Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Despite the fact that most "meteorologists" can't accurately predict the local weather for the coming weekend, this clown has released his forecast for the entire 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

By the way, remember when meteorologists were still "Weathermen"? For those of you too young to know what I'm talking about, I'm thinking of the bygone era when journalists were still "newswriters," exotic dancers still "strippers," and pedophiles still just "priests." And even though weathermen's forecasts were just as inaccurate as those of meteorologists, they tended to be fat, wear bad toupees & make awful jokes, rather than talk pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo and point to radar pictures that look the same every day.

Anyhow, William Gray -- described in the linked article as "a noted U.S. storm forecaster" -- and his "Colorado State University forecasting team" predicted Wednesday that the 2006 "Atlantic hurricane season will produce nine hurricanes." Just to prove . . . uhhh, something, Gray & the "University forecasting team" made the same nine storm prediction earlier this year, on April 4.

So, in case your asking yourself, "Gee, what is it, exactly, that makes someone 'a noted U.S. storm forecaster,'" I direct you to the next-to-last paragraph: "Gray's prediction and those of other forecasters were wildly off the mark last year."

I'm not sure America's ready for a fat guy making bad jokes about driving his Chevy to the Levee during the next Cat 4, but that's about where this guy seems to belong.


From the No Comments Required Whatsoever Files, check out this headline:
Man Severs Penis To Prove Faithfulness
I'm not kidding, I have nothing more to say on this. Read the article.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I need to enter therapy.


According to Tony Snow, White House P.R. Stooge, President Bush learned of the alleged murder of civilians by U.S. Marines in Haditha, Iraq, only after reporters questioned him about the incident.

Apparently failing to realize that after five years of unremitting lies, no one will believe you anymore, Snow said that "he has been assured by the Pentagon" that the public will learn "all the details" after the investigation is finished. Oh, so many things to comment on here.

First, after five years of unremitting lies, still no one presses the Administration for the truth, so I guess I'm wrong and Snow knows what he's doing.

Second, to harp on a favorite theme if I may, note the passive voice construction. I'm not sure if it's Snow or the AP report, but instead of Snow telling the press that "so-and-so" from the Department of Defense said "blah, blah, blah," we instead learn that Snow "has been assured" by a gigantic steel & concrete polygon that "blah, blah, blah."

With passive construction in reporting and investigations, all responsibility and accountability goes out the window. Spin doctors and press experts like Snow can appear to say something ("has assured me") without actually telling anyone a goddamn thing.

And third, what the hell does he mean the President learned of this through the press??? Doesn't that disturb anyone? U.S. Marines seem very likely to have killed civilians in Iraq, the press & a U.S. Representative are all over the story, and yet the Commander-in-Chief had no idea what was going on? As always, I don't know what shocks me more: the incompetence or the lies.

Anyhow, looking closely through the dense transcript of Tuesday's news briefing, my crack team of researchers (college interns pretending to work; me pretending to pay them) compiled a list of the other things President Bush ostensibly learned from the press for the first time during the news conference:

His own name. When Fanny Winston of the Annapolis Gazette asked him, "How do you, George Bush, feel about these murders?" the President appeared confused, and only after his handlers explained that the George Bush in question was him, was he able to answer. "Shucks," he smiled good-naturedly, "I though my name was Mr. President."

The correct pronunciation of nuclear. Anna Sinclair, a school teacher before entering the White House Press Corps 13 years ago, helped the confused President say it right via a rigorous phonics exercise. "Nuclear!" the Commander-in-Chief hollered, beeming in pride. "Nuclear!" Sinclair even approached the lecturn, putting a gold star on the President's notes to a round of boisterous applause. Unfortunately, the lesson seemed not to sink in and Bush screwed up again, letting fly with four "nuke-ulars" in a five sentence string.

That the death count in Iraq is higher than 6. "What's this 2,400 number y'all keep talkin' bout?" the President asked reporters, after repeated questions invoking military deaths. "I know that four soldiers and two Marines, God Bless Em, have fallen in the service of freedom in Iraq," he insisted to the members of the Press, stunned into embarrassed silence. Finally, like the sharp young lad watching his Emperor prance nude through the streets, Harvey Prescott of the Billings Bulletin stood up and demanded, "Mr. President, surely you've heard that the death toll for American military personnel has just passed 2,400. This is common knowledge."

According to Tony Snow, "the President has been devastated to have been told that more than six soldiers have been killed in the service of our country." Asked if that meant Bush was prepared to alter his strategy for the Iraq War, Snow asked, "Strategy?"

Mexico is not a state in the Union. "Ohhhhh, so that's why everyone keeps callin 'em 'illegals.' I see now. Man, I gotta talk to Dick about this one."

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


A couple weeks ago, I posted about the ongoing story of the FBI's search for the remains of union boss, Jimmy Hoffa, dead for 31 years. Well, seems that after a two weeks of this nonsense, the FBI stopped searching.

And what did they find, after this massive effort, which you may recall involved cadaver dogs, demolitions experts, even anthropologists? What exciting & important evidence turned up to help them "solve" a crime no one cares about?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Michigan GOP Congressman, Joe Knollenberg, said it was time to set some spending limits on the search for Hoffa's remains. "The FBI might be better off establishing a budget and some kind of timeline," he offered. Gee, ya think so, Mr. Congressman?

Continuing, Knollenberg asked, "Because what new information do they have now, 31 years later?"

If I can throw my own question into the mix, I'd like to ask how the hell it took him 31 years to figure this out? But he's a Beltway Boy. One step at a time, I guess. Let's put his memo in the "Now You Think of This?" File, and move on.

* * *

Finally, before anyone calls the Kliche Kops on me for saying "This FBI search led to untold costs . . . ," please be aware that, and I quote none other than A.P. here, "The FBI hasn't revealed the cost of the search."

No one wanted this search, and . . . it turned up absolutely nothing, but the FBI just doesn't feel the need to tell its employers (that would be us) what it cost.

Try that one on your boss some time.

In fact, the FBI defended its efforts, explaining in a statement last week that, "The expenditure of funds has always been necessary in each and every case the FBI works, and this one is no exception."

Hmmmm. Federal Government "expenditure of funds" deemed "necessary in each and every case." And whattaya know? Nothing came of the spending.


David Wright is 23. Say that to yourself one more time. 23.

Damn. When I was 23, not only did I not lead a New York's baseball team to victory on a nightly basis, not only did I not hit 332/405/558, not only did I not push Derek Jeter from the mantle above the plaque reading, "Most Likely To Drive in the Winning Run at 10:30, Then Score Again at Midnight." None of the above. I was waiting tables at TGI Fridays. And while I occasionally delivered the game-winning quesadilla or fried zucchini sticks, I didn't handle the press like Young Mr. Wright.

I'd have told reporters, "Yeah, I knew those mozzerella sticks were dangerously close to getting cold & hard inside, but that's why Fridays looks to me. They know I'm the guy to bring edible happiness to the Fridays Faithful." Or some equally self-aggrandizing statement.

But Wright? Look what he told reporters last night about his feelings coming up to bat following Delgado's bases loaded out: "When Delgado struck out, I wasn't paying attention, because nine times out of 10, he comes through. On deck, I was think about who to rush out to congratulate."

Nine times out of ten. Unlike most guys, he didn't say 100% of the time, or god forbid the standard 110%. No, Young David's too slick for that. He wants credibility. So he acknowledges that his teammates will fail occasionally. And then, the piece de resistance: He wasn't paying attention . . . because he was thinking about who to congratulate. My oh my, this guy's good! Following last week's unbelievable five cliches-in-five phrases masterpiece, which I outlined here in full detail, we simply have to tip our hats to Wright's precocious development of his craft. Clutch hits, opposite field power, smart baserunning, and one of the two or three top bullshit shovelers in the game. At 23.

We may see yet see a left-handed batting, game-winning grand-slam, complemented with post-game allusions to the Gettysburg Address, as well as a reference to "all the players who came before" him. He has No Ceiling.

Anyhow, last night's game was yet another in an endless run of exciting, see-saw battles that see the Mets score gobs of runs and come out on top. (Notice who started up the 4-run second inning with a bat-tossing, running-to-first, lead-off walk, just a few pitches after pulling a foul ball into the loge deck? Or was it the mezzanine? Either way, I'm telling you, he Just Gets It.) They're now 15-6 in one-run games, including 13-2 at Shea! The 31-19 Mets have scored and yielded runs at a clip one would expect for a 28-22 or 29-21 club. Still, the Mets've exceeded their projection by only 2 1/2 games, while surpassing their expected one-game record by 4 1/2.

These games tend to even out, but every season one team continues to outrun Pythagoras and wins far more games than their runs for/against would suggest, often because they defy the odds and win a significant majority of the one-run games. What's behind all this? Luck? Skill? Momentum? Who knows? But it happens sometimes. The White Sox went 35-19 in those situations last year, more than supplying the margin of victory over the Indians in the division. And they carried that Mo' into the post-season.

In 2004, the Dodgers used a 32-16 record in one-run games to win their division by a mere 2 games over the Giants. The 2002 A's, those of twenty game win streaks and MVP shortstops, and all that flashy stuff, went 102-4 in one-run games. Ok, that's an exaggeration. They tallied only a 32-14 record in the close ones. Which more than gave them the margin over the Angels, who also did well in one-run tilts.

