Thursday, February 28, 2008

A startling discovery, in which I discover the origin of the phrase "Mission Accomplished."

With all the modesty I can muster, I have to admit that this is a startling bit of investigative research on my part, and so, in a Drudge-esque moment of self-reflection and humility, I will now trumpet my discovery on my blog.

Whilst tripping through the internet I have accidentally stumbled upon the Washingtonian origin of the phrase "Mission Accomplished," a term that was until now forever linked to our half-wit President and his exotic day of make believe dress up on board the USS Abraham Lincoln. Here's a reminder, for those of you who possess the mental skill to have blocked that horrible memory from your mind forever:

However, as much prominence as that specific usage of the term has received, I found a previous, more shameful (yet, predictably, still very much related to Republican shenanigans) example of it. Check it out!

Recognize that? If the names don't give it away, the pretentious language, schoolmarmish panic over sex, and the obsessive detail paid to the bodily fluids of leading members of our government might. That's right! It was in the Starr Report! So, just as Barack Obama plagiarizes Devan Patrick every time he says 'Yes We Can," we can now state with confidence that George Bush was plagiarizing the Starr Report that fateful day aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln when he stood beneath the Mission Accomplished banner. Incredible!

Let's play 5 Degrees of Tim Russert

In the Democratic debate the other night, Tim Russert embarrassed himself, the state of Massachusetts, journalists, and fat people with oversized heads everywhere by posing a convulted question to Barack Obama that went something like this: a guy who knows a guy you know said something bad and now you need to denounce not only the statement but the man himself, or else we (that is, I, Tim Russert) will judge you unfit for the presidency.

Given that this is the new standard of journalism, I've decided to invent a new game, "5 Degrees of Tim Russert," in which you establish a link between a prominent politician and someone who either said or did something reprehensible, and then demand that the politician denounce that person. It goes something like this (count the degrees of separation in this argument):

Mitt Romney's (1) favorite book is "Battlefield Earth." (It is, he said so in an interview.) This book was written by L. Ron Hubbard (2), who started Scientology. Scientology is a religion particularly favored by Tom Cruise (3). Tom Cruise is an actor who was in the movie "Top Gun," which co-starred Val Kilmer (4). Val Kilmer is a "Promise Keeper," which is a men's movement started by former Colorado University head football coach Bill McCartney (5). Bill McCartney cheated on his wife. Given that Mitt Romney endorsed by John McCain, can we therefore conclude that John McCain wants everyone to cheat on their wives? WHEN WILL JOHN MCCAIN DENOUNCE BILL MCCARTNEY AND THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO FOOTBALL TEAM?

It's fun--try it yourself!

George W. Bush: just as proudly out-of-touch as his idiot dad

Years ago, in the halcyon days of the FIRST Bush presidency, we were blessed with the now-iconic image of Poppy being completely surprised by the remarkable technology of a supermarket scanner. Just as it is hilarious to laugh at your mom when she discovers this hot new music all the kids are listening to, "rap," or expresses her fear that the kids these days may be "taking the pot," it was pretty funny to discover that our president had no idea about an ordinary item that we proles use on a daily basis.

So imagine my surprise today when the idiot son of that president, George W. Bush, proudly took to the podium at the White House and admitted his ignorance about the economic conditions faced by consumers across the country. Take it away, CNN:

When asked what advice he would give to the average person facing the prospect of gas prices hitting $4 per gallon, Bush stopped the reporter and said, "What did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gas?"

"That's interesting. I hadn't heard that," he said at the Thursday news conference.

Yes, indeed, predictions of $4 gas have been remarkably difficult to come by lately.

Gasoline price is heading to $4 gallon
Economist: $4 gas possible
Gasoline may hit $4/gallon
Expert predicts gas to hit $4 mark
Analysts see $4 gas by spring: report

Uh, that was from "the Google," Mr. President. Took me about 3 seconds to find. Yesterday the headline on my local paper (The Oregonian) blared, in huge type, "$4 GAS?" Sheesh. Yet again the nation is cursed by an idiotically out-of-touch member of the Bush family in office, ruining the economy and getting us into a war in Iraq.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Presenting the ugliest pair of men's pants created since 1978

J.Crew, you are officially on notice. Now, I've been tempted to poke great fun at your catalogs and their incessant "look how fun it is to summer at the Cape!" motifs, or your insistence on using the singular "pant" all the time, or your continuing belief that Americans are desperate to own khakis emblazoned with small lobsters or sailboats or other relics of the aforementioned summering at the Cape. But, I have held my tongue out of, who knows, perhaps a deep-seated nostalgia for those days in college when I'd get a new article of clothing from J. Crew and would feel the momentary satisfaction of having my fashion sense rise from 10 years out of date to a mere 5 years out of date.

