Friday, December 30, 2005

An Example of Compassionate Conservatism

I can do no better than Professor Bainbridge, so I'll just link to him.

Money quote: "Did the Good Samaritan check the immigration status of the "certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho"? Should he spend five years in jail for not doing so? Are we so desperate to keep out Hispanics looking for a better life that we would criminalize humanitarianism?"

All I know is, don't piss off the Priests!

Sensenbrenner never fails to reveal himself as an ignorant, evil, vote-hungry thug.

Mort Backpedals! More on SportsCenter!

Oops! My bad!

As far as being scooped, I guess those local Cleveland sports reporters are slowed down by little things like, oh, checking the facts, eh? Unlike that sloppy, though quick, Chris Mortenson. (Dirty double entendre intended.)

In any case, Phil Savage staying would be a Good Thing.

Ripping My CDs

So, between getting a new PC a couple of months ago, upgrading to a cable modem, and getting this gorgeous iPod Nano for Christmas, the time has come to rip my CD collection into the digital ether.

Of course, it would take forever to do every song on every CD. And I want to get my iPod up and running ASAP. So I'm pulling my favorite cuts from each disk. The CDs are stacked alphabetically (are you surprised? I still haven't been able to figure out Rob Gordon's system in High Fidelity) so I'm into the C's now.

Know this about me: I don't throw shit away. That means my CDs take up an entire set of built-in cabinets in the family room. We are talking multiple shelves. So here I am sorting through disks that date back to my college years.

And there's some great shit back there, that I haven't listened to for ages. Right now, of a slightly more recent vintage, I've got Cake's Prolonging the Magic ripping. I was into a big Cake phase, back in the day. Great cuts: Sheep Go to Heaven, When You Sleep.

Who can give me a shout-out for Cake?

Next up: the Clueless soundtrack, Harry Chapin, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, Clapton, Paula Cole, Sheryl Crow, Shawn Colvin, Collective Soul....

This Just In! Cleveland Local News Sucks!

How is it that the local boys got scooped, yet again?

My bet is that Mort's contacts with the Falcon's clued him in to the fact that the Browns were seeking one of their head office guys to replace the ousted Savage.

Clearly, Roger Brown's front-office birdies didn't come through. Sorry, Roger - you still suck.

Browns to Fire Phil Savage???

Yikes!

What the hell is this all about?

Philosophical differences?

Oh yeah, that's right. Savage's philosophy has to do with identifying and drafting top-notch talent in all levels of the draft, and pursuing trades and free agency to fill the holes and build a championship-caliber team.

The Browns', not so much.

Could someone please raise Al Lerner from the dead to rescue this still-flailing franchise from his idiot son?

What Might Have Been?

Oh, the possibilities of one or two more years of Maurice Clarett.

Another National Championship? Or two? A Heisman? Or two?

Instead, Maurice will sit at home on Monday, watching his mates and feeling a regret that only he can know.

What a sad, sad waste.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

This Is Movie Week at The Kegger

We have immersed ourselves in film this week (sounds dirty, yes, but it's not. At least not yet). A few highlights:
  • Mad Hot Ballroom was on PPV. This is what good documentary film-making is all about. It follows three public elementary schools competing in ballroom dance (apparently, there is a ballroom dance program in NYC's public schools). This film has it all - great music, great dancing, sweet kids fighting against the ugliness around them, and really funny one-liners that 10 year old boys and girls say about each other. Watch it, and be ready to swing (damn, I could be Leonard Maltin!)
  • Christmas night, we paid our annual tithe at The Church of A Christmas Story. God Bless You, Ralphie! Fragile!
  • A rent of The March of the Penguins. I'm sure the big screen surpasses the small, but this remains a beautiful, impacting film. The cinematography is equaled only by Morgan Freeman's narration. The only occasional clunkers were provided by the writing. Ugh. At moments, it was like a bad National Geographic special written by Mitch Albom.
  • King Kong finished off our orgy of film. I loved it. The first hour was entirely focused on developing character and plot, and it surprised me that it worked. Peter Jackson is brilliant at creating worlds, and his 1930's New York City is a wonder to behold. Naomi Watts does a great job of drawing us into her depression-era struggles. The city shots are much more that simply gorgeous - they help to explain the motives of the main characters. The band's adventures on Skull Island cover the middle third of the film. The natives are creepy to an extreme. There are more dinosaur and giant bug attacks than anyone should be allowed to endure. Frankly, while all are brilliant in their own right, there are one or two too many. It exhausted me (or maybe I was just hung over?) The final third of the film was Kong in New York. Tragic, a predictable and well-known story is beautifully and movingly told. All the women around me were crying. Go see it. Soon. This is a film that demands a big, big screen. My only two criticisms: too long - 30-40 minutes could have easily been cut; and, way too much time for Ann and Kong to stare into each others' eyes, enjoying the sunset. I was waiting for him to pull out a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio. It got to the point of being silly. But, still, I give it a bunch of stars (out of a bunch.) See it. Escape, and enjoy.

