Aug 31, 2007

"Here and Now" This Week

Tonight's "Here and Now" commentary goes out to all the U.S. Americans:

There's even a little acting. I smell Emmy....

I also need to clarify a point made on the original broadcast. The introduction to my commentary mentioned that I wanted to see the program "cut." That's not really the case - I'm merely lobbying for more parental involvement in the program. Either way, I can imagine the Wisconsin Public Television e-mail server is kindly accepting hate mail as we speak.

As Flannery O'Connor said, "you have to push as hard as the age that pushes against you."

Get Your "Here and Now" On

Tonight's the night. Pour a glass of wine, light some candles, get the love oils out, and settle down with the one you love to watch "Here and Now" on public television together. I will be providing some moderately considered commentary at roughly the 24 minute mark.

For those in markets where it's not on until Sunday, you can catch it online here. I'll try to post my part on the site here after it's on.

This may be the week that I finally get thrown off the air forever. So you may want to watch carefully.

Aug 29, 2007

Larry Craig: Very Not Gay

I have to sheepishly admit that it took me a while to figure out what the whole Larry Craig deal was about. And I have to admit that when I found out that he was lookin' for love in all the wrong places, I just said "is that it?"

As everyone knows now, Craig plead guilty to soliciting an undercover officer for sex in an airport bathroom. Craig steadfastly maintains that he's not gay - although he's pretty sure that the last couple of guys he hosed in bathroom stalls probably were. (Okay, I actually made that up.)

Liberals have jumped on Craig (not in that way), saying he's a hypocrite for doing such things as opposing gay marriage. I actually think that makes him perfectly consistent - if you polled straight married guys, you'd find a lot of them are against marriage, as well. Craig is just sparing other gay couples the nagging and having to eat leftovers all the time.

What I find interesting is that there's apparently some kind of bathroom code for soliciting sex. Sliding your foot under the door of the next stall is supposed to be a sign or something. Where exactly are these rules posted? If there was a website explaining the code, I propose they rename it it "Craigslist." Assuming it's not taken.

I suppose, in Craig's defense, it's entirely possible he just got the code mixed up. He could have thought the double-toe-tap actually meant "can I have some of your Doritos?"

There is a lesson here about airport bathrooms, though. Be very careful if you go into a stall while listening to your iPod and tapping your foot. You could end up in the middle of a hot man sandwich before you know it.

Anyway, if there was any question as to whether Craig is gay, this video should put that nasty rumor to rest:

Things I'd Rather be Doing

Rumor has it that there is some sort of "baseball contest" being performed at Wrigley Field tonight. I, for one, would rather watch "Chocolate Rain" on a three hour loop than watch any more Brewer games this year:

Aug 28, 2007

Quiz Time

By now, you may have heard about the Meng brothers, Chinese miners who had to go to extraordinary lengths to stay alive while trapped in a mine:

Trapped miners ate coal, drank urine

BEIJING - The Meng brothers felt pretty good about their chances of making it out of the collapsed coal mine, until the sound of digging from outside stopped. With no food or water, they were forced to eat coal and drink their own urine from discarded bottles. When they were too exhausted to try to dig themselves out, they slept huddled together in the cold and dark. Meng Xianchen and Meng Xianyou finally clawed their way to the surface after nearly six days underground — a rare tale of survival in China's coal mines, the world's deadliest, where an average of 13 workers are killed every day.

Now a question for Brewer fans - would you rather watch the Brewers play the Cubs for the upcoming three game series, or would you rather be trapped in a mine, forced to eat coal and drink your own urine? Take plenty of time to think about it.

POST GAME 1 UPDATE: It's urine in a landslide.

11 Guys You Meet in Pickup Basketball

11 Guys At The Playground

Aug 27, 2007

Fabulous Investing

I was trying to find the name of a financial advisor in Madison, and ran into this guy, who seems to practice a unique brand of investing:

Jaime Zimmerman
Private Wealth Management
Vice President

"I work with a wide range of people from varied walks of life. For those in the community who are lesbian or gay, financial services and socially responsible investment advice are very crucial considerations. Many of my clients are gay or lesbian and I specialize in the financial challenges unique to the GLBT community."

