Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Two From Harper's 2.26.03

From Harper's Online:

President Bush dismissed last week's worldwide antiwar protests, which some estimate were the largest in human history, and said they would have no effect. "Size of protest — it's like deciding, well, I'm going to decide policy based on a focus group." The president said that he was unwilling to give Saddam "another, 'nother, 'nother last chance," and observed that "evidently, some of the world don't view Saddam Hussein as a risk to peace."

Yeah, dude. Like your constituents. But obviously, Papa Bush, you'll do what best for us. Read us a bedtime story, papa. Fill it with lies about how the world should be under the spurs of our bootheel.

Harper's Index, January 2003

Number of U.S. presidents since 1860 whose party controlled both houses of Congress by the third year of their first term : 12
Number of these presidents whose party already controlled both houses : 10
Number whose bid for reelection failed : 1
Chances that a U.S. House or Senate race last year was won by the candidate whose campaign spent the most : 9 in 10
Number of "third" parties whose candidates won state legislative seats last year : 5
Portion of the eight seats they won accounted for by Progressive Party candidates in Vermont : 1/2
Number of states that use nonpartisan commissions to draw new congressional districts : 6
Number of Louisiana's last three elected insurance commissioners convicted of corruption : 3
Percentage change since 1998 in the number of federal convictions for health-care fraud : +43
Chance that a drug dose prescribed to a U.S. hospital patient is either administered improperly or forgotten : 1 in 5
Chances that a Rwandan woman raped during the 1994 genocide is now HIV-positive : 2 in 3
Estimated number of women killed as witches in Tanzania each year : 500
Ratio of Americans killed by Timothy McVeigh and the D.C. snipers to those killed in Gulf War combat : 5:4
Ratio of kilotonnage of U.S. bombs dropped during the Gulf War to that of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima : 7:1
Number of countries that supplied both sides during the Iran-Iraq war : 10
Number of these that are among the world's five largest arms-manufacturing countries : 4
Percentage of federal discretionary spending in 2001 devoted to "homeland security" or the Department of Defense : 51
Percentage of the $1.1 trillion in Iraqi oil contracts that are held by French or Russian companies : 69
Price charged by a Ukrainian company for a half-day tour of the Chernobyl nuclear-plant site : $460
Number of years that a former Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, India, has been leaking toxic chemicals : 18
Estimated number of people who have died there since then as a result : 20,000
Years since criminal charges were filed against him in 1991 that Union Carbide's former CEO has been in hiding : 11
Ratio of net profit earned by U.S. airlines since 1970 to federal subsidies given the industry since September 2001 : 1:1
Minimum number of box cutters taken from U.S. airline passengers since last February : 34,777
Minutes that a Massachusetts surgeon left a patient with an open incision in July while he went to deposit a check : 35
Chance that a doctor laughs along with a patient's laughter : 1 in 10
Chances that a doctor shows no response : 7 in 10
Percentage of Gulf War veterans reporting chronic postwar symptoms who share a single bacterial infection : 40
Minimum number of locals hired to act as Arabs heckling U.S. troops during an army war game in California last year : 15
Number of Arabic linguists fired by the U.S. Army since August for being gay : 7
Retail price Mattel suggests that toy stores assign its Lingerie Barbie, dressed in "merry widow" or "peek-a-boo" style : $45
Percentage change since 1990 in the number of U.S. schoolchildren labeled "disabled" : +37
Percentage of U.S. high schools receiving federal aid whose students' contact information the army sought last fall : 100
Average amount of aid each school district stands to lose if its schools do not supply the information : $762,083
Page of the No Child Left Behind education law passed last year on which this new requirement is noted : 559
Rank of Michael Moore's Stupid White Men among the New York Times's top "business" bestsellers in September : 1
Years after rapper Chuck D called Elvis Presley "straight-out racist" that he claimed "a great deal of respect" for him : 14
Factor by which the number of Americans who have "tried to impersonate Elvis" exceeds the population of Tennessee : 3
Rank of Mom, Dad, and Rudolph Giuliani among those whom recent college graduates say they most wish to emulate : 1, 2, 3
Chances that a U.S. adult does not want to live to be 120 under any circumstances : 2 in 3
Yao Da Man! 2.26.03

