October 28, 2008

In Which Al Franken Steals My Act, Yo

Two posts in one day? Hey, when a comic-turned-Senate-candidate throws down, hell yes two posts in one day. Watch our favorite carpet-bagging SNL alum and Minnesota U.S. Senate hopeful Al Franken do his thing that is my thing—drawing maps freehand. Oh, it's on:

Nice job, Al. I mean that sincerely. But as long as I'm around, you'll always be second best. Why? This is why:

That's me vandalizing a Morro Bay beach in 1999. Being a geography geek makes going for a walk look like hard work. Take that, Mister Funny Man. Did you suffer for your art, Al? Well, I sure did. Many tourists were frightened away by my geographical-artistic genius. The city fathers asked me to not come back for a few years. The life-size chess set and Morro Rock have not seen me since then. It's been difficult to cope.

Of course Franken's got me on the politics thing, though just barely. When he was desperately trying to figure out a way for Michael Dukakis to win the '88 election, fifth-grade me was betting on the outcome. Hell, even back then I could draw not just the U.S., but any country in the world, freehand.

This year may be Franken's year, but who knows? The polls are close, but perhaps Al may give the turncoat Norm Coleman the ass-whupping that spineless chickenshit so richly deserves.

Damn, it's gonna be a looooong seven days.

Cross-posted: dd, fsz

More Meaningless Presidential-Baseball Voodoo

So...the other night, I beat George Will with a baseball bat, and was rewarded for it. Yes, I have problems, but for once, that doesn’t matter, because this diary isn’t about me. Really. See, BooMan caught Craig Shirley handicapping the World Series, but I'd thought of this last night, too (and like an idiot, let HTML gremlins get in the way of posting it). While watching Tampa Bay get washed away in Philadelphia, it occurred to me that getting nerdy about politics and baseball would be a fun way to waste time and continue to put off finishing my novel. Hell, I’ve already fused my juvenile U2 fixation with election-year politics, for good or ill, so I might as well hit the trifecta, right?

Okay then. Now, I’m not the biggest baseball geek, or much of a statistician, so this will be some strictly minor-league shit, but here we go. The modern World Series “officially” began in 1903, but was boycotted by the Giants in 1904, so 1908’s when my data begins. It shows that 25 World Series have been played in Presidential Election years, not counting this year Here's the hard data.

National League winners: 8 for 25
American League winners: 17 for 25

Republican winners: 13 for 25
Democratic winners: 12 for 25

American League wins coinciding with Republican wins: 10 for 25
American League wins coinciding with Democratic wins: 7 for 25

National League wins coinciding with Republican wins: 3 for 25
National League wins coinciding with Democratic wins: 5 for 25

Random Observations
Both institutions love decadent dynasties, but American League and Republican wins coincide the most...sort of. FDR split his 4 wins right down the middle, Reagan also split his wins in one NL and one AL year (due to Reagan Democrats?), and Clinton won in two AL years (definitely by triangulation).

The hated Yankees win no matter which party wins the White House, but Boston goes 2-1 for the Democrats (does Beantown love Woodrow Wilson or what?). The tag-team of Eisenhower (an all-Yankee Prez) and Nixon is solid American League. Poppy Bush won with the Dodgers in an NL year, and the Rangers-owning W. is fittingly all AL with wins by the epitome of East Coast snobbery, the Yankees and Red Sox.

The unlikely Cleveland Indians won for Harding, who then died in office, but they also won when Truman squeaked by Tom Dewey. The dirty, hairy Athletics won when Nixon got re-elected, and the clean-cut Big Red Machine took the series for Cincy when Jimmy Carter won in '76. Pittsburgh slipped past the Yankees the same year that JFK edged Nixon. Oh, and the Cubs had better pray for a Republican win next time, or for a candidate named Taft.

One more thing about the Yankees: they seem to enjoy second terms. The Bronx has won in round 2 for FDR, Ike, and Clinton. Tellingly, the Red Sox have now become the Yankees, and so won for W. Bush's second term in 2004. The NL Cardinals like winning in electoral-blowout years: 1944 for FDR and 1964 for LBJ. 1992 was slightly bizarre, as Bill Clinton won for being the first non-black Black President, and Cito Gaston’s genuine blackness made him the first World Series-winning black manager when he led the Blue Jays to victory, the first of two Canadian series wins in a row.

