Wednesday, July 19, 2006

I Was Only Dancing: Personal History by Way of Injury

I was Only Dancing
Personal history by way of injuries

I am in terrible shape for a 25-year old.

In the attic of my parents’ house is a photograph of me. I am about 5 years old with blonde hair. I am in my underwear standing on the back porch of our old yellow house in Queens. It’s a sunny day and my left hand is slightly raised to block the glare. Or maybe I am waving, or preparing to catch something. In order to take the picture my father must have been up against the fence in the back yard. I have memories of standing there. Though it’s more like a memory of a point of view. I look at that photo and remember that I once stood in that place, looking in that direction. In one of the memories I throw a ball behind the garage. I hear bees swarming and one of them comes out and stings me on the neck. In the other memory it is my father who throws the ball to me, trying to photograph me catching it. Only I don’t see the ball and it hits me directly in the eye. I think that this photo must have been taken immediately prior to one of these memories. It is the only evidence I have that either one actually happened.

I broke the ring finger on my left hand when I was about 7 years old. I was getting into my mothers’ green Volvo station wagon – olive green – and somehow the closed the door on my finger. I have this image of my skinny yellow finger squashed in the seam between the door and body of the car. I don’t remember screaming. Our neighbor across the street was a nurse. She had ice and Popsicle stick splints. Eventually I got one of those U-shaped metal braces lined with blue foam.

I broke the fingers on my right hand the summer before 8th grade. It was the last day of the summer before school started. I was riding my bike home from a friend’s house jumping off the ramps made by the edges of driveways. After I had ridden down the entire block and jumped about 20 driveways I started to cut through a parking lot. It was then that the chain of the bicycle came off the gear. The bike stopped dead and I went head over handlebars. My wrist and three fingers on my right hand were swollen black and purple like an eggplant. My father said put some ice on it - it was just jammed. The doctor in the emergency room said X-rays showed fractures of my thumb and ring fingers and several snapped tendons. I was in a cast for about 6 weeks. In school I would give the kid next to me carbon paper in order to copy class notes. But after a while I stopped taking the notes at all. On tests and homework assignments teachers would always comment on my handwriting – “is this because of your hand?” It wasn’t. Despite the cast I still managed to jerk off. It was a little painful but my hand was almost numb which made it feel like someone else.

I tore my ACL apart playing basketball one summer afternoon. We always played in the street with one of those portable hoops. We would drag it to the 5-way intersection where the town changed from Nassau to Queens. We watched as the respective police officers would come to either end of the block and make a u-turn at the limits of their jurisdiction. Years later we decided that this was also an ideal place to smoke pot. The games were three-on-three and we played a modified version of the triangle offense, which was wining championships in Chicago and making Phil Jackson look like a genius. Although with the two best players in the game on your team the idea of having a particular offensive strategy seemed unnecessary. I was running toward the basket at full speed toward the pass that I knew my teammate would be rifling across the key. The pass was a step too far away and was thrown a bit too hard.

Lunging with my left leg, extending my left hand, the ball hitting my palm and my foot hitting the asphalt simultaneously. Sliding on the remnants of dirty sand deposited during the winter. Watching my thigh extend over my calf and then snap back. I don’t feel the so-called ‘pop’ that many people experience. My leg is limp like half cooked spaghetti. It feels like it is bleeding. I keep looking down and rubbing it but there is no blood. I continue to play for a few minutes; the game is to 21. I will ice it down when I get home.

A lump half the size of my fist swelled up on the left side of my kneecap. It was squishy. I would flex my knee and see how far I could push a pin into this distension. I wanted to pop it and squeeze the fluid out. I complained, but after a few days of ice the swelling went away. My knee always hurt but it wasn’t a shattering pain it was a dull throb. The kind you are told you can deal with. The kind that coaches say to walk off and the kind that you feel a little embarrassed bemoaning. It hurt, but the injury wasn’t obvious. A broken arm, a black eye, a gunshot wound. Those were things no one could argue with.

It only hurt when I stood. Somehow this was a rationalization for not seeing a doctor. I had the image of my femur and tibia sitting directly on top of on another; knocking about like a skeleton in a Laurel and Hardy film.

I called the doctor. It took two weeks for an appointment. He looked at me for five minutes and told me to get an MRI. It took two weeks to get an MRI appointment. It took two weeks for the MRI results to come back. It took two weeks to get another appointment with my doctor to review the MRI results. But after 8 weeks the swelling had gone down and I figured if it were anything really bad the doctor would call me.

At some point after that I would have my first surgery. I had something of a post-nasal drip that apparently caused me to huff when I was just breathing. This bothered no one so much as my mother. At first we thought the culprit was an excess of phlegm induced by drinking too much milk. We had a doctor in Hollis Hills. Dr. Gary had a voice that must have been the inspiration for every nasaly Jewish voice imitation ever. He told us that he had attended a conference addressing the milk/phlegm production phenomenon and they had concluded that there was no meaningful correlation.

I went to several specialists until one of them told us that I had adenoids the size of golf balls and they should come out. And as long as we were going to do the adenoids the tonsils should come out too. Or maybe it was the other way around. I found it impressive that I had two of anything the size of golf balls somewhere in my head. I saw nothing strange in my requests to have my excised glands saved and jarred.

