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Thursday, 16 February
Da! DA! Da-Da Da DA DA!

Every couple of years when it rolls around, I tell myself the same damn thing: "Aaaaah, fuck the Olympics. I've had it with those goddamn things." And every year . . . I end up watching them.

I don't know why. The obvious explanation seems to be: I hate me.

Because really, the Olympics just end up pissing me off, pretty much all the time. Except when people fall. That I kind of like.

The Olympics piss me off for fairly unoriginal, pedestrian reasons. One big piss-off, of course, is the tremendously insulting American coverage of the events, which never misses an opportunity to manufacture a True Blue Bullshit story for American Olympians. Tonight they profiled a couple of lovely blonde American female downhill skiiers with INXS' "Beautiful Girl" playing in the background. I am happy to report that they both lost, and even happier to report that they lost to a fairly homely Austrian woman. Though I'm a bit surprised that NBC didn't do something in retaliation, like play "Evil Woman" or David Allan Coe's immortal "Finger Fuckin' Sally" over footage of the winner celebrating.

Another sort of meta-piss that I experience is in any event that has judging. FUCK JUDGING. Judging? This isn't American Fucking Idol, for Christ's sake. It's an athletic competition! Who is strongest? Who's fastest? Who's got the endurance? This is all I'm interested in. Unfortunately, judging is so pervasive as to ruin even some of the simplest events.

For example, ski jumping. This is an event that I clearly remember watching as a child, mainly for the incredible sense of awe and terror it inspired in me as I watched these lunatics willingly launch themselves into the high ether and eventually touch down--or, as it happened, explode on contact--miles away from where they started. To me, they were like astronauts without rockets--insane fuckers blasting themselves into the troposphere with nothing better than a couple of goddamn boards strapped to their feet.

How insulting, then, and I forget about this every Olympics, that these nutters are judged not only on how far they fly, but on style points. STYLE POINTS? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Listen, there is only one metric I'm interested in: Who went the farthest? Style points? I don't give a fuck if a guy looked like Bea Arthur with a hundred carrots stapled all over his body and pinwheeled madly all the way to the bottom while screaming "I REGRET EVERYTHING!" If the skier landed on his feet then HOW FAR DID HE GO? This is all that should matter.

Style points. Jesus Christ. Concepts like "style points" are just corrosive to sports, and it usually leads to phenomena like the Derek Jeter Effect, which I just now made up, but is basically: "It's the intangibles that really define him as a player." Not that it makes any fucking sense on any level. Jeter sure is an "intangibles" kind of guy. He's not an awful player by any means, but nor is he really an outstanding one. (But he is a fellow who isn't averse to ramming his face into a seat, for which I am always appreciative of. I hope he keeps that bit.) He's on a decent par with dozens of other decent players, but he's a "leader," he "makes the big plays" (except when he doesn't), he's "special." He's "intangible." Happily, baseball scores are not. Who got the most points? That's pretty tangible.

This is all leading up to, naturally, that bugaboo and great divider of us Olympics junkies, we who cannot help ourselves: figure skating.

First let me say that I totally acknowledge that these competitors are amazing physical specimens who routinely do beautiful, incredible things that are occasionally serenely lovely. I can appreciate it when the dude flings the girl into the air, and she spins a number of times and then lands on one thin blade with all the nonchalance of someone using an ATM. It's amazing.

Not amazing? The unbelievable pageantry and pomp accorded these ridiculous figures. Where else other than Las Vegas or the Winter Olympics would these odious clowns not be pelted with eggs and jeering epithets? Perhaps in some remote, undiscovered New Zealand village they might be hailed as gods, but for the rest of us, don't they look sort of like victims of Homer Simpson's makeup shotgun? And dressed as if by the designers of My Pretty Pony, but with their restraint bones removed?

Some day, if my deepest wish is granted, I will get to see a couple of figure skaters dressed in soiled denim doing a routine to Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up" where for four and a half minutes, all the guy skater does is savagely throw the woman skater into the arena walls, only at the end to have her stick a bread knife into his eye. Then at the end, cheers will erupt and roses will gently fall to the ice while the female skater takes a bow and the guy bleeds to death over in the corner.

I would totally give that routine a 10. But hell, it isn't a 10 for that nonsport, is it? Is it a 6? Or did they change that again? Christ, what a pain in the ass. Is it 5 now? Whatever. The ice-queen murderess gets the gold. Just for the intangibles.

Tuesday, 06 December
Hawks And Doves

Tonight my friends K. and D. came over to watch a little Monday Night Football, which featured our formerly hapless--now upgraded to "hapful"--Seattle Seahawks playing in Philadelphia against the formerly daunting--since downgraded to "hilarious"--Eagles. It promised to be a good time, even if K. and D. had basically invited themselves over (D. made a half-assed gesture towards offering his place, and then immediately scuttled any possiblity of us taking him up on it by dropping cryptic comments hinting at the presence of rats) and threatening to make me pay for the pizza.

We settled in for what promised to be an interesting game: the Seahawks are leading their division with an excellent record, but are unable to rid themselves of the lingering stink of thirty years worth of horrid-to-middling teams; and the Eagles, an NFC contender for the last number of years, now hobbled by internal strife and a truly Boschian panoply of injuries, including star quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is out for the season after frenzied surgical attempts to repair the damage suffered from a meteor strike on his genitals.

