Sunday, December 28, 2003

I'm back in SoCal and trying to relax before getting back to work, getting back to the gym, getting back to normalcy. I'm far from it right now--I'm watching the Ravens' quarterback punt and the Steelers' punt throw. I was at a very bizarre party on Friday night where I saw some old high school friends and got kinda drunk (and other things). Bill and DEK may have more details on my strange behavior, things I've forgotten or don't want to post here for posterity.

One nice thing I learned yesterday and last Satursunday is that even a relatively small change in personal circumference can make airline travel much more pleasant. So I got that going for me.

If anyone can explain the New Orleans Saints and/or the Minnesota Vikings, I'd be really interested to hear about it.

Finally, while I'm already contemplating ironically attending a Long Beach Sun game, this article at ESPN has some really interesting things to say about Dennis Rodman the basketball player, not the cartoon character. It reminds me how much we as sports fans pretend that only the actual games matter, but in our culture it's often the other way around. The amount of publicity Joe Horn recently got for his four touchdown catches in one game--as opposed to how he celebrated one of them--is a prime recent example.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

For the second straight Christmas the fam spent a good bit of the day watching VH1 Classic Christmas videos. Hall and Oates are still donning their gay apparel, Bing and Bowie are still awkward, and there were also some new strange additions--mostly Leon Redbone of Frosty the Snowman. Like Eric Cartman, the Wright family understands that the true meaning of Christmas can be summed up in one word: ham. OK, ham and potato salad. Oh, and mom's marshmallow/date roll. And pies. And other pies.

And a lot of groaning over full stomachs.

I hope you all managed to successfully avoid roving bands of revelers demanding figgy pudding, and that you're having a Merry Christmas, a Chappy Chanukkah, and a Festivus for the Rest of us.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

From now on when I see an advertisement on a city bus--or, still, a horrible horrible knee injury--I'll think of Napoleon McCallum.

Also, I know it's just a rookie, but judging by last night's performance on ESPN Radio's Gamenight, "I want to kiss you" has the potential to be one of the greatest sports talk radios drops of all time--if not one of the great radio drops of all time period.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Taking a red-eye from the West to the East coast creates this weird effect of giving you--depending on whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty type--a very short day or a very long day. I could say that I had a very short day yesterday, since it really only consisted of 21 hours. Or I could say I had this mega-day that I'll call "Satursunday". Here's a chronicle:

  • 7:15 a.m. PST: Get up and go to work. Work until 3. That's the problem with being hourly--you'd better make up some hours if you're going to take a week and a half off. Pick up some library books for the trip.
  • 4 p.m. PST: Get home, pack, relax a bit, watch the schizo Vikings and the incomprehensible Patriots.
  • 8:30 PST: Head to the airport, spend a lot of time but not as much as expected in line for checkin and security, find that nothing but McDonalds is open, read.
  • 11:45 p.m. PST: Take off for Chicago. Packed plane, window seat. I may have gotten an hour and a half of sleep on a 3.5ish hour flight.
  • 5:30 a.m. CST: Land at O'Hare, seek out Starbucks gingerbread latte and lemon poppyseed muffin. (For those keeping track, I've now had a McD's #1 with a shake, the latte, and the muffin--for over $14 in airport money worth of sustenance--
    Yeesh!) Discover that the gate is--of course--in a different concourse as required by law when stopping over at O'Hare. Hurry to C10 for next departure.
  • 6:25 CST: Departure for Pittsburgh called. Seating areas one and two loaded. Inexplicable ten-minute delay in which the word "mechanic" is overheard from the desk. Uh-oh. Just as inexplicably, the delay lets up and we continue the planing process. (If you can "deplane", you can certainly "plane", right?) Another packed plane, this time with the dreaded middle seat between strangers. Luckily, though, even a relatively small change in personal circumference has made this much much more tolerable than it used to be. No more sleep beyond a brief nod and wink is noted.
  • 9:15 EST: Land in Pittsburgh. Get picked up. Luggage arrived safely . See ugliest transvestite ever at baggage claim--at least I hope, for his/her sake. (Bill can vouch.) Get to the doors at the parking lot and get hit by the first wall of cold air in the face. I shudder, but compose my self. Bill tells me I've gone soft, and let me tell you, I'm fine with that. Head to Pamela's in Oakland for the first of two Pittsburgh signature culinary treats: the Pamela's crepe-style pancake.
  • noon EST: Leave Pamela's, go CD shopping, head back to DEK's to prepare for Heinz Field departure.
  • 1:45 EST: Heinz Field departure. Traffic and parking easier than expected, so we have a lot of time to kill before the game. Kill that time. Watch the game. Seats are high but near the 50. And free, so good times.
  • 5:20 EST: Halftime. Head down a hundred Heinz Field ramps (or so it seemed) to choose between the more specialty food--Primanti's sammich (which is Pittsburgh for "sandwich") or Quaker Steak and Lube wings. Choose the wings. Spend 3rd quarter in line. Spend first five minutes of fourth quarter walking back up the ramps, because the escalators have reversed. Eat lots of wings.
  • 7:10 EST: Good guys win. Yay! Let's get in out of the cold! After more surprising traffic ease, drop off DEK, stop at Wal-Mart to say hi to mom (she's on 8-8 overnights Saturday-Tuesday), and head home. Referee some good old-fashioned Adam-Dad bickering. Watch the late game.
  • 11:30 EST: Fall fast asleep on the couch.
  • 3:45 EST: Wake up, spend three seconds wondering where the hell I am, remember, walk upstairs to bed to collapse, exhausted and glad to be home (but equally glad to be leaving again in a week).

Saturday, December 20, 2003

OK, I know there's some law where the federal government isn't supposed to kill people after all the old-time CIA assassinations and whatnot, but would anybody be against the delicious irony that would be a government program designed to kill Matthew Lesko?

First off, I knew I could count on the wonderful readers to fill in my musical knowledge gaps--thanks everyone! I am a bit disturbed at the Lavigne/Phair thing--especially because I've been planning on picking up that album. Actually, both of those albums now that I think about it.

I'm doing the prodigal thing this upcoming week--Deeper Shade of Seoul may even have a few entries live from Beallsville. I'll be on a red-eye tomorrow night, then heading for Sunday's Steeler-Charger game, hanging out at home and in Pittsburgh for the week, and coming back to L.A. next Saturday.

I haven't talked books much lately for, well, for no particular reason. I just haven't done it. At some point I'll have to put up at least a few token comments about #s 44-46 on the Western lit list, if only because I'm trying to keep track of those things for my own future reference. Number 47, however, was a big one.

This week I finally finished the #1 entry on the Chronicle list, Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose. I've read two previous Stegner books--one history and one novel. Stegner wrote a lot of both, and they are intertwined with the same themes: the making of the U.S. West, writing history, the men whose dreams of the West outstripped reality, and the women who followed them loyally. Angle of Repose is no different.

Angle is the story of historian Lyman Ward, writing in the present (as of 1971) about his grandparents. Ward himself is retired and wheelchair-bound and writing this story largely to keep himself busy and prove his continued competence to his son and perhaps to himself. Ward is tormented by Berkeley--his sociologist son as well as his unlikely undergraduate research assistant and verbal sparring partner.

Mostly, however, we follow the grandparents--Oliver and Susan Burling Ward--through years of trials and tribulations, and specifically through Susan's extensive correspondence. Susan was the epitome of a proper Victorian lady, dropped into unlikely circumstances when she falls for a young mining engineer. She holds out hope that he will eventually get a job back in the civilized east, but of course we know from the start that that will never happen. One of Ward's--and Stegner's--main points is to show how the West was built not just by hard-scrabble pioneers, but by corporations, labor, speculators, immigrants, and even some unlikely Victorian civilizers.

The Wards' ongoing Western struggles were familiar territory for me after having read Stegner's much early book Big Rock Candy Mountain. As a pure novel, I probably preferred Big Rock. For anyone with a real historical interest, however, Angle of Repose has a lot of interesting things to say about how history is and should be written. It also contains some interesting critique of '60s radicalism from someone who is basically sympathetic to left-wing causes, but unwilling to shrug off the structures and restraints of civilization.

In short, Stegner writes big, worthwhile books that are time-consuming but very rewarding, especially if you're interested in any of the issues and questions mentioned here.

Three books to go to reach my goal of 50, and then I might be looking for some new ideas...

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

So I know what you've all been thinking: "Joe, as interested as we all are in your thinly disguised bitterness over the way this football season has turned out and in your bizarre obsession with the independent contractors working overnight in your neighborhood, what we really want to know is what music you've been listening to lately." I'm glad you asked! Or, rather, that in my own mind you did.

I've basically been listening to two types of music lately: whatever happens to be playing at the gym, and whatever random stuff the public library has on CD.