However, I happened to glance at your "pant" sale today, and can keep my silence no longer. You have forced me to stand, eyeball to eyeball, with the ugliest pair of men's pants I have ever seen outside the Deseret Industries thrift store in Salt Lake City where I used to purchase my Halloween costumes. And those were always ironic. So far as I can gather, not a stitch of irony went into the creation of these pants. Behold, America!

Classic fit Italian Paisley Cord Pant

Introducing a perfect cocktail pant, with a traditional paisley on cotton corduroy imported from one of Italy's finest print houses.

"Perfect cocktail pant"? The hell? Just what kind of crazy cocktail parties are you attending, J.Crew copywriter, where such an egregious violation of everything we hold dear as a nation is not only tolerated but encouraged? Good lord. And, it must be noted, this spectacular pair of pants will set you back a mere $99.99. Egads.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Too pretty to fly? Or, perhaps, just stupid?

There's a silly story in the news today about two women in Florida who claim they were kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight for "being too pretty." Those catty flight attendants, apparently, couldn't tolerate the mind-numbing hawtness of these two young lasses, and so had them escorted off the flight by four (!!) police officers. The women were at first refused water (perhaps to sooth their searing hotness?) by the flight attendants, an oversight that paled in comparison to the next outrage:

At one point, Williams had to use the plane's bathroom. She saw another passenger in it, and when he hadn't come out 15 minutes later, she knocked on the door.

When he came out, Williams says the man came over to her seat and yelled a profanity at her. Williams admits she yelled a profanity back at him but was puzzled when she says the flight crew only questioned her.
Ok, simple question: a guy on your flight has been in the bathroom--a small room roughly the size of the trunk of a compact car--for FIFTEEN MINUTES. Do you seriously want to use the bathroom right after him?

Honestly, from that point on, I couldn't trust the judgement of these two.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

ABCNews won't let some pesky political issue distract them from Matthew McConaughey's abs

Seriously, ABC? This is what you run on your big fancy political blog? Woah. Just goes to show what a late-night deadline, some rudimentary Photoshop skillz, and a Wedding Planner/Reign of Fire/Sahara marathon will do to the otherwise sensible art instincts of a blog editor.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A damn song I can't get out of my head--Felice Brothers, "Frankie's Gun"

Last weekend a friend and I caught a nifty performance by the Drive By Truckers here in Portland. Since I was pretty familiar with their stuff before the show I was nothing other than impressed by their stuff. However, the opening act, the "Felice Brothers," proved to be a true revelation. Holy hell, where did these guys come from? Not exactly sure how to characterize their music, but it's a kind of downhome gritty Americana kind of thing. Hell, they have a full-time washboard player in the band, and you can't beat that with a stick. The music isn't exactly the same, but the feeling I had watching them reminded me of how I felt when I first caught Whiskeytown, one of my all time favorites, back in 1997 when I caught them in Salt Lake City. Same energy, same fire, same sweet sweet songs. (Hopefully these guys won't flame out in spectacular fashion as did Whiskeytown.)

They have an album coming out in early March, but the below video is for what is sure to be their breakout hit, "Frankie's Gun."

"My car goes, Chicago
Every weekend to pick up some cargo
I think I know the bloody way by now Frankie;
Turn the goddam radio down, thank you.
Pull over, count the money
But don't count the thirty in the glove box, buddy--
That's for to buy Lucille some clothes."

Monday, February 18, 2008

A phrase that should strike fear into the heart of anyone with a brain

Overheard on the radio on the way to work this morning:

"From the creative visionary who brought you Christina Aguilera, Fergie, and the Pussycat Dolls."

Friday, February 15, 2008

Portland media watch: KGW issues biased, one-sided report on Columbia Gorge casino

Ah, the Columbia Gorge. The mythic strait through which sailed Lewis and Clark, and in so doing cemented Oregon's status as a frontier state touched by nature's grandeur. An unspoilt wilderness, hewn out of granite, forged by volcanoes and the steady anvil of rain and snow. Truly, one of our nation's scenic wonders. And...perhaps soon to a monstrous eyesore of a casino. Wait, wha? Yeah, well, you wouldn't know it to read this puff piece of a news story by the Associated Press and picked up by local the wunderkinds over at KGW news in Portland.