Tonsil and adenoid surgery is the best diet you can find. My throat was dry for weeks with that feeling of having fallen asleep in front of a fan. Eating only pastina and sugar free J-ello, I lost about twenty pounds. I was out of school for a few days, which meant that I had to produce a doctor’s note. My family was always lackadaisical about such things and so I did not have one. The morning I returned to school my mother wrote a note on a greeting card picturing a bunny carrying a wicker basket, asking the principal to excuse my absences. Later that day when I was called into the principal’s office I knew he would be waving that card. He told me to open my mouth, which I did. He said this was the silliest doctors note he had ever seen but since there was actual physical evidence of my ailment I was excused from detention.

One night I became Lactose intolerant. I don’t know how else to explain it because I drank milk constantly. I had cereal every day, a glass of milk with cookies at night, chocolate milk as a snack. But one night my mother made macaroni and cheese and I became violently sick. I refused to believe that it could be true but a few days later a plate of penne alla vodka had the same result. For a little while I would use the Lactaid tabs whenever I wanted to eat some delicious dairy product, but the pills were expensive and I always forgot. Now I just eat very little dairy and I’ve learned to like the floury taste of soy-milk

A few years later I went to some chain restaurant for dinner with my girlfriend. I got coconut shrimp and rice. I don’t know why because I never eat shrimp and now I have an even greater aversion to them. My girlfriend and I never really talked much. We would sit silently the car, eat silently at dinner, of course we were silent at the movies, then go back to her apartment and because her parents were in the next room, silently make out for a few hours. She never said that she didn’t want to make out.

The rice seemed insufficiently cooked, and I woke up the next morning with an awful stomachache. I drank a glass of orange juice and threw up. It was painful enough that I was able to convince my mother that I did not need to go to school that day, which was a moot point because I was in college and I was not going anyway; refusing to attend as a point of adolescent rebellion. Later that night my mother made me tea, which I promptly vomited. In addition to my complaints of pain, manifested in a facial expression that felt like I was twisting my eyes and mouth in opposite directions, and a mild fever, if I had thrown up tea I must really have been sick. She called the doctor who said: “He has appendicitis, bring him to the hospital; you want it should burst inside him?” At the hospital the doctors could supposedly tell that I did not have appendicitis because I was walking. Several interns got to place their fingers up my ass and I was X-Rayed. The doctor placed the X-ray on the lighting board and asked when the last time I had a bowel movement. Who keeps track of that? Pointing at the mass of gray clouds on the X-ray, he explained that I was merely severely constipated. My father had figured that this was so because I was so fat. On the way home we stopped to buy a Fleet enema. There were a couple more mentions of how if I weren’t so fat and how much do you have to eat. The amount of cloudy refuse in the X-ray proved their point, even I was amazed - there seemed to be at least a foot of it. It would surely be an epic shit when it happened. But the enema did nothing and I spent the night breathing shallowly and groaning slightly. My mother called my doctor again in the morning. “What, tell them he as appendicitis he has appendicitis it’s easy oy vey”

We went back to the hospital. Dr Gary had called ahead so they knew that I had appendicitis when I walked in. They pulled the X-ray from the night before. Look at that, of course you have appendicitis they said, this time though the blockage was on the right side of my body. Last night the doctor had been holding the X-ray front to back, so the sides were reversed. Far from being constipated, my enlarged appendix was pinching the large intestine and preventing that foot and a half of shit from moving. I spent three nights in the hospital. Luckily Dr. Gary was a pediatrician, which meant they had to give me a certain amount of recovery time, and I got to stay in a nice room with video games, brightly painted walls, and a 6 year old with bronchitis. The problem was that they kept pumping me full of glucose or something that made my pee smell like I was on a steady diet of asparagus. Being unable to walk to the bathroom due to the 3-inch slice in my abdomen, I would try to line up the bottle hanging over my bed with my penis and piss into it, always missing the first and last few drops. So when my girlfriend and her friend came to visit there was a really undesirable smell hanging around, which I think is why they stayed pressed up against the wall the entire time. Her friend wore a shirt that was barely there, and though I knew I was not supposed to, in such a state I could not prevent myself from staring and being too distracted to converse with my girlfriend.
That was pretty much the end of that.

A few years later, again playing basketball, this time in a gym in Brooklyn, I tried to take a charge and fell back and twisted, this time I heard a grinding tearing sound as I went to the ground. Again I limped around for a few days and went back to the normal constant throbbing.

So I knew that things were not good. But at this point I was only marginally employed and did not have the benefit of health insurance. I figured that any problem would cost me a lot more money than I had. I was also concerned that it would be considered a pre-existing condition. I really had no idea what this meant but I had heard the same insurance horror stories that everyone else has and figured that no one would be eager to pay for my care.

About a year later I began attending NYU, and as a full time student the university insurance plan only cost about $1,000 a year. So I had insurance but no real impulse to go the doctor. I felt that I needed another instigating incident.

