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[2006.04.30 - 05:00 P.M.]

By now, you've all heard about Stephen Colbert's killer performance at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. Crooks and Liars has part of the video here. I'll be scanning the C-SPAN listings vigilantly to see if they show it again. If they do, it will be going on the DVR and staying there for a good long time. I won't even try to excerpt any of his best lines. If you're interested, check this post at Shakes' place.

Anyhow, as we're sitting here relaxing after a hard day in the yard and catching up on all the Col-beat-down news in the blogosphere, Tracy asked me "What were they thinking? Don't they watch his show?"

The answer I gave her saddened me, but it was an honest one, and I think a correct one: "They thought he was Jon Stewart."

Now, understand, I love Jon Stewart. Never miss an episode of the Daily Show, and Tracy and I have trekked down to NYC to see him live twice. But as much as I enjoy him, he has two glaring flaws: The first is his habitually strained insistence, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that "the left" and "the right" are mirror images of each other, equally as bad in their own way. The second is an apparent aversion to confrontation that causes him to back down in the face of a live opponent when he could go for the kill. We saw this as recently as the show Tracy and I went to on Wednesday, when John played the humble, self-effacing host to that Wall Street Journal writer even as she mumbled idiotic platitudes about "the market" to explain why oil companies are making record profits. Jon Stewart is a comic genius, but he lacks the killer instinct. If it'd been him last night, you can rest assured he would have played nice, treated the audience to some light snarkiness, got some laughs, and president Bush would have left with a smile on his face.

Well, as we all know now, Stephen Colbert don't play that shit.

Update: Pondering this just now, I recall the one exception to the above: Jon's righteous stand-off with Begala and Carlson on Crossfire. Would that he could bring himself to let that tiger out of the cage more often.

Update: We just watched the entire piece (courtesy of Shakes) and I'm even more shocked and amazed now than I was before. The bit where he talks about the rubble at ground zero, the aircraft carrier deck, and the square in New Orleans, and he says these events show that "No matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world." Bush sitting right there, with no choice but to eat that shit.

I am reminded of the scene in Tombstone where Wyatt Earp charges into the river, bullets firing at him from both sides, and guns down the leader of the Cowboys (appropriately). McMasters turns to Texas Jack and says "You ever seen anything like that?" And Jack responds "I ain't never even heard of anything like that.

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[2006.04.30 - 10:20 P.M.]

From the Boston Globe's Charlie Savage (hat tip: Schlong):

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

I would point out that Bush isn't merely expanding his powers at Congress' expense, but also at the expense of the judiciary, whose proper job it is to decide which laws are constitutional. Indeed, the man's astounding hubris has led him to arrogate the powers of all three branches of government to his office.

Did you ever imagine, growing up, taking civics classes, reading about the balance of powers, that an American president would presume to simply set aside laws that he didn't agree with, and that the American people would just sit back and take it? Did you ever imagine, just a decade ago, as we listened to the American Right and their media spokes-whores shout themselves hoarse about the "RULE OF LAW", insisting that a Democratic (and democratically-elected) president must be held accountable for his sexual transgressions right now, that these same people -- call them the Insane Third of the population -- would dutifully line up behind a man who has, for all intents and purposes, declared himself our dictator?

His every utterance betrays his nature these days. The comedians had all sorts of fun with Bush's declaring himself the "Decider", but in all seriousness, how far is it from Decider to Dictator? To George Bush, I assure you, the terms are synonymous.

No word truly encapsulates Bush's character, however, better than this one: "Tyrant".

  • An absolute ruler who governs without restrictions.

  • A ruler who exercises power in a harsh, cruel manner.

  • An oppressive, harsh, arbitrary person.

Yes, Yes, and Yes. Guilty on all counts. Bush and his minions have done a thorough job of dismantling the bindings that contained previous presidents. The harshness and cruelty of his sick, paranoid, selfish worldview makes itself known in every decision he makes. And the arbitrary nature of his choices -- the rank, unprincipled hypocrisy -- is truly startling to behold.

So there you have it: George Bush. Tyrant.

Some days, in Bush's America, I shake with fury. Other days, I just feel helpless. Reading the above piece provoked the latter response. I see him say and do the things he does in broad daylight and something inside me just wants to cry out "Why doesn't anyone stop him?!" If Bush is the mad ship's captain, then we are at the point in the movie where somebody just has to say "Security, arrest that man".

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[2006.04.29 - 02:45 P.M.]

Well then, this day just keeps going from bad to worse. As if the Jets hadn't already fucked up my weekend enough, guess what? We have grubs. Yep, grubs. Front lawn and back. Oh, and the pretty little purple flowers Tracy and I have been appreciating recently? Weeds, apparently. (Question for Oddjob: Is "weed" a horticultural or botanical classification? Seriously, who determines what's a weed versus a "good" plant?)

Dammit, I was in such a good mood going into this weekend too. Stupid lawn. Stupid Jets.

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[2006.04.29 - 12:00 P.M.]

I wasn't planning on blogging about the NFL Draft much -- mainly because I've been steeling myself against inevitable disappointment at the Jets pick -- but I just logged onto CBS Sportsline to find out that Houston picked Mario Williams, a defensive end, instead of Reggie Bush. That means that Bush, Leinart, or Young has to be on the board when the Jets pick. Holy. Shit.

There's also talk that the Jets might be trying to trade up to the two spot with the Saints so they can nab Bush. That would frankly be unbelievable. Tracy is alarmed at this, because it would signal the beginning of the end of the Curtis Martin Era. That will indeed be a sad thing. Curtis is one of the best ever and he's a truly class act. But still, Reggie Bush? If the Jets can get him, they absolutely have to. Absolutely have to. He's the next Tomlinson. Maybe better.

12: 15 PM: It's official. There goes Williams. Thank you, Houston. Thank you for making the biggest draft blunder imaginable, and opening up a world of possibilities.

12:27 PM: Dammit. The Saints kept the pick and took Bush. Looks like the Jets couldn't get it done. (There's a shock.) What a shame. Hate to see a stud like Bush go to the freakin' Saints. I mean, there's a Loser Franchise. They make the Jets look good.

12:35 PM: HOLY SHIT. The Titans took Vince Young. Leinart is there for the taking. Oh please. Oh for the love of all that is good in the world, please take Leinart. Take Leinart and I'll forget all about the misery that was last season. Oh please. I feel sick. Don't screw this up, New York.

12:48 PM: The Jets just passed on a two-time Heisman QB to take a tackle. A fucking tackle. I think a small part of me just died. Matt Leinart was on the board. We suffered through a horrific season, the franchise got a high pick, the cards fell right, and they blew it. Fuck you, Mangini. Fuck you, Tannenbaum. You've got some fucking explaining to do you fucking wankers.

No, seriously: A two-time Heisman-winning Quarterback was on the board. And the Jets took a fucking tackle. I'm going to go vomit on my lawn now.

Ignorant fucking fucks. I can't even describe how upset I am at this moment. Stupid turds.

Update: In case anyone thinks I'm being too hard on the Jets, or that I'm just talking out my ass, here's Sportsline's Pete Prisco on the Jets' selection:

This is the worst pick of the draft so far. How can this team, with no star quarterback, pass on Matt Leinart? It's unreal. He would have been a star in New York with Eli Manning. Ferguson is overrated. He's not the next Walter Jones.

Worst pick of the draft. And remember, Houston passed on Reggie Bush just four picks earlier, so Prisco's saying this was even more stupid than that move.

Update: John Howard sets the record straight: Leinart only won one Heisman. I stand corrected. For the record, this in no way diminishes the size of the hair I've got across my ass about the Jets not drafting him.