You see him on the TV show, hear it on the radio. America loves Yao Ming, Houston Rockets' center. The NBA loves him too. He comes to an arena and it's like Jordan and New Year rolled into one 7 foot and 6 inch blue and red striped package. Take this bit from Lisa Olsen's NY Daily News article:

Other, lesser arenas felt the need to manufacture well-meaning yet oddly ignorant promotions when Yao came to town. Miami handed out fortune cookies, Orlando set up sushi stands. New York laid out a simple welcome mat woven from its lustrous past.

Fortune cookies are kind of... ignorant. Or silly and pandering. But sushi?! Is there even imported sushi in China? I don't think so... but then again, I don't eat sushi, so perhaps I wasn't paying attention. What, they couldn't get the discount coupons from Hunan Wok? Or get this assclown to entertain the crowd at half time?
Chocolate Ooh 2.26.03

I hate it when I am foiled by advertising. Though the web address makes you think "porn," or "Dirty Sanchez," it's not. I really want one of these Hershey's t-shirts. I think it'll be the cool acoutrement that brings me friendships, money, and booty out the proverbial ying-yang.
If You Got A Problem... 2.26.03

New Top will solve it. I'll solve it too, but with more bloodshed and less style than this master.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Football's Draft is Two Months Away 2.24.03

You know how negative comments/ predictions are often prefaced with "I hope I'm wrong, but..."? Well, I hope I'm right. Because this looks like a no-brainer.

I'm talking about Carson Palmer. This guy comes out of high school, highly rated, steps on the USC field and simply stinks up the place for two and a half years. One good half year under Pete Carroll and an accidental Heisman trophy later, he's tabbed to be the first pick in the draft over a guy who I don't think ever had a very bad performance in Byron Leftwich.

I look at Palmer and I see a guy who got great protection in his last year, had an excellent defense, and capitalized on it. He's a big guy, six foot six, immobile, good arm. This translates into "he'll be killed in the pros." Unless he gets, again, great protection. Here is a telling quote, from Peter King's page on

"I believe Palmer does not radiate the leadership and command in the huddle that teams would like to see. I have concerns about his poise under pressure at times. ... Palmer lacks a quick arm, and the ball does not explode out of his hand the way teams would like to see and do see with an Elway or a Michael Vick. Palmer is a very streaky thrower. ... He does not read, react, or sense the rush as quickly as is desired, and he makes far too many boneheaded decisions."
--The late (and highly respected) draft analyst Joel Buchsbaum, writing about the consensus No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, USC quarterback Carson Palmer, in his fall 2002 Pro Football Weekly draft prospects manual

His decisionmaking got better... I guess. But I never saw the ball rocket out of his hands. I never saw anything one could call "quickness." And he's only done it for a f--kin' year. With an excellent defense to back him up. With better talent around him than 85% of the teams USC played. This is not the man to lift a franchise with below average talent in the Cincinnatti Bungles, I mean, Bengals.
No, Really. 2.24.03

from Yahoo News/ the Associated Press:

Overboard Shoes Drifting Toward Alaska
Mon Feb 24, 9:09 AM ET

ANCHORAGE - Thousands of pairs of Nike basketball shoes are washing up on beaches from Washington State to Alaska after spilling from a container ship in Northern California.

There's just one hitch to finding a free pair.

"Nike forgot to tie the laces, so you have to find mates," said Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer, an oceanographer who tracks sneakers, toys and other flotsam across the sea. "The effort's worth it 'cause these Nikes have only been adrift a few months. All 33,000 are wearable!"

A beachcomber told Ebbesmeyer about the shoe spill after finding two new blue-and-white EZW men's shoes washed up near Queets on Washington's Olympic Peninsula on Jan. 9 and 16.

Unfortunately, they were sizes 10 1/2 and 8 1/2. Both were lefts.

A little research by Ebbesmeyer confirmed that a ship lost cargo Dec. 15 during a storm off Cape Mendocino, including three 40-foot containers each carrying an estimated 5,500 pairs of shoes.