So what does it all mean for this year? Well, let’s see: a win for Philly and Obama would be a nice bookend to the 1980 Philly/Reagan mix. As for McCain, well, what with the deflation of the Cubs, Dodgers, and Boston, I’ve had enough October surprises this post-season, so let’s just go with Barry and the Phillies in ‘08. Why else? Because the American League is a satanic abomination, that’s why. Death to the designated hitter. Long live small ball.

Cross-posted (with ugly-ass data table): dkos

October 26, 2008

Desperately Seeking the Holy Grail of Epic Fail

Ah, the final blood-curdling days of October in an election year. Filth and stupidity on the radio, nudity in the streets, shameless pandering on television—and that's just the World Series. No no, I won't be meditating on the apparent collapse of the Tampa Bay Cinderellas as they turn back into pumpkins, because Gorgeous George Will can handle that, but recent developments both in baseball and politics have yanked my cerebrum into thoughts of Novembers past.

Yes, November: graveyard of many a politician who has succumbed to the brutal transparency of terminal narcissism. We don't celebrate Halloween and Día de los Muertos at this time for nothing, folks, and baseball is not the only Haunted Game in our nation's twisted history. No, politics has that market cornered for the conceivable future.

Oh sure, epic political failure has always been a lurking menace in American politics, but recent history has thrown up more examples of massive electoral defeat than you can shake a hanging chad at. Landslide losses at the presidential level by Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale are just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but since I don't have relevant data at my command right now, let's just make my thesis skate on some ice thinner than the 2000 election results and ignore hard facts, because like, everyone's been doing that for so long now that it's just routine, right? Aimless speculation's all the rage, right?

Right, dude. Election '08 is crushing us all right now with the weight of a planet, so we might as well acknowledge this year's potential candidates for Epic Failure. John McCain tops the list, of course, since a loss for him would cement the doom of an already dismal campaign and, as many other important and self-important people have mentioned, also signal the final death-shriek of Reagan-era emasculated government. Desperation is indeed a stinky cologne, John.

However, should Barack Obama somehow remember that he's a member of the Democratic Party and therefore intrinsically able to snatch defeat from the slobbering jaws of victory, the junior senator from Illinois would be thrown down in the ditch with Thomas E. Dewey, Dick Nixon (1960-62 model), George H.W. Bush, the hyperventilating hydra that is Dukakis/Gore/Kerry, and everyone else that has blown every chance they every had.

"Indeed, Senator Obama may even be worse off then all those bastards if he loses; he would veer deep into 2004 Yankees territory, especially if—"

Damn it George, didn't I say you weren't welcome in here? Just because we're both Cub fans doesn't mean you can invade my self-important bloviating, man. Jesus. Where was I? Um, I think maybe I was gonna try to make some tenuous connections between the general direction of epic failure and the hopeless losers of presidential primaries past, but shit, we've all soiled too many pixels already this year over Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and the Sinkhole of Suck that was the 2008 Republican field. That leaves:

1) Congress, but obviously that would be even more useless and pointless. Hell, Congress was designed to be an epic failure.

2) Vice-Presidential candidates, who were also designed to be epic failures, especially when fraternizing with third graders and others of their own kind.

3) State-level elected officials, who, as I've said before, are required to be at least three kinds of crazy before they're even considered worth covering by regional media. For example, in my neck of the woods, we're treated to a minor-league brawl between a notorious asshole Republican with IRS nightmares (Tony Strickland) and a notoriously mic-stealing stage-hog of a Democrat (Hannah-Beth Jackson). These two dingbats have brought new idiocy to the phrase "mutually assured destruction."
"Which naturally brings to mind the epic failure of third parties in the American political system, because, like baseball's short-lived Federal League, and—hey, what are you doing with my vintage Ernie Banks Louisville Slugg—"


George, that's the last fucking time I'll ever name-drop your ass again. Stay the fuck out of Malibu, dude.