My point here? I'm not really sure. But you can see that sometimes teams manage to win all season long in those situations, and that wins the division. We're one third in at this point and the Mets are winning most of their one-run games. Literally most. Maybe they'll keep getting lucky, or maybe whatever mojo they have will continue.

Or maybe it won't. Who knows? On to a few Random Thoughts:

Rudolph Valentino: Regardless of how he hits, I've concluded that with that souped-up 'stache, we must call Jose Valentin, Valentino. Or Joey Long Ball. There's just no other way. Anyway, Willie's fascination with the fellow knows no bounds, and I fully expect the name Randolph Valentino on a line-up card before the season's up.

I'll admit to two things happen every time Willie plays Rudolph: I mutter and curse and begin writing the next morning's scathing comments about Willie's stubborness and 39 year-old infielders, and . . . and then Valentino hits a ton and the Mets win. This is making me crazy! I mean, I'm psyched to see the hits and I love the wins, but something tells me this isn't good for the long haul. He's 39, he's never played second before, his OBP is well under .300. What page of the Manager's Handbook prescribes this, exactly?

But one thing that Willie's done since he's been with the Mets is play the hot hand. Someone hets hot, pencil him in, let him rake. Gets cold? Sit down. And that makes one of the few things I unabashedly like about him. I think we can expect to see Delgado get a well-deserved day off soon, and Mr. Nady can expect to work on his sunflower seed spitting as May turns to June. The Fish named Kaz? Might wanna work in his pinch hitting stroke.

And Rudy Valentino is a streaky hitter! How streaky? Check this out: (a) started the season 0-15; (b) went 12-for-his-next-28, including one double, two homers, and two walks; (c) then 0-13, with 3 walks; (d) and has recently embarked on his latest journey into hot & tropical climes to the tune of 3-7 with a homer. He's due either for another 7 good at-bats or 21 more, depending on whether he's approaching this as a 14 or 28 at-bat cycle. Either way, get him in the line-up.

Or trade him. Or crank up the wah-wah peddle, grab a video camera, and get that second career off the ground already. No matter what, everyone wins.

Payback's a Bitch or, Beanball Karma: Early in last night's game, one of the D-Backs hit a dribbler along the first base line, resulting in a play you see often: pitcher scoops up the ball, and the runner politely slows down in anticipation of the tag. Always bugs me! Just like it always bugs me when an NHL goalie leaves the crease, and opposing forechekers break their ankles trying to avoid so much as the appearence of running the heavily-padded, mask-wearing man. I guess the situations are analogous, and the reason nothing happens in either situation is clear. Run the goalie, you will (a) get the shit beaten out of you before you end your shift and (b) you'll have to watch your own goalie peeled from the ice just before he attacks you later on in the locker room.

In baseball, I would guess a fellow running over the pitcher on a dribbler would (a) be on his ass his next at-bat and (b) taking a beating later on from his own pitcher, in appreciation of the ball he took in the ear when he came up.

I suppose I see how it goes, but with the whole season on the line, Slappy Rodriguez still should have sent Arroyo into the seats rather than do his little "Get that ball out of here, girl-friend" Routine in the 2004 playoffs.

The Art of Misdirection: I know Gary Cohen was waaaaaaaaaay too excited about it, but those "now you see it, now you don't" slides by LoDoca last night and Wright on Sunday are per-retty cool. (And, yes, that would once again be 23 year-old David Wright we're talking about. Seriously, if I told you he was running for Governor against Elliot Spitzer, would you be surprised? Who would you vote for? Wait, don't answer that.) For those who actually went out and enjoyed themselves this holiday weekend, let me briefly explain what this new-fangled slide entails (can something be old-fangled?). The slider dives head-first to the bag, only to pull back his lead hand as the tag comes, simultaneously rolling over to touch the bag with the other hand.

Or something like that. Watch the replay.

Wearing a "C" on His Lapel: Speaking of Gary Cohen, it's high time to discuss Met legend, and now Met announcer, Keith Hernandez. Keith is rapidly approaching self-parody territory, barely one third into his first full-time season as Met announcer. Just as he carried an impressive array of mannerisms and quirks as a player, so does he in the booth.

Just to clarify, I'm a fan. A big fan. I remember Keith coming into the batter's box, taking off his batting helmet in one hand as he measured his bat across the plate, looked out at the pitcher, placed the helmet back on with the same hand, whirled the bat around, and set it up high as he waited for the pitch. When he was in a groove, drawing walks, dinking 0-2 outside pitches over the third baseman's head, pointing at his infielders, he was The Man.

And he acted exactly the same way when he went through those slumps filled with 24 hoppers to 2nd base over and over again, and strike outs on pitches low and away. Then, there was always the game where he made two of the four errors he'd make all season in a three inning stretch.

But it was that unflappability, that arrogant look that said, "I'm always right, even when I'm in a 1-21 slump," that made him so special as a player. That's why he was The Captain. Of the Infield. Of the Team. Of the Groupies. With a footnote to Seinfeld & Bill Simmons here, he was Keith "I'm Keith Hernandez" Hernandez.

And he still is! In the announcer's booth, Keith is Keith. Just Keith being Keith. A few highlights and observations from yesterday's game, as well as the whole season:
Keith is obsessed with batter strike outs. Keith took pride in rarely striking out as a player.

Keith is obsessed with batters strike outs because they often result in a failure to use a "level swing." Keith is obsessed with level swings. Keith took pride in his own level swing as a player.

Keith is obsessed with high socks, because they're "old-fashioned." Keith wore high socks as a player (even higher than most in the 80's when the stirrups started coming down).
Those are the Three Obsessions, showing that even guys who appeared on sitcoms, famously partied with blow, and even more famously drank beer in the clubhouse during the greatest extra-inning rally in World Series history can be curmugeons too. (Ever notice that Rickey & Bobby Bo playing cards during Game 6 vs. the Braves in '99 was a high crime, but Keith smokin a butt & swiggin a brew in Game Six of the '86 Series was part of his "color"? Winning, There Is No Substitute). Ok, enough on the obsessions. On to the fun Keith stuff:
Keith said he threw 95 MPH in high school.

Keith described the girl in the stands wearing a "Hernandez" jersey as a "bright woman."

Keith claims that on the same day in 1987 that he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a couple ribbies against the Pirates, he "did Cindy Crawford" in the Met locker room between innings . . . while smoking a cigarette and swigging a beer. Not to mention, he swore that the ump called him out on a pitch just outside the strike zone on the at-bat he failed to reach safely.
Ok, one of those isn't true (meaning it's untrue that he even said it; all three look pretty far short of "true" as far as I can tell). And I'm not exactly sure what to do with the other two pieces of information, come to think of it. But one can only imagine what words really ran through Mr. Hernandez's mind as he saw a young female fan sporting a jersey with his name on it: "she's mine," "why the hell did I get married?" or "where's the damn 'C' on that jersey?"

And finally, we can only guess what Keith was thinking as he tried, objectively, to "announce" the appearence by a very fetching Julia Stiles, wearing a low-cut Met t-shirt and a pair of nicely fitted jeans, as she jogged out to the mound to throw out the first pitch.

C'mon! Admit what you were thinking. And then remember . . . he's Keith Hernandez! I'm not gonna claim to know exactly what went through that black-haired (at 52!) head of his, but "high socks" and "level swings" were very likely in play. Strike Outs are not an option.


Back with my weekly update of all things green in that botanical hotspot, Astoria, NY. (I realize I didn't post last week, rendering the Weekly Update not quite so weekly, but I'm guessing you survived.)

Aphidphobia. My wife has turned into an Agent, relentlessly tracking down & slaying all aphids attempting to dwell among her vegetables. Not so much as a nit, an egg, or any wriggling creature survives her tracking & eliminating. Opinion seems mixed among the green thumbs of the world as to when a normal-but-annoying aphid population becomes an infestation, although conventional wisdom looks to be of the leave well enough alone variety. She opts for the liberal definition of infestation.

Anyway, the aphids seem fairly under control, though they'll surely remain all summer, stealing soap & towels, making a general nuisance of themselves. I just hope my wife can step back from her Terminator duties and smell the roses.

The various annuals look great. Based on my limited years of experiece in the world of backyard gardening, I sense that in this Gardening Zone, anyone who doesn't affirmatively mangle or destroy his own plants will enjoy fine-looking annuals between, say, mid-May & July 4th. Incidentally, those years of limited experience are "Last" & "This." So I'm really talkin out of my ass on the Fourth of July part, but that's my theory & I'm sticking to it.

At least til this July 4. And for those of you asking what Zone I'm in . . . uhhh, Zone 3? Zone 10? I really have no idea. New York City. It's on the Zone map.

Finally, arugula, marigolds, coleus and silver dust continuing to grow from seed. I hope to start planting them soon.

Back next week (or not) with another update.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Helping me to help you, America's favorite tabloid comes roaring out of the gate this Friday morning, just in time to bring smiles and glee to the faces of our nation's workers as they head toward the holiday weekend.

Yes, that's right folks. That is right. Ladies & Gentlemen, if I may, I present to you, back after a one month hiatus . . . The New York Post Headline of the Day:
BAD LAY -- Enron's Kenny-Boy Guilty, Faces 165 Years


I'm not gonna pretend I was a fan, nor that I know any of his songs other than "The Israelites," but I read this morning that Jamaican singer, Desmond Dekker died.

