Friday, December 26, 2008

Freakiness, food and (most importantly) football

Already at fever pitch, the rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas is sure to get more heated after this NY Times story about the recruitment of high school blue-chipper Jamarkus McFarland.

It's almost a waste of time to pluck out the highlights but, needless to say, McFarland and his mother aren't going to have many friends left in Austin.

Here's McFarland's take on a Longhorns fans party at an upscale Dallas hotel following the UT-OU game on Oct. 11:

“I will never forget the excitement amongst all participants ... Alcohol was all you can drink, money was not an option. Girls were acting wild by taking off their tops, and pulling down their pants. Girls were also romancing each other. Some guys loved every minute of the freakiness some girls demonstrated. I have never attended a party of this magnitude.”
I'm sure of it, having spent some time in his East Texas hometown of Lufkin. And maybe I was a different sort of teenager but, you know, what he described sounds like as good a reason as any to become a Longhorn.

Some guys loved every minute of the freakiness some girls demonstrated. Damn skippy. I guess he's already more mature at 18 than I was at 28.

Also, it's hilarious to think of OU head coach Bob Stoops being forced into watching - and laughing at - "Beauty Shop."
While at McFarland’s house, Stoops offered to set the table for dinner and helped carry in ribs and potato salad. After a second serving of ribs and some peach cobbler, he sat on the couch with McFarland and his grandmother and watched the movie “Beauty Shop,” starring Queen Latifah and Alicia Silverstone.
If he actually mustered a laugh during that movie and managed to make his pitch in spite of the itis, Stoops might deserve an honorary hood pass.

In the end, McFarland went with Stoops and the Sooners. No big deal, right? UT and OU always get their fair share of top recruits. It's just the name of the game.

But you know those college football fans, especially those who frequent message boards. They rarely accept the wholly personal decisions of 18-year-olds with even a modicum of class. Continue Reading »

Admirable Obama

Remember when some people - mostly Mark Penn - tried to argue that Barack Obama wasn't electable?

Yeah. Neither do I.

WASHINGTON — A month before his inauguration, Americans choose Barack Obama as the man they admire most in the world, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. It's the first time a president-elect has topped the annual survey in more than a half-century.

This poll comes on the heels of a CNN survey showing Obama with an unbelievable 82 percent approval rating. A black president! And he's popular! Who could have ever dreamed of such a thing?

Of course, Obama hasn't actually taken office yet. I suspect those numbers will come down in the coming months, especially as our economy worsens and he actually starts governing. But with the GOP poised to mount mostly token opposition, they might want to remember that Obama seems to have a deep reservoir of support out there.

On a more personal note, my father - once something of a health nut - told me the other day that he's got yet another reason to admire our historically popular president-elect. Namely, Obama's widely-praised abs.

UPDATE: You remember that we have a popular president-elect, right? Well, sometimes it's shocking how stupid the GOP can be. Beyond stupid, in fact. If they keep this sort of stuff up, they're going to go the way of the Dixiecrats.

UPDATE 2: Via Ezra Klein, we learn that Obama hit the gym for 48 straight days, at about 90 minutes per session, until taking off for Christmas. No doubt, those abs are not a mistake. He's a virtual Ironman. It reminds me that I need to renew my dedication to exercise. Like, now.

Continue Reading »

R.I.P. Eartha Kitt

Can't say that I knew much about Eartha Kitt's career beyond her brief appearance in "Boomerang," her stint as Catwoman in the old "Batman" TV series and her sultry rendition of "Santa Baby."

But, that said, homage must be paid to a woman once dubbed the "most exciting woman in the world" by Orson Welles. Here's the actual factuals - check out the bit about her anti-Vietnam War tirade that got her investigated by the FBI and CIA.

Here's how I was first introduced to Ms. Kitt, through one of my favorite movies of all-time - and one of the last time that Eddie Murphy was a bankable movie star. Lady Eloise was no joke, kids.

I know that I've gotten very dependent on YouTube, as of late. I need to watch that, I know. Continue Reading »

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Holiday hiatus

For obvious reasons, there's not going to be much - if any - posting today.

But hope that you all have a wonderful holiday, spend quality time with family and friends, and/or get your grub on properly.

In the meantime, Hustle Man took me back yesterday. Enjoy some Dragonfly Jones.

