Sunday, July 30, 2006
Well Betty, things are going well here in the Evil Empire. Today, we went to the cemetary to visit the graves of my wife's grandparents. It was one part honoring the dead and one part gardening excursion. Russian cemetaries are not kept up, and weeds and tall grass abound everywhere. (The neatly manicured space where your great uncle rests for eternity... no.) Graves generally have a small fence built around them and people plant flowers over the site. Of course, when we went there this morning, it meant that like any garden, we had to pull out the weeds.
Last night, my wife took me to see her friend from her schoolyard days. She's got a 7 month old who absolutely loved me. Good thing, because neither the friend nor her husband spoke English. Tonight, a woman Tanya refers to as a "surrogate grandmother" is coming over. I'm betting on much of the same. We had to take a couple of route taxis plus two subway lines to get there. The last route taxi we caught around midnight in an eeriely dark alley with a lot of very visibly drunk people around. Not the best situation to be in even when you can do things like read the signs, communicate with the natives, and understand what's going on.
The day before that, we went to the Tretiakov Gallery of Russian art. It's worth the plane ticket to see that all by itself.
I'm realizing that most of what I know about Russia I learned from Steven Segal movies. However, I lack a pony-tail and a general ability to take on five Russian guys in hand-to-hand combat. However, I can act.
Niece is starting to walk unassisted. We've been giving her plenty of lessons.
Friday, July 28, 2006
We also did the Kremlin area. We only had a few hours, so we didn't get to see everything (more is planned for this weekend.) St. Basil's (the big cathedral that is the default image for Moscow and, therefore, Russia) is actually kinda dinky in person. It looks bigger, because you can only get a good picture of it from across the square, and the effect makes the building look bigger. Inside was nice, although really it's just a museum and a gift shop, next to the tomb of one of the finest theologians to live, St. Basil. Turning sacred sites into tacky tourism traps is something that the U.S.A. excels in. But Russia? Lenin is surely turning over in his grave, which by the way is 500 feet away. (Additional irony: Across the square -- Red Square -- from Lenin's grave is the largest shopping mall in Russia.)
We also tried to get into the Kremlin (the building) itself. Like many Americans before who tried, I wasn't able. No matter how many times I hummed the theme from Mission Impossible, I couldn't get in because we couldn't find the entrance.
Spent the rest of the time sneaking into Tanya's conference on bio-energetics. This may be the penultimate in nerdom. They were actually checking ID badges at the door (why?) and so I had to sneak in to a conference where I had no idea about the subject matter anyway. I used the old "carry a clipboard (in this case a poster tube) and look like you belong" method. That's right, I snuck into a conference on mitochondria, and read a book the whole time. Why? Because my other option was to be literally trapped within a dorm room. To further glory in my nerdiness, there was also a statue of Ivan Pavlov in the foyer where the posters were presented. I had my picture taken with him and was proud of this fact.
This exchange took place in front of Moscow State University:
Me: So, when your relatives talk about me, do they just refer to me as "The American"?
Me: Do they give you grief because I'm an American?
Wife: Not really. It's just that when other people are introduced to you the reaction is kind of like a mix of novelty and mental illness.
Me: Me being an American?
Wife: Yeah. It's like, "Wow, an actual American. But go easy on him. He's a little fragile."
My niece is just adorable. As soon as the pictures become available, I will post them.
Monday, July 24, 2006
Today, I spent the first part of my day getting registered with the local Moscow police precinct. This consisted of making our way all the way across town on the Moscow Metro (which is very well done) and something called a "route taxi." This is a 30 year old diesel powered cargo van that operates like a shuttle bus. You cram in with a bunch of sweaty old men and go from stop to stop. I've discovered a few things about Russian driving. You know that guy who weaves in and out of lanes, drives way too fast accelerates around curves, brakes and inch and a half from your bumper, and would probably run over a little old lady crossing the street if she got in the way? They're all like that. Lanes mean nothing to them. There's no insurance requirement. (Standard procedure for an accident: Get out of the car, swear at each other, have a cigarette together, go home. The police won't care.) In the route taxi, the driver, apparently not happy with the three lanes to chose from, decided to move into the on-coming traffic lane and just barely made it back into the right side of the road before colliding head on with an oncoming box on wheels. Forget crossing the street. If you've ever played the game Frogger, and want to play it in real life, come to Moscow.
My niece is the cutest thing ever. Tomorrow, she'll be baptised, and I get to be there. My brother-in-law suggested to me that I might have to step in as the Godfather. My qualifications: male (check), Russian Orthodox (check), and going to be at the service (check). This apparently put me in a unique position. Problem: the Godparents have a pretty big role at an Orthodox baptism (lots of talking, recite the Nicaean Creed), it's just that I don't speak Russian. I'm just imagining what the look on the priest's face would have been. Fortunately (?) I've been replaced. It'll still be a joy to go.
Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!) update: NBC is picking up Nobody's Watching!
Last night, I ate at Papa John's Pizza. (Hooray for the American Empire!) Food here is generally sold at little kiosks, and I tried just about all of them. They were all edible (and some actually pretty good), but I was low on calories. And my digestive system was asking questions of all the new stuff. I ate a chicken wrap that was... I think it was chicken. They also had a bread shell about 6 inches long into which they inserted a nine inch hot dog. Make your own joke. We sure did.
Becuase Tanya's been at her conference, I've been doing a bit of reading. Good: Stephen Seager, "Street Crazy". Decent, but disappointing: Nassim N. Taleb, "Fooled by Randomness". Jury still out (half-way through): Umberto Eco, "The Name of the Rose."
Today, I saw Walker, Texas Ranger, dubbed into Russian. That's just wrong.
My niece is adorable.
Updates as I am available to file them. The usual cataloging of cultural mayhem will continue when I return to the states. Until then, stay classy San Francisco.
Friday, July 21, 2006
- Atlanta has a "Bobby Brown Parkway." Yeah, that one.
- My in-laws are all crazy drivers. The 10 hour plane ride was nothing. I sat there and read the first half of David McCullough's "Truman." My wife's cousin picked us up. Everything that you've heard about Moscow driving is 100% true. Several times, I saw a lovely recap of my life narrated by Morgan Freedman flash in front of my eyes. Apparently, I'd been re-born as a penguin. (My wife insists that my cousin was an absolutely safe driver. Since she is currently standing over my shoulder, I won't comment on that.)
