Monday, June 23, 2008

We Are Essentially Tubeless

This one hurts more than Russert. RIP to a true fucking genius, though I doubt this motherfucker will ever rest in peace. George Carlin could never claim to be perfect, but he was always perfectly honest, and that made him one of the greatest social commentators of the post-war era. Chalk this one up in the Major Societal Loss category.

Carlin never cared who he offended, as long as they deserved it. But the true rub with him was that everyone deserved it. Everyone was a cocksucker. To call him a cynic would be too easy -- he was the world's ultimate realist, scrutinizing everything through the magnifying lens of real-world absurdity. Come to think of it, his greatest gift to society may have been that countervailing scrutiny in the face of mainstream douchebaggery. Like this:

I'm struggling to find the proper words for a man who spoke to so many on an equally intellectual and base level. Highbrow and lowbrow in the same sentence? It came so naturally to him. As a fan of language, I admired the way he could take a word or phrase and turn your whole world upside down. His "on the plane" vs. "in the plane" routine hinged on a one-letter switch, and yet at the time may have been the funniest thing I'd ever heard. One letter. How many people could do that? I've only heard one pull it off with the pieces of flair like Carlin could.

So, for the second time in a few weeks, we send off another great.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

California'd: Score One for Normalcy

There's a reason that a mild-mannered three-term senator would press his expensive pantlegs to urine-soaked linoleum for a few fleeting moments of anonymous sexual gratification. But after the curious incident of horndog in the bathroom, nobody felt like asking the right question.

The query most asked in the aftermath of the Larry Craig Revelations was "Why would he do that?" But the emphasis fell on the wrong word. The obvious question attached to this sordid affair should have been "Why would he do that?"

Despite his post-arrest denial and strong assertion of heterosexuality (hey, at least he didn't McGreevey it up and say "I am not a gay American"), police caught Craig as red-handed and open-palmed as any public sex offender before and after him. This particular elected official's lewd and lascivious behavior is not, like so many religious zealots would have you believe, a byproduct of the much-maligned myth of promiscuity in the homosexual libido. No, his political demise was predicated upon the orchestrated act of a closeted gay man trying to get some no-strings lovin'. Funny: through the simple act of coming out, the senator would not currently be outgoing.

I can't say for sure why Craig never felt comfortable enough with himself to halt this double life. Some people just never do, and while tragic, I certainly understand it. For him, it could've been the job. It could've been his family. But I'm guessing it's the same reason why most people wait too long: He didn't grow up with homosexuality as a normal, acceptable option. And boy did that do some serious psychological damage.

Craig is not alone. Even in today's times, even with the apparent prevalence of homosexuality in our society, it's still not exactly easy to be gay. You can't say the six-letter N-word in public (and rightfully so), but it's still wildly acceptable to drop the six-letter F-bomb. Hell, "gay" and "fag" have become an immovable part of the vernacular. How many professional athletes have admitted to homosexting? You think nobody in the Giants locker room sees Eli Manning in the shower and thinks, "Well, he looks kinda retarded, but cute retarded"? Why would a teenage boy who wants kids and a family even consider coming out if he thinks he'll be disqualified from that dream with one simple admission? There may be less and less daily discrimination, but the bigger issues linger.

This longwinded introduction brings me to the news that as of Monday at 5:01 pm, same-sex couples can officially marry in Massachusetts and now California -- two down in an unfortunate piecemeal effort.

Let me throw out a curveball here: Legally, I am not wholly for government-backed same-sex marriages. But I'm also not for government-backed marriage for the opposite sex. Everyone in this country, straight or gay, should be entitled to a state-recognized civil union, and it's up to you and your church, synagogue or mosque to go through the ritual of marriage (though if it's up to your mosque, I think you're probably in trouble and/or about to be hanged). In an ideal world, everyone has equal rights and protections under the law.