During my junior year at NYU I developed a floater. It’s as though a comma became unstuck from the page and got lodged in my left eye. At first it was omnipresent. Sometimes it followed my eye along the page just like Max Fleischer’s bouncing ball. Other times it would reach the end of the line and bounce back like an old auto return typewriter. Now I barely see it. But if my mind could learn to ignore that what else is it ignoring?

In the summer before my senior year I was playing softball with my company team and was simply running to field a ground ball when my leg gave out from under me. For the next few days I could barely put any pressure on the knee. I went back to the same doctor I had seen after the first basketball injury. “You need ACL surgery,” he told me. “Why didn’t you ever come back?”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me that I needed surgery?”

After an additional MRI it was determined that my ACL had completely dissolved. I had snapped it during that first basketball accident and the natural juices of my knee had been eating it away ever since. I also had a bucket-handle tear of the lateral meniscus. That would explain the feeling of my bones grinding together.

I arrived at the hospital at 8 a.m. on the morning of November 3, 2004. The results of the election were not yet official, but I had a bad feeling. I was given an epidural for the surgery – I wanted to stay awake. My ACL was going to be replaced with a ligament from a cadaver. I though this was really cool. The anesthesiologist administered some sort of drug that would induce sleep for about an hour at a time. I was awake for about half of the surgery. I felt like I had four legs. I could feel my legs laid out on the table - straight and side-by-side. The problem was that even though I could feel that my legs were in one position I could see that they were elsewhere. My right leg was bent and pushed to the side so that it was hanging off the table. My left leg was straight and raised at a steep angle so the surgeons could more easily access it. I was aware of these limbs as well. I could feel the vibrations of scalpels and retractors inside my knee, but in my mind I was still flexing the toes on the invisible leg that was still flat on the table. Visualizing my leg hanging off the table must have caused my brain to manufacture the sensation of my leg hanging in air, yet I was still somehow connected to the phantom limb on the table.

This was confusing and exhausting, and I asked to sleep for a while. I blinked in and out of consciousness for a few hours. I blinked and someone said, “We’re almost done; do you want to go back to sleep?” “No.” I wanted to remember as much of this as possible.
Someone entered the room and reported the results of the election, “We have a new president…” I sat up. “No, actually Kerry just conceded” I laid back down, tilted my head so I was looking behind me, “Put me under.”

One night in July I was hanging out in a Soho bar with a group of friends. They were discussing the Motherfucker party, which was going to take place on July 3rd – a pre-Independence Day Freak-Out. I briefly considered going though I felt that it was one of those things that you talk about but never actually do. Something about the reports of rampant nudity and swinging was a little too libidinous for my puritanical upbringing. So I made a simple off the cuff remark that I should go as Uncle Sam and point at people while shouting, “I Want You on the Dance Floor Mother Fucker.” My friends rejoiced at this. The next day several of them called me at 3 a.m. to inform me that I was in fact going to the party as Uncle Sam.

On the day of the party I left work early, bought a pre-made Uncle Sam costume at a store in Manhattan, and took it to a friend’s house in Brooklyn for customization. I decided that my character would be “Bizarro Uncle Sam.” This character would embody the exact opposite of what the character usually embodies, though in this case the Bizarro Uncle Sam is actually the “real” Uncle Sam, if you want to get idealistic about it.

I applied all the standard modes of rebellion. Slashed the pants and jacket, applied a large anarchists’ “A” to the back of the coat, painted black stars all over the place, and wrote phrases like “100% pure Iraqi blood” in the red stripes.

One friend represented Freedom of Speech. A white star painted on a blue sock stretched around his right shoulder. A red shirt ripped up with singed bits of white t-shirt underneath. Left hand wrapped in white and conceivably bloodied bandage. Another friend was a sort of all-purpose disco patriot. An old red white and blue polo shirt with stars painted and slogans scrawled. Glasses worthy of Elton John, red white and blue fish tank gravel crazy glued to the frames. A third friend wore the skimpiest of shorts and a skin colored bra slightly covered by a star spangled bow.

At some point when the DJ mixed between Bowies’ “John I’m only Dancing” and Echo & the Bunnymen’s “Bring on the Dancing Horses” I stepped into the exact wrong area of sound wave convergence. The dissonance blared like a thousand snapping steel cables. And injected into my ear the sonic burst that frayed bundles of nerves.
It is a common occurrence after a party or a concert. On the subway home your legs bounce and feet tap reflexively Your ears still hear the echo of the music a million nerve endings so accustomed to the reception of noise they seem to be making up their own. And there is always the faint high- pitched ringing, steady and monotone. It’s your favorite note of the song. It’s the sentence that you didn’t quite hear when someone placed their lips to your ear. It’s the barely audible unintelligible record of the night. And from what the doctors tell me I will be forever hearing this subliminal message left over from that night.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Which mentally impaired president are you?

The June issue of the Atlantic Monthly (subscription required) has this neat piece regarding the Psychiatric disorders of presidents 1776-1974.

Personally, I'm a pich of John Adams, a dash of Jefferson, and a little bit of Nixon, but in a fun way.

Afghanistan: What the fuck?