The Seahawks' first drive--which is the wrong word, really. Let's say: the Seahawks' first desultory amble down the field went about 65 yards or so and took nearly eight minutes of clock time, leading to a what-the-fuck sort of touchdown throw to Bobby Engram, whose powerful stench evidently forced the Eagle defenders to maintain a fifteen-foot distance from him as he stood, alone and unguarded in the end zone.

It was going to be that sort of night. I won't give you a blow-by-blow; suffice it to say that the end result was a horrifying 42-0 rout, the worst shutout in MNF history. Philly's receivers seemed to have lost anything resembling motor control, and scampered madly on their routes like poisoned mailmen, dropping anything that happened to hit, oh, their hands (or neatly deflecting the passes directly to Seahawk defenders). The second half of the game was hopelessly dull, as Seattle promptly sat down all their starters and simply grinded away on the clock. K. farted dolefully into my couch while D. provided color commentary. "Detmer just called for a time out!" "But the refs didn't give it to him." "They want to go home too."

There was one moment in the second half, however, that was kind of exciting. Near the end of the third quarter, the phone rang. "Hello?" I answered. "Skot? Skot Kurruk? This is Mike Holmgren, the bizarrely overrated head coach of the Seahawks. I also used to butcher hogs!"

"Uh . . . hi!" I yelped. I wasn't expecting this.

"Listen, Skot, are you busy? I've benched Alexander, and Mack Strong kind of wants to play pinball. You feel like coming over here and running a few plays? You can smoke if you want to."

"You're in Philadelphia," I said weakly. Holmgren snorted. "Big fucking deal. We'll have you over here and on the field before these boobs realize that we've been giving them like eight downs on every possession, just because it's so funny. Come on! It's fun! We've got Devendra Banhart in at QB! He lights incense at every huddle. You can't miss this!"

"It sounds great," I said mournfully as K. foghorned again into my sofa cushion. "But I better not. I've got work in the morning."

"Your loss," replied Mike. "Listen, I gotta go. I'm issuing a challenge." I looked at the screen. "What?" I said. "What are you challenging?"

"Andy Reid's penis," he hooted. "I'm challenging its physical existence. I can't wait to see his face."

"And his penis," I replied.

"Don't be gross, man. Talk to you later." He hung up. I went back to my chair just in time to see the Philly third-string quarterback throw a pass to somebody in Scarsdale.

"Who was that?" asked D.

"Telemarketer," I said. D. nodded as ABC cameramen zoomed in on Eagles fans booing the special teams as they came out for their hundredth punt. John Madden was telling Al Michaels about his trouble buying "good, honest shoes." K. defiled my couch one more time and grunted. I sat silently with my rushing thoughts.

God, that was amazing! I thought. I could have been there on the field!

I'm going to carry that with me, privately and warmly, right up until we get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. And nobody can take it away from me.

Tuesday, 28 December
Versus

After having been informed by numerous people (including personal friends) that everyone's pretty fucking sick of hearing about my vacation, we'll just go ahead and move on. And frankly, there's something else that caught my eye over the weekend: a new comedy that I'm really excited about. Sunday night brought me the funniest show I've ever seen in my life, and I'm praying that it gets picked up for future episodes.

I am talking, of course, about Sunday Night Football, which is nothing new, but Sunday's matchup was really special: the Cleveland Browns (3-11) vs. the Miami Dolphins (3-11). I simply must demand that the NFL make this matchup an annual thing, particularly if each team continues its current level of utter wretchedness, because I haven't laughed that loudly in a long time. But humor is only good for so much; the best humor is also imbued with a sense of wonder, or something, and as I watched this incredible game (final score: 7-10!), I was indeed filled with wonder. How on this fucking earth, I wondered, did either of these teams win three games? One is hard pressed to find a worse team than either of these, unless you look to San Francisco, and really, let's not.

Where to start? Well, maybe the quarterbacks, who in this instance I hope are named for the amount of money they earned for their efforts. Luke McCown? AJ Feeley? These are not the names of quarterbacks. They are the names of residents of West Egg. Then again, the hottest quarterback in football is named Peyton, so what do I know? In the future, look for more QBs with names like Drake or Rex or Chester, I guess. They can throw to receivers with names like Ebenezer Ekuban, who, startled by the sudden appearance of mysterious football-shaped objects, will drop those passes. Yay!

The whole thing was simply baffling. After each team scored a touchdown in the first quarter, threatening the fans with an actual game, there ensued . . . nothing. No scores at all for an astonishing 3 1/2 quarters. Only Olindo Mare's admittedly nice 51-yeard field goal prevented this debacle from continuing into overtime, but there were, as I say, laughs aplenty nonetheless. Highlights include:

--Six turnovers. If memory serves, none of them were converted into, oh, I don't know . . . points?

--A field goal attempt! It's very exciting! Cleveland kicker Phil Dawson lines up for the easy score! He kicks! It's hooking! It's hooking! It's . . . clanging miserably off the upright and falling to the unhappy turf! CLONGGG! The sound of that poor ball seemed to summarize every aspect of the game. Naturally, ESPN played it over and over, while the booth rats dissolved into laughter. "We've got the giggles!" squealed Mike Patrick. "And there's still a quarter to go!" Even Paul Maguire was incapacitated by laughter, and for a moment actually had to leave off twisting legendary dimwit Joe Theismann's dick with his Vise-Grips.