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[2006.04.27 - 06:15 P.M.]

As you may have deduced from the paucity of posts this week, I've been crazy busy. Four meeting-stacked days at work sandwiched around a trip to NYC didn't leave much time for blogging. And the weekend might not be much better, what with the yard work and other chores we've got queued up. Because of all this, Tracy has designated Friday night as Fun Night at casa de Toast, and that means no time for the serious, thoughtful, well-written prose you've all come to depend on me for.

Yeah, up yours, too.

Lucky for me, Shakes has provided exactly the catalyst I needed for some light-weight posting fare: The A-to-Z Blogmeme!

Accent: Connecticut Bland. I had a Boston accent growing up, but quickly lost it going to school in upstate New York. Connecticut doesn't have much in the way of a native accent. They do this weird thing where they swallow the "t" in words that end in "tain" (e.g. "New Britain" = "New Bri'ain") but for some reason I never picked it up. This is surprising, as I have a natural tendency to quickly pick up the accents and speaking mannerisms of those around me.

Booze: Oh, fuck, damn near everything. Regular readers know of my obvious fondness for beer. I'm also a hard-core Scotch and Bourbon guy. Quickly learned to love wine after Tracy and I started dating. And while my tastes range into the exotic and rarified when the budget can withstand it, I'm not shy about drinking the cheap stuff either. I just loves me alcohol.

Chore I Hate: Indoors - scrubbing the shower. Outdoors - raking.

Dog or Cat: Allergic to both. Prefer cats by a wide margin.

Essential Electronics: Computer. Cell Phone. Widescreen HDTV. That's it. I could easily live without my PDA. Don't use the home stereo that much anymore. Like my X-Box, but I'm not addicted to it. ("At the moment" Tracy asks me to add.) Don't have a Blackberry, nor do I want one. Don't even have an iPod yet. Man, I'm practically a Luddite.

Favorite Cologne: Black, by Kenneth Cole. But they seriously need to redesign the bottle. I swear I end up spilling half of it down the side every time I use it.

Gold or Silver: Silver or White Gold, but I'm not an absolutist about it. Tracy prefers yellow gold, so we agreed to get two-tone wedding bands. Very nice.

Hometown: Melrose, MA.

Insomnia: All the time. On a good night, it takes me 45 minutes to fall asleep, minimum. On a bad night, I can be awake staring at the ceiling well into the small hours. Only cure I've found is copious amounts of whisky.

Job Title: Application Development Senior Specialist.

Kids: None, but trying really, really hard.

Living Arrangements: Small Cape-style house in the Shire with my beautiful wife.

Most Admirable Traits: Whoo-Boy! Got some time? I'm wicked smart, honest to a fault, cute as hell (according to my wife), and fun to hang around with (particularly if you like opinionated drunks). Oh, and loyal. Deeply loyal to the people I choose for my circle of friends. I could go on, but I have to finish this.

Number of Sexual Partners: Three. Shut up.

Overnight Hospital Stays: Just one. Had my appendix out a little less than three years ago.

Phobias: Bugs. Exposed heights (I like heights generally, but I get crazy vertigo if I'm right on an edge or climbing a sheer face). Public speaking. Sudden death by cardiac arrest or aneurysm. Death, generally.

Quote: "Uncertainty, in the presence of vivid hopes and fears, is painful, but must be endured if we wish to live without the support of comforting fairy tales." -- Bertrand Russell

Religion: Atheist. One funny fuckin' atheist.

Siblings: Five half-siblings from my Dad's first marriage, two brothers and three sisters, all much older than me. Spent most of my youth as a functional only child.

Time I Wake Up: 6:15 AM on the weekdays, significantly later on the weekends.

Unusual Talent or Skill: OK, this is going to sound predictable coming from a guy, but spare me the rolling eyes, women-folk, 'cause I ain't shitting you: I never get lost. Ever. Ask Tracy if you doubt me. It's like I have a GPS wired directly into my brain. Even when I'm someplace completely new, I build a mental representation of the area so quickly that I've got it all worked out while most people are still unpacking their bags.

Vegetable I Love: Brussel Sprouts

Worst Habit: Digital nasal excavation. And I touch my genitals a lot.

X-Rays: Too many to list. Dental, obviously. Broken arm, fractured collarbone, and several dents to the head when I was a kid, all of which resulted in x-rays. A couple on the spine. Most recently, had to have my hand x-rayed after I sprained it sparring.

Yummy Foods I Make: I make a friggin' mean Fettucini Alfredo.

Zodiac Sign: Scorpio.

And I will tag Kate and Tart, for they never fail to entertain.


[2006.04.26 - 09:00 A.M.]

Tracy and I are headed down to New York City for today's Daily Show taping. Tonight's guest? None other than the Moustache of Integrity himself, Thomas Friedman. I think I'm going to heckle him. "Hey Tom! The world's round!" "Hey Tom! I hear the Times is off-shoring their op-ed department. Thoughts?" Should be fun.

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[2006.04.23 - 04:30 P.M.]

Widmer Brothers HefeweizenAh, Spring. As the temperature begins to rise, the weight of one's beer must fall. It's a rule of sorts. And so, dear readers, we begin to trend away from the stouts and Belgians that have graced these pages through the cold days of Winter and instead indulge in the joys of lagers and, yes, weissbier.

To enjoy a weiss is no vice. Take Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, for example. This is a textbook American-style wheat beer. Light gold in color and cloudy with a clean, soft head, this beer goes down nice and easy. Great mouth feel here. Fine-grained carbonation that tickles your tongue. Foams up nicely as you swish it around. The flavor is typical of the genre, tart and just a little bitter with a hint of lemon. There's also a slight hint of honey from the malt, which nicely balances things out. Nothing about this beer is going to blow you away, but if you're looking for a pleasant brew to while away the weekend hours with, Widmer will certainly do the job.

Rating: 5.5


[2006.04.23 - 02:30 P.M.]

Take ten minutes today and read this profile of Ned Lamont from the Hartford Courant. How many billionaire businessmen do you know who volunteer their time to teach courses in inner-city schools? Not many, huh? Yeah, well, there's Ned Lamont for you.

Tracy and I saw Ned speak at the Simsbury Public Library last week. He's come a long way in a short time, candidate-wise. His public speaking manner was way more polished than it was back in February. He was in command of every issue, dropping knowledge like a skinny Bill Clinton. Very impressive. Be afraid, Senator Lieberman. Be very afraid.


[2006.04.23 - 01:15 P.M.]

Toast RobedTracy just announced that she is considering having beer with breakfast. I was literally thinking the exact same thing when she said that. It's one o'clock in the afternoon. She's cooking scrambled eggs with feta cheese and spinach, the latter of which is suddenly her favorite vegetable. We're waiting for the Yankees game to start up from a rain delay. I've got a sweet hangover going on - one of those where I'm experiencing everything on a 1-second satellite delay. Oh, and sun-dried tomatoes. Jesus, these are the best fucking eggs ever. Watching the Daily Show now, in lieu of baseball. Anyhow, we're both still in our bathrobes, right? And we might be in them all day. Just sayin'...

Update: I just threw some peanuts out under the bird feeder for our squirrels. It was either that or wring their necks for stealing the bird seed. But anyhow, here's the problem with the all-day bathrobe thing: I can't not shower. I'm weird like that. I just cannot stand not showering. And, look, if you shower, you have to dress, right? Even if it's just sweat pants and a t-shirt. You can't shower and then get back into your bathrobe. Also, I haven't shaved since Thursday and it's starting to itch like hell. So it's possible that the all-day bathrobe plan, despite its undeniable romance and principled idealism, might have to go by the wayside.