- It didn't help that my body thought it was 3:30 am. But then again, I managed to make it through passport control at the airport. Trick: I didn't say a word, just handed the lady my documents. Now, I was so disoriented (new language, bright lights, been on a plane for 10 hours, fatigue) that I wouldn't have been able to compose anything coherent in either English or Russian. (Those who know my Russian will chuckle. Come to think of it, those who know my English will outright laugh.) I've been told that smiling, nodding, and then doing what you were going to do anyway is the best policy. Sounds like marriage.
- Strangely, no one here flies the American flag. However, about 25% of the writing is in English. Just enough to mess with my mind.
- The entirety of Moscow is composed of high rise apartments. Built in the 1960s.
- My niece is the absolute cutest thing in the world!
- I'm aware of the fact that it's now 6:45 am here and the Indians game is just ending.
- Did I mention my niece?
- We stopped over in Atlanta before heading to Moscow. You haven't lived life until you've been in the Wal-Mart toy section and heard Russian in one ear and drawl in the other. By the way, today's way to know that you're in the South: they sold scanner headsets specifically tuned to the frequencies that NASCAR pit crews use. This enables you to go to the track and listen in on what the pit crews are saying. I am not making this up.
- For obvious reasons, the announcements on the plane were in English and Russian. However, they occasionally showed a flight data read out in Spanish. Someone at Delta apparently didn't do their homework.
- The duty free cart came around (twice) and the top contained the following items: Marlboro cigarettes, Crown Royal whiskey, and Barbie. I think there's an artistic statement in there somewhere, but I'm not sure where. Speaking of, if you ever get a chance, actually look through some of the stuff in the shopping magazine available on every airline out there. I'm convinced it's there just to entertain you by making you wonder "now what would I ever do with that?"
- Yes. They have (toliet paper, running water, the internet, fire, etc.) Much to my great surprise. On our way to my brother-in-law's from the airport, we passed a Domino's Pizza. Seriously. And people say American cultural imperialism is a bad thing.
- Allofmp3 is legal here. Problem is that I didn't bring my laptop due to the difference in AC/DC current.
- My wife can pack enough clothes for both her and me for a week and our toiletries and other things into one suitcase. She then asked me if I wanted to put any of the books from my carry on in there.
- An update: I just took a shower. My wife told me that there were a bunch of shower gels, soaps, and shampoos already in the shower (true). I had actually brought my own stuff, but figured there was no point in searching for it (false). I got into the shower and realized that I don't read Russian. I right now have no idea what I just rubbed all over my skin, with the exception that it kinda looked like body wash. But then, I believe Lewis Black has a relevant saying on the ingredients of sunblock. (You may not like that joke, but you don't know.) If you didn't get the above joke, go find Lewis Black's The Black Album. You'll come back with an all new appreciation of that line.
This will be an interesting couple of weeks. I will update as I am able.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
P-Hilt has already won her Federline Award (Popozao!) but apparently just can't... shut up...
“There's nobody in the world like me,” the partying heiress told the Times of London. “I think every decade has an iconic blonde — like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana — and right now, I'm that icon.”So, let's see here. She's Marilyn Monroe, except that Marilyn Monroe could sorta act. And she's Princess Diana, except that Princess Diana could behave herself in public. Paris, the sad thing is that there are plenty of people in the world like you with whom, despite having no talent, we all have deal on a daily basis.
She didn’t stop there. “There's a lot of heiresses out there, and I don't see any of them doing what I've done,” she continued,” she said. “I have so many projects — bags, fragrances, make-up. I go round the world every three days, designing and personally approving it all. I've got movies to make, a tour, TV shows. Every day of my life is scheduled until the end of 2007.”
While I'm on this thing, I was in the shower today, and I noticed that my wife's body wash had something on it that said 97.06% natural. Aside from my comment that poison ivy is 100% natural (and I wouldn't rub that all over my body), the following thought occurred to me. Britney Spears can make much the same claim.
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Thus sayeth Paris Hilton:
"I haven't accepted money from my parents since I was 18. Since then, I've worked on my own. I lot of my friends still don't have a job and they live at home, and have to ask their parents for everything. It feels good that I don't ever have to depend on a man or my family for anything."This story also contains the following howler:
Paris - who has her own perfume and clothing line, is an actress, a model and is about to release her debut pop album (Ed note) - admits she is a workaholic.
Thus also sayeth Paris Hilton:
"A lot of women are too thin. But I like food too much. I think those people who are getting really skinny - and I'm not saying which ones - just look gross."Apparently not knowing when to call it quits, thus also sayeth Paris Hilton:
Paris recently revealed she thinks one-night stands are "gross".
Paris Hilton is giving up sex for a year. The hotel heiress has imposed the ban on herself because she is convinced that abstaining from all carnal activity will help her to "rediscover" herself. She said: "I'm doing it just because I want to. I feel I'm becoming stronger as a person."
When I used to do my radio show back in college, I would often think, OK, after I'm done reporting on this story, what direction should I go? In this case, I see the following nominees
- Utterly disbelieving, "Did I actually just hear that" blank look, too shocked to say anything
- Hey kettle, it's the pot. You know what, kettle? You're black, kettle. Black, I say.
- Congratulate Paris for considering that she may actually want to do something useful with her life other than be known as the airhead heiress, and reforming her life.
- Off-color joke concerning how they'll make a sequel to "One Night in Paris"
- Congratulations, Paris, you just won a Federline Award.
- Well, with all the stuff going on in the Middle East, maybe this is just one of those signs of the Apocalypse.
Any way I look at it, I think now would be a really good time to leave the country.
Friday, July 14, 2006
During my stay there, I will get to practice the (American) rules of inter-lingual communication:
1) Never ever attempt the local language. If those poor saps want to communicate with you, let them speak God's language: English.
2) If you must deign to speak to the locals, first address them in a calm conversational tone in English. Perhaps if you want to be very friendly, you might learn the phrase for "Do you speak English?" in the local language. If they do not say "yes" (in English), discontinue the conversation. You are dealing with a savage native.