Look, I'm all for this guy trying to carve out his own niche in the investment business. He's in downtown Madison, and it's just smart to try to cater to the LGBT population. He's probably an excellent financial advisor. And I would think there are differences in retirement and investment strategies for partners legally unable to be married.

But how, exactly, do you "gay up" your investment portfolio? Isn't money money? "Yeah, Jamie, I've been a little disappointed in the loads of money you've been making me by investing in all these straight companies. Can you shift everything to the Vanguard Fabulous Fund?" How much money can you really make by investing solely in Subaru Outbacks? What exactly is the gay/straight exchange rate?

If there are LGBT-related investment strategies that yield higher returns, I'll sink my money in tomorrow. Otherwise, so-called "socially responsible" investments are generally a sham. At some point, the status of all your investments is going to depend on how well "big oil" is doing. Time to get used to it.

Plus, gay couples already have a leg up on straight couples in money management. They usually adhere to the best advice any financial advisor can give people who want to keep their money: don't have kids.

Why I Love Wisconsin

I watched Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker win the Barclays golf tournament yesterday, which catapulted him into first place in the FedEx standings (whatever the hell those are). With the Brewers blowing more than Jenna Jameson, it is cool to see a good Wisconsin sports story.

But after Stricker made his final putt and got choked up during his post-win interview, I realized how much more important his win was. As he walked off the green, he got a big hug from fellow Wisconsin golfer Jerry Kelly, who was waiting for him. And in a small way, I though Kelly's hug was so Wisconsin. I mean, here's two guys who are friends from the same state, but constantly competing against each other. But when one succeeds, the other is there to show his appreciation and offer his congratulations.

There are plenty of golfers that hail from the same areas - mostly California and Florida - but you never see these guys wait for each other to congratulate their pals on winning a tournament. I hadn't seen that before. And it just seems fitting that they're Wisconsin guys. In a hokey way, it seems like that's what we're all about. Furthermore, I have never received a hug in Minnesota, so screw those guys.

Anyway, it was a nice touch on a day that I concluded that the Brewers have now shaved five years off of my life. When they deliver my eulogy, they should say "he lived a good life, but it could have been a lot longer if not for the 2007 Milwaukee Brewers."

Aug 26, 2007

News You Can Use

A few weeks ago, the HD Discovery Channel started running episodes of a show called "It's All Geek to Me." It's a show hosted by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue, and offers reviews and tips on new technologies. (Although two months after filming, the episodes are usually out of date.)

The Discovery Channel posts what they call "show notes" that run through the suggestions found in the episodes. I found the notes relating to the show on cell phones pretty helpful. For instance:

Secret “get to the beep” keystrokes:

As noted in the show, you don’t have to listen to the endless outgoing greeting when you just want to leave someone a voicemail message. You can cut directly to the beep by pressing a certain key:
Verizon: press *
Sprint: press 1
T-Mobile or Cingular/AT&T: press #

At the end, I noted sadly that: “Of course, you have to know which carrier the person you’re calling uses, so you know which keystroke to use!”

This remains the fatal flaw of my genius idea (publicizing the “cut to the beep” keystrokes).
But here’s the genius solution: publicize it yourself! When you record your voicemail greeting, say, “Push star at any time to skip Verizon’s gibberish,” or whatever. That way, your callers hear your voice but not the recorded lady’s, and they don’t have to remember what the keystroke is.

I hereby charge the Pogue Army with the task of changing their outgoing cell phone messages, this very day. Let’s teach those cell carriers that they’re not going to run up our bill so easily!

And if you're stuck and need free directory assistance:

Call 800-FREE-411. You have to listen to a 20-second ad, but it’s better than paying $2 to your carrier for directory assistance!

Or send a text message to GOOGL (46645) that says “Robert Gonzales 10024” (or whatever person or business you’re looking for). Google will send back the full name, address, and phone number, within just a few seconds.

BONUS TIP: After the show aired, a reader wrote to inform me that you can now have the best of both worlds. You can get FREE directory assistance, WITHOUT having to send a text message! Unfortunately, it’s only a Yellow Pages at the moment (business numbers only — not residential).

The hero again is Google. Just call 800-GOOG-411.