Continue Reading »

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wedding planning

The First Lady and I are, at the moment, in the preliminary stages of the hell that is planning a wedding. For whatever reason, we thought this would be an easy process since we're both low maintenance sort of people.

Clearly, we were naive. Or stupid. One or the other.

Anyway, right about now, I'm going to say bump it and let Hustle Man handle things:

Continue Reading »

An early conservative Christmas gift

Making fun of Ann Coulter and her latest missive dubbing Sarah Palin "Conservative of the Year" is chicken soup for the soul.

Here's Steve Benen with a succinct, clear-eyed critique of Coulter's body of work:

... Coulter is a circus clown, and quite possibly a liberal plant meant to make conservatives look ridiculous as part of some kind of satirical performance art ...
And now Ezra Klein wants a piece:
Ann Coulter's column declaring Sarah Palin Human Event's "Conservative of the Year" will prove a rich document for historians trying to understand the death of America's conservative majority.
I tell ya, Coulter and Palin are the gifts that keep on giving. Encore! Continue Reading »

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hitting the links

With so much in front of me over the next 24 hours - last-minute shopping, some housecleaning and the extremely enticing San Diego County Credit Poinsettia Bowl, I probably won't be posting much in the interim.

So let's just hit a few quick items before I say bye-bye for a bit:

There's been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere this afternoon about the reasons for the slow death of the newspaper industry. Here's Ezra, Matt and Atrios giving their respective takes. I agree with all of them, to varying degrees. But I think the real death blow was allowing free, unfettered access to newspapers' online content in the pioneer days of the Net. At that point, news organizations surrendered without a better business model in mind. The Web and especially blogs, feed (live) off the stories generated on newspapers' Internet sites, posting and re-posting ad infinitum. Think of how different the Web would look if everyone had to pay for newspaper content.

The NY Times' examination of the Bush Administration's role in the collapse of the housing market is a must-read. Basically, they are who we thought they were.

Rick Warren is embarrassing. And if you're interested, no, I don't think he should be doing the invocation at the inauguration.

You know, it's a damn shame that we - as a country - can't figure out a way to provide universal child care. It's possible: plenty of western European countries make it happen. And if we did, we almost certainly wouldn't see stories like this.

NY Times' Paul Krugman, as usual, smartly questions the wisdom of assuming the financial services industry is deserving of so many riches. From the column: "But surely those financial superstars must have been earning their millions, right? No, not necessarily. The pay system on Wall Street lavishly rewards the appearance of profit, even if that appearance later turns out to have been an illusion."

Really, isn't it about time for that lil' Palin? And what about the wedding? Surely the Palins didn't lie about getting their unmarried, pregnant teenage daughter getting hitched to her high school boyfriend to spare themselves a campaign nightmare? Nah. Of course not.

Toure's turn in the cipher against hip-hop hating Stanley Crouch. Toure makes a good case but it's lacking ... passion? I don't know. Feels a little weak to me. That said, Crouch is not to be taken seriously on hip hop (or really, much of anything these days). He's a bitter old man still fighting battles that exist entirely in his own mind.

Thinking about the future of Detroit really, really depresses me. And I'm not talking about the Lions. Also, this piece about Detroit from Harper's in July 2007, IMO, is fascinating. (Sorry it has to be like that, Cami).

I'm all for a soda tax. Guess that makes me a typical librul. But on a personal note, soda has probably been the easiest sugary item to cut out of my diet. Over the years, I wasted so much money and carbs on sodas. Now, I hardly ever think about the stuff.

WSJ has a list of 10 companies that probably won't make it through 2009. Though I've been expecting it for some time now, I still can't believe Sirius seems doomed. Satellite radio has made my hour-long commute a tad more bearable. A tad. And the NY Times? Yikes!

The 10 worst media moments in 2008, according to Gawker. They left out anything involving Bill O'Reilly, "Reasonable Sources" throughout the presidential campaign, any media outlet taking Joe the Plumber seriously and the general tenor of the coverage of Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

A meaningful faith-based initiative, courtesy of an unusually thoughtful Texas high school football coach.

And, finally, the case against plastic surgery: Mickey Rourke's increasingly grotesque face.

All that said, Go Horned Frogs! Continue Reading »

CBC should STFU

Is it me, or is the Congressional Black Caucus really jumpin' stupid right now?

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are disappointed President-elect Obama did not appoint more African-Americans to his Cabinet.

... Another senior member of the CBC who requested anonymity said more pointedly that Obama “isn’t doing enough for the black folks.”