2a) Remember, everyone loves Americans and wants to be one. Speaking to the locals in English will make them feel special, as if they have a chance to actually become an American.
3) If there is some reason that you must continue the conversation, despite the person not fully understanding the English language (for example: your arm is bleeding profusely and you need medical attention), the proper next step is to repeat what you said earlier, only louder. No yelling (yet). This increase in volume will increase the savage's English comprehension.
4) In the event that the savage does not understand, yell the same English phrase. After all, the thing that will make someone understand a random group of sounds as an attempt at friendly communication is a tone which makes you appear that you are belligerent and angry.
5) Begin repeating the phrase over and over. Exaggerated gesticulations will also help. At this point, the savage may copy your mannerism and attempt the English phrase with a fantastically cute accent. You may bleed to death in front of him, but you can die knowing that you have helped a savage one step closer to being an American. You automatically go to heaven at that point.
On to the news:
The dating game meets Rescue 911
(This could be your future cellmate!)
Beer company CEO charged with DUI
(Where's the irony police when you need them?)
Well, it's a little early for Santa to be here...
(This too could be your future cellmate!)
And one more reason to stay out of jail
(and you thought a mall in December was bad!)
Other bright, shiny objects:
One more Bob Saget tribute.
(Setting the record straight on Danny Tanner.)
Now this is dangerous.
(And funny. That's the best possible combo. Come up with a good one? Post it.)
Un-repentant Trekkies of the world, unite!
(And when someone says to me, "Live long and prosper," I seriously mean it when I say "Get a life!")
Thursday, July 13, 2006
In shopping for cards, I also saw the usual "Birthday -- Mother" placcards. Some of them amaze me what Hallmark will do for a little cash. The best one this time around (because the cards change with the seasons) was "Jesus Will Comfort You." Until then, here's a card.
Thus sayeth Paris Hilton, discussing The Simple Life:
Hilton says she created her “Simple Life” personality by combining characters from two hit films. “Before I started the show I thought I’d make a character like the movies ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Clueless’ mixed together, with a rich girl all-in-one,” she explained. “Even my voice is different and the way I dress is different from me in real life. It’s a character I like to play. I think it’s carefree and happy. The public think they know me but they really don’t.”
So Paris... here at the Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!) we'd really love to get to know you for who you really are... not the green night vision version of you. All these years, you've been playing a vapid blonde with a hidden talent, a rich girl who had to change her voice to be noticed, all in the name of the artistic expression that was The Simple Life. Speaking of...
On to the news:
Considering a career change?
("Mr Willmott described the £2,000 sculptures as ideal focal points for gardens and said they had attracted interest from around the world"... no kidding.)
Now this is intestinal fortitude!
("The theft meant the initial trial had to be temporarily suspended on legal grounds in case the judge showed bias in the case"... no kidding.)
("Draper said police were trying to determine if there might have been some malfunction that would have allowed the gear shift to be moved easily"... no kidding.)
Other Bright, Shiny Things:
My wife sent me this one.
(This is especially funny if you've been to Chicago.)
What is it about rock stars?
(What exactly is Pepsi getting at here?)
Keeping with our Bob Saget theme this week.
(Who you rollin' with?)
Is this like paying a clown to entertain the guests at a kids' birthday party?
OK, I love y'all. Buh-bye.
(apology: Apparently, some of the post got cut off earlier... not sure how that happened. *shrug* Life continues.)
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Today, America is wondering where Suri Cruise is. Because apparently, we have a Constitutional right to invade the lives of celebrity parents and take pictures of their children. It's the American way! Britney Spears is probably babysitting. America needs something better to do.
And on to the news:
Ever wonder what grandpa is doing in his spare time?
(They're starting older and older these days)
There's a kangaroo on the loose in North Dakota.
(If seen, call 1-800-What-The-Hell)
Destroying your childhood, one YouTube video at a time:
Keeping with our Bob Saget theme this week.
Other Interesting Things:
Yesterday, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Awards were passed out for the world's worst fiction writing. Congratulations (?) to winner Jim Guigli. The runner-up, however, could serve as a motto for this blog:
Also: I love Engrish.com
"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"
Tonight is apparently the WNBA All-Star Game. Let me guess. You didn't know that either. No word on who won the WNBA slam dunk contest.
That's your Wednesday update. Until next time, because this time was indeed better than last time. I am and will continue to be the Pizza Cutter. This has been the Foreign Intelligence Files.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
All times Central.
7:02 pm: The opening sequence with what appeared to be Barry Zito in the hottub with two women just made my wife give the first "What the hell?" of the night. Surely, there will be more.
7:03 pm: More from my wife: "What the hell happened to her head?" This referring to the woman anchoring Fox's coverage with Kevin Kennedy. (Why do they let women on sports shows?) Why does Kevin Kennedy have a job?
7:09 pm: It's raining in Pittsburgh. And now an interesting thought: Who's crazier? Ozzie Osbourne or Ozzie Guillen?
7:11 pm: 18-year-old kid gets on the field and hits five shots off the tee to win a million dollars if he hits a target. He's "coached" by Al Oliver but manages to hit nothing. So, the million dollars will go to the person that can tell me what exactly Al Oliver did there.
7:15 pm: Player introductions! My goodness, the entirety of the White Sox team is there! So is Mark Redman. It's been said before, but there is no reason why we need to have one player per team (5.27 ERA and WHIP of 1.45...)
7:20 pm: How did the Milwaukee Brewers have three All-Stars?
7:22 pm: Am I the only one who thinks "First baseman David Ortiz" is funny? But then again, I think "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" is hilarious. Funniest of all is "starting second baseman Mark Loretta." Not since Manny Trillo started the 1983 game...
7:25 pm: A possible reason that the NL hasn't won an All-Star Game in 10 years "batting 5th, Edgar Renteria." Oh boy, the Star Spangled Banner is next. You know what that means... O Canada can't be far behind...
7:27 pm: Our second "What the hell?" of the night. Travelocity commercial with the gnome being carried away by the red balloons. (Not on YouTube... yet...)
7:30 pm: DID THEY JUST CUT OUT THE CANADIAN ANTHEM???
7:32 pm: So, Carrie Underwood sang the National Anthem. And... Fox... just happens... to be... where you can see... American Idol. Subtle cross-promotion... very subtle.
