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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Overheard in Los Angeles

Three guys stare at a large picture of Walt Disney.

GUY #1: Walt Disney was the worst dresser. Terrible.
GUY #2: Yeah.
GUY #3: But that's like, from the '20s. He was hip then.
GUY #2: Really?
GUY #3: Yeah.
GUY #1: But the thing is, he bought cheap clothes. He was cheap.
GUY #2: Really?
GUY #1: Yeah. Look at his shirt -- the lines don't match.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Business Called Show

Last night I went to a live stage performance of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Photos of me wearing make-up to follow...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Free at Last

Not two minutes ago I clicked the "send" button to authorize the good people at the finance department of the company who manages my car loan to take money our of my bank account... for the very last time. Ever.

The car is mine. To celebrate, I think I'll give it an oil change this weekend.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Douchebag Phrases/Terms

Seriously meaningless stuff here:

- culture of life
- compassionate conservatism
- #2 al-Qaeda leader
- decider
- operation enduring freedom
- dirty bomb
- briefcase nuke
- enemy combatant
- flip-flopper
- cut and run
- heckuva job

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

On Soccer

Every four years they come out. Soccer haters and soccer apologists alike. The apologists trot out the statistics showing how many little American kids play the sport and how it's growing; and how stupid Americans are because we don't "get" the sport. The haters dust off tired cliches for their hacky editorial columns explaining how boring the sport is and since not many people follow the sport, why should they dedicate any time to cover it.

As far as I'm concerned, both sides are equally obnoxious. At a certain point it becomes akin to watching a debate between Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh; it gets so you just want to at least stab your ears with sharpened chopsticks and, more probably, shoot both of them in their fat heads -- no matter your own ideology.

There's certainly an elitist aspect to a lot of American's interest in soccer -- the haughty tone in proclaiming one's allegiance to Chelsea is one side of the coin whose other side is NASCAR condescension. It's sort of like announcing how worldly and progressive one is -- an ideological identifier that acts as a window giving a glimpse to a lot more about the person than just "they like soccer" in much the same way that someone saying they like Sufjan Stevens tells you a lot more about the person other than just that they like the music of Sufjan Stevens. And a lot of times these people go out of their way to tell you not just why soccer is a great sport, but why you must like it. Why it's imperative you do so. It's the most important sport in the world, and if it's not the most important sport for you than that's just a metaphor for the arrogance and stupidity of America as it relates to the world at large.

A lot of this follows Chuck Klosterman's argument against soccer in his essay from Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs. And it's the part of his argument I agree with. However, then Klosterman delves into an illogical discussion that may explain why he, Chuck Klosterman, doesn't like the sport but isn't a satisfying reason for why you, average American, shouldn't. He basically says it's (paraphrasing here) a sport that allows mediocre child-athletes to hide among the mass of legs stampeding for the ball until their parents no longer force them to play sports. He then argues the merits of baseball by proclaiming the lone batter, with all eyes upon him, is an inherently braver and/or motivated athlete by virtue of the fact they are more willing to stand in the spotlighted batter's box. He continues in the essay by using an anecdotal tale of the Little League baseball team he coached with Machiavellan tactics one summer in high school.

Which, you know, great and all except that was one lousy baseball team and totally not representative of Baseball-with-a-capital-B as a whole. I played one year of baseball myself. They forced the coaches to play every player at least 2 innings in the field. Everyone had a chance to bat. Sounds like the wimpy democracy Klosterman attributes to soccer. Meanwhile, on my soccer teams kids were breaking legs, being benched for whole games (and likewise being rewarded for good play by remaining on the field for whole games), and forced to run laps for poor play. Sounds like the tough tactics Klosterman attributes to "real" American sports.

Sports writers across America are pretending they know who the fuck Miroslav Klose is and why Wayne Rooney's injured foot is a big deal, all while using the terms "nil" and "pitch." And they'll also, in an attempt to pretend they know what they're talking about, hype up specific players (in 2002 it was Clint Mathis. Ooohhh... look at his mohawk! Everyone knew Clint Mathis, and he proceeded to shit the bed. This year it's Landon Donovan. The golden boy who came back to America to play. Except I'm beginning to think he's the most over-rated player since Kobi Jones. The inexplicable benchings when he played in Germany for Bayern Leverkusen are beginning to be understandable). It's all such insincere sentiment. Meanwhile the rest of them spend their time publically complaining about the faux hysteria and hype in America surrounding the tournament and betraying a serious insecurity complex (if no one cares, why are you writing a column in a daily newspaper in a large American metropolis? So you're wasting your paper's space, simultaneously writing to/deriding an audience that, per you, doesn't exist?). It's a lot like that guy who suddenly, randomly, and with no provocation spouts off about gay marriage. Threatened much?