It should be embarrassing that nearly five years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, almost no meaningful progress has been made in bringing Osama bin-Laden to justice. It is not difficult to find fault with the way the Bush administration has handled its so-called “Global War on Terror.” The administrations standard response has been to point to Afghanistan, bin-Laden’s reported hideout, as proof of its success in the war on terror. However, recent reports of the resurgence of the Taliban in the south, and the forthcoming handover of security operations in Afghanistan to NATO control belie the administrations contentions.

The security handover has been described as a potential boon for the Taliban forces in the region. Indeed recent reports describe the increased brazenness of their attacks. But the issue is not so straightforward. An item in the New York Times of May 10, 2006, states that although some nations contributing to the NATO forces do not intend to fight the Taliban or other militants, some, including Canada, said “they consider the NATO mission to be more than just peacekeeping and would operate under the same rules of engagement as the Americans.” Clearly the British commanding officer of the NATO force, Lt. Gen. David Richards, will have a difficult task accommodating the policies of all member nations.

Still, this development is not without its benefits. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NATO Secretary General Lord Robinson stated, “An attack on one is an attack on all.” And even though the Bush administration has sullied America’s reputation world wide and lost all moral high ground it may claim to have, I contend that Lord Robertson’s statement, and NATO’s commitment, still stand.

When American forces come under the auspices of NATO command in November, Lt. Gen. Richards should seek to fulfill the role of NATO as America’s ally, and to quote Lord Robertson, “provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism.’’ That assistance is the elimination of Osama bin-Laden.

As awkward as it may sound, a NATO force may be the best chance for the American people to see the man most responsible for the September 11th attacks brought to justice. How ironic too, give this administrations penchant for eschewing international cooperation. Politics and ideology, not rational military strategy, have directed the Bush administrations reaction to the attacks. Perhaps a military command not leashed by political motives will be more successful.

America needs to be saved from itself.

The Bush administration has used success against terrorism as its chief campaign platform in 2004 and as boilerplate justification for its wantonly irresponsible foreign policy. There was an opportunity to correct America’s mistakes, but the American people, to the dismay of much of the rest of the world, elected Mr. Bush to a second term. Since then, the situation in Iraq has continually worsened, and recent poll numbers show that the President, and Republicans in general, are trusted less and less by the American public on this issue. A NATO led capture of bin-Laden would eliminate any remaining legitimacy the Bush administration may have in the war on terror. It would display President Bush as a failure in yet another aspect of his duties - so much so that he would not have the political capital to push forward with his disastrous policies, such as considering a nuclear attack against Iran.

The world needs to be saved from America.

The elimination of Osama bin-Laden will make the world a safer place for two reasons: First, the world’s most dangerous terrorist network, al-Qaeda, will be crippled. Second, George Bush will be unable to recover from the obvious ineptitude of his rule, so the rest of the world will be safe from his attempts at retribution – which so far have claimed tens of thousands of more innocent lives than bin-Laden has.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Nothing is going to happen - Journalism meets the Uncertainty Principle

I don't know enough science to get all metaphysical and explain Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to you, Wikipedia is better at that. In very layman's terms it says that one cannot know both the momentum and location of an electron. This is because in order to determine the location of the electron you need to see it. To do so you would use an electron microscope. The problem comes when the light photon from the microscope hits the electron. You have just transferred an unknown amount of momentum from the photon to the electron. Thus you can never know its precise momentum.The act of observation affects the outcome.

I would like to examine Seymour Hersh's article The Iran Plans, which appeared in the April 17th issue of the New Yorker, as a potential example of this phemomena.
My assertion, which is based partly on creative thinking, partly on denial, and partly on a six-pack of Hoegaarden imbibed at a recent ecumenical council, is this:
The United States will not nuke Iran.
The United States may not even attack Iran at all.
Jason Kropsky can stop worrying.
What possible basis can I have for this assertion save perhaps some rancid wheat and a fall from my bar stool?
Hersh's article was the biggest cock block this administration has seen. And that term is appropriate because we all know why Bush really likes wars.
As I am sure you can infer from the explanation above, the amount of attention caused by Hersh's article is similiar to the light photon hitting the observed electron. With so many focusing on the planned nuclear assault, and with so many against it, the administration's momentum has been changed. Therefore the attack will not happen.

I hope.

Otherwise it's game over.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Gas Wall

Last summer I paid just under $1,000 for a flight from JFK to Florence, Italy. I left on July 1, and returned August 28. This year the same flight, according to an Orbitz seach will run about $1,100.
Similarly, flights from JFK to rome have gone up from about $1,100 to $1,600 for a non-stop flight. If you are willing to make one or two layovers you can still do the trip for about $1,100.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, airfares out of New York/Newark have increase 8.2% over last year's prices god for 46th place. Cincinatti takes top honors with a whopping 26% increase over last year; so New Yorkers aren't doing that bad.

Articles keep popping up about skyrocketing airfares due to high fuel prices.
According to ABC News

"I have seen a 20 percent increase in ticket prices," said Ines Lormand, a frequent business flier in Houston.

