Friday, March 28, 2008

The MLB all-name team

Spring has sprung and with it comes the onset of another season between the white lines - home runs, strikeouts, beanballs, drunken St. Louis Cardinals, and of course, my 2008 MLB all-name team. Here is to a comeback by Stubby Clapp or a managerial position being offered to Rusty Kuntz! Cheers!

C - Raul Cassanova. He makes love, not war - and occasionally plays catcher when he has spare time between amorous conquests.
1B- Ryan Garko. Everytime I hear this name, I have an overwhelming urge to throw "Donnie Darko" into the DVD player. Fear the bunny!
2B- Asdrubal Cabrera. Indian second baseman looking to spend his first whole year as a starter. Can you hear the chants of Assdrool echoing off the Jacob's Field walls?
SS- Ryan Theriot. Check out what his last name spells if you separate the e from the r. Isn't that a riot. It took Cubs fans to figure that out. More kegs to the bleachers, stat.
3B- Evan Longoria. Although this hot prospect (in every way) was unable to make the Rays (who no longer worship Satan) due to their incredible cheapness, this international swimsuit model's hot body should be gracing their infield by June at the latest. With Eva on the team, the Rays finally have a chance to sell a couple of tickets.
UT/IF- Mark Grudzielanek. It brings a tear to my eye when I recall Harry Caray's vain attempts at saying this name. May I suggest the Royals limit the Budweiser intake of their announcer if they are going to expect him to be up to the challenge.
OF- Milton Bradley. Not a man to play games with, this former every team outfielder has a well-known temper which hurts him on the field, but helps him in the Game of Life. Bradley left the Indians after an altercation with his manager, Eric Wedge. He was injured last year by his own coach, Bud Black. Surprisingly the outfielder has changed locations again and is now a Texas Ranger.
OF - Coco Crisp. Former platoon mate of Bradley in Cleveland, this speedy Red Sox centerfielder is in danger of losing his job to Count Chocula (AKA Jacoby Ellsbury) if he doesn't learn to hit.
OF - Kosuke Fukudome. Drunken Cubs fans will be able to stare at this jersey in right field for 81 games or so this year. Be afraid, very afraid of what they may come up with here. ***Update*** During the first game four Cub fans were shown with the letters FUKU spelled on their chest. The fun has begun and the bleachers are not safe for your children.
Backup OF- Corey Hart. He wears his sunglasses at night, during the day, and pretty much any time the Brewers are playing.
SP - Boof Bonser. This funky chunky monkey looks pretty much like what you would expect a Boof to look like. Unfortunately for the Twins, he pitches like a Boof as well.
SP - Ryan Dempster. The Cum Dumpster (copyright Colin McCandless) has moved from the pen to the starting rotation this year where one dares dream he does not live up to his nickname - nothing good could come of that.
RP - Manny Corpas. This Rockies closer truly left many corpses in his wake during an outstanding season last year. I drafted him for my fantasy team this year, in hopes that he continues killing the league. Alas, he has turned out to be the real corpse.
RP - Yorman Bazardo. He's not my man, his man, or her man - he is yorman! I don't have a clue who the hell he is, but he currently has a spot on the Tigers roster and will always have a bizarre name, so he has done all he needs to earn a place on my team.
RP - Kazuo Fukumori. The good news is that his Rangers does not play in Chicago. The bad news is that his last name is Fukumori.
RP - Evan Meek. The meek shall inherit the baserunners during Pirates games this year. Yeah, I went there. Air sickness bags are to the left.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hello Kitty

Fantasy meowed loudly from the kitchen, announcing her presence in a way not dissimilar to the shrieking of an air raid siren. My only choice was to arise and do her bidding. If not, the unbearable noise would continue until my ears gushed blood like a aural version of Angel Falls. Such is the life of a cat owner. You are more the pet than they, you become a constant servant of their whimsy.
We have three felines in our domicile (the picture to the left shows what it would be like if we had more than that), which we inherited when my roommate John's brother Rhea moved to a smaller house and could no longer care for them. Two females, Fantasy and Sierra, and one male who goes by the name of Simon. Fantasy, is of course the most vocal of the three. She runs the house, telling the other cats where they can go and when, and commanding her owners to jump as if we were listening to an old House of Pain song. Squeaky, as we often refer to her, is mostly black with a white underbelly and a dandruff problem that reminds me of the snowfall in some remote Himalayan region.