--But best of all was what can only be described as a Series of Unfortunate Events when Luke McCown launched yet another unfortunate pass to nobody in particular (not that the receivers appeared interested in receiving anything, unless it was a paycheck), which was naturally picked off by Arturo Freeman. Freeman began to run, and was soon swarmed by lunky Browns.

Now look: it's a tie game. You just intercepted. Good for you! It's okay to be tackled; you're a hero. Fall the fuck down and let your (admittedly awful) offense take over and do their job. No? Or you could lateral.

Lateral to Patrick Surtain. The lunky Browns then go after Surtain. Patrick is actually not a horrible player and knows what to do, right? Well, no. Surtain behaves as if someone has tossed him a recently severed head. Holy fuck! Who tossed me this awful thing?

Surtain laterals to Sam Madison. Madison immediately fumbles, also believing that his teammate has thrown him something ghastly. Jesus Christ! thinks Madison, Patrick threw me a big ball of phlegm! Madison swiftly drops the ball of phlegm at his feet, and is then leveled by several dozen Browns, all of whom have by now had ample time to get to where the ball is. And the Browns recover, for what amounts to a 28 yard gain.

That was the best Browns gain of the entire quarter. "Merry Christmas," I whispered. "Do that again."*

*I cheerfully stole this line from Pat Maguire.

Thursday, 26 August
Improper Comments

"Welcome back to your Olympic coverage. I'm Screamin' Al."

"And I'm Analytical Elsie, a soulless dronebot from the Boredom Fields of Alpha Dreary IX; my Cold Disapproval chips were forged in the hellish datapits of X'raggl . . . "

"Thanks, Elsie! We're here at Treacly Sentiment Pavilion for the women's 500 meter Ape Tag event, where a lot is expected of the young American competitor Amanda Dentition. She's just fourteen years old."

"That's right, Al. Amanda is here all the way from her home in Crushing Ennui, Idaho. She's got to be nervous."

"Elsie, I notice she has no tits at all. Do you expect that to weigh on her as she goes into tonight's competition?"

"Al, uh, well . . . "

"None of these broads have any tits. But with regards to Amanda, Elsie, how is the youngster handling the pressure? Do you think she knows that the collective weight of a nation's expectations sits on her shoulders like some unbearable hod of ultradense concrete? Will that be a factor?"

"I'm sure it will, Al. She's got to be feeling the pressure at this point. If she doesn't medal in this event, I know she's going to feel that she missed out on a huge opportunity. And let's not forget how disappointed several hundred millions of Americans will be in her for a couple hours until they forget who she is."

"It looks like we're about to start, Elsie. The women are lining up--that's Holga Schminkey on Amanda's left, from the Ukraine. She's expected to be a threat in this event."

"They're opening the ape cages, Al. This is about to get exciting! Oh, here we go! The apes are free and all over the track!"

"Amanda Dentition is off to a great start, Elsie! She's latched onto a big silverback and--oh. Oh! That doesn't look good."

"No, I really have to take issue with Amanda's form, Al. She was lazy in her rotation when she attempted the spin tag, and the gorilla really made her pay for it."

"That monkey is still making her pay, Elsie! Oh, she's getting batted around like a broken kite. I think we've got a real fuck-circus on our hands here today."

"It's true, Al. The judges are really going to take off points for the vicious mauling that Dentition is receiving. See how she's not tucking her knees in to protect her abdomen? That's going to cost her."

"Judges? Isn't this a distance event?"

"Nobody even knows any more, Al. Oh, now look at Holga Schminkey! She is showing some really great form right now. Her arms are a little soft, but I really love the lines she's showing as that terrifying primate tries to savagely rip her arms off."

"She's really holding her own! Jesus Christ!"

"SHE SURE IS, AL! This could be one for the ages! Look at her humiliate that animal!"

"YEAH! YEAH! Elsie, I can't believe what I'm seeing! FUCK YOU, APE! E-VO-LU-TION! E-VO-LU-TION!"

"Al, the gorillas can't hear you."

"Oh, they can hear me."

"Even if they could, they wouldn't understand you, Al."

"You're so naive, Elsie."

"We're just about to the end here, Al!"

"OHHHhhhh! And that does it. Amanda Dentition, the American, finishes out of the medals. Ouch. She really appears to be crushed."

"I'm sure she's disappointed, Al."

"No, seriously, that big fucking monkey really did a number on her. I think she's dead."

"Dead like the dreams of American gold."

"Elsie, would you say she let our entire nation down tonight? How does she feel right now--I mean, if her heart were still functioning--knowing that she had a shot and she blew it? I mean, she really fucked it hard, right on TV in front of the whole world. She must feel like a turd."

"She should, Al. Let's take a look at the standings and see who won."

"Hey, it looks like we have an upset here--Holga also finished out of the medals. You can see her disappointment as she receives chest compressions."

"So our gold medalist tonight is--"

"It's Ayama Madala-- . . . Madala-- . . . Ayama Madala-- . . . Jesus, these wog names . . . Ayama Madalamabamaslammajamma, or whatever. Congratulations to her on her victory tonight, Elsie!"

"A triumphant victory for . . . er . . . where's she from, Al?"

"Pluto? I don't know. Who gives a fuck, Elsie? Congratulations to Ms. Whatserface on her uninteresting win. And now, it's time to turn it back over to Bob Costas."