There's even a free service for the times where you know you're going to be in a boring meeting and want to have someone call you:

You can program to call your cell phone at a specified time, to get you out of a boring meeting or a bad date. It’s free — and it’s awesome!

You can go to the Discovery Channel website to see the tips David Pogue offers on laptop computers, digital cameras, video cameras, and other electronics products.

Looks That Kill

I was perusing some of my older CDs today, and ran across Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil." In looking at the cover, I was noticing that all the guys in the band really had the glam look down. The whole '80s hair band effeminate look. That is, all of them except Mick Mars. He's just a terrible, terrible looking woman. Honestly, if I were to run into the Crue at a bar, he'd be the only one I'd have a chance to hook up with. See below:

The question is: At the time, do you think he was upset at being an ugly female, or did he carry it around as a badge of honor? Is being able to pass as a reasonably good looking chick a bonus? I could go either way on this. I need convincing.

Aug 24, 2007

May God Bless the Japanese

No explanation necessary. The Japanese are insane.

Aug 23, 2007

Go Get Your Sykes Book

I went to the Madison West Side Barnes and Noble today to pick up Charlie Sykes' book that came out today (The 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School), and they were sold out. So was the Hilldale Borders. Finally, the Hilldale University Bookstore had a copy, but mainly because nobody actually shops at Hilldale.

So go get your copy, or order it online. I haven't read much of it yet - I'm leaving that to the Andrew Bogut bobblehead in my office.

And congrats to local Wisconsin bloggers who show up in the book - Lance Burri, Rick Esenberg, and Tom McMahon. I'm not in it, but I will take full credit for the book's Jessica Alba reference on Page 12. Fortunately, readers consider me Wisconsin's foremost "Albatist," so they send me pictures of her shopping without a bra on, etc.

Somehow, I don't think this post is going to make it on to the dust cover of subsequent editions.

Anyway, go out and get your copy or order it online. Don't be a cheap ass and check it out at the library.

My First Promise as Governor

Jim Doyle is touring the flooding in Western Wisconsin, and I have no doubt that Doyle is sincere about wanting to help the people underwater.

However, when I decided to run for Governor, my first promise to voters will be that I will never tour disaster sites. I mean, seriously - what is the purpose? It's not like Doyle is swimming out and saving puppies stuck on rooftops or anything.

I will save the taxpayers the tax-funded photo-op. I'll just have my advisors say to me the following:

"Okay, governor, shut your eyes and think of La Crosse. Now think about La Crosse with a lot of water in it. That's pretty much what it's like." Then I will declare an emergency, write a check, and be done with it. And the money I would have spent on some bogus fly-over will go to flooding victims.

In fact, the only photo op that I will take advantage of will be when Lindsay Lohan inevitably comes to Madison to film "The Audrey Seiler Story." Mark it down.

And I probably need to work a little on my campaign slogan: "Your ass is paying too much in taxes."

A Triumph of the Court System

When I initially saw this headline:

Paris Hilton defamation lawsuit settled

I immediately thought that some woman was accused of being Paris Hilton and sued the person for saying it. Sadly, it was a lawsuit filed based on something the actual Paris Hilton said.

Aug 21, 2007


For months, I have been anticipating seeing the movie "Superbad." So I went by myself on Friday night, determined to brave the teenie crowd in search of hearty laughs.

And while it wasn't the epic laugh-o-rama that I had expected, it was still pretty solid. If you're among the throngs of YouTube viewers enthralled by the dirty trailer, then you've already seen about 80 percent of the movie's best lines. The whole McLovin/cops storyline is hilarious, despite the underlying joke being wildly overused months before the movie even opened.

The main storyline dealing with the relationship between Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) is a little less inspired. I'm certainly not allergic to profanity, but swear words alone do not a joke make. The first 15 minutes is just a profane diatribe without any actual punch lines or clever commentary. I guess you're supposed to laugh at the familiarity of the topics (friends of mine and I discussed the "tuck and cover" maneuver decades ago), but it just seems like empty calories.

And I do have to admit that at my advanced age, all this sex talk by high schoolers is a little unsettling. Sure, I know that's how it really is. But when they actually show some of these high school girls in certain sexual situations, I felt kind of creepy. I thought they might slap a GPS ankle monitor on me on the way out of the theater. Girls that young just can't be having sex. I refuse to believe it. At that age, they certainly didn't have sex with me. Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble picturing it.

