm like the Kim Karashian of Staten Island, baby", "I"ll pound her out", "Everybody loves me....ladies, dogs, cougars...mass appeal" and, of course, "I represent Italians, family, hair gel and tanning".

I have watched all three episodes in the last two days and I think I have to digest this before I can even attempt to recap what has gone on so far in an even remotely succinct manner.

Italians, family, hair gel and tanning - I mean, at the end of the day, what else is there, really?

De La Blog is Dead

The Blog is dead. Long live the Blog.

Wheeeeeeere's Luke has had its ups and downs, but never has it seen a period as difficult as the last two months. And like the Irish monks in the 5th century - preserving the great works during the Dark Ages for posterity and the age of enlightenment that was to come (what?) - Chuck Jerry has kept us afloat during this time of atrophy and indifference.

Indeed, since Halloween, Wheeeeeere's Luke has been aptly named, with no posts by our namesake. We've had the same number from Open Bar, a mere two by yours truly . . . . but a whopping nine by Chuck. He has run the gamut - from the Neverending Story, to the trouble with the Giants (who spanked the Cowboys this weekend . . . eeeeee), to something about being married to Balki Bartokomous.

The blog is at a crossroads. It is 2+ years old and, presumably as with a child, it is starting to feel more like an obligation and less like a true joy. It was something we created - together - something that expresses all of us as one. We couldn't take our eyes off of it for the first six months. Now, it's not nearly as cute as it used to be, people have stopped asking about it, and only one of us is doing any of the work necessary to take care of it while the others are out getting loaded all the time.

On the other hand, the blog has a surprising number of readers, and brings joy to tens of thousands people of every day once in a while. How can my friends in Boston get through their day without our observations about why the Knicks suck? Don't LJT's family members need to be assured that he still demonstrates horrendous judgment? Doesn't everyone want to know how fuckin' awesome America is?

Hence the crossroads. I will try to think of interesting things to say and post once a week. Open Bar and LJT - the gauntlet has been thrown. Chuck has carried us through the Dark Ages. Let the age of enlightenment begin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What The Eff, America? Breath Mint Edition

Ok, think quickly; what is your favorite one-calorie breath mint? You said tic tacs, right? So what's the effing deal with tic tacs actually having 1.9 calories per mint? I'm looking at the box of spearmint tic tacs right now. They couldn't possibly claim that 1.9 calories is 1 calorie, can they? Is it just that one calorie in the '80s is worth 1.9 calories today because of inflation? I don't think calories work that way*. I've been lied to for my entire lifetime. Damn, I'm not gonna sleep tonight.

* - (I would hope that the tone of the post is such that I don't have to disclaim that I'm actually certain that calories don't work this way.)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Where's Luke Book Review: The Fountainhead

So this is another book by Ayn Rand. I had previously written about Atlas Shrugged, and immediately after finishing that book, I started on this one. I read it somewhat sportadically over the summer and at the start of the school year because it's a somewhat hectic time, and I read it fairly dilligently for the last two or three weeks. I'll sum it up this way: after I read Atlas Shrugged it was clear to me why so many people love Ayn Rand in a cultish sort of way. After reading The Fountainhead it's clear to me why just as many people hate Ayn Rand with a pretty specific vehemence. That's not to say I didn't like the book, I thought it was pretty interesting, but the flaws in her ideology are far more apparent in The Fountainhead.

What really struck me at the time I was reading Atlas Shrugged was the singular linear thought that ran through the entire 1200 or so pages of the book. It was a masterpiece of logic and I've never read another book like it. The Fountainhead really lacks that linear thread and is stripped down, then, just to the ideals she's trying to espouse, and I'm struck by how empty it all seems. In fairness, I suppose, it's worth noting that The Fountainhead was written first, and Rand was unhappy with the way she got her message across in it and therefore set out to write Atlas Shrugged. But I think The Fountainhead is, in a lot of ways, more telling about Rand's view on society and people in general.

Super short plot summary. There's this dude named Howard Roark who is an architect and is Ayn Rand's perfect man. There are other characters who are less than perfect and try to destroy him for various reasons. There are some other people who are potentially as great as Roark and try to support him and his career. The specifics aren't entirely important. The novel is essentailly an interplay between the forces that are for and against Roark. Similar to Atlas Shrugged, this novel culminates in a scene in which the Rand philosophy is simply spewed forth uninterrupted, this time in a courtroom setting. It's not quite the 70 page orgy of philosophy that caps off Atlas Shrugged, but rather a meager few pages of an uninterrupted speech given by Howard Roark.