Titled, lamely, "Proposal for Casino in Gorge proceeds to next step," the article tells you everything you might want to know except, of course, why anyone would be opposed to this damn thing. Environmental groups? Yeah, they're a wee bit upset about it. Folks who fear the impact of traffic in Cascade Locks? Yeah, they're a bit upset about it as well. But not the chamber of commerce types over in Cascade Locks! No, it's all gravy, baby!

"We're very happy," Cascade Locks Executive Director Chuck Daughtry told KGW. "This means jobs and tourism" for Cascade Locks. "We recruited them... and we can't imagine a better partner."

The Warm Springs Tribes would stand to make an expected yearly profit of $77 million from the casino and benefits to Cascade Locks were predicted around $50 million over the next 25 years.
Hell, sounds awesome! Who could possibly oppose such a rad casino? Nobody but a bunch of damn hippies who hate gambling, and, uh, environmental damage, not to mention the intrusion of a massive casino in a scenic wonderland.

Guess what? I typed "Columbia Gorge Casino" into Google, and the first damn link was to the "Friends of the Gorge" a non-profit group based out of Hood River, with some information about why this thing sucks so bad. There's also a group of Cascade Locks residents opposed to the casino.

Really, not hard to find this stuff at all. Not hard to present both sides of the puzzle. Gah, our local media sucks.

Oh, and note the URL of the KGW article: it ends with "kgw_021508_environment_casino_impact.c5878d47.html." Got that? Environment casino impact. A concept important enough to put into the URL, but not into the article itself. INteresting, no?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Portland real estate: plunging values, or realistic pricing at last?

As a resident of SE Portland, one of my pet hobbies is tracking the crazy real estate transactions that have gripped the 'hood in recent years. Houses that sold for $250,000 in June would sell for $325,000 the following February, only to sell for $389,000 in June. It was (or should have been) obvious to everyone that such dramatic increases were not sustainable, and that the resulting crash-and-boom would be a grimly painful reminder that every boom must have its bust. Until quite recently, however, I have not been confronted with dramatic evidence of the new reality in residential real estate. There have been quite a few stories claiming that Portland seems to be weathering the national storm quite well, and, until recently, anecdotal evidence (which for me consists of the things I see as I take my dog on walks through the neighborhood) seemed to bear this out.

However, I was recently struck by the dramatic decrease in value of one particular house on my route. The house, a large classic Portland home, probably 100 years old, is located in a nice part of SE Portland, close to many shops and restaurants, and surrounded by equally nice houses. Crime, while existent, mainly takes the form of petty theft, and streets and schools in the area are fairly good. The house has a current asking price of $499,000.

To the average person driving past while looking for real estate bargains, this may seem fairly routine. Nothing dramatic on the surface. However, what the dedicated dog-walking enthusiast in the neighborhood knows is that, until only recently, the house was on the market for $659,000.

Turning to PortlandMaps, and the detail it provides about the recent history for this house, we see something interesting.

Back in 1990, it sold for $87,000, not a small amount of money, as the neighborhood in those days was something of a drug-infested eyesore. It really kicked into high gear in 2002, however, selling for $339,000. In June of 2006 it sold again, this time for $570,000, a tidy increase of $230,000. Something, however, happened between June of 2006 and December of 2007. The house, after sitting for months on the market with an asking price of $659,000, sold towards the end of the year for $494,500, a decline of nearly $100,000 in 18 months, and $160,000 under the asking price. It now sits empty at the current asking price of $499,000.

What was it? What happened? Did something happen to the house itself? A fire, perhaps, or a plague of locusts? Flooding? No. The house, actually, underwent a substantial amount of rehab in that period. In fact, it is much nicer, and has more "street appeal" now than it did when it sold for $570,000. It has been painted, given new wood floors, a new kitchen, and basement work. It is actually a very decent house, albeit one with a small yard.

What explains the decline? Is there something unique to the personal history of the owners of this place (note that the current holder of the deed is a bank, not a person)--a divorce, unfortunate medical event, or something similar? Did personal tragedy strike, requiring a quick sale at basement prices? Or does the new owner of this property recognize that the market that once supported a price of $570,000 for this house can today do no better than $499,000.

Is this house a statistical outlier, or the proverbial canary in the coal mine?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Oh Christ! It's Senator Walnuts McZombie Scowlsalot!!