Sierra is the largest of the three cats, a long-haired furball colored brown, orange, and black. The least social of the three, Sierra usually only comes out of her cave to demand sustenance beyond what is needed for survival. She also has the smallest head and combined with her massive body, she appears to be the victim of a savage African tribe's head-shrinking witch doctor. On the plus side, she has some massive ups considering her girth. If an all out effort is given, she can leap from a standing start to the top of my lazy boy. Well, almost - she lands just short and pulls herself up like a bowling ball dragging a tractor if you can imagine such a thing, which I can't personally, but maybe you are more competent at visualization than I.
Simon is, as stated earlier, the only male - or at least he used to be before being made a eunuch. His fur is a pretty gray color, very smooth, almost begging you to pet it. Simon is the consumate feline, a complete scaredy cat, likely as not to run from his own shadow, much less any loud noise. He is so sad and pathetic that you can not help but love him when he jumps up and rubs against your leg. Along with the fact that is by far the cutest of the cats, how could he not be my favorite? Well here is how. Simon is a scientifically designed, state-of-the-art, bazooka-barfing machine. He is so dumb. Unreal how stupid this cat is. He will eat anything - styrofoam peanuts, plastic, plants, etcs. None of these things agree well with his digestive tract and consequently they spend little time inside it, exiting out the front door soon after their arrival. The stomach contents are left in a nice little pile for us to clean. There is nothing you can do to stop it - if you chase him while he barfs, cleanup is all the more challenging as vomit is spread in a random pattern that would make Picasso proud.
All that being said, I don't think I could easily adjust to living without these animals now that they are a part of my life. They have somehow managed to sneak into my heart and lay landmines that I can not defuse, the bastards. I am their slave and even now my ears detect their summoning shriek. Off like a zombie I go to answer it, a drooling automaton here to satisfy their feline desires.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tourney Time

When is the most wonderfully wicked and wacky week? Tis tourney time Tim, the tenacious teams take the tip and tear tendons try to tough out terrific trophies. Every game a chance to see something that has never happened before. Names such as Bryce Drew, Tate George, John Wallace, and Austin Carr are singed into our collective consciousness. Even those who care not for the game of basketball will tune in for the drama and the chance of lucking into a win in their office pool. More importantly, for junkies like myself, it is an opportunity to watch wall-to-wall college basketball for hours on end, knowing that every player on the court is giving it all he has with the knowledge that there is no guarantee of a tomorrow. They call it March Madness and for those of us who love college basketball there is nothing better on the calender. The tipoff is tomorrow and I know I will be there, glued to my television like white on a caucasian.
Update: the first weekend has come to a close. Cinderellas like Davidson and Western Kentucky have survived to make the Sweet Sixteen. Evil empire Duke has fallen, making the world a happy, ratless place. Good guys North Carolina and Wisconsin easily advanced and will face Washington St and Davidson, respectively in the third round. UCLA seems to live on some planet where it is impossible to lose no matter how badly you play. Stay tuned for more excitement starting Thursday!
Update: UNC and Wisconsin lost, but I did win my Yahoo bracket and a grand total of zero dollars. Kansas is your national champion. Congrats, Dorothy!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Hairless Poetry (Not To Be Confused With Dr. Evil's Cat)

For the first time in my life I feel like less than a man....well maybe the second time. I have come to a crossroads in my life in regard to what little hair remains on top of my dome. As a man of (in)action, I chose to write a poem.
It does not seem fair.
Covering on my head quite rare
My choices are quite a pair.
Should I continue, let it lie there?
Faking that the line has not receded beyond repair?
A combover used to hide the lack of hair?
An ugly toupee that I could wear?
Like a lame ass piece of flair?
Is this a fact that I should share?
Perhaps you were unaware?
Or do I shave it, do I dare?
Chase the last with a drop of Nair?
Kill every last piece that lies anywhere.
No longer a cute teddy bear.
Not a stallion, no strong mare.
Stuck in my lonesome balding lair.
Do you really even care?
Please, just don't stare.
Awkward, silence in the air.
Then, the old age trumpets blare.