That's not to say that I wouldn't recommend it. Michael Cera can't help but be funny every second he's on the screen. But beware of those who might say this is their generation's "American Graffiti" or "Sixteen Candles." It's good enough, but doesn't touch the classics.

A New World Record

I'm not sure if they keep a world record for "most swearing during a weekend," but I would have obliterated it these past couple of days. Consider the following:

1. The Brewers
2. Flooding
3. My satellite crapping out during the Packer game
4. My purchase of Madden 2008 (If you play it, you know what I mean)

Incidentally, the 2007-08 Packers are now 2-1 in my Madden preseason. Tough loss against the Seahawks, followed by a blowout of the Jaguars. There is no doubt that this is a positive harbinger for the real Packers this year. Even though, for some reason, James Jones is white in the game.

Also, I am demanding a divorce from the Brewers. This relationship has been abusive for too long. All I ask is sole custody of Ryan Braun.

Aug 20, 2007

Is America Ready for a Black President?

Aug 16, 2007

Portman v. Longoria: The Final Showdown

My new column is up at the WPRI website. It attempts to aid Democrats in their recruitment of potential voters.

In it, I propose an imaginary blind date with a woman who claims she looks like Eva Longoria, but ends up looking like Natalie Portman. It was intended to imply that Portman is a little step below, but still hot.

Naturally, I have already begun receiving criticism from Portman fans, who say she is much preferable to Longoria. I actually conducted a small focus group which put Longoria on top, so I went with that.

So I apologize to all the Queen Amidala fans out there in their basements. I probably agree with you - but I did take a survey, and science is science.

Thursday's Clown Update

Clowns seem to be making a lot of news these days, with Barney Baloney being put on "Britian's Most Wanted" list because of his potentially lethal use of balloons.

Now comes a video of this woman trying to overcome her fear of clowns, known medically as "coulrophobia." Let's just hope, for all our sake, that the Wisconsin Senate Democrats' universal health plan covers treatment of coulrophobia. We can send them all to Baraboo for intensive therapy, or at least to be smacked in the head by a giant floppy shoe.

In any event, enjoy:

Someone Please Send the Parents Away

The front page of today's Wisconsin State Journal features an article about the UW-Madison's "Parent Program," which provides services for parents who just can't let their little angels go. The article features mother and daughter team Amy and Alynna Smith, who apparently are a little... close. It appears that Alynna will not be able to live her college life without her mother knowing every move she makes, since that's clearly how it works at home now.

While her mother's intent in participating in this story was clearly to show how much she loves her daughter, she may actually have just put a target on Alynna's back when she shows up on campus. I'm sure there will be plenty of guys in the dorms who would delight in being the first one to take a crack at Amy's little girl. Hooray for unintended consequences!

I don't necessarily fault the UW for having such a program, because these clingy parents are probably a royal pain. But instead of having a full fledged program to deal with them, the UW should just set up a hotline, that says the following:

"If you are calling to pay your child's tuition, press 'one.' If you are calling because you are having anxiety about your child being in college without you there, then it might be time for you to grow the hell up and leave your kid alone. To return to the main menu, press the star key."

Naturally, I draw on my own personal experience with regard to parental involvement in my college life. When my dad packed our van up with all my stuff to drive me to college, I'm not sure I've ever seen him move so fast. I'm sure as soon as he got back, the champagne corks were popping in my house. The day after I left for college, my mom converted my bedroom into her own personal art studio. So when I came home to visit, I had to sleep on the floor among pottery and pressed flower pictures.

It's not a crime to care about your children and wish them well. But we have reached a point where the kids might actually be more grown-up than the parents.

UPDATE: It appears Newsweek has named UW-Madison their "Hottest Big State School." No doubt, this honor is due to the wide array of parental babysitting options the UW offers.

Aug 14, 2007

Coaching Via School Board Decree

The Janesville school district is doing what school boards do best - that is, everything other than actually making sure students learn anything. A hockey coach has been suspended for five games for swearing and demeaning players, which naturally has forced the school district to issue another "policy" dealing with athletic coaches.