The gym plays plenty of classic rock and '80s and '90s songs, but it also plays a lot of current stuff. The current stuff has one thing in common: I have no idea what it's called or who it's by. Basically, here is how I know some of the most popular songs in the mix:

  • The one where you can't get a dollar out of the dude that I assume is 50 Cent because he's a p-i-m-p
  • The one that I really enjoy about the girl who listens to rap metal and stuff and is thus the girl all the bad guys want
  • The one where the chick says mentions that her ethnicity's been whitewashed
  • The one that, for about 10 seconds, I always think is "Faith"
  • The one where there's a lot of terrorists here in the USA: the CIA, the Bloods, the Crips and the KKK
  • The one where the guy's a-dic, he's addicted to you
  • The one I assume is by Avril Lavigne where she can't breathe and it's inevitable that...well, something's inevitable
  • The one where the dude apologizes to his dad for not being perfect
  • The one where the chick says "baby boy" about 100 times
  • The one where there's got to be more to life than chasing 'round every temporary high

Then there's the library music, or what I like to call my way of ignoring my office mate by putting on headphones. The library's collection is quirky--lots of jazz and blues; a rock section that combines the has-been, the never was, the who dat?, and the occasional gem; an extremely eclectic "popular" section with a lot of country and other pop genres; and classical and world sections that I of course steer well clear of. At any given time I'm likely to have out a pile of discs like: Rubber Soul, Sidney Bechet, something called "White Country Blues: 1928-36", Ornette Coleman, Lefty Frizzell, Tori Amos, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and just about anything from the Bob Dylan ouevre.

There's only one thing I'm trying to figure out about the LAPL's music ordering system: who exactly thought that what the listening public really wanted were three different Mott the Hoople albums, none of them containing "All the Young Dudes"?

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Mike has a great post up about the history of the college football national championship. The history seems to me to be dead on, but I disagree with the final analysis for two basic reasons.
1. Mike mentions that every NCAA sport determines its champion in a way of its choosing. That's true. And every one of them except 1-A football does it on the field (or court, or ice, or what have you). Every pro league has knockout playoffs. Every high school league I've ever heard of has playoffs. It's not as if playoffs are some outlandish concept--in fact playoffs aren't just the norm, they're the way of determining a championship team. I know there are historical or traditional reasons, but I have never heard one competitive or intrinsic reason why major college football should be different. If you're going to argue against playoffs, tell me why this case should be the exception--not just why it is or why it has been.
2. Mike's argument makes a change in terms that a lot of people try to make but that never works--"best team" vs. "champion". USC may have been the best team in 2002, but I'm fine with the fact that they weren't the champion because they had two losses, and everyone understands that you can't have two losses and be the champion. Crowning a champion does not have to be about deciding who in the abstract is the best team. (In fact, for quiz-bowl types, I'd suggest that this confusion has fueled obsessive searching for "perfect" formats over convenient and fun formats. Yes, I'm looking at you NAQT. Among others.) Competition always includes elements of luck, momentum, and other factors outside of pure skill or proficiency. We crown champions--and do it using playoffs--not in order to crown the best team but because it's fun, because competition suits itself to building to a final showdown, and because not doing so is anti-climactic.

To play a four-month-long season and not crown a champion feels hollow. NC State in 1983 and Villanova in 1985 were not the best teams, but their championships (and the champion-crowning process) are not sullied for it, and no one would claim that the 1982-83 and 1984-85 college basketball seasons were anti-climactic. That is not true of the 2003 college football season.

Maybe the NCAA and the networks' main concern is $$$, but that's not why so many college football fans want playoffs. Sports provide their fans many things, and one of the things a sports season provides fans is an epic narrative. College football is especially good for this, but not having playoffs makes a lot of us feel as if the last chapter has been torn out.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

(Warning: contains even more gratuitous swearing than usual.)

So I had my wallet stolen out of my locker at the gym yesterday. I came back to my locker, and after opening my combination lock, the combo part fell right off of the hook part. I thought that was pretty strange, that my cheap-ass lock had come apart after only about two months of use, but I didn't think too much of it. I put my stuff in my pockets and then realized: wait a minute, my wallet's not in my pocket and it's not in my locker. Fuck! Upon further inspection, it was clear that the lock had been tampered with, and the locker itself showed signs of foul play as well.

So I filled out an incident report, came home, cancelled all my cards, and then I called the LAPD. I know I'm never going to get anything back, but I figured in case of any identity theft issues, I should at least have a report on record. After navigating a labyrinthine touch-tone system (and having "You have selected 'regicide': if you know the name of the king or queen being murdered, press one" flashbacks) I talked to a cop at the downtown station who told me I'd have to come in to file a report.

Since I was headed to work, he said the downtown station would be best, and then explained to me where it is. He said 250 East 6th, and also said 6th and Wall. Not being familiar with Wall, I asked where it was in relation to Grand, where I work. He said two blocks east. I was skeptical, but I went along with it.

Checking out the map above, you'll see where the station is by the red star. Grand is the diagonal avenue that runs through where the "t" is in "W 6th St". Not, by any definition, two blocks. Now, referring again to the map, look at 5th Street between Broadway and San Pedro. This would be the heart of world-famous Skid Row.

What I'm trying to figure out here is, why exactly does the LAPD encourage victims of property crimes to stroll through an area designed to perpetuate additional property crimes?

But anyway, I filled out the stupid report, walked the dozen blocks back to work, and just generally started trying to pick up the pieces of what I'd lost.

Two things really bug me, though:
1. I just know that three days from now, or a week from now, I'll figure out something that was in there that I've forgotten about and I'll just scream, "Motherfucker" wherever I happen to be. Hopefully this will happen on the bus and no one will think anything of it, but that's an entry for another day.
2. I'm actually grateful toward the asshole for not also taking my car keys (and, by extension, my car).

I'm glad I know better, but this is the type of thing that make people go Republican...

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Bumbles still bounce. Life is good.

Monday, December 08, 2003

So you're just having one of those mornings where the alarm rings too early even though you've been sleeping uneasily for the previous hour anyway and everything's moving just a little bit slow and you're feeling kinda bad because something bad happened to one of your football teams and something good happened to your other team but it's too little too late and most of all you're just trying to figure out how you spent yet another weekend watching so much goddamn football.

And the last thing you want to do is get up and go to work.

And you drive over to the gym while it's still dark out and you don't even get your daily comic relief in the form of the ladies who are making your memetracker so freakin' bizarre and when you get there and start your workout you continue to wonder at how it's possible that no matter what you do you still can't bench press hardly anything even as you are coming along everywhere else and you make it through your bike routine but it's a particular drag for whatever reason or no reason or because it's Monday and even the incredibly hot blonde on the Stairmaster doesn't make you feel any better because you know deep down or not even all that deep down that you wouldn't even have the self-confidence to ask out her ugly cousin Ethel.

And then you finish up and go down to the parking garage and the attendant isn't in the booth because for some reason they give the garage attendant quasi-janitorial duties as well that always seem to take him away from the booth exactly when you'r trying to pay so you can get out of there so you can get home and get to work and get on with your day and whatnot and he just isn't showing up so you take the elevator down to your car and drive up to the booth and honk and finally they deign to show up and allow you the privilege of leaving.

And then you emerge from the underground parking garage.

And the sky is pure blue and the sun's shining off the hills.

And you know you've seen days as beautiful but you're equally sure you've never seen one more beautiful.

And somehow, some way, in three seconds flat you've gone from being in a really sour mood to feeling wonderful about life, the universe, and everything.

And that's when you remember why you moved back to Los Angeles.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

For the college presidents and NCAA officials who seem to be the last muthafuckas to figure this shit out, I have just one word. (Thanks, Mike.)

Saturday, December 06, 2003

By request:

For two years at Pitt, I was the copy editor for The Pitt News. One November, I was friends with the opinions editor and found out that some ROTC guy was writing some fluff piece editorial for Veteran's Day, which was on a Thursday. So I asked if I could whip something up for the Wednesday edition. I was a bit angry and overblown, but basically I wrote something that gave my standard spiel about how we always talk about national defense in this country, but by and large our military plays offense. I may have even referred to Veteran's Day as the holiday where we celebrate people who were sent abroad to shoot foreigners and lived (while we have a separate holiday in May for those who were killed in the process). OK, maybe that was a bit over the top, and I probably wouldn't write or publish the same thing in the same words today. Especially with John Ashcroft running around and all. But seriously, I wouldn't be quite as flippant about this today.

Anyway, apparently some of Pitt's College Republicans faxed this article to Jim Quinn, who had metamorphosed from half of a funny morning team duo on the biggest pop station in Pittsburgh into a solo morning guy on the classic rock station doing a schtick best described as a heavy dose of Limbaugh with a dash of Art Bell. In other words, conservative blowhard with a dash of conspiracy theorist blowhard. I have theories about this--in the '70s both Quinn and Limbaugh worked for the same rock station in Pittsburgh as young DJs, and I think Quinn was probably some combination of jealous, bitter, and opportunuistic about Limbaugh's success and sought to emulate it.

Anyway, apparently this article was a popular local dittohead topic on the Quinn show for about three days, and he started the ball rolling by calling the article's author (yours truly) as "an asshole". I wouldn't have ever found this out, except some guys at work told my dad about it, and he asked me if it was my article--not that he was curious enough to read the thing or anything (which was probably for the best).

Oh, and in case it was unclear, 10 days ago was the blog's birthday, not mine...

Friday, December 05, 2003

I had to take my car to the nearest Pep Boys to get two new tires, and it happened that the nearest location is on Hollywood Boulevard a few blocks east of Vine. It's odd to have to wander over Benny Goodman's star to get new tires, but such is life here occasionally.

While I waited, I wandered across the street to Al-Wazir Chicken and had some lamb shish kabob. I've had Mediterranean food a couple of times recently, and I've noticed a big change in my tastes. I'm losing my taste for pita bread and hummus, while grape leaves, gyros and all things lamb are ascendant.