Still, the old cocktail weenie does have a point. As we all know, third-party alternatives to the Democratic/Republican reign of terror haven't done themselves, or us, any favors with their headless-chicken routines, especially when they poach cast-offs from the two "major" parties. It shouldn't really be a surprise that the Greens and Libertarians haven't realized that Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr are, respectively, using those stinking backwaters to serve their own megalomaniacal needs. Third (and fourth, and fifth) party candidates have always been delusional fools—and yes, I'm including the Bull Moose himself in there, too. That line of frantic desperation runs from TR to George Wallace to John Anderson to Ross Perot to Pat Buchanan.

And yes, Ralph Nader. I would never forget him because old Ralph is, unbeknownst to him, a very personal reflection of my own political epic failure. No no, I'm not ashamed that I voted for him in 2000 instead of Al Gore (against, I might add, the violent wishes of every woman in my family)—I include Ralph here, all by himself, at the end of this pointless exercise of a post, because this is where he belongs, now and forever: a burned-out coda to a wasted two hours.

Oh, in case George does come crawling back, Philadelphia is forcing an epic failure on the Rays in Game 4 of the World Series. Tell him that I could care less, though. I don't like the Phillies (and I hate Jayson Werth), but the American League is still an unnatural, horrifying abomination, so I can't truly wish for a Tampa Bay victory. Oh well.

Cross-posted: dkos, mlw, fsz, dd.

October 21, 2008

Creeping Nostalgia: High School Edition

Oh yes, the sortie to NorCal proved fruitful in the "teenage dork" photo department, fer sure. And of course because terminal narcissism is good for you, it must be exposed to the light of day...

1991/1992 (Freshman). God, my wardrobe was hideous. No wonder I wore soccer jerseys all the time. But look at all that goddamn hair. Missing: any photos that proved I actually went to school that year.

1992/1993 (Sophomore). Ah, the Year of Flannel, or When Passe Trends Attack! By the time I latched onto something, it was usually over. Well, except the pea coat, but it's nowhere to be seen in there, is it?

1993/1994 (Junior). Blatant theft from the '93/'94 yearbook (quick: name all the dancers on the float with me!) can't hide the fact that I evidently owned only three shirts, which I wore all the time. Ugh.

1994/1995 (Senior). Yeah, this is a repeat, but hey, Jon, Nick, & Kev should be rewarded in some way for dragging my ass all over town. It was good for me, in a way- hot chicks wanted their photos taken with me, and I got to be on stage...sort of.

The archives go back even further, too; I'm working on stuff from 5th grade to junior high. It's fun and embarrassing all at once- but stay tuned for....college.

October 09, 2008

The Crippling Nostalgia of Naranjastan

Four years ago, when my brother moved back behind the Orange Curtain to salacious San Clemente, I visited him often, fleeing cohabitational post-grad bliss in Santa Barbara every other weekend to be a tourist in the orange land of my birth. It was easy and fun, especially when I had a ready-made bachelor crash-pad in Bryn's front room. We talked too much and drank a little less than that and played guitars and bitched about random crap, just like the way we used to at UCSB, and the next afternoon we'd lug our hung-over selves out to Sunrise or Wahoo's or whatever other place would serve over-fed gabacho man-boys.

All of these places had one thing in common: a battered pile of OC Weekly papers lying somewhere on the premeses. One time I began reading the paper at random, and a particular image caught my eye: a wretched, horrifying caricature of a human being, grinning with gold teeth and a twenty-gallon sombrero, perched above a column titled ¡Ask a Mexican! and unlike many of the column's readers, I laughed my ass off after the very first read. The column itself has long since become famous, of course, firmly installing its devious creator, Anaheim's own Gustavo Arrellano, on the Z-list of socio-political commentators and the A-list of pinche snarkologists.

Other than reading a few scattered instances of it, though, I slipped into an alternate dimension of oblivious stupidity and mostly forgot about the column entirely—well, he did a great OC Weekly investigative series on the Catholic diocese of Orange, but I never bothered to read the byline—and evidently in the interim, Arrellano has gone mega, thanks to the book version of ¡Ask a Mexican! and the way he went all Oscar Acosta on those boy-buggering priests. Jeez, the things you miss when you tune out the Colbert Report for a few months. Anyway, I was happily surprised to (almost literally) stumble on Gustavo's second book, Orange County: A Personal History, and I can't emphasize how much better my world is because of this.