Here's the problem I'm currently having with Ayn Rand and her philosophy. It's abundantly clear that she hates people. Both of these books are filled with people who leech off of society, do nothing good on their own, don't have any aspirations, and, at the end of the day, contribute to the demise of civilization. And these are the majority of the characters in her book. In each book there are several people who are privy to what I suppose Rand views as the true nature of humanity and being and that tiny minority strives to make the world a better place. In each novel there is one person who represents absolute perfection, Howard Roark in The Fountainhead, John Galt in Atlas Shrugged, and everyone else is somewhere along the spectrum between "At least he gets it" to "This guy is ruining the world".

Throughout her novels Rand's message is that the greatest end in the universe is humanity, and, more specifically, the individual, rather than the collective. Each man should strive to be perfect in the sense that he lives for himself, meets his needs, does the things that make him happy, and not worry about anyone else except to the extent that what they have will contribute to his happiness. The problem, though, is that it's clear that 99% of the characters in her books are literally incapable of reaching that ideal. There's a notion running through her books that some people are born to be perfect and others are simply not. Those are aren't have absolutely no hope, shouldn't strive toward anything, and should simply die. She claims to love humanity, when in actuality she hates most people. I'm pretty confident that the people who hate Ayn Rand are making this argument in some way or another.

What's funny is that I was reading something recently that said that what struck the ideologues who latched on to Ayn Rand was the notion that any one of them could become a genius by simply striving toward the things that made them happy and stimulated them. Whereas what seems closer to her philosophy is that as a society we're essentially fucked. You're either born to be a leader or a leech and you're going to stay in that role for eternity.

I hope I'm not discouraging you from reading this book. It was genuinely interesting and the worst thing I can say about it is that it made me think, which is more than I can say for the majority of fiction out there. I would, however, strongly recommend reading both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged if you're going to embark down this path. Reading just one or the other won't give you as clear a picture. Also that's not to say that these books adequately summarize the whole philosophy. Rand did a lot of work after these novels writing purely about the philosophy stripped out of the novel format. I'm also curious to know the opinion of someone who read these books in the opposite order. My suspicion is that they were left with a much different outlook on the whole thing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Pack It Up, Pack It In, Please Let It End

I'm on record as having said that I love Scrubs. The first several seasons were among the best in comedy show history, as far as I'm concerned. Just this past week the 8th season premiered and, good Lord in Heaven, was it bad. This show has jumped the shark in every possible way. First of all, the main characters, all of them, have signed on to return to the show, but in lesser roles than they were in before. Some of them will be in a few episodes this season, some will be on for a couple minutes a show, some won't be on at all. They have changed essentially the entire premise of the show. Instead of taking place in the hospital the whole time and being essentially an "ER Lite", they have moved the hospital (seriously) to a medical school and they are now all teaching classes to medical students in addition to doing occasional doctoring. To make up for the fact that the main characters are on like 50% less, they have introduced all these new characters like medical students and new residents and crap.

This iteration of Scrubs is a shadow of its former self. This show is slowly dying, and it is not pretty. It would be like if every goofball you met who said that he had a really good idea for a Seinfeld episode were actually allowed to come in and write an episode of Seinfeld and have it produced. I don't know who is writing Scrubs nowadays, but I hope that they die. Like tomorrow. I'm at the point now where I can't stop watching the show because I have too much invested in it, but I can't continue to watch it because it sucks so bad and it makes me sad since I remember how good it used to be. And it's not like watching 24 which is probably just as good as it used to be, but is just repeating its formula over and over and is therefore boring. Scrubs has changed, for the worst, and now I'm going to cry. It would have been better if they had just canceled it two years ago instead of trying to resurrect it from the ashes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who Dat!

The Saints are incredible. They round out the season at Washington, at Atlanta, hosting Dallas, hosting Tampa Bay, and at Carolina. I am not sure how any of those teams are going to beat them. Anything can happen, and there are always upsets that no one sees coming, but other than the Dallas game, I do not see any of those teams coming close to beating the Saints.

On the other side of the aisle, the Colts have a pretty easy schedule left, too. But they have not been as dominant as the Saints, and if you had to pick one to go undefeated I think you would absolutely pick the Saints. The Colts' last five games are host Tennessee, host Denver, at Jacksonville, host the Jets, and at Buffalo. Jacksonville on the road jumps out - that's probably where they lose if they lose at all. But the Jets are sneaky and Denver is pretty good, so I am not banking on the Colts going 16-0.

This would be a great Superbowl no matter what, but if they are both 16-0 and go to the Superbowl at 18-0, it will be awesome.