"The Israelites" is a cool song, and definitely one of those tunes you've "just kinda heard" through the years, though you can't quite place it. In fact, for years I thought the singer was a woman.

Anyway, the real reason I care, the only way I actually know the song & the artist, is Gus Van Sant's brilliant use of it in his 1989 Independent classic, Drugstore Cowboy. One of the real underrated gems of the past 20 years, this flick has always been one of my favorites, and it stands as a real precursor of the whole "cool, detatched anti-hero" films that dominated the early to mid-90's independant film scene.

If you've seen the film you can certainly think of Dekker's haunting-but-beautiful vocals, set against the song's sweet melody & lilting rhythms, as Matt Dillon's "Bob" & his crew go "cross-roading" about one third of the way through the film. For those of you who haven't seen it, first of all, shame on you. And, assuming you do the right thing and decide to remedy that missing piece in your life, you'll see why this song is so affecting, whether you like the movie or not.

As said, I know nothing about Dekker, but I've always feel just a small tinge of sadness when anyone who's given me something good passes on. And "The Israelites," especially in one of my favorite films, qualifies as something good.

So long, Desmond.


Senate Spokesperson Mel McCovey stood outside the Capitol Building this morning, facing the bleary-eyed press assembled in the morning sun of our nation's capital, "I'm here to announce the near-unanimous passage of the Sweeping Immigration Bill that we've worked on for weeks now," he proudly announced.

"All illegal immigrants that use brooms, attempt to use brooms, have thought occasionally about asking their employers to use brooms, or look like the kind of off-the-books, backroom workers that normal Americans associate with the use of brooms are ok, and will be granted official Non-Citizen Sweeper status, so long as they promise to learn English, pay taxes, and tell their relatives back home to stay put. Everyone else? Go home."

The "Sweeping Immigrant Omnibus Reform Act," contains a number of controversial passages, all of which passed following weeks of contentious debate, bringing to light American's famous tendency to seek distractions from their real troubles, and politicians' willingness to waste time and money responding to these wishes during election years.

Among these hard-fought elements of the Bill is the so-called "Getcher' Broom, Pedro" rider, added at the 11th hour by both Texas Senators, in response to extensive lobbying efforts by Lone Star State restaurant owners, as well as a number of shady Mexican land owners suspected of collecting sizeable "commissions" on the wages of Mexican busboys and dishwashers who have wives and children back home.

McCovey explained to the press what the Bill means for illegal immigrants not falling under the four sweeping requirements he outlined earlier: "Allow me to outline for you, in simple terms for those who don't 'speekee thee Eengleesh': if you don't use a broom, get the hell out! Use a mop? No. Drive a limo? Drive it over the border. Load ships? Load yourself and set sail. This is America, amigo. And if you don't use a broom, it's time to leave the room."

Responding to a reporter's questions, suggesting that these measures were not only racially loaded, but rather draconian as well as grossly shortsighted, McCovey said only, "Yeah, you're probably right on that one."

No word came directly from the White House, but White House Press Secretary Tony Snow offered the following canned remark: "The President assures Americans and Sweeping Immigrants that this Bill will make America safe from the terrorists. Keep buying, keep hiring sweeping immigrants, and God Bless America."

A few reporters asked McCovey if he could explain the significance of the broom, as opposed to other tools Americans associate with immigrant labor, such as burlap sacks for migrant farmers, heroin-filled condoms for drug mules, or bicycles with large chains for urban food deliver boys.

"Those are good questions," McCovey admitted. "But I'll tell you that after a couple months of spending millions of dollars of tax-payer money on focus groups, independent research, as well as rigged research, we've concluded without any doubts we'll admit to, that most Americans can accept a Mexican or Chinese guy sweeping floors covered in animal waste, rotting vegetable matter or cancer-causing dusts and resins. Let's face it, no normal Americans want those jobs anyway. But migrant farming and bicycle food delivery, for example, involve outdoor work, fresh air, sunshine. The American people just aren't willing to let short, dark people who talk funny have those plum jobs. What can I tell you?"

Asked about heroin-filled condoms, McCovey simply said, "Heroin and birth control are sensitive subjects, and may have national security implications. That's a matter for the Department of Homeland Security. C'mon, you guys know that."

Hillary Clinton, peppered with questions as she walked down the Capitol Hill steps said she voted for the Bill for "one reason & one reason only: these immigrants don't vote. Hill in '08!"

Rick Santorum, on the other hand, explained his decision by noting that, "We have determined that illegal immigrants overwhelmingly support gay marriage, abortion, atheism, Al Qaeda, free speech, gay marriage, abortion, and Al Qaeda, not to mention other anti-American concepts such as gay marriage and abortion. This measure will protect the American family. God bless America."

Asked about the potential effects of the Bill on the economy, none of the 100 Senators claimed to understand the question.

Finally, about an hour after McCovey ended the Q&A session, Juan Rodriguez and Chang Min-Shao spoke briefly to us, while sweeping the steps of the Capitol Building.

"Who know what this mean," Chang said, using an official Congressional push-broom estimated to cost $450,000. "I just want sweep and make paid. Why they no leave me alone?"

Rodriguez paused from his work with his smaller Congressional pull-broom and dustpan, together costing $1.1M, to explain, "It's bullshit, man. You think some lazy American teenager's gonna ride his bike through the city to deliver take-out Thai noodles. Nothing's gonna change, no matter what that chingado cabron told you guys."

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Here's a short piece on the devaluation of the U.S. dollar, written by none other Texas Congressman Ron Paul. This article is actually pretty superficial compared to Paul's usual attacks on the Washington Gravy Train, but the basic message is right-on.

Paul's an interesting character, possibly the closest thing we have in America to a libertarian in elected office, and certainly the most honest person on Capitol Hill. The man actually tells it like it is, and refuses to play the standard pork barrel game, walking away from the feeding trough consistently. In fact, his own Republican Party has worked rather hard to defeat him in Congressional elections. Like him or not, you can't help but respect his integrity. Take the time to read the Wikipedia post I attached. And if you're interested, follow some of the links.


The following is the headline to a piece regarding Bob Dylan and an upcoming film on his life:
Cate Blanchett to play Dylan in biopic
First Queen Elizabeth, then Katherine Hepburn, and now Bob Dylan. Ms. Blanchett's compiling quite a resume for herself.


The Mets are rolling. Playing one-run games nightly, and seeming to win all of them, they've jacked their record up to 28-17, including a positively 2005 White Sox-esque 14-6 record in those one-run tilts. That's a gain of 4 wins, 80% of their margin over the second place Phils. Factor in the Phils poor 7-9 record in the same situation, and there you have the 5 game lead. And don't even let me get started on the Braves 7-13 record in one-run games.

What's that they say about being lucky, about being good?

Actually, it's not that simple. With 228 runs scored, and 194 allowed, the Mets have exceeded their Pythagorian Record by only two games. The Phils, by comparison, have also exceeded their expected 22-23 record by a game, while the Braves "should" be 26-21 or 25-22, but have underperformed to the tune of 24-23. Whatever. With only about a quarter of the season completed, it's hard to find meaning in any of this.

But a 5 game lead in late May? Plenty of meaning to me. Soo-weet! On to the Random Thoughts:

1. The 9th man to start a game for the Mets this season (at this pace, I'm slated to take the hill on August 6. So no blog that day; just a heads-up), Alay Soler, looked good last night against a solid-hitting Phils squad. His first inning was nearly a Hindenburg-scale disaster, but he settled down after walking the entire Phillie line-up on 3 pitches, getting out of the first on "only" three runs. His line after the first inning? 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5K. Set your clocks forward, folks. Lima Time is over!

2. Speaking of gas-filled zeppelins & Cuban pitchers, allow me to make the first of the extremely tenuous associative transitions I plan to break out today, and discuss the older brother of the only other . . . shall we say, rotund Cuban in the major leagues that I'm aware of. Yes, that's right, the Mets rotation will soon feature its 10th starter, the big bro of Livan "El Gordo" Hernandez's . . . El Duque. Yes, indeed, Orlando Hernandez is returning to New York, this time to bring his wild assortment of slop, strange arm angles, and stubborn mound demeanor to Queens.

I like it. Despite a bloated 6.11 ERA, he's K'd over 10 per 9 IP, with a K/BB ratio of about 2.5:1. He's given up too many walks and too many homers, but he's definitely pitched better than his ERA indicates. Most importantly, he's better than Jose Lima or Jeremi Gonzalez. I've been tough on Omar, and I'll continue to be I'm sure, but El Duque and John Maine for Kris and Anna Benson is looking good to me.

And yes, I'm sure you've noticed the piece of the puzzle I keep avoiding. I'm dancing around it to keep the pain & sorrow at bay. But I'll do it: The Mets moved Jorge Julio to get El Duque. But . . . to those of you who follow my posts carefully (don't throw your necks out nodding in recognition), you undoubtedly remember that, in near-clairvoyent awareness of this coming day, I retired the World-Famous Jorge Julio Counter last week. Bwahahahahahah!

Omar, who obviously reads this blog religiously (albeit in its alternate, Spanish language version), knew the Counter was sent out to pasture, felt the pain & frustration of Met Nation, and to his never-ending credit, did the right thing and cosmetically excised the scar, the very reminder of past glories no longer present. He may not know much about baseball, but Omar knows how to heal the emotions wounds of Met fans everywhere.

