Sunday, December 28, 2008
I’ve pretty much gotten over my knee-jerk reaction to seeing Obama bumper stickers. I wanted to whack their windshields with a ball-peen hammer, and since that’s a bit unsporting I’ve done my best to swallow that urge. However, I’m still pissed every time I see one of these frikkin’ Obama t-shirts…
I don’t mean the simple Obama ’08 shirts. I’m talking about the airbrushed artsy-fartsy shirts that look like the oversized rapper portraits, and the stylized paintings that look like Warhol paintings, and all the HOPE and CHANGE and YES WE CAN bullshit slogans that look straight out of Soviet posters and Nazi propaganda films.
He’s the President-elect. He’s not a rap star. He’s not a Hollywood icon. In truth, he hasn’t done a damned thing other than get himself elected and recycle Bill Clinton’s cast-offs for his administration. Putting a giant airbrushed Obama on a size 5XL t-shirt on the same sales racks as the giant t-shirts of Tupac, Snoop, and Biggie takes away from the dignity of the office of President of the United States. This is the dude who is supposed to be the leader of the nation in a couple weeks, not some flavor of the week off of MTV or BET. There’s a certain sense of decorum that should be maintained, and to see his face plastered everywhere on cheap-assed bootleg t-shirts turns the Presidency into just some farce on par with a reality show. We may as well have elected Flavor Flav. Hell, Flav meets the requirements as well as Obama did.
Shit, half of these people sporting giant Obama shirts probably didn’t even vote; they just shouted the slogans and sat on their lazy asses waiting for this miraculous “change” to make their lives easy as pie. I myself have met plenty of people who said they wanted Obama to win, and yet never managed to make it to the voting booth. They wanted a change, yet couldn’t be bothered to make a change. But damn, it feels good to sport that shirt and look like you’re part of the in-crowd. Gotta sport some multi-colored Jordans, some giant-assed pants, and an Obama shirt. Gotta prove I was down with the Messiah when he said change was a-comin’ down the tracks. Change, baby. Don’t know what the change really is, but dammit it’s gonna come.
Maybe I’ll just hijack all the former Presidents and make my own t-shirts. Yeah, man. Millard Fillmore is my homeboy! I’m down with Chester A. Arthur. I’m chillin’ with Zachary Taylor. Werrrrrrrrrd!
Special thanks to Scott M. Bort, who took the two photos of the bootleg Obama shirts for sale at a rally. Visit his blog, complete with his excellent photography, at www.southsidebort.blogspot.com
Thursday, December 25, 2008
You gotta be fucking kidding me. I don’t need the government, or any governmental babysitting watchdog agency, to tell me I’m overweight. I can look in the fucking mirror and see if I’m overweight. And if I don’t particularly feel overweight or look overweight, then it’s certainly nobody’s damned business but mine.
I know that you’re not reading this yourself, Governor Paterson of the great state of New York, being that you’re blind and all, so make sure you’re translator puts the proper emphasis on the Braille transcripts of my blog when I say, sir, fuck you very much for your brilliant proposal to slap a 15% “obesity tax” on all non-diet drinks sold in your state.
So if I buy a Diet Pepsi for a buck, then a regular Pepsi will run me a buck fifteen. I guess you’ll screw people for sweet tea vs. unsweet tea (like you really needed to give my Carolina cousins an excuse to re-start the Civil War) and what about adding sugar to your coffee in shops and restaurants? A fucking trip to Starbucks is expensive enough without getting further ass-raped in taxes for adding a couple packets of raw turbinado.
Dude, I detest the taste of diet drinks. They taste like pure unadulterated ass. All those artificial chemical sweeteners like Splenda, Aspartame, and their ilk are things that I simply do not wish to ingest. At least I know what the fuck is in high fructose corn syrup. We already proved saccharine caused cancer in lab rats, so what other nasty things can today’s artificial sweeteners cause? Yeah, our kids may have three fucking arms but they’ll be skinnier…
Paterson's budget also calls for a 3% cut in education spending, a $620-a-year tuition hike at State University of New York schools and a $600 increase at City University of New York schools, and about $3.5 billion in health care cuts. State employees again will be asked to forgo their 3% raises next year and defer five days' pay until they leave their jobs. In all, Paterson will propose about $9 billion in cuts, $4 billion in new taxes and fees, and $1.5 billion in nonrecurring revenue. The so-called obesity tax would generate an estimated $404 million a year.
The Paterson administration also announced steps yesterday to expand the state's social services net, including a 30% increase in welfare payments over three years starting January 2010, increased money for food banks and expanded access to the state's Family Health Plus program. Paterson also hopes to make it easier for people to enroll in Medicaid by eliminating face-to-face interviews and fingerprinting requirements.
So you’ll increase the size of your fucking Nanny State governmental handouts and make it even easier for fraud to occur by not fingerprinting people, um, like, say illegal fucking aliens, and pay for it by jacking people for a regular Coke and shitting the educational system.