"Thanks, Al. We're going to take a break. When we come back to Athens, five exciting minutes of men's canoeing, and then twenty interminable minutes of indoor volleyball. We'll be right back."

Thursday, 19 August
Laughless-A-Lympics

With midweek rest from doing the show, the wife and I have been, as many of you have been, suffering through the Olympics. While I have many non-NBC programming options, their coverage remains so consistently wretched and appalling that really, it's hard to turn away for me.

The other night, the tiny little whores (if you're just joining us, that would be the female gymnasts) continued their grating antics, various limbs jouncing about on uneven bars, here and there ponytails bobbing woefully under the vigorous shouts of the coaches, the occasional mons veneris taking a vicious beating on a block of wood. You have to give it up to these little fucking dynamoes; they shot around the arena like a bunch of superballs launched from a cannon into a bank vault; even the supernaturally haughty Svetlana Khorkina--who looks like one day she will make some man out there very miserable indeed--was seen to exhibit a smilelike rictus at one point.

But then after a little while I stopped caring, because for all the flash and dazzle--and, as athleticism, some of it was really fucking impressive--they still in the end just seemed tawdry and misplaced and creepy. Maybe if they put plush toys and pink taffeta all over the place; some tasteful Leo DiCaprio posters for the girls to enjoy. It might start to look normalesque.

As the week has drawn on, we've gotten some perfunctory glimpses of other, less popular sports, like the physics-defying weightlifters, whose chores simply cause my groin muscles to twang and whistle in sympathetic misery. Or the guys riding bikes here and there--unfortunately for the bikers, the Tour de France kind of sucked all the limited appreciation we (Americans) have for tiredly watching footage of guys, well, riding bikes on the road. I confess that I regard watching biking with the same enthusiasm I have for NASCAR, which is to say: none. When bikers fall down, which is by far the most exciting possible outcome, the best they can do is wipe out competitors. When bike tires start hurtling into the audience and causing civilian deaths, then I might grudgingly watch the ESPN highlights.

Today's coverage that I saw started out with the shot put, which is pretty enjoyable. (Though the coverage was again basically an afterthought.) Mostly for the peculiarly male trait of post-performance bellowing. Time and time again, the Living Thyroids would pick up the slug of metal, spin weirdly, and then launch the fucker into space, and then, at the precise moment of release (that is to say, after nothing else could possibly help the shot's trajectory), they would emit horrifying screams, as if bull snakes had suddenly crawled into their anuses. AAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGGGGHH!

Dude, you already threw the thing. You're not helping in any physical way. Then again, if my whole purpose in life was to throw a heavy lump of crap as far away from me as possible, day after day, I might be tempted to cut loose with frequent existential howls of my own too. Maybe these guys are just weirdly regular about scheduling them.

What else? Oh, I saw some "whitewater canoeing." This is fine, but having actually worked on a river before, their definition of "whitewater" is depressingly lax. The jacuzzi-like nonturbulence of the water hardly made me think, "Oh, lord, watch out for the rocks!" No, more like, "Get that canoeist a spritzer!"

And then there was swimming. So much fucking swimming. And it's not just the varying strokes--though that's part of it. It's also the varying distances. And the varying relays. Of varying strokes and distances. You know, after seeing the weirdly cool dolphin-kick several dozen times (and the accompanying wish that Patrick Duffy, the MAN FROM ATLANTIS would show up), really who gives a rotten fuck? Some swimstrokes are plainly ridiculous, such as the breaststroke and the butterfly. Can we just not say: "Look. There's a rock over there a ways off. Get swimming. First one there wins." Do you think anyone would even think about doing a breaststroke? Of course not. Jesus Christ, people, let's just do the crawl. The breaststroke is to swimming as what speedwalking is to track and field: really, just sort of dumb.

But no. We have to endure the backstroke, the baconstroke, and the Choco-stroke, at all distances and configurations, and worse (thanks, NBC, you dumb choads), we have to endure the qualifying heats. This is just the worst. Hey hey, this means nothing, really, since 90% of the time the heats have no surprises at all! This also, in addition to carrying no dramatic freight at all, leads to commentators doing what they do worst, which is talking. I actually heard this exchange:

"How about that young Hungarian team?"

(Barely masking utter boredom) "Yeah! They're . . . really coming on."

(Extended silence.)

Oh, for Christ's sake. Bring back the tiny little whores. I guess given a choice between miserable little girls and laughably inefficient swimmers, I'm more interested in watching little girls cry.

It's just the kind of nice guy I am.

Tuesday, 17 August
An Asshole's Overview

Now that my show has opened, we've had a bit of time to take in the Olympics, which has been nice, not only since the wife and I are both suckers for the Olympics, but also to not think about the fucking show, about which I will spare my tens of readers any more detail.

(Unless, of course, you want it. The reviews are in, and they range from the tepid to the venemously harsh, so hey, it might be a bad show. However, given my exceedingly dim opinion of what passes for theatrical criticism in this blighted town, I'm not terribly surprised. [And I've received some very good reviews in my time, some of which were really laughable, just so you know.] One reviewer trenchantly observed that our show was "not funny." Seriously, that was the meat of the review; her only other identifiable complaint was that the thrust of the show struck her as redolent of a "Patch Adams" kind of attitude, which is almost profoundly idiotic to anyone even remotely acquainted with the work of Peter Barnes, whose hatred of authority of nearly any kind informs most of his work. [She also took time out to indicate that it was really hot that day. Slow down, woman, I need to take notes!] Seattle critics are kind of like barn gnats: they're mildly irritating, but pleasingly easy to ignore.)