Oh, and I have a beer now. Rolling Rock Green Light. We're starting slow.

Oh, and if you think it's sad that I'm actually documenting all this, consider the fact that you're reading it. So what does that say about you? Huh?

Update: BASEBALL!!! I used to dislike baseball. I was stuuuuuuuuu-pid. I love baseball.

So, Ted Kennedy on the Daily Show the other night. Why was this man never president? Tell me that. Chappaquiddick, Tracy says. OK, so what? It was a stupid fucking accident. What's the deal? Why is it that stupid shit like that gets blown all out of proportion when it happens to Democrats, but Republicans routinely lie, steal, cheat and destroy the country and it slides right off of them? Sex, Tracy says. Sex. My woman is wise. She explains things to me.

The squirrels have, in the space of half an hour, taken most of the nuts that I put out there and moved them to the back yard, where they have buried them. Because it's important to store food away for those long, hard months of Summer. Squirrels are stupid.

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[2006.04.23 - 11:45 A.M.]

ScrabbleNumerous times on this blog -- numerous times -- I have mentioned that I play Scrabble online under the handle "MrToast". And yet, none of you has seen fit to challenge me. Not a one of you. From this, I can only draw one of two conclusions: Either you all think Scrabble is lame, in which case you're fucking high, or, well, maybe you're just afraid. I hope that's what it is. Because at least that I can understand. I would be afraid of a wordsmith like me too.

Oh, and by the way, Tracy's Scrabble handle is "MrsToast". And she kicks insane amounts of Scrabble behind. Actually, no, don't play her. You'll just be humiliated and you'll probably kill yourself and, honestly, I don't want that on my hands.


[2006.04.23 - 10:40 A.M.]

Walk The Line: OK, first off, Johnny Cash is fucking cool. There you go. Never thought I'd say that, but there it is. Anyhow, great movie. Highly enjoyable. Emperor Commodus nails the role of the Man in Black, and Reese Witherspoon, despite her oddly concave face, truly reaches out and touches the viewer as June Carter. The only flaw in this film? At no point do they actually address the fact that Johnny Cash couldn't sing. I kept waiting for that to come up, but they blew it off. Still, excellent movie. Highly recommended.

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[2006.04.22 - 06:00 P.M.]

A few weeks ago, McDonald's started running an ad for their dollar value menu which I truly believe is one of the funniest commercials I've ever seen. The first time I saw it, I was only half paying attention. Then I heard the bleep.

Here's the setup. Two young black guys in a McDonald's. As one of them is sitting down to join his buddy, he starts talking about the great deal he just got on his meal. Paraphrasing here, but it goes something like this: "I just bought this crispy chicken sandwich from the dollar value menu, and I got this cheeseburger for [BLEEP]!" His friend says "For [BLEEP]?" And he responds "Yeah, for [BLEEP]!" OK, I'm seriously curious now. The first dude goes on to talk about all the other stuff you can get with this promotion. "Fries? A shake? Apple pie?" his friend asks. "[BLEEP]! [BLEEP]! [BLEEP]!" At this point, I'm glued to the screen, wondering what the hell this is all about. They've got me all built up. Finally, the climax. Voiceover comes on at the end -- perfect deadpan tone -- and says of the deal "So good, it's obscene."

I fuckin' died.

I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at an ad. Seriously. Tracy thought I'd completely lost it. And on subsequent viewings, it still got me every time.

So at this point you're wondering why this found its way into an "AdNoying" entry, right? They fucking pulled it. Apparently, McDonald's caught just the tiniest bit of static about the ad, and so they replaced it with a toned down version where the word "free" -- you figured out that was the word, right? -- isn't bleeped out:

[T]he ads changed last weekend, with no bleeps over the word "free" and a (rather lame) new voice-over: "Hard to believe, but it's true."

Internet buzz seemed positive about the first version, although the impression that the young black men were so foulmouthed gave pause to some.

One person posted on a message board: "We saw that last night, and my buddy [who is black] said, 'You know, this commercial could almost be racist ... ' and then laughed."

McDonald's marketing director Ken Ebo told us: "McDonald's is very diverse, very sensitive to these types of issues. I wouldn't work for the company otherwise."

The African-American exec continued: "We produced two versions of this commercial just in case we had complaints about the explicit language. We had approximately five complaints, which was enough for us to pull the first version of the commercial. ... We didn't want to offend anybody. It was about explicit language, not about racism."

Racist? Are you fucking shitting me? Yeah, because only black people swear. And what the hell does that even mean "In case we had complaints about the explicit language"? THERE IS NO EXPLICIT LANGUAGE IN THE AD!!! THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT OF THE JOKE! Jesus Christ what is wrong with people? Who the hell calls to complain about something like that? What kind of person is so friggin' sensitive -- either to oblique references to non-existent swears or to non-existent racist overtones -- that they call to bitch and piss and moan about a hysterically funny ad?

I'm with maurinsky: Enough with people who are easily offended. Fuck off already.

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[2006.04.22 - 12:25 P.M.]

All week long -- All. Week. Long. -- sixties and seventies and sunny. The weekend arrives? Forties and rain.

This is the kind of shit that makes you want to find mother nature and punch her in the neck.

Update: OK, on second thought, there are worse things than being trapped inside with Mrs. Toast on a rainy day.


[2006.04.21 - 05:00 P.M.]

Roger Clemens. Is he going to pitch this year? For who? The Astros? Sox? Yankees? Or will he officially call it a career? Not a morning goes by that I don't see a story in the New York Post sports page pondering the Big Question: What Will Roger Do?

It's really starting to bug the shit out of me.

Not just Clemens' indecision, but the fact that he's in a position to play these games in the first place.

I have enormous respect for Clemens as a pitcher. He's absolutely phenomenal. Last year's stat line (13-8, 185/62 K/BB, 1.87 ERA) doesn't seem possible for a 42-year-old. As well as he takes care of business on the mound, however, I think he's handled the twilight of his career like a serious chump.

It started with his final season in the Bronx. The tearful farewells as he pitched his "last" game in stadia across the country. The numerous tributes and career retrospectives. The standing ovation he got from Yankees fans even as he got pulled from his last game for a terrible performance. It was all so fitting. A hero's send-off. And then the son of a bitch unretires a month later. That galled the shit out of me. My buddy Fridge keeps telling me I have to let it go, but I can't. To this day, my thoughts can best be summed up by the headline that ran after he signed with Houston: What An Asstro!

And now? Here we have a guy who could hold the fate of the AL East in his hand, and he's just sitting back and turning things over in his head, letting the world wait. Frankly, I don't give a fuck if he signs on with Houston for the remainder of their season. But the Yankees and Red Sox shouldn't be allowed to sign him. Both teams should sit down and sign an agreement that they're not going to let Roger Clemens decide which one wins the division. And don't kid yourself: That's how big this is. That's how big a difference-maker he'd be.

This probably sounds weird to many of you, coming from a Yankees fan. Yes, Mr. Steinbrenner does have a habit of going out in the off-season, grabbing a Big Name, and thrusting him into the pinstripes in the hope that he'll bring us a championship. But the key here is the "in the offseason" part. Signing a stud free agent in the off-season is fair game to me, because whatever happens, they have to go through the whole season with everybody else. The ups and downs, the wear and tear, the injury risks, everything. And if a team grabs a Big Name player during the season via trade, well, at least they have to give up something to get him. This situation, on the other hand, is just offensive to me. The idea that Clemens could sit around until after the All-Star break, hanging out grilling in his back yard, and then suddenly appear on someone's roster? That's just wrong to me.