After my car was re-tired, I ended up going through the Hollywood and Vine intersection on my way home. Here's what you can see driving through that intersection: a convenience store that specializes in Mad Dog-caliber wine, a bar/restaurant that looks to be faux upscale, an empty storefront, a body piercing parlor, the hookers from my neighborhood pulling an earlier shift, and confused tourists expecting something a bit more glamorous. Turning south on Vine, I was between Sunset and Santa Monica when I saw just about the most un-Hollywood thing imaginable: a Big Lots.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Sometimes you just can't improve on something, so instead of paraphrasing and whatnot, I'll just present whole this email I received from DEK:

"Okay, Steelers are sucking wind.
Panthers are utterly disappointing.
Penguins are about to roll over and play dead for the year.
Pirates are... well, the Pirates.

You know what this means for you:


Monday, December 01, 2003

Before the evening unpleasantness, I did have an enjoyable Saturday afternoon at the movies, tripling my total of trips to the theater since moving from 1 to 3. The Cooler was, well, pretty damn cool. It combined two themes I really like--the schlub gets the hot chick, and old Vegas vs. new Vegas. Why is it, by the way, that in that story we're always romanticizing Mob Vegas over Corporate Vegas? I'm not disagreeing, I'm just asking. I also saw Intolerable Cruelty. I make no claims for this as a great movie, but it was tremendously enjoyable. Even when the Coen Brothers are off their game (OK, a quick glance at their filmography tells me that hasn't ever happened before, but go with me here), they have some great set pieces and memorable supporting characters you won't soon forget. Also, Julia Duffy reminded me of her existence for the first time since "Newhart" by appearing as Catherine Zeta-Jones' best friend. Zeta-Jones and George Clooney do not have great chemistry, but they're good enough, and I always enjoy Clooney when he's in a role that you're not supposed to take too seriously.

Of course, you should keep these two things in mind if you take any of the above as a recommendation:

1. Since I haven't seen any movies lately, I might have just been so happy to be there that I would have loved most anything.
2. I watched Justin Timberlake host Saturday Night Live on, well, that night, and I really liked that too. So, um, see #1.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

I can only express my feelings about where the Steelers are right now by reprinting a song that was in my head this morning before I even left to watch the game. This song played in 1987 or so on the local morning radio show "Quinn and Banana." (I may tell the story another time of why Jim Quinn called me an asshole on the air 8 years later.)

It is sung to the tune of the "Pennsylvania Polka", better known to many as the Steeler fight song from the '70s. Other than one reference in the second verse (my favorite line, really), it is once again remarkably timely:

We're from the town with the bags on our heads
We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers
Fumbles and safeties are now what we dread
What's happened to our Steelers?

Franco and Bradshaw are memories at best
At all our tailgate parties
Our ground game is less than stunning
The clock's about all there is that's running.

Awful, offense, double coverage--don't throw it over there!
In-ter-cep-ted, ball gets tipped up high into the air.
De-fense grabs it runs downfield and right across the goal
I can't bear to see what I'm watching on TV
This team is going to the Toilet Bo-o-owl

We are the fans who are filled with remorse
We cheer the Pittsburgh Steelers
Third down and twenty is par for the course
What's happened to our Steelers?

Chuck Noll is building, but we don't know what
I hope it ain't the Maulers
I've been through two six-packs already
Just listening to some of Myron's callers.
(Yoy! And Double Yoy! Garganzola! Get aht!)

Offense, offense, hey where the hell's the offense, we ain't gettin' no respect
Offense, offense, my Terrible Towel's flying at half-mast here, somebody get me another beer
Offense, offense, it ain't the Terrible Towel anymore, it's the terrible team
I can't bear to see what I'm watching on TV
This crowd is going to the Toilet Bowl.

(Sound of Joe banging his head against the wall screaming, "Continental freakin' Tire Bowl?!?!" deleted)

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Basting went well, with only one tiny little burn on the arm. The interesting part was transferring the turkey into the Hollywood Hills to Sara's sister's place. I got to be the one with the turkey on my lap, but we had discovered it had a pinhole somewhere in the bottom, so we put on three layers of tinfoil, and then I had a towel on my lap. Of course, after 4 hours at 350 degrees, it was still fairly painful. But dinner was good, then we played a long game of Cranium (which I can't see doing again--though my team won).

Yesterday I had a second Thanksgiving at Frank's in Playa del Ray. Frank is my Steeler bar body, and he's a film editor at Fox. When I hang out with Frank and his friends and co-workers, I definitely feel at my most L.A. Whereas I have stories that start, "I was watching that new Norm McDonald show the other night...", they have stories that start, "A couple of years ago, Kato Kaelin started bringing Norm McDonald to our weekly pickup basketball games...". They're good guys, and I try not to be too self-conscious about our, um, socioeconomic disparity when I go over to the West Side. It was a great time, though--14 people, Frank's parents and brother, some Pittsburgh people, some Syracuse people, and some girlfriends of the above. All in all it was probably my best Thanksgiving away from home, even if it wasn't actually on Thanksgiving.

Finally, today is unquestionably the biggest game for Pitt since I've been following the team, which I date back to January 1, 1983, and the Pitt-SMU Cotton Bowl. We're playing for a BCS bowl, which would be our first "New Year's Day" bowl since, well, that Pitt-SMU Cotton Bowl. Not only that, with the disintegration of the Big East as a major football conference (at the expense of basketball--don't EVEN get me started), this could be the biggest Pitt football game for me ever. I'm already trying to come up with ways to keep my mind occupied until 5 p.m. other than the game itself and my annoyance that we're getting Notre Dame-Stanford locally because, well, because regional coverage is such a horrible stupid idea. OK, that's not the reason, but I'm annoyed. So I'm trying to find an appropriate venue. That may actually take up a good bit of the afternoon...

Thursday, November 27, 2003

We've already had my favorite Thanksgiving tradition this morning--the traditional visit from the Korean Jehovah's Witnesses. They were kind of surprised to encounter white residents in the building. Let me tell you, it's not the greatest ego boost when Jehovah's Witnesses come to your door and then don't really want to talk to you. I guess it's not so bad when that's due to language barrier.

Thanksgiving dinner is being half-made here and half-made at the person who is hosting it, and the turkey is among the things being made here. Jeff's girlfriend is doing most of the work, but there's a window during the early afternoon where I'll be here alone and will be responsible for the basting. I know this isn't the world's biggest responsibility or anything, but I've seen enough Thanksgiving episodes of sitcoms to smell trouble afoot.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Deeper Shade of Seoul nee The Daily(?) Beallsvonian
Happy birthday to you

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Oh yeah, the other reason I didn't write for a week is I wasn't sure quite what to do with this. Joe Minucci was one of my brother's best friends, and he's dead because of this horrible, stupid, criminal war in Iraq. I'm not sure what more I can say about that. I said some crap about this back in March, but I wish I had been a little bit less equivocal about things. Have I mentioned lately how desperately we need to dump this miserable administration?

I worked a bunch of extra hours this week because I'm hourly and thus paid holidays don't exist, so I need to bank some hours to prevent the holidays from decimating my cashflow. I'd like to blame the lack of updates here on that, but the truth is just about every night I was online and I'd think about blogging and just go, "Nah, not tonight". So the truth is, I was just kinda lazy.

Yesterday at 21-0 in the Michigan-OSU game, I called The Craig and told his voice mail thanks and he'd have a place to crash for the Rose Bowl. I think I was speaking for all Trojans fans there. (OK, not all Trojan fans would put Craig up--Chris Perry maybe, but you know what I mean.) At 28-21 I almost called back to rescind, but things worked out nicely.

I knew going into the day that OSU-UM was the game that mattered, and that the rest was just taking care of business. How confident was I of this? I watched the early game, and then I went to work, where I don't have an Internet connection. I did wander into the break room twice to look at the TV, but that didn't last long. I do wish that Peyton's brother had done better, and that the Mountaineers wouldn't have recovered from their early blinding by the 'Cuse unis to score a comeback win. But I hear that the Pitt-Miami winner probably goes to a BCS game, WVU be damned. I've already issued a restraining order against Joe Mulder for next Saturday night.

The Steelers today reminded me of two things: that winning ugly beats losing pretty, and why I have a love-hate relationship with "old-time Steeler football". Winning is fun. Defensive stops are fun. 13-6, however, is not much fun to watch. But I'll take it.

Finally, I normally leave beverage news to DEK, but let me tell you this--if you can get your hands on some Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice tea, give it a try. I had some last Christmastime and cursed myself for not buying more boxes. The local stores that supposedly have it don't seem to, so I'm ordering some online this year. If you like things that taste good, you won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

The irony of Mr. "Frankowitz"'s comment on my last post is that just over the past two weeks, as I drive to the gym at 5:30 in the morning, there are now streetwalkers out in the neighborhood. The first day I saw this I just thought, oh you're being silly, there are just several women standing on Western Avenue for different reasons. Then they were there again the next morning, and more obviously in "professional" garb. I slowed down a little bit to try to get a better look for two reasons--to make sure I was actually seeing what I though I was seeing, and to see if they were men or women (I am close enough to Santa Monica Boulevard that either--or something in-between, say, pre-operative--was possible). When I say I slowed down, I mean from about 35 to about 25. It's not as if I was stopping. Seeing even a hint of deceleration, though, one of them actually made a move toward my car. At that point, there was no more doubt, and I sped away vaguely uncomfortably.

Oh yeah--women. I think.