The California Supreme Court's decision that led to Monday's change in policy may or may not have been the correct legal decision; that's for smarter legal minds than mine. But what I do know is that the 4-3 ruling was a landslide victory for normalcy, a direct message to society at large that same-sex marriage should be and one day will be as acceptable as, say, interracial marriage.

When the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in 1967's Loving v. Virginia, which made it illegal to put race-based restrictions on marriage, nearly three of every four Americans disapproved of the mixing of the races. Forty years later those numbers are reversed: Now almost four of every five approve of interracial marriage.

Admittedly, the Loving case and California's decision are not exactly similar. The former overturned laws barring the practice, whereas the latter set its own precedent. Also, Loving ruled that measures to prevent marriages between persons solely on the basis of racial classifications violates the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The California decision can't quite make the same claim, though I think 2003's Lawrence v. Texas helps the California Supreme Court's case. The point is, this may have been an instance of "activist judging," but if four decades from now gay marriage if as commonplace as interracial marriage, then it's a brilliant piece of legal work, whether it is or it isn't.

I'll never claim to be a huge marriage advocate, but you can't help but be ecstatic at the prospect of Monday's rush to the courthouse -- that couldn't have been a more important victory for sheer fuckin' normalcy, a giant leap that shows kids growing up today that same-sex couples can be the same as everyone else. And based on this landmark decision we'll have a society with healthier sexually confused teenagers, as well as much healthier adults that can find sex in a bar rather than a room where most people piss and poop.

Sometimes you need to chip away at society until what's right is also what's conventional. Given Gov. David Patterson's announcement that he will sneak gay marriage through the back door, New York probably isn't terribly far away from this step -- that will make three. Do I hear a fourth? Then a fifth? With Loving as a shining example, maybe the next generation won't even think twice about a two-groom or two-bride wedding cake.

So I only have one question for Californians: Are you ready for some man-on-dog shit? Ricky Santorum says it's comin', and I hear it's rampant in Massachusetts. Godspeed, Golden State.

Hey, Willie!

Every sports fan with a blog today will likely turn their lazy eye and foaming mouthpieces to the asinine firing of Mets manager Willie Randolph.

Hyperbole aside, this may go down as the biggest front-office mismanagement in the history of managerial dismissals. New Yorkers thought the Yankums' firing of Joe Torre was off-putting? Poor Ol' Willie's sacking is about as classless as it gets, more poorly handled than an eight-month-old infant in the care of a British au pair. The term "exit strategy" has made a huge comeback since the start of the Iraq war -- it's clear the Mets possessed not clue one about how to get out of this situation.

Nearly everyone will agree to the facts: the Mets knew they would eventually fire Willie but left him on the line at least a month too long, a true lame duck; they let him take the team 3,000 miles away on a road trip, watched him win three of four, had him hold the typical post-game press conference, and then they canned him in the dead of night. The result? A press release at 3:15 am. And if there's anything the print press loves, it's going to bed in all its morning editions with information that's totally untrue by morning. I'm sure they'll be totally sympathetic to the Mets all year long after this slight.

Okay, we're all on board with these things. But here's my favorite part of the firing, perhaps the biggest insult to Willie: "It was a frustrating end for the 53-year-old Randolph, who was set to be an NL coach at the All-Star game at Yankee Stadium next month."

So Willie, who spent 13 seasons in pinstripes as a beloved player and another 10+ as an assistant general manager, third base coach and bench coach with the Yankees, will no longer be participating on the field at Yankee Stadium in its final season. It'll be a magical All Star Game, a swan song for the ages, with old Hall of Famers and baseball nostalgia out the arse, and Willie missed his chance to be a big part of it by three weeks. Omar Minaya just Omar Little'd Willie's shot.

If Big Stein were still with it, I bet he'd bring Willie back on the field in a Yanks uniform. Just to show those rat bastards in Queens how things are done. Things can be done.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Loved You in Meet The Parents

I wear many hats during office hours, though none of them are straight-brimmed and make me look like a shortbus mongoloid child. But among my numerous disparate responsibilities, my favorite involves "researching the shit out of shit."