Mark my words, because I'm not kidding: I'll be just as annoyed if the Yankees sign him as I will be if the Sox do, maybe more so. Furthermore, the longer the season goes on -- the longer Clemens waits before he dons his shining armor and rides over the hill to rescue either team's fortunes -- the more pissed I'll be, and the more fake and undeserved the wins he brings with him will seem.

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[2006.04.21 - 07:40 A.M.]

Last night was that ultimate rarity in Survivor, a show without a tribal council. The ancient and hallowed elimination ritual was cancelled because Bruce -- Karate master unextraodinaire -- was felled by a complete work stoppage of his digestive system. Dude hadn't taken a shit in ten days, and after spending his last night in camp writhing in pain, the show had to call for the medics. The following day, Jeff returned to camp and informed everyone that Bruce would not be rejoining them and that, since they had lost a contestant, tribal council would be skipped for that round. Always a bummer when something like this happens. Survivor without tribal council is like... well, let's just call it Survivorus Interruptus.

The good news? One less immunity challenge that Terry has to win.

Watching the show last night, Tracy and I agreed that this has been one of the most depressing Survivor seasons ever. The ex-Casaya crew (aka "Team Asshole") are truly one of the most unlikable bunch of people ever cast for the show. Petty, bitchy, moody, and small-minded, every last one of them. I mean, it's a bad scene when a spaz like Courtney is your most sympathetic player. What really crushed me last night was the realization, during the back-stabbing "Assess Your Tribemates" challenge, that these fucktards actually have a low opinion of our guy Captain America. So even if Terry does pull off the impossible and advance to the Final Two, they'll probably still vote to give the million to whichever fellow loser is left opposing him.


Crummy, demoralizing season. But, alas, the car-wreck quotient keeps me tuning in.

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[2006.04.20 - 05:00 P.M.]

A few days ago, in an outburst of petulance that was much remarked upon across the blogosphere, Bush responded to the increasing calls for Rumsfeld's resignation by proclaiming:

"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."

It was a revealing remark. Once again we see that, while Bush may appear to be an adult on the outside, his psychological development was stunted somewhere in early childhood. At some point, someone must have had the temerity to say "NO" to young George, and the event scarred him for life, locking him forever into the mindset of a spoiled little child. Whatever the case, one would expect some sort of acknowledgement by the media that, hey, our president is talking to us like he's this many (holding up three fingers) years old. What one would not expect is to read this, from the Washington Post's Dan Balz, in an article discussing yesterday's White House "shake up":

Whether the changes will fundamentally alter a troubled administration is another question. One of Bolten's biggest challenges, administration allies say, will be to find ways to open up the Oval Office to new ideas and to the opinions of people who are not longtime Bush confidants.

On that score, many people who know the administration best are privately dubious. Presidents, more than chiefs of staff, determine how White Houses operate, they said, noting that Bush has shown that he prefers a tight circle of advisers and does not welcome the advice of outsiders. As Bush put it on Monday, in asserting that he would not fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, "I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."

I find that last sentence deeply troubling. Here is a professional reporter going out of his way to work Bush's puerile blather into his story as if it were some sort of serious White House policy statement, an actual justification for the way the administration operates. This is ridiculous. Perhaps it's too much to expect open mockery or contempt for the president from the press (unless the president's a Democrat), but this? Is it just me, or does this sort of writing seem like an attempt to normalize Bush's bizarrely age-inappropriate behavior?

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[2006.04.18 - 05:00 P.M.]

I have a prediction to make: At some point during the remainder of his term, George Bush is going to launch a nuclear strike against Iran. Please note, I'm not merely saying he's going to attack Iran -- that's hardly going out on a limb -- but that he will use some sort of nuclear weapon against them. In all likelihood, this will be a "tactical" nuke, a "bunker-buster" or something, and not a city-obliterating hydrogen bomb. But it will be a nuclear weapon.


Simple: Nothing gets Bush's little pin-dick rock hard like doing the one thing that the dictates of wisdom, the voices of sanity and the weight of popular opinion say you just cannot do. Like a rebellious teenager, he's always looking to establish his ego by smashing some convention or other.

Launching an unprovoked invasion against a country that posed no actual threat to us? Cutting taxes during a time of war despite mountainous and growing deficits? Holding American citizens indefinitely without trial or representation? These actions all share a common theme: Defiance. Defiance of international custom, defiance of the experts, and defiance of American Constitutional principles. Nobody is going to tell George W. Bush what to do, buddy. Nobody. He's a man dammit, and you just stop snickering about it or he'll show you.

Now, what's the one thing that all of us have grown up believing is simply unthinkable? Pushing the button, right?

For sixty years one of the central guiding principles of our foreign and military policy has been putting the nuclear genie back in the bottle and keeping it there, whether through the policy of "mutually assured destruction" during our cold war standoff with the Soviet Union or through all the non-proliferation instruments that we've been a party to. The international consensus that has developed over that time is that any nation that chooses to use a nuclear weapon on a first-strike basis would be a moral pariah on the world stage.

This prohibition on using nukes is one that virtually every sane, mature adult -- or anyone with a robust sense of self-preservation for that matter -- finds eminently sensible. But from the perspective of the adolescent jackass in the Oval Office, I just bet it looks like the world is waving a red cape in front of him, daring him to charge.

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[2006.04.16 - 08:35 P.M.]

The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Eh. A handful of legitimately hysterical scenes, but not nearly as funny as I'd been led to expect. I guess I just have to stop taking recommendations on comedy.

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[2006.04.15 - 11:30 A.M.]

Tracy and I are off to Boston to do our part in the War On Easter. We shall celebrate the coming of the candy-laden rabbit and bask in irreligious commercialism. Have an excellent weekend everyone.

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[2006.04.14 - 03:45 P.M.]

Heard through the alumni grapevine that my alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has declared that they are now a dry campus. This rule will be enforced not only on RPI-owned buildings and dormitories, but on all fraternities and sororities which are chartered through the school. In addition, they are mandating new rules governing the rushing process which will seriously constrain recruitment, and they're requiring all Greek houses to have a live-in advisor.

To all of which I respond: Fuck you, RPI. You're dead to me.

You want to rob college life generally and Greek life in particular of all its joy, all its decadence, all its creative irresponsibility? Fine. You go right ahead. I'll just be sitting here wiping my ass with your latest alumni donation request. You want to come down on young adults who are busting out of their skins, relishing the opportunity to find their own way and do their own goddamned thing now that they've finally moved away from home? You want to put some anal-retentive administrators in the role of parents to all these fine young men and women? Good for you. I will never speak well of you or recommend you again so long as I shall live. You goddamned fucking fascists. Suck it.

Update: Here's the story.

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[2006.04.13 - 05:20 P.M.]

Should the left reach out more to religious voters? It's a question that seems to surface at least once a week in the progressive blogosphere. The conversation usually goes one of three ways:

  • It devolves into a discussion of strategy. Will this work, or will red-state evangelicals see through our ploy? Can we capture these voters or does the GOP have a lock on them?

  • It devolves into a discussion of image/framing/marketing. How can Democrats and/or liberals talk about religion more authentically? How do we learn to speak their language? How much God Talk is too much? (Is there such a thing?)

  • It gets sidetracked into horse-trading on issues. Whose pet causes can we throw under the bus as a lure for the faithful? Women? Maybe. Gays? Sure. Committed Secularists? Ha ha! I'm sorry, were we pretending to care about their issues in the first place?