... Rep. Danny Davis said that while the raw demographics definitely caught the CBC by surprise and have caused eyebrows to be raised, the bigger problem may come in the policy implications for blacks across the country.

“People I’ve talked to have expressed that they were hoping to have seen a few more African-Americans in place, and in places where you can pinpoint needs,” Davis said, citing specifically the departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development.

This, of course, presumes that no one other than a black person would be devoted to chipping away at important issues like education, health care and affordable housing. To say nothing of the fact that those are issues that affect a broad coalition of Americans, not just black people.

If Obama and Co. had completely shut black people out of his administration, perhaps the CBC would have a legitimate gripe. But Obama has brought in Eric Holder, Susan Rice, Lisa Jackson and Ron Kirk (a personal favorite of mine, as a former Dallas resident) among his 20 appointees.

I'm curious to know how many black Cabinet members would have been enough for the CBC. Five, six, or 19? As of now, the CBC is rivaled in stupidity only by those critics who claim Obama hasn't tabbed enough Southerners for his Cabinet.

This is such an antiquated, simple-minded view of inclusion that it doesn't merit a response from the Obama camp. In the manner of embattled Illinois Gov. Blagojevich, all Obama should show the CBC is appreciation. And that's it. He's got actual work to do.

In the meantime, the CBC should look inward and address its own diversity issues. Continue Reading »

The case for inclusion

Over at's Hot Clicks, they're wrapping up in the year in sports with their annual, voter-driven 2008 Clicksy awards.

I don't have much of a quibble with the results - it's their site, their readers, it is what it is.

But these categories caught my attention:

Hottest Athlete Girlfriend Always Featured In Hot Clicks (Major Sport) - Adriana Lima (29%); Gisele Bundchen (24%); Minka Kelly (19%); Jessica Simpson (15%); Kim Kardashian (13%).

Hottest Woman Often Featured In Hot Clicks For No Reason - Stacy Keibler (38%); Jessica Biel (31%); Emmanuelle Chriqui (21%); Blake Lively (9%).
I'm not going to dispute the aforementioned women are attractive. There's really not much of a meaningful debate there. But because Hot Clicks often overlooks ladies of darker persuasion, let me offer a few Dark & Lovelies for future consideration (of course, the First Lady is always tops on my list):

Meagan Good (pictured above) - last I heard, Ms. Good was seeing N.Y. Jets running back Thomas Jones.

Tamia - married to Grant Hill. And I've been digging her since I was 18.

Joumana Kidd - the ex-wife of Mavericks PG Jason Kidd, and the real reason his game has eroded so quickly in the past year.

Gabrielle Union - was once married to an Oakland Raiders fullback, might be dating Dwyane Wade and she seems to generally enjoy the company of athletes.

Beyonce - she is married to a part-owner of the New Jersey Nets, after all.

Others under consideration, for no reason at all: Sanaa Lathan (she was actually a passable WNBA star in "Love and Basketball"); Kerry Washington; Rae Dawn Chong; Zoe Saldana.
Continue Reading »

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dubya by the numbers

In the most recent issue of Harper's, the researchers/highly efficient copy editors/robots on their staff came up with a special three-page edition of the celebrated Harper's Index. They called it a "retrospective of the Bush era."

And what an era it was.

I've posted some of the more interesting nuggets from the Index below this graf. Let's just put it this way: if there's ever a biopic produced about the Bush Administration, it will almost certainly resemble a blooper reel.

Portion of Baghdad residents in 2007 who had a family member or friend wounded or killed since 2003: 3/4.

Percentage of Republicans in 2005 who said they would vote for Bush over George Washington: 62.

Portion of his presidency he has spent at or en route to vacation spots: 1/3.

Percentage change since 2001 in the average amount U.S. workers spend on out-of-pocket medical expenses: +172.

Days after Hurricane Katrina hit that Cheney's office ordered an electric company to restore power to two oil pipelines: 1.

Days after the hurricane that the White House authorized sending federal troops into New Orleans: 4.

Portion of the $3.3 billion in federal Hurricane Katrina relief spent by Mississippi that has benefitted poor residents: 1/4.

Percentage change from 2003 to 2007 in the amount of money invested in U.S. faith-based mutual funds: +88.

Percentage change in the number of Iraqis aged nine to seventeen detained: +285.