Her recent $900 round trip ticket to Detroit was a shocker. Last year, she says, the same trip was $300.
Analysts say recent fare increases are only the beginning as the skyrocketing fuel prices threaten the airlines' already shaky balance sheets. For the nation's biggest airline, American, every penny increase in the price of jet fuel adds another $28 million a year in costs.


According to the Energy Information Agency, jet fuel cost about 82 cents a gallon three years ago. Today it costs $3.45.

To save fuel, airlines are taking unprecedented steps to lighten their planes. American cut onboard water by one-fourth, saving $3 million this year. Taxiing with only one engine running has saved another $8 million. Airlines are also saving millions each by removing extra dishes and catering carts. But those savings aren't enough.

In the US, as we approach the summer road-trip season, many are finding that it will be cheaper to fly than to drive. The Wall Street Journal urges traveles to take the bus.
These are neat little interest/advice articles, but they don't really address the bigger issue, if I can be forboding for a minute.

Consider the summary of price increases on trans-Atlantic flights from the San Luis Obispo Tribune:
Besides the supply-and-demand factor, all airlines are adding fuel surcharges to their tickets - $110 to $130.

Here's an example of how fares rise and fall. If you were to fly Chicago-London round-trip on British Airways April 26-May 3, the fare, including taxes, fees and a fuel surcharges, would be $587.39. Fly the same route June 13-27 and the fare totals $978.39, a $391 difference. If you were to do the trip from Sept. 2-13, the fare would be $738.39, $240 less that the peak season summer fare.

We are approaching what I call the Gas Wall. I fear fuel prices will continue to go up and up until fewer and fewer people can afford them. I am not even concerned about the bankruptcy of the airlines and the inevitable goverment bailouts. I am worried that we are going to be trapped in this country. I think that if we do not remove this neo-con cabal one day they are going to come for all of us dissenters with national id cards, rf or gps tracking microchips, and the only way you will be able to leave the country is when they send you to fight a war.

Dios mio

Harlan Goldberg points out that Vincente Fox decided not to give us an early Cinco de Mayo present afterall.

Bummer, dude.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Natural Anthem

There has been debate not only over the question of whether the national anthem should be sung in Spanish, but whether or not we should even be debating this. I think we should because it is illustrative of the larger issue of framing.
What does the question even mean? Should the national anthem be sung in Spanish? Does this mean that there is a movement to replace Francis Scott Key's Star Spangled Banner with Nuestro Himno? No. It doesn't. And there isn't
But the question is framed to make it appear that there is some sort of coordinated attack on "traditional values," whatever that phrase means. Since according to the Boston Globe there have ben several other foreign language versions of the Star Spangled Banner, including two in Yiddish.
The question that is really too rediculous to ask is "Can the national anthem be sung in Spanish?" As in, "is it permissable to do so?"
And of course it is.
I have no problem with Feliz Navidad either. I think it's a catchy tune.
But since I never miss an opportunity to contradict myself, i have to say that I do understand come of the uneasiness of, what for lack of a better term, I will call purists. Perhaps some immigrants can't appreciate the national anthem because they are too new to the country or due to the language barrier. I recently became an Italian citizen. The Italian national anthem doesn't mean a damn thing to me. But I also am not asking them to change it to the Sopranos's theme song. I should learn the culture and do the work to learn to appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Alliterative Blogging Series: Wine Tasting Wednesdays

I like wine. I find it goes better with meals than Pepsi. I don't really know much about wine but I like to pretend that I do. I have a wine dossier. Whenever I have dinner with my aunt we try and enjoy a nice bottle. We prefer reds.

Tonight we had a Luciani Brunello di Montalcino, 1998.

I will describe this wine by way of anecdote. Back in February I went to Siena, Italy for a week. During my stay the museum Santa Maria della Scala had an exhibit entitled: "Siena e Roma: Raffaello, Caravaggio, e i Protaganisti di un Legame Antico"(the protaganists of an ancient bond.) It was a great exhibit. There were many works by Girolamo Mei, Bernardino Mei, and others I had never heard of. I could be wrong, but I counted one Raffaello and three Caravaggio's. At first I was disappointed that there were so few works by these masters. But what the exhibition really brought out was the superiority of their work. After seeing a hundred paintings, give or take, all of a sudden one snaps you out of your museum induced fatigue syndrome. That's a Caravaggio.
Music, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) from

Well, that is what a Brunello is like. It tasted like there were grapes bursting in my mouth. It was rich and smooth. A little oak was discernable, but the fruitiness was much more prominent. It's the kind of wine you enjoy drinking. Not because it gets you drunk, thought that is quite nice too. Because it makes your mouth feel good. It's like drinking velvet. You can feel all of your tastebuds firing as you slosh it around in your mouth.

Overall, it is highly recommended.

For the sake of completion" Johnny Damon bashing and NL predictions

Okay, so the Yankees are no longer in Boston but that does not mean I hate them any less.
The Yankees acquisition of Damon is the equivalent of the Gore 2008 campaign hiring Karl Rove to be its chief strategist; I know you really want to win, but there are some things you just don't do. If I had had any respect for skankees fans to begin with I would have lost it when they cheered Damon on opening day. I cannot even put the the sheer vitriol and adium I feel over this into words.
I just spit at the computer screen. That's the best I can do.