I know it seems foreign in the Era of Broadband Intertubes, but there really is nothing like tracking down an unGoogleable answer. Internet sleuthing is fun. But sleuthing in general is priceless, be it searching through online or offline databases, calling human after human at bureaucratic departments or, wait for it, visiting the public library. It's not quite the do-it-yourselfedness of auto mechanics or home improvement, but rifling through data and archived material or finding the perfect source is the DIY of information. The answers are always out there. Sometimes it's up to you, not a search engine, to go and find them.

And fact-finding is what I always loved about Tim Russert. That's why he'll be missed.

Everybody's entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts (unless they're in Congress, heyooo!). It's this old adage that Russert proved to be true. He'd dig deep through the archives and, in the case of so many politicians, find at least one "Gotcha" quotation to throw right back in one of their two faces, no matter which side of the aisle on which they sit.

He never wore his partisanship on his sleeve, only his integrity as a journalist. Cable news these days is excruciatingly depressing -- anchors are either horribly misinformed, unbelievably stupid or bloviating schmucks. Russert was the antithesis of all three. He was prepared, smart and humble in the face of a business that increasingly relied on nonsense for ratings.

In 2004, Russert said in an interview: "Lawrence Spivak, who founded "Meet the Press" 57 years ago, said, 'Learn as much as you can about your guest and his or her position on the issue. Take the other side. Be persistent, but be polite.' And I try not to berate people. I don't want to make them sympathetic. But sometimes facts are important." He made Spivak's advice work like nobody else in the television news business.

I don't know who'll go on to host Meet The Press. (I'm guessing it'll be Andrea Mitchell and you'll hear "first woman to blah blah blah" a whole bunch.) But I can't picture anybody bringing the level of professionalism that Russert brought to the broadcast and to the industry. You'll notice I don't write all that many serious posts, but this is a man that deserves a somber tribute. Timmy!

And while we're talkin' newsmen, check out this apparently punctuation challenged news anchor. Attaboy!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Yanks & Yanks: A Tale of Two Stadia

It's still unacceptable, for some preposterous reason, to repeatedly scream "cunt" at the officials or opposing players in American soccer stadia. That saddens me.

For no matter how many people show up to surround the U.S. men's national team, no matter how loud the wall of sound from the crowd becomes, we'll just never be as cool as our British friends. And that's some separate but equal shit right there.

It wasn't exactly three-ring, but The Meadowlands on Sunday night actually featured a bit of circus atmosphere for the highly anticipated friendly match between these United States and the arbitrarily ranked number one team in the world, Argentina. Lionel Messi and los Albicelestes came to town just days after our two incredibly putrid friendlies against England and Spain, efforts that showed the Americans to be outclassed, listless and unworthy of even a modicum of national pride. If we even had an offensive attack to speak of, I'd probably say nasty, nasty things about its wardrobe, hygiene and general demeanor. There's a chance I'd even start rumors about its sexuality.

But this was a two-stub day for Don Fiedler, Handstand the Younger and your intrepid field reporter, and by game time we couldn't have been more geeked up for this one. Recent performances, be damned. And as the national anthem blared for the second time in seven hours, we all did our best Carl Lewis impersonations and belted out the Star-Spangled Banner loudly and awfully, but with feeling. And I remember thinking, this is the first in my life that I'm singing the anthem for real, for my country, for my national team. We had just heard it at Yankee Stadium hours earlier, and it meant nothing. This rendition, however, was like beating off lefty: new, special and unequivocally enthralling.

Seven hours earlier in a neighboring state, relief wunderkind Joba Chamberlain took the hill against the Kansas City Royals for his second ever start in Yankee pinstripes. The heat and thus far mediocre Yankums play combined to make the stadium as dispirited as the aforementioned USMNT attack.