"Nikes will be soon in your neck of the sea," Ebbesmeyer said in an e-mail message to the Anchorage Daily News last week. "Only two have been found, so your readers can be amongst the first to report in!"
I Watched the Grammys Because... 2.24.03

1. I really care what Debbie Harry's menopausal ass is wearing, it gives me wood.
2. Norah Jones inspired me to drive across the country to see my ex-lover. Who then rejected me. With a 2 x 4.
3. Sheryl Crow speaks for disaffected urban youth. Especially next to Kid Rock.
4. I wanted to see if 50 Cent and Eminem would rob the whole industry of their jewlz.
5. Ohmigod-- Avril Levigne and Pink in the same room?! I could just die! Or piss myself! I just did!
6. Nelly Nelly Nelly, can't you see, sometimes I'm mesmerized by mediocrity.
7. To find out who John Mayer, Nickelback, Eric Tingstad, and Bowling for Soup are. And still not care.
8. Wasn't there supposed to be a Clash reunion? Or was that a Gin Blossoms reunion?
9. Seeing other people rewarded for their hard work makes me work harder. Also, man, I was too high to stand up and change the channel.
10. The devil made me do it; I heard him through the Springsteen album, played backwards.
Into the Light 2.24.03

This winter's been so cold and bleak that I have decided to start putting away some of my winter sweaters early, start taking out some sleeveless shirts, and begin spring cleaning. The reasoning, of course, is that by doing these actions I can bring on spring a little faster. It's almost March, after all. I'm surrounded by grey skies and damned sick of it. It's like living under the glass bottom of a sewer.

As a side note, it is almost the end of black history month. I don't know if anyone noticed. I have been reading a book called '46 Chicago by Steve Monroe. In the book, the black characters are "colored." It's a period piece, in 1946 gumshoe language. I respect that. And in honor of that time period and in honor of black history month, I have decided to call all of my white friends washedout. I figure, that has to be the opposite of colored, right? Or is bleached the preferred term these days? Hit me back and tell me.
Rockout Friday Nights 2.21.03

I promised a recap of last Friday.

But I've been sleeping, you'll have to forgive me. Curled up in my bed or in front of the television (watching St. John's lose again).

This Pico had to recover, ladies and gentlemen. And from what, you'll ask?

Friday night was to be a celebration of Johnny K's 27 years on this planet in one piece. Good times. He asked me to call some heads to the Upper East. Which gave me pause. Not my kind of town, not my kind of neighborhood. It's like bad news and an advanced case of syphilis rolled into one burrito. But I agreed. Called up a disparate set of folks. Told them to come to the Upper East because... uh... I said so?

People came. I was sad about those who didn't come (and those I didn't see, apologies Julia); those who had to work (that bites, J-Izzo); and those for whom the Upper East mixed with some illin' ass sushi made them want to retch (hope you're upright, Holiday). And then there were those who made it.

Hm. I think I left high school to avoid certain people... but that's neither here nor there. And the Upper East... well, this bar was disturbing. The girls of 2000 seemed to have an okay enough time (thanks for coming) but not as good as the time I had with Silver, Steph, Lori, and AB Luuv.

See, after a pound of drinks and having been subjected to a man who, with one guitar and one forgettable voice blanched every song from Paul Simon to Bob Marley, we were itching for something else. AB Luuv, a late night DJ at [--a popular radio station--], had the answer.

Get some beers. Sit in the air studio. Drink. A lot.

It was 2 AM and as good an idea as any. Music, beer, and an all nighter like we were kids again. Kids in cabs, kids slipping into the empty studios of [--a popular radio station--] and drinking as much as we could. Except we're old and we couldn't drink that much. But we were up all night. Pretending to be the girls from Plainview who really wanted to hear a Coldplay song. Snickering at all of AB Luuv's radio stalkers. Almost answering the guys who called up for a request for Metallica or Pantera and asking, "hey, we're guys partying on a Friday night, what else could be better?" with "maybe some girls, a reason to get up in the mornings, and friends who aren't the same Jersey loser."

