Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Louisiana, 2005

This post about the tsunami last December contained lyrics from Randy Newman's "Louisiana, 1927." Never more appropriate than they are now...

Louisiana 1927

What has happened down here is the winds have changed
Clouds roll in from the north and it started to rain
Rained real hard and rained for a real long time
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline

The river rose all day
The river rose all night
Some people got lost in the flood
Some people got away alright
The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines
Six feet of water in the streets of Evangelne

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

President Coolidge came down in a railroad train
With a little fat man with a note-pad in his hand
The President say, "Little fat man isn't it a shame
what the river has done to this poor crackers land."

Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tyrin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away
Louisiana, Louisiana
They're tryin' to wash us away
They're tryin' to wash us away

No Dark Sarcasm in the Classroom

A preschool makes a comeback and Douglass College fights for its feminist life.

Stormy Weather

Wanna see a CNN weatherman throw a shit fit after getting interrupted? 'Course you do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Top Five Songs About Running

(Yes, I know the Neil Young song is about his car)

5. Run Like Hell, Pink Floyd
4. Long May You Run, Neil Young
3. Running on Empty, Jackson Browne
2. Running With The Devil, Van Halen
1. Born to Run, Bruce Springsteen

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Too Old For This Shit

Random thoughts while watching the MTV Video Music Awards, mostly in fast forward:
  • John Norris dresses like a fag, but he doesn't seem gay, which makes dressing like a fag much worse
  • Kurt Loder and Norris have somehow circumvented the MTV Menudo-like policy of firing anyone from on-camera duty after reaching puberty; Loder has become Old Man Legitimacy for a network fond of hiring such luminaries as Sway and Gideon Yago, so it makes some sense to keep him around; Who Norris has been sucking off to keep employed is anyone's guess
  • Diddy sucks even without the P.
  • Shakira can really thrust her pelvis like nobody's business; I'm also pretty sure she might have been singing or something
  • I've seen or even heard of only two of the videos nominated; I consider this a badge of honor
  • When did MTV turn into BET? Seriously, there were maybe 4 white people in the whole broadcast and one of them was Eric Roberts. What's wrong, MTV? Scott Baio was busy?
  • Shouldn't R. Kelly be in jail? Didn't he piss on a 14-year-old girl? I'm pretty sure that's illegal, even in Chicago
  • Alicia Keys would be hotter if she didn't wear those peculiar side cornrows; Did she just get back from a vacation on Barbados or something? She might as well appear on stage with her sea shell collection
  • Kelly Clarkson is still kinda cute; wonder if she's a coke addict yet
  • Most rap music performed live in concert comes off too breathless and frantic to be enjoyable; all energy and no style
  • Apparently, Eva Longoria is a dirty, skanky whore
  • Green Day has been around for 16 years? I am really, really, really old
  • And the MVP of the MTV awards: my DVR, which made this ordeal mercifully brief

They say never work with animals, children or David Hasselhoff

[Insert Bad Dog Pun Here]

A bunch of people and their dogs walk into The New Jersey Museum of Agriculture on a Saturday afternoon. There is no punchline. Just this story.

The Self-Absorbed Christian

Every self-proclaimed Christian in this country must read Bill McKibben's essay from the August issue of Harper's. And agnostic anti-religion folks (the sensible ones) should check it out to get some refreshing perspective on just how hypocritical we are in this country. Oh, it's not just supposed holy men like Pat Robertson preaching Jesus' supposed hatred for fags or how God would be cool with murdering Venezuelan presidents. No, we're all hypocrits. Me included.

But check this out:

Only 40 percent of Americans can name more than four of the Ten Commandments, and a scant half can cite any of the four authors of the Gospels. Twelve percent believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. This failure to recall the specifics of our Christian heritage may be further evidence of our nation's educational decline, but it probably doesn't matter all that much in spiritual or political terms. Here is a statistic that does matter: Three quarters of Americans believe the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves." That is, three out of four Americans believe that this uber-American idea, a notion at the core of our current individualist politics and culture, which was in fact uttered by Ben Franklin, actually appears in Holy Scripture. The thing is, not only is Franklin's wisdom not biblical; it's counter-biblical. Few ideas could be further from the gospel message, with its radical summons to love of neighbor. On this essential matter, most Americans--most American Christians--are simply wrong, as if 75 percent of American scientists believed that Newton proved gravity causes apples to fly up.
I have no problem with stupid Americans. I have no problem with religious Americans. I have no problem with hypocritical Americans. It's the stupid, religious, hypocritical ones that scare the bejesus out of me. You know. The ones running the place.