No one would argue that coaches can't cross the line in their treatment of players. The hockey coach may very well have gone too far. But enacting this new policy sounds all too much like the school board giving in to whiny parents. Instead of the board having to actually make decisions on a case-by-case basis, they just throw out a blanket policy that tells coaches how to coach and hamstrings their ability to motivate players as they see fit.

Granted, it has been a long time since I've been involved in high school athletics. But at one point, parents trusted their young men and women with their coaches. Coaches occasionally swore, but only to motivate their players. Maybe it's gotten out of hand in the last 15 years and we can't trust coaches anymore. More likely, parents have grown more controlling about what their little babies hear and see.

There's evidence of this in the proposed new policy, which is supposed to provide "a positive and constructive environment." The policy prohibits profanity, "criticizing to demean or humiliate" and "inappropriate contact." What any of those mean will likely be sorted out in the courts by the first parent whose kid is criticized.

The idea that a school board, whose members may never have been involved in athletics at any level, can micromanage how coaches teach their players is ridiculous. Of course coaches should be expected to maintain some decorum, and should be punished appropriately if they don't. But to equate an athletic field with a classroom shows how utterly clueless the school board is.

Here's a video of the story that describes the new policy. More disturbing than the actual policy is where Parker football coach Joe Dye says his players respond better to "stroking" than "poking." Now that probably deserves some kind of policy against it.

In related news, some guy decided to "rock out with his c**k out" on a Janesville bike path.

The End is Nigh

Yes, that was me spending $80 for my daughter and me to go see The Wiggles in concert on Thursday. I now have my head in the oven.

Aug 8, 2007

Next Up: Blog of Love

It actually just struck me the other day that I may be able to consider myself a "writer." I mean, I do get paid to write stuff. I think that's probably a major consideration when determining whether you're a writer or not. I had always just kind of considered myself a guy who thought of stuff and typed some of it out.

As such, I try to stay as in touch with popular culture as I can. While that means viewing some of the most horrid, contemptible trash humanity can endure, it helps me keep tabs on exactly how low we can go as a society (that's my excuse). And lest you think I'm being snooty to lower myself to the level of the common people, I have to admit some of it is pretty funny, too.

This brings me to my discussion of the epic "Bret Michaels: Rock of Love" currently showing on Vh1. The premise is flawless - get 25 skanky strippers together in one house to fight (both literally and figuratively) for the affections of a balding, washed up '80s rock star. Add in healthy doses of alcohol, hairspray, penicillin, and tattoos, and you get explosively bad television. After each viewing, I feel like I need to wipe off the film these filthy women leave on my television. Honestly - if you bombed this house, you'd be eradicating herpes.

In a sense, it's not any different that most of the other dating competitions on TV - mostly because the premise is a complete fraud. Women don't compete for men. It's just the way the world works. Generally, women tolerate men as much as they have to, until they realize that they have found one they can tolerate more than the others.

Secondly, none of these women are legitimately looking for love. They are competing for something even more important in today's culture - screen time. When Bret cuts these women loose at the end of every episode, they're not upset that they're losing the chance to sleep with a bald has-been. They're crying because their reign of eternal skankdom has been cut short. Plus, it's not like Bret Michaels couldn't call any of these petri dishes after the show wraps up and have them any way he wanted. It's all just such a crock. (This week Bret clearly accepted a "favor" from a ditzy blonde, then dumped her at the end of the show saying he wasn't looking for "a party girl.")

Third, these shows are so well established now, each woman knows exactly what she needs to do to get as much camera attention as possible. Each skank knows her role - there's always "ditzy skank," "conniving skank," "drunk skank," and so on. They characters couldn't be scripted any more tightly. And the producers clearly keep the craziest and filthiest ones on the show as long as possible just to create more Springer-esque catfights. Honestly, we don't need universal health care - 90% of the world's diseases can probably found and quarantined in that house's hot tub.

So when the show started, I had a choice. I could watch and probably enjoy the abject horror of it all, or I could boycott based on how heinous it was likely to be. It's exactly like fast food - you know it's unhealthy before you start consuming it, and you hate yourself when you're done. But taking it all in is magnificent at the time.