7:37 pm: Tim McCarver and Joe Buck are discussing the strategy of the game and talking about Soriano and Beltran trying to steal and "pushing the defense". Did anyone tell them that this is an exhibition game? (I know, Bud, "it counts.")
Why are we now on our 5th straight commercial break?
7:41 pm: They cut the Canadian National Anthem. This is an international incident waiting to happen.
7:42 pm: What the hell is a "heavy, boring fastball." (belonging to Brad Penny.) Sounds like a description of a bad blind date.
7:44 pm: Buck: "This game starts off with a foul on the first 2-2 pitch of the night." (Huh?) Ichiro strikes out. It'll still be two days 'til he says "Wasabi"
7:47 pm: "That's a four-seam fastball up and in to Derek Jeter" - Tim McCarver as Jeter ducks to save his life. Thanks. "Juuuuuuuuuuuust a bit outside."
7:49 pm: Penny now has a "riding" fastball and a "Mark Wahlberg" fastball. Make your own joke. I am.
7:52 pm: I'll be... that Brad Penny is rather good. Will he outdo this?
7:57 pm: Is Tim McCarver drunk?
Kenny Rogers is apparently a "young 41." Albert Pujols pops out. I live near Wrigley Field, so once in a while, I see a Cubs fan wearing a shirt that says "Cardinals Fans Take it in their Pujols."
We need a drinking game. Any time Tim McCarver says something stupid, everyone takes a shot.
8:04 pm: Oh great, we've got a subplot going on how long we'll get to play before a rain out. What happens to home field advantage then? Bud? Where are you? Bud?
8:07 pm: My friend Steve, tipping his cap to all the Taco Bell commercials just sent me this link. I love YouTube.
Hey someone hit the ball off Penny! It was A-Rod! The subplot: Penny vs. $252,000,000.
8:08 pm: Vladimir Guererro. How the hell did that name happen? Al 1, NL 0. (update: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." I have no idea what the hell that was about.... I am scared. Civilzation is crumbling around us. If you saw it, you know what I'm talking about.)
8:15 pm: My wife has rejoined me. David Wright just tied it up with an HR. Nice.
8:17 pm: Has there ever been a player with a whiter name than Chase Utley? William Van Landingham?
8:18 pm: We've now had cross-promotion for American Idol and, thanks to a little puff piece on David Wright, 24. (update: Here it is) Next, Ozzie Guillen will be plugging a "very special" episode of Will and Grace. Mark Redman will yell "D'Oh" ala Homer Simpson after giving up three homeruns and seven earned runs. Someone out there is playing a drinking game every time I mention Mark Redman.
8:23 pm: Top 3rd, Roy Oswalt in, and Albert Pujols pretends that he's Omar Vizquel. Nice barehand play.
8:30 pm: Fox shows a PSA about steroids. Even my wife caught the irony on that one.
8:31 pm: Phil Garner has a sense of humor. Halliday faces the pinch hitter Holiday. Not since George Washington faced Geroge Mason in the NCAA basketball tournament...
8:33 pm: Buck, McCarver, and Phil Garner talk how cool it would be if Soriano tried to steal on Rodriguez. On cue, Soriano steals easily.
8:35 pm: Still talking. Beltran steals on I-Rod. Still talking. Wild pitch. Beltran scores. Will someone do play by play on... the game? NL 2, AL 1.
8:39 pm: My Russian wife just told me that it's good to see me doing something American tonight instead of watching all that soccer.
8:40 pm: Ozzie's got a microphone. Oh dear.
8:42 pm: What does the RCW on the wristbands stand for?
8:46 pm: SNAKES ON A PLANE!!!
8:48 pm: Despite their best efforts, Buck & McCarver can't get Ozzie to say anything stupid. But, we're only in the fourth inning.
8:50 pm: I just got to yell "FOUR-SIX-THREE" My wife asked for an explanation. I love her.
8:51 pm: My buddy Steve just asked me how I could marry someone who didn't know what 4-6-3 meant. I watch Gilmore Girls with her and have no idea what's going on there. That's what marriage is about. Not knowing what the other one is talking about, but still nodding your head.
MLB is honoring Roberto Clemente with an award that looks... like... a penis.
8:57 pm: Allan H. "Bud" Selig just said "Nicawaga." Way to be international, Bud.
8:59 pm: Friend Omar chimes in with this message for Mrs. Clemente: "and in honor of not having a man in your life, here is a dildo." I need to find a picture of this award for those who didn't see it.
9:01 pm: Clemente just got an award that a couple years ago was given to Barry Bonds.
9:03 pm: Bronson Arroyo was named after Charles Bronson. And now we're hearing him do a jazz/country cover of Wonderwall. This is getting a little weird. Tim McCarver just said that everyone in Florida can play guitar. I think baseball is collectively going through steroid withdrawal.
9:09 pm: Barry Zito is in the game. Ever since he broke up with Alyssa Milano, he just hasn't been the same. The Milano link is worth it for the "What the hell happened to you?" value.
9:11 pm: David Ortiz makes a nice pick. Who says DHs can't play defense? I take back what I said about him at 7:22.
9:16 pm: Shameless "I'm from Cleveland" comment: Grady Sizemore just struck out. :(
9:19 pm: We've reached the part of the All-Star game where it stops being interesting. My friends and I are making very sick jokes. My wife just asked me what 4-6-3 means again.
9:26 pm: How did we get to the 7th inning and I didn't notice?
9:28 pm: The last All-Star game in Pittsburgh (1994) had a fantastic finish. Extra innings. Will it happen again? Or maybe we'll have another tie.
9:31 pm: The first appearance of that random woman (whose name I don't remember...) butchering an interview with David Wright's father. This is painful to watch on so many levels.
9:34 pm: The Seventh Inning Stretch. John Legend is out to sing "God Bless America". Do they do this at the Blue Jays games? Seriously. Anyone out there from Toronto?
And they cut to commercial before Take Me Out To The Ballgame! That's un-American.
9:39 pm: Tom Gordon is warming up in the bullpen. The AL has this one well in hand.
9:41 pm: MARK REDMAN IS WARMING UP! THE AL IS DOOMED!
9:43 pm: FOUR-SIX-THREE!!! I love that.