Anyway, so we've been digging on the Olympics, in all their burnished, soft-focus glory. NBC as usual makes them exceedingly hard to watch, with typically color-saturated and mournfully scored mini-biopics about how Jed Barnswallow blossomed from forgettable country hick into OUR NATION'S BEST HOPE FOR JAI ALAI GOLD, all the while calling his Momma back home in Goat Fuck, Indiana every night, makin' sure that the outhouse didn't up an' collapse! Then we cut to a series of ads by upstanding corporate sponsors like McDonald's or Heineken (the diet of hardcore athletes everywhere), and then back to Bob Costas's watery, joyless eyes. I like Bob Costas, but he has that Dick Clark Ageless disease, so I expect that at any moment, Egyptians might show up with cruel hooks to pull his brains out of his nose.

"My God! I'm not dead yet! I still have vibrant hair!"

"You died in 1986. Try not to struggle. It'll be easier."

"AAAAAAAAHHHH!"

"Imhotep is going to love this hair."

So we watched a bunch of stuff. We were already energized by the utter failure of the NBA mooks, and took great happiness in their horrendous defeat by . . . who? I prayed that it was Estonia, but that was too much to hope for; it hardly mattered. Italy? Ghana? Cameroon? Who cares. I don't hate America, really; I just hate its awful sense of entitlement and fait accompli with shit like this, so it was really gratifying to see certain NBA stars staring weirdly, as if they were unexpectedly ambushed by panthers. No, fellows, those were just other basketball players. I wish to hell I could see their cell phone charges. "Agent . . . agent . . . OH MY GOD! WHAT THE FUCK! . . . agent, agent, agent . . . "

We watched some other dumb stuff, like synchronized diving. Or, as I like to think of it, Stepford Diving. Synchronized swimming has a lot to answer for, really. Isn't Cirque de Soleil still around for things like this? I know it sounds snotty, but I just can't care. The whole thing carries this eminently whiffable stink about Vegas shows that I can't get over. I kept waiting for trained tigers to make the jump too.

Also less than helpful was the woman commentator, who retains her job as professional scold. "Oh, no!" she screamed. "Whatserface heeled over at the end!" Well, she did jump off of a thirty-foot scaffolding, while you're seated comfortably in leather. (I assume it's obvious that I loathe most commentators.) Meanwhile, the undercam records the luckless ladies readjusting their swimsuits, while Scold continues to howl. "I just don't see how they'll advance." Hey, hey! Then we're all lucky that nobody gives fuck what you think!

[Note: The couple in question advanced.]

Then we were treated to the men's gymnastic competition, which I must admit I really groove on. No offense to the women's competition--which I know I'll take flak on, since I regard them as tiny little whores--but I just love the men's; they blow me away. [I don't have anything against tiny little whores--which all female gymnasts resemble--but they're just not my cup of tea.]

The reasons I like the men's competition so much--and why I so strongly dislike the women's--is the whole "artistic" bullshit. I dislike the implication that women are more fucking numinous and artsy, while the men--which I do like--get to enjoy the freedom of not having to Perform their Silly Horseshit while accompanied by Karla Bonoff.

Lord, I'm tired. Can we pick this up another time? Maybe after they blow, well, anything else?

Wednesday, 07 April
Still The Sam

Beckett shuffled to the mound, contemplating his pitch count. His arm hurt. "I can't go on. I'll go on. " he muttered. He picked up the rosin bag. Rubbed it absently. "Go on failing. Go on. Only next time, try to fail better." He hurled a devastating sinker, and the batter waved at it pathetically. "Nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes, it's awful." The umpire stood like a forlorn tree, and Beckett called to him: "Let's go." They did not move.

Thursday, 19 February
Boyz 'N The Reazonably-Priced Apartmizzent

My friend K.'s longtime girlfriend is out of town for a while, so as a break from what I assume has been nonstop, frenetic masturbation, he is having some of the boys over on Saturday night for some poker.

This ought to be good, since we are all, to a man, hopeless poker players. But I'm guessing there's been some secondhand infection going on courtesy of the freaky breakout popularity of the World Poker Tour that broadcasts on the Travel Channel, also known as the "We Will Ram Free Advertising for Las Vegas Down Your Throat" Channel. So we'll do it, and it will be comically bad. The last time we did this--"Let's play seven-card stud." "Okay. How do you play that?"--we got very drunk, at one point abandoning the poker game to play--I'm not kidding--a game of four-square. (We were in a theater space that time.) Manly. We ended that particular evening by going out into the alley and taking erratic swings at raw eggs with a golf putter.

One hopes we pull it in somewhat for this evening, as we're doing it at K.'s place, and as a compulsive neat freak, I'm not sure he's psychically prepared to see eggs exploding off of his picture window. Also in attendance should be C., a genial block of a fellow whose skull glows incandescantly after a few drinks; sleepy-eyed E., who has an unpredictable penchant for suddenly "cupping your junk" just to provoke a reaction; T., who appears to be built out of hyperanimate Tinker Toys and will at any minute lapse into a deeply alarming Cajun dialect (his karaoke performances are, ah, memorable); B., probably the most successful acting-wise of the group, for which he is genially hated, and thus we tirelessly mock his giant chin; and finally, D., a laconic fellow with an acid wit whom I once accused of looking at me like I was "a worm." (I was, of course, being insane, and every now and then he fixes me with a steely glare and intones, "Worm.")

