Monthly Archives: April 2007

The siege of Fortress Europa continues

So, I’m back in Portugal. This necessitates several things: sun block, surfing, the halting and continuing half-assed Portuguese education I began a year ago, and a switch back to my original blog. At least for non-college football related posts.

Yes, that’s right: after almost half a year of non-original blogging, the triumphant return of that thing you never read hath returned! Please note that any logic discrepancies in my prose/grammar are due entirely to the backwards Portuguese keyboards and not, in fact, having any to do with lager. Which is tasty, but still subservient to ale.

Anyway, ciao, you American scum.

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Oh, yeah: scant posting for the next few weeks

I’m, like, going to Portugal. So get your college football fake news kicks somewhere else. I won’t be back in the next few weeks (I’ll still be in, like, Portugal) but I expect I’ll find time to hunker down and excrete some posts by then.

For those who remembered last year’s invasion of Fortress Europa, I don’t plan on getting robbed again but it wouldn’t surprise me. Enjoy summer football, suckers! See you in August, and a select few of you in August, September, October and December.

Notre Dame sucks.

Bye, Jimmy! (Pic courtesy of the MZone.)

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Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

Kurt Vonnegut is dead. He was a funny man who happened to be old and not, as with some, the other way around; that he was old was a miracle he was confronted with every day for the sixty-two years since he survived the firebombing of Dresden, once the Florence of the Elbe.

I was reminded of Dresden the other day when I saw a picture of the Frauenkirche rising above newly laid cobblestone, its 314-foot tall dome looking every bit the architectural wonder that repelled Prussian cannonballs during the Seven Years’ War. It’s huge even today. I can only imagine what it must’ve looked like in the eighteenth century.

In 2001 I was 17 and in Europe for the first time in my life. I spoke fluent German (still do, though it’s slower now) and was steeped in Dresden’s lore, but not because I was particularly well read: I had to give a tour of the city. I pointed out its secrets and its history in the native tongue, and my German class forgave me my datives and subjunctives and duly noted my checklists and bullet points. We had each chosen a city in Germany, and we each gave a walking tour of that city, and we each bumbled our way through the arm length compound words and split verbs. It was awkward, but effective. That day I was speaking to the city for them, and they understood our communiques. Dresden did not speak back to me the way the great cities do, though. It was not simply that Dreden was a shadow, though it was that. Dresden was something even worse: modern. So much had been destroyed in 1945, and what was left was the loathsome grey of Soviet Bloc Europe. There seemed to be little reason to preserve character because what little there was carried with it too much ugliness and pain. The citizens had taken to the task of rebuilding with an enthusiasm that was the child of World War II and East Germany, and the city was now sleek and efficient and European. You can’t fault Dresdeners for this, but still and all: Dresden was unremarkable.

Except the Frauenkirche. It withstood two days of bombing but had finally succumbed after more than half a million bombs had been dropped on a city that, on February 15 1945, was melting at temperatures in excess of a thousand degrees centigrade. In 2001 it was being rebuilt, and that made me feel something at least: the ruins had lain dormant for so long as a symbol of the war, and now there were scaffolds and support structures and steel frameworks. It looked like something that would never be complete. It was strangely comforting. I felt that so long as it was incomplete it would be impossible to forget the war, to forget what it had destroyed (one of the greatest cities of Europe), and the skeletal building confirmed that.

In 2005 the church was “completed”. In 2007, Kurt Vonnegut is dead.

I saw a picture of the Frauenkirche, once one of the marvels of the continent, randomly, as these things happen, in a news item having nothing to do with Germany or war. The dim parts of my brain still connected to high school recognized its stone dome immediately, and the first thing I thought was pure Vonnegut: there must be tons of human bone meal in the ground. That’s from one of my favorite books in the entire universe, Slaughterhouse-Five.