2006 Major League Baseball Predictions Based on Emotion and Spite Rather Than Objective Analysis: National League Version
Eastern Division
1)Braves - And next year I will pick them to win their 16th straight division title. Tim Hudson may have lost something, again proving that Bill Beane is smarter than you. The 14 rookies that debuted last year need to avoid a collective sophomore slump. Too much is made about the departure of Leo Mazzone. I will believe in him more when Daniel Cabrera becomes an ace.
2) The Mets - For once they made off-season moves that make sense. Billy Wagner solves the Braden Looper blowing saves problem. Carlos Delgado is the power bat they were missing even during Piazza's heyday. I am convinced that Carlos Beltran will remain a bust. I'd rather have Jason Bay.
3) Phillies - the loss of Jim Thome will barely be felt because Ryan Howard is 10 years younger, 5 lbs lighter, and will hit 40hr. Chase Utley is one of the best power hitting infielders in the game, and Jimmy Rollins has turned into an elite player. Last year Brett Myers had the break out season many had stopped expecting, he needs to continue that.
4) Nationals - They finished at .500 last year but will struggle to repeat that unless new ownership commits some money.
5) Marlins - They are right smack in themiddle of their boom and bust cycle. Which means they will be World Series contenders in 2008 and back in the cellar in 2009.

Central Division
1) Astros - Even without Clemens the pitching staff is solid. Lidge is the best regular season closer you can get.
2) Cardinals - I just don't believe that Chris Carpenter is this good. Albert Pujols is though. In fact he probably has had the best 4 years of a career that anyone has had in the history of baseball.
3) Brewers - They have a lot of young up and coming players and could contend for the division in a year or two as the Cards pitching staff gets older. Rickie Weeks hit close to .500 for his college career, JJ Hardy projects to be an Edgar Renteria type, without the one random year of 25 hr, Prince Fielder may soon be as feared as a hitter as his father is at a Chinese buffet. Ben Sheets has filthy stuff, and may be the most underrated pitcher in baseball.
4) Cubs - When they drafted Mark Prior all the scouts said 'Look at his delivery, he will never et hurt.' famous last words. Maddux will keep doing his thing, but can't anchor the staff when Prior and Wood are hurt. Derrek Lee will get fat after getting a big free agent deal after last years run at the triple crown.
5) Cincinnati Reds - There is no question that this team improved themselves, but Bronson Arroyo is not Josh Beckett.
6) Pittsburgh - They have Jason Bay. He is Canadian, Eh

Western Division

1) Giants - Bonds is cheating at baseball. Re-instate Pete Rose, ban the Bonds.
2) Los Angeles Dogers
3) San Diego Padres
4) Rockies
5) Diamondbacks

Monday, May 01, 2006

Stephen Colbert saves the world

See his speech/smackdown/utter trashing of the Bush Crime Family at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Watching this I wasn't sure if it was all real.
As much as I hate the Emporer in Chimp I am not sure if I would have the guts to trash the man to his face like Colbert did.
It's like The Simpsons said the Talmud said, "Who will bring redemption? The jesters."
Say thank you.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Time to move to Mexico

This news would only be better if it came about 9 days ago.

Mexico has decided to legalize certain quantities of pot, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, among others, for personal use.
The bill says criminal charges will no longer be brought for possession of up to 25 milligrams of heroin, 5 grams of marijuana (about one-fifth of an ounce, or about four joints), or 0.5 grams of cocaine -- the equivalent of about 4 "lines," or half the standard street-sale quantity (though half-size packages are becoming more common)."No charges will be brought against ... addicts or consumers who are found in possession of any narcotic for personal use," according to the Senate bill, which also lays out allowable quantities for an array of other drugs, including LSD, ecstasy and amphetamines.

Some of the amounts are eye-popping: Mexicans would be allowed to possess more than two pounds of peyote, the button-size hallucinogenic cactus used in some native Indian religious ceremonies.
I predict a reverse immigration crisis as soon as the nations drug addicts get their shit together enough to head south.


Harlan Goldberg , among others, has been trenchant in his observation of rising gas prices. I just paid $3.66 per gallon on Rt. 114 in Sag Harbor. Why was it so much above the NY Metro Average?
Well it all has to do with which side of the gas pump you choose to pull up on.
If you prefer the left side of the pump you pay the normal $3.33. If you pull up on the right hand side of the pump the priviledge of having a pimply faced kid pump your gass will cost you $0.33 per gallon.
The self-serve/full-serve price differential is one of the nastiest, trickiest ways of getting you to cough up those precious greenbacks at the pump.

