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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mecca And The Vatican Rolled Into One

Although a life-long fan of baseball, I have been to very few professional ballparks. I have lived in three major league cities: Baltimore, Miami, and now Seattle. I did more than my share of riding the pine in the bleachers in these three towns. It has never taken much of an excuse to get me to go to a game and they were all enjoyable. I’ve been to a World Series game in Miami and a few playoff games here in Seattle, but by far my biggest thrill thus far was going to Wrigley Field for a game this past Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve seen Wrigley so many times on TV that I feel like I’ve been there, but the sad truth is that up until this past Thursday I was just a virtual fan of the 100 year old stadium.

My first impression of Wrigley could not have been better. We parked across the street from Murphy’s Bleachers, a great bar somewhere beyond right-center field. It was a beautiful day in Chicago and the outside patio of the bar was already filled with fans performing their pre-game ritual of consuming the communion of baseball which differs slightly from the rite that I learned growing up Catholic. The blood and flesh of baseball consists of beer and a hot dog. I like mustard on my communion wafer and I went back to the bar to have another round from the chalice. Here at Wrigley the chalice takes the form of a 16 ounce can of Old Milwaukee. The blood of baseball costs $5.50 outside at Murphy’s—which is expensive—and $5.50 inside the ballpark—which is incredibly inexpensive.

We walked around the small city block that encompasses the park just to see the neighborhood and scope out the other bars. I’ve only been to one game there but I can already say without hesitation that Murphy’s is my Wrigley Field pre-game tradition, and that is something that I don’t take casually.

The injured and completely hapless Cubs played Atlanta on this afternoon of May 25, 2006. Seeing that this is baseball all of the facts of the game are somewhere in the record books for anyone to see. Take it from someone who was there: don’t bother. This was probably the worst major league baseball that I have ever seen live—and I’ve seen some lousy baseball in my career as a fan. The bush-league play didn’t affect our enjoyment of the game in the least. It didn’t seem to bother anyone else in the sellout crowd of over 40,000.

Since we were a group of 11, some of whom care little for the game, I introduced everyone to my beer cup betting game that I have described in detail somewhere in my writing. The rules of the game necessitate the need for everyone to watch every single pitch that is thrown, and watch we all did. Try pulling that off with a group of 11. I was disappointed that the two kids participating didn’t win one of the pots but I supposed it is important for them to learn, sooner better than later, that life is cruel. I won my pot when my batter hit a home run. Sorry kids and don’t forget to put in an extra buck when you hand me my winnings.

To answer the question that I asked several weeks ago it turns out that after everyone sings “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” they don’t play a song on the P.A. at Wrigley as they do at other parks, but they do play “YMCA” at a later break in the game. I think that they need a new tradition at Wrigley. They need to dump “YMCA” and find a cool song to play at the end of the 7th inning stretch.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Code of Science

I am reading two books concurrently. I have been suffering through the seemingly interminable The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown for several weeks. I know that the book is a tremendous bestseller and is a supposed page-turner, but I have found it to be excruciatingly tedious and awful. I can honestly say that it is the worst piece of shit that I have ever forced myself to read. I have forced myself to continue for two reasons: I want to see what 50 million other readers see in the novel, and I like the fact that the Catholic Church is so pissed-off about a hack novel.

I’m sure that by now every semi-literate adult knows the premise of The Da Vinci Code. Something about Christianity being a complete hoax and a lie perpetuated by the Roman church. I sort of figured that out on my own when I was about seven years old. Virgin birth, walking on water, resurrection, God-eating rituals and a host (get it?) of other preposterous beliefs; It all seemed pretty far-fetched back when I was a child and as an adult it is all positively laughable.

The other book that I am reading—make that devouring—is Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale in which he describes a backward trip in time to the very dawn of evolution. The character of Homo Sapiens plays a fairly minor part in this work. If like The Da Vinci Code, they were to make a movie of Dawkins’ book, man would not even rate a speaking part. Invertebrates don’t have much in the way of stage presence so Dawkins’ movie would certainly be doomed to failure. Come to think of it, Tom Hanks could star in it so maybe the movie has a chance.

The Da Vinci Code, according to the novel, was supposed to be the key to a secret kept since the inception of Christianity some 2,000 years ago. 2,000 years? In geological time that is less than the blink of an eye. In geological time the era of humans is like a speck of dust on the top of a great mountain. Something like 99% of all things that have ever lived eventually went the way of extinction. There is every reason to believe that man will also see his time expire here on earth; probably sooner than later—probably through our own belligerence, a belligerence exacerbated by religion.