Perhaps more importantly, he knows how to compile a starting staff composed entirely of AARP members. The average age of the Met starting staff is now 79, one year past life-expectancy. Minaya is reportedly in negotiations with Juan Marichal's agent, and has one of his personal necromancers attempting to resurrect Lefty Gomez.

And we'll soon get the spectacle guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of geeks all over the globe: a Cuban defector pitching to a man named Castro.

3. Speaking of Castro, Ramon runs juuuuuuust a bit slower than Fidel. I'm a big fan of Ramon Castro, who's done nothing but kick ass in his role as back-up catcher. But what was he thinking last night??? In the third inning, Woodward tied the game at 3 with an RBI single, and Ramon made the final out of the inning at third base . . . with Soler on-deck. Oh, my. Making the final out with the pitcher due up by trying to score is an excellent play. Trying to go first-to-third (the equivalent of a mini-marathon for Mr. Castro) is not. More damaging than ending the inning with two ducks on the pond, was the failure to clear the pitcher's spot. Soler ended up leading off the following inning, and predictably made an out.

4. And, while we're talking about Castro, it's time for one of the Required Elements of any Mets post on my blog: The What Was Willie Thinking Moment. I think I'll call this the "3WTM" from here on. Ok, here's what we have. Sometime in the late innings of Tuesday's extravaganza, with the pitcher due up, Castro was the only position player left on the bench. To break it down, nice & plain, no one was available to catch if LoDuca (that would be the 34 year-old catcher, squatting for the 14th straight inning at that point) had to leave the game.

Tom Glavine, who can swing a decent bat, was on the bench wearing his batting gloves. That was one option. But even better, let's look at the man that Randolph brought in to pitch the following inning: Darren Oliver. Oliver's hitting .333 with a double this season. And, no, it's not a fluke. Throughout his 2 1/2 century career, Oliver has hit 231/266/298, including 11 doubles, one homer, and 7 walks in 208 ABs! The guy can swing the bat. Plus, he's faster than Castro. Do I know this? Not exactly. But since Mike Piazza could outrun Ramon Castro while carrying Paul LoDuca on his shoulders, I'm giving Oliver the edge in that foot race.

Willie should have allowed Oliver to hit before he took the mound, thereby saving Ramon to either catch or pinch hit if the game went into 20+ innings, or something equally bizarre.

5. Simple Question: Even though his game-tying homer on Tuesday was a fist-pumping moment, can we get a show of hands from everyone juuuuuuust a tad concerned about Jose Reyes getting Uppercut Happy for a month or so.

And, yes, I do feel stupid when I realize I pump my fist while sitting on the couch watching the game. Even more stupid when my wife catches me doing so and makes that "Is he for real?" face. If only she could see me watching the game in a bar after a few. On second thought, maybe not.

6. Speaking of concern: Kaz. He's now hitting 227/261/309. His OPS is 6 points higher than Darren Oliver's career number. Oof. Kaz's major league totals through nearly 900 plate appearences? 260/312/370. Woof.

This experiment isn't working. And that's even before I remember that he looks like a bulging-eyed fish when he checks the signs before digging in. Hey, I'm impressed with his D at second this season, I like his attitude, I like his hustle. But, he can't hit. He can't. Most alarmingly, he's showing a marked decline through his first three seasons, as he continues to age past his prime years. Since landing at JFK two years ago, his batting average has gone from .272 to .255 to .227. His walks per 10 ABs? 9--->5--->4.5. Isolated slugging? 124 to 97 to 82. 82! When you're sporting a .261 OBP, your isolated power needs to be well over 200. Maybe closer to 300.

Send him to the bench, send him to Norfolk, send him to the Orix Blue Wave. But the Mets can't keep penciling him into the starting lineup. Good to see Woodward in there last night. How's about Anderson Hernandez?

7. Just to show that I'm not picking on Willie (not too much) and to prove that I am a Met fan, I will not spend the next paragraph bitching about Willie's decision to leave left-handed specialist, Pedro Feliciano in the game to actually throw strikes to right-handed Met killer, Pat Burrell. Nope.

And yes, during Omar's inning in the booth last night, he did call his own pitcher Jose Feliciano. Insert your own Light My Fire/Blind Singer/Feliz Navidad joke. We're done? Ok.

Just to make myself perfectly clear, let me reitterate that I will not use this space to sneak in a second 3WTM, and attack Boneheaded Willie for allowing Pat Burrell, the man who has hit 755 homers against the Mets in his short career, to face a left-handed reliever while protecting a one-run lead in the late innings of a key divisonal tilt. It's hard, but I'm not gonna go there.

Instead, I'll state without qualification or equivocation, that Charlie Manuel may be one of the stupidest managers I've ever seen. I assume you've all watched the same games I have, so no need to run down his manifold blunders. I'll just note that one inning after the odd decison that Willie made (the one I steadfastedly refuse to mention), Manuel did exactly the same thing, when he allowed Rheal Cormier (is he still in the majors???) to face David Wright. Yes, the same David Wright hitting .389 vs. lefties this season, and .338 for his career.

Where do they find these guys, and why do they allow them to manage once they find them? I don't get it. But, I'm glad to see the Phils in his hands. Now, if we could just get Jeff Torborg to replace Bobby Cox . . .

8. And finally, while we're talking about David "Derek Who?" Wright, check out this little nugget he bestowed on the reporters after last night's game: "We continue to chip away. We never say die. We never roll over. That's the type of team we have. It's the kind of character we're made of."

Whoa! Five phrases, five cliches. He's hitting .389 against lefties, but a perfect 1.000 vs. the press. And people wonder if this fella's going to Cooperstown some day. Pul-leeze. He was born to be a ballplayer.

Nonetheless, I must ask. Since the Mets have brought in Rickey to instruct Jose "19 Walks in 200 ABs" Reyes, and seem clearly to have signed Crash Davis to tutor young Mr. Wright, why can't they get Brooks Robinson to help him out at third sack?

Now if we could just resurrect John McGraw or Casey Stengle to give some guidance to Willie . . .

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


This A.P. piece details Microsoft's latest test releases, Windows Vista for desktop computers, Windows for servers and the Office business software suite.

Unfortunately, the technology press continues to ignore the software giant's revolutionary plan to simultaneously release its new operating system, the cutting edge virus that disables its functionality, as well as versions one and two of the security patch needed to remedy the problem, in one single purchase Software Suite.

"Microsoft's release of 'Windows Up Yours' will represent the single greatest advance in American manufacturing know-how since Henry Ford developed the assembly line," Tim Howard of the Virtual Industry Release Understanding Society told us yesterday. "While Microsoft has long been known among tech insiders as the leader in security glitches & e-mail worms, the two-to-three week delays before the endless releases & re-releases of security patches has made them a virtual laughing stock (no pun intended) in America and abroad."

Willem DeKuylnvaulk, 28, a member of the Mac Owning Anti-Windows Society as well as the European Open Source Spartacist's League in Brussels, informed us not only that he's a virgin, but also that "Microsoft sucks."

Bill Gates declined to comment on the matter, and in fact denied the existance of the rumored software product altogether. Nonetheless, he did tell our reporter, "But, you tell that Mike guy that's a helluva blog he's got there. Melinda and I read him every day. We especially like the satirical pieces about the federal government. Tell him to keep up the good work," before giving him about $500 worth of MS's latest software upgrades, "to keep the web page humming along." Unsurprisingly, the tough questions ceased. The reporter didn't ask Gates, however, to autograph the box.



Following an emergency, late-night session, Congress finally arrived at its latest plan to waste money. Unable to find any more decommissioned navy ships to sink, our elected representatives decided on the next best option: spend $18M to shoot elk.

Yes, that's right.

Officials explained that Rocky Mountain National Park's "elk numbers have escalated because the animals have few predators and no hunting is allowed in the park." Despite near unanimous agreement among park officials that "hunting or a return of the wolves might make sense and save money," as well as "best meet environmental objectives and do the least damage," Park biologist Therese Johnson nonetheless explained to the press that there are contentious disagreements over the best method: "For and against wolves. For and against hunting. And we have heard from people who prefer fertility control to killing the elk."

A 4 year-old wolf identifying herself only as "Beta Female X," spoke to reporters on the Capitol Hill steps. Claiming that she represents The Predators, a notorious Montana wolfpack, she explained, "We've been isolated from our natural hunting grounds for far too long. And now, with the elk population growing out of control, we ask only that your government permit us to return to Rocky Mountain National Park, so we can once again serenade our pups with the melifluous sounds of crunching elk bone and howling at the moon. This injustice must not continuuuuuuuuuuue. Members of Congress, I implore you: Let my wolves go!"

But her howls of protest fell on deaf congressional ears, and the more expensive alternative seems likely to move forward. Park officials told us that congress would likely approve an alternate plan involving "killing up to 700 elk annually for four years. After that, an additional 25 to 150 elk would be culled annually for 16 years."

"Doing something like this is not going to be cheap, for sure," said park Superintendent Vaughn Baker. "But we're talking 20 years." Among the added costs will be hiring extra staff or a contractor to shoot elk, building fences to protect vegetation, transporting carcasses, testing them for disease and processing the meat. At this time, we are unable to confirm rumors that the $18M program will also mandate educational and cultural seminars including, "The Elk & You: Lives in Balance," "How to Shoot an Elk in the Head From 75 Yards," and "Dr. Phil & Tony Robbins Present 'Touching Your Inner Elk.'" A park official insisting on anonymity assured us that an "Anger Management Program for any wolf caught killing an elk is going to pass."