And of course there will be me, the shithead who writes well-meant but ultimately crummy things about his friends, for which he will be the recipient of many vicious junk-cuppings, I assume. C'est la guerre.

In K.'s email invitation, he exhorted us to bring "manly" music, which, of course, means terrible music. In this we will not disappoint. D. has already been tapped to bring, God help me, Slayer, and B. has promised to bring some (note casual abridgment) "Tull." K. immediately replied that there was hardly anything more masculine than a band with a flautist; I refrained from pointing out that a guy wearing hairspray and hitting an E above high C vibrato might not be either, but that's just maybe because I wonder if nobody brings up Slayer again, everyone will forget about it. I'm sorely tempted to poison the well by bringing an Indigo Girls CD, but this plan won't work because 1. I don't own any Indigo Girls, because 2. I find them intolerable.

(Full disclosure: The last time we did the poker night thing, we did a similar "manly music" thing. Delving deep into my unforgivable collection of old cassettes bought in the 80s, I showed up with--and insisted on playing--Winger. I have no excuse, except just to say that it's fun sometimes to be willfully perverse.)

Actually, it occurs to me now . . . we're getting together on Saturday night. I may have to go out and find an old Bay City Rollers album. Slayer, indeed.

Tuesday, 17 June
Mild Horses

This Saturday, my friend C. celebrated his birthday, and what he wanted to do was go to Emerald Downs, the local horse track. That none of us had ever done any horse race betting ever before was no deterrent; neither were our agonized reminders of his last birthday, where we all went to Las Vegas and C. lost, in order, his sobriety, all his money, and finally his consciousness. No dice; C. was adamant: "I want to be broke and drunk by 3:00 PM!" You have to admire his will. We went.

Getting up at the unearthly hour of 11:00 on a Saturday wasn't much fun--in fact, it was like being lashed by an angry octopus--but we had a duty: to make sure C. coughed up next month's rent on the ponies. We got there at around noon and met everyone--of course--in the bar "Champions," a name that fooled nobody, least of all the other patrons, who were in no way reminiscent of any known form of championship. They were almost all men, lint-trap grey, and all clutching complicated-looking racing forms on which they scrawled heiroglyphics in the margins in between drags off their cigarettes and pulls off their drinks. I never could read anything they had written, but by their demeanor, I can only assume they were personal reminders to themselves: "Don't forget! You're scheduled to lose this race! Post time at 2:05." "Continue to alienate family with profligate drink and catastrophic life decisions." "Weep piteously in bathroom."

We clutched our $2 "Racing Form Lite for Ridiculous Newbies" and wandered out towards the track, opting not to pay for the "Grand Admission" seats, or whatever they were called, as the entire privilege seemed to consist of the fact that you were slightly higher than everyone else. It was a lovely day, so we all sat down with our drinks--Bloody Marys to start, of course--and began the long process of losing all our money, acting like dolts, and achieving heroic, multihued sunburns. Most of us were dressed in typical actor high fashion: khakis and t-shirts. Some of the guys tried to capture some of that Southern Gentleman at the Track feel, but having neither white suits nor bushy moustaches nor the knowledge of where to procure mint juleps, had settled on the rather more unsettling tactic of wearing gaudy Hawaiian shirts and unpocketing other affectations like cigarillos and straw hats. This had the net effect of making us look like the aftermath of some terrible cultural collision site, like a Tongan Airliner crashing into a Taco Bell in Chinatown. At one point, my friend K. donned a pair of ghastly sunglasses--dubbed the "J-Lo glasses"--and put on the straw hat and munched unconvincingly on a cigarillo. "You look like Hunter Thompson's corpse," I told him, and he let his jaw slacken convincingly. "Perfect," I said.

Presently, the races began. The tiny, toylike jockeys were bedecked in the usual awful bright, silvery, geometric-design outfits, looking exactly like Teletubby prostitutes, and jabbered with the horses, who looked prepared to eat the little morsel-men. We all scrambled to bet, and ran up to the sour-faced people at the betting counter. We were, of course, embarrassingly dumb and trying way too hard to affect an air of knowing, well, anything. We emphasized our words strangely, hopelessly feigning routine: "I'd like FIVE DOLLARS on NUMBER FIVE in the THIRD, please." Big toothy smile. "To do what?" "What?" "To do what? Win? Place? Show? Not be eaten by cougars?" "Ah . . . yes. I would like it to come in third. Or better than third! Ha!" Terrible. Here's another one I liked: "I'd like to bet the two-dollar exacta in the fifth, please." Pause as I take in a flat stare. Finally, the response: "What horses?" I hadn't gotten that far; I desperately pick two at random, noticing later that one, I'm pretty sure, immediately died two steps out of the gate.