Any other good movies out there? Let us know.

Thank God, the War on Christmas is Over!

It appears they signed the peace treaty on the Island of Misfit Toys:

The Christmas Schwag

As much as I try to convince them that Christmas is not about giving each other stuff we could all buy for ourselves if we wanted to, they continue to buy me great stuff each year.

So, here are my favorite gifts this year:
  • Hell, I gotta start with the iPod Nano. Damn, but I do love my wealthy, successful, generous big sister! Of course, now I need to get some tunes on it.
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin's latest, Team of Rivals, a fascinating history of Lincoln and his era. I'm almost 200 pages into it already. Her plagiarism issues aside, she is one of my favorite popular historians.
  • A nice big 12 inch cast iron skillet. Seasoned that bad boy today. Friends, we shall have some fine fried chicken in the New Year! And beautiful seared scallops!
  • Cozy, soft cotton PJ bottoms. So soft. So cottony. So nice without underwear.

So now that I've shared, what were your favorite presents this year?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bowl Season is Underway

So, I'm watching the Meecheegan-Nebraska game (yeah, Huskers!) when they cut to the finish of the Boise State-Boston College game.

People: the field was BLUE. Electric blue. Strikingly, startlingly, painfully blue. It hurt so much, so quickly, that I had to avert my eyes.

Was it possible for anyone to actually watch that thing? Whose brilliant idea was it, anyway?

When the Phone Rings

My mom just called. It's odd for her to call at 7 on a Wednesday night. Once I saw the caller ID, I immediately thought, someone just died. Who? Grandparents (all 4 are still around and doing great, can you believe that?) Dad? A sudden heart attack? Fuck.

I pick up the handset, press talk. "Jack," she starts, "I wanted you to know that Uncle Rick passed away this morning."

I was surprised by the knot in the back of my throat, as much as I wasn't surprised by his death. He had been suffering from bone cancer that had recently spread to his brain. He had been ill for years. It wasn't a surprise.

And he wasn't necessarily a great guy. He had been a Marine in Korea, and he carried that with him all his life (think: the neighbor in American Beauty). His temper and unpredictable moods could scare me. Over time, he became reclusive around family, would disappear into his study during our visits, alway working on writing his mysterious book. He left my aunt - my Mom's sister - once my cousins had graduated from high school. For several years after, a couple of his children barely spoke to him.

But I also remember this: in his good moods, he was as entertaining, as funny, as loving an uncle as I ever knew. At their pool, he could throw you as high as anyone, making a tremendous splash. When we were little, he would "make pizza" with us: "roll" us out on the floor, pretend to spread sauce and throw toppings on us, tickle us with a sprinkling of mozzarella, shove us into a pretend oven, pull us out, and then tickle us again as he would pretend to make slices. We would laugh until it hurt.

In later years, we learned that he was a recovering alcoholic, sober for decades, that he suffered from manic depression, had secretly beaten pancreatic cancer.

So my tears welled up, for the good of who he had been, the struggles he had overcome, for the fact that my cousins - at my age - had lost their father. And I was surprised at how strongly I wept.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

As for The Oriole's Offseason Moves...

..LaTroy Hawkins?

Here's a telling image of the guy: Yelling, "Mind your own business," at the clubhouse TV during the congressional hearings on steroids, then abruptly turning it off while two of his teammates were watching.

Nice.

My prediction - he spends at least a third of the season on the DL.

HT: The Uncouth Sloth.

The High Cost of Home Heating

And I thought my latest gas bill was painful! Check out how these poor bastards are getting hit hard.

The Indians Starting Rotation 2006

Well, maybe this won't be so bad. Essentially, Byrd replaces Millwood and Jason Johnson replaces Elarton.