Ratio in 1999 of the number of U.S. federal employees to the number of private employees on government contracts: 15:6.

Ratio in 2006: 14:15.

Total value of U.S. government contracts in 2000 that were awarded without competitive bidding: $73 billion.

Total in 2007: $146 billion.

Number of the five directors of the No Child Left Behind reading program with financial ties to a curriculum they developed: 4.

Rank of Bush among U.S. presidents with the highest disapproval rating: 1.
Continue Reading »

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Overheard in post-racial America ...

... while doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at a bookstore this evening, a familiar bit of revisionist history from a trio of young (white) women ahead of me on the escalator.

"Oh no, the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery," said one of the very delusional (or willfully ignorant) ladies. Then she caught a glimpse of my disapproving countenance and quickly turned around.

Another woman in the group agreed. "Oh yeah. Absolutely. It was about states' rights."

I wonder if I missed the opportunity for what President-elect Obama might have called "a teachable moment." Then again, if formal education and common sense hadn't made much of a dent on the women, I'm guessing a big, agitated black man probably wouldn't have done anything other than sent them running for security.

Instead, I sighed heavily and headed for the cashier. Knowledge is power, no? Continue Reading »

Baghdad, Mexico

Could America's failed "war on drugs" be sending Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, into a collapse of law and order that resembles Baghdad?

The similarities go a long way. Like Iraq, which is rich in oil, Mexico is rich in drugs (either as producer or transporter), and the biggest market for these commodities is in the United States. Both oil and illegal drugs are imported from countries that struggle with unstable political systems. And now, because of a battle for control of the market — either to own the biggest percentage of the flow or to shut it down—we are in a drug war, just as we have found ourselves in a war for oil.

We could learn from history, but how likely is that?

I would love to think that an Obama-Biden Administration portends a progressive rethinking of our mostly punitive national drug policy, a failed remnant of the hyper-aggressive Reagan era. But I'm dubious. And I'm not the only one.

On a more personal note, about four years ago I spent three days in El Paso, Texas, to cover what turned out to be an extremely entertaining Sun Bowl between Arizona State and Purdue.

I jumped at the opportunity to handle the last-minute assignment despite its Dec. 31 kickoff because: I was hoping to curry favor with my editors in New York and I hardly ever turn down an opportunity to travel someplace new.

To be honest, all I remember about the game was that the fourth quarter was crazy and in the game story, I misidentified the defensive coordinator for Arizona State. But those three days were notable because of the time I spent across the Mexican border in Juarez.

I had a great time, buying cheap souvenirs, engaging in playful banter with the locals and downing a Mexican beer or two. Or three. At the end of the trip, I resolved myself to visit again and explore a little deeper into the rough-and-tumble border town of 1.5 million.

Last year in Juárez, more than 1,300 people were murdered. ...

There is a total breakdown in civil order. To put the death toll in context, in 2007, the bloodiest year of the Iraq war, 904 U.S. servicemen and -women were killed. As in Baghdad or Ramadi or Fallujah, the violence in Juárez has spared no one. Almost everybody I know who lives or does business across the river has a story about a crime he or she experienced, a relative who was kidnapped or a friend who was carjacked. A friend of the family told my uncle that one of her relatives was killed but that, to prevent reprisals, police advised her not to report it as a murder.

We really should consider our role in all of this. As in Iraq, one war seems to have begotten another.

UPDATE: Even this weekend, the LA Times reports on the lawlessness of Juarez. I was really struck by this passage: "In a country that each month finds new ways to scare itself with violence, Ciudad Juarez has become emblematic of how nasty things can get.A three-day visit by a pair of Times journalists to the rough-and-tumble factory town, across the border from El Paso, Texas, reveals a fear-struck place where most residents assume -- often correctly -- that the police are crooked and where the government's control of the streets appears tenuous at best.In the Ciudad Juarez of 2008, you don't have to wait long for the next casualty." Continue Reading »

Pause for a cause

Sorry, I know it's been a couple days since I last posted. My bad.

But I've needed a mental-health break: I've been catching up on some reading, settling into my couch to watch some long-ago DVR'd programs, and straightening up the crib in anticipation of a holiday visit from my soon-to-be mother-in-law.

Also, I needed some time to digest how I really felt about the Rick Warren controversy, Caroline Kennedy, what I expect to be a mildly disappointing finish to the college football season and a few other things.

Just gimme a few. I've got some posts in the works. Continue Reading »