In fact, the crowd only buzzed on four separate occasions in the first five innings -- three times for Joey Gathright's stellar running and/or diving catches in center field, and once when Gathright fouled off a Joba fastball into the now-disfigured grill of some poor lady on the third-base line. (By the way, if you haven't seen footage of Gathright hopping over a BMW as effortlessly as an Edwin Moses hurdle, check this shit out...)

Joba lasted four and a third innings, an equally impressive and frustrating outing for a guy who will surely get the hang of this sooner rather than later. We lasted only one more inning, preferring to leave our upper-deck seats in the lifeless stadium in order to tailgate in the Meadowlands' parking lot for a few hours with what seemed like every Argentinian in the NY/NJ/CT tri-state area. The split of the 78,000+ at Giants Stadium on Sunday was about 50/50, but the lot scene seemed full of people that rooted for Gabriela Sabatini over Pam Shriver all those times in the late '80s (What? Seriously? Just an awful reference).

(Entering the stadium)

The Argies were boisterous and cocky, knowing their 11 would just roll over an inferior foe. We were boisterous and cocky, just because we're assholes. But we knew there was NO shot of U.S. victory, not with a beefed up Argentina squad missing only a few key regulars -- we heard that Carlos Tevez was off on an Abercrombie model shoot.

We had 8th row seats pretty close to the net we defended in the first half, in ridiculous proximity to some of the best players in the world (sorry, Landon, I meant the Argies) and only a couple sections from the horribly uncool but surprisingly cool Sam's Army, our most rabid supporters.

Donnie tried as best he could to start a couple rounds of "You're a Grand Ol' Flag," but nobody obliged. And nary a soul joined in with his "Your steak is overrated" chant. Alas, we couldn't even find a giant placard and Sharpie to write "World's Number One...In Runaway Inflation." And I spent the evening trying to figure out how to fit "We're better 'cuz we don't let former first ladies become presidents" in rhyming sing-song, but I just couldn't make it work. Nonetheless, we sang, we chanted, we bounced up and down, we made friends, and we saw a hell of an effort from our boys.

I won't recap the play-by-play that night. That's why we have the good people at That's On Point. But when Tim Howard stoned the Argies four or five times from point-blank range in the first half, we realized that this wasn't going to be a blowout. And as time wore on, we realized this may be a draw. And as the rain began to pour down on a heat-soaked crowd begging for the precipitation, we realized that we may actually win this fucker. Could we take it? Could we pop up with something, maybe a set piece in the rain? I thought maybe, and captured this quick video:

With suspicious red cards handed out to one man from each team, the 10-on-10 open play on a slick pitch made for some thrilling moments. Nothing materialized, and ultimately the match ended in a scoreless tie -- eat your heart out, soccerhaters -- but it was absolutely entrancing, especially for a friendly.

There are 162 baseball games a year for your favorite team, and over the many years of fandom, only a few of them will truly stand out as special. Eventually Yankee Stadium becomes old hat. But this night at Giants Stadium was really the first time I've ever felt a special pride in my country's national team, one that got me on my feet and jumping like a kid again, and this one will forever stand out as special.

An at the end of a grueling day, I was exhausted but genuinely proud of my country and its recently clueless national team. That rain was the capper on a brilliant day -- one victory that felt like a draw and one draw that felt like a victory. Perfect in every respect but one: that referee was a fookin' cunt.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Eight Belles to Big Brown: "Hey, Could Be Worse"

What began as a "foregone conclusion" ended with "whaaa happened?" The wide world of sports and racing's casual fandom prepped for the first Triple Crown winner in three decades, but instead we're left with mouths agape and frightening images of a sweat-drenched trainer. Shit, Dutrow was more sweat than man by Belmont's end.