When I got back on the road I started to think: "How much does it cost to fill up say an M1 Abrams tank?"
According to an M1 Abrams has a 498 gallon tank and gets 0.6 miles to the gallon. They state " A tank will need approximately 300 gallons every eight hours..." So if the Army was paying the national average for mid grade gas, that would cost about $1,548 to fill up a single tank.
Now, we can be pretty sure that the Army does not pay the same amount as the general public. If Halliburton has anything to say about it, they will pay a lot more. I have had trouble finding some more recent documentation, but several accusations of overcharging for gasoline came up in late 2003. Halliburton Watch details how Halliburton was charging the government $2.64 per gallon, even though that was almost twice what it cost others to provide fuel. Another article on this here. Corpwatch posts similiar information, delving a little more into the role of Halliburton subsidiary KBR.
So even though I cannot find any direct information regarding the price per gallon the Army pays for gasoline I am going to say that it is more than the $2.64 they were paying in December, 2003. I am going to round that sucker up to a cool $5 per gallon. Which means the Army, and by extension you and me, are paying Halliburton $2,500 every time a tank gets refilled. I find that a little annoying, don't you?
Moreso by the fact that one of the justifications for the Iraq war was lower gas prices.

Lastly, to leave you on a positive note, the $3+ you are pouring into your car is not the true price of gasoline. At least, not according to researcher Clifford W. Cobb. His report, (executive summary only) entitled: The Roads Aren't Free: Estimating the Full Social Costs of Driving and the Effects of Accurate Pricing for puts the true price of gasoline at $15.14 per gallon. This price includes factors such as military spending to "protect" (my sarcasm) oil supplies, as well as the cost of congestion, and pollution induced health issues, among others.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Bridge too Darfur

Pretty much every day, while driving home from work in Westchester County I have a little talk with my friend Randi. For the past week or two she has been promoting the American Jewsih World Service rally to stop the Darfur genocide, on April 30, in Washington D.C.

Call my cynical, but I don't think the 1 million postcards they hope to send to President Bush will make much difference to him. Kanye said it best.

Two points:
1. Why the Bush Administration will not get involved in the Darfur genocide:
Relatively few prospects for Halliburton to make a profit.
Unfortunately for Darfurians, they do not live in the first world, and many nations find themselves with other things to worry about. Such as Iraq, Iran, oil prices, and suicide bombings all over the freaking place.
Don't get me wrong, the genocide in Darfur is abhorrent. But I don't believe that many politicians see it as urgent. The hope is that it will burn itself out - as lax and callous and irresponsible as that sounds, based on the amount of action taken, it appears to be the consensus.

2. Why we don't want the Bush Administration to get involved with the Darfur genocide:
Over/under is 8, the bet, how many malapropisms can Bush get out of the word, Janjaweed?
The administration has been a miserable failure, whatever the undertaking. Now we want them to step in to fix Darfur? I really think that's a bad idea. Does anyone have confidence that a US led armed intervention would be prosecuted in a competant matter? That anyone in the administration has anything close to an in-depth understanding of the situation, how and why it started, and how best to stop it?
I don't.

I would like to see US troops out of Iraq.
I would like to see someone step up and murder the genociders in Darfur.
But based on the extent to which our military has been abused, I do not relish sending American troops to the Sudan. The nobility of the cause is not in question. Neither is the necessity of action. But the liklihood and practicality of US involvment is slim.

Monday, April 24, 2006

By way of a belated introduction

I am Lee Wilson.
I am not this Lee Wilson
I am not this Lee Wilson
I am better looking than one and a better rapper than the other.

I am a student in Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center. So you might think that I would have an easy time with this.
How wrong you would be.
You see, I don't know anything about politics, international relations, political theory, constitutional law, policy, etc. etc. But I will comment on them all nonetheless.

In addition to wildly innacurate political diatribes, I will relish in the defeat of both the Mets and the Yankees. You can expect constant updates on my rotisserie baseball team.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

2006 Major League Baseball Predictions Based on Emotion and Spite Rather Than Objective Analysis - American League Edition