They try and claim soccer is boring. Nothing but 0-0 ties. And the players are wimpy. First of all, do you necessarily need scoring for excitement? A 0-0 game can be dull, sure, but it can also be exciting if the goalies are making brilliant stops or if shots are just barely going wide. Also, these same people enjoy baseball. Baseball is just as excrutiatingly boring on the surface. But those lulls between pitches simply enhances the drama; each pitch and swing/not swing is immediately followed by a cathartic release of pent-up tension and nervousness in players and fans alike. And then it builds up again. Likewise, I'd argue that a 0-0 game, if played well, is inherently more dramatic and interesting than the 6-5 game soccer critics would presumably like to see because each near-miss becomes so much more important. You might not get another chance. And also, like baseball, the thrill comes from the nuance of the sport. Personally I think the chess games of outfield shifts, hit-and-runs, and double-play depth up the middle but in at the corners are fascinating. When do you pull a double-switch? When do you sac-bunt? Likewise, an overlap run to the corner or a long ball switching sides to try an attack from a different angle are interesting to me. And if it was simply excitement you want, then why isn't rugby or hurling or Aussie-rules football popular in America? Because all of those games are much faster-paced than American football, way more violent and dangerous and exciting, and actually make American football players look like a bunch of pussies. (To wit: Darren Bennett, the ex-NFL punter, is an Australian who played Aussie-rules football and, when that game took its toll on his body, became a punter in the NFL. In one game I saw him play, he puntedt he ball 70 yards in the air, and when the returner made it past the rest of the Chargers and it looked like would score a sure touchdown, Bennett tackled him and momentarily knocked him out I repeat: the fucking punter tackled the guy so hard he knocked him out. So it's not that we don't like soccer because it's wimpy. We don't like soccer for the same reasons we don't like rugby or Aussie-rules football: we don't play them and they're less important than baseball, football, and even hockey.

Two more things. One quick: if you call soccer a wimpy sport come out on the field and play me. I'm not very big or strong, but I guarantee you I can make you limp off the field. And not even by going out of my way to hurt you. In the course of the game, I'll hack the shit out of your ankles and/or knees. So watch out. And finally, for those soccer haters who bristle against the hype surrounding the World Cup and bemoan the fact that we're forced to pretend to like the sport because it's a part of the gestalt of the world culture, I give you horse racing. No one fucking cares about horse racing except for 3 specific weeks out of the year. The triple crown races. So why is it OK to be forced to care about Bobby Bathert (or whetever that white-haired guy's name is) or whatever the horse-of-the-day is? All those people putting flowers up by Barbaro's stable? Yeah, he's a fucking horse. He doesn't fucking care. It's not a person. Despite all you equine-philes dearest hopes, those animals don't "get" or "know" or "feel" the importance of the triple crown races. They just run when they can, so please stop personifying them. Secretariat had no idea how monumental it's actions were. Horse racing's place in the American conscience is just as ridiculous as soccer's, if you subscribe to the "don't-care-except-at-specific-times" annoyance towards the sport.

So it all comes down to this: The fact of the matter is a lot of kids play soccer in America, but when they get to high school and have to focus on one sport inevitably choose football (as in, football, not futbal) or baseball. Or they play video games. Or just watch DVDs. Why America hasn't and will not ever fully embrace soccer is just that simple. I played soccer for 18 years. I had Pele posters on my wall and really liked watching Karl-Heinz Rummigie play. I played indoor and outdoor; for school teams and on travel clubs; I went to soccer camps and Olympic Development programs; I won MVP awards and led my teams in scoring; I took on defensive roles and even played goalie one game. My point in mentioning all of this is not to promote my own mediocre athletic prowess, but rather to point out that I was really, really into soccer as a kid, and I still like it a lot, but even my interest pales in comparison to the most marginally-interested Brazilian's fanaticism. Why is soccer not popular in America? It has nothing to do with the inherent nature of the game: we just don't play it. That doesn't mean we're stupid for not playing, and it doesn't mean it's a shitty sport. I grew up in Buffalo, NY, a city with a professional hockey team, professional football team, no professional baseball or basketball and no major college sports. Therefore, I love hockey and like football, don't really care too much about baseball or collehge sports, and fucking despise NBA basketball (talk about monotony and boredom in a game and a bunch of whiny cry-baby athletes, look no further than the NBA). That's how we work. With exceptions, of course, but generally it's just that simple.

So I'm going to watch every single World Cup game that I can, and I'm going to hope Freddie Ljungberg and Thierry Henry and Jens Lehmann have good showings because they also happen to play for Arsenal, the professional team I support, and I'll try and explain to you the nuances of the game in hopes you'll learn to like it.