Everyone's asking "What went wrong?," but I think even my amateur arse has figured out what's becoming more obvious with each passing Triple Crownless year. The breed-for-speed mentality embraced by most (if not all) horse farms these days has made the grueling mile-and-a-half Belmont unattainable for sprint horses. In other words, it's nearly impossible to birth a horse with both speed and stamina that can win the breezy Kentucky Derby against a huge field of fast equine motherfuckers and the long, hard slog of the Belmont Stakes a few weeks later. I'm not sure we'll ever see a Triple Crown winner again. We know Jim McKay will never see one again either. More on that in a moment.

This must be a real heartbreaker for jockey Kent Desormeaux. He's the winner of three Kentucky Derbys (including one atop Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 when I was there) and two Preakness Stakes, but he's failed in now two highly anticipated bids for that rare Triple Crown. Maybe Kent's also been bred poorly. Hey, we know from the avalanche of human interest stories on his brave son that he may have some breeding problems of his own (ouch, that was low even for me...jeez, sorry Kent, I'm the asshole).

I gotta think, however, as badly as this day went for Desormeaux, it's better to lose the way he did yesterday than the way he did aboard Real Quiet in 1998. For those of you who don't remember that exact race, check out this kick in the junk below. I'd rather ease up my horse than lose by a nose in the final stride of the race -- then again, I am a defeatist and have very few, if any, characteristics of a winner. Check it:

Back to the aforementioned Jim McKay, who fortuitously passed away on his beloved racing day. I'd eulogize a fellow journalist and sports fan here, but there's no room for my tongue on his dick with the media all over it. He deserves all the praise heaped upon his larger-than-life character, and Rebirth of Slack MGMT has nothing but hot lovin' for McKay and his persona.

Having said that, just once, just fucking once, wouldn't it be awesome if someone dropped in a horribly untrue but seriously delivered iota of biographical information in an obituary before the last line? It's so easy! Something like: "McKay's survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Aranxta Sanchez Vicario. Jim McKay, dead today at age 86." Or maybe something like: "McKay said he has no regrets and wouldn't change a thing, except the time he fistfought a monkey and lost badly. Jim McKay, dead at age 86." Or even something like "McKay was a true poet in a world of prose. He's the only known journalist to have given Walt Whitman a well-oiled handy. Jim McKay, dead today, at age 86."

RIP, Jim.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Apparently I Am Very Similar to the Giant Squid

I read or skim no less than 100 varied news articles and blog posts between the hours of 8 and 10 am. Some are political, some economic. Some are human interest, some in-depth reporting. Some are serious, some offbeat. News aggregators have made it entirely possible to read a story about the next step for uncommitted superdelegates 10 seconds after finishing one about the arrest of an underemployed longshoreman who delivered an unauthorized donkey punch to the back of the head of a three-legged transvestite hooker called Scuba Steve the Love Pumper.

Every once in a while I come across a piece of Dickensian literary genius disguised as wire reporting, and it stones me. This morning, while reading about the capture of a giant squid off the southwest coast of Australia, I found a brilliant sentence that required a bit of town crying. There's a common journalistic practice called "burying the lede," and in this instance, I'm shocked that I had to read 13 paragraphs before seeing this beautiful sentence:

"Giants have very strange sexual behaviour where the male has a metre-long muscular penis that he uses a bit like a nail gun and shoots cords of sperm under the skin of the female's arms and she carries the sperm around with her until she is ready to lay her big jelly mass of a million eggs."

I mean, who wrote that, Vladimir Nabakov? Such pretty prose! The italicized byline concluding the article claims the report was "adapted by an AM report by Alison Caldwell," though it reads to me like it was "adapted from a novel about giant squidcock and sperm transport by Leo Tolstoy."

Alright, enough of that. Let's move on to what used to serve in the old days as the Slack Song of the Day. The good folks at imeem have a cool embeddable player, so I'll be sharing music more often in an easy-to-listen form. This collection of seven tunes is particularly badass, so get down with your bad self and report back as to how that getting down with your bad self went.

And we'll catch ya on the flip flop. Tomorrow is another day.