After the session was adjourned, Beta Female X continued speaking to the rapt reporters, flashing her razor-sharp fangs and punctuating each phrase with a raised paw: "I just want to tell the American people, you are paying for the oppression of my pack, you are paying for rednecks with guns to shoot the elk they'd shoot for nothing, and you are paying for the benefit of a small number of private ranch owners. You've been bamboozled! Now, if you'll excuse me I'm going back to Montana to hunt small game and nurse my brood. To say nothing of poaching sheep, calves, chicken and pigs owned by struggling, small farm owners."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- those would be the governmental employees who've barely raised so much as a peep over the past year regarding abuses of Executive Power, including warrantless wiretaps and other fun stuff -- have got themselves worked into a tizzy over "the FBI's weekend search of the House office of a Louisiana Democrat under investigation for bribery."

Well isn't that a shame.

After Justice Department officers searched his office, "based in part on [his] refusal to comply with a subpoena for documents that was issued last summer," Democratic Representative William Jefferson of Louisiana called this action an "outrageous intrusion" (emphasis added).

Well isn't that a shame.

In a rare showing of bipartisanism, House Majority Leader John Boehner expressed shock, telling reporters that Congress would address "this issue of the Justice Department's invasion of the legislative branch. In what form, I don't know," and even Speaker-of-the-House, Dennis Hastert said that "the Justice Department had never before crossed a line that separates Congress from the executive branch by searching a congressional office while investigating a member of Congress."

Well isn't that a shame.

These self-interested power-seekers have all but told the American people -- their employers -- that they don't give a damn about them. About their privacy, their liberty, their safety. Nothing. Yet when the out-of-control arm of government that they've refused to tie down comes for them . . . well, whattaya know, they circle the wagons.

In November, remember who these guys really work for: themselves.

And that, my friends, truly is a shame.


Deciding that America needs yet another quixotic run for national office by a liberal, New England Democrat, Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut told reporters he's "gearing up for a possible run for president."

Despite rock-solid intelligence indicating that only 14 people in the entire nation outside the Northeast would even "consider voting for that tool," Dodd seems convinced that only he can continue to destroy the Democratic party's chances ever to regain the White House.

"I alone bring the triple death score of being a liberal, New England Democrat," Dodd told the stunned press. "I want to fight for the traditions and history of the Democratic party. And since 1980 that pretty much means nominating a spineless party hack, devoid of charisma and personality. And I'm here to tell you, I'm the man to carry that torch."

Reports that following Dodd's revelation, a wild & unhinged blow-out celebration went down at GOP national headquarters have not been confirmed.

Responding to a barrage of questions, the unannounced, unofficial, yet somehow frontrunning 2008 Democratic hopeful, Hillary Clinton, said only, "That wuss? I'm gonna kick his ass."


Freedom's on the march everywhere.

After a 20 year run up in the incarceration rate for black men, drug users, and scabby-armed meth addicts, some states have finally decided the morally indefensible discrimination against women in their jurisdictions had gone on for far too long.

According to an A.P. piece over the weekend, this increase in female incarceration has occurred in a few "mountain states," though Oklahoma receives most of the article's attention. Anyone know a big mountain in the Sooner State?

To the surprise of no one, much of the run-up in the female prison population stems from drug-related convictions. In fact, according to the Woman's Prison Association, "the proportion of women serving time for drug offenses has risen sharply in recent years, while the proportion convicted of serious violent crimes has dropped." While my insiders tell me that the Women's Prison Association is composed entirely of middle-aged porn afficionados, their statistics are nonetheless considered trustworthy.

I'm not gonna argue that meth-addled, law-flouting mothers are any sort of gift to child-rearing, but I can't get rid of the foul stench of hypocrisy when I see states such as Texas, Mississippi and Montana -- those would be "Family Values States" -- tossing these ladies in prison, leaving their children to the fates.

Monday, May 22, 2006


A news piece from over the weekend appears under the following headline:

Bush Wants Newcomers to Learn English

White House Minister of Propaganda, Tony Snow, told reporters, "What the president has said all along is that he wants to make sure that people who become American citizens have a command of the English language. It's as simple as that."

And, showing that they're following Administration directives by mastering colloquial uses of the notoriously difficult language, America's immigrants responded collectively: "Back at Ya!"


This article, addressing America's high incarceration rate, offers more provocative bits of data than I really wanna read in one sitting. Of course, the usual topics show up: drug laws, racial composition of the prison population, statistics showing which red states have the highest incarceration rate and which blue states rank lowest. Although, to my surprise, none of the familar stats showing that we rank with China, South Africa, North Korea, The Gulag, and Nazi Germany for number of prisoners. I won't offer any moral condemnation here or weigh in with my theories of why this is, what it means, when it'll doom us in the future, nor how we'll improve going forward. You've heard it all, so have I, there's no need to go there.

But the story's alarming nonetheless. Arresting, you might say. The most interesting & disturbing part relates to an increase among prisoners in municipal jails who've been indicted, but not yet convicted & sentenced, for state & federal crimes. 62 percent of those held in local jails are not convicted. The Head of the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics told reporters, "the jail population is increasingly unconvicted, [j]udges are perhaps more reluctant to release people pretrial."

Denied bail, because of the apparent "risk of flight." I have some ideas, but I'll leave the conclusions to you.



The Mets pulled out the series versus the loathesome Yanks, winning games one and three on the strength of good hitting and strong bullpen work. Game two? Strangeness all around. But you know what? I'm not jumping on Billy Wagner here. He sucked, I'm not gonna argue that one. But with his fine performances Friday and last night, I'm looking elsewhere to understand why the Mets kept the broom in the closet this weekend (cue movie "memory music" and briefly fade to grainy, black-and-white shot of Willie Randolph making that pursed lip "Willie Face" in the dugout).

Before getting to that, let me briefly say I know that taking 2-of-3 from the Yanks is no small accomplishment, and I understand that even the greatest teams lose one out of every three games. Got it. But they had all three in the bag, they blew the middle game, every loss counts come September, and -- and here's where the acid starts refluxing, adding to my already astronomical Tums budget during the April-October months -- The Game Was There. Put it in the win column, drop standard quotations on the clubhouse reporters ("We're not thinking about a sweep, we're just looking to get a win tomorrow night"), pop a beer, let Mike enjoy his Saturday. Simple really.

But Willie fucked up.

After one full season and one-and-a-half months, we really have to start calling em as we see em. And I see a guy who earns the respect of his charges, implements a hustling style of play, makes bizarre personnel decisions, and adds bad game management to the resume at that point. I'm not gonna recap all the instances of bad game management this season, but I'll ask you to think of all the times that a Randolph decision to bunt, or a decision not to bunt, left you scratching your head. Nor will I recap the personnel decisions that Willie, Minaya, or both (Willaya, Omillie, Randaya, Mindolph?) have made, not made, made wrong, made at the wrong time. Though I'll ask you to keep in your head the names Heilman, Milledge, Diaz, Gonzalez, Zambrano, Bell, and Valentin. No reminders required for the name Lima. Finally, look back at some of my prior Met posts where I address his errors.

Ok. And then we come to Saturday (cue movie "sad music" and fade to grainy black-and-white shot of Billy Wagner walking off the mound with a stunned crowd of Mets fans contending with screaming assholes in Yankee caps). Yeah, that's the game where they blew the 4 run lead in the 9th. But to fully understand the scope of this debacle, we need to go back to Friday. Yes, like any recent movie with a plot more complicated than boy-meets-girl, or Tom/Bruce/Harrison-blow up-stuff, we have to reconstruct the story in reverse chronological order, ala Memento or The Usual Suspects. We'll call it The Tarantino Rule. Anyway, let's examine the evidence, shall we?

Friday Night: Kudos to Willie for bringing Wagner into a tie game. I know, that should be basic, but a lot of managers would have stuck to the "LaRussa Bullpen Management Rules" there. I'm talking, of course, about Rule #1, "Bring in your closer only when holding a lead," as well as Rule #6(b), "Bring in a left-handed reliever to face a predominantly right-handed line-up grouping, only when wearing sunglasses in the dugout during a night game." To Willie's credit, he not only eschewed the shades, but he brought his ace into the tie game.

The result? A dominant inning of work, incredibly striking out the side on 2 pitches, leaving the Yankee hitters wallowing in their shame, misery, and bodily fluids. Along with Heilman's strong three innings, it was vulgar display of raw power. Then Wright smacked Riviera, Mets won, Mike went to bed happy. All Is Good.

Sunday Night (Yes, I know I went from Friday to Sunday; Tarantino Rule, remember?): With Billy Wagner icing his arm during the game, sucking oxygen, and consulting with a sports psychologist in the bullpen (again, cue up somber music, fade once again to black & white of Wags walking off the mound), Heilman relieved Glavine to start the 7th. But Willie failed to double switch, leaving Heilman due up second the next inning.

Now, at this point, based on these sneaky hints I've been dropping to reveal plot points from Saturday (much like Travolta & Jackson wearing t-shirts and shorts when they return the suitcase to Marcellus early in Pulp Fiction ) we all know that Wagner pitched (badly, and a lot) on Saturday, and with Duaner Sanchez warming up hard, you'd know he was a-vail-a-ble in a big way.