We employed a time-honored betting strategy, you see, one used by amateurs since the dawn of the sport: we picked horses with funny or weird names, which are abundant in the slightly aphasic world of horse racing. The first race had a horse named Matlock, which was too tempting for many; when the cheering erupted in the home stretch as the horse actually raced to a win, it was like being in a stadium filled with thousands of Abe Simpsons. "MAAATLOOOCK!" Needless to say, I did not bet on him. Another favorite of the day was a horse called, inexplicably, Vanna Whitesox, who was exactly as beautiful as the game show hostess and as awful as the baseball team. I lost five bucks on some legless toboggan named Toobusytocall before finally declaring myself Toostupidtobet. Certainly the racing forms were no help: they were filled with the kind of pompous declarations of purest bonehead opinion that anyone who has spent time following sports is familiar with: it was all sportscaster-speak, which is to say, utter horseshit. "EUCLID'S CHUNDER raced very well her last time out, and will certainly make a spot in this race." Which turns out to be a horse that was raised on the low-gravity rings of Spacepost Gamma, and who instantly succumbs to four broken legs on Earth's killing surface. People who make their livings by opining about the outcomes of sporting events are cheerful sociopaths, inveterate lying drunks, and leather-palmed jerkoff artists. They should all be put to the sword.

But having said that, we had a blast! As you might infer from the less-than-mighty examples given, nobody was betting anything like real money, and we lounged and drank beer and cheered pointlessly. 3:00 PM rolled around, and C. was, happily, broke and drunk. Not to mention radioactive: C. has a shaved head, and the sun was roasting his skull like a ham. We left, and then we made the worst bet of all, the one that would destroy us at day's end: we asked C. where he wanted to go for a meal. Would C. pay off with an inspired suggestion? We waited breathlessly. C. gaily declared, "Let's go to T.G.I. Friday's!"

Nope. Lost again.

Tuesday, 22 April
Let's Not Root For The Home Team

Lights up on EDGAR MARTINEZ, who is reclining in an easy chair. His legs are covered in ugly casts.

Edgar: Hello! Pardon me for not getting up; I seem to have broken both my legs this morning as I put on my pants. Say, I wanted to introduce you to some of the 2003 Mariners! It's going to be an exciting season! Isn't that right, third baseman Jeff Cirillo?

The camera pulls back to reveal JEFF CIRILLO on all fours, acting as an ottoman for Edgar.

Jeff: I'm batting .163!

Edgar: You sure are!

Jeff: No HRs yet and none in sight!

Edgar: Ha! Ha! Ha! Shut up, Jeff. Anyway, we're a little banged up, for sure, but that's what happens when you're sixty-three years old. Isn't that right, phenom closer Kazuhiro Sasaki?

KAZUHIRO SASAKI enters the picture.

Kaz: You can say that again, Edgar! Hey, think fast!

Kaz hurls a mighty fastball at Edgar and misses by four feet. It impacts the skull of CARLOS GUILLEN, who happens to be passing by.

Edgar: Oh, no! You pulverized some guy's head!

BRET BOONE enters the picture.

Bret: That wasn't just some guy! That was our shortstop! Our mediocre shortstop!

Kaz: Hey, my arm fell off again.

Bret: Well, here comes Ichiro! Maybe he can carry us through the whole season!

ICHIRO flies at high velocity into the picture. He performs a series of complex ballet maneuvers and then leaps from wall to wall to wall like a deranged jumping spider. Finally, he comes more or less to rest, and stands vibrating madly.

Ichiro: Let us now meet some of our other players! Here's Randy Winn!

Randy: Hi. I'm bald.

Ichiro: And here's Mike Cameron!

Mike: I am also bald.

Ichiro: And here's Mark McLemore!

Mark: I'm almost bald.

Ichiro: Good for you, Mark! And of course we can't forget catcher Dan Wilson!

(Pause.)

Ichiro: Where's Dan?

Bret: We forgot him. He's back at the clubhouse.

Ichiro: Well, then it must be time to introduce our bullpen! Come on out, guys!

Several ANONYMOUS STREET BUMS enter.

Bum: Uh, we were promised showers and omelets.

Edgar: You know, these guys have real heart. And arms! Two apiece!

Ichiro: Well, folks, that's about all the time we have. We hoped to have Freddie Garcia here today, but unfortunately according to certain contractual nuances, he's busy being ground up into sausage, but we're hoping he can rebound from that setback and start not living up to expectations for us again.

Edgar: You said it, Itchy. So from all of us to all of you: thanks for being loyal Mariners fans! Good night!

As picture fades, JOHN OLERUD is seen jogging into the frame.

John: You guys are real dicks. I'm a gold glove winner, you know. Hey, what happened to Carlos?

Edgar: Who?

Blackout.

Tuesday, 14 January
Barely Connected Thoughts That Utterly Fail to Hang Together

I was sitting around rehearsal tonight watching a scene in which a husband and a wife are playing a round of golf together. At one point, the husband walks onto the "green" where his wife is waiting for him, sees his ball, and comments, "Christ, what a lousy lie." Except that tonight he sauntered onstage and said, "Christ, what a lousy lay." And we all had to breathe into paper sacks for a while.

Lousy lays aside, golf is an eminently sensible sport. Really. I've only played about five times in my life, and I never intend to again, but I stand by my statement. Sensible; sensible and utterly right. There's only one other real sport I can think of that is as sensible and right as golf, and that is of course bowling. I submit to you that bowling and golf are the finest of sports, far and away, based on one thing. On-site booze.