I think Vonnegut would’ve struck a similar juxtaposition between renewal and discomfort. He would’ve done it in simple language, because he spent so many years on the brink of failure and also because his chief at the City News Bureau of Chicago had probably hammered simplicity into him, which was okay since Vonnegut was a police reporter there. I think there would likely be a doodle of some sort to accompany the language, hopefully something representing an asshole or an act of coitus. Vonnegut was good at presenting harmless whirls and loops and lines called drawings alongside the harmless whirls and loops and lines called writing to make sure we all knew that nothing was harmless, and that everything was innocent. It was a good way of reminding us that language is frighteningly important, and also that our idiosyncrasies and tics and ideas about language and its use are frighteningly dumb. People have burned Vonnegut’s whirls and loops and lines for a while, though now it’s probably less of a public ritual. He opposed this in typical fashion: by writing letters, and making fun of idiots by presenting them to themselves.

Vonnegut created a religion called Bokononism. Bokonon was a heretic and a charlatan and the smartest man in the world, which amounted to one giant ice cube in the end. Literally. His words are wise, starting with the introductory quote above…

All of the true things that I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

Amen, if you’ll pardon the blasphemy.

He said something else about lies, specifically harmless lies. He (I could be referring to Bokonon, or Vonnegut, or both) called them foma, and he said, so beautifully, so simply:

Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and happy.

You could end a lot of wars with that one.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was my favorite living writer. That title now passes on to several writers whose collective karmic burden has been increased exponentially by the passing of the man from Indianapolis, and by the impossibility of anyone ever making Indianapolis interesting again. He was proud of his ineptitude in the war, critical of any and all crimes against freedom of speech, a lover of music, an unrepentant midnight dialer, a man whose vocation came to him happily and confusingly and bewilderingly, unafraid to deliver a searing word, capable of language so transcendent every book and letter and note seemed (like his speech on Palm Sunday, 1980, to the St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in New York) based on the Sermon on the Mount, an occasional alcoholic, a father of seven, a devout follower of St. Mark (the author of Huckleberry Finn, not the gospel), and a damn funny man. In the end, he was also an old man. I am reminded of his book Breakfast of Champions (Vonnegut gave it a grade of C, which I thought was unfair, but that was Vonnegut), and of fictional fiction writer Kilgore Trout’s response when God/Vonnegut (again, that was Vonnegut) released him into freedom: “Make me young again!Make me young again!…

That sentence always struck me as the saddest thing he ever wrote, mainly because he wrote it when he was in his early fifties. He had thirty plus more years to go until he met his maker, who, if there’s any justice in this world, will make Vonnegut young again. I am reminded of that sentence, which caused me to feel my own body aging for the first time, and of Hunter S. Thompson, who died two years ago having taken his own life after writing this:

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax — This won’t hurt.

And the only thing I can think is: man, getting old sucks.

Which I think is pretty appropriate, and both writers would have approved – with an addendum. Hunter would’ve demanded Wild Turkey be spilled over the page or screen, and included that all those getting old be required to shut the hell up and enjoy whatever narcotic substances, football games, fishing rods, typewriters, coffee, ocean and Wild Turkey they could get a hold of while they still could, and then probably something about buffalo meat and caribou hearts. Then he would’ve pulled out a .357 and laughed evilly.

Vonnegut? Who knows, but he might’ve talked a bit about Dresden. He once proposed to plot out Slaughterhouse-Five on the back of wallpaper with different colors representing the trajectories of individual lives, and the firebombing of Dresden would’ve been a giant vertical line of orange cross hatching. Some of the characters would make it through, most would not, and the surface would gradually drain of color until, if you went far enough, everyone was dead and the only color was the plain monotone of the back of wallpaper. It struck me as entirely appropriate. Dresden was the central point of Vonnegut’s life: that he survived one of the worst massacres of World War II is entirely dumb luck. Why him? I doubt he could’ve answered that. It must’ve struck him as entirely inappropriate, even through the constant, guilty thankfulness of those that live. But I’d like to think he’d say something about the Frauenkirche, and how the stones are not the same, that the human bone meal had disintegrated or blown away or been removed, that the new church was beautiful and a marvel and not real all at once. And about how none of that matters, because where there were stones and human bone meal and a ruined church there’s now something else, some other color we weren’t aware of. He would’ve made me feel stupid for feeling that the rebuilt church was wrong somehow, and he would’ve made me feel stupid for feeling stupid, which is the natural disposition of all humans unless they’re listening to music. And he would’ve drawn a sphincter right next to the Frauenkirche, and said they both mean the same thing anyway: whirls, loops, lines.