Man, what a fucking asshole. The people of New York were better off with Spitzer. At least he was fucking whores and not the people.
The economy is in the shitter. People are without electricity due to winter storms and freezing their asses off on Christmas. Half of Detroit is outta work and the other half is worried that they’re next because the Big Three automakers are circling the drain. But in the midst of all this, Messiah-elect Obama is able to romp shirtless in the surf vacationing in Hawaii, relaxing in a 5,000 square foot $9 million dollar vacation home, part of a $30 million dollar enclave.
Yeah, I know he ain’t the President yet and there isn’t really fuck-all that he can do, but it just looks shitty for him to be golfing and romping about while the poor huddled masses that elected him suffer back on the mainland. He should have stayed the hell back in the Chicago area in his $1.5 million dollar McMansion being all supportive and shit, smiling and making nice for the cameras and promising us “change”, since “together we can”.
Together we can, indeed.
Together we can watch Baywatch Barack kickin’ it on Oahu.
Bad tool, no donut.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I commute about 50 miles or so each way to work. I also make side trips to Charleston on the weekend for hockey games & other social functions. Thusly, I spend a lotta time in the car, watching the world go by. Some of this time is spent along Rivers Avenue and sometimes down Remount Road, target rich environments for people-watching. I’ll be blunt: I see a lot of really strange shit around town, and it’s some of the best free entertainment you could imagine.
At about 6:30 AM every weekday, I pass by the blood plasma donation place on Rivers, and it’s amazing to see how many people are already lined up outside the place in pouring rain, searing heat, life-sucking humidity, and the occasional bone-chilling cold snaps…no matter the weather, there’s 7-12 people waiting at the door at least 30minutes before it opens.
I saw a dude walking down McMillan by the Navy hospital carrying an entire set of free weights on his shoulder. I saw a guy downing a 40-ounce malt liquor at the bus stop at 7AM and it was pouring down his throat so fast that there were no air bubbles coming back up into the bottle. I’ve seen no fewer than a hundred people in various stores this past year shopping in pajama pants and slippers. I’ve seen weaves in shapes that only occur in modern art sculptures and Food TV sugar-spinning competitions in colors that simply do not occur in nature. And the giant transvestite hooker waving to all the truckers on Spruill? That’s priceless.
Breakfast of Champions! Chock fulla complex carbohydrates...
But is it art?
My wife’s favorite spotting was the 225-pound or so woman wandering Rivers in microscopic Daisy Dukes with her ass cheeks hanging out, and a size 2 boob-tube with multiple rolls and muffin tops displaying the rest of her goods to traffic. My personal favorite was the guy shambling down Remount jeans shoved down into red cowboy boots, with wild hair and disheveled beard, and covered by a cobalt blue terry cloth bathrobe.
Oh yes. I gotta have me some of that.
The guy who cut us off today on 78 while sucking his thumb? He may have seen us if only he’d had a rearview mirror, but he spent his mirror money on those ridiculously huge rims on his battered 1993 Town Car. He at least stopped sucking his thumb long enough to flip us off after we blew the horn at him. Also today was the unkempt woman with a head full of plastic curlers waving to passers-by from the parking lot of the Dollar General.
One can’t forget the tiny little bright red Honda Fit equipped with a giant set of Bumper Nutz hanging off the rear, the SUV over by Northwoods Mall sporting rims with crucifixes in the metal, or the guy with the giant map of I-26 and the surrounding area painted onto his car. That’s just one of the myriad examples of oddly painted cars around Chucktown and the surrounding Lowcountry. There’s the truck painted like a pack of Big Red. There’s a car done up in John Deere green and yellow, with matching leather seats. There’s one done up like a bag of Skittles, and another one with a glittery apple on the side with the name “Apple Bottom” painted on it.
As seen on Ashley Phosphate Road. Somewhere under that body kit was a Ford Explorer.
Now, to be fair, there’s also a number of cleverly-decorated pickups out there with giant lettering on either the front windshield or the rear; take your pick. I’ve seen DANGER RANGER, CORN FED, POTTED MEAT, HI-TEK REDNEK, and the ubiquitous COWBOY/COWGIRL UP (despite a notable lack of cowboys and ranches in South Carolina).
I was struck funny by the women’s thongs with CANCER on the front; all I could think of was crabs. I was nauseated by the canned tripe and pork brains, and just utterly dumbfounded by the butter sculpture in the shape of a turkey. I mean, who really eats canned stomachs and brains? The labels look straight out of 1958, and they very well could have been on the shelves since then. The turkey made of butter is just plain tacky. Sure, it’s a bit campy, but would you be able to look at your dinner host with a straight face after sitting at the table for your holiday feast and seeing a sculpture carved (or molded) from cow-squeazins shaken into a solid mass globule?
Sure, pal. YOU eat it. I ain't going there.
Seriously. Sculpted butter. Again, is it art?
The world around is us filled with all sorts of sights, from sublime to extreme. Take a spin around town and see what disturbing images sear themselves into your retinas…
As seen in the Rivers Avenue Wal-Mart at 2AM on a Saturday night.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Maybe I tend to read too much into things, but I’m well aware that advertisers will target their commercials to a certain audience segment and that they work in conjunction with programmers at the local and national level to make sure that their ads are shown at certain times during certain shows. Thanks to the miracle of TiVO and other DVR devices, most of us just record shows and fast-forward through the commercials.
Being that I’m on vacation this week, I started to really check out what commercials were on at what times, because I’ve noticed in the past that shows like Maury and Jerry Springer (guilty pleasures I engage in every couple months) generate the sort of commercials that paint a rather grim picture of the average viewer.
They must think that the average viewer of their show is broke, has bad credit, is undereducated, in failing health, and is looking for a way to sue somebody and get a settlement. As evidence, I checked out the commercials this morning: in the space of two hours I saw multiple ads for adult education (tech-schools and courses in the medical field, and a massage therapist school), an ad to get your invention patented, ads for tax debt relief and for credit counseling, two different ads for low-cost self-paid health insurance, multiple ads for minimum-coverage cheap car insurance, ads for diabetic testing supplies and home breathing-aid supplies, cheap no-credit used cars, the Scooter Store ad, and just a couple ads for actual products you can buy in a store, like Airwick air freshener, Playtex tampons, and Prefer-On scar remover. By far, though, the main brunt of the ads were from the ambulance-chasers. There were nearly a dozen ads for personal injury lawyers. All the local names were there: Akim Anastapoulo (The Strong Arm), a stay safe holiday message from Clekis Law Firm, one out of the blue from a firm I’d never heard of (Howell & Christmas), a few from everyone’s favorite local guy Bill Green (The Heavy Hitter), and a barrage bombardment from the Joye Law Firm. Reese Joye was everywhere; I mean there was a Joye ad on every commercial break.
There isn't a single human being in greater Charleston who doesn't know who this dude is...
Later on, for fun, I checked a commercial block during One Life To Live while I was channel surfing. Ads were seemingly geared towards Mom, who must do all the shopping for the family, I guess. Tylenol PM, Liquid Plumber, Loreal hair color, 1-800-Flowers, Crest Whitening, Wal-Mart, Joye Law Firm’s ad for suing a nursing home, the massage therapy school again, Dixie Furniture(Dixie’ll do it, ‘cause Dixie don’t care!), Folger’s, Totino’s Pizza Rolls, Build a Bear Workshop, Colgate Total Advanced Whitening, some drug called Abilify to treat your depression (it’s not recommended for dementia, by the way), M&M’s, Sears, Pilsbury Crescent Rolls (mmm, I’m making some tonight), Disney DVD’s on sale, and Alka Seltzer Plus cold medicine.
I was scared of what I might find over on MTV. Bounty paper towels…that was a surprise. An ad for Zoo York sneakers with talking roaches, a pretty cool recruiting ad for the Army, a couple cell phone ads, some video game you play with your butt, Axe Body Wash (guaranteed to get you laid it seems), the Academy of Art, a WWE wrestling video game, a couple commercials for upcoming movies, Progressive insurance, and a bevy of ads for crappy faux-reality shows on MTV.
But what about The Military Channel? That’s where I usually hang out. What commercials are geared towards me, I wonder? Vonage, so I can make international calls, the USO, which is a very worthy cause, DirectBuy for getting the things I need to build my new home, the Rosetta Stone software to teach me other languages, the Playstation 3 movie downloader so I can do more with the system than waste time playing games, Gravity Defyer dress shoes, and a laundry list of ads for other shows on sister networks owned by the Discovery Channel.
For $549.00, you too can learn Irish Gaelic!!!
In the afternoon, the second round of Maury/Springer was the same as before but added a George Sink personal injury lawyer ad, and one for Enzyte.
I shudder to think about the commercials on the Playboy Channel…do they even have commercials on there?
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Tom Cruise as Colonel Count Claus von Stauffenberg
It’s been a long time since I was excited about the release of a Tom Cruise film. For the past few years, I’m sorry to say, my opinion of Mister Mopather (yeah, his given name is Thomas Cruise Mopather IV) is that he’s a bit of a fruity blowhard kook. However, once I saw my first trailer for his new film “Valkyrie”, I decided that couch-jumping religious wingnut kook or not, my happy ass was gonna be in a theater seat this weekend to see it.
As a bit of a history buff, especially military history of the World War Two era, I was already familiar with Operation Valkyrie and the involvement of Claus von Stauffenberg in the plot to kill Adolf Hitler in 1944. This really happened, kids. This isn’t some made-up Hollywood “what-if” thingie.
Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was born November 15, 1907 in the Stauffenberg castle of Jettingen between Ulm and Augsburg, in the eastern part of Swabia. That’s pretty close to where I was stationed during my own Army years. The von Stauffenberg family is one of the oldest and most distinguished aristocratic Roman Catholic families of southern Germany.
Tom Cruise indeed looks the part, actually
Following the outbreak of war in 1939, Stauffenberg and his regiment took part in the attack on Poland. Afterwards, Stauffenberg's unit was reorganized into the 6th Panzer Division, and he served as officer of its general staff in the Battle of France before being transferred to the organizational department of the German army high command, which directed the operations on the Eastern Front with Russia. In 1943, Stauffenberg was promoted to lieutenant-colonel of the general staff, and was sent to Africa to join the 10th Panzer Division. There, while he was scouting out a new command area, his vehicle was strafed on 7 April 1943 by British fighter-bombers and he was severely wounded, losing his left eye, his right hand, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand.
During his time on the Eastern Front, he began to become seriously disillusioned with Hitler’s conduct of the war, and more and more disgusted with the Nazi Party’s treatment of the people they fought against and conquered. He became involved with a group of conspirators planning to assasinate Hitler, and without giving away what happens in the movie, the rest is history.
Obviously the plot failed, and due to Hitler’s lunatic tendencies, heads indeed rolled over the plot to kill him. Over the following weeks Heinrich Himmler’s Gestapo, driven by a furious Hitler, rounded up nearly everyone who had the remotest connection with the plot. The discovery of letters and diaries in the homes and offices of those arrested revealed earlier plots, and this led to further rounds of arrests. Under Himmler’s new Sippenhaft (blood guilt) laws, all the relatives of the principal plotters were also arrested. (Insert witty, pithy comment about guilt by association and the sins of the father here.)
Eventually some 5,000 people were arrested and about 200 were executed, but not all of them connected with the latest plot, since the Gestapo used the occasion to settle scores with many other people suspected of opposition sympathies.
Very few of the plotters tried to escape or to deny their guilt when arrested. Those who survived interrogation were given perfunctory trials before the People’s Court (Volksgerichtshof), with the first trials were held on 7 August 1944. Hitler had ordered that those found guilty be "hung like cattle", referring to the executions of those connected to what was called the Red Orchestra spy ring, that of slow strangulation using suspension from a rope attached to a slaughterhouse meathook. For the assasination plotters piano wire was used instead. How lovely.
Many people took their own lives prior to either their trial or their execution, sadly including one of the best & brightest generals that Germany had, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, who was accused of having knowledge of the plot beforehand and not revealing it to Hitler. He was given the option of suicide via cyanide or a public trial by the People's Court. If he committed suicide, his family wouldn't be subjected to a reprisal. However, with the verdict a foregone conclusion, the People's Court was basically a kangaroo court. If Rommel stood trial, there would have been no chance of successfully defending himself, and his family and staff would have been executed along with him. Rommel committed suicide 14 October 1944.
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox
But what happenned to von Stauffenberg? Go see Valkyrie and find out. It looks like Cruise has a hell of a movie on his hands and my faith in him may be restored.
A smiling Claus von Stauffenberg with fellow conspirator Albrecht Mertz von Quirnheim in 1942.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
People running to and fro all in a dither, neighbors gathering in the streets, panicked calls to the police asking about nuclear blasts, rumors of a freak winter thunderstorm, and a couple cracks in some drywall (not a wonder considering how fast these houses in the new Mushroom Neighborhood™ subdivisions get slapped together), but whatever was the matter?
An earthquake. A wee tremblor. The Big One? Not bloody likely.
At approximately 0742 yesterday morning, a magnitude 3.6 earthquake burped momentarily just outside of Charleston. Yeah, seriously. You may not know it but we have two somewhat major rifts in a fault line that open up to each other in the Summerville area. The quake was the first sizable jiggle since a 4.1 quake in 1995 shook houses and cracked driveways in Summerville. Last year there was a 2.5 ripple over in Hanahan, and back in 2002 there was a 4.4 off Kiawah Island, rattling the silver tea services at several McMansions and causing one Biff Snodgrass to miss a putt on the Ocean Course much to the amusement of his attorney, P. Quattlebaum Moneybags IV.
A dozen or more quakes too small to notice happen most years in the Lowcountry. This one was an anomaly because it was actually noticed by people. However, in the grand scheme of things, a 3.6 is only moderately stronger than a squirrel fart. The “Big One” that old-school Charlestonians refer to (and panic over) was the August 1886 magnitude 7.6 quake that hit near Summerville. Two-thirds of the brick buildings in Charleston were destroyed or nearly destroyed and all the buildings in Summerville were at least damaged in some way.
Geologists indicate that massive quakes such as that one have occurred every 500 years or so in the Lowcountry, and the farther we get from the last quake the more likely it is to happen again. While we usually think of major quakes happening in California or Mexico or far-flung places like China and the “Stans”, research indicates a 40 percent to 60 percent chance of a catastrophic quake somewhere in the eastern United States in the next 20 years.
Now, in 1886 only about 1,500 people lived in Summerville. Today, some 150,000 denizens live in the immediate area of the quake zone, and even more in the outlying areas. Things will actually be much nastier the next time around. We’d like to think that the buildings are better constructed today, but with houses sprouting up like fungus after a summer rain (hence the term Mushroom Neighborhoods™) I shudder to think about the structural ability to withstand a good sound shaking. Plus, in 1886 we had fewer water mains, power lines, giant glass storefronts, natural gas pipelines, and gas stations full of explosive yumminess.
The source of all this fun is the Woodstock Fault, two rifts in the rock deep underground, one traveling roughly from the ACE Basin (the convergence of the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers) almost to Lake Moultrie, the other traveling roughly along the Ashley River. They open on each other underneath the river somewhere around Middleton Place over on Highway 61, hence Lowcountry temblors tend to occur in a zone around that opening.
The quake was centered at 32.950 degrees North and 80.197 degrees West, or just east of the intersection of Ashley River and Bacons Bridge roads south of Summerville. I passed by there a little less than 90 minutes previously crossing Bacons Bridge Road on Dorchester Road a couple miles from the epicenter. According to the US Geologic Survey’s earthquake website, the depth of the quake was 9.8 miles underground.
And as an FYI, on the Richter Scale, each magnitude level is 10 times stronger than the level before it. A 4 is 10 times stronger than a 3.
The North Ridge quake in California in 1994 was a 6.7 and the San Francisco quake of 1989 was a 6.9 magnitude. That nasty quake in China this year was an 8, as was the Mexico City quake of 1985. That big effing monster that caused the killer tsunami waves in 2004 in Indonesia was a mind-blowing 9.3, making it the second largest quake ever recorded on a seismograph. The honor of the biggest goes to a mind-boggling 9.5 that hit the afternoon of May 22, 1960 435 miles south of Santiago, Chile and its resulting tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, eastern New Zealand, south east Australia and the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. It caused localized tsunamis that severely battered the Chilean coast with waves up to 82 feet high. The main tsunami raced across the Pacific Ocean and devastated Hilo, Hawaii; waves as high as 35 feet were recorded 6,000 miles from the epicenter.
So the next time you think it’s thunder, or a big truck, or a sonic boom, or some imbecile kid with giant subwoofers in his 500-dollar car on 5000-dollar rims, it could actualy be an earthquake. Or a squirrel fart.
Pictures showing damages from the infamous 1886 Charleston Earthquake, including a big fissure along the Ashley River.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Y’know, the evil shit you do in life will eventually catch up with you sooner or later. Karma is a bitch, they say. And so is justice. Just ask Orenthal James Simpson.
Finally, OJ gets to go to Big Boy Prison, instead of biding his time in pre-trial confinement suites signing autographs for dumbass jail guards looking to make a few bucks on eBay.
Almost 15 years after nearly decapitating his ex wife and a dude who was just returning something she left at the restaurant where he was a waiter, over a decade after the circus of his criminal and civil trials over the aforementioned slayings, after years of claiming that he was searching for the real killer on every golf course in America, and even having the gall and audacity to write a how-to book on wife killing, OJ stepped in enough shit to finally get some on his shoes.
In September 2007, the Juice was arrested in Las Vegas after a group of men led by Simpson entered a room at the Palace Station hotel-casino and took sports memorabilia at gunpoint, and was subsequently charged with numerous felonies, including robbery with a deadly weapon, burglary with a firearm, assault with a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon, coercion with use of a deadly weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit a crime. He was found guilty of all charges on October 3, 2008. And I laughed and laghed and laughed.
Yesterday he was sentenced to at least 9 years in prison. He’s finally gonna do some actual hard time. Actually, Simpson was sentenced to up to 33 years in prison with the possibility of parole in about 6 years.The family of Ron Goldman, the poor dude killed alongside Nicole Brown Simpson, was there in the courtroom and after sentencing they were verily dancing in the streets. They’ve been hounding Simpson every day for almost 15 years seeking justice.
"The back of his head looks the same as it did every day that we watched him in the criminal case, and we feel very proud of our efforts," Kim Goldman said. "We feel very strongly that because of our pursuit of him for all these years, that it did drive him to the brink of this."
"If that pushed him over the edge, great," Fred Goldman said afterward. "Put him where he belongs.”
I guess their lives will be a tad emptier now without Simpson to chase after. That’s okay; they can spend the next 6 years writing their impassioned speeches against him for his parole hearings in 6 years. And if he gets out in 9 years, he’ll be 67 and a bit slower to chase around the golf course. If he serves longer, this could start turning into a life sentence.
Before the sentence, he offered a rambling, emotional apology in which he told District Judge Jackie Glass, his voice shaking, that he was sorry for his actions but believed he did nothing wrong. Glass, however, brushed his apology aside, saying his actions amounted to "much more than stupidity," and calling him both arrogant and ignorant.
"Earlier in this case, at a bail hearing, I said to Mr. Simpson, I didn't know if he was arrogant, ignorant or both," Glass said. "During the trial and through this proceeding, I got the answer, and it was both."
So long, Juice. Next time I pass a golf course, I’ll look over to see if the real killer is there, just for you, okay?
I heard about this yesterday on The Schnitt Show and found it interesting. These are excerpts from an article in Slate Magazine by Chadwick Matlin in September 2007.
With the murder trial, the "hypothetical" outline of how he would have killed his ex-wife, and now his "sting operation" in a Las Vegas hotel room, it's hard to remember that O.J. Simpson used to play football. He was actually pretty good at it, running away with the Heisman Trophy in 1968 and making the Pro Bowl five times in his NFL career. As a pro, Simpson carried the ball more than 2,400 times. As the evidence mounts that football can cause massive head trauma, it's worth wondering: Could O.J.'s erratic behavior have something to do with taking too many gridiron collisions?
After former Eagles defensive back Andre Waters committed suicide last year, the Waters family sent pieces of his brain to a forensic pathologist. The doctor reported that damage sustained while playing football had made Waters' brain similar to that of "an octogenarian Alzheimer's patient." According to his doctors, Hall of Fame center Mike Webster suffered frontal lobe damage due to repeated head injuries; he was suffering from dementia when he died at age 50. A post-mortem analysis of Chris Benoit, the professional wrestler who killed his wife and son and then committed suicide, revealed massive brain damage. Diaries were also found with cryptic, disturbing passages that suggested Benoit's behavior wasn't a result of steroid-induced rage, but rather a gradual decline into violence and dementia.
All of these athletes sustained traumatic brain injuries that killed brain cells and left them permanently impaired. Dr. David Hovda, a neurosurgeon at UCLA told me that any altered consciousness—seeing stars, dizziness, or feeling dazed after a hit—is considered a mild TBI. Even a mild concussion causes damage. With football's macho culture, players often pick themselves up and stay in the game, leaving themselves open to more serious harm. But repeated TBIs can lead to an altered frontal and temporal lobe, which can cause heightened anxiety and a loss of emotional control. Football players tend to damage their temporal lobe, which controls feeding, fighting, fleeing, and the person's sex drive.
It appears that Simpson never had a documented head injury. A search of online newspaper archives didn't find any reports of concussions. Jim Peters, a sportswriter who covered Simpson's career in Buffalo, told me he couldn't remember Simpson missing any action because of a blow to the head.
The lack of published reports doesn't mean Simpson never sustained brain trauma. In the 1960s and 1970s, when the dangers of head injuries weren't well-known, players and trainers rarely reported concussions. Even today, players often don't say when they've suffered a head injury. Christopher Nowinski, a former pro wrestler who wrote Head Games: Football's Concussion Crisis and now heads up the brain-trauma-focused Sports Legacy Institute, told me that 50 percent of players admit to feeling concussionlike symptoms in anonymous surveys. That's a far greater number than have gone public with their injuries. It's also worth noting that in Simpson's era, helmet safety standards weren't close to today's level—neither was the size of the opposing linebackers.
So, where does that leave us with O.J.? After retiring from football in 1979, he started an acting career and was a respected announcer on Monday Night Football. By all accounts, he was a functioning member of society until June 1994. The effects of repeated brain damage can become more marked over time, but it seems dubious to suggest that O.J.'s brain damage caused him to go haywire in Las Vegas. Instead, it's more likely that as O.J. gets up there in age (he turned 60 in July) his mental descent may occur more quickly and be more pronounced because of the hard hits he suffered on the football field.
We'll probably never know how damaged Simpson's brain may be. The people in charge of his remains—most likely his children—would have to send parts of his brain matter to neurosurgeons, like Andre Waters' family did. But at this rate, perhaps the Goldman family will find a way to win the rights to Simpson's brain. If they let the neuroscientists take a peek inside O.J.'s head, we may finally get an answer.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Some people just don’t know when NOT to fuck up.
One of those people is Plaxico Burress, wide receiver for the New York Giants. He caught the winning touchdown pass in last year’s Super Bowl and has been a pain in the ass ever since. Just before the start of the Giants mandatory training mini-camp back in May of this year, Burress had said that he would not participate in the camp because he was upset with his contract. He attended the camp to avoid paying a fine but refused to practice with the team. Although he was slated to receive $3.25 million for 2008, Burress felt underpaid compared to other star receivers. After indicating that he might hold out training camp as well, he showed up but practiced very little, claiming his ankle was injured. Boo hoo.
Already slated to miss the Thanksgiving-weekend game against Washington with a sore hamstring, Plaxy went clubbing at The Latin Quarter nightclub instead of resting that leg. On Friday, November 28, the day after Thanksgiving, Burress suffered an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right thigh when his gun, tucked in the waistband of his sweatpants, began sliding down his leg. The injury was not life-threatening and he was released from an area hospital the next afternoon.
