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