I am going to continue to watch, and continue to be ashamed I am doing so. There is a legitimate shot that my IQ will have dropped 50 points by the series finale. But I will forge on, as any serious popular culture observer would be expected to do. Just don't tell anybody.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Since he was born, I have been singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" to my son. Now, he's finally able to chime in with the occasional word. Here's our duet:

Praise for Chris Wolfe

Today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel contains an article about Dr. Christopher Wolfe, a Marquette University political science professor who intends to set out and begin his own university.

From the article:

The university Wolfe envisions would stand in contrast to what he views as a "flabby relativism" in modern education, a belief that all ideas must be recognized and given similar weight. "There is a truth," he says. "It's sometimes hard to see what that truth is, but we need to pursue it, and we can discover it to a great extent."

As a graduate student in 1998, I took a constitutional law class from Dr. Wolfe, and it was one of the most illuminating academic experiences I've had. In fact, his class inspired me to write my Master's thesis on judicial activism - probably a bad choice, given the fact that the topic is Wolfe's specialty, and he could easily spot flaws in many of my arguments. But that's the type of tough academic instruction that academia needs - and which he'll no doubt provide at his new university.

Marquette will miss him, as he represented the best the university had to offer. Best of luck to him, and here's hoping his new school's basketball team makes the Sweet Sixteen.

Aug 6, 2007

The New You

I was doing some reading and happened to stumble across some of the writings of Chilean biologist and philosopher Francisco Varela which I thought were interesting. Varela, a Buddhist, coined the term "autopoiesis" to describe the regenerative process of human cells and that relation to the body itself.

Put more simply, Varela pointed out that the human body is constantly remaking itself. This is known in some circles as "structural shift." Skin and tissue cells die and are replaced by new ones. Bones completely regenerate themselves after ten years. So you literally are a completely different person every decade.

The interesting part to me is how the person I am today relates to the old me of a decade ago. How is it that I have the same traits, same knowledge, and same characteristics of that guy people knew as me 10, 20, and 30 years ago? At some point, my brain cells die off and new ones are created. How do the old brain cells pass on information to the new ones? Do they "teach" the new cells what I have learned in the past? When I grow new taste buds, how is it they have the same tastes as the old ones?

It also made me think about what role an environment might play in one's development. While the body continues to regenerate, the objects within someone's environment may not. Someone's surroundings could play a large part in molding the new person into the same person they were before.

Regardless of which "me" happens to be around at any given time, my couch is extremely comfortable. It would be comfortable to Chris at age 10, Chris at age 20, and Chris at age 30. I think all three of them would very much enjoy laying on it - so I do, and quite a lot. I still enjoy much of my favorite music from my teens - is that because there's some objective standard of good music, or because my teenage brain has taught my adult brain to like specific albums? And is music and movies the only way I can go back and communicate with the now-extinct me of the past?

In the end, this all may just have the effect of making me feel older than I really should. It's a little spooky and a little depressing to know that I fell in love with Mary Beth Hammond in fourth grade a full two sets of eyes ago. When I call my insurance company to tell them the speeding ticket I got in 1998 wasn't me, I'll really be telling the truth.

On the other hand, this may all just be a lesson that I should stop eating the mushrooms out of the bag that guy on State Street handed me.

The Borrowed Book Conundrum

Quick question: when you borrow a book that you don't intend on reading, for how long should you keep it? A neighbor of mine suggested I borrow this book of his that I have no intention of reading. If I give it right back to him, he's going to know I didn't read it and probably be offended (it's like 600 pages). If I keep it too long, he's going to think I'm either not going to give it back or he's going to assume I read the whole thing and start asking questions about it. So I need to give the impression that I read it, but didn't enjoy it enough to talk about it. I may just ring his doorbell, drop the book, and run for it.

Aug 1, 2007

Template Issues

When I started this blog, I spent days tinkering with the template to try to get it to work just right. But it seems every time I make a change for one person that's having trouble reading it, it screws it up for two more people. So I may have to go with a more standardized format here in the near future, rather than trying to keep tinkering with my own.

In the meantime, if you are having trouble reading these posts, you can just as easily read them on the feed, which is here.

Check Engine Soon

My friend Kate has started up a blog to display her funny and insightful cartoons. She's named it "Check Engine Soon," and can be found here.

A few of my favorites: