Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Come On Baby, Light My Fire

You know that gag people try and pull when they are caught in a lie/unexpected/or otherwise unprepared, and they suddenly feel the need to escape, so they point behind you and, with as much surprise, shock, and fear as they can muster say, “Oh my god! Look at that!” You’re then supposed to turn around to look, distracted by their fear and warning, only to see nothing, and when you turn back, the person is gone.

You know the gag I’m talking about, right?

Sure you do. It never works. I mean, maybe on a five year old kid for the first time, but otherwise, never. Nobody is stupid enough to fall for it.

Or so you’d think.

See, the Republicans have been doing just that to us since the 2nd tower was reduced to dust, rubble, and bits of FDNY guys. At every possible turn, when anyone dared ask, “Hey, what’s going on?” the Republicans, led by their mighty leader, Prince George, would point behind us and with fake fear exclaim, “Oh my god! Look! A wilde-eyed Islamic boogeyman come to kill us!” And we fell for it every time. In fact, some morons have not yet bothered to turn around, and are still looking for the boogeyman. Hence the unnecessary and unjustified mess in Iraq (but that’s another topic).

The thing is, it isn’t just phantom wilde-eyed Islamic boogeymen that Republicans use to try and distract us (although those “terror alert” warnings every week during the 2004 campaign did make it seem so). They’ve been equally effective at using some non-existent moral high ground (“Oh my god! Look, they’re killing Teri Schiavo even though via videotape we can see she is completely lucid despite the diagnosis of doctors who have seen her in real life!”), or protecting us from the savages of eroding social convention (“Oh my god! Look, two people of the same sex want to proclaim their partnership in a marriage which will somehow mean that not only will bestiality become public school curriculum but that heterosexuals who are married will suddenly all turn into rabid immoral beasts bringing down the destruction of our nation so the wild-eyed Islamic boogeymen can kill us!”).

It’s sad, really. Even sadder that it continues to work. There are others too, most recently the “Oh my god! Look, there are millions of illegal immigrants storming over the border stealing our jobs and sucking the treasury dry even though they help construct our roads/homes/buildings and put the food on our tables, and pay taxes that helps offset the cost of our unjustified and unnecessary war in Iraq to prevent the phantom wild-eyed Islamic boogeymen from killing us!”

Well, they didn’t stop there. You wouldn’t expect them too, would you? Nope. Their last bit was the “Oh my god! Look, those wild leftyloons are lining up to burn the flag which will somehow through a series of Rube Goldberg-esque steps mean the utter destruction of our ability to remain free thus leaving us helpless against the hoards of illegal immigrants who want nothing more than to kill innocent brain-dead women who really are lucid anyway so homosexuals can get married and force our children to have sex with animals which will only result in wild-eyed Islamic boogeymen killing us!”

Thankfully, that last one proved too hard for the Senate to believe … but just by one vote. The oft-attempted amendment to the constitution that would outlaw burning the American flag failed. Again. By the slimmest margin.

The flag is not some sacred symbol, despite what those who wrap themselves tightest with it might want you to believe. In fact, in a truly free society, there can be no sacred symbols. The freedom to desecrate, through word or action, a belief or symbol, no matter how strongly held, must be un-questioned. It’s very easy to be for speech when it’s something with which you agree, but unless this freedom provides complete protection for the other side, it means nothing. And before you start chiming in with the famous exception to the first amendment about not being allowed to shout “fire!” in a crowded theater, it doesn’t apply. That exception singled out speech which would incite to violence or injury. Burning a flag only injures the pieces of cloth which were stitched together in Taiwan (and, maybe the idiot holding it or lighting it). It’s not the same. It is a symbolic act … like a bunch of morons protesting outside the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq holding signs saying “Burn in Hell” and “God Hates Fags” because of some incomprehensibly perverse philosophy. As ugly, upsetting, tasteless, and offensive as they may be, they are protected, and we have to accept it as payment for our freedom.

Besides, as Sen. Kerry pretty concisely summed it up this way (and I am paraphrasing): “Burning the flag is an act of stupidity, but in this country you have the right to be stupid.” This is most evidently the case, otherwise we wouldn’t keep falling for the Republican tricks of pointing behind us with the intent of distraction.

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Who's Surrendering Now?

I am still digesting the savory meal that was France v Spain in yesterday's WC06 match.

While watching it (thanks to the benevolence of ESPN360, which made its streaming video service available to all), I couldn't help but smile at the play. Jogo bonito may officially refer to Brazilian football (or, futebol), but in this instance, it transcended a team, and applied to the game itself.

It seems that every tournament produces one signature game ... a match for the ages that continues to inspire conversations and exclamations of amazement years after the final whistle ended play. Nobody who saw Italy v Brazil and France v West Germany in Spain '82; France v Brazil and Argentina v England in Mexico '86; or Argentina v Romania in USA '94 will forget the elegance, thrill, determination, and pure joy of those games. Not coincidentally, the names featured in them are also legendary: Zico, Socrates, Rossi, Platini, Rumenigge, Maradonna, Batistuta, and Hagi.

As I was watching France v Spain unfold, I couldn't help but be reminded of these classic matches. Both Spain and France played with abandon, forcing the pace and working for the win. France seemed to have the better of it, but for the fact that Henry continually found himself offside, killing drive after drive. And though Spain struck first on a PK, it was clear that the chances and creativity were being generated by France. Finally, some nice touches through midfield on a French build got the ball to Viera. Henry was alone to the right, but (as usual) in an offside position. Viera deftly changed field and left a nifty service to Ribery, streaking along the left. The ball was perfectly placed to match Ribery's pace, and he carried it through the area, geeking the Spanish goaltender and placing it just past the outstretched legs of Spanish defenders into the net for the equalizer.

The second half was more of the same. Both sides played the entire field, in a wide open display of true jogo bonito, but France continued to dominate the chances and dictate play, despite a consistently offside Henry. All it took was one free kick with Zizou putting the ball at the far post where Viera could tap it in to give France the lead, which was sealed when the old man received a through pass sending him into the area where he faked the goaltender and placed a nifty wrong-foot ball into the net.

It was very satisfying to see Zidane play in this match. He showed himself to have the form of 98 with his passing, ball movement, positioning, and ability to sense play before it happened. Considering this is his last (supposedly) cup, watching him takes a special meaning, and seeing this sort of game really does underscore the entire tournament.

Les Bleus next face Brazil in the Quarterfinals ... as they did in Mexico '86. That match was one of the legendary ones, ending in a 4:3 victory for France after the PK shootout. One can only hope that this one attains the same level

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Matilda Waltzes Out of the Cup

Amazing ... the calcio gods finally decided to smile upon the Azzurri and grace them with a lucky break in a World Cup match.

True, this comes at the expense of the real popular "heart-string" story of the gutty little Socceroos from Oz, but hey, someone has to pay.

Italy, long the team to find themselves at the receiving end of some serious dry-entry, looked like they were going to have yet another hard luck tale to add to a pile that most recently featured the atrocious robbery they suffered against the Koreans in WC02. Only five minutes into the second half, Italy found themselves a man down when the official overreacted and showed Materazzi a red card, sending the defender off and giving Oz a man advantage for at least 40 minutes.

The match to that point was an evenly contested, well-fought 0:0 draw, although Serie A wonder-boy Luca Toni did have at least two very good chances at net. However, with the sending off it looked as if the plucky Socceroos would pull the same miracle the Taeguk Warriors did last time round. However, Italy again showed a resolve and toughness, and repelled wave after wave of Aussie onslaught.

Surprisingly, at times it seemed as if Australia were actually playing for a tie, taking extreme patience in setting up their attack, allowing the defensive minded Italians to regroup and get settled in formation. True, Oz had a few chances at net, but for a side that hadn't made the tournament in a generation, you would have thought they would have shown a bit more desperation and drive.

The second half saw the very rare Italian counter, with one particular drive almost finding paydirt but for Gattusso's service being far too hard and overshooting Del Piero on the far post. Still, Italy took their chances and made the effort. Aging midfield start Francesco Totti came in as a late replacement, showed some of the flair, creativity, and skill that has made him such a fixture for the national team, but it looked as if the match would end regulation time level, and likely make its way into the dreaded shootout.

Then, the miracle happened. The curse which seemed to hover over the Azzurri suddenly dissipated, and through a gutsy and determined run by Grosso, Italy gained a penalty eight seconds from time. True enough, at contact Grosso did his best to embellish the contact, and showed considerable skill in his diving form, but then penalties have been awarded for less. Much maligned Totti placed the ball on the spot, then shot a rocket just beyond the Aussie keeper's reach, and time was called.

Italy won, 1:0.

Now, the question isn't whether the penatly was deserved or not, and despite the howls of frustration and cries of some nefarious plot to see the traditional powers advance, the fact is Australia was not robbed. The penalty may not have been deserved, but Oz failed to win. They played for over 40 minutes with a man advantage, and had many opportunities to gain the goal they needed to claim victory, but couldn't. Rather than sit and whine about how Italy was gifted a win, people should wonder at how Oz couldn't pot a goal, or how Italy was so strong and resolute facing the man advantage.

All indications were that, had the penalty not been called, the match would have ended in extra time with the same 0:0 score it began, and the match would have gone to the shootout. So, why is anyone upset? It happened 30 minutes earlier than it otherwise would have. Italy won. And they get to face the Ukraine in what should be a very boring match.

Australia wasn't robbed. They just couldn't win.

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me

Okay, so, it isn't my birthday, and this particular gift won't arrive until 2008, but still ... this is like one of those completely unexpected bonanzas that puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step. Sort of like getting woken up on a Saturday morning by a blowjob, or finding that hidden beer in the fridge when you were certain you were dry.

The news?

Comedy Central has announced they've agreed with Matt Groening to create a new season of Futurama.

Wow ... having this sort of news come during the middle of the World Cup is almost too much to believe. Now, if I can manage that beer and the hoover at the same time ...

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Random thoughts on WC06 and more

So, it's midway between matches today, and I am still trying to comprehend how Croatia could play so solidly and generate so many scoring opportunities against both Brazil and Japan, and yet still have not been able to find the net.

Certainly it isn't through lack of effort up front. Niko Kranjcar has done a nice job of creating through the middle and distributing balls, and Dado Prso has been a bear in making runs and getting himself available, yet they have not had more than two or three really valid tries on goal.

Is anyone else shocked at how huge Chilavert has become? Good grief!

I've been watching the matches on the Univision feed here in LA, because: 1/ it's nostalgic (the first three cups I watched (Spain 82, Mexico 86, and Italia 90) were all on KMEX); 2/ the American announcers are just no damn good; and 3/ the between-match programming on Univision features many scantily clad and very sexy dollies prancing about and otherwise sending waves of arousal coursing through my body.

The interesting thing is how the Mexican announcers, hosts, etc are so completely in love with Brazil. I can see why ... no, not because they are playing so well (jogo bonito thus far belongs to the albiceleste), but because of the Brazilian woman.

Which reminds me of a trip to Guadalajara I made a while back. (Trust me, there is a thread through all this nonsense). I love Guadalajara if for no other reasons than it is the birthplace and mecca for mariachi, and also because it is right next to the little town of tequila. Nuff said. However, while there, I had dinner one night at this Brazilian restaurant, which featured some entertainment. Essentially meaning women in incredibly skimpy bikinis who would "dance" to an incessant and hypnotic drum beat. I use the scare-quotes (not scarecrows) around dance advisedly, by the way, because the entire dance was less a series of steps and choreographed action, and more simply her vibrating in place. Hell, either way it was next to impossible to look away. The odd thing is, most of the Brazilian women who I've seen either in person or on TV, while magnetic all suffer from the same malady: cuerpo del deseo, cara del pesar. Indeed.

Anyway, the canarinhos are about to tee it up against the socceroos, so I have to be brief.

The US definitely redeemed themselves with a gutsy and passionate effort against the azzurri, but don't come whinging about the two red cards: they were deserved. Eddie Pope is a hack, and Mastroeni went in late and studs high.