Men Smart, Women Smarter (Not)

It ain't me, it's the research that says men are five IQ points smarter than women on average. So, shut up and go get me my turkey pot pie, bitch.

Cellu- (Light My Way)

You know those impossibly beautiful, too-good-to-be-true hotties on the cover of glossy magazines? Check out Glenn Feron's retouching portfolio and marvel at our insatiable need to dupe ourselves with unattainable perfection. You will never look at Tyra Banks' breasts the same way again. As if that were possible anyway.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Traffic Mitigation for Dummies

Wassat? You wanna know how Rutgers plans to deal with The Great Route 18 Fuck D. Bones Project? Well here you go, little lemming. Read on.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Scarlet Letters

Rutgers students begin to move in, and the town prepares for madness and sex in the streets.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Into the Fire

I've got to say something and it won't be popular. The 9/11 families need to chill out.

Now, I have little standing to criticize. I have never lost a mother, father, brother, sister or child. My grandparents have died of natural causes.

A second cousin of mine who worked in the World Trade Center was killed on September 11, 2001. We weren't close. But when the family gets together at my aunt's house, his mother and sometimes his brother are there. He is not.

A fraternity brother of mine also died in that attack. He was three years older than me. We called him Freddy "The Bug." He made me photocopy my notes for a class we once took.

All this, and yet the tears I cried that day and since have been more for the overall tragedy. A shared grief with those who lost so much more. For our lost innocence. For the therapy of letting out what can only destroy from the inside. I have no right to criticize how anyone grieves. Grieving people often go a little insane. It's their right.

But while I'm driving in my car, and a woman whose son died in New York that day comes on the radio and demands that the city sift through every last piece of remains from the World Trade Center, full of rage that her son is doomed to spend eternity on a pile of garbage on Staten Island -- I got angry.

At her.

"It's a knife going through my heart. These type of remains deserve a proper burial and not that type of treatment," said Sally Regenhard, who lost her firefighter son Chris on 9/11 and is part of group suing the city. None of his remains were ever identified. "There is some remnant of human life there, no matter how microscopic."

Likely so. And so what? Does every person who has lost a loved one in a tragedy deserve no expenses spared for a proper burial? Is the site of every airplane crash hallowed ground? Do we sift the dirt of such disasters through an ultra-fine mesh and scan it with an electron microscope? Should we strain the oceans for every decomposed remnant of people drowned in sunken boats or eaten by sharks? Is it too late to raise the Titanic for surviving kin?

The 9/11 families exercise justified anger. At their government for failing to protect their loved ones. And even more, for continued failures to act for our protection outside business-as-usual pork barrel politics and ill-advised oversees military campaigns. Their voices and anguish have served us all, pushing for the creation of the 9/11 commission and working to see its recommendations implemented.

But they are not owed the world. Tragedies happen every day and to people without emotionally potent and well-connected lobbying groups at their disposal. The estimated hundreds of millions (or even tens of millions) needed to rake over the Fresh Kills Landfill would be money better spent almost anywhere else. Our country doesn't need more monuments and cemeteries. It needs border security and defenses for our infrastructure.

Again, I can't imagine how grueling it is not to have even the smallest physical token of my son's existence. But Chris Regenhard, like so many others, was likely vaporized in the sudden collapse of a 110-story building. More people may have breathed some of him into their lungs that day than attended his funeral. This is the cold, sad truth. Spending a fortune in public money to provide some solace to a mother who certainly could never be consoled would be an additional tragedy.

The songs and passages of our youth tell our simple story. We are stardust. Dust in the wind. From dust to dust...

Sally Regenhard, please understand. Chris is not stuck in a pile of garbage. He is golden. He is in your heart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ebert's Thumb Up Your Ass

I've been reading Roger Ebert's column in the Chicago Sun Tribune for years. I figure he's the one movie critic with whom I agree the most--maybe 90% of the time.

But he's more than a thumb pointing up or down. The guy can write. He knows how to take different approaches to reviewing different kinds of movies. He muses about plot logic, character quirks and physics. He can describe a subtle performance with evocative language. He can be damn funny. And even though Hollywood recycles ideas wholesale, he seldom repeats himself. Seldom is he better than when the move just blows. To wit:

The worst movies Roger Ebert has ever seen.

Monday, August 15, 2005

SING ALONG: I'm just a bill, yes I'm only a bill, and I'm sitting here on Capitol Hill as a fully-funded proxy of a corporation in direct opposition to American security and financial interests...

Congressional Sausage

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibi explains how a bill becomes a law. Oh, how I wish it were a cartoon scroll with the voice of Jack Sheldon sitting on the steps of Capitol Hill.