On a different note, I've actually been out drinking two of the last three nights, which is a serious step up in my social life. Last night was Tom Cantwell's birthday party, and I ended up being part of a motley group of probably as many as 25 at the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood. L.A. Confidential fans will recognize this as the place with the hooker who looks like Lana Turner who actually is Lana Turner. We thought we were going to have the back room for a private party, but there was a different private party back there full of middle-aged accountants for a woman named Celeste. (Tom sort of knew her, which is why we know that.) The back room was at the end of an outdoor corridor that doubled as the smoking area, and some power-trippy bouncer was trying to push us aroud a little too much. So one guy in our group started going around telling everyone at the bar that if they said they were with Celeste, there was an open bar in the back. Once the bouncer sorted this out, he came over and whined that if we did that, it defeated the purpose. I made the good decision of not pointing out that this defeated their purposes, but not our purposes.

Finally, a mini-rant on the Backyard Brawl. When WVU got a late first-half touchdown to even the score at 24, I knew it was trouble, but I was even more concerned when I heard Walt Harris's comments on his way to the locker room (and not just by his bizarre speech impediment). He seemed focused on the fact that we hadn't had success running the ball in the first half, and that we had to do that more in the second half.

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?! Yes, I understand that balanced offense is nice, but you scored twenty-four points in the first half, and had an 80-yard sure touchdown pass drop. How did you do it? By passing the goddamned ball down the field repeatedly and being successful at it. What did Harris do in the second half? He started handing the ball off for one yard over and over again, and throwing swing passes and five-yard passes to the tight end. God forbid you continue to do the things that scored you all those points in the first half! Why would we want to throw to #1? That would be too easy! Rutherford could've thrown for 500 yards, but Walt Harris didn't let him.

And yes, I know that being able to stop the run at least a little is also helpful, but I just don't get the second-half strategerry. At all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Onion this week discusses the ultimate horror. I'm glad my mom pretty much sticks to solitaire and minesweeper.

Speaking of which, I made a pretty ugly mistake last week at work, and it took me a while to get past it. I was really kicking myself. I forgot to write down what Freecell game I was on, and it took me at least five minutes to figure it out. Anyone who has worked into an office is probably feeling my pain right now.

Why don't referees ever announce that a penalty occurred "subsequent to the snap"?

Am I misreading the lyrics to Norwegian Wood, or does John Lennon burn down the chicks house at the end?

At the end of "Be In My Video", does Frank Zappa dance her sinus or her sinews?

"Stacy's Mom" is very cool, but after I checked out Fountains of Wayne's earlier, self-titled album, I'm a much bigger fan of "Leave the Biker".

Finally, for those who hadn't heard, TMQ's back. Tell a friend.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Pittsburgh Uber Alles!!
Alma mater got a crucial victory last night with the last-minute touchdown by Lousaka Polite leading the Panthers to a 31-28 victory over the Hokies. We're alone atop the Big East standings, and if we don't blow the Backyard Brawl next week or a classic trap game at Temple in two weeks, we'll have a prime-time showdown in three weeks at Heinz Field against the Hurricanes for a likely Orange Bowl berth. Oh, and it also helped out graduate alma mater by completing the sweep of the 3-4-5 teams in this past week's BCS standings. Very good times!

Oh yes, the header comes from the alma mater tune, whose words can be found here. The music, however, is Joseph Haydn's String Quartet in C major (the Kaiser-Quartet) Op. 76, 3--better known as the German national anthem. Like all alma mater songs, no one who hasn't been forced to for some reason actually knows the words. Thus, during college, when the marching band played it I would always start in with, "Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh uber alles..."

Another thing annoyed me watching college games yesterday. I forget which game, but Pam Ward and Chris Spielman were announcing, and they were utterly perplexed by an intentional grounding call, because the quarterback was outside the tackle box. Meanwhile, before the ball even landed, I was saying to the screen, "Oh, that's going to be grounding because the quarterback didn't get the ball back to the line of scrimmage." It makes me viscerally angry when people paid to announce football games don't know the rules as well as I do.

Oh yes, and my day was made during the GameDay broadcast from Heinz Field by the person holding up the "ACCHOLES" sign. 'Nuff said about that.

Friday, November 07, 2003

The ongoing bus strike has messed with my life in any number of little ways, but one is putting a serious dent into my reading. I've seen people applying makeup, shaving, and (I'm not making this up) flossing while driving in Los Angeles, but reading novels is somewhere beyond my own personal line. That said, I have read a couple of books in the last month or so since I last blogged on books.
Rock Springs by Richard Ford equals 42 down on The List. This is the part where I'd say something clever about it, if it weren't for the fact that I finished it three weeks ago, forgot to write about it until now, and basically don't remember much about it. I do remember thinking the title story was the best one and that the stories were Carver-esque--generally about lower-class men living lives of quiet desperation.

I have more to say about Tell Me A Riddle by Tillie Olsen, since I finished it a few hours ago. First of all, the bookkeeping--43 down on The List, 7 to go. Tell Me is a short book consisting of three short stories and the titular novella originally published between 1956 and 1960. "I Stand Here Ironing" is a strong story about the roughly 39-year-old mother of an approximately 20-year-old daughter. As she, in fact, stands there ironing, she thinks back on the type of upbringing she gave her daughter--the difficulty of being a mother so young, without a father around, the early maturity of an oldest child caring for younger siblings, the struggles of being a gawky teen, and the surprise when that gawky teen blossoms into a vibrant young adult. This story mixes pathos and positive outcomes into an emotional whirlpool in a very small amount of space.

The title story, "Tell Me A Riddle", is definitely my favorite, though. This is the story of a couple married for 47 years but now with vey different ideas about how to spend their final days. The wife wants no part of the retirement community picked out by her husband, and after she gets sick, the real tussle ensues about where they should go and what they should do. Olsen walks an incredibly fine line here in showing the ways these two people have grown apart but the ways in which love (and perhaps just being accustomed to one another) abides. This is not to say that this is a sappy story, and in fact she deeply rejects religious and familial ideals in ways that some might not find sympathetic. But I found the emotion and honesty of this story to be incredibly affecting and powerful. This story really blew me away, bottom line.

Finally, over the past few weeks I was reading John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead. Back in July I raved about Whitehead's first book, The Intuitionist. I still think very highly of Whitehead as a writer, but I agree with a number of the amazon reviewers who say that Whitehead writes better sentences than books. On a sentence-by-sentence level, some of the passages of this book are incredibly impressive, but the narrative could be stronger in many places. The general subject matter is that a magazine writer ("junketeer") has travelled to rural West Virginia to cover the unveiling of the new John Henry stamp. His fellow junketeers, stamp collectors, and the daughter of a major collector of John Henry memorabilia also descend on the town for the weekend's festivities. Additionally, we get glimpses into Whitehead's version of the John Henry story, and various moments throughout U.S. history where that story has been rewritten and re-interpreted. Like The Intuitionist, John Henry Days is a fascinating meditation on race in America when it is at its best. But it's much choppier in ways that I found distracting; I'd suggest checking out Whitehead's first book if you are choosing between the two.

Monday, November 03, 2003

So Gourab and I did in fact travel to Tempe this weekend for the titanic clash between the Cardinals and the Bengals. One of my hopes was that we would get to see the least attended NFL game this year. Sadly, according to ESPN, it was only the 2nd-worst attended game this year, as there were a few hundred less at the Seattle-Arizona tilt. Interestingly enough, the worst-attended non-Cardinal game (Chargers at Jaguars) drew over twice as many fans as either AZ-CIN or AZ-SEA. But hey, at least the new cactus-shaped stadium design looks cool.

As for Sun Devil, well, it's an adequate college stadium. There are two types of seating--bleacher with seatback and bleacher without seatback--and luckily we had the former. I like the desert scenery in the area, and the Cardinal cheer-babe scenery was excellent as well. They definitely have the highest cheerleader to spectator ratio in the league--I calculate about 14:1 for Sunday. There are swarms of them. And talented too--cheer-babe Morgan actually sang the national anthem.

Halftime entertainment consisted of a bunch of trained dogs failing to catch frisbees.

The highlight of the trip for me would have to be finally trying the sorghum molasses sundae at the Cracker Barrel in Yuma, which happens to be the nearest Cracker Barrelto me.

Sadly, it wasnt till sitting here watching MNF with Jefferson that we came up with the TV attention-getting sign that we should have taken:

C ardinals and
B engals
S uck

Friday, October 31, 2003

When I actually notice air quality, it's really bad. Let's put it this way: when I lived at USC, I was about 7 miles south of the Hollywood Hills. On a beautiful day they showed up clear as a bell. On a bad smog day, they were a wraith-like apparition. Now I live 4 miles farther north, which is about 3 miles from the mountains. Wednesday morning I couldn't see the mountains. At all. No suggestion they were there. Imagine a heavy fog but that makes you start coughing if you're outdoors for more than 3 minutes at a time. That's what wildfire smoke did here, and I'm at least 20 miles away from the nearest blaze. It's kind of disturbing.

I'm getting out of dodge for part of the weekend--Gourab the Bengali Bengal Fan and I are road-tripping out to Tempe. It kind of makes me ill that Miami-San Diego was free but they expect people to actually pay to see the Cards and the Bungles. Well, maybe they don't actually expect it per se, but it is a pre-condition for seeing the game live. So we're doing it. It could be painful--but chances are it will be less painful than not paying to watch the Steelers. Sigh.