Seriously. Look at this comparison. Who looks like the President here? Mr. Courageous Poise on the left, or the crazy old guy in front of you in line at the grocery store who won't shut up about how the damn store should still honor his coupons from last year?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Photo Comparison: Chris Berman vs. Antonin Scalia

One is a gaseous windbag whose grandstanding on our nation's most prominent stage has exposed him as the egomaniacal lunatic that he is, and whose pretentions to glory will surely doom the next two generations of our country's youth to careers of indentured servitude, and the other is Antonin Scalia.

Seriously, though, how did I go so long before noticing that these guys are practically twins?

Once again, the Chinese draw all their creative inspiration from "The Simpsons"

Memorable Simpsons quote:

Bart: I want to stay here with Mr. Burns.

Burns: I suggest you leave immediately.

Homer: Or what? You’ll release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?

And from China, in preparation for the Olympics:

That's right! Horses, with lions riding on top of them! The pinnacle of insanity, and I'm alive to see it! Praise the lord! Next up, they'll train a small monkey to ride on top of the lion, and the monkey will be trained to throw hungry piranha at innocent passers by. Ah, the inscrutable Chinese.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cowardly, cravenly, cynically: Hillary calls for reporter to be fired

I won't go out of my way to pretend I'm a big Hillary Clinton fan. I happen to think she'll get her clock cleaned by John McCain in an eventual head-to-head matchup, and I also think she'd be absolute murder for "down ticket" races, i.e., having her on the national ticket would cause a lot of Democratic Senate and House candidates to lose their respective elections after being tied to her by their opponents.

That being said, her latest reaction to MSNBC's David Schuster, who said that Chelsea Clinton was being "pimped out" by the Clinton campaign, is an absurd overreaction, even for the combustible Clinton camp. After Schuster was suspended, the Clinton campaign sent the following statement to NBC:

Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half-hearted apology is sufficient.
I would urge you to look at the pattern of behavior on your network that seems to repeatedly lead to this sort of degrading language.
In other words, Clinton wants NBC to fire Schuster for what he said. Weak. After sitting idly by and letting conservative pundit after conservative pundit say the very worst things about her, Clinton has decided that THIS is the comment to really lose sleep over. Why? Well, the reason is simple: David Schuster, all apologies to the guy, is a nobody. Hillary knows she can't take on Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Glen Beck or any of those guys, so instead she freaks out and demands that NBC fire David Schuster. It's cowardly. It's cowardly to look the other way when someone powerful makes a distasteful remark about you, but then demand the firing of someone lower down on the totem pole for something fairly innocuous. It reminds of a middle manager who will say nothing when he witnesses his boss doing something unethical, but who will then demand the immediate ouster of someone below him in the corporate pecking order.

It's also cynical: Hillary knows that she gets a lot of abuse from the press, so she has decided that this will be her line in the sand. She's threatening to boycott the NBC-hosted debate unless this reporter is fired because she wants to make a larger point to the media: don't try to push me around.

Finally, the whole thing is completely silly: Schuster, though his word "pimped" was perhaps poorly used, was making a valid point: the Clinton campaign is using Chelsea to get the "youth vote" (uh, yeah, good luck with that), all the while allowing her to hide behind the "sorry, I don't talk to reporters" shield she's been using for the past 10 years. (Rather lamely, she recently told a nine-year old girl she couldn't answer her question because "I don't talk to reporters, and unfortunately that includes you." LAME!) I'm sure they'd also refuse to answer any questions about her for the same reason: she's a kid! Schuster was simply saying, you can't have it both ways. Either make her a public part of the campaign, with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with that, or let her have her private life.

Anyway, blah, summary: the Clinton campaign is weak, losing steam and momentum to Obama, and is choosing this fairly mild remark as its Thermopylae. In so doing it reveals itself to be cowardly and cynical. It is hard to imagine feeling any possible motivation to vote for such a candidate.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Greed: if a player you like does it, it's called "competitive"

There was a pretty fascinating article in Sports Illustrated today about the backroom negotiations that landed Johan Santana a huge $137.5 million contract from the New York Mets. Apparently, with about 5 minutes to go before the deadline expired, Santana informed the Mets that he wanted $140M, not $135M, and that he was willing to walk away from the deal (and thus pitch one last season for the Twins) and risk his chances with free agency next year. Here's how Tom Verducci puts it in his intro:

Pitcher Johan Santana gave the Mets a preview of his competitiveness last Friday, five minutes before the initial deadline to their contract negotiations. With the two sides just $5 million apart, Santana personally informed Mets owner Fred Wilpon that he was walking away from $135 million, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations.
Now, here's the problem I have with that: the word "competitive." Why use that word? Imagine, for a moment, that we're not talking about a fairly non-controversial guy like Johan Santana, but are instead talking about Terrell Owens or Randy Moss. Would a sportswriter use a word like "competitive" to describe those antics? No, they'd use a word like "greed" or would launch into a spiel about how players these days just don't appreciate all they get from sports.