The Real World: White House

Apparently, someone at The White House reads the newspapers and figured out that the adventure in Iraq ain't really going according to Dick and Don's shiny happy plans. From the Washington Post:

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Think the feller hanging out for five weeks ranchin' in Crawford has been told this?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Preschools and White Coats

If you find this complicated story involving New Brunswick preschool funding or this one about a medical school ceremony interesting, then you really are a fan. Please feel free to send me dirty pictures and drugs.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Jersey Wannabe Wife Swappers Wearing Wife Beaters

ABC's "Wife Swap" holds an open casting call at the Middlesex County Fair yesterday, and New Jersey characters put on a show.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Last Circle of Hell

Reporting on the $200 million, 4-year reconstruction of Rt. 18 that began yesterday almost made me want to cry. Why didn't anyone tell me about this disaster before I signed a friggin' lease? I already avoid this road--the most vital road I need to get to my apartment or go to work--during rush hour and lunch. What the hell is gonna look like when they shut down the overpasses and on-ramps?

If anyone is looking for me, I'll be sitting in traffic and cursing the gods.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock 'n Roll College Dorm

The brand-spanking new Rockoff Hall was opened in downtown New Brunswick yesterday, and I know you want all the adorable details. This is what I do.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The best pitchers throw a 70 mph fastball from 48 feet away, which translates to over 100 mph from 60 feet

A Whiff of Sportswriting

This story didn't make the online edition for some reason. And got severely lobotomized in the printing/editing process. So here it is in its entirety.

SOUTH PLAINFIELD: Steve Cavico of the Kane Park professional whiffle-ball team in South Plainfield heard more than he saw. Standing stolid, 48 feet from the mound and gripping the wooden handle of his wide plastic blue-barreled bat, he last saw the hollow, hole-filled ball leave the pitcher's hand near his ankles, whipping the grass with a sputtering whistle until it quickly rose and smacked the sheet- metal striike zone, almost at his neck. Cavico could only freeze in admiration.

"Oohh, nice pitch," he said. "Whoa!''

If you haven't heard of Kane Park, it is likely you have never been in Kevin Kane's backyard, which bears that stadium-like nickname and which is where the team had its humble beginnings. And you likely haven't heard of the FastPlastic professional whiffle ball league, which had its last regional qualifying tournament of the season yesterday at Veterans Park in South Plainfield. Kane and Cavico's teammate Kris Nagy is the Northeast regional director.

"What you can do with a whiffle ball simulates high competition baseball, and the guys are great,'' said Nagy, 25, who is from South Plainfield but currently lives in The Bronx, N.Y., and works for an environmental engineering firm in Manhattan. "It's all see-the-ball, hit-the-ball with this game. Half the battle is seeing the ball.''

And this sport, moving from backyards to the big time across the country, is something to see.

Yesterday morning, Kane Park, whose four-member team wear matching blue-and-orange jerseys, battled mightily in a 2-0 loss against the pitcher from The Old School Risers, a Maryland team that traveled the farthest for this 16-team all-day tournament. In addition to that wicked rising fastball, the Maryland pitcher throws an evil split-fingered something that looks like a beautiful meatball before dropping clear out of sight.

"If you've never seen a pitcher before, he's very tough to hit and see what he's doing," said Cavico, 34, a technology salesman from Brick. "But we've hit guys like this before. Sometimes it's early in the morning, and you're barely awake."

Rather than wake before dawn, Nagy and Kane, 27, who teaches history and law at Woodbridge High School, set up the eight fields Friday, taking five hours to erect the carefully measured orange construction netting and PVC pipe that mark the backstops and outfield fences. Kane said that the materials cost about $1,500, which includes insurance to use the park, and comes out of each team's $100 entrance fee.

The top prize for this tournament was $400, with second place worth $200. But the real prize is in accumulating enough points over the season to qualify for the playoffs, and a chance to win travel expenses and the honor of representing the region at the national tournament in Austin, Texas, this Columbus Day Weekend.

Last year, The Swingers from Middletown blew through the field of 40 teams from 14 regions across the country, riding a 9-0 record to the national championship and a $3,500 cash prize. With the sport's growing popularity, this year's prize is expected to be $5,000.

FastPlastic plays six innings of whiffle ball, in which teams of two to five players compete in a game with imaginary runners. Three strikes are an out, and four balls are a walk. A pitcher and two fielders can field ground balls for outs if they catch them on a fly or handle them cleanly in front of a line painted on the ground and then make a smooth throw to the backstop. Balls that stop rolling before a fielder or that pass them are singles. Balls that roll to the outfield fences are doubles; those that hit them on a fly are triples. And over the fence is a home run.