As a casual student of evolution it is amazing for me to see the strides scientists have made in the understanding of the earth’s history. In my opinion the march of evolution is the greatest story this world has to tell us—if we are smart enough to listen and learn. Dawkins’ book lays out a fairly clear trail back through the earth’s history for hundreds of millions of years. If your religion puts you at odds with these remarkable findings it’s time to get a new religion—or do without.

Religion truly is an insult to modern man. Religion has attempted to explain man’s existence and provide a moral code for all to live by. The moral code part of religion is an extremely transparent way to control followers. If any of the world’s religions have laid out a satisfactory explanation for the advent of man, one that compares to the findings of today’s leading scientists, then it was written down in a code 1,000 times more arcane than the Da Vinci code. I’ve never trusted priests, so long ago I threw my hat in with the scientists. I didn't become one of the tens of thousands of sexual abuse victims of priests, and I learned some great things from scientists about our amazing past.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

NASCAR: "Drunk Slobs" Spelled Backwards

A recent Wall Street Journal article reported on the drunken rowdiness at Nascar events. "You get that many people together and naturally you're going to have some who get over-beveraged and get into trouble," said the chief deputy at a sheriff's office near a racing facility. I love that one; "over-beveraged" used as a euphemism for a shit-faced slob who has pounded about two cases of Pabst in the past ten hours, puked his guts out all over an infield port-a-potty, rallied by drinking another case of shitty beer, and then challenged an entire section of the grandstand to a fight because someone stole his half-bag of cheese doodles.

I may not be the smartest guy in the room, I may not have won any Nobel prizes in literature, I may have failed the written part of the Washington state driving exam and had to cheat off the 15 year old kid next to me when I took the retest, I may not be able to read without moving my lip...OK, you get the point. However, I am smart enough to know that when you mix hicks and liquor someone is going to get a few teeth knocked out--usually an innocent bystander. 
Even smart people do stupid things under the influence of alcohol, but when a hick gets liquored up you can expect acts of unbridled stupidity. The problem is so out of control that Nascar officials have begun constructing their own jails at racetracks. The Nascar holding pens have a concrete floor enclosed with a chain-link fence. There is also a beer concession inside the jails, but you can't buy beer one hour before your arraignment. I'm just kidding about that last part but I really want it to be true.

I have been asking Seattle guys what the acronym Nascar stands for, exactly. Every guy I asked started off confidently: "North Americ...," or, "North American Stock C...," and "North American Stock...American." As their voices trailed off, they usually try to change the subject. Yeah, guys, I already know that you think Bush is a lousy president, but I want to know what Nascar means. I seriously doubt that there is a male over the age of seven in North Carolina--who isn't a choreographer--who doesn't know what Nascar means. Of course, there probably isn't a male over the age of seven in that state who doesn't have a ring imprinted on his back pocket from his chew can. Whether or not North Carolina choreographers chew tobacco is the subject for another essay.

Everyone knows what Nascar represents: gas-guzzling cars driving way too fast (even for hicks) around a big oval lined with hicks. I began this survey after reading about the possible construction of a Nascar track in the Seattle area. Maybe race officials should reconsider the demographic they are working with here in America's hippie, upper left-hand corner.

After interviewing about 30-40 pansies, my friend, Curtis, finally came up with the answer, but he doesn't count because he's just a geek who could probably name the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture or the exact latitude and longitude of the Solomon Islands. Just like we would all get beat up in a bar in North Carolina for not knowing what Nascar means, Curtis would get beat up for naming all of the vice presidents without being asked.

I'm now seven paragraphs into this essay and I finally know what it is about: We are all a bunch of effete liberals. Sure, we probably could all change our own oil, but then we'd agonize for hours over how to get rid of it. We'd argue over whether or not synthetic oil is ultimately better for the environment. I guess that I'm just a big, fat, effete, sack of liberal manure. It makes me want to drink a beer, watch a car race, and take a swing at someone.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Terrorist Leader Touts Suicide Bombing as Miracle Cure

Abdul Rahmani, leader of an Islamic terrorist organization, has announced that he is no longer taking applications for suicide bombers. In recent weeks the organization has in fact turned down hundreds of requests for young people willing to blow themselves up along with the odd innocent bystander. “We were running a little low on volunteers until someone in our marketing division struck upon an ingenious new campaign,” said Rahmani in an interview from his estate in Cannes, France. “Ever since we started selling suicide bombing as a miracle cure our phones have been ringing off the hook.”

In a culture in which abortion is strictly forbidden, suicide bombing is the only answer to an unwanted pregnancy among teen women in Islamic countries. Young boys who impregnate their sisters are also using suicide bombing as an escape from their shame. “Yes, blowing yourself to kingdom come really does solve all of life’s little problems,” announced Rahmani as he lounged near his swimming pool next to a bikini-clad Scandinavian Air stewardess. “Homosexuality, impotence, incontinence, piles, venereal diseases, you name it and suicide bombing cures it. With health care costs rising so much in recent years, this is really a simple solution.”