But without the double switch, Valentin pinch hit (drawing a walk, nearly completing his shocking resurrection), and Heilman was done for the night. Oh well, I thought, a two inning save from Duaner ain't easy & it ain't ideal, but I guess that's what we're stuck with. And yet, the strange decisions continued. Having thrown 44 pitches over the previous two nights, we all knew that Wagner -- the 34 year-old guy who lost time to injury in 2000 & 2004 -- was unavailable to pitch for a third straight night against one of baseball's best offenses.

Yet, in entered Sandman. And, fortunately for the short term, he pitched well, saving the game and the series. Let's hope his arm remains attached to his shoulder come September. But now, ominous music pipes through the theater (instead of the opening notes of "Enter Sandman," perhaps we get the opening notes of "Ironman." Which would be a helluva song for any closer, but I digress), and a Title Card comes on the screen reading . . .

Saturday: The audience grows hushed, the mood darkens, and the geeky guys who already saw the flick whisper annoying things to their friends like, "Watch for the 9th inning," "Look closely and you'll see that Willie starts to frown in the 8th inning," or "Check out Alyssa Milano." Oh my, where to begin. I guess the 9th inning. Mets up 4. Pedro was lights out. Duaner Sanchez, rested Friday night, threw a 10 pitch eighth inning (yes, that would be "10"), culminating in a double play grounder. His spot was not due up, nor did it come up, in the Met half of the inning.

And in entered Sandman. Say what? Just to review, in case I was unclear: 4 run lead, Wagner pitched a key inning the night before, Wagner might be needed on Sunday & no one knew the manager of a contending team would throw his 34 year-old closer three nights straight, and Sanchez had thrown 10 pitches (yes, that would be "10") the prior inning. And, to recap that additional point, in case you missed it: And in entered Sandman.

I still don't know what the hell Willie was thinking. I'm not gonna talk about Wagner's meltdown. Hey, meltdowns happen, though they seem to be happening to Wags a lot. Nor will I talk about Willie's failure to pull him sooner when it was clear he didn't have it. No, I'm gonna talk about the fact that there was no reason to go to Wagner. No reason.

By bringing him in to "protect" a 4 run lead, Willie all-but guaranteed that Wagner would be unavailable for Sunday's game, or would be at greater risk of injury due to early season overuse; and in the unlikely event that Wagner got into trouble in the 9th, the Mets would enter extra innings with Jorge Julio as the only bullpen option. And that's exactly what happened. Julio pitched well enough, but eventually gave up the go-ahead run. When he threw to first base after Jason Giambi reached on a walk, I knew the Yanks had him. I've never pitched, but I'm guessing superfluous throws to first tell the hitter, "I'm afraid to pitch to you." But again I digress.

To be perfectly clear, I'm not second guessing Willie because Wagner sucked on Saturday. No. I'm first guessing him for bringing him in at all, leading to all the events that followed, or in the case of Wagner appearing in three straight games, what should have followed. If you think the consequences of 65 pitches in 3 days are negligible, let's just say, We'll See come August & September, to say nothing of this week versus the Phils (although Randolph kept Wagner out of the last series with Philadelphia, so maybe he's perfectly set up to do so again).

The Mets are very talented, and baring injury, they look to have what it takes to reach the post-season for the first time since 2000. But with Willie Randolph at the helm, they're going to keep losing winnable games. He's not a good manager, and after 1+ seasons, I'm no longer confident he'll learn the ropes. He played for Billy Martin, he coached under Joe Torre. If he doesn't get it now, he never will.

I hope I'm wrong, but assuming that injuries or bonehead decisions don't sink the Mets playoff hopes before October, Randolph's clueless management is gonna cost the a game in the post-season. And that's just not what you want to see.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Nero fiddled as Rome burned. Medieval philosophers debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. In the 1500's, the Christian World split in two, leading to a counter-reformation and eventually the bloody 30 Years War. Among the causes of this rift? The question of Transubstantiation: do "bread & wine" contain the body & blood of Christ, or are they merely symbols.

And in the first decade of the 21st Century, the legislative Upper House of the world's most powerful country works feverishly into the night to determine, once & for all, whether English is America's "national language," or its national "common and unifying language."

I don't even know what that means. And I'm not interested in finding out.

Politics, like magic, has long required mastery in the art of misdirection, but I can't recall another election year with so many distractions, red herrings, pork-filled boondoggles and other such nonsense. As November approaches, these mid-term elections should serve as a referendum on the direction of our country: do we like what's gone down the past 5 years, and do we want it to continue? A vigorous press and a concerned citizenry should force Senators and Representatives to explain where they stand on Executive power, on the debt, on monetary shenanigans, on the 4th Amendment, on our military adventurism.

Instead, they argue whether to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and engage in a massive circle jerk on the Senate floor regarding the status of the language we've spoken here for 400 years.

If only I could filibuster.


As the economy continues down its rocky road, as the quagmire in Iraq continues (yet continues to receive less & less press coverage), and as midterm elections approach, the money-devouring machine known as the United States Government stays the course, spending like a spoiled teenager holding Daddy's plastic.

What's it up to this time? Sending a dragnet to Michigan to search for the remains of union boss, Jimmy Hoffa, dead since 1975. Nope, not making this one up. Check the link. Please. It's real.

"This is the best lead I've seen come across in the Hoffa investigation," the chief agent from the Detroit FBI field office actually told reporters, fighting not to snicker and chortle. The investigation team, which includes, "dozens of agents, cadaver dogs, demolition experts and archaeologists and anthropologists," hopes to find . . . uhhh, what exactly are they trying to find? The body of a guy everyone knows is dead? Do they go next to France to "search" for Jim Morrison's remains?


Yes, ladies and gents, this is what our government does. When it's not sinking decommissioned ships, or sending troops to guard the Mexican border, it hires anthropologists to invade small farms, looking for famous corpses.

And, making everything all the more asburd, everyone already knows where Hoffa's buried. And unless the Giants & Jets move to Detroit, it ain't Michigan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Apparently deciding that he hasn't blown the nation's future into oblivion quite as much as he'd hoped, President Bush finally heaved the Hail Mary Pass we all knew he had in the playbook. Combining profligate spending, election year politics, and a red-herring issue no one really seems to care much about, this could well be his finest hour.


With the smoke from yesterday's market implosion still fouling the air, it sure is good to see us getting our priorities straight. This piece discusses the "$20 million sinking" of a 56 year-old aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Mexico. This sinking, the article informs us, "was delayed for nearly two years by hurricanes and environmental permitting problems."

I know $20M ain't much, but I'm thinking it might have paid for an extra foot or two on a levee here or there. Who knows, right?

Anyway, a few lines from the piece tell you all you need to know about this latest boondoggle, an apparent sop to disgruntled Gulf State voters in an election year:

It was decommissioned in 1976.

Over the years, other ships have been turned into reefs . . . [those were] a civilian project, paid for with a combination of county and private money.

The Oriskany (pronounced oh-RISK-uh-nee) became the first vessel sunk under a Navy program to dispose of old warships by turning them into diving attractions teeming with fish and other marine life.

[Probable 2008 Presidential candidate & former flyer on the sunken ship, Senator] McCain said he had hoped the ship would be turned into a museum, but the artificial reef will "provide a lot of recreation and a lot of good times for people."

Local leaders hope the reef brings a long-awaited economic infusion from sport divers and fishermen. A 2004 Florida State University study estimated Escambia County would see $92 million a year in economic benefits from an artificial reef.

(Emphases added)

And finally, if I can beat this environmental drum I'm carrying today, why is it that I'm less-than-excited that the EPA "approved the sinking of the ship, which had toxins in its electrical cables, insulation and paint." I suppose I trust the Agency's estimate that "the toxins will slowly leach out over the estimated 100 years it will take the carrier to rust away," while remaining a tad skeptical towards its assurance that this process "should pose no danger to marine life."

For $20M maybe I'm looking for a stronger word than "should."


People say that the U.S. and its citizens are environmentally unsound. Oh, yeah, well check this out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


With nearly two weeks having elapsed since I discussed Vs., by Pearl Jam, as the first of the discs in a running series I call, "My Favorite 100 CDs," it's high time to present the second entry.

The piece included the full description of the nature of this list, the genesis of the idea, and all the other long-winded stuff I'm so fond of. Nonetheless, here's a brief recap of the Official Ground Rules before we move on:
For an album to be eligible I must OWN THE CD. Period. That's it. No Born to Run, no Are You Experienced, no John Barleycorn Must Die, no Who's Next, no Deja Vu, not an awful lot of great albums released before I upgraded in 1987. Have them on LP; don't have them on disc. No go. Also not gonna see the "great, must-have albums" every swinging dick puts on his Best Album list . . . but for some reason isn't great enough for him to actually own. So none of those albums either. Unless I like them, and then they're here. You'll see.

On to today's entry:

#92: Jane's Addiction -- XXX. I'm not sure that's the actual title, in fact I'm pretty certain it's not, but that's what everyone calls this live album, Jane's first release, from 1987. Triple X records, some shady, eighties, LA-based outfit put it out before the band got hooked and reeled in by Warner Bros., the very company that later left them hanging over the Ritual de lo Habitual cover art brouhaha.

Like Zeppelin dressed in drag, with a little punk jauntiness thrown in, Jane's swaggered onto the late 80's scene and just said Fuck You . . . with a wink. Without The Wink, they'd've been just another loud and crunching band outta' Los Angeles. "Guns & Addictions," or something like that. But -- and thank god for it -- they winked.