I mean, I know that the nostalgic impulse is universally human, but it seemed to hit me especially hard as I crossed the 30-year mark in 2006. Hell, my favorite film of the past five years is easily Rian Johnson's OC-noir movie Brick. I even started my own book while under this baleful influence: a semi-fictional piece of gonzo juvenalia called the Weapon of Young Gods. I re-trenched and re-compiled a decade's worth of my own quasi-journalistic crap in blog format. I embarrassed my self in print and pixel many times over.

Thanks to Arrellano's book, though, I know that I'm not the only one in thrall to the slow creep of crippling nostalgia. His Orange County is full of strange rumblings in Aztlán; a deft combination of frank, poignant personal memoir and gloriously reviciousnist history, it explores his family's roots in both Zacatecas and Anaheim, against a backdrop of John-Wayne-Birch-Disney-Dornan-Saigon-Surf City-Citrus-Coto OC insanity. His family anecdotes and extended epics fit—obviously and perfectly—into the eternal continuum of American Borgification that has chewed up and spat out every immigrant group from the Pilgrims to the Irish to the Chinese to the far-flung scions of El Cargadero, Mexico. Arrellano pulled me in with his incessant localized appeals to my inner history-geography-culture nerdiness, and it worked like gangbusters.

But hey, that's just my overeducated, South County liberal guilt poking through, ¿qué no? Of course it is, but frankly the book is awesome—and for me, this can be handily explained away by some perfect, and perfectly random, observations from Gustavo:

1) Everyone from Mission Viejo is a jerk. In my experience (both in childhood AYSO soccer and civic government-contract flunkie) this is absolutely true, with one screaming exception: my friend Steve Foster only pretends to be a jerk. Sometimes.
2) Aliso Viejo is the worst city in Orange County. Again, also true. Forget culture shock—this place is in a fucking culture coma.
3) The only club in high school worth joining is the Kiwanis Bowl. Muchísima verdadera (did I say that right?). I myself was part of the Dana Hills K-Bowl squad of nerds, and though we never went up against any Anaheim schools in the heady days of 1994-95, we did kick the shit out of some dingbats from Los Alamitos.
4) All the recent TV shows about Orange County are both truer and falser than you could ever imagine. And they all suck, too, except for Arrested Development.
5) Religion in this county—of any faith or denomination—is fucked up.
6) Surfer-brats are assholes. I would believe that even if they hadn't figured out my name rhymed with "queer" in 7th grade.
7) The "Mexicans" are always more American than the "Americans." I learned that one via a family from Michoacán who lived across the street from us in the Dana Point of my youth.

I could go on, but my three loyal readers would probably bitch and moan and never realize that I (and probably Gustavo too) kid because we love. Well, probably not in the religion department, but whatever, dude. Those are merely superficial swipes from a book that—for something written by a man made semi-famous via cutting satire—presents a brilliant portrait of a specific time and place: the last century of explosions in a less-than-idyllic seaside enclave. My favorite novels are ones where the author nails a setting perfectly and completely—Dublin, L.A., Manila, wherever—but in this case of non-fiction, I can speak from personal experience that Gustavo Arrellano nails Orange County to the wall so hard that it won't be coming off anytime soon.

So nice job, you skinny brown geek. We all need to walk tall and kick ass these days. Make sure you turn out the lights when you leave the Weekly's stinking, sold-out carcass behind you.

Cross-posted: dkos, fsz (sort of)

October 03, 2008

Happily Chugging the Toxic Stew of Dumb

Karl Marx told a rancid lie when he said that thing about history repeating itself first as tragedy and then as farce. If that whiny bastard had any balls he'd have told the truth which, as everyone knows, is that history only repeats itself as farce, because the mere fact of its repetition is obviously always a cruel joke from God. Of course, Marx probably didn't believe in God, and I don't really give a shit either way these days, but the goddamn vice-presidential debate had its way with me tonight and you all will just have to deal with it. I know, I know—I've always said that "smart people shouldn't have to take any shit from stupid people," but we all know that's as big a farce as any of 'em, don't we?