On-site booze for the players! That's outstanding! Right-thinking and just! Did you just slice a drive off the fairway? Fuck it! Have a beer! Gutter ball the winning frame? Ehhhhh! Finish your manhattan! Alligators mauled your caddy? Wildly drive the little cart around in circles while whooping "I need a bottle of Absolut and a new caddy, stat!" And so forth.

Why haven't other sports picked up on this important nuance? I cannot think of a sport that would not be improved by fueling up the players, particularly stock-car racing. Everyone wants to see the crashes anyway. This way, there would be nothing but crashes. Everybody wins! Well, except the drivers, but fuck those crackers. This is America! If the populace wants booze-powered human fireballs, then that's what they'll get.

Thursday, 02 January
The Breasts in the Machine

At a bar close to my home--wonderful bar! Strong, cheap drinks; and only one scary regular, but get this: he's a lightweight! He goes home plastered by 7:00 all the time. I can't decide if he's the most successful lush in Lushworld or its saddest failure. Who can't love a bar with a mysterious, paradoxical scary regular? By the way, he does, however, hew closely to the Immutable Law of Barflies: Steve Miller Must Be Played and Played Often. I hardly have to point out that without barflies, Steve Miller would to this day be toiling in obscurity or idly carving "eat me warden" on the wall of some desert gulag, but no, he had to go be their fucking patron saint.

They have something else there at the bar: the MegaTouch. You've seen these; they're basically these cathode ray tubes with touch-sensitive screens, because, you know, you can't ever get enough of other peoples' hand grease on your digits. You can play about a thousand different games on these things, some that seem to have been devised by febrile sociopaths. Why is there an enormous wall of tiny cartoony movie monsters all stacked on each other in neat columns, and why does jabbing some of them with your finger make a whole bunch of them turn into bats and fly away? Nobody knows. Want to play air hockey, but without the air or the hockey? You can! Want to do a word find where the hidden words are all related to metallurgy? Jesus Christ, of course not.

I myself am addicted to two pretty mindless card gamelets, one called Tri Towers and the other 11-Up. They are exactly as tedious as their titles, so I won't bore you with any descriptions, nor any justifications as to why I enjoy them, which is a relief, because there are no plausible justifications of that sort. But these of course are not the reasons MegaTouch exists. Of course not. MegaTouch exists for the "Erotic" games.

Of course we're talking boobs here. There are the gal-(and gay fella-)friendly "Men" options, but you never see it being used. No, guys play things like Strip Poker and Spot-The-Difference and Sex Trivia ("How many quarts of semen does the average man ejaculate in a year?" Please don't tell me!) for one reason, and that's to see some breasts. Now I'm all for this, don't get me wrong--I delight in breasts. But it just kills me that in the Golden Age of Available Porn (thanks, Internet!), guys will still sit around in a bar and hoot at the prospect of catching a chaste glimpse of a model's tits that looks like it was shot in 1974 on someone's front porch in Hoboken. Girls and the gay fellas, if they ever play, of course, are not blessed with the dubious honor of getting to look at any shriveled, embarrassed penises. That would be lewd. But boobs, you bet! Boobs! The guy could easily go home and fire up Google and have his most exacting, specialized set of personal fetishes catered to in seconds--for free, or he's not trying very hard--but somehow the prospect of winning a brief shot of some pixilated melons in a bar still lures him.

I'm sure someone will be delighted to barf up their current thesis on the pervasive sexualization of our consumerist culture, or the double standard of acceptability re: the objectification of gender, or the unremitting onslaught of the televisual media into every cranny of our lives, but these arguments will probably all make me feverishly wish for a drink. So I'll go down there and order some food and a beer and maybe play some Tri Towers for a while. I know I won't play any of the erotica games, because I never do. But then I'll think, "Man, what if they ever decide to just stick Google on these things?"

Things fall apart.

Friday, 13 December
My Fantasy NFL Players Have Imaginary Conversations

Steve McNair: AAAAAAAHH! AAAAAAAAAH!! AAAAAAAHHH!

Donovan McNabb: AAAAAAAARRRRGHH! OH SWEET CHRIST!

Christian Fauria: You not scream. I catch ball.

Steve McNair: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! I CAN'T WAIT TO PLAY, I'M IN SO MUCH PAIN! THIS IS THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD! SWEET AGONY! AAAAHHHH!

Isaac Bruce: Wha . . . what happened? We . . . I . . . we used to be so good . .

Jerome Bettis: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH! AAAAAAAAHHH!

Plaxico Burress: Anyone got some hand grease? For my hands? I'd like to make my hands greasier.

Ed McCaffrey: This is the worst team I've ever been on. I'm going back to the fucking hospital.

Jamal Lewis: Does anyone even notice me anymore? I'm right here, guys.

Christian Fauria: What? Who you? Get us sandwiches.

Jamal Lewis: But . . . oh all right.

Isaac Bruce: . . . we were good once, right guys? You remember . . . just a year ago . . .

Donovan McNabb: AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! AAAAAAAAAAH!

Steve McNair: AAAAAAAAHHHHH! OHHHHHH! MORE! MORE PAIN, LORD!

Jerome Bettis: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! AAHH!

Sebastian Janikowski: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! AAAAAAAAAARRRGH!

Ed McCaffrey: What the fuck is up with Janikowski? He's not hurt.

Plaxico Burress: No, he's just fucking nuts. Check him out--he's eating Icy Hot.

Sebastian Janikowski: GERK! MRAGGAH! ERM!


[Fin]










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