Back in '88 or '89, I'd already heard the chatter about Jane's, but I wasn't yet ready for the wink. Still too heavily immersed in the classic rock of my youth and the classic rock-derived acts of the late 80's ('89 was a big year for Lenny Kravitz and U2, not to mention one of Neil Young's many resurgences), I couldn't get into Janes Addiction's sound. I realize now, with the benefit of hindsight, how much they sounded like Zeppelin or even early Sabbath. But something about the combo of Perry Farrell's voice and the heavy distortion of Dave Navarro's guitar allowed me to lump them with punk, post-punk, metal, and all the other styles my ears didn't attune to until later in 1990 and into 1991. Follow that? No matter. Let's move on.

So, in the the Summer of '89 or whenever it was exactly, after I turned off whatever Dead bootleg I was obsessively grooving to at the time, when my friend & roommate told me to "check this shit out," and threw on XXX's version of "Jane Says," followed by a menacing cover of Velvet Underground's "Rock n' Roll" segueing into the "Sympathy For The Devil," no one had to convince me of the band's worth. Simply put, if you've never heard that back-to-back cut, you're missing something. Check it out.

But, being 1989, I remained very much a man in search of my tribe. Not yet willing to buy completely into the new sound that was starting to seep through the cracks separating The Mainstream from The Underground, from "College Radio" and "Alternative Music," I continued to ride the fence between worlds. Like a character in a B-sci-fi flick, I was mid-metamorphosis, ooze and diaphenous eyelids still drying in the dawning sunshine. I wanted good musicianship and good songwriting. But I needed something youthful, something raw, something in-your-face. I yearned for something real, something organic to come along and deliver me from classic rock radio with three plays daily of dreck like "All Right Now," "She's Not There," and "Carry on Wayward Son."

And, as if by magic, along it came: Rock's Second Golden Age. I bought in this time. But I'm getting ahead of things.

As 1990 rambled into 1991 and even '92, as I jumped into The Pit, so to speak, in terms of the music, my appearence -- that other element of youth culture, of youth style, partnered as always with the music -- did not mosh. Didn't match either: I continued wearing hippie paraphernalia like tie-dyes, a multicolored South American knit belt and its bracelet brothers, plus some macrame thing I got from a waitress I worked with, which I actually wore on my ankle . . . eventually combining these things with downtown NY, urban-punk-meets-grunge regalia: Doc Martins, self-inflicted hair shearing, three holes in one lobe, two in the other, goofy-as-all-hell sideburns, black jeans, flannels over or under the tie-dyes.

Yes, you're reading correctly. I looked that weird. Motley doesn't quite describe. Nothing was left to take it to the next level, not even silver bells to wear on my boots . . . which I surely would have sported had some doe-eyed lass given them to me along with a merciful favor or two.

And along with this cliched-yet-mishmashed "look," my musical stance, too, possessed more attitude than necessary. I clearly remember the first time I met one of my long-term friends, in the fall of 1992:

Him: I noticed you wearing a tie-dye. You a Deadhead?

Me: I used to like the Dead. But lately I'm into other things--

Him: Oh. So now you like Jane's Addiction?

Me: Uhhh, yeah, but I like other stuff too . . .

You see, we all tend to romanticize Nevermind, and with good reason, as the moment the doors blew off. Look, I admit 1991 was the big turning point for me, as it was with a lot of people. Billboard suddenly opted for a system that actually measured sales as opposed to payola, and the audience favorites emerged. But the favorite had to come from something. From somewhere. And that something, that somewhere? Many things. But Jane's Addiction was one of the big somethings.

Nothing's Shocking, Ritual de lo Habitual. I got them, and got into them a good six months before Nirvana and the re-jiggering of the charts later that year. I got those two albums late in the spring of '91 around the time I bought my tickets for the first Lollapallooza. Which I went to twice in one week in August. I fuckin loved those albums (they'll show up much further on in this countdown). And I actually bought XXX that summer, well before I picked up Nevermind and Gish and Loveless and Bandwagonesque and all the other gems of that year.

But it was well after I'd burned laser holes in their other two albums that I finally got into XXX, probably in early 1992. I was ready for The Wink. More than even Nothing's Shocking or Ritual, XXX captures that menacing sound that Jane's had. That combination of a punch in the face and suggestions of deeply deviant sexuality. As Perry suggested on Ritual, there "Aint No Right," only "pleasure and pain." Of course, he'd probably throw in a "motherfucker" or four, but that's what made them different from all the other metal-meets-punk bands around.

From the guitar-crunch of "Whores," through Farrell's bizarre verbal interlude on "Pig's in Zen," the album roars out of the gate, kicking ass from the first note. After a slow mid-section including a few obscure songs, they hit "Jane Says" and really deliver the goods with the "Rock n' Roll"/"Sympathy" combo, before closing with the dischorant "Chip Away."

But my favorite song on the disc? "1%." Why was it my favorite? Hard to say now, but when I was 23, I had a hard time resisting songs with lyrics like, "biggest gang I know they call the government/gang is weapon that you trade your mind in for/you gotta be just like them/the gang and the government no different." Hell, 15 years later I think I still feel that way.

But then, following those verses, which sound far more angry on the disc, Farrell lets fly with a gutteral "Oooo God!" followed by a 2 minute thrust through three-chord rock heaven, and well, they had me from that moment on.

I'll admit I haven't listened to this disc but two or three times in the last decade. As should be clear from my description, even if you don't know this disc, it ain't for adults. Too angry, too earnest, too . . . I hate to admit it, but too silly. But it spoke volumes to me as a young man. It mattered. It really did.

And if that's not good enough for #92, I'm not sure what is.


I missed the end of last night's victory, having gone to bed around 12:30. Not sure when the game ended, but man it must've been late. To put it in perspective, for those who watched, I turned in during the 8th inning of the Mets' '86 Clincher.

That's right, it was a "Mets Classic" Rain Delay last evening, and they busted out a real stinker. A dreary 4-2 game, filled with defensive and baserunning miscues. Sure they "won" the division that night, but everyone knows the division title was a foregone conclusion long before September 17. And Met announcer Steve Zabriskie screwed up the final out anyway with his odd "The Mets win the division, but they really haven't won a damn thing at all" call.

Or whatever it was he said.

That's not to say there weren't a few things worth noting. First of all, as with any "classic" game in any sport from the 70s and 80s, one immediately notes the size of the players. They look like humans! Of the Met starters, including 6'3" Doc, exactly one guy was listed at 200+ pounds: Carter. Mookie, Dykstra, Backman & Santana were all in the 160 lb range. Strawberry, at 6'6", weighed 195 pounds! That's Louie Orr territory. And you think that's nuts, watch a "classic" hockey game some time. Yikes! Safe to say not many fellas sticking needles in their asses before the game back in those days.

I talked here about Ralph Kiner a few weeks ago. The '86 game shows what I meant. He was sharp, and he was smart. When Dykstra led off the game, Ralphie told us his on-base percentage, his walks total, and alluded to Keith Hernandez's league-leading OBP & BB totals, before noting his position among the league batting average leaders. As I mentioned Monday, until well into the 90's, it was harder for a fan to find OBP, BB, CS, 2B & 3B stats in most newspapers than for Kaz Iishi to find the strike zone. And Kiner was giving them on the air 20 years ago! Underrated as a ballplayer; underrated as an announcer.

And that's before we address the fact that he called the Met catcher "Gary Cooper."

And, turning to the players in the game, of course the Mets had Carter & Straw & Doc and all those great players. I'd mention Hernandez too, but as Met fans know, Dave Magadan played that game, delivering the division-winning hit as part of a 3-4 performance. Keith was "under the weather," we were told. I'd believe it if they said "under a broad" or "under the debilitating effects of a massive hangover," but the man delivered, on and off the field, so let's leave him alone.

And the Cubs? In the starting lineup were Sandberg and Palmeiro, with Eck on the mound. That's two Hall of Famers and another guy who would've gone in if he wasn't a steroid user. And a back-stabbing teammate. And a liar. And the product of a grossly-inflated offensive era. But otherwise, he'd be a sure thing! Seriously, though, that's three great players on the squad of a crap team, playing out the string against a juggernaut. Fun to see 20 years later.

And if Raffy was already in his prime, maybe the Mets wouldn't all have weighed 160 pounds. Anyway, on to a few Random Thoughts:

1. Stevie Wonder's Not The Only Sight-Impaired Genius: What is up with LaRussa and the damn shades in the dugout during night games? Is he blind? Blinded by the glare of his own stupendous ego? If he pulls down the brim of his hat does he think he'll look like a professional poker player? How can he possibly take himself seriously at this point?

These are the questions someone needs to ask. And, damn it, if I have to be the man to ask, so be it. Someone get Tony on the phone. Now.

2. A Serious Topic That Must be Addressed: Sorry to lower the mood, but I need to discuss this, and now's as good a time as any. Having gone to bed before the rain-delayed finish of last night's game, I was fortunate enough to miss a sad, sad event first hand. But pretending it didn't happen just won't do.

That's right, folks. Jorge Julio, he of the now world-famous "Jorge Julio Counter," entered yet another game with the Mets holding a lead. And, to make matters worse, apparently grasping the gravity of his new role, he failed once again to give up a homer. Despite the Mets 5 run lead!