What you rarely hear in these discussions is someone who is willing to discuss the merits of religion per se, looking not at the political impact but at the societal consequences of embracing civic religiosity. It's just not done. To question the value of religion itself is to open oneself to the charge of being a sneering, coastal elitist.

Enter one Rob Salkowitz (emphasis mine):

There's been a lot of talk lately about the resurgence of "faith-based progressives." Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter have both taken visible roles in reminding Democrats how to talk to religious voters. Moderate churches are fighting back against fundamentalists with messages of tolerance. Opposition to the war is increasingly being framed in explicitly-Christian moral terms. Even some fundamentalists themselves are finding justification for liberal environmental positions in Scripture.

I suppose this is better than the alternative. Apparently huge numbers of Americans require the language of religion to access their basic moral sense. Maybe it takes the authority of Jesus and nothing else to convince some people of the immorality of an unprovoked war against a basically defenseless opponent, based on deliberate lies and resulting in unthinkable misery and chaos. Maybe the common sense of environmental conservation only resonates when wrapped in the 4000-year-old dictates of the Book of Leviticus.

Forgive me if I can't share the enthusiasm of fellow progressives on this development. For me, the prospect of a faith-based liberalism to combat faith-based conservatism is a rotten bargain. It's a step backward toward the Middle Ages and a repudiation of several hundred years of civilization in the service of political expediency.

Oh no you di'in't!

Please, dear readers, I urge you, go read the rest. That's just a teaser. Salkowitz goes on to make a compelling case for why we should resist the urge to incorporate religion into the progressive agenda (or any political enterprise, for that matter).

Here's my own short version: Religion is to politics as biological weapons are to warfare. You can make the case that they'll win you a battle or two, but beware. They despoil the ground you're fighting for. Collateral damage will be high. Uncontained, they can mutate, then turn around and wipe out your own forces.

Our republic was founded on reason, empiricism, and a commitment to the idea of a secular state. If we encourage people to substitute faith for reason, dogma for critical thought, we might win a battle or two, but we'll lose the war and destroy the very thing we're fighting for in the process.

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[2006.04.13 - 05:00 P.M.]

Anyone who gets all worked up over Tiger Woods' use of the word "spaz" is just being retarded.

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[2006.04.12 - 05:20 P.M.]

Yesterday, I ran across this story citing a report by researchers at Australia's Newcastle University which claims that pharmaceutical companies are "inventing diseases to sell more drugs":

Disease-mongering promotes non-existent diseases and exaggerates mild problems to boost profits, the Public Library of Science Medicine reported.

Researchers at Newcastle University in Australia said firms were putting healthy people at risk by medicalising conditions such as menopause.

But the pharmaceutical industry denied it invented diseases.

Report authors David Henry and Ray Moynihan criticised attempts to convince the public in the US that 43% of women live with sexual dysfunction.

They also said that risk factors like high cholesterol and osteoporosis were being presented as diseases - and rare conditions such as restless leg condition and mild problems of irritable bowel syndrome were exaggerated.

The report said: "Disease-mongering is the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.

It was an interesting bit of timing for me to be reading this as, this very Monday, I began taking two different prescriptions, both of which fall into the "Take every day until further notice" category.

Now, I've always felt pretty sketchy about the idea of taking any drug on a long-term basis. The drug companies can show you studies out the ass "proving" their concoctions to be safe, but they can't say for sure what the impact will be 30 years from now for a drug that's only been around for 20 or less. And if they could, I'd still worry anyhow, because I'm a Panic Head about that sort of thing. Furthermore, there's the suspicion that, as the authors of the report above suggest, I'm being gamed. That I'm pouring money into Big Pharma for something that could be of marginal benefit.

How, then, did I come to acquiesce to my doctor's wishes and begin pumping two new brand-name chemicals, Advair and Zocor, into my body? Well, let's take these one at a time.

First, Advair. I have had asthma since I was a kid. Not the scary kind you see in medical dramas that's brought on by anxiety or trauma where some poor slob's lungs clench like a fist all of a sudden. This is a more low-level asthma that's brought on by two triggers: Pet dander and intense aerobic exercise. I've used albuterol for decades to manage this. Start wheezing? Take a puff. Lungs feel shitty and heavy and clogged? Take a puff. This has been a tolerable arrangement.

Over the last year or so, however, I find myself using the damned thing more and more. I suspect part of this is that, despite ripping up all the carpeting in our new house, there's still quite a bit of the previous owners' dog lying about. And I might be developing seasonal allergies on top of my pet allergies. Basically, my lungs have become a constant nagging annoyance. On top of this, I'm trying my damnedest to improve my cardio conditioning for my martial arts training, which has gotten considerably more intense since I graduated to green belt. Having a crappy set of bellows isn't helping matters any on that score.

So when I was in for my physical I asked the doc what I could do. He did a lung volume/performance test. Turns out that while my lung volume is normal, I don't get rid of air well. My clearance rate (or whatever it's called) is 75% of normal. And, yeah, it's due to my stupid old asthma. So what to do? Here's a scrip. Take this once in the morning, once at night, and you should improve. Check back with me in six months.

(sigh) OK.

Next, Zocor. (This is the scary one.) Following the above physical, I had bloodwork done for a cholesterol test. Got the results last week. Not great. My LDL and TSC numbers have been creeping up steadily over the last few years, while my HDL has remained steady at a fairly robust level. Part of this is no doubt dietary. (Did I mention that Tracy and I have a rather indulgent lifestyle when it comes to food and drink?) Part of it -- the bulk of it, I suspect -- is the ticking time bomb of my family's genes kicking in.

Anyhow, my doctor's looking at the "235" next to "total cholesterol", and he wants to put me on Zocor to reduce it. I balk at this, asking (pleading) for a chance to try to bring it down with diet and exercise. He says, "Well, that might reduce it by up to 15 percent at most, but the majority of your body's cholesterol is produced internally at a rate determined by genetic factors. What's your family history?"


Well, my dad had his first heart attack at age 44. He died of his second at age 56. My mother has high cholesterol, as do both her brothers. Their mother - my grandmother - who had quadruple bypass heart surgery back in the 80's and two more bypass surgeries on her neck after that, also has high cholesterol. All of the aforementioned are on cholesterol-lowering meds of one kind or another. My grandmother's ninetieth birthday is coming up, so that seems to be working out in her case at least. As for my mother and my uncles, they're getting into the high-mileage range too, so, fingers crossed.

My doctor looked at me and said "We're putting you on Zocor. That's it." He then asked if I wanted to see the scar from his heart surgery, which he had after his first heart attack. At age 42.

So there we are. I'm on drugs.

I look at it this way: The Advair is quality-of-life indulgence. I could get by without it. The Zocor, on the other hand, might just be a continuing-to-have-a-life necessity. Maybe I could get by without it, but the Medical Establishment really doesn't think it's a good idea to try. Virtually every reputable source I've read online vouches for the safety of these so-called "statin" drugs, and many doctors seem to think they should be prescribed far more widely.

And yet, as successful as I have been at rationalizing this rapid evolution into homo pharmaceuticalis, there's still a voice in the back of my head wondering if this is the right way to go. I worry that the makers of these drugs maybe fudged their numbers. That maybe they're hiding or minimizing some awful side effects. That maybe my doctor is a marketing victim or, worse, a willing shill. That some day, way down the line, the Law of Unintended Consequences is going to express itself in a way that is unkind to my fragile biological self.

Am I right to worry like this? Or should I, instead, be thankful that I live in an age where I have all these wonderful chemicals to enhance and extend my life? What do you think?

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[2006.04.10 - 08:20 P.M.]