Do you have some you could spare?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Atlanta: The Good, the Bad, and the Donut

Hey kids, just got back from a trip down to the booming metropolis of Atlanta, Georgia. The capital of the dirty, lying Peach State (bullshit, we grow more peaches in South Carolina, they are the peanut state) has not always filled me with a cuddly, Care Bear-like warmth. The traffic is the worst that I have ever seen in my extensive travels around the United States. It seems like it takes forty-five minutes to go from any point A to any point B in the entire city. There are more cars there than people. I swear I have seen some driving down the road without drivers. Creepy. The opening scene of "Office Space", features an elderly lady with a walker managing to move faster than traffic was almost assuredly filmed in Atlanta.
In addition to traffic issues, Atlanta has without a doubt the largest percentage of bums in the known universe (according to the latest edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy there is one bum for every five citizens in the city). When my brother Colin, his friend Kevin, and I arrived in the Centennial Olympic Park area on Thursday and got out of our car, the phrase "bum rush" immediately came to mind. We were asked for change on three occasions within two hundred yards. Even if our bodies were sprinklers that fired coins in every direction, we would not have been able to meet the demand. How all these hobos can manage to subsist in such a small area is well beyond me. What can we as a society do to help these folks out? I suggest we hire them as toll road booth collectors since they have experience in that area. The state charges a dollar ninety five. We could also paint them up to look like a fountain or a slot machine. People like throwing coins into those things. Boone Farm and Thunderbird sales have been way down lately and if we inject money into the bum community I feel we could see some improvement in that aspect of our national economy. Just a thought.
This post is not intended as a hate session aimed at tearing apart the poor, helpless city of Atlanta and its sad, mentally deranged citizens. Not at all - in fact I had some great experiences during this particular sojourn. Good music, interesting food, and quality people punctuated the visit. As soon as my brother and I finished running the bum gauntlet (Factoid: Gauntlet was a great arcade game from the 80s - I used to play with the Valkyrie who shot lightning bolts from her bosom), things took a turn for the better. I arrived inside the venue for the show, an old converted church known simply as The Tabernacle. The inside was colorfully painted and had a nice lived-in feel. The pews had been removed from the church, leaving wide open space for the concert goers to wreak havoc upon one another. Directly up above was the balcony area, only twelve feet or so over our heads and surrounding us on three sides. The arena had that great churchly feel, without the burning sensation I usually get when entering such a holy place. There really wasn't a bad spot to be inside the arena, everyone was close to the stage - and they had crammed in roughly three thousand of my closest friends I had never met before. When the main act, Flogging Molly, came on stage things really got exciting. I was immediately impressed with the acoustics. The music sounded so crisp and clean - and loud. I seem to never be happy with the volume inside a venue, I always want them to turn up the amps to eleven. No complaints here in regards to the Tabernacle. The sound was perfect and so was the crowd. They went apeshit as soon as the headliner went on and didn't stop until the show was over almost two hours later. Hell, they even screamed for the opening act, a couple of drunk Cajuns playing washboards and singing about Grandma's buttermilk biscuits (just jealous they stole my song idea).
I only had one minor complaint. The smell from the tightly grouped masses was enough to gag a moose. People could not get to trash cans, so they just threw their beer cups when they finished, many with a bit of liquid yet inside. Needless to say, everyone was hit with beer quite a few times. Combined with the body odor of the sweating crowd, the aroma was truly nauseating. I did not give a damn. Everyone was in a state of euphoria, even the mosh pit. Although violent, whenever a dancer was knocked to the ground a wall of people surrounded the fallen mosher and helped him back to a standing position. I was so tired after the raucous events that I did not even care to repair to the bar afterward for the usual post-show cocktail, opting instead to return to my hotel room and fall into a contented coma.