I watched Johnson pitch for several years in Baltimore, and he showed some flashes. Inconsistent, as I recall. I'm not a huge fan, but he's probably an upgrade over Elarton.

I am sad to see Millwood go (to Texas - what has Boras got on the Rangers?), but no one really expected Shapiro to be able to resign him. I like Byrd, always have. He could have a huge year, like Millwood just did.

Then, you've still got CC, Cliff Lee, and Jake Westbrook coming back - plus all those young arms waiting in the wings - Davis, Carmona, etc. No, the rotation doesn't worry me.

But the everyday lineup still does - let's sign some bashers, Shapiro!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas Memories

Friday, December 23, 2005

Some New Ideas

The War on Christmas is really out of control this year:
God has been driven out of public life by the separation of Church and
State; he has been driven out of science now that doubt has been raised to a
system.... He has even been driven out of the family which is no longer
considered sacred in its origins....

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. That was Pope Pius X in 1903.

My bad.

Guess Christmas ain't in such bad shape here in 2005.

The Greatest Gift

And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in their fields and keeping watch over their flocks at night, when an Angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the Glory of the Lord shone all around them, and they were sore afraid.

And the Angel said unto them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. For there is born today in the city of David a Savior, 'tis Christ the Lord. And let this be a sign unto you: You shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."

And there was with the Angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God in the highest and singing, "Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, and goodwill toward man."

Roger Brown Sucks! Others Agree!

Deadspin finally hits Cleveland in its series of Why Your Hometown Columnist Sucks.

Of course, he picks on Roger Brown. Who else could you pick? Because he does, sincerely suck.

Over time, his columns have come to read like Jackie Harvey, only less funny.

Hat tip: Large Bill. You rock.

Christmas Is Coming...

This is how we are celebrating our Christmas:
- The family members have made their way here over the last few days - from Atlanta and Cleveland and Tampa and Boston.
- It was warm here today ('bout 50), so we had a good walk around the pond then played two hours of tennis. My net game, as always, made the difference. When will women ever learn to play the freakin net??
- I am making Cornish Hens tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, stuffed with wild mushrooms and served with pan juices infused with roasted garlic. The birds are defrosting as we speak.
- We will attend 9pm service, an early midnight Mass for us recovering Catholics. Full choir, communion, the whole freakin' deal!
- I picked up the tenderloin today, a nice big tender strip of beef. On Christmas day, after 6 hours of marinating in bourbon (Jack Daniels, Merry Christmas!), brown sugar, and shallots, I shall sear it in olive oil and butter then roast it until medium rare. It shall be surrounded by a potato gratin with mushrooms and Roqueforte. Yum. A Bouche de Noel will end our meal.

The spirit of sharing and community infuses us. We shall share, and we shall share more. Our homes, our kitchens, become a metaphor for the soul. Be with us. Be one with us, with charity, with generosity, with love.

My View


Staying at The W on Times Square doesn't suck.

Times Square at Night

Remembering Elrod Hendricks

His may not be a household name outside of Baltimore, but Elrod was, in Brooks Robinson's words, "...the most beloved Oriole of all time." And that is saying a ton.

Elrod passed away on Wednesday. Balt Sun columnist Peter Schmuck has a wonderful tribute this morning.

God Bless, Elrod.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Chuckle of the Day

Letterman last night:

"Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. have been named 'Partners of the Year' by Time magazine. In fact, they've become so close, they're thinking of making a cowboy movie together."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bobby Ehrlich's Reelection Campaign

So Gov. Ehrlich has hired Bo Harmon to run his reelection campaign for governor.

Full disclosure - I have voted for Ehrlich every chance I've had - as my rep in Congress and as Governor. He has brought some balance to a state capital typically overrun (and run) by Democrats only. Aside from his annoying addiction to legalizing slots, I really like him and tend to agree with him.

However, this hire gives me pause. Bo Harmon, if you do not know, is the campaign genius who torpedoed John McCain's bid for the 2000 Republican Presidential nomination in the South Carolina primary. Included among that campaign's slanders was the outright lie that McCain “chose to sire children without marriage.” Predictably, them South Carolinians don't take so kindly to fornicatin'!

Mr. Harmon then followed up that virtuoso performance with his campaign against Sen. Max Cleland in Georgia. Remember Max Cleland? Lost both legs while fighting in Vietnam? Under Harmon's leadership, the challenger, Saxby Chambliss (who avoided serving)...
"...ran TV ads showing pictures of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein - and
Cleland. A narrator said that while America faced terrorists, Cleland opposed
Bush's homeland security efforts.
Among those who attacked the ads were
three U.S. senators who were Vietnam vets: Democrat John Kerry, who called the
campaign "the most craven moment I've ever seen in American politics";
Republican John McCain, who called it "worse than disgraceful"; and Republican
Chuck Hagel, who termed it "beyond offensive."
Ugh. Don't tell me this is just politics. There's a difference between "tough" and "gutter". This is so gutter, I'm surprised that Ehrlich isn't disturbed by the rats crawling all over Mr. Harmon.

Careful they don't bite you too, Bobby!

The Original King Kong

I had the chance to catch the original King Kong on TMC recently (I love how they show the "Overture" at the beginning - you won't see that on any other network.)

It's been years since I've seen it, and it's still a terrific yarn, once you get past the stop-motion effects - really quite effective in light of when it was made. But what doesn't hold up as well are the over-dramatics - Denham's stentorian speechifying, Fay Wray's one-note performance: "Aaaayyyiiiggghhh!!!".

What I'm looking forward to seeing in Peter Jackson's version is Naomi Watts - strong, humorous, and hot hot hot!

Two More Reasons I Dislike Unions

Obviously, first is the NYC transit workers. These greedy bastards have no idea how good they have it. Retire at 50 with 20 years, plus full pension and medical for life? 8% raises each year? Good luck in the real world, guys.

Closer to home, the MD teachers' union is pushing for better pensions. Currently, after 30 years of teaching, they get 42% of their salary - each year, for life. The union points to PA, where teachers get 75% of their pay. Of course, the PA teachers also contribute 7.5% of their salary each year, while the MD'ers toss in only 2%. I guess they expect the taxpayers to make up the difference.

Sorry, folks. Do what the rest of us do: contribute a bigger chunk of your paycheck to some type of tax exempt/deferred savings plan. Defined contribution plans are out. Start taking some more responsibility for yourselves.

I Heart the Train

Taking the train to New York City at Christmastime - is there anything better?

At any time, the train is such a civilized, refined, and altogether more comfortable and less-harried way to travel. Frankly, 9/11 changed nothing about train travel. Show up 5 minutes before your departure, grab a Starbucks, stroll down to the platform, lean out and watch as the lights bend into view, and board.

Nice.

The train hurries north, out of the lovely beaux-arts Penn Station in Baltimore, through the industrial wastelands, past block upon block of tidy brick rowhouses with their scrubbed marble steps. The quiet hum of the engine suffuses all as we rocket across a narrow bridge, spanning the upper Bay and its tributaries, pass Mariner Point and the Middle River, then the Bush River, Havre de Grace, all these graceful little harbors where I plied my kayak this summer, now edged in ice creeping out from the shoreline, over the Susquehanna and the Flats, where dead brown grasses now rise from the marshlands and wave in the chill wind, the ice below us like a dusty mirror; then up, north and north again, through Philly, past the clubby UPenn boathouses lining the Schuykill, and zipping then past the old stone buildings of the zoo.

There is no finer way to travel

The Patriot Act - Fix, then Pass

And for all those ya-hoos who argue that the Patriot Act has NOT infringed on anyone's civil liberties, and is only a tool to be used against suspected terrorists, I submit:

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.

And how about the fact that we're on track for 30,000 National Security Letters (NSL) per year - and counting! Again - credit to Kip for the great work he's done in highlighting this odiousness.

I have an idea - let's FIX the Patriot Act BEFORE we pass it, eh?

Lies and the Lying Liars

How handy of Kip at A Stitch in Haste to compile this all for us:

From our President:

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order," [Bush] said on April 20, 2004 in Buffalo, New York."Nothing has changed, by the way.

"When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so," he added.

On April 19, 2004, Bush said the Patriot Act enabled law-enforcement officials to use "roving wiretaps," which are not fixed to a particular telephone, against terrorism, as they had been against organized crime."You see, what that meant is if you got a wiretap by court order -- and by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example," he said in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

From the Vice-President:

Vice President Dick Cheney offered similar reassurances at a Patriot Act event in June 2004, saying that "all of the investigative tools" under the law "require the approval of a judge before they can be carried out."

And they criticized the Clinton administration for its problem's telling the truth?

More War on Christmas - and Bill OReilly is STILL an Idiot!

Harold Myerson in today's WaPo points out that we American's celebrate a distinctly sectarian - and wholly American - version of Christmas, in addition to the more secularized celebrations in which many of us also choose to participate.

He traces the genesis of this "American Christmas" to the Thirties, and credits Irving Berlin and other great Jewish songwriters for helping to create it. In many ways, this holiday "was about staying warm in winter, about staying connected to loved ones and traditions." Spirituality was implied, though ambiguous.

Money parting shot: "Now the Fox News demagogues want to impose a more sectarian Christmas on us, supplanting the distinctly American holiday we have celebrated lo these threescore years with a holiday that divides us along religious lines. Bill O'Reilly can blaspheme all he wants, but like millions of my countrymen, I take attacks on Irving Berlin's America personally. If O'Reilly doesn't like it here, why doesn't he go back to where he came from?"

Truly, I think Bill O'Reilly must hate America as much as Judge Robertson.

Judge Resigns from Spy Court Over Illegal Wiretaps

Monday, December 19, 2005

More Eavesdropping!

Huh?

Let me get this straight:

- Bush authorized the NSA to wiretap US citizens, without a warrant
- This violates a 1978 law
- Congress's authorization to use force allows Bush to abrogate this law

Did I get that right?

Does that mean that all other laws are also, shall we say, optional?

Does that make this a, hmmm, shall we say, dictatorship?

Someone, help clarify, please.

Aboard the Acela Express to NYC

Yikes!

Add this to the growing list of reasons why I dislike unions.

Besides - I need to be back home Wednesday night in time for another neighborhood Christmas boondoggle - and I need time to replenish the supply of Maker's Mark!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Damn Him!

One more reason to really, really be angry at W:

He has just pre-empted National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation!! Arrrgghh!

Some people just won't rest until NO ONE can celebrate this blessed holiday!

Bill O'Reilly Is an Idiot

Nice to see some folks finally taking that dolt to task for his overwrought and idiotic "war on Christmas".

First, God bless Cal Thomas. Though I disagree with him on so many things, he got this one right: "The effort by some cable TV hosts and ministers to force commercial establishments into wishing everyone a 'Merry Christmas' might be more objectionable to the One who is the reason for the season than the 'Happy Holidays' mantra required by some store managers."

But Nicholas Kristoff hits him with both barrels today.

Money quote: "So I have a challenge for Mr. O'Reilly: If you really want to defend traditional values, then come with me on a trip to Darfur. I'll introduce you to mothers who have had their babies clubbed to death in front of them, to teenage girls who have been gang-raped and then mutilated - and to the government-armed thugs who do these things. You'll have to leave your studio, Bill. You'll encounter pure evil. If you're like me, you'll be scared. If you try to bully some of the goons in Darfur, they'll just hack your head off. But you'll also meet some genuine conservative Christians - aid workers who live the Gospel instead of sputtering about it - and you'll finally be using your talents for an important cause. So, Bill, what'll it be? Will you dare travel to a real war against Christmas values, in which the victims aren't offended shoppers but terrified children thrown on bonfires? I'm waiting to hear."

That, my friends, is the difference between real journalists and blowhard, hack entertainers like O'Reilly, Rush, and their ilk.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Don't Bug Me...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Exonerations in VA

It may come as no surprise that I am against the death penalty (driven by my religious convictions). But this recent news should give anyone pause.

Two rape convictions were overturned after newly-discovered DNA evidence revealed that the men were innocent. Between the two, they had spent nearly 3 decades in prison. In all, the DNA review of several dozen cases revealed an error rate of 7 percent. Hell, GM makes cars with an error rate well below that.

Does this mean that our criminal justice system needs to be perfect? Of course not. But when we are talking about taking a life, executing someone, well, then, yes, it does need to be perfect. And, clearly, we aren't. It's well past time for a moratorium.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Iraqi Election Observations

Just two, so far (aside from how heartening it is to see things getting to this point):

1. Iraqi ex-pats in the US can arrive at the polling place, register, and then vote immediatley! All at the same place! And at the same time! What a great idea! Quick - call or email your local Republican congressperson to see how quickly we could implement that here!

2. Here's which Iraqi ex-pats in the US are allowed to vote: Iraqi citizens and children of Iraqi FATHERS. Yes, fathers. Repeat after me: fathers. Note - NOT mothers. Fathers. You live in Cleveland and your mamma is from Fallujah? No dice. You can't vote. Not even if she's from the east side, the good side. You live in Pittsburgh, and daddy is a former Baathist evildoer? Yes, please, do vote! Do! Vote to your heart's content! Even though you're from Pittsburgh!

Frankly, I expect a little more robust democracy for nearly $200 billion and more than 2000 lives, don't you?

Democracy in Iraq

Wow, these guys are fast learners! It took us more than 200 years to torture like that!

The War on Christmas

My wacko far-right Mom recently emailed me an online petition to boycott Target. Seems the fundies have got their undies all in a bunch over Target's numerous perceived salvos in the so-called "war on Christmas". To wit:

- Their signs don't say "Merry Christmas"
- Employees aren't allowed to say "Merry Christmas"
- The Salvation Army was banned from their storefronts
(note that most of this is either inaccurate or incomplete - see snopes)

They have even taken to calling Target "anti-Christian".

Huh? Since when was a retailer anti- or pro- any specific religion? Since they don't wish "happy Hanukkah", I'll assume they are anti-Semitic also.

Target sells stuff, folks. Their goal is to make money for their shareholders, plain and simple. They have absolutely nothing to do with the spiritual, deeper, and real meaning of Christmas. And anyone looking to Target or Wal-Mart or any other large retailer for some sort of spirituality is clearly deluded and should instead seek out their nearest house of worship.

This happens every year, this whole "culture war" argument over "taking Christ out of Christmas." But the bottom line, is I don't buy it. I think it's one of those made-up controversies that gets the far-righties and fundies all fired up and writing checks to The Evil Rev. Dobson.

Now, I hold no brief for those who, in bowing to political correctness, avoid any religious connotation to the holiday for fear of offending others. Banning carols in school, calling it a "holiday tree" or "winter break", the generic "happy holidays" - I find it faintly ridiculous. But my experience has been that such overstepping is rare and far from the norm.

Some examples: our town (in the bluest state of Maryland) just held its annual Christmas parade, after which we helped light the Christmas tree. Throughout, the local high school bands (public!) marched by, blaring "Gloria in Excelsis Deo" and "O Come All Ye Faithful". The mall and shopping centers are festooned with "Merry Christmas", alongside "Happy Holidays" and all the rest. I volunteer at a local public school, where the band and choir were practicing their carols for tomorrow's Christmas show. The third graders were learning about the customs of Hanukkah (they did Christmas last week).

War on Christmas? Hmm. Well, then I'd say it's being waged almost as effectively as the war in Iraq.

Actually, there is a threat to Christmas. And it does come from Target. And Wal-Mart. And Macy's and Nordstrom's and Proctor and Gamble and Mattell and GE and all the rest who have turned this season into one of crass consumption, tasteless commercialism, and almost immoral materialism.

The threat comes from all those who work to materially profit from those words, "Merry Christmas". It comes from those who have redefined the holiday as a two-day bachannal. It comes from those evangelical churches who have cancelled Christmas Day services, so that they can instead relax at home with their families (seriously - I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.)

Frankly, I'd rather boycott a store that blares "Merry Christmas," as they are doing little more than exploiting this season. Truly, what does Christmas have to do with shopping? Give me Target and its kind, if bland, Happy Holidays.

In the meantime, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to wish everyone I see a "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year". I'm going to work hard to avoid succumbing to the ludicrous expectations that our material culture places on this season. I'm going to email The Nearly As Evil Rev. Wildmon and ask him what the hell he's planning to do about those evil churches that have declared war on Christmas.

Join me?

I've Been Busier than...


...a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

But, still, I must tell you that The Awesome 80s Prom is a total hoot.

Seriously, it was like walking into prom, circa 1989, complete with a dude trying to sell us weed in the alley outside the entrance.

The music rocked, the break dancers were WAYYYYYY cool, the outfits were totally excellent, and the characters were a riot (I especially enjoyed having the "principal" chew me out as I made my way to the men's room, warning that "if I catch you smoking in there again, that'll be the end of you, mister!"

And, even better than my real prom, I got laid after this one!

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Kegger is Out and About

Apologies, my friends, for my sporadic presence the last several days. These are busy, busy days at work and at home. The Christmas schedule is in full swing. Two more parties so far this week - and it's only 4 pm on a Friday! I am operating on no more than four hours of sleep lately and no less than a bottle of Shiraz.

So stick with me.

I'll be back in force, hopefully, this weekend, and catch y'all up on the Kegger's latest. Plus, I plan to take copius photos at Saturday's Prom Night.

Ahhh.......prom.................

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Costume Dilemma Solved

I finally figured out how I'm gonna dress for the Awesome 80s Prom this weekend:

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Christmas Party Routine

Well, the party season is in full swing around here. Had two already this weekend, Friday and Saturday nights. The first was with work folks - fun, but not too much so. Heavy on the red wine. Home by 11.

Last night's was local, one of the annual neighborhood shindigs. More fun, more lively, with dangerous pitchers of Cosmopolitans and an impressively stocked whiskey bar. The host had to direct a beer run at around 11 to replenish the supplies. Myself, I played it safe with the Makers Mark. I saw 3am for the first time in many, many moons.

Yikes. I need some more water. Call this, Rehydration Sunday.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Awesome 80s Prom

So I've finally convinced everyone that we need to go to The Awesome 80s Prom before it closes up shop in Baltimore. We're gonna do it up - pre-game at my place with Bartle&Jaymes coolers and cans of Keystone Light (like you didn't drink that shit in high school), a limo for the night.

I've even convinced everyone that we need to dress up for this thing.

So, now, what do I wear?

Do I go as the guy I have been, sometimes, mistaken for:












Do I break out my old letter jacket (mmm...old wool...) and go as a jock?

Or do I throw on a blue Polo button-down, untucked, sleeves rolled up, with a pair of Chuck Taylors, a la Anthony Michael Hall? After all, I am more of the nerdy type.
Whaddya think?

The Unbiased Media

Clearly, this story wasn't one of our Pentagon's plants.

Hearts and minds, people, hearts and minds.

You'll Take My Blackberry When You Pry it From My Cold, Dead, Hands

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Cleveland Still Has an Inferiority Complex - But Why?

I was home in Cleveland last weekend for a long Thanksgiving weekend.

I go home a couple of times a year, and I always love it. I love it because - beyond seeing family and friends - I love Cleveland. I love the skyline, the downtown malls and streetscapes, the nightlife and shopping and neighborhoods, Lake Erie rolling in the background.

This year, we met some friends on the near West Side. They were old friends from Columbus, recently relocated to the C-town suburbs. I picked the Great Lakes Brewery, because I'd been there before, love their beer, and love the view of the West Side Market tower rising on one side and the chapel spire of St Ignatius rising on the other. It is as grand an urban spot as you will find anywhere.

We were coming in from the east side, so exited at West 4th, at the Browns Stadium, and drove up to St Clair. We turned right and headed into the Warehouse District. People were everywhere. The Christmas lighting of Public Square was going on (fireworks ricocheted off skyscraper windows, music echoed and careened off the concrete canyons, Tom Jones led a parade that would remind you of that great scene in A Christmas Story) so the steets were jammed. The restaurants and bars and clubs all along St Clair and W. 6th and W. 9th blared their neon ebullience into the chill November night. Music spilled into the streets. Above, the lights in the warehouses-turned-condos flicked on and off, blinds pulled up and down, and a vibrancy and energy carried in the air.

What a cool place to live, I said.

We passed the Cavalier's game crowd as we wound our way to the Hope-Memorial (I grew up with it as the Lorain-Carnegie) bridge, a glorious span anchored by handsome chiseled art deco stentorians on either end. The Flats flashed garishly beneath us. The tower of the West Side Market rose like an ochre beacon in front of us.

The Great Lakes Brewery (you gotta try it if you haven't) sits astride the Market (which you also must try of you haven't). It has a great little clubby atmosphere, and the bar dates to a pub at which Elliot Ness used to tipple, during his time as Cleveland's police commissioner. We enjoyed some nice steaks and a pitcher of pumpkin ale and a pitcher of Christmas Ale and a pitcher of, well, I'm not quite sure, but it was good too.

We asked our server for recommendations after dinner. He steered us to a hip little joint a couple blocks down West 25th, filled with the local beautiful hipsters. We sipped drafts of Old Speckled Hen (mmmmmm.......), surrounded by the buff and pierced, while a Celtic rock band took the stage. On the streets all around us, other places too flashed and roared and enticed to partake.

Good times in the city.

This is what Cleveland is to me - wonderful neighborhoods with cool little joints, beautiful old homes set along the lakefront, world-class museums and orchestras and nightlife and historical architecture.

High school for me was a journey of discovering the city - University Circle and the museums and cool little restaurants (and pubs, later, like The Barking Spider), coffee shops back before coffee shops were cool (The Arabica), Little Italy, with its art walks and great food (a dinner at The Baricelli Inn was perhaps my finest graduation gift), the Feast in August, up Mayfield Road to Coventry and Cedar-Lee and the New Mayfield Repertory Cinema (since deceased) where we would watch horribly snooty foreign films and think ourselves intellectual, and up even farther to Shaker Square, the first "suburb" in America.

Back downtown, Public Square is like the family room, where the skyscrapers crowd around you like furniture, with the Soldiers and Sailors Monument rising (my great-great-great uncle's name is there, or so I've been told), Tower City, the whole stadium district, around Jacob's Field and the Gund, where once there was nothing and there now is a vibrant community, the Old East Ninth Street cemetery (just beyond the home run porch), where Louis Sockalexis still lies.

Head down East Ninth now with me, north, to the Lake. Back in the day, there was nothing at the end of this street but the old East 9th Street pier, with some old seafood house at the end (I can't believe that I can't remember the name - help?) and some old men with their poles in the dark roiling water. Municipal Stadium was off to the left. Today, it's the harbor, with its glistening nods to modern educational tourism, the striking glass sheets of the Rock Hall (loathed by some), the pokey design of the science museum, then, the generic New-NFL gleaming white monstrosity with orange seats to the left...but...but...a luscious greenscape of a park fingering out into the blue blue lake.

And this is where I scratch my head. I read the Pee Dee online every few days (or every day in baseball season), and it seems as if Cleveland is burning down to its last dying embers. The news from C-town is never positive, never optimistic, always doomed, always woe.

And every time I come home, I ask, huh?

Baltimore reminds me a lot of Cleveland - has since day one. Great, old, ethnic neighborhoods, history, a rust belt lineage, fleeing manufacturing, gritty, cool old architecture, a waterfront.

Ah, yes. A waterfront.

Here's what they've done with the waterfront in Baltimore: they have developed a polluted, stinking, industrial harbor so successfully that $600k, $800k, $1.5million and up (check the new Ritz Carlton) condos and townhomes are sprouting like heroin dealers on every corner. It's great to see. The neighborhoods are reinvigorated and thriving. Property prices are booming. Folks from the 'burbs are buying city properties as an investment. Younger, moneyed folks - and retirees/empty nesters - are clamoring to get downtown, to have a water view, to be in walking distance to all that "cityness".

So why not in Cleveland? Isn't the waterfront nicer, fresher, more wide open? You can't swim or ski or do much of anything in Baltimore's harbor besides look at it. Lake Erie? Sure you can. Fish, swim, ski, boat, float. And have those wonderful city neighborhoods out your front door.

So, I scratch my head. I ask, why not? Why hasn't it been done? Anyone have any answers?

I ask, huh?

Anyone? Anyone?

How Are Iraqi Soldiers Like DC Police?

Richard Cohen in today's WaPo draws a striking parallel between DC's efforts to quickly beef-up its police force in the late 80s and our efforts to quickly beef up the Iraqi army today.

The bottom line is that rushed efforts produce inadequate - and sometimes disastrous - results.

Had we not so badly bungled this occupation from Day One (thank you, Messrs. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Bremer!), undercommitted troops to mantain order, and mislead the American public about Iraqi troop preparedness over the last couple of years (didn't Rumsey tell us a year ago that 210,000 Iraqi troops were trained and ready? That was the same number Mr. Bush quoted yesterday. And he wonders why we don't trust him on Iraq?), then we wouldn't be in the soup today.

Here, for example, is how some Iraqi troops are behaving: "...bodies have been found with acid burns on the skin and holes made by electric drills. It is not clear if these atrocities, purportedly by Shiites against Sunnis, were carried out by regular army units or whether Shiite militias have infiltrated the army."

Hmmm...maybe they are just following a recently-updated US Army field manual.

What I fear most, however, is the soup of tomorrow.

A Plan for Victory!

Well, I guess that's a pretty good idea, no? A plan. With objectives. With strategies and tactics to get there. With milestones and goalposts clearly defined, and metrics to guage success.

Hmmm.

Those would be nice, too. But I guess they've been too busy making up all those banners and stuff.

I wonder how much input Melvin Laird had in this.
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