But if you don't, that's fine, too. All I ask is you people irrationally crapping on the sport: please shut up. You have no idea what you're talking about, and your fervor only makes you look more idiotic. And you militant soccer advocates? You aren't doing yourself or the sport any favors, and the whole persecution complex thing similarly makes you look idiotic.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Pele, Rivaldo, Zuco, Ronaldo, Bebeto, Ronaldinho, Cafu

If I played in the World Cup for Brazil, I would be known as:

Kevino Carlos de los Lappin; a.k.a. Lappinho

Monday, June 12, 2006

All of My Friends' Kids Were There... Not Just My Friends' Kids, But Their Friends' Kids Too

The past two years have seen an alarming number of my friends get married. Last year I was invited to 8 weddings; the year before I went to 3 weddings. I also know four couples who are engaged and who will most likely invite me to their weddings. The sheer quantity has helped me take each new engagement-ring-appearance in stride, and the sheer quality of all of them has made me kind of look forward to the next one.

Kids are a different thing.

Don't get me wrong, I really like kids. A lot. I want to have a few myself someday. The key word here is someday. On Saturday I went to my friends' house to meet their 3-week-old daughter, Eleanor. Who is really adorable. And who is not fussy at all. And who is their second child. In a matter of moments (horrible pain-filled labor moments...) my friends went from "my friends who have a kid" to being a family. I mean, the three of them were technically a family, but now they're a family family. And so there I was in a house in Sherman Oaks eating potato salad and bratwurst as one little kid was careening all around the house vying for my attention while the second tinier one just sort of stared at me with a vague "what-the-fuck?-I'm-getting-used-to-it-here-but-I-still-think-I-liked-the-womb-better" look, and then spit up. Again, I like kids a lot so the spit-up didn't bother me in the least, but the whole Big Picture disconnect between this scene and my normal everyday single 27-year-old life did bother me. But it was more of an inkling; the perception that there was something else at work here. It wasn't until later that I fully understood it.

Which is when we were bowling. My friends, some of their friends they know through various parent groups, and I all went bowling. Now these are cool, hip people. My one friend is a television writer, his wife has an acting/dancing background, and one of their friends is a music producer. They're all smart, politically-aware, and funny. Genuinely funny. And when one of them announced how great it felt to have the kids at home with a babysitter affording them a few hours of not worrying about anything and letting loose with a few beers... when one of them announced this and everyone else agreed and I just sat there timidly smiling because this was my night to relax and take it easy with only three beers, well, I realized my friends had moved on. And this was made all the more clear when my references to the newest bands and Stephen Colbert at the White House Press Correspondants dinner and Deadwood's season premier and the World Cup and the merits of the new bars in Silverlake and McSweeney's latest quarterly... when I referenced all of these things everyone was vaguely aware of their existence but didn't have any first-hand knowledge to add to the discussion. "Discussion" which was basically my monologue ("oh, yeah, that Wolf Parade album is really good I think and I'm going to see Belle & Sebastian at the Hollywood Bowl and Stephen Colbert must have balls to talk to the president like that and Al Swearengen is one of the great television characters of the past 10 years and Michael Ballack is hurt but Germany will still do well and I really like the Shortstop they play good music there and McSweeney's 19 is really cool it came in a cigar box." "Oh. Sure")

So basically I've lost some friends. Next weekend I'll be out at a bar with some other young, single people and I'll be wasting Saturday doing nothing and going to concerts and doing all kinds of other leisurely activities because basically the single life is the leisure life. And it'll be a few months before I see my friends again because they're too busy for me. And I say this in a completely non-judgemental way. That's just the way it is. Because they're interested in all of those things that I am, but those things really don't matter anymore, because Wil was sick a few weeks ago and with the 2nd kid they really don't sleep a lot and sure, even if they were free that Thursday night and could get a sitter again they'd love to see Belle & Sebastien but pediatrician visits aren't cheap so they really can't blow the $50 on concert tickets. As they shouldn't. Because they're legitimately good, responsible people. Selfless people, really. They've given up a lot for their children. And here you can see that the underlying, fundamental reasons they're such great parents are basically the same reasons they're such great friends. They were always there for me, but now they have to always be there for their kids.

And it's why I won't see them too much anymore.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

What Else Can You All Care About Less?

As much as I love hockey, I have zero interest in watching the Stanley Cup Finals. Watching two teams play for the Holy Grail of hockey while my team -- the team that should be playing (and winning) if not for a ridiculous-and-almost-comical rash of injuries -- sits at home is akin to watching your smoking-hot ex-girlfriend out on a date with another guy. Who you know, you just know, you're better than. And what's more, watching Carolina actually beating up on Edmonton is akin to watching your smoking-hot ex-girlfriend totally making out with said guy.

So, on to other sports no one in America cares about. Soccer!