Now this alone would cause deep, deep concern (can you hear the furrowing of my brows?), but as we all know, a barrage of long balls is but one part of Big George's charm. As Bogey might have said to a hulking Venezuelan through a shroud of smoke & fog on a North African tarmac: "We'll always have the strikeout."

But, alas, Bogey's dead, Ilsa probably forgot about him the second Laszlo knocked her up, and . . . I can barely fight off the tears . . . Jorge Julio failed to record a strikeout. I have no choice but to retire the Jorge Julio Counter. And that, my friends, is that.

At least until he gives up 3 straight homers and becomes the first major leaguer ever to strike out 5 in one inning of work. Then I'll bring it back in a heartbeat. I'm easy that way, you know?

3. So . . . a New Counter! Ladies and Gents ("Ladies"! Yeah, like any women actually read this nonsense), I present, in a long-awaited debut performance, the "Jose Reyes Walk Comparator." Yeah, I know it's a crappy name, but don't sweat it. What are the odds I'll stick with this one, right? Shhhh.

Through May 16, 2006, Jose Reyes has drawn 16 bases on balls. 16! In 2005, by contrast, Reyes drew his 16th walk sometime in early August. I don't have last season's game-by-game log, but I know that as of the end of July, 2005, Jose had 15 BBs.

And, to end on a serious note, Reyes's 16 BBs are good for a .326 OBP. While hardly a superb number, he's nonetheless on a pace to score 126 runs if he plays 155 games.

Not bad.


Apparently, after a 17 year withdrawal, Cesamet, a synthetic version of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, will return to the pharmaceuticals market. I'm not gonna get into the pros & cons, or the whys & wherefores on pot and other drugs. My take on seatbelt laws the other day probably tells you all you need to know about my opinion.

Nonetheless, I'll admit to getting the giggles when I noticed that in addition to drowsiness, vertigo and dry mouth, "euphoria" is included among this weedless weed's "side effects."

That's like calling "getting paid" a side effect of employment.

Hey, maybe someday we'll have warning labels on sex partners: "Side effects may include sexually transmitted diseases, clinginess, random phone calls at inappropriate hours, huge swings in ego and self-esteem (depending on gender), as well as the extremely satisfying physical & emotional release known as orgasm."

* * *

And finally, no B.S.: when I saved the initial draft of this post last night, the "word verification" to prove I'm not a spambot was "nxibake."

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


This piece discusses the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority's plan to join other cities in displaying rolling ads visible to subway passengers as the trains move through tunnels. Uggghhh.

Much as I loathe the idea, I still understand that all agencies, even non-elected, quasi-governmental fiefdoms, need to raise money, and often in unpalatable ways.


But, depending on your source, the M.T.A. has a surplus of approximately one billion dollars. It doesn't need to raise a few extra bucks showing commercials in subway tunnels.

* * *

I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm firmly against any technological "advancement" permitting cell phone use in subway tunnels, TV screens in the cars, or rolling ads in the tunnels. The world, especially in a big city, is so filled with inputs, with energy, with stimulation, that I actually look forward to my 25 minute commute so I can just veg out: to meditate, basically. Or read, or people-watch. Much like a shower, it's one of the only times I can escape and be in my own head.

But along with chattering cell-phone users, images barreling by at 60 MPH will be yet another blow to the head in the flurry of gar-bage bombarding us from the minute we wake til we turn in at night.

When does it stop?

Update (4:57 PM): Not sure why I would find ads in subways tunnels strange when the same city brings WiFi access into Central Park.

I give up. Starting tomorrow, I'm gonna surgically implant a cell phone into my skull, and install a 12'' flat screen computer monitor on my chest. This way, I can post blog entries while I'm reading the annoying subway ads on the way to work.


The following short piece by Byron King, who writes occasionally for Whiskey & Gunpowder, serves as an excellent introductory primer to the much-ballyhoo'd -- and deservedly so -- concept of "Peak Oil." No matter what lunatic conspiracy formulae you may associate with "Peak Oil," the simple fact remains that oil isn't squeezed into the earth's mantle (or is it the moho? the crust?) by an Omnipotent Wizard of Energy, sitting on a polluted cloud, feeding humanity the fossil fuels it so bady needs. No, oil's finite, we've used it like mad, and it's gonna run out some day.

One brief point before I turn this over to Byron: oil's not running out tomorrow, or the day after that. Probably not even next Thursday. But, and this is the key, as oil supplies begin to dwindle, in a world that sees ever-growing demand, we'll slowly approach the end of the world of "Cheap Oil." And then, when the product that drives our cultural engines, as well as those of the internal combustion variety, begins to run out . . . well that, my friends, is the rub.

Anyhow, enough of me. The article is here.


Local news agencies are reporting a crush of Sea Lions into the wealthy, California coastal community of Newport Beach. Known for their drinking, carousing, barking, and really foul fish breath, the arrival of the Sea Lions has the town up in arms.

"When you combine fun-loving sea mammals, alcohol, and pleasure boats at dock, it can't help but get out of control," Don McGuire, the owner of a local hardware store told us. "I mean, my daughter goes to high school here. How am I gonna keep her away from these damn seals? C'mon."

His neighbor, Theresa Hamilton, describing herself as a "Christian Homemaker," said only that "it's that Krazy Kelp, I tell you. Why do you think they call it sea weed, huh? Huh?!"

Wildly inebriated, and far too distracted by a parade of local girls, as well as a few young seals who apparently snuck out of the local aquarium for the day, only one of the Sea Lions spoke to us. Wearing a red doo-rag and a tattoo of the words "Sex" and "Linkin Park," written in Chinese characters on his tail fin, a young Sea Lion identifying himself only as "Joe," told us that "my parents think I'm diving for abalone near Canada," before turning to one of our female camera operators, boisterously demanding that she "Show Us Your Flippers."

Monday, May 15, 2006


The Pentagon has finally agreed to release the names of those detained at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility, the formal name for the Cuban shithole known internationally as Gitmo. Strange how our own Stalag 17 would be located on the very island we've boycotted in the name of "Freedom" for nearly 50 years.

But I digress.

In a somewhat unsurprising development, experts in the study of long-hidden lists of long-hidden detainees, known in their field as Detainators, have declared that, "none of the most notorious terrorist suspects was included in the list, raising questions about their whereabouts."

Raising questions, indeed. Such as "were they ever captured in the first place?" "did our troops ever seek them out in Afghanistan in the first place?" and most notably, "did they ever exist in the first place?"

What's most fascinating, though, are the names on the list. Like the parade of lost souls decending from the mothership in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," we've rediscovered a world long gone.

Let's take a look:

Al Gore -- Wondering where that wacky, internet-inventing, environmentalism-praising, election-blowing man of wood has ended up? Gitmo, baby. Apparently, Al went to Afghanistan in early 2002, "to monitor an humanitarian mission," the former Presidential candidate told us. "But, due my uncharacteristically shaggy appearence, with my beard and all, they mistook me for an Islamic Radical." Responding to press inquiries as to how a man of his stature could languish in a detention center for four years , the ex-Senator, who incredibly lost his home state in the 2000 Presidential election, blamed it on Ralph Nader.

Ricky Martin -- the man who helped all of us to live the Vida Loca back in his golden days of '99, has turned up afterall, hidden among the Al Qaedists at Gitmo. "I'm not Cuban, it's not what you think," the British-born former member of the Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo, told us. "I really believe in my personal jihad against America and its excesses. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to kneel in prayer . . . but I do it in a 'dancy, sexy' kinda way."

Vin Diesel -- Everyone's favorite bald action hero, missing without a trace since . . . well, since a long time ago, has also turned up, sharing a 12'x6' cage with Ahmeed ibn Jhalfrazi, one of Osama bin Laden's famous "trusted lieutenants," and the following man . . .

Gary Condit -- A regular on the front pages of the tabloids during that Last Summer of 2001 (along with U.S. planes crash-landed in China), the former Congressman and probable intern murderer is the only one of over 700 detainees who issued an official quotation: "Feeling betrayed by my country, I decided to join the fight against western imperialism and the decadence of the Great Satan. But I was wrong. Please forgive me. And get me out of this cage with the Diesel guy. He keeps talking about his 'movies.' His 'movies'? You're telling me this bald guy with that voice is an actor. Now I was a congressman, and . . . ."

The United States Constitution -- Missing for so long now it's become but a rumor in the minds of schoolchildren, the tattered document apparently has been held in cell 105, a 4'x7' cage, with two other detainees: Louie Albigenci, a former Cosa Nostra cappo who ran to Kandahar, joining Al Qaeda to escape from other mobsters he flipped to the government; and Ishar's Gold Leaf Koran, an artfully designed, 12 year-old version of the Muslim Holy Text. Choosing to remain in Gitmo after its rightful owner, Ishar al Bhatti, converted to Christianity and became a sadistic guard, known for his facility with electrical wire and meat thermometers, his Koran remains predictably bitter: "Fuck that traitorous bastard, Allah be willing" the Koran told us, vanely flipping back and forth to a beautifully decorated Sura 17 in his midsection, "While he's denouncing the Prophet, I'm getting flushed down the toilet, I'm read-aloud in a really bad Arabic accent by this Louie guy, and now, to top it all off, praise Allah, I gotta share space with this smelly & torn Zionist stooge over here," as he gestured to the Constitution.

The Constitution had no comment, upon questioning, telling us that to speak would be anti-American, and amount to "support for the terrorists."