Yesterday, at Tart's Poetry Corner, the Watery One posted a thought-provoking poem which explored the nature of sex, love, and existential isolation. It was good stuff. You should go read it. Anyhow, in the comments thread, Thesaurus Rex said:

People want to talk about love as this great growing together of minds and souls, but really, in the final analysis, it's just a ballet of brain chemicals.

The word that strikes me as interesting in this formulation is "just". I mean, you all know I subscribe to the materialist notion that "we" are our physical bodies and that's it. But does that make our experiences less wonderful or more wonderful? I come down emphatically on the side of the latter choice. The fact that molecules and cells and chemicals, combining by the billions and connecting in unimaginably complex fashion, can give rise to the experience of love? That this "chemical ballet" (great phrase, Rex) can alternately rip our hearts out and make us cry or send us into flights of breathless exhilaration? That is awe-inspiring. Certainly a far more wondrous explanation than anything relying on souls or gods.

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[2006.04.09 - 05:00 P.M.]

Smithwick's Irish AleOur first contestant today comes from the fine folks at Guinness. Smithwick's Irish Ale lands dead-center on the beer spectrum between Guinness' two more well-known offerings, the legendary Guinness Stout on the heavy end and Harp Lager on the light side. Coppery in color with a foamy head, it is an unusually effervescent ale, somewhat insubstantial in nature. The flavor is pleasant enough but completely lacking in assertiveness. A hit of flowery malt, a trace of hops, Smithwick's goes down smoothly and is almost instantly forgotten, leaving not a trace of aftertaste. In fact, if I were to rename this beer, I would call it "Smithwick's Mild Ale". Now, this is not an entirely bad thing. In fact, if you're looking for an Ale you can drink a lot of without getting bogged down, Smithwick's might be just the ticket. At 4.5% ABV, it's not going to do you a lot of damage in that department either. (Note to Self: Remember this beer when you get to Ireland in August. This could be the solution to that sprint/marathon problem we always run into.) Bottom Line: A beer with mass-market sensibilities, Smithwick's is user-friendly and in no way unpleasant. I predict, however, that true beer enthusiasts will be unimpressed.

Rating: 4.0

Boulder Brewing Hazed And InfusedNext up on the agenda is Boulder Beer Company's Hazed & Infused, which they describe as "dry-hopped and unfiltered" and I describe as "pretty damned good". Hazed is amber in color, cloudy (unsurprisingly) and develops a dense, medium-sized head on pouring. The body is typical for an amber ale, full but not cumbersome. Flavor-wise, there's lots to talk about. The malt has a little bit of the sweet and sour quality I tried to describe in Brooklyn's Pennant Ale. This intense taste dominates when you first take a sip, giving way to the hops after a noticeable delay. When that hoppiness does make its presence known, the sensation is brisk. Twin streaks of bitter hoppy goodness trace right down the sides of your tongue, gradually fading into the overall aftertaste. The label doesn't list %ABV, but I'd guess somewhere in the 5-6 range. Boulder lists this as the first in their "Looking Glass" series of specialty beers, and based on this experience, I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for the ensuing offerings.

Rating: 6.5

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[2006.04.08 - 11:55 P.M.]

Red Eye: Nice, tight, entertaining little thriller. Totally straight-forward plot. In fact, this might be the first "suspense" movie I've seen in a decade that didn't have some bogus "twist" thrown in. But just well done, well acted, and quite enjoyable.

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[2006.04.08 - 10:45 A.M.]

Dear New York Yankees,

The season has started.

Just thought you should know.

Love, Toast

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[2006.04.08 - 10:00 A.M.]

So the guy who accused Dan Brown of stealing the idea for the DaVinci Code lost his court case. Brown might not be in the clear yet, however. I hear Michael Crichton is suing him next. It appears that Crichton holds a patent on the business methodology of "formulaic, linear plots populated by two-dimensional characters". I know, you wouldn't think they'd let you patent something like that, but there you go.

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[2006.04.06 - 05:30 P.M.]

"Yes. Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of."

-- George W. Bush, Sept. 30, 2003

"WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide testified that President Bush authorized the release of parts of a classified report on Iraq to rebut criticism of the case for the 2003 invasion, federal prosecutors disclosed in documents released Thursday."

-- CNN, April 6, 2006

Bush Backers, do you feel that warm trickle down your back? That's your president taking a leak on the last of your integrity. Are you going to put up with that shit? Or are you finally going to admit that we were right about him, you were wrong about him, and that he's an enormous shit-stain of a human being? Choice is yours. Just sayin'.

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[2006.04.05 - 06:35 P.M.]

This story just strikes me as so odd:

Online DVD rental company Netflix Inc. sued rival Blockbuster Inc. for patent infringement Tuesday, asking a federal judge in Northern California to shut down Blockbuster's 18-month-old online rental service and award Netflix damages, according to a copy of the filing.

Blockbuster (Research) declined to comment, saying it had not received a copy of the lawsuit.

NetFlix (Research), which was founded in 1999, holds two U.S. patents for its business methodology, which calls for subscribers to pay a monthly fee to select and rent DVDs from the company's Web site and to maintain a list of titles telling NetFlix in which order to ship the films, according to the patents, which were included as exhibits in the lawsuit.

The first patent, granted in 2003, covers the method by which NetFlix customers select and receive a certain number of movies at a time, and return them for more titles.

The second patent, issued Tuesday, "covers a method for subscription-based online rental that allows subscribers to keep the DVDs they rent for as long as they wish without incurring any late fees, to obtain new DVDs without incurring additional charges and to prioritize and reprioritize their own personal dynamic queue -- of DVDs to be rented," the lawsuit said.

Is it just me, or do "business methods" seem like too vague a thing to allow someone to slap a patent on?

Let's really boil down the two items above.

Patent 1: We send you one or more movies, then you return them, then we send you more movies.

Patent 2: Oh, by the way, you can keep the movies for as long as you want and we won't charge you extra.

These things are patentable?

How is that different from patenting Pizza Delivery? "Hey, I know, instead of you coming here to eat, we'll make the pizza and then drive it to your house." Quick! Slap a patent on it!

How is that different from patenting Online Banking? "Here's what we'll do! We'll build a web site that allows our customers to pay their bills online. They can enter payees and amounts and we'll either electronically transfer the funds or mail them a check!" Quick! Slap a patent on it!

The latter idea, in particular, is at least as innovative as what NetFlix did, and yet I've heard nothing about any of the hundreds of banks that offer such services being awarded a patent on it or suing their rivals.

I say all this, by the way, as someone who is a NetFlix fan. I realize that what they did was "innovative" and that they had to convince naysayers in the marketplace, both potential customers and established competitors. Still, I'm just not comfortable with the notion that what they're doing is patentable. I don't see how the same laws that apply to a new kind of widget should apply to a new way of doing things. I just feel like there's a hard/soft dichotomy going on here that's not being properly addressed.

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[2006.04.05 - 07:50 A.M.]

No time to post in the last few days, so here's a quick sampling of what's rattling around my brain this crappy morning.

First, it's snowing. Yes, snowing. Three days ago it was seventy and Tracy and I were out bike riding. Today it's snowing. Sometimes New England just really likes to fuck with you.

Second, Yay! Yankees win 15-2 Monday night in Oakland. Boo! Yankees lose 4-3 Tuesday night in Oakland. 162 wins, gentlemen. That was the plan. What the hell is wrong with you guys?

Third, it's April, and I still have Dry Nose. This problem has been growing relentlessly in scope over the last few years. I used to get Dry Nose -- that hard, cracked, painful, and un-ignorable dryness of the nostrils -- for a week or so in November. Gradually, as the total of my Winters on this Earth have wore on, it's lasted longer. This year it started in November and never really went away. It's friggin' April and I'm just about ready to volunteer for a nostrilectomy.