9:44 pm: Tim McCarver's on fire tonight. Discussing the Twins: "The two lefties, Santana and Liriano, and the guy behind the plate, Joe Mauer, calling the game and leading the league in hitting. These two lefties are awesome." English, motherf%$#er, do you speak it?
9:47 pm: Joe Mauer 1) is a good catcher and 2) his left hand takes a lot of pounding. Make your own joke. I sure am. Yeah, this All-Star Game is a bit of a dud.
9:50 pm: Interview with David Wright. He's 23. He's younger than I am... what am I doing with my life? Grady Sizemore is up again! And he grounds out.
9:52 pm: We're now at the point in the All-Star game where it's a close game, but it will be decided by guys who are there by virtue of the fact that their team had to have one guy there.
9:54 pm: Where did my wife go? I think she's been gone for an hour. I just noticed.
9:57 pm: Here we go, ninth inning. So far, we've had a boring game with no cool subplots, no heroes, no memorable moments. Come on, Ozzie needs to headbutt someone. As Fox just reminded us, the winning run scored on a wild pitch in the 3rd inning.
10:00 pm: Ozzie Guillen is pinch running in an All-Star Game. And he doesn't have a first baseman on the bench. Ummm, Ozzie... it's not that important.
10:06 pm: Three straight AL hits (Konerko, Glaus, Young) and it's an interesting game. And the AL is winning! I love the AL!
10:07 pm: Hoffman blows it. Now in comes Rivera. If Rivera blows it, we might just see Mark Redman. Who's going to play first for the AL? I take back all the "not interesting" stuff.
10:10 pm: Troy Glaus playing 1B. He's never played there in a regular season game. I checked ESPN and baseball-reference.
10:12 pm: Tim McCarver apparently thinks that some of the people who are watching this game at this point are unfamiliar with Mariano Rivera.
10:16 pm: down by one, 2 outs, Beltran on 2nd, Carlos Lee at bat, Rivera on the mound. I love the All-Star Game.
10:18 pm: Carlos Beltran just tried to steal third... with two out in the bottom of the ninth. Why?
10:19 pm: And the American League wins this one 3-2. For the 10th straight year.
10:22 pm: So who is the MVP? Omar suggests the AL nominate Trevor Hoffman.
10:24 pm: It's Michael Young. Whatshername is emceeing the presentation of the award, which surprisingly turns into a Chevy commerical. Imagine that!
10:28 pm: I want to thank Gatorade for making the commercial where Jordan misses the shot over Ehlo in the 1989 NBA playoffs. For a moment, I actually felt like my beloved hometown hasn't been kicked in the collective cajones over and over again for a little while.
10:31 pm: Buck and McCarver are wrapping up a good night by announcing that Fox will be covering the All-Star Game and World Series for the next seven years. God help us all. Fear not. I'll be there.
10:35 pm: The game ends with Bronson Arroyo playing "Slide" by the Goo Goo Dolls. Yep, that about sums it up.
That final score once again. AL 3, NL 2. From the World's First International Interactive Ziggurat for Endangered Species and Auto Parts Superstore World Communication Center, good night, and good luck.
Consider: Some pop star who is somewhat Canadian (i.e., Avril Lavigne, Bryan Adams) gets trotted out to sing the song, and oh so coincidentally, plug their new album. The only reason that they sing it is because Toronto just happens to have a team in baseball, and Toronto continues to insist that they are not really part of the U.S. Anyone who's ever been there knows different. So, they sing the song. It's really a pretty song, I have to say. Much better than the U.S. anthem, which takes its melody from an English drinking song. And really, you have to be pretty wasted to even attempt that melody. Carrie Underwood will do so tonight for the U.S. No word on whether Wayne Gretzky was available for the Canadians.
Now, as a TV network director, your options for camera shots are:
1) One of the players from Toronto, who is from the Dominican Republic anyway, and doesn't know the song. And may not speak English, much less French.
2) A random Pittsburgher (Pittsburghian? Pitiable chap?) in the stands whose sitting there wondering when we got invaded.
3) Jason Bay, oddly enough playing for the Pirates, as the only actual Canadian in the game
4) The Canadian flag in center field, dragged out of storage from when the Expos were in the league, and put back up for this one night.
5) Mark Redman who's just standing there acting polite
6) A World-Cup style cutaway to Ottawa where the fans are going crazy?
7) Bud Selig... why not?
Now that you've filled roughly 45 seconds of air time, what do you do with the next 30?
After the U.S. anthem, there's a scheduled fly-by of some military jets. After the Canadian anthem, what? A couple of guys on yaks will run the bases.
On to the News:
Speaking of things that could only happen in Canada.
(a fellow blogspotter!)
Ever wonder why they lost the Cold War?
(I'm going there next week.)
And now for something completely wrong:
A rap video featuring Bob Saget.
(Umm, are you at work right now?)
Runaway grizzly bear finally caught.
(Is this not the typical male?)
Keeping it short today. Stay tuned for the Mostly-Stars (and Mark Redman) Game tonight at 8:00/7:00 Central.
Monday, July 10, 2006
We spent a lovely day together, and we discussed a rather important question: What is the adjectival form of "elephant"? I say that it's "elephantile." My wife simply says that it's "big." These are the discussions we have.
In the world, apparently, karma found out that I was secretly cheering for France in the World Cup and had them promptly eliminated. You've probably all seen the headbutt, which made absolutely no sense. After all, everyone knows that you don't mess around with the Mafia. Zinedine Zidane was at the end of his last game ever, capping off a storied career and did... that. For his efforts, he got the Golden Ball, which is the MVP trophy. Will someone please explain that one to me?
Lost in all the headbutting. Poor David Trezeguet. But now Americans can go back to being blissfully unaware of soccer for another four years.
On to the news:
I'm not sure if this is sweet or creepy.
This is one of those times where the headline tells the story.
(Someone call the irony police)
(Apparently there were some problems with the John the Baptist bobblehead.)
We now pause for this message from our sponsors:
Today's Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!) is brought to you by a seedy looking hair care product commerical from the 80s.
A Checklist for a Bad Music Video:
1) Odd choreography
2) Bad 80s visual effects
3) Bad 80s haircuts
4) Foreigners mangling the English language (Do they even know what they're singing?)