The following Monday, Burress turned himself in to police to face charges of criminal possession of a handgun. According to his lawyer Benjamin Brafman, Burress will plead not guilty, of course. It was later discovered that the NYPD found out about the incident only after seeing it on television and were not called by New York-Presbyterian Hospital as required by law. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the hospital actions an "outrage" and stated that they are a "chargeable offense". Bloomberg also urged that Burress be prosecuted to the fullest extent, saying that any punishment short of the minimum 3½ years for unlawful carrying of a handgun would be "a mockery of the law." Burress had an expired concealed carry permit from Florida, which is where he lives in the offseason, but no New York license.
Okay…here we go with some of my famous Life Lessons:
Hey, asshole, if you can’t drive on an expired driver’s license, what the hell makes you think you can carry a concealed handgun with an expired concealed carry permit? Just because Florida is pretty liberal with carry permit issuance and reciprocity concerning permits issued in other states, that doesn’t mean you automatically have reciprocity to your current home in New Jersey, or into New York. They kinda cover that shit in the permit class, genius.
Dude, in a city of over 8.2 million people, there are fewer than 8,000 concealed permits issued for New York City. New York City and New York State are restrictive but do offer concealed carry gun permits to qualified residents (ie: powerful, wealthy, politically-connected people) who show a need to be armed. New York City and New York State routinely issue concealed carry pistol permits/gun licenses to honorably retired federal, state and local law enforcement officers who are residents of the state. Last I checked, complaining wide receivers for the Giants aren’t in that category.
Also, who the fuck wears sweat pants to a nightclub? Oh, wait; you’re a famous person, and rules of dress codes for clubs do not apply. I know if my working-class lily-white ass showed up at a club in sweats I wouldn’t even be allowed into the doorway to use the payphone. And an asshole who just tucks a loaded firearm with the safety off into the waistband of any pants, let alone sweats, actually deserves to get shot. You stupid, stupid creature; you get no sympathy from me. You’re lucky you didn’t blow a ball off.
On Tuesday, Burress posted bail of $100,000. He is scheduled to return to court on March 31, 2009, to enter a plea. Later in the day, Burress reported to Giants Stadium as per team policy for injured but active players, and was told he would be suspended without pay for the remaining four games of the 2008 regular season for conduct detrimental to the team. In addition, the Giants placed Burress on their reserve/non-football injury list, meaning he cannot return for the playoffs. Burress is also scheduled to receive $1 million from his signing bonus on December 10, but the status of that payment is unclear. Bwahh-ha-ha-ha-ha!
Brafman made a statement over the weekend, though; typical lawyer bullshit legalspeak . Said Brafman: "We are in contact with the New York City Police Department and the New York City District Attorney's office, making arrangements for Mr. Burress to address these legal issues as early as [Monday]. He will responsibly address these issues in short order. He recognizes that there are legal issues that he's going to have to deal with and we intend to do this as responsibly and expeditiously as possible. He's not running away from this. He intends to deal with this responsibly and we hope it works out in the end and I would ask that the public, the Giants, the media and everybody else withhold judgment. He's presumed innocent, hasn't been convicted of anything and we have a long road ahead of us."
Dude. Don’t be a tool. Plead guilty. You fucking shot yourself while illegally carrying a gun in New York City. You already look stupid enough. Pleading not guilty makes you look like a schmuck. Are you going to claim a gunman was on the grassy knoll across the way? Will you claim Suge Knight was in the men’s room and opened fire for no apparent reason?
Yet another multi-millionaire sports star pisses away his career…or has he? Pacman Jones found a gig with Dallas after getting reinstated by the NFL (and has already been suspended again this season), and I’m sure some desperate team will sign Michael Vick after he gets out of prison. Burress will be back; about the only footballer in jail right now who won’t ever get signed again is OJ Simpson.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Last year I discovered a great new band, Shiny Toy Guns. I had the pleasure of being not 6 feet away from them at a very intimate concert at The Windjammer last September, and I was instantly hooked. The music was great and they were really cool to their fans. I got to chat briefly with the band’s singer/guitarist Chad Petree and he was exceptionally approachable and amiable, despite being a bit under the weather and a tad road-weary.
Their debut cd, “We Are Pilots” quickly became the staple cd in my car’s player, replacing Depeche Mode’s “Playing the Angel”, and that’s really saying something. After playing like a billion shows worldwide, and having a slight change in band lineup after vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Carah Faye Charnow parted ways with STG and was replaced by Sisely Treasure, the band has finally unleashed their highly anticipated and eagerly awaited sophomore effort, “Season of Poison”. Hold tight, kids; this ain’t the Shiny Toy Guns you saw last year.
Over all, there’s a little less dancey synths and a lot more grinding guitar work. If you were worried that Treasure wouldn’t be able to fill Carah’s steel-toe boots, fear not. This chick has pipes, and attitude to spare. The sound has gone in a natural progression; it doesn’t sound reinvented or like a totally different band. There’s enough of the old STG to appeal to the original fans and enough new-skool to pull in the new fans. I’m a bit curious as to how they’ll sound live now, though, since Charnow handled certain bass and synth work on stage, and Treasure’s voice isn’t that dissimilar to hers that the vocals would sound dramatically different.