Fourth, Tom DeLay bows out of his house race! Woo Hoo!!! Could prison time be ahead for one of the Conservative Movement's three Prime Maggots? Here's hoping. You know, it's been pointed out that DeLay is only one man and that the GOP infrastructure he built and the movement he's guided is still in place and blah blah blah. I don't care. Or, well, I do care, and sure, we've got a long uphill battle still ahead, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't stop and smell the steaming guts of a maggot like DeLay getting crushed by the wheels of justice. Mmmmmmm... crushed maggot. Anyhow, here's to you, Tom: May your name be synonymous with corruption; may the castle of shit you've spent your life building collapse around you; and may you spend your last days rotting in a jail cell somewhere.

Fifth: Insomnia. Hate it. Oh, do I hate it. Two nights straight now. I always have somewhat of a hard time falling asleep -- I think 45 minutes is about my average -- but the last two nights have been in the 1:00-AM-Still-Staring-At-The-Clock category. Arggh. Maybe it's the Dry Nose keeping me up.

Lastly, president Bush returns home today. No, not that home. He's coming up here to good old Connecticut where he was born. Hope someone reminds the blue-blooded son-of-a-bitch of that fact. We all know how much it aggravates the shit out of him.

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[2006.04.02 - 10:30 P.M.]

Tracy and I have a game we play during the Colbert Report: Guess "the Word". Tonight, I nailed it. The word was "Fuck". Not surprising I'd be locked onto that one, huh? Anyhow, you should try this. It's fun. Next time you're watching the Report, wait until Stephen says "which brings us to tonight's word" and try to blurt it out before he does.

What? You don't watch the Colbert Report? The fuck is wrong with you?

Honestly, I just have to put this out there right now: Stephen Colbert is the Funniest Man on Earth. And you are a stone-cold fool if you don't watch his show. Since the inception of the Report back in November, the man has just gone through the comedic stratosphere. I sit on the couch nightly and shake my head in disbelief at the absurdity he delivers. If your gut isn't hurting from the hilarity this man provides, you are not right in the head. Just sayin'.

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[2006.04.02 - 06:00 P.M.]

This is why Rob Salkowitz is my fuckin' homie:

Anyone looking for an antidote to Wednesday's sub-par South Park episode complaining about the smugness of people who drive hybrids, live in San Francisco, or are George Clooney, Jon Chait has a great piece in the New Republic about Red State Elitism. Chait dares to wonder in print how our culture has decided that people with education, adventurous tastes, progressive values and a preference for city living are somehow presumptively arrogant and elitist, while giving a free pass to Red Staters with their smug certainty in their own patriotism, righteous values, and eventual salvation. Since when did rednecks, sexophobes, bible thumpers, gun owners, Fox News watchers and folks who pay so little attention to public affairs that they still believe Iraq was behind the 9/11 attack get a greater claim to "authenticity" as it relates to our political discourse than their fellow Americans living on the coasts, in university towns or in old union cities who happen to have different views and lifestyles? This is an important question, since some newspaper editors seem to have internalized this upside down view of elitism and are unduly intimidated by complaints that appear to come from these more "authentic" Americans. Digby is right - when these bastards question your patriotism or suggest that you're pro-terrorist for pointing out the plain fact that Bush has been wrong about just about everything, punch them in the face.

I mean, fuck, I almost popped a fuckin' tent reading that. Right the fuck on, my friend.

Update: Pondering the whole dumbass fixation our culture has on the idea that rural = authentic, I dug through my archives and found this post. And I must say, I was impressed with myself. Gotta say, I think I is a pretty good writer when I put my mind to it.

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[2006.04.02 - 05:20 P.M.]

Brooklyn Pennant Ale What beer to blog about on the first day of baseball season? Why, the choice is obvious, is it not? Allow me, then, to introduce you to Brooklyn Brewing's Pennant Ale.

But wait! First, a short rant. Dear Major League Baseball: It is Sunday. It is freakin' beautiful out. A truly glorious day. There is only one thing I can think of that would improve upon this day, and that is a Yankees game on the television. But, alas, like the NFL, you have decided to do the idiotic single-game opening day thing. Which sucks. Really, really quite dumb, I'll have you know. Next year, please let everyone open on the weekend. Please? Thanks.

So then. Back to the beer at hand. Pennant Ale presents itself with a good foamy head and a body that is light copper in color. The flavor is quite assertive, and it's the malt that grabs your attention. It's maddeningly hard to describe, however. I ran it by Tracy, and the best she could come up with was "like a candy, but not sweet". Paradoxical as that may seem, it's not off the mark. I hesitate to use the word "sour" to get at what I'm tasting here -- negative connotations, right? -- but it kinda sorta is. Like sour candy, perhaps? (My woman's taste buds are smart. Like her.) Maybe a hint of smoke too, or perhaps even a suggestion of scotch. Anyhow, the important thing to note is that this malt jumps on your tongue hard. In a good way. The only fault I'd point out about this is that because the malt is so assertive, the hops get more or less buried. I suspect they're in the house, but they're hiding under the bed or in the closet or something. Not a huge deal, mind you. It's true that I'm a hop fanatic, but this ale brings enough to the table in other departments that I can let the relative weakness in the hop department slide. I will sum up this beer in a single word: Robust.

Rating: 6.5

Update: Tracy says that Pennant Ale's flavor is really good second-hand as well. Nudge nudge. Wink wink.

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[2006.04.02 - 04:20 P.M.]

Yard work season is upon us! Oh, joy! Oh, happiness!

I kid, of course. Yard work isn't that bad. In fact, on a day such as today, even I cannot bring myself to complain. Around the lawn I go, picking up sticks, while Tracy sucks leaves over yonder. And as we busy ourselves, slowly but surely, the 'scape beneath our feet starts to take on an air of presentability.

This will be our first Spring in our new home, and so there is a certain excitement, a certain suspense. We look at the garden-ish area out front and see green emerging and wonder "What might that be?" We've already got some purple and blue flowers blooming which Tracy believes are hyacinths. There are green mystery shoots popping up all over the place which may or may not flower. Tracy cut away the dead stalks of last year's ornamental grass, and we are now anxiously awaiting its lustrous return. And the Maple tree is starting to bud. Pretty pretty tree.

An interesting development on the home front? We have miner bees. About a week ago, Tracy noticed that the part of our lawn near the street, which is on the barren side to put it nicely, was peppered with these weird looking holes. Like ant hills, but with a significantly larger diameter, about the width of your finger. This freaked her out, as she is something of a hole-o-phobe. I didn't see any ants emanating from them, but I did see quite a few bees zipping about. So I did some research and - lo and behold - discovered that we have miner bees. These are solitary bees which burrow holes in the ground, and while said holes are somewhat unsightly, we have decided to initiate no action against them for these bees are supposedly highly beneficial pollinators.

Finally, in other news, we installed a second bird feeder outside our kitchen window, one which is more-or-less squirrel proof, or so we hope. Just to hedge our bets, however, Tracy plans to buy some peanuts today at the grocery store which we will place out beneath our front bird feeder as a peace offering to the gray thieves.

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[2006.04.02 - 03:00 P.M.]

Just got back from a short ride with Tracy, her first ride of the year. Another picture perfect day in the Shire. We've got this fantastic trail that passes right by our neighborhood called the Farmington Valley Greenway. It's one of those "rails to trails" deals. Runs a good 15 miles south of us, and the plan is to eventually have it go unbroken from the Mass border all the way down to New Haven.