Sure we do, but instead of relating the useless and pointless story of how I barely endured fifteen minutes of the awful spectacle via the conduit of NPR (before watching the Cubs get demolished at home by Los Angeles for the second night in a row), I might as well bitch and moan about it, because that's more fun. So yeah, Joe Biden (D-MBNA) handily dispensed with my silly quote about smart people tonight, merely by engaging in the premise of intellectual equality and showing up to debate Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Of course, I don't have to tell most of you how irredeemably asinine Mrs. Palin is. No, really, I don't—I'll let Matt Taibbi take the fall for that one:

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she's the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV — and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.
Naturally, all of that is pretty much true, but Taibbi only touches upon the harrowing devolution of idiocy represented by the Alaska governor, and this is where Marx's half-assed quote about farcial history comes back. See, the rise of Sarah Palin was absolutely predictable. Indeed, it's so obvious that I'm probably wasting my time, but I've written this much when I should be sleeping instead, so it's too late to stop now. Palin's arrival on the national stage is just as timely as that of George W. Bush, our jabbering dupe of a forty-third president. It's generally agreed upon by nearly all sentient presidential scholars that Bush is the farcial reincarnation, politically speaking, of Ronald Reagan. Both men were genial twits fronting a den of thieves and pimps who held the government hostage while stoking fear of foreigners and hatred of liberals. Reagan himself represented the political mutant hybrid of John Wayne and Barney Fife, and Bush is basically a diseased Morlock with the brain of Reagan and the heart of Richard Nixon.

Nixon's spiritual successor is, of course, Bill Clinton (who also shows traces of Warren G. Harding), and if we really wanted to waste time, we could take this presidential if-they-mated bullshit a step further and note that Barack Obama is probably the farcial hybrid of Reagan and JFK (and yes, I've already done that), but I was supposed to be exclusively shitting on the Republicans tonight, so let's just get back to the point, which is that Sarah Palin is the logical next step from the notoriously stupid vice-presidential punchline known as Dan Quayle. For some reason, this makes sense to me because everything I ever needed to know about politics, I learned in the '80s:
1. 1984, watching the pretty U.S. map go blue (as it did back then) for all of Reagan's states. I thought it was a nice color, and even at the tender age of 7 I was a geography geek, so it fascinated me, but I could hear my dad swearing in the other room whenever Sam Donaldson (or whoever it was) announced another state for the Gipper. It was '84, remember, so my dad cussed a lot that night.

Lesson: Politics = geography and curse words.

2. 1988, when my best friend and I were the only 5th graders in our school who paid attention to the presidential campaign thanks to DC Follies, SNL, and the fact that we gambled—for pennies and nickels—on the wide-open primaries in both parties.

Lesson: Politics also = cartoons, bad jokes, and gambling.
"Well duh," you say, and you'd be right, because in spite of that irrelevant citation, many other people have made the same conclusions (and many more are still reminding us that Quayle was on a winning ticket), but it's worth repeating in light of Palin's spastic debating performance in St. Louis tonight, very little of which I actually saw. That's right—while Palin was desperately winking her way through two hundred cue-card cheat-sheets of Stupid, and Biden was manipulatively weeping over his long-dead family, I was watching Carlos Zambrano get shelled by the Dodgers. That's how little I really give a shit about Sarah Palin and her lame-ass debate, folks; I'd rather watch the Cubs inch closer to blowing yet another playoff game and add to their hundred-year-drought of World Series Shame than sit through a second Palin coming-out party full of self-loathing and chaotic failure.

And yet here I am writing about the fucking thing at a quarter to one in the morning. Obviously, I'm not ranting from an entirely solid position here; aside from this very post, I myself do many illogical, less-than-intelligent things—I listen to U2, I have irrational faith in the Chicago Cubs, and I willingly vote for spineless liberal Democrats who invariably betray me once their ideals collide with reality. So yeah, I'm a sucker, but even suckers have standards, dude, and my standards will always involve falling back on the ever-reliable position of vituperative condescension whenever the subject of oblivious stupidity arises. If I think something is stupid, it's pretty fucking stupid, and October of 2008 is only just beginning. I don't think I can take two more McCain-Obama debates, but somewhere, Michael Dukakis is smiling. Come back to us, Tank-Man. All is forgiven.

Cross-posted: dkos, mlw, dd, fsz

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