5) A completely pointless conga line
7) Miming sex?
8) Bad 80s clothes
9) People riding off in a Studebaker, despite the fact that there's no road (only a field of stars... works on Star Trek...) and no one is actually operating the car.
10) A completely pointless disco ball.
Let's play a game of Where's Waldo.
It's said that baseball plays one game a year that everyone cares about: Its all-star game. Conversely, the NFL only plays one game all year that no one cares about: Its all-star game. I'll be live blogging the baseball All-Star game tomorrow night.
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Today is our wedding anniversary. A year ago today, I married the woman of my dreams. It's been a fun year. God willing, we'll have many many more anniversaries to celebrate. For right now though, it's good to just be able to look at her and tell her how much I love her.
I direct this special weekend entry to those planning a wedding, especially those who have the suffix -zilla after their name. If you're obsessing so much over the wedding that you forget to have fun, read this run-down of what really happened at our wedding.
10:00 am: I make an executive decision to go to the grocery store and get Gatorade (it was July, after all), Life Savers, and Pria bars (on wedding days, people forget to eat). This was my last act as a single man. The reason that I did it was that there was no one else available. I must say, it was routine as it gets. My mother is amazed that I got to sleep the night before. I point out that the time for being nervous was 6 months ago.
12:20 pm: After getting dressed in my tuxedo, I emerge downstairs to be with the rest of the family. My brother (and best man) notices that I'm wearing white socks with my tuxedo. Laughter abounds. To this day, I don't understand why this is such a big deal. (I'm on the Foreign Intelligence Files, apparently...) Here's the thing: I don't own a pair of dark socks.
12:30 pm: I will be getting married in a pair of socks borrowed from my brother.
1:00 pm: Official wedding photographer arrives at my house. She introduces herself, and begins snapping official pictures of my family, my groomsmen, and anyone else who happens to be around. She has the very annoying habit of telling people to move a half an inch to the right and move their head just a little... nope to far... ok... wait... back... an inch that way... no that way... OK there! As a rule, I never wish harm on anyone. There are, however, certain people that I wish would join an international humanitarian aid organization and pledge the rest of their life to doing aid work in a remote village... on another continent. Perhaps she might try here.
1:30 pm: Official bus, which my father insisted on having, leaves for the hotel where my lovely bride and her family are officially staying. It's a little odd, considering that we drove in a week ahead of time, and for the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of that week... she stayed at my house anyway. (Her parents came into town on Thursday.) We all drive out to the church together. The church is located on the outskirts of the city, miles from my hometown.
Both of us had only recently started going to an Orthodox church, and we actually arranged to have the wedding at this church by e-mail, and before we'd ever seen it. My first meeting with the priest was to set the wedding date. My mother was with me. My wife-to-be was in Atlanta. How Oedipal. I was given full discretion to pick the wedding date at the meeting, which I picked because I was ending a rotation at my job on June 30th, and was scheduled to start a new one the next day. However, I'd gotten clearance to start late on this one. July 2nd was just too crunched. July 9th it was! I picked the date for the "biggest day of my life", based entirely on avoiding scheduling conflicts with my job.
To my father's credit: The bus was a really good idea. And a good deal of fun.
2:00 pm: Arrive at church. Photographer takes the opportunity to torture the ladies as they have their pictures taken. Guests start arriving, and with nothing better to do, I start greeting them. Guests are horrified that I can see (*gasp*) my lovely bride as she does things like put on her veil. We made it a point to have a superstition free wedding. A year later, we're still married.
2:50 pm: Everyone's seated. Because my family is a) bigger and b) in town, my ushers/groomsmen have been instructed that anyone who's even slightly neutral should sit on the bride side. Everyone is confused because most of them have never been in an Orthodox church (my family is mostly Catholic, except for Uncle Baptist), and my wife's family doesn't really practice, despite being nominally Orthodox. I'm hoping that the stuff I wrote in the pamphlet makes sense. I make my way to the front of the church. At the rehearsal, my mother was incensed that the father of the bride doesn't get to walk her down the aisle. The priest put together a nifty compromise. He got to walk her in the door. We met at the back.
3:00 pm: Service begins. Initial procession of groomsmen escorting the bridesmaids, despite the fact that we had 5 groomsmen and 6 bridesmaids. We initially had my wife's brother escorting two ladies, but it made him look too much like a pimp. Not exactly the effect we were going for. Bridesmaid #6 walks in unescorted.
3:05 pm: The first piece of the service is the betrothal ceremony, in which, liturgically, we promise to each other that we're actually going to marry each other. I get to say the only two words I'm allowed to say during the service, "Yes", I'm here of my own free will, and "No," I'm not promised to any other. Actually, I wouldn't have been allowed to say anything except that in Russia, there used to be a lot of forced marriages. Liturgically, this has no bearing on anything.
3:30 pm: Service is progressing beautifully. I'm making light of a lot of the things around it, but the service itself is so moving and beautiful. The Gospel reading is the Miracle at Cana. However, my brother is about to kill me. As best man, one of his jobs (in addition to planning my bachelor party, where we toured Jacobs Field in the afternoon and watched the Indians game that night) was to hold a crown over my head for about twenty minutes while the priest said the appropriate prayers. I have the fear that it's going to drop any minute now.
3:35 pm: Our right hands are tied together. We are holding lit candles. We must now walk around a table three times. With my brother (and the maid of honor) trailing us with the crowns. Great mental picture, ain't it?
3:45 pm: We are now husband and wife, officially. Father asks everyone to be seated and gives a small speech about the value of marriage. We are standing together at the front of the church. As he's talking, I happen to see a small bouquet of flowers on the altar that I didn't recognize. There's a sash on them... with the words "Beloved Grandmother." Apparently, they had a funeral there the day before, and no one... cleaned up.
4:00 pm: After the receiving line, we step out of the church into all of our relatives blowing bubbles at us. The photographer tells us that we came out too soon and that she didn't get it on camera. Shrugging, we walk back in and walk back out and tell everyone to just do it again and pretend.
4:20 pm: Odd that the first thing that people do after getting married is allow themselves to be pushed around by a photographer for whom this is just another paycheck. Other guests are also snapping pictures. Their pictures turn out better. Photographer calls for me to join my bride for a few pictures. She's nowhere to be seen for a moment. Great, I've been married for half an hour and I don't know where she is.