Season of Poison begins with “When Did The Storm End?”. It starts slow, with a long buildup of computer blips and some vocals from Chad, “..call my name and show me where I stand…”. Then Sisely breaks in with saucy, sassy vocals, and the song sorta goes schizo from there, alternately staccato Sisely and then soaring music and plaintively wailing Chad. It works, I promise you. It works very well. It ends somewhat abruptly, with the sound of a school bell and kids’ voices, segueing immediately into the second track, “Money For That”, a tasty blend of guitars and nostalgic reminiscences of younger days.
Track Three is “I Owe You a Love Song”, a really pleasant poppy tune that reminds me a lot of “Rainy Monday” from “We Are Pilots”. This has become one of my favorite tracks from the new album, with vocal duties swapping back & forth between Chad & Sisely quite nicely. “Ghost Town” is like a cheerleader-meets-hardcore track, with bratty vocals from Sisely over machinegun drums and Chad’s vocals on the chorus. “It Became a Lie On You” starts off with the sound of thunderstorms and processed robotic vocals, and moves into Chad’s vocals over Sisely’s. It reminds me a bit of “When They Came For Us” with the faintest hint of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones”.
Track Six is “Ricochet!”, the first single released to radio. As I’ve stated before after first hearing it, I was reminded a lot of KMFDM mixed with a little Lords of Acid. It quickly grew on me and became a staple in my MP3 player’s rotation over the summer. “Season of Love” is a really sweet ballad, a softer song along the lines of “We Are Pilots”, and it segues into “Poison”, with another slow buildup into a sort of tribal-esque drum beat with processed vocals, gradually getting a bit faster but still maintaining an atmospheric feel.
“Blown Away” is another slow-starter that explodes around the 1:30 mark for a brief burst and then quiets down again, then does it all over again. “Turned To Real Life” is a good pop track, very New Order in the music, with Sisely’s vocals out front. I think this is being tapped as the second single. The final track, “Frozen Oceans” is utterly gorgeous. It’s an atmospheric track that soars at the crescendo and ends the album beautifully.
Does it sound different from what you’ve gotten used to? Yes. Is it less danceable than “We Are Pilots” ? Yes. Is it something that a die-hard STG fan will come to love despite that? Yes. Do I think you should get off your asses, get this album, and go see STG on tour at your nearest venue? Oh, hell yes.
Deploy, my minions. Go forth and spread the good word. Shiny Toy Guns are back with a vengeance.
Yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment to a certain degree. Here it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I actually have the day off from work for a change, for the first time in 4 years, and what do I do? I get up at 4AM and drive across Walterboro to Wal-Mart.
By far, I was not the only idiot. No way. The lines at the camera counter, where I wanted to get a new digital, were over 100 people deep when I got there. They were still a hundred deep when I left the counter a hundred bucks poorer 90 minutes later. I was 2 aisles over from the main thoroughfare at the back of the store that runs past Electronics and Toys, a runway that was clogged with black-wrapped boxes and a teeming sea of humanity awaiting the 5AM start of the sales. Several times between 0430 and 0500 the “friendly” associates would order the masses to not touch the black wrappings until 0500. Failure to comply with The Rules of the Sale would result in the summoning of the local constabulary SWAT teams.
Yeah, the ‘Boro’s finest were there in black fatigue pants and the civilian equivalents of combat harnesses, stationed to the right of the camera counter, ready to pounce with Tazers and Mace upon rioters trying to get more than the allowed number of digital picture frames, High-Def big screens, High School Musical dolls, or Hannah Montana lunchboxes. Rocking back on their heels and scanning the crowd, fidgety from coffee and donuts at the nearby Huddle House, they almost looked disappointed when riots failed to break out.
Since I was 2 aisles over when the Magic Time arrived, had to listen to the frenzy rather than be able to watch it. From the sound of it, it had to have been similar to a pack of Jurassic Park’s raptors tearing into a wounded Triceratops calf. And yet, there was no punching or tossing of Molotov cocktails. It was all a quite orderly madness. By 6AM I was back in my driveway, trunk loaded with a couple jackets, 8 pairs of jeans, some tops, a new comforter set, and my camera. Back to bed for a few more hours, and then back to Wal-Mart to get groceries and see if the store looked like an apocalyptic wasteland.
In a town of barely 6000 people, there were at least 2000 in the store at 0430. I shudder to think of what the pandemonium looked like in Charleston’s Wally Worlds or the Best Buys, or the Tanger Outlets, who had a midnight madness sale from what I hear. You gotta be one dedicated mo-fo to hit the Tanger stores at midnight and then split your party up to hit the malls, Best Buy, and Wal-Mart between 4 and 5 for the Door Buster Sales.
All in all, it wasn’t quite as bad as a Filene’s Basement wedding dress sale. No cars were flipped over, no tires were set afire, no clouds of tear gas were sent gushing forth. But hey, the best sales are yet to come…and I do so love to go to the mall on December 24th…