The next day I went down to Glenwood Avenue, which my friend Matt had recommended, so that I could party with some friends who are cursed to reside in Atlanta. Colin again joined me and we grabbed a taxi - foreseeing a long, ugly day of debauchery ahead. Glenwood proved to be a great choice. Despite being in the center of a huge smelly city, it had a friendly village vibe to it. Most of the clientele and employees seemed to know one another and treated foreigners such as myself as if we were individuals rather than souls lost in a sea of humanity (the usual response I have received in past visits to the city). We chose to begin the nuclear annihilation of our bodies at the altar of the Holy Taco, a newly opened Mexican joint. Some would call it the bar. We quickly befriended our server, Zooey and the owner, a Scotsman named Robert, with our winning smiles and ability to put up a large tab at a place most would considerate cheap, especially for Atlanta. Sol was my beer of the day, a Mexican cerveza that I had consumed on my first excursion into the land of the inebriated fifteen years ago. Although nostalgia mixed with my suds, our food was incredibly original compared to the fare I am accustomed to in Greenville's Mexican restaurants. Homemade soups and salsa did battle in an international contest of flavor sensationality. The Columbian soup fell to the Ecuadorian salsa by the score of 4-0, yet another victory for the unbeatable Peruvian haters. The losers snorted a mountain of coke to celebrate. Some of the most delectable tacos and quesadillas I had ever tasted followed and the meal finished up with a delightfully sweet and flaky sopapilla.
Matt finally arrived at five. After chastening us for becoming a piece of furniture at the Holy Taco, he lead us down the road for dinner at the Glenwood Pub. I know it seems like we just ate, but trust me there was a bit of drinking in between just to break things up a little. The Glenwood has a beer list that makes the Oxford English Dictionary (two volumes, with magnifying glass) look like a pamphlet in comparison. Faced with so many good choices, I picked the Spaten Optimator as it was listed as a malt liquor. It seemed time to step things up a notch. I thought it was a shame that I was still standing up at this juncture in my day. For those of you interested, this beer goes well with a bratwurst and fried pickles. Of course, what doesn't? After some brews and a couple epic shuffleboard comebacks by yours truly, we were joined by my friends Tedo and Julia. Tedo is Bulgarian and the pub was strictly anti-Bulgarian, so we had to move on to the next location.
That and we wanted to play darts. The Gravity Pub was the next hot spot on our path since it featured this valuable perk. More importantly, though, it featured the greatest of midnight snacks. After a few more adult beverages and some humiliating losses in cricket, that is just what was needed. The signature item on the Gravity menu, one sure to gain it a spot in the annals of culinary fame, was a hamburger. Burger, bacon, and cheese made up the center of the dish. The money shot came with the bun - a glazed Krispy Kreme donut cut in half. If this doesn't scream deliciousness, then I don't know what does. Okay, so it tastes about as bad as it sounds, but in my defense, I was not legally or physically able to operate heavy machinery at this point in the day. My standards had fallen a bit. It was time to go to the Flatiron.
We finished up at the Flatiron, a pub which featured tattooing services upstairs. After being told that I could not get a tattoo of Ted Kennedy on my ass, I sat down with the group in a quiet corner. Any other information that I could provide you at this point would be a total lie, as there are small chunks of time missing from this portion in the evening. Eventually Matt took Colin and I back to the hotel and the day was hung up to dry with my liver. I had found a good side to Atlanta. I have always gone back solely because of the friends I have there, but now I have another reason. It sure as hell doesn't involve a donut, though.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Story of the South Carolina Flag

As someone who enjoys history, I view the subject as not only useful for understanding the present, but as a source of fascinating stories. In my opinion, these tales are all the more interesting because of their veracity. I am lucky enough to be a South Carolina native and resident - a place that is as full of history (good and bad) as any place in the United States. My home state is full of classic stories of war, romance, and Liberal Massachusett Senator ass-whipping. Of all these adventures in the world of reality, perhaps the one I find the most interesting involves the origins of the state flag of South Carolina. I will take you back to a time when things looked bleak for the rebels. The empire's fleet was approaching and the harsh breath of Darth Vader could be heard underneath his helm. Our destruction at the hands of these dark forces seemed as certain as another losing season for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The year was 1776 and the thirteen colonies were in rebellion against England and their king, George III. George Washington had just defeated the redcoats in Boston, with the help of Ethan Allen, who hadn't even founded his furniture company yet. The Brits had decided to try a new tack, a naval invasion of the city of Charleston, a place where loyalist sympathies were higher than in Red Sox nation. Successfully taking Charleston would eliminate a crucial rebel port and strike a great blow against the cause of whatever the colonies were fighting for at the time. Something about taxes, I think - who says we forgot our roots? The commander leading the British fleet was in fact not Darth Vader (he was conducting an operation on Cloud City at the time), but the equally ludicrously named Peter Parker. In his parents' defense, they could not have foreseen the success of the comic, much less the trilogy of movies starring Toby Maguire. Before sending Parker on his mission, Admiral Howe, commander of the British forces in America, reminded Parker that with great power, comes great responsibility.