I passed out in the studio next door underneath pictures of semi-nude people, transvestites, and perhaps a pair of midgets. We were in the middle of the New York skyline, but the window was tinted and gave a poor indication that the sun was soon to rise... behind the drizzling rainclouds. Of course.

AB Luuv ended his shift at [--a popular radio station--]; we went our separate ways. I got home at 8, maybe 8.30 AM, and asked why my brother was up. Of course, he wakes up early. Actually, I wake early on Saturdays. Usually by 8.30. Not this day. I took my ragged ass to sleep, growled the way through the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, February 21, 2003

This Boy Needs A Nap 2.21.03

This boy needs a nap.
That's how I zone.
Get my sleep props up and
Be still like stone.
People you can reach me
By the telephone
But it's my recorded voice
As I sleep on and on.

Less poetry. More mania. To come. Tonight will last forever, in honor of John Karol. Even though his invite tugs me to the Upper East Side, where we often looked around and said, "who made these fucking people?" as we huddled in our jackets and scrounged for change for lunch.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Storm Clouds 2.19.03

I walked NYC yesterday in a suit, raising my pant leg to slide by the one-skinny-man wide paths people had made at the crosswalks in Manhattan, and to walk on the kinda-paved streets of Queens. I walked through slush, high-stepped through unplowed snow paths where a few brave folks had tamped down the white stuff with footprints.

All of this to come home in time to shovel more snow and watch St. John's basketball.

I don't know why I watch. This is a team who was up 16 points on Providence College, a team with 3 Big East Conference wins aagainst 7 losses. St. John's had "slipped" to 5-5 in conference play; and they needed to win that Providence game; it's not common to receive a bid to the NCAA tournament with less than a .500 winning percentage. Okay, got that? We're all set up?

After whaling on Providence College for a half, the Providence Friars came out with this wacky new invention called "the zone." See, instead of matching up one on one, they stand there with their arms up and sometimes they inch closer to the ball. This wacky new tactic, apparently never seen by Mike Jarvis in his many years (except in the last two games, both losses), requires either 1) outside shooting or 2) a very good penetrator and a mid range jump shooter to attract the back of the zone. I know. Crazy stuff.

So St. John's loses by 6, since Marcus Hatten didn't penetrate and shoot every ball; and his teammates proved once again that the three point line is made of kryptonite-- step back more and jack it up before it gets to us!!!

That was horrible to watch.

Last night they faced the ranked Syracuse Orangemen. Those crazy kids! Talent, homecourt advantage, et cetera. But St. John's played as I remember them to-- ugly, defensive, filled with steals. In fact, they could have won. Even thought Syracuse whipped out that crazy "zone" thing again. Now, they had a plan. Wow! Anthony Glover at the free throw line, center Abe Keita looking for a pass under the basket after Glover gets the Syracuse center to commit some attention to him. A little dribble drive by Mr. Hatten.

They forgot a few things. They had chances despite 'Cuse's quickness. But Glover forgot he has the option to "shoot," Keita forgot that most big men, when covered, should bob up and down like a bunny rabbit and get someone to jump in the air; that center then pretends to shoot and goes to the free throw line (though when Mr. Keita got there he put up an airball. Nice.); and that while Hatten's not a great shooter, point guard Elijah Ingram shouldn't try to make him look good.

Elijah Ingram. Rookie from Jersey. Goofy looking high-arcing shot. Pulled a John Starks. I believe it was 2-18. Two for eighteen. From behind the three-point line. That means that he hit two shots. Fairly open. He had 16 shots that were also sometimes open. Never at the end of the shot clock. None of those went in. St. John's would rebound, they would grimace, they would struggle. Until Mr. Ingram leapt up in the air and shoot from his numbers or his ear or whatever. Criminey.

So, yeah... they lost. Again. And I just checked the stats. It's 2-20 from beyond the arc. 3-22 from the field.

Monday, February 10, 2003

Why Joe Millionaire is My Favorite Show 2.10.03

Melissa M says: "You know, if I had a lot of money, I'd want to go to a third-world country and bathe their children."