5:00 pm: Pictures are over (we think). On to the reception hall! We drive in the official bus... through the ghetto.
5:45 pm: People begin arriving. A dear friend and former co-worker comes in and I haven't seen her in a while. Despite other more pressing things, I sit down with her to get the gossip on the old work place.
6:30 pm: Dinner. My wife's dress was so tight that she couldn't get anything to go down her throat. (Make you own joke. We did.) My brother gives a heartfelt and really kind toast. My buddy Omar isn't so kind. (Apparently, people are supposed to tell embarassing stories in front of all the relatives.) Bridesmaid Courtney gives one, and then Brother-in-law Peter teaches my Anglophone family to speak Russian (Gor'ko! It means "bitter"... it's Russian for tinking your glasses. This becomes everyone's new favorite Russian word.)
7:15 pm: Introduction of the bridal party. The ladies go first. The groomsmen enter wearing Hawaiian shirts and funny hats.
7:20 pm: First dance. Meatloaf, "Heaven Can Wait" Yes, we went with a song that was older than we were, and that few people had ever heard.
7:40 pm: The dance floor is oddly empty. Imagine that. At a wedding reception. Even the YMCA can't bring people out and gets faded out half way.
8:00 pm: Meanwhile, the photographer brings us out for more "casual pictures." Remind me to print out a few aid organization brochures.
8:30 pm: In a planned tribute to my grandparents, who had celebrated their 54th anniversary two days earlier, the DJ plays "Somewhere My Love." My grandparents, sadly, are not in the building as my grandfather needed some quick medical attention. (Nothing serious.) The DJ, who was the calmest man I'd ever met said that it was no problem to simply re-play the song when they got back.
9:00 pm: Cake cutting. I had planned all along to do the traditional "stuff it in her face" and flex for the cameras move, but as I prepared to do this, my wife looked at me and said, "Please, I'm nauseous, don't shove it in my face." I relent.
9:02 pm: Cake enters my nostrils.
9:10 pm: My grandparents came back, and had the floor to themselves for the song. I'll remember a lot from that day (obviously), but that one sticks in my mind the best.
9:30 pm: My overly Caucasian friend requests and "dances" to "Play That Funky Music White Boy" by Wild Cherry. So, it'll be that sort of night.
9:45 pm: My new father-in-law gets up and says that he wants to give a toast in honor of the reproductive system. I'm not kidding.
10:00 pm: One of the little girls (5 years old) catches the bouquet. My 25-year-old buddy Omar catches the garter. Make your own joke. We all did.
10:30 pm: My buddies and I do a very loud, very off-key rendition of Barenaked Ladies, "Brian Wilson"
11:00 pm: "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" (our second Meatloaf song of the night!) Omar knocks over one of the 5-year-old girls on the dance floor. Why do they play this song at weddings?
11:30 pm: Last dance. "Can You Feel the Love Tonight", Elton John.
12:10 am: We depart the reception hall for the hotel. Along the way, we're hungry. We stop off at Arby's and get Jamocha shakes. Here's to romantic flourishes to end the day. Welcome to wedded bliss. I get lost downtown trying to get to the hotel.
The next day, we met up with my parents before heading out for the honeymoon (where we had a flat tire. Make your own joke. We did.) for bunch. My mother in a trembling voice said that there was "something that she had to tell us." This is usually followed by news that someone has cancer. As they cleaned up after the reception, they put the top layer of the cake into the back of the van. After they got home and opened the door, it fell to the ground. For a brief moment, they were worried and considered going out and getting a new cake and not saying anything. We laughed.
Tonight, we would have eaten that cake. Who in their right mind eats year old cake?
The point of all this? Today, I am more in love with my wife than ever. All those funny things that went "wrong" made the night that much better, more fun, and more memorable. We did it right before God (and got all the paperwork done), and really that's all that matters. Despite all this, we are still married.
So, if you know someone who's getting married and is a little too stressed, pass this along. It's not about getting things perfect. In fact, it's about celebrating the hundred little imperfections that go along with life. Neither one of us is perfect (except for me), and life isn't perfect, but life is very very good. When the partygoers yelled "Bitter", they wanted us to sweeten the bitterness of life with our kisses.
To my wife: The sweetest kisser of all. I love you. Happy Anniversary.
Friday, July 07, 2006
So, the World Cup final is this coming Sunday. I'm coming out of the closet here. I love soccer. It's horribly un-American of me (I'll make up for it by blogging the All-Star Game next Tuesday), but I love it. I started out rooting for the U.S., more out of a sense of duty than anything. They were immediately eliminated. My favorite team in Europe is PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch Eredivise (don't ask), so I cheered for Holland. They got to the second round, and got knocked out. I also follow the English League, because they all speak English. They got knocked out. My brother has been cheering for France all along (I assume), as he just got back from 6 months in Paris for study abroad. They play Italy in the Finals. Since everyone I cheer for seems to get knocked out, for his sake, Forza Italia! Apparently, I'm not alone in cheering for the Azzuri.
If I posted this, would anyone get why it was funny?
Today also marks the beginning of the Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. Every year, a bunch of tourists come to town and voluntarily run... in front of bulls. Not only that, they specifically piss the bulls off so that they'll charge at them. Are we that far gone as a species that this no longer seems to bother anyone that people do this? If you have a friend who has done this, or considered doing it, or even watches the news and goes, "Yeah, that looks interesting," your job, as a thinking rational human being is to smack them. If they ask what that was for, smack them again, because clearly, they aren't able to figure out when they've said or done something so assinine that they deserve slapped.
On to the news:
An absolutely brilliant weight loss program.
(This one falls into the category of "Why didn't I think of that?")
A sweet one for the weekend.
(This weekend is my wife and my first wedding anniversary. Sweetie, if you're reading this, I love you.)
Suddenly, Apple Paltrow doesn't seem all that odd.
(Does anyone else wanna make a Sixteen Candles joke after reading this one?)
(You'd forgotten all about that. I know.)
Yesterday, it turns out was G-Dubs (George W. Bush... yeah, that one) 60th birthday. I specifically said to myself when I started this blog that I would not make it anything near remotely political. I just want to know how I managed to completely miss this fact. Did anyone else not know this, or am I just an idiot.