Every cup has something that makes it stand out in the "this is so incredibly freaking stupid" way, and this time around it's this really stupid haristyle.

Nike again blows the competition out of the water with their commercials. Having Eric Cantona was genius.


Well, Brazil managed to dispatch Oz, but in a clumsy and very sloppy manner. Ronaldo looks fat, slow, and uncoordinated (he actually whiffed on an open net), and it really is sad to see. Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, and Kaka are carrying the squad, and even though Adriano potted the first goal of the match, he seems outclassed by almost everyone else wearing yellow. Ronaldo was mercifully replaced in the 2nd half by Robinho, who immediately showed himself to be impatient and ready to forget any level of discipline in the excitement of the moment. If Brazil hopes to gain the Hexa this year, they are going to need to do some serious improvement.

Meanwhile, the Cheating Koreans continues to gain points at the hands of poor referreing -this time a horrible call denying France their second goal in the first half. Sure enough, the Cheating Koreans capitalized and managed to draw level with only a few minutes left in the match. France tried furiously to get the go-ahead goal, but in their effort Zidane was booked with a yellow - his second of the tournament, meaning he doesn't play against Togo. Les Bleus aren't out yet, but they are well on their way. It's astounding to think of the luck that continues to favor the Cheating Koreans. One wonders what would happen if an official didn't tilt a game in their favor. Oh, wait ... no need for wondering. Turkey beat them in the 3rd place game in 2002. The evidence is clear: in an even match, the Cheating Koreans lose. How pathetic that they can only acheive success with the help of an official blunder.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Cutting close to some bones

Heh heh heh ...

The last panel is definitely true ... moreso for some than others.

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Be Careful What You Wish For

Boy, who knew there was anyone out there that really cared whether I ever posted again or not?

I'm flattered. To borrow a line from a giggly and slighly drunk actress accepting a statuette, "You like me. You really like me."

You poor sods.

Besides, you people couldn't have picked a worse time to try and rouse me from my stupor. And trust me, Skippy, a stupor created from an amalgalm (I like that word, by the way) of pseudo-ephedrine, alcohol, carne asada, and some intensely delicious and wickedly spicy salsa is one hell of a thing from which to be roused. Yep, no prepositions ending that sentence.

The thing is, I am feeling kind of frisky these days, and it isn't because I have again sampled Vanilla Ice Cream. I fear that will not ever be coming back, although I have recently developed a taste for newer flavors. But that is besides the point. Where was I? Oh yes, frisky.

It's the quadrennial even that keeps me from eating a bullet during the three off years that has my pecker up now. And if the opening was any indication, I am in for a month of orgasmic indulgence.

Germany beat Costa Rica in a wide open match, 4-2, which saw Miroslav Klose finally step on to the stage to live up to some of the hype he had in 98 and 02. He netted 2 goals (same as Wanchope for the Ticos), but the story was more the style of play. Up and down, with not the most elegant defense on either side. My Azzurri take the pitch on Monday, which is both good and bad. Good as in it gives me two more days to work into a frenzy, but bad as I will be at work, and unable to watch it until I get home and hit the play button on the VCR. Yes, that is VCR, not TiVo. I am so 1990's.

My big dilemma is whether to tape the ESPN feed, or the Mexican station. I think I'll opt for the Mexican as it will be far more nostalgic.

Oh, don't worry if none of the above made sense to you. It just means you're a provincial American doofus with about as much grasp of world culture as a concussed bee.

What else? Oh, I've found that I like NOFX. They strike me as very similar to the Offspring in that they are basically just a good old punk band.

Will someone please explain to me why there are still morons out there who believe that our invasion of Iraq was in any way jutified by prevailing events or the incessant beat on the 9/11 drum? A non-sequitor, I know, but it still amazes me. The idiots and boneheads who accept the propaganda behind it just amaze me. Though they do tend to help me understand how something like the NSDAP ever reached power. All I have to say to them is: You're an idiot. Endy story. No arguments. You are an idiot. Sell your nonsense to the tourists, because I'm not as dumb as you are to buy it.

So, are all you bitches happy? I've posted. Get off my tits and let me watch more footy.

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