When asked why the terrorist leader himself hasn’t yet volunteered for a suicide mission he said that it was in Allah’s hands. “As you can see, I am in perfect health. I would not hesitate to carry out an attack against the infidels, but right now I’m trying to lose a few pounds on the Atkins so I look better in my Speedo.” Rahmani also explained that by locating his headquarters on the stunning French Riviera he is posed to do the most damage against American and Zionist targets. “With the snap of a finger I can strike against the hated enemy. Tel Aviv is only a two hour flight, New York is nine, and I have enough first class frequent flyer miles accumulated so the flights won’t cost the organization a thing—that’s if God calls me. I am prepared, but tonight isn’t good for me because some Al Qaeda people are coming by with some hookers for an orgy. In this business it’s important to keep morale high.”

Monday, May 08, 2006

An Open Letter To Starbucks

The unrelenting forced politeness of modern-day American corporate retail is enough to make me want to commit acts of such savage incivility that I would make the Mongols look like hordes of Mister Rogers on horseback. I know that the directives from your corporate headquarters dictate that you mouth at least five fucking greetings to every customer—excuse me, make that guest—but I’m too hung-over and it’s too early for me to even talk, let alone be remotely chatty. So just take my money, hand over my cup of over-priced coffee, accept my grunt as communication, and we can go our separate ways. I don’t mean to be a downer but the fact that you exhort others to “have a great day” will not lighten the oppressive burden of human existence.

Maybe if I got up at 5 a.m., after eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and had downed seven double espressos I would be as cheery as everyone who works here. I didn’t get up at 5 a.m., I haven’t had any coffee, and I sure as shit didn’t get anywhere near eight hours of sleep—not for the entire week. So, can we just leave out about 99% of the painfully-forced pleasantries and get on with the business transaction? And by the way, I’m not a “guest.” If I were a guest you would give me the coffee instead of charging me the equivalent of the suggested monthly donation to Save the Children for my cappuccino.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bad Lunchroom Meatloaf

Bad Lunchroom Meatloaf

Seattle has two newspapers, both of which dedicated almost the entire front page of the arts and leisure section to the opening of the new Mission Impossible piece of shit. How do I know that this movie is a complete piece of shit? Of course I haven’t seen it, nor do I plan on subjecting myself to its two hours of puerile doggerel, but I did watch part of the first one in this series so I feel that I am somewhat of an expert. This will be the third in the series; they call it MI III—as if it has some sort of biblical magnitude. But I’m not here to be a film critic (the lowest form of life on the entire planet).

I’m here to ask why two daily newspapers in America’s 10th largest metropolis feel obliged to treat a lousy action movie as if it were a news story. Both papers gave the film a less-than-favorable review but everyone knows that bad publicity is better than none at all. I’m sure that one of the pansies that review movies for the New Yorker will write about this turd of a movie, even though I can’t imagine anyone who reads that magazine would lower themselves to watch the third in a series of awful action films that insult the intelligence of anyone over the age of 11 and most of those under that age who aren’t severely retarded.

Someone needs to explain the creepy forces at work in our society that dictate that a shitty movie somehow turns into a news item. Someone needs to explain to me how a writer can be so desperate that he or she turns to reviewing movies to pay the rent. Isn’t there more dignity in manning a glory hole at the bus station? Doesn’t glory hole duty at the bus station toilet pay at least as much as movie reviewer? Of course, in the case of the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane, he probable reviews shitty movies and then works the glory hole just for fun. I suppose that everyone needs a hobby. Lord knows that going to the movies is a pretty fucking tedious hobby these days thanks to films like the one central to this essay.

Yes, I know what some of you are going to say that it is all about money. That seems to be the modern version of the Nuremberg defense. We all just go along because that’s where the money is. I suppose that I’m just being a whinny little sissy because I’m just not ready to have a couple of huge media conglomerates make every single decision for me when it comes to the arts. I’m surprised that the big media corporations haven’t tried to shut down libraries on some kind of copyright infringement. Who needs a library when you have a Barnes & Nobles? Entertainment choices for American consumers are already about as limited as menu items in a high school cafeteria and probably even less appealing. The problem is that the marketing juggernauts behind the big studio movie releases are spending tens of millions to tell us that the shitty lunchroom meatloaf is fine cuisine.

Of course I can choose not to go see MI III. I guess that not seeing this movie makes me some sort of fucking elite or something. I used to skip lunch in high school. I never thought that I was trying to be elitist back then; I was just trying to escape the unrelenting conformity and low standards of the lunchroom environment. You go see Mission Impossible III and I’ll go shoot baskets out in the parking lot.