Riding with Tracy is fun. Her pace is, um, a little more gentle than my solo pace. So when we ride together I get to kind of zone out and take in the scenery and stuff. I goof around. Speed way up, then slow down and let her pass me, then speed up again. And I get to look at her butt in biker shorts, which is not something to miss.

Anyhow. As we were crossing route 10, I noticed a sign out in front of Healthtrax (a local fitness center) that said "Free Class". So I was thinking, hey, Tony Scalia should drop in and pick some up if he's in the neighborhood. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Oh, and did I mention how much I love Spring Forward day? It'll be light out until, like, 7:00 PM tonight. That's just so excellent. Puts a big old smile on my face.

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[2006.04.02 - 12:15 P.M.]

You know, I've got a bit of a hangover this fine mornternoon, and I really did NOT need to see this shit:

The President as Average Joe

Trying to Boost Support, Bush Brings Banter to the People

President Bush was taking questions from an audience the other day when he was asked about the immigration debate raging in Washington.

"It's obviously topic du jour ," he said.

The audience laughed at the famously Francophobic Texan's faux accent.

"Pretty fancy, huh?" Bush asked, mocking himself. "Topic du jour ?"

The audience laughed again.

Really? Was the audience made up of fucking retards or something? Because that'd explain why they'd laugh at that shit. "Mocking himself". Give me a fucking goddamned break already. Like that son of a bitch (and never has that epithet been more accurate) would ever mock himself. Cock-sucking, monkey-ball-licking piece of shit was mocking the French language, people who use it, and people who understand it. He was mocking intelligent people, as usual. The hateful abomination was mocking his betters, in other words, as he always does. Scum-sucking douchebag probably thought that was real funny.

"Pretty fancy, huh?" Uh, yeah, George. Pretty fancy. Pretty fucking funny, too. How about a punch in the face with that smirk? Would that be funny? How about a fucking set of knuckles to the neck, you disgusting fucking turd? Jesus Horatio Fucking Christ. I can't stomach the embarrassment of having your clueless, putrid self as our president today. I just can't. You make me want to put my fist through a friggin' wall. You are shit. You are the human race's vomit. I hate you so fucking much it hurts.

Hey, shit-fuck: Vaffanculo.

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[2006.04.01 - 04:30 P.M.]

Kate was nice enough to tag me with the following blogmeme. Well, after I asked her to, that is. (What's with the aversion to tagging everyone has, anyhow?)

  • A book that made you cry: Russian Spring by Norman Spinrad. I so identified with poor Jerry.

  • A book that scared you: None. I used to read a ton of horror -- Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Lovecraft (of course), Clive Barker -- and while I found it very enjoyable, none of it scared me. Horror needs to be visual to scare me.

  • A book that made you laugh: VALIS by Philip K. Dick. There's this one character whose cat dies when he's young, and he goes through life using that as a metaphor for all the injustice in life. He goes so far as to say that when God comes on Judgement Day and is about to condemn him, he's going to say "Oh, yeah?" and whip out his dead cat. I don't know why, but I don't think I've ever laughed harder at any scene in a book in my life.

  • A book that disgusted you: Without Remorse by Tom Clancy. I stopped about 100 pages into this one. Clancy had moved on from his cold war stuff, which I enjoyed, and his new all-purpose Bad Guy was drug lords. Fair enough, I suppose, but I just couldn't stomach the endless lecturing about how evil drugs were and how all people who used them were weak. I was just like, whatever, dude.

  • A book you loved in elementary school: I can't remember any of the individual titles, but I loved all of the Three Detectives books. They were similar to Nancy Drew, only the protagonists were three dorky kids who had a secret fort in a junkyard. Jupiter Jones was my Boy, yo.

  • A book you loved in middle school: The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey. Actually I loved the entire Dragonriders of Pern series, but that was the first one I read and it remained my favorite.

  • A book you loved in high school: Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. My favorite book ever.

  • A book you hated in high school: Oh, you get the two-fer on this one. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Old Man And The Sea by Ernest Hemmingway. Two of the most intolerably boring wastes of my time I've ever been made to suffer through.

  • A book you loved in college: The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra. This was the book that made me realize how a deep appreciation of the material universe could actually be a quasi-religious experience of sorts.

  • A book that challenged your identity: Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson. The first half of this book is like an operating manual for the human mind. Wilson gets a little kooky at times, but you can learn a ton from him if you keep your mind open.

  • A series that you love: Wow. Too many to choose. I'll go with the Amber series by Roger Zelazny. Brilliantly inventive. Snappy writing. Just fun as hell.

  • Your favorite horror book: The Stand by Stephen King. Awe. Some. Read the original twice, then read the unabridged version (500 extra pages on top of the 800 he started with) and still couldn't get enough of it.

  • Your favorite science fiction book: Snow Crash by Neil Stephenson. This is the one book on this list that I am going to command you to read. Seriously. I'm not taking no for an answer.

  • Your favorite fantasy book: Well, I already used Amber above, so I'll go with the Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock. Kick-ass action and one of the great heroes of all fiction. "Blood and Souls for my lord Arioch!"

  • Your favorite mystery book: Darkness, Take My Hand by Dennis Lehane. I could not put this book down. Fucking brilliant.

  • Your favorite biography: Not much into biographies. Read a bio of Buckminster Fuller once that I enjoyed, but I don't recall who wrote it.

  • Your favorite "coming-of-age" book: I don't really know what this means. Like, what, the Outsiders or something? Not really my cup of tea.

  • Your favorite book not on this list: Cryptonomicon by Neil Stephenson. Except for the ending. Damn Stephenson and his anti-climactic endings.

And who will I tag, since I am so not afraid to tag? Well, I won't tag Sis, 'cause she's had too rough a week already. I will, however, tag Tart, Creature and, let's see... Salkowitz. There you go.

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[2006.04.01 - 01:00 P.M.]

Who's there? People. People who? People who want to talk to me about God.

Last night. 9:30 PM. Pitch black out, we haven't got the porch light on. We're upstairs playing Scrabble. Knock knock. Uh, hello? "Hi, we'd like to talk to you for a few minutes about God's living prophet on Earth." "Um, we're atheists." "Really? Why atheism." "Oh, you know, lack of evidence of God's existence." "Oh, well - " "Look, um, we're in the middle of something." "Would there be a better time for us to come back?" "No, not really." "Well, do you know if anyone else around here - " "Actually, I generally don't talk to my neighbors about their religious beliefs." "Oh, well, good night then."

Close the door. Make Steve Spurrier Face.

This morning. 9:30 AM. Still in my bathrobe. Knock knock. Uh, hello? "Oh my. We caught you a little early." "Uh huh. You guys were here last night too." "We were?" "Well, two other guys, yeah." "Were they wearing suits?" "Yeah." "Oh, those were Mormons. We're Jehova's Witnesses." "Oh. Sorry." "Anyhow, would you be interested in a free copy of - " "Actually, no. We're not religious." "Well OK. You have a good morning now. Enjoy the rest of your coffee." "OK, bye."

The fuck is this? Proselytizing season?

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[2006.04.01 - 11:00 A.M.]

Wedding Crashers: The first hour wasn't nearly as funny as everyone said it was, and the last forty-five minutes weren't nearly as bad. In fact, it was your basic mild-mannered romantic comedy all the way through. It had its share of laughs, and Owen Wilson was his usual endearing self. That's it.

(Note to movie reviewers: Phrases like "gut-busting" or "laugh-a-minute" really need to be used sparingly. There are very, very few movies to which they truly apply.)

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