I'll let you stew on that question until Monday, when we will resume our frolic through the Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Does anyone else find it funny that the missles, which look rather... phallic... are called Taepedongs? (I probably mis-spelled that, but you get the idea.)
Let's see... a North American country has a presidential election in which the conservative candidate wins by a wafer thin margin over the liberal candidate, and the liberal candidate promises to challenge the outcome. There are allegations of voting irregularities, especially in the Spanish-speaking areas of the country. See, it could happen to anyone.
It's been a slow news day all over the place.
Today's Uber-Disturbing Music Video:
I think I can get by with a two word introduction on this one: David Hasselhoff.
Two more words as you watch it: Will Ferrell.
On to the news:
Today's "alcohol was involved" story.
("Martin claims that Zimmerman then struck him on the ear with the handgun, causing the gun to fire." I just want an explanation of that sentence.)
Thieves steal swimming pool.
(A story so odd, it had to happen in Canada. Eh?)
Like I said, slow day.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I woke up this morning to find out that Paris Hilton, that paragon of stability, wants to be a mother. Remember, you need a license to drive a car, go fishing, sell a house, and work as a roofer, but any two idiots can make a baby. Now, we just need to find someone who's as talentless and air-headed as she is.
Kevin Federline wants to save the penny.
(After all, he's got 50 mil, he can do whatever he wants. Popozao!)
That's just... odd.
So Disturbing It Deserves Its Own Subhead:
I thought that this would be the most disturbing version of "Baby Got Back" I would ever hear. I was wrong.
On to the news:
Oh, you mean videotaping someone's every move while they're playing a game show on an island in which they have to fend completely for themselves might de-stabilize that person?
(I'd rather ponder the final sentence of this story: "Heidik is a former North Carolina State football player, used-car salesman and part-time actor." In other words, he's O.J. Simpson.)
A job you should be glad you don't have.
(So, I was putting sunblock on the albino horse, if you know what I mean.)
Things really haven't been going well for the Chicago Bulls since Michael Jordan retired
(I want to know what the mug shot looked like)
Usually, Foreign Intelligence Files (FIF for short!) stories involved stupid criminal stories. However, this time, the tables have turned.
Other things on my mind:
I was impressed that there were no stories involving people with odd injuries due to mishandling fireworks while intoxicated. America showed great restraint on its 230th birthday. Maybe they just won't be filed until tomorrow.
(and someone buy me this to go with it.)
The marriage of old school baseball and old school NES games.
(There are some things in life that should win an award, but aren't really eligible for any of the ones normally given out. This is one of them. I'm taking nomination on what one might call such an award...)
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Our patron saint, of course, is dancer, rapper, and devoted husband and father Kevin Federline. Waste the next three and a half minutes of your life here. That should explain everything you need to know. Anyone who can, seriously, say "This marijuana's got me heavily sedated/ I'm Kevin Federline, America's most hated" (huh?) or "I'm handing out ass-kickings like diplomas" (it takes four years and a lot of work for you to beat someone up?) deserves some sort of place in America's cultural pantheon. Perhaps this is what Britney sees in him.
Today's Federline Award goes to: Jose Canseco.
In a blindingly amazing feat of logic, the San Diego Surf Dawgs designated hitter and occasional knuckleballer said that Major League Baseball wanted the "face" of its "nobody in baseball does steroids" party line to be Rafael Palmeiro. (I'm with you so far...) Palmeiro, after all, was approaching 3000 hits, was a community leader, and, like Canseco, a Cuban emigree. (Canseco's theory: then it wasn't a racial issue...) If Palmeiro was taking any drug, it was Viagra. Makes sense so far, doesn't it?
According to Canseco, MLB came to this decision after Palmeiro tested positive for steroids. Canseco alleges that MLB officials called Palmeiro in and told him that they had a positive test on him. Then, they blackmailed him into... publicly saying that he had never done steroids and that Canseco was making up a bunch of lies. So, MLB apparently figured that their best spokesman for the fact that no one in the league was juicing was a guy that they specifically knew had tested positive.
Canseco could have stopped there. But then, he wouldn't have won a Federline Award. Jose then said that MLB leaked the fact that Palmeiro had tested positive to the media because they were afraid Congress would find out. So... in an attempt to make themselves look better, MLB leaked information that completely undercut their spokesman, Palmeiro.
Something else had to be in that syringe back in 1987.
On to the News:
And you thought the hot dog eating contest was stupid.
(BONUS: Alcohol was involved!)
Could this be your future cellmate?
(BONUS: Alcohol was involved!)
Other interesting stuff:
Ah, old, but so much fun...
(ummmm, are you at work, right now?)
Finally a movie based in Cleveland...
(Coming this summer... so to speak...)
A quick shout out to The Bittersweets. I have their album in my CD player. They're a roots rock/Americana band from San Francisco, and the disc is fantastic. Highly recommended.
Monday, July 03, 2006
On to the news:
Just read the headline.
(How many stories do you know that start like this...)
Today's proof that you can find anything on EBay
(This will be a recurring theme...)
And our stupid criminal of the day is...
(Congratulations! You're an idiot!)
Other intriguing stuff:
(Apparently about a year ago, two of the writers from Family Guy and Scrubs did a pilot episode that never got picked up. This is part one. The other two parts of the pilot are there. It's a sit-com about making a reality show about making a sit-com).
Apparently, all's fair in both love and war
(I love you, engrish.com)
Things on my mind:
I went to see Superman Returns last Thursday. As per usual, this would be a good time to discontinue reading if you haven't yet seen it. You know the deal.
If you want a plot synopsis: I recommend looking here and here. My four-word movie review: Passion of the Christ. With that in mind, watch the trailer and tell me that when the writers get to the other side, they won't have to face some plagiarism charges. I was under-awed by it. Perhaps I was just spoiled by watching Batman Begins.
The Foreign Intelligence Files is a collection of news stories that make me wonder whether intelligence really is a foreign concept to people. I started it on my college radio show once upon a time and have always wanted to bring it back. Now I can. The stories that you are about to read are true. I wish they weren't, because it would restore my faith in humanity, but they're true. As far as I know. In fact, I haven't even changed the names to protect the idiots.