Dirty Planet, The Mis-Education President 2.10.03

There is a word I have heard bandied about, in everyday conversation, in speeches, in classes , and it bothers me to no end. I’m not the smartest guy, the best kind of rapper, the king of all that’s cool and correct, J-Lo’s taut booty, or the esteemed president, but this really irks me.

My dear friend makes the point also; and it’s popped up everywhere. From people I know. From professors. And from our aforementioned esteemed president.

Somehow, we have forgotten the roots of our words. We have forgotten how to say the most simple of words. And in doing so, we step away from the meaning of that root; step away from the images and perhaps even a culture built around the word; make it a little less real.

This is about the word nuclear. Kids, as Silver says, the word comes from the root “nucleus.” as in, splitting the nucleus of the atom to get all the explosively gooey nougat power to spill free. Now, in thinking of atoms, small and mysterious and tautly bonded, I personally think, shit, if nature can’t split the atom, there has to be something wrong with the concept of doing it with our technologies. That has got to be some shit if/ when we do it.

And from there, when we think of nuclear, we think of “nuclear power plants,” which we associate with “not in my backyard,” and “Chernobyl disaster,” and stickers with atoms flying around protecting the nucleus. That having been said, we know about nuclear power. Heard about it in schools. Have it in the back of our minds from the 80’s.

But, “nu-killer?” It’s got the word “killer” in it. It’s a whole new word. It’s got new resonance, like a new threat. You know, like Iraq. This invention of our Malaprop President seems to have caught on. Maybe my professor was joking. The people who I have personally heard it from didn’t seem to say it facetiously at all. Which disturbs me.

Is the word so hard to say? You say it as it’s spelled, really. New. Clee. Ar. Or Ur. Say it with me. Don’t be propaganda’d by Dubya. Say it with me. This is not a new threat. In fact, this is a threat that we wield over the rest of the world more than a “rogue state” or two hold over us.

There’s no need to make it a new and exotic word. There are a number of things that could bother me about the sudden use of the word… but the main one is this-- stop fucking up the language!!
Dirty Planet, Sympathy for the Huskies 2.10.03

Something has worked its way inside me. Like so much chum in a bucket. I find myself on a Monday night thinking the University of Connecticut basketball team is not only good to watch; I find myself learning about some guard named Anderson, listening for information about shot-blocker Emeka Okafor, wondering how Ben Gordon is handling his new responsibilities with Talik Brown sitting with his broken finger.

It’s that damned Jim Calhoun’s fault. Him and his prostate cancer.

For the non-sports fan, this may mean little. For the active sports fan, know that I have been born and was raised in New York City. Connecticut is like the far reaches of hell, where you get hijacked to camp, where your father’s company has their lame family picnics where there are never any girls (or boys) your age, so you run around in the fresh air (which is bad for you after breathing the NYC pollution. We’re built for it now, adaptable lungs). Connecticut is a bad place in general (Stamfiddy notwithstanding); but when it comes to college basketball…

Those hosers in Eastern Connecticut, at that cow-town University of Connecticut, they’re always big. Physical. Year in and year out they’re obnoxious. And they run over the boys at St. John’s University, the kids at Rutgers, the players at Providence. It’s not fair. They’re freaking thugs. No style. No scoring. And the championships? They are a mountain to climb. They’re not the Yankees, but they do rock white and dark blue uni‘s. Close enough.

This year they’ve managed to spot at least three teams twenty point leads out of the gate. That made me laugh. The sign of a bad team-- an inexperienced U Mass team puts a 25-point lead on you. Being U Mass, they lost. Boston College did much the same and held on. That made me laugh hard.

And then. They announce that Coach Jim Calhoun has prostate cancer. Won’t be coaching for about 4 weeks. Attacking it aggressively. Hunting down the rival Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, for the latter’s experience with cancer. Puts a mellow coach in place. Loses his starting point guard.

Perhaps it’s because St. John’s is starting a spiral into the crapper, called the bubble. Maybe it’s that sentimental part of me. Maybe this is a sign of declining Pico, one who can’t keep his dander up. Ladies, I assure you that’s not true. Really. Maybe it’s just interesting watching a team put their pants back on and start playing as well as they can. Maybe it’s great to see a team perform organized hellish chaos successfully.

Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll get over it.