At least this year I have the World Cup to take my mind off of all things disappointing. I just selected a Fantasy Soccer Team for the tournament, and for someone who doesn't get a chance to watch a lot of soccer, I'm feeling pretty confident in my team. The stipulations on selecting your team is: you MUST adhere to a 4-4-2 formation and; you are limited to two (2) players from a nation. It's pretty heavy on European players and Premiership players, simply because that's what I know best. So, without further adieu (not Freddy Adoo, he'll play next World Cup) I present Lappin's Rovers:

GK: Dida (Brazil)

FB: Sol Campbell (England) FB: Juan Pablo Sorin (Argentina)
FB: Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast) FB: David Rozehnal (Czech Republic)

MF: Freddie Ljungberg (Sweden) MF: Frankie Lampard (England)
MF: Zinadine Zidane (France) MF: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)

ST: Ronaldinho (Brazil) ST: Andrei Shevchenko (Ukraine)

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Oil

I understand that a southern/warm weather city having a team do well in the NHL can only be good for the health of the sport of hockey, the only sport I'm die-hard about. I thought this when Tampa won the Stanley Cup a couple years ago and when Anaheim and Carolina made it to the finals in the recent past. I'm not as antagonistic towards the warm weather teams as a lot of hockey fans are.

However, I never understood the idea of rooting for the team that knocks your team out of the playoffs. "Hey, we lost, but at least we lost to the best team - the team that won it all. No shame there..." Maybe I'm too vengeful a person. I don't buy into it as a literal power, but I think the idea of karma is awesome. Come-uppances excite me. And while in the big picture it isn't really the case of anyone doing anything wrong to the point of "getting their just desserts" or "reaping what they sow" or any of that, from my perspective it is, and that's all I care about right now because my Buffalo Sabres are out of the playoffs.

Therefore, fuck the Carolina Hurricanes.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

If I Had a Shuffle, I'd Shuffle in the Morning... I'd Shuffle in the Evening... All Over This Land

Maybe not the 50 greatest, and maybe not even my 50 favorites, but here are 50 songs I can listen to at any time in any mood; can never turn off or change the station/track when they're on.

"God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys
"Where is My Mind?" by the Pixies
"Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass
"Sweet Jane" by the Velvet Underground
"Venus" by Television
"Boys Don't Cry" by the Cure
"Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division
"Tangled Up in Blue" by Bob Dylan
"Lost in the Supermarket" by the Clash
"Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash
"Jesus Don't Want Me For a Sunbeam" by Nirvana
"Fix Up, Look Sharp" by Dizzee Rascal
"Pablo Picasso" by the Modern Lovers
"Screenwriter's Blues" by Soul Coughing
"Death of a Clown" by the Kinks
"Race For the Prize" by the Flaming Lips
"The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth" by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
"Starman" by David Bowie
"Fairytale in New York" by the Pogues, with Kirsty MacColl
"Radio Free Europe" by R.E.M.
"Don't Sweat the Technique" by Eric B. & Rakim
"Outtasite (Outta Mind)" by Wilco
"Alison" by Elvis Costello
"Man In Me" by Bob Dylan
"Come a Little Bit Closer" by Jay & the Americans
"My Name is Jonas" by Weezer
"The Boxer" by Simon & Garfunkel
"Lucky" by Radiohead
"I Will Follow" by U2
"Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" by the Ramones
"The Passenger" by Iggy Pop
"I Saw Her Standing There" by the Beatles
"September Gurls" by Big Star
"Common People" by Pulp
"Jolene" by Dolly Parton
"Boogie Chillin'" by John Lee Hooker
"Walk On the Wild Side" by Lou Reed
"Fight the Power" by Public Enemy
"Charmless Man" by Blur
"Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" by the Beatles
"Mack the Knife" by Bobby Darin
"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder
"Heart of Gold" by Neil Young
"Going Underground" by The Jam
"Monkey Gone to Heaven" by the Pixies
"Freak Scene" by Dinosaur Jr.
"Hear My Train A-Comin'" (acoustic version) by Jimi Hendrix
"Summer Babe (Winter Version)" by Pavement
"Bucky Done Gun" by M.I.A.
"Street Fighting Man" by the Rolling Stones

Cool People, Per Me (Part I; the Dudes)

Cool dudes:

Charles Thompson

Great songwriter.

Bill Hicks

Comedian who "got it" before the rest of us. RIP.

David Foster Wallace

Some people say he's pretentious, but when you're that good a writer, well... what are you gonna do?


Thierry Henry is my favorite player, but Ronaldinho always looks like he's having a ton of fun.

George Saunders

Short story writer. Brilliant satirist. Incredibly nice man.

D. Boon

Another great songwriter. Plus he seems like he was just a really good guy. RIP.

Henry Rollins

Black Flag was great and all, but his spoken-word stuff, TV show and LA radio show expose a lot more about the guy. Super-angry and super-menacing, but super-smart too.

Chuck Klosterman

I'd like to get shitty drunk with him and argue about pop culture.