Meanwhile, back at Superfriends headquarters in Charleston, the colonists had just heard of the upcoming British invasion and were buying a lot of Beatles, Kinks, and Rolling Stones' albums in order to prepare. Commander Colonel Moultrie also thought it might be a good idea to build a fort at the mouth of the harbor, in order to defend against the approaching warships. They chose Sullivan's Island as the place to set up their defense. With few building materials at hand they chose to use palmetto logs to build their fortress, which after at least five intense seconds of thought, they called Fort Sullivan. If they had not wasted so much time titling the fort, they might have had time to finish constructing it, but unfortunately the structure only had three completed sides when the limey bastards arrived in Charleston. The future of dental hygiene in America hung in the balance.
On the British side, Spiderman (oops, I blew his cover) had a brilliant two-pronged attack plan to crush his enemies and take the city. He would use his fleet to attack the fort from the front while a force of marines would land at the island adjacent to Sullivan's, today known as the Isle of Palms, where they would wade the short distance across to Sullivan's Island. They would go in the back door and catch the colonials by surprise (kind of like you did to your wife last night). Now that you have met both teams and got an idea of their gameplans, let's go down to the floor to check out the action. It should be exciting!
The Tories opened the action by winning the coin toss and choosing to shoot first. Amazingly, the blasts from their cannon failed to damage Fort Sullivan in the least. The soft palmetto wood, instead of being blasted apart, absorbed the shells like a catcher's mitt. They did manage to shoot down the South Carolina flag, which at this point in history consisted of a crescent mooon on a navy blue background. A brave (or stupid, your call) Sergeant by the name of Jasper climbed the ramparts under heavy fire and replaced the fallen symbol. Despite continued bombardment, no real damage was being done to the fort.
Part one of the attack was a waste of time, so how was the land attack progressing? The British marines had landed without any problem on the far side of the Isle of Palms and progressed to the inlet that separated that island from Sullivan's. It appeared they could just wade across a fifty yard channel and commence their assault. Unfortunately for the soldiers, no one had put up any warnings yet at Breech Inlet, as the confluence of the two islands is now called. Signs that today read: dangerous current, DO NOT SWIM or just used a picture of the Grim Reaper to give you the idea. The crossing was not shallow in reality. If you see the area at low tide, it is obvious that the water will be above head high just a matter of feet from shore. Needless to say, those soldiers that lived never made it to the other side. The colonists would not have to worry about a ground attack.
With his master plan falling quickly apart, Parker had one more option - fire at the fort from the back side, which due to a dispute with the contractors (probably Halliburton, man I hate those guys), happened to lack a wall. Some really smart British guy had noticed this deficiency during the previous exchange of grapeshot and suggested that maybe they fire at the defenseless part of the fort instead. The fleet sailed farther into the harbor in order shoot directly into this small gap in the defenses. Fate again intervened on the part of the Americans, for it was low tide. Modern day Charleston harbor is very silty, it can only be kept open for shipping with the help of constant dredging, a process by which the silt is removed from the bottom and deposited on uninhabited islands in the center of the waterway. During low tide there was not enough water to accomodate a large ship-of-the-line, and they became stuck upon sandbars. The British were now sitting ducks and their ships were blown apart by the Fort Sullivan cannon. By the time high tide came, the fleet was battered and beatened - they could do nothing but beat a hasty retreat with their remaining forces. The South Carolinians had won the day.
Charleston would stay free for several years before succumbing to a second British invasion. Fish and chips never did catch on in Charleston despite the limey's best efforts.
Colonel Moultrie was eventually promoted to General and had a middle school named after him. I went there. That school really sucked. It was recently torn down.
Sergeant Jasper died during another battle while trying once more to save the flag. Jasper county, one of the dumbest counties in the state, is named after him. Irony is sweet.
We all know what happened to Peter Parker.
The palmetto tree was added to the state flag in honor of the crucial role it played in saving the fort from attack. The origins of the crescent moon on the flag are debated to this day. I theorize that the colonists thought the redcoats were werewolves and if they had a crescent, rather than a full moon on their hats and flags, the enemy would be unable to turn into their more powerful lupine form. I bet no one has thought of that before.