American League
Eastern Division
  1. Boston Red Sox - Clemens should come back and hit Derek Jeter in the face. With his fist. Yeah.
  2. Toronto Blue Jays - Meh
  3. Tampa Bay Devil Rays - I wish they would start playing Delmon Young. Scott Kazmir should take another step forward. If B.J. Upton can learn to field the baseball the D-Rays can have one of the most talented young teams in the game.
  4. Baltimore Orioles - I think this team is a mess.
  5. New York Yankees - Hereafter known as the Skankees. "It was bound to happen." I will not be surprised when the team plane crashes killing everyone except Scott Proctor
Central Division
  1. Cleveland Indians - This team has been coming for a while now. Travis Hafner is an absolute stud. Victor Martinez is the best catcher in the game. Jhonny Perralta showed great power at short stop last season, and could be a star for years to come. Grady Sizemore is a 30/30 threat. The pitching staff needs to step up, but I like the Indians to outperform.
  2. Chicago Whitesox - Can you say "regression to the mean"? Of course the addition of Jim Thome will help tremendously, but I can't see this pitching staff, outside of Buerhle, repeating last years career numbers. Bobby Jenks is fat, and puts all his weight behind his pitches.
  3. Minnesota Twins - No one will hit Johan Santana. Carlos Silva can be effective as a groundball pitcher, but you would like to see a strike out occassionally. Problem is Radke, Lohse and Barker will get knocked around. Justin Morneau can be awesome and should bounceback from last years disappointing season. Michael Cuddyer needs to live up to the hype.
  4. Detroit Tigers - A big park and a maturing pitching staff will give the Tigers a chance most days. Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Justin Verlander are all young with high upsides. Kenny Rogers will collect ground outs until he punches a fan or something.
  5. Kansas City Royals - Some teams should just give up. The Royals are basically a major league farm team. Mike Sweeney is the veteran who mentors the young'uns and David DeJesus is the next guy the Yankees will overpay for.
Western Division
  1. Oakland Athletics - Personally I think they will have some trouble scoring runs, but Billy Beane is the smartest GM. They have the best pitching staff in baseball. In the second half of the season that is. Watch them play .300 ball until June, then .750 thereafter and lose in the first round of the playoffs. It is written.
  2. Anaheim Angels - I refuse to call them the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim." Jerks. I also hate them for popularizing those annoying noise maker things people clap together. Will be battling Oakland all season. I think Vlad Guerrero has lost a step, no 40/40 season this year. Casey Kotchman could take a step forward this year and put up a solid .270 25/80. Super Utility player Chone Figgins will probably lead the league in steals and positions played. But Erstad and Garrett Anderson are another year older meaning the offense could have some trouble. The pitching staff should be pretty good. john Lackey took a huge step forward last year and needs to build on that.
  3. Seattle Mariners - Just let Ichiro hit .400 and leave him alone. This team stinks. This is like the 8th season we are waiting for Gil Meche to turn into a solid player. Jamie Moyer must be 50 years old by now, and if he didnt throw 60mph I expect his arm would fall off.
  4. Texas Rangers - In the offseason they traded a promising young pitcher in Chris Young for Adam Eaton, who was a promising young pitcher 5 years ago, and has disappointed ever since.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

the weekend

Updated4.08.06 5:41pm EST

The weekend is for not doing things.

Not setting the alarm. Not shaving. Not getting dressed until well into the afternoon.
Over the course of a typical Saturday I will migrate from my computer chair to the living room couch to the attic bed where the video games are set up, and back to the couch. At some point I will decide that something constructive needs to be done with the day. This usually coincides with my being hungry. Often I will make my own lunch. I have several reliable recipes which all make heavy use of condiments.

However, sometimes I will pickup fast food. Taco Bell is a favorite, but Taco Bell is disgusting, and that is the point. If you cannot get pleasure from the greasy fatty grossness of Taco Bell you will have a hard time enjoying life. Besides, the taco supreme has tomatoes; those are good for you. So I cross the border, and return home to eat and read my daily list of blogs.

A few years ago Taco Bell commercials featured Dick Vitale, the irritatingly enthusiastic college basketball announcer who adds the suffix "Baby!" to every sentence. In these commercials Vitale was promoting some new menu item, which was most likely a hybrid of several other items, in a move that only Taco Bell could pull off. The gist of these ads was that a family was
driving, lost. Vitale would appear with the new Franken-Taco and deliver the tagline, Its serendipity baby!

I hate to admit that this is how I learned the word "seredipity," but I immediately took a liking to the word. I like the idea of serendipitous events. Just yesterday I was speaking with a friend of mine and we somehow got on the subject of smells. It may have been because she lives above one of the pungent Indian restaurants on First Avenue. She told me that she is very interested in smells. She wants to write about them. Feeling for a moment like a creative writing professor I recommended she read Patrick Suskinds Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. But I don't like perfume she objected. She is
a very eager girl, though I did manage to explain something of the book, which seemed to placate her.

At home I have two bookcases. One contains books that I have read, the other contains books that I have not. I felt it was dishonest to anyone who might be perusing my shelves to have them intermingled. Thanks to a recent discarded book sale by my local library the Unread shelf has recently surpassed the Read shelf. For this reason I put myself on a strict book buying hiatus. No more new books, no matter how interesting one may appear, until the ratio of read to unread is measurably better. I reminded myself of this when approaching the used book sellers
who set up along West Fourth Street. I stopped to look anyway an exercise in restraint, or a form of torture. And right there, the very first book face up on the table was an absolutely pristine copy of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, for only $5. Now maybe this book had been there for weeks and I only noticed today because the book had been brought up previously and
there was now some context. But maybe it was a new arrival, so to speak. Occurrences like this are the closest thing to Karma that I believe in, so I take them somewhat seriously. What I mean is that I was now required to buy this book by the gods of serendipity, here manifested as Dick Vitale, and deliver it to my soon departing companion. I could not do this exactly as she was not home, but I left it in an evelope on her stoop.

But as I browse various websites I come to one describing the plight of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a group of laborers who pick the tomatoes that are sold to Yum! Brands, the corporate parent of Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Pizza Hut, among others. I am asked to sign a petition, and participate, or enforce, a boycott basically of all things Yummy.

Refusing to do so basically means that I am supporting the heartless conglomerate over the oppressed proletariat. I am of unsure how to handle this.

I tear open a pack of "fire" hot sauce, and ooze it onto my taco. I take a bite and feel the crunch of tortilla shell, the softness of the sour cream slightly warmed by the granulated beef. Lettuce hangs from my upper lip, a red and clear emulsion of grease runs down my chin.