Hits advance imaginary runners much as real runners would in a baseball game. A single scores a man on second. Doubles clear the bases. There are other peculiar rules, but mostly they adhere to those of Major League Baseball.

The average age of players hovers in the mid-20s, though Kane said that they had a 45-year-old play in a previous tournament. And although one-time San Francisco Giants pitcher Chuck Hensley played in Texas last year, these are not world-class athletes.

The Niffs, a team from New Hyde Park in Long Island, N.Y., swig from Budweiser cans at 9 a.m. and smoke cigarettes between at-bats. Does this cause them any trouble with, say, eye-hand coordination? "Right now, no,'' said Nick Tullo, who said he was ", 21."

But, as The Wiffled Wonders from South Plainfield are learning, it takes some considerable skill. Playing against the Hit Men from Vineland, Wonders pitcher Jimmy Quartuccio was feeling his age: 15.

"I thought I'm gonna play people my own age," Jimmy said of his first pro game in April. "And I come here and people are driving their cars and bringing their kids. I'm the youngest guy around here."

Jimmy, who plays baseball for Colonia High School, was on the mound against the Hit Men in his green-sleeved baseball shirt and green kneesocks. As sweat fell from his brown moptop and scraggly facial hair, he slid into his wind-up again and again, throwing hard, but throwing many more balls than strikes.

After the game, Elvin Cortez, 33, of the Hit Men told Jimmy: "You've got to take your lumps. Throw strikes. If you overthrow all the time, you're gonna get hurt."

Which is just what happened to Jerry Riso, 31, of the defending champion Swingers. "I threw too much last year, and it was doctor time," he said. "I never thought I'd have to go to the doctor for whiffle ball."

But the ball itself requires doctoring to achieve that insane movement. "You've got to scuff up the ball the right way," Kane said. "You can't take it out of the box and throw.''

Dan Erhardt, 17, of the Wiffled Wonders said he buys a dozen balls at a time. "I have a two-hour ritual," he said. "I sit in my driveway and rub them against the pavement in the blazing sun and number them. One time we used a cheese grater."

As the sun receded and the Mud Ducks beat the Swingers 3-0 to win the tournament at 7:30 p.m., almost everyone agreed their sport was ready for primetime.

"This should be on ESPN," Dan "Neif" Ennis of the Niffs said between drags on his cigarette. "They have hot-dog eating contests, Scrabble and Foosball tournaments. Why not whiffle ball?"

The answer was easy to see.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Time Machine

X-Entertainment has a site filled with hundreds of commercials from the '80s. Big League Chew, Underoos, GI-Joe, Laser Tag...too much fun for hopeless nostalgia addicts like me.

Endless Clouds of the Adolescent Mind

During my move, I came across a bunch of crates filled with high school notebooks (yes, I keep everything). Thought I'd share this song, labled "copyright 1992, 12:53 p.m. (English class)":

Loud and raucous: with feeling
Words and music by Harley Smoot

These Songs (For the Cynical Activist)

Cars and stars and bars and buildings
Nicks and nacks and nukes and killings
Hold the phones and tolls and buildings
Right the wrongs these songs we're singing...

What is wrong with bombs and babies?
Why shoot the dog, the kid with rabies?
Why fill the world with don'ts and maybes?
How much longer must we sing these...

Songs we're singing grow longer
All the wrong muscles getting stronger
Our eyes are covered with crawlers
And the waves crash into the shore

Farts with hearts are just not pumping
The monks, the punks, the guidos jumping
Up and down the tight rumps rumping
Words for nerds and no one's singing (these)


Denim's venom holds the stripper's zipper
Stuff the string does the highest tipper
Latch-on losers, tarrif on the shipper
March the town or maybe is it hipper (to sing these)


Teaching is a Noble Profession

And here's one from '91--self-explanatory, really--simply titled "English Class."

Pain is not a fun thing.
Why would laughter come to mind
When your testicles in a blender grind?

Anguish is no good time.
How could smiles cross your face
With your head caved in by an iron mace?

Torture is not a party.
Who could dance or move his feet
When your brain, some bitch does beat?

Odes to the Anatomy

And one last trip down twisted memory lane. This one is dated 12/11/91 and features some clever doodles that I can't do justice here.

Not a pretty thing
No voice with which to sing
Some hair, a crack, two parts
Pressure builds, then farts

Two friends, such plump amigos
They bob wherever she goes
No foe can come between us
A place to stick my ______

No nose with which to smell
Could ever live to tell
The tongue to lick the dish
The place that smells like fish

What? I cannot hear
A thing without my ear
If bad, the things you say
My ear, I turn away