Monday, October 27, 2003

In case anyone was wondering, I am not, in fact, en fuego. Only rich people who can afford houses in the hills normally take the brunt of these things. In this case, it seems that some non-rich people in the inland valleys are taking it on the chin as well. But here in the L.A. Basin, everything is fine. Except, of course, for the 95-degree heat and annoying ongoing strikes. But, you know, I'll take that over fiery death and destruction.

The nice thing, though, is that Santa Ana season is always one of the prettiest times of year in the L.A. Basin, because the winds blow all the smog out to sea, so it's clear as a bell. What would be really cool would be to go walking in the mountains, but, you know, bad times...

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Here's a result that should be to the shock and dismay of none:

FWIW, I only watched about 8 episodes of "I Love the '80s Strikes Back" last week. Hal Sparks and Michael Ian Black still amuse, but I think they're starting to run out of good material. If there's a third version, I imagine interviewers asking questions like, "So, where were you when the movie 'Casual Sex?' came out?" "Did you see that one?", and a lot of celebrities going, "Um, it sounds vaguely familiar," or "Don't remember that one" or just, "Huh?!" And it turns out the last one was Andrew Dice Clay, who was actually in "Casual Sex?"

Two highlights of the second version for me:

2. Rick Schoeder saying that the Coreys introduced him to Billy Idol in 1984. Cut to Corey Feldman saying, "I don't remember introducing Ricky Schroeder to Billy Idol, but then I don't remember a lot of things from that year."

1. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on "Benson": Robert Guilliame became the first African-American to star in a really shitty show. That was very important to a black entertainer...who loves shit."

LSAT email came in: 169. A little less than I was hoping for, but still 98th percentile so I can't complain.

I could rant about the Steelers for a while, but I just can't deal with it right now. 2-5 sucks. Instead a random other football observation: Whenever an NFL game gets into a Hail Mary situation, the announcers always go on and on about hoping for a pass interference penalty, and how the game can't end on a defensive penalty. Has anyone ever seen pass interference called in this situation? EVER?!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

A brief history of Joe's weight:
When Joe was in second grade, he weighed 101 pounds. This was discovered a few years ago from some old school record the nature of which he has now forgotten.
When Joe was in fifth grade he played his only year of organized football. Although he was only 9, he played "Mighty Mites", which was for 10- and 11-year-olds. The reasons were twofold--having skipped a grade, he was with his classmates in Mighty Mites. More importantly, "Termites" has a weight limit of 90-something pounds, which he never would have made. Mighty Mites had a weight limit of 111 pounds; Joe made weight for exactly one game and played one uneventful offensive series and an equally uneventful defensive series at tackle.
When Joe started 11th grade he weighed 295 pounds. That January he started lifting for sixth months and doing karate. He got down to 270 pounds, but was back to about 290 by the start of college.
During Joe's first two years of college he had a 19-meal-per-week meal plan with only all-you-can-eat cafeterias available for that meal plan. The less said about this the better.
During the summer after Joe's junior year of college he worked at Kennywood Park. On one 95-degree day he got a mild case of heat exhaustion and went to the hospital as a precaution. At the hospital he stepped on a scale, the upper limit of which was 350 pounds, and he was off the top end of the scale. For no particular reason, he decided in his mind that he weighed 370 pounds and considered that his weight for the next six years, during which time he did not step on a scale.
On June 21, 2000, Joe went to the USC fitness center and sought help. For the next two years he worked with a personal trainer. During the early part of that time he continually stepped on the 350-pound-limit scale with no result.
At some point in May 2002 Joe was taken into the depths of the USC P.E. Building semi-surreptitiously and put on a special scale that indicated his weight at 360 pounds. Joe and trainer Omar guesstimated that Joe had lost 50-60 pounds during the previous two years, which would have put him at a weight he doesn't even want to think about. This number is a total guess, but it seems right.
During the July 2002-August 2003 Beallsvonian Captivity, Joe did not exercise or particularly watch his calories. After the Captivity ended, Joe returned to Southern California and the gym and found that he weighed 361 pounds--a net push, although the relative fat and muscle ratios no doubt changed in very negative ways.
At that time, Joe was given a computerized readout of his projected progress if he follows his program. While Joe knows deep down that these numbers are fairly arbitrary and that the apparent "science" behind them is merely a faux precision for marketing/motivational purposes, seeing on paper a projection that would theoretically lead in 96-to-115 weeks to a 215-pound version of Joe was like a Kuhnian paradigm shift--seeing a whole new world of possibility completely changed his outlook and, truth be told, has been a major reason why he has been able to get up at 5 a.m. every weekday to do the things he has to do.
On October 21, 2003, Joe stepped on the scale after his workout and checked in at 349.75 pounds. There is nothing particularly magical about this number, except that it was verifiable proof that Joe has reached his lowest weight since he was (at the most recent) 20. Joe realizes that the difference between 349.75 and, say, 351 is a good BM and a shave, but nonetheless considers this to be a watershed day in his program.
Joe will re-emerge from Rickeyspeak mode next time, but desperately needed to get this all out and somehow found the third-person slightly less difficult.

Monday, October 20, 2003

There should be a new "memetracker" thingy where John Ashcroft used to be (if only he were so easy to replace in real life). Thanks, DEK.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

In the words of Pee-Wee Herman, connect the dots, la la la-la...

  • Strike 1: The LA mass transit strike has been a major disruption for me. I suppose I'm fortunate relative to many bus riders--I have a car, I just choose to ride the bus for cost and stress reasons. So it's been an inconvenience and an expense to drive last week, and possibly this week and beyond, but I'm sucking it up. At least I'm learning interesting new ways in and out of downtown.
  • Strike 2: The LA grocery strike is a second disruption. Rather than cross the picket lines, I took the chance to do some of my shopping at Whole Foods yesterday. I enjoyed it, though I hope I don't have to do it all the time. It turns out I buy some fairly ridiculous stuff when I go to a place like Whole Foods. Yesterday's trip netted me, among other things, a bag of frozen edamame, a pomegranate, pre-packaged grape leaves, cherry cider, and green tea ice cream. Suffice it to say I normally don't end up with these things when I shop at Ralph's.
  • Why is it that I can never remember whether music and fashion were always the passion, or music and passion were always the fashion?
  • I wanted to buy a papasan chair on Saturday and I checked the phone book for the nearest Cost Plus, where I bought my last one. The yellow pages sent me to The Grove, one of many local examples of New Urbanism, a trend of putting semi-upscale apartments Joe can't afford, semi-upscale retail Joe can't afford, and insufficient parking all in one place. It turns out Cost Plus either was one of those places torn down in order to build The Grove or never existed in the first place and is in the phone book as a cruel hoax. So I got my papasan today in Glendale, but only after wandering around an upscale shopping plaza yesterday feeling out of place and discombobulated--always a fun afternoon.
  • One mitigating factor/silver lining in the Thursday night broadcast of the Yankees and Red Sox--the return of WINGMAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNN!
  • Two of the CDs I got recently from Columbia House were More Best of Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits' Used Songs. These were important purchases, because I just didn't have enough CDs that could make Mary Worth advise suicide.
  • No disrespect meant to the stairmaster or Butt Blaster, but I have a new favorite exercise to watch at the gym. This is actually an exercise I occasionally do, but I'm not the one to watch. Here's the exercise: imagine a weight bench parallel to a wall. Sit on the middle of the bench facing the wall with your hands on the bench right next to your sides. Now, supporting your body with your arms, walk your feet out toward the wall until your butt is far enough off the bench to be clear of it. Now, working the triceps, lower and raise your own body weight as if your were raising and lowering it onto...well, whatever one might raise and lower ones body weight onto in this position. Yes, the reverse cowgirl is officially exercise. Seeing a svelte young barely twentysomething doing this at the gym the other day is one of the few things I've seen in my life that literally made my jaw drop.
  • Jefferson (the roommate, if you didn't know) and I have a running joke based, like many of our running jokes, on a Loveline running joke. It is the misuse of the word "figuratively" the opposite of the way people often misuse "literally". Thus if someone might say, "It is literally a million degrees in here," then Jeff and I might say, "It is figuratively 74 degrees in here." Good times.
  • Another of my new CDs is Elvis The #Ones. I can't say that I have a single favorite Elvis song, but I have favorites in caetgories. My favorite young Elvis song is "Don't". My favorite Elvis cove if Mac Davis is "In The Ghetto".. My favorite Elvis song performed to great effect on an annual Johnny Carson Tonight Show anniversary show by Sam Kinison is "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" ("I wonder if, you're lonesome tonight. You know I wonder a lot of things, like are you human or ARE YOU A LIZARD WITH A REALLY NICE HAIRDO!! OH-OHHHHHHHHH!!!!) But the most underrated Elvis song in my book is unquestionably "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I". Why isn't this one of his 4 or 5 most famous songs?
  • OK, here's one problem I have with the Elvis, though. It's the song "Teddy Bear". Yes, one problem is that I have to remember not to sing, "I just want to be your Teddy Graham." But the bigger problem is with the chorus:
    "Baby let me be your lovin' teddy bear
    Put a chain aroud my neck and lead me anywhere
    Oh let me be, your teddy bear."