It goes directly to one of my pet peeves about sportswriters, the way that they take the exact same trait and filter it through their own sense about a player. Thus Bret Favre throws a really stupid interception, but because sportswriters and the media in general love the guy, he's just labeled as a tough competitor who sometimes takes risks because he just loves winning so damn much. Then another quarterback, say, Eli Manning (before he won the Super Bowl and taught a grateful nation how to love again), does the exact same thing, and they tsk tsk about how he just doesn't have it and wonder if he'll ever be free of those mental lapses.

I'm sure this tendency is common to all humanitiy, after all, we are more prone to overlook flaws (or at least justify them) in people we love, and prone to demonize the same traits in others. Nevertheless, it's a little annoying to have it illustrated so clearly.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Not to brag or anything, but Tina Fey TOTALLY reads my blog

How do I know Tina Fey reads my blog? Did she, like, write me an email? No. Did she send a bouquet of flowers, or ham, to me after collapsing with laughter after reading one of my posts? Uh, no. She did, however, mention the name of my blog in an interview she conducted in December! OMG! (Please allow me this fantasy, and forget for the moment that the name for this blog was actually stolen from a bit in 30 Rock.) Check it out!

Q) You mentioned in the September 23, 2007 New York Times that last year you sometimes trolled the Internet looking for references to “30 Rock.” What is the strangest reference you found?.

A) Oh, let’s see. That’s a good question. I would go and - I would Google phrases from the show and just to see if they were popping up anywhere. Mindgrapes. I got a few results for Mindgrapes. Pregnant cornbread I think will get you a couple hits on Google. I’m trying to think if there’s anything weirder than pregnant cornbread. That might be the weirdest one that I was able to find.

Check it! "That I was able to find." I've been telling people for a long time that this here website is the FIRST SITE LISTED if you do a Google search for "pregnant cornbread". That's right! Number 1! Which means she definitely saw this blog. Therefore, using the powers of logical reasoning I gained through years of study at one of our nation's most prestigious colleges in Minnesota, I can conclude that she not only reads the blog on a daily basis, but that she loves it and wants to hire me as one of the writers on 30 Rock. I shall have to carefully consider her offer.

Top 5 things I am sick of reading about the Super Bowl

1. [Insert zoo animal here] makes Super Bowl pick by scratching, clawing, peeing, or crapping at some random circle of items that is supposed to represent this year's opposing teams.

2. [Insert player] outrages opponents by believing that his team will win. Seriously, is this not the most overplayed story of all time? Does any player arrive at the Super Bowl believing that he'll lose? (Ok, except for everyone on the 1985 Patriots.)

3. List of ridiculous questions asked during this year's media day. Yes, the media is, by and large, stupid, and asks stupid questions when they know that if they ask a stupid question someone will write about it and print their name. Breaking news.

4. Anything having to do with Tom Brady, Tom Brady's foot, Tom Brady's hotness, Tom Brady's hot girlfriends, Tom Brady's hot ex-girlfriend who is also the mother of his child.

5. Anything about Bill Belichick that does not mention that he is a wife-stealing dirtbag.

OMG, is Ann Coulter going to vote for Hillary?

I know I'm kind of stealing this bit from Atrios, but I've got to do one of those "simple answers to simple questions" things. ABCNews is asking, in its typically breathless way, whether Coulter might actually swing the other way in the 2008 election:

In case you missed it, on Hannity & Colmes last night, controversial pundit Ann Coulter -- who supports Mitt Romney for president -- said she would back Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, over Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

"She's more conservative that he is," she said. "She will be stronger on the war on terrorism...I will campaign for her if it's McCain."

OMG, is this true? Will she vote for Hillary over McCain?

Answer: no, she will not. Any Republican who says they will vote for Hillary over McCain because McCain is "not conservative enough" is lying, and is also an idiot.