    Here's the question: who treats their teddy bear like Zed treats The Gimp?!?!
  • I watched Auto-Focus last night. That Bob Crane had issues, and they came weekly. Oh, and here's a surprise: Willem Dafoe was totally believable as a really creepy guy.
  • I know I'd be a really bad stand-up comedian, because all I'd ever think up would be bits like this that I know no one else would find funny: So I was thinking about Kenny G and Ali G and wondering if they are related somehow. Maybe by marriage. And I wondered what the "G" stood for. So I looked it up, and it turns out that it's just like Harry Truman. That's right, the "G" stands for "S".
  • Finally, I'd like to leave you with my impression of every Yahoo Personal ad I've read the last two weeks:
    (Insert number between 22 and 33)-year-old girl seeks a smart, funny guy to hang out with. I'm looking for someone who's honest, nice, won't play games, and can hold up their end of the conversation. Looks are unimportant. No, I totally mean it--it's what's on the inside that counts. I want a nice guy. Someone with inner beauty. Someone who reads, like movies, and enjoys quiet nights together. Did I mention looks are unimportant. Just nice. That's all.
    P.S.: No fat guys.


Friday, October 17, 2003

Leave it to Major League Baseball to find the only matchup out of the 4 possible World Series that I had no interest in. Jesus fucking Christ do I hate the Yankees. And my other option is to root for Jeffrey Loria. How is it that I love sports so much, but sports so frequently make me hate life?

Monday, October 13, 2003

Joe reviews things:

  • I've read three baseball books since I've been in L.A., the ubiquitous Moneyball, the timely Autumn Glory, and the excellent Breaking the Slump.
  • Moneyball is, of course, the story of the Oakland A's and baseball's sabermetric revolution. Many people have been writing about this book and for good reason--the story of how actual systematic research is starting to replace conventional wisdom as the tool for evaluating talent is a fascinating and important one to tell. At its heart, this book really says something about ongoing anti-intellectualism in our culture, and how we tend to overvalue "experience" as opposed to analysis and understanding. This is not the book to read if you are looking to learn about sabermetrics itself (I am, FWIW, statistically illiterate myself, but a big believer regardless); for that you should pick up anything ever written by Bill James. But Moneyball is a good read for baseball fans, and has something to say more generally about the culture of sports.
  • Autumn Glory by Louis Masur is a chronology of the 1903 (i.e., first) World Series. To my mind it barely qualifies as a "history", because to my mind history analyzes rather than just trying to present the past. If you want an at-bat by at-bat account of the Series plus some well-worn stories thrown in for color, then this is the book for you. I was disappointed because Masur is a professional historian, but he writes the type of book that journalists and other non-pros tend to write when they dabble in history--long on facts, short on analysis or deeper meaning.
  • Breaking the Slump is the most interesting baseball book I've read in a very long time. Unlike Masur, Charles Alexander is a historian who writes like a historian taking baseball as his canvas to paint a broader picture, rather than writing like a baseball fan dabbling in history. Alexander's book is about baseball and the Great Depression. What Alexander sets out to do is to write a social history of ballplayers--what was it like in the '30s to be a marginal player? a minor leaguer? a star? a Negro Leaguer? Alongside this story we do get the standard narratives--the Gas House Gang, the beginnings of night baseball, the rise of the DiMaggio-era Yankees--and interesting sidelights such as contemporary medical treatments for a sore arm (pulling teeth and tonsilectomies--I'm not making this up), the economics of player-managers, and reports of Lou Gehrig's annually increasing struggles with "lumbago". If you want a book that does an excellent job of contextualizing on-field developments (at a time when there were many interesting ones) with off-the-field events, this would be a great choice.
  • I haven't seen many movies lately, but I did enjoy Lost In Translation. This is not a wacky Bill Murray comedy, and it's also not a film driven by a strong plot. But it's a good looking film, and its does a strong job of subtle things like setting tone and mood. Scarlett Johansson and Murray are an odd pairing of Americans emotionally dazed as they make their way through Tokyo, though at very different places in their lives. Some people will probably be bored by it, but I found it aesthetically interesting and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
  • I also read Joan Didion's collection of essays After Henry. These essays are primarily from the '80s and deal with national politics as well as California and New York. I find Didion's takes on things continually interesting and often surprising, but inevitably stimulating and worth reading. These were no different. Particularly notable to me was her take on Los Angeles and New York, not in one particular essay but developed over several, about why Los Angeles works and New York doesn't. You may or may not agree her take, but it's a fascinating read.
  • I just got a new introductory shipment of CDs in from Columbia House, because I'm like that boxer who just doesn't know when to retire or that Loveline caller who keeps going back to her beating, cheating boyfriend because she "loves him". But regardless, I have a new pile of CDs. I haven't listened to many of them yet but there are two definite winners so far--Elvis' No. 1s, and The Donnas' "Spend The Night", which I'd call just flat-out balls-out rock and roll if it weren't by a girl group, so that's not real accurate. But it does kick ass.
  • Finally, a couple of weeks ago I re-read The Grapes of Wrath, in an effort to (a) assuage guilt for not reading it in grad school, (b) see if it made more sense to me than it did in 9th grade, and (c) incorporate the phrase "Goddamn Okies" in my vocabulary. Check, check, and check! Oh yeah, and it was also on The List, from which I still have to read 8 books to achieve my stated goal of 50. It didn't count as one of the eight since I'd already read it, but I hoped it would get me back in that mode. We shall see. As for Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath is a tough call for me: I can see its brilliance now, but I also have a problem with the basic underlying message--not politically, since I'm a flaming lefty and all, but with the notion that going back to the land and keeping the family together as opposed to going to the big anonymous city is a particularly good idea. Being a big believer in cosmopolitanism over, say, agrarianism, I can't get behind Steinbeck in that regard. But it remains a powerful social critique nonetheless.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Notes from the gym:

  • The gym plays a strangely eclectic selection of music. 50 Cent is in heavy rotation, but there isn't much other hop-hop. There's a lot of '80s pop and '70s classic rock, and then just a whole lot of random. I was doing a chest exercise the other day and I almost dropped the weight when I heard over the speakers, "S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night!" Other than me, who else finds the Bay City Rollers to be motivational gym-type music?!
  • My workouts are three "days"--a chest and back day, a legs daym and an arms and abs day. I do each day twice a week. I also put in a stint on the exercise bike each day--originally 35 minutes, but now I'm up to 40. I program the bike for "cardio", which means the bike adjusts resistance to maintain a more or less constant heartrate, based on your age. Right now I claim to be 45 years old--this allows me to maintain a heart rate at aroud 140. I am working my way toward my actual age of 28, which would mean maintaining a heart rate of 154. When I started, I was "60" which meant a heart rate of 126.
  • The reason the bike routine gets stepped up very gradually is that I have big strong legs from the basic act of locomotion when I was so heavy, and this means the resistance has to be pretty high for me to keep my heart rate high. The plus side of this is that I burn a lot of calories--over 500 a sitting if the meter is to be trusted. The downside is that between the 8 and 16 minutes marks I always have an internal monologue about whether this is the day I don't make it through the whole workout. But so far so good, I guess.
  • The parking lot at the gym is free from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but during the day you have to pay. As a gym member you get a passcard that opens the gate, but at 7:10 a.m. it shuts off and you have to pay at the booth. It so happens that my schedule has me finishing up between 7 and 7:20 every morning, so I've always got a mental debate going on about whether I should do that extra set or get to the gate before I have to pay. It adds a fun tension to the workout, and a useful sense of urgency not to dawdle on exercises longer than necessary.
  • For about 10 days the satellite that feeds music to all the clubs in the 24 Hour Fitness chain was malfunctioning, so we had no music at all. Working out in silence is eerie. Instead of a beat you just get a few seconds of silence and then a clank as plates come together somewhere.
  • There's something disheartening about consistently having to remove most of the weight on a machine, and I most consistently have to do this on chest machines. For some reason, I have no chest muscles. Or rather, when I started I had no chest muscles--now I have almost no chest muscles.
    That said, there is a special section of hell reserved for the people who do 1,000 pounds on the leg press machine, and then don't remove any of the plates when they're done. Preparing for my 270-pound presses after those people is actually an exercise in and of itself. Given the chance, I will smite them.
  • The gym is, of course, a voyeuristic as well as a physical experience. I find girls working out very sexy--ok, they're more likely to be fit because they work out, but what I actually mean is the process. Specifically, there is a row of Stairmasters in front of the row of bikes, and a shapely girl on a Stairmaster is a sight to behold--everything that should be nicely accentuated is. The only machine that has anything on the Stairmaster is something called the Butt Blaster. On the butt blaster, the exerciser assumes what for lack of a better term I'll call the doggie-style receiver position. They then take one foot and put it onto a pad that they kick back from their body at about a 45-degree angle. Again, if the person exercising has the figure for it, the effect is downright disarming.
  • Suffice it to say that in Southern California such voyeuristic experiences are common, but also varied. People of every shape, size, race, color, creed--whatever--go to my gym. Sometimes I'll even see a woman of Middle Eastern descent on a cardio machine wearing full head cover and head to toe robes. I'm not sure how one can work on, say, the elliptical machine that way, but they seem to manage. I of course prefer the sports bra and shorts or tights look (to see, not to wear), but to each her own.
  • Not that anyone should, say, take the MCAT based on my knowledge of anatomy and physiology, but my understanding is that when you lose fat and build muscle, you produce less estrogen and more testosterone, and therefore certain drives and whatnot tend to start raging. I don't know if this is true or if having this "knowledge" produces some sort of placebo effect, but looking back on the second half of this entry does nothing to dissuade me of this idea, and it also describes my recent physical state pretty accurately.
  • Yeah, I know, too much information.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

The test seemingly went well yesterday, though it's always hard to say. I didn't bomb it or anything. Since it's probably a matter of where I placed in the first percentile--if my practice scores can be trusted--I guess I can't complain. I wasn't very stressed out at any point on the day of the test, and I realized that a big part of that was that next to Ph.D. qualifying exams, which were 4 day-long essay exams in two weeks, 130 multiple choice questions just wasn't so bad.

In other ways things have been a little rough the last few days. With my LSAT classes ending, I've finally had a little bit of time to breathe, but for whatever reason that has also brought in something of a depressive funk. I'm feeling a bit lonely--when I was here before I was in a structured situation with a lot of colleagues who naturally became friends, and I'm not in that place anymore. So I'm just not connecting with as many people or as often as I'd hoped. I'm also realizing that I'm desperately overdue to find a girlfriend or at least to start dating, but it's been so long since I've been in that place that I feel like I'm starting with no skills at all. I had this awkward flirtation with a woman in one of my classes, but then obviously there are problems there, and I'm just not sure how to start turning affable conversation into something more--and how to read the other person and see if that's a possibility. I think I'll work my way through all of this, but it's made for, as I said, a bit of a funk.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

I'm now down 8 pounds from my initial weight (making me currently as low as I've been since I was 18 or 19), and last Sunday I got a 180 on a practice test. On paper, my life sounds pretty good right now. As it's being lived, it's more of a blur. LSAT classes are done and the test is Saturday; hopefully after a rest-of-weekend bender, we should resume something of a regular publication schedule next week.

Monday, September 22, 2003

I saw a commercial calling The Rock's new movie the best action comedy since 48 Hours and Midnight Run. Doesn't that just make it the best action comedy since Midnight Run?!

I went to the Charger game today with Gourab, and it was a fun afternoon of football and objectifying women. The Charger cheerleaders are high-quality, although it should be noted that just because the Bolts wear the powder blues, that doesn't mean the cheerleaders also need throwbacks. Fortunately, they came out for the second half in modern gear. Good stuff. Much better than a very ugly game.

Random thing that's been bugging me: In the Kim Wilde song "Kids in America", why is the new wave that she's warning us about coming to "New York to East California"? For one thing, who divides California East and West? Do only Needles, Barstow, and Truckee need to worry about this wave? And what about West California? Don't we have to worry about this new wave too?

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

While reading a very tangential part of our case this morning, I came across a minor witness whose last name was Forgue. So of course I've been thinking about this all day...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I know the line about damned lies and statistics, etc., but I got a couple of statistics today that I like.

I wrote here a while back--probably six months ago now--that I had gotten a 170 on a practice LSAT, and I had solicited (successfully--thanks, readers!) some advice on what that meant. So this fall I've been teaching two LSAT courses, in large part to prepare myself for the October 4th test. So I thought all was well and good, but then last Monday night I sat for a practice test and got 165. I was pissed--I've been doing a lot of work that I thought was preparatory, and then it turned out I was actually doing worse.

So I decided that teaching alone wasn't enough, and that I needed to start practicing some sections on my own, reading explanations and all, and being more methodical. So I took another practice test on Saturday and got the results back today.


You can't see it, but this is Joe doing the happy dance.

Equally happily, I had my last introductory training session at the gym tonight. I've been so-so about food, but really good at getting to the gym for cardio and lifting every morning, for two and a half weeks thus far. Tonight, we redid my measurements: I'm only down one pound, but I've lost a full inch around my chest and half an inch around my neck, waist, and thigh. The computer estimates that I've lost five pounds of fat and gained four of muscle, and that I've lost 1.2 percentage points off of my body fat percentage.

These, friends, are some statistics I can truly get behind!

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Entertainment is making me sad nowadays. Let's take these in reverse order. John Ritter will mostly be remembered of course for Three's Company, which (amazingly) was once a vanguard show in some ways, pushing the boundaries of the sitcom. But I'll remember a couple of other, supporting performances by Ritter much better--his eye-opening performance in Sling Blade, his guest appearance on "Buffy" as a robot dating Joyce (a fun episode), and most notably for a very strong performance as J.D.'s father on "Scrubs". In that role he reminded of largely of my own father, which is probably why I remember it fondly.

(In other news, BTW, Joyce DeWitt wants to know if you're finished eating that.)

Warren Zevon's death was not unexpected, as he had been making "farewell" TV appearances for nearly a year, but it's still vey saddening to me. My screen name was Mr. Bad Example for a while, after all. I was introduced to him in college by two people--a professor and a fellow student (Jim Malloy and Ben Jackson, respectively) about whom I had not thought og in a long time before this week. I'm sure they're not having the best week either.

Mostly, though, I am really bummed out about Johnny Cash. I was going to make my blog black for a while in his honor, but then I was afraid I couldn't remember how to switch it back. Cash was one of the great country singers of all time and an icon for several generations, but you knew that already. What really sticks out for me about Cash, however, is that he was one of the great protest singers of the last 50 years, even though you might not think of him that way.

I did wear all black today to my LSAT class (OK, I thought the shirt was black but it turned out to be navy). As good as Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, and others are, this will always be the quintessential Johnny Cash tune for me, and it's also one of the most poignant statements of personal ethics that I know of:

The Man In Black

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black,
Why you never see bright colors on my back,
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone.
Well, there's a reason for the things that I have on.

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he's a victim of the times.

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you'd think He's talking straight to you and me.

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

It is time to start talking football. I was thinking about this on my drive to Pasadena for LSAT class this morning: I often make the crack that I am unavailable for work/obligations/whatever because Sundays are my day of worship--but only from September through January. As I got to thinking about it further, I realized that in pure anthropological terms, football actually is the closest thing I have in my life to religion. If you believe people actually need rituals of some sort, then you would have to see Sunday afternoons that way for me. It is communal, it is emotional release, it is putting my faith in powers out of my control--or in this case in Cowhers out of my control. Have I mentioned that I'm very serious about football, especially NFL football, and particularly Steeler football? During grad school, Steeler Sundays were the one time I got away from grad school to hang out with a different group among whom I found legitimate community--ex-patriate Pittsburghers. As much fun as I had last season watching the games with The Good Doctor, making Eddie George/David Byrne jokes and the like, I haven't had my ritual in a year and a half, and I'm Jonesing for it in a huge way. (BTW, if you're a Steeler fan Jonesing fcr the ritual, go here.) I'll be at the Shark's Cove in Hermosa Beach tomorrow, and I can't wait.

In honor of the start of the Steeler season, I give you this work in progress, with deep deep apologies to Concrete Blonde, and also to anyone who happens to read it:

Joey, Porter, your season, got shorter
Contract's expensive, but our team's less defensive
I know you've heard them all before
So I won't make the jokes no more
I just lay off and hope you're back in two to four
And though I used to wonder why
Our defense needed 55
I just watch Haggans play and heave a deep deep sigh
Oh, Joey if you're hurtin' so am I...

Friday, September 05, 2003

A couple of points to refute Mr. Hyde (regarding baseball, not TV dinners):
1. I will agree that a direct comparison of today's OPS (and components) is not fair. But I do not grant the idea that OPS is more valuable today than it used to be. It's just somewhat devalued, in the sense today's average or replacement value is higher. In other words, I think OPS was as important from 1960 to 1985, but the standard for what was a good OPS was somewhat lower in that period than it would be today. So comparisons to today's stats are at least flawed, if not outright useless. That said, I've also seen stats that suggest that park factors worked heavily in his favor, and if you remove them statistically, he never had even on season over .800 OPS. Not one!
2. Given that, the stats in comparison to the rest of the Big Red Machine are more telling. Pete Rose spent over 80% of his career as a corner outfielder or a corner infielder. In spite of that, he had the 6th best OPS on his own team in that era. His OPS was lower than that of the team's 2B and C (though admittedly, two all-time greats--but isn't that what Rose allegedly is?), as well as two other corner outfielders who are not Hall of Famers (Griffey amd Foster).
3. Runs scored are a counting stat, and by my premise less useful than an average. Runs are also a more valuable team stat than individual stat, becase they're highly dependent on the talent around you rather than merely your own performance--and that's even truer if you're not a home run hitter. Rose looks like a much player because he was surrounded with high-caliber talent on the Reds and, to a lesser extent, the Phillies.
4. Sadly, no, I have not read the James Win Shares stuff, nor do I have an extensive stats libray. But I do have high-speed internet, so I have lots of stats at my fingertips.
5. Regardless of all this, thanks for the cheerleading, and keep up the good work yourself!

Thursday, September 04, 2003

So I made two simultaneous decisions that will most definitely hamper blogging for the time being. One is that I agreed to take on a second LSAT class which had started and was abandoned by its original teacher. So I'm now teaching Tuesday through Thursday night and Saturday morning until October 4th. At least I'm getting paid for all that.

The second decision has been a long time coming. For those of you who don't know me, some background. I have been fat as long as I remember. When I was 6 I was fat. When I was 4, I'm not sure. So somewhere in there. I have been literally obese for over 20 years. Three years ago I decided enough was enough and I started working out with a trainer. After two years of hard work, I was somewhat less obese. When I was done I weighed 360 pounds, which was an improvement, but it's not clear how much of one, because I wasn't weighed at the start. Suffice it to say I had put on a lot of muscle weight, lost a lot of fat weight, and the difference was probably 30-60 pounds. When I moved back to PA, I was depressed and broke, so I had neither the motivation nor wherewithal to continue training, and I fell into sloth and bad eating. That lasted a year. When I came back to L.A. last month, I quickly joined a gym, and my membership came with 6 training sessions. Over the past two weeks I have done 5 of those sessions, mostly 2 nights a week. I asked the trainer early along to set me up on a program that I could do myself once the sessions were done. On Monday night he did that. That plan is much more intense than my previous plan, but I feel that I'm ready for it. Oh yes, and the semi-good news was that beformy first session I weighed in at 361 pounds. Good news that I didn't gain much of anything, but scary in terms of how much muscle I must've lost in order to gain as much fat as I did and stay at the same weight.

So anyway, the decision is that for the foreseeable future I will be getting up at 5 a.m. and doing cardio and lifting every day before work, and 6 days a week total. Like I said it's more intense than I've done before, but enough is just simply enough. I want to get in shape and do it as rapidly as possible, and so that's what I'm going to do. If I could get up at 5:30 for a hellish commute, I can get up at 5 for legitimate, major self-improvement.

Between these two things, I just don't know how much I'll be blogging. I know I've threatened as much in the past, but the big difference is that I do not have internet access or time at work any more. I certainly still like blogging enough that I will keep it up, but it may be sparse for the next month or so. After the LSAT cycle, I should actually have more free time again. In the meantime, watch this space and I'll pop in as I can.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Dot-free dot column today...

DEK points out the real culinary reason why I'm all excited to be back in SoCal. Actually, by emailing me that site, he pulled off the nearly impossible feat of making me ill with a picture of meat and cheese.

Oh yes, and getting your Pro Bowl linebacker shot in the ass a week before the season starts is most definitely FRAUGHT. For that matter, going to the Colorado-Colorado State period may be fraught at this point.

I'm taking on a second LSAT class Tuesday and Thursday nights. Basically it's no more preparation time but a good bit more money. Of course, when I actually sit for the LSAT in five weeks, I'll probably be so sick of the damn thing that I bomb it. OK, I don't rally think that or else I wouldn't be doing this--but if it were six more weeks I'd have my doubts.

Good '70s throwback: VH1's "I Love the '70s" is almost as good as the '80s version (though I'm wary of "I Love the '80s Strikes Back"--not that I won't watch every episode, of course).
Bad '70s throwback: Waiting in a longish line the other night to pay $2.07 per gallon for gas. At Arco, which means it was ten cents cheaped than anyone else.

What ever happened to the Macintosh apple? It used to be basically the good alternative to the horribly misnamed "red delicious" (which, to be fair, is in fact red). Now we have fuji, gala, pink lady, granny smith, and many others, but I can't remember the last time I actually saw Macintosh apples in the grocery store.

The case I'm working on might have some general interest, but obviously there are confidentiality agreements and such, so I need to be careful. Basically there were some murders in L.A. and some murders in Las Vegas, and several people including our client were convicted. We're arguing that he should get a new trial based on various errors. Specifically, we're in federal habeus proceedings (and no, I don't quite know what that means yet) for the Vegas murders. Personally, I think we should be arguing inadequate defense on the part of the original counsel based on their failure to try the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" defense. But then I haven't actually been to law school yet, so maybe we'll leave those decisions to my boss. I'll just continue making witness lists, doing mail merges, creating databases and whatnot.

Don't forget to check out the second edition of The Average Wright anytime after 10 PDT Sunday night at The Athletic Reporter!

Finally, I was at the laundromat (or, more accurately, lavanderia) today and had the type of experience I truly hate--a possibly homeless and definitely crazy woman just started talking to me for no good reason. Do I exude some sort of vibe that says, "Good listener" and/or "Has never quite figured out how to extricate himself from conversations he doesn't want to be in"? The weirdest moments came at the beginning and end. At first she saw my Ohio Valley Greyhounds t-shirt and asked if I like greyhound races. I said no. She then said, oh, you're one of those people who just grabs a t-shirt from the laundry and puts it on. I said sure. She then says that she does that too, and then as she starts explaining further, I realize then that she's actually talking about doing a Helena Bonham-Carter from Fight Club thing where it's not actually her own laundry she takes clothes from.

Now I'm in this awkward conversation where we've both admitted to petty larceny, but which I didn't actually do, and in addition to wondering how to get out of the conversation, I'm trying to figure out if I should be worried about my clothes if I walk away to play Bust-a-Move, which I ultimately do. I come back 20 minutes later, start folding up my clothes, and the conversation continues weirdly, including a bit about her schizophrenic son's various movie-viewing habits depending on whether he's on or off his meds. Finally, I'm done, and I start to mutter "Nice talking ("listening" was tempting) to you." As I'm starting to leave she asks me if I have pets. I say no, and she's vaguely saddened. She says, "Yeah, we've got over 30 babies at home," and reaches up to her shoulder.

And as I take one last look before walking away, I realize for the first time that I have spent much of the past half hour in the laundromat talking to a disturbed woman carrying around an enormous iguana.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Something about the run-up to the NFL season has been bugging me for years, and it's exemplified by this John Clayton article.

It's a truism that the NFL changes radically from year to year, moreso than any other sports league. And strength of schedule is often cited as a major (in extreme cases, the only) factor for why that's so. But there's a built-in lie there--strength of schedule is always factored, in that analysis, by last year's schedule. But if teams are radically better or worse than the previous year, then it's meaningless to determine strength of this year's schedule based on last year's won-loss record.

Drives me nuts.

Friday, August 29, 2003

One of the cool things about living in L.A. is the cultural diversity and fusion. I know that's a bit cliche, but I do really mean it. When I moved into Pittsburgh for college I thought I had learned about cultural diversity because I finally met some black people. Six years later I came out here and realized that I didn't know the first thing about real diversity.
Now, I'm not one of those people who values diversity primarily because I think that the full spectrum of humankind is embodied by a multiplicity of voices that can come together to share common and distinct experiences in a humanistic way.
No, mostly I'm just interested in the funky-ass shit that happens when cultures come together.
So far in and aroud Koreatown, three things really take the cake:

  1. Two weekends ago, Tim, Dana, and I went to a food festival in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. No, this is not a particularly convoluted Latino Quarter; it is a neighborhood where a Greek population and a Latino population have come to live side-by-side over the years. It's the first such festival I've been to where spanakopita and margaritas have gotten equal billing.
  2. Driving around about two weeks ago, we drove past a church with two signs. One read, "Hungarian Reformed Church". The bottom sign presumably said the same thing, except in Korean. How that all came together has to be an interesting story, but I couldn't even guess what it is.
  3. At the nearest main intersection to me, Beverly and Western, there's a drugstore whose business is clearly primarily Korean. But at some point they added a sign in English as well. The store is called "Ethical Drugs". I'm not sure exactly what they're trying to get across there, but it's just not working.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

The return of the blog formerly known as The Daily(?) Beallsvonian can only properly return in the form, of course, of the dot column...

  • The proudest moment of my trip across the country? Probably in Utah, where I managed to surpass the magical hour mark--62 minutes on cruise control without touching a pedal. I probably could've done at least two hours on I-25 in Wyoming if it weren't for road construction.
  • When you're on a two-lane state route in the middle of Wyoming and trying to get somewhere, the next-to-last sign you want to see is "Road Construction". The last sign you want to see is the follow-up: "Pavement Ends". Doubleplus ungood.
  • A quick list of the restaurants I've been very happy to finally get back to: Kouraku in Little Tokyo, Nyala in Little Ethiopia, Philippe's the Original in old downtown (alleged creator of the French dip sandwich), the Coffee Table in Silver Lake, La Taquiza near USC, In 'n' Out Burger, and Fatburger. So far the best new find? The pupuseria two blocks from the new apartment. Mmmm, the great taste of El Salvador.
  • I went in for some special training last Wednesday at the Leading Test Preparation Company that I sometimes teach for and they said, "Oh, you teach LSAT. Would you like a class in Pasadena that starts tonight?" I didn't have to go Wednesday night, which was just a diagnostic exam, but I am teaching LSAT every Wednesday night and Saturday morning from now until the Saturday before I actually take the LSAT. Should be a good way to prepare.
  • South Dakota is a fairly boring state to drive across, but the Missouri River crossing is really nice, and Wall Drug was fun. I have to admit, though, that I wasn't expecting to be served a malted milkshake by two Belarussian teenagers there, however.
  • We're very pleased with the apartment--nice carpet, plenty roomy enough, and each bedroom has a nice little balcony. It's definitely Koreatown, which is fine; most other tenants in the building are youngish Korean families. They're quiet, except someone runs a vacuum cleaner or possibly a loud juicer at 7 a.m. But I'm dealing. Oh, and not to be ovely stereotypical, but there are clearly several piano and violin lessons going on.
  • I saw the third Steeler preseason game and everything seems to be in order for the season. We shall see. It looks like I'll be watching games at the Shark's Cove in Hermosa Beach rather than Gabe's in West LA, at least early in the season, because that seems to be where my Steeler buddies are watching games nowadays. It's a nicer bar but a bit less intense--although playing the '70s polka fight song before the game and after touchdowns and victories is an excellent touch.
  • There's certainly more to come, but that's enough for now. If you need more Joe, though, I guest edited the weekly column in this week's Athletic Reporter and will be doing so again next Monday.