I consider H.S.T. and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to be cut from the same mold even though their lives, their writing styles and their works are so wildly divergent. They were both men who spoke their minds out of necessity. They regarded the world with a mixture of bemusement, horror and fascination. They were both deeply suspicious of anyone in charge. They spoke truth to power, though not in that pithy clenched fist raising way; there was something seamless and natural about their drive to continually write what they wrote. It seemed as if everything else that didn’t involve the staccato typing of those “harmless” whirls and loops and lines was just an ill-fitting suit, and one that was hastily taken off with relief once they got back to their compounds and behind closed doors. They were famous for cussing, but their profanity was actually pretty mild, the truth behind the words more profane than anything marked by four letter words. They knew the military was an inherently insane thing, and so saluted it as a fellow traveler. They both enjoyed whiskey.

They both died too young.

I hope Vonnegut’s headstone reads as he wrote it, in Slaughterhouse-Five:

Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt.

Which is a lie, but a harmless one.

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A belated happy anniversary to/for/with me

My original blog went up in the first week of April 2006. We are currently in the second week of April 2007. Here’s a bouquet of flowers I picked from the neighbor’s garden.

At first I went with items about my personal life, random news stories, etc. You know, crap no one wanted to read. The first time I got a significant amount of hits came with an extended Charlie the Hutt metaphor. It dawned on me that, as I would mention later

This once again proves two things:

1) Notre Dame sucks, and anytime you point that out you’re gonna get high-fives.

2) It is extremely difficult adapting Huttese to a college football fake news article, but it’s also extremely worth it.

It might also have helped that I posted links on several college football message boards, a known breeding ground for the most rabid, click happy huddled masses outside of conspiracy theorist slashdotters.

Thank you, faithful readers! Our long national two day year old nightmare of never making it into wordpress.com’s Friday, April 7 2006′s Hottest Blogs’ top twenty is finally over!

Thus my focus became college football, and those rabid, click happy huddled masses have done me well since then. By done me well, I mean that they’ve bombarded me with poorly typed physical threats, questions about getting them in contact with Reggie Bush to see if he wants to buy http://www.ReggieBush25.com, comments about my hygiene, polemics about morality and the lack thereof in my Hell-bound flesh, and general disgruntlement regarding Mark Richt’s proven love of rumps and rump accessories.

Also, a number of entities, organizations and sundry of escalating shadiness and/or legitimacy have asked me to write for them, each of them using variations on “do it for free” to entice me into their world of reduced expectations and shattered dreams, and when that didn’t do the trick they sprayed themselves with Axe and rubbed their bloated capitalistic hands on my thighs. Which is very flattering. So I’ve got that going for me.

Mainly, though, this blogging thing has been a welcome relief and a daily reminder that putting out any product at all is better than whinging my way through another crappy puff piece in the local rags, bemoaning Bill Plaschke and his one.

Sentence.

Per.

Paragraph.

Modus operandi, which isn’t that bad, actually. Those who can, write. Those who can’t, write. So at least I’m writing.

USC football will open up the 2007 season as the top ranked team in the nation, which is how it should be. I won’t be at the Coliseum for any of the games, however. I’m driving a car across the country to take in a game in at least 14 different stadiums during the fall of 2007. I will be on the road for the entirety of what could be a national championship season. That I’ll be missing USC games is the only bad part of this deal; that I’m going at all is due, in large part, to the many people I’ve met online whose maniacal obsession with college football has made me less shameful of my own delusions and misallocated priorities. That’s a thank you, by the way.

And thank you to Notre Dame football, the teat from which even the least creative of us may suck. My dearest Fightin’ Irish: you are the echoes that keep on giving.

That’s right, Charlie. Everyone wants a piece of you and your FUPA – even disembodied arms can’t get enough.

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Israelis, Palestinians urge Rhett Bomar, Sooner Nation to begin peace talks

NORMAN, OK – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas visited Oklahoma University’s McClendon Center for Intercollegiate Athletics on Monday in an effort to bridge the gap between the Sooner Nation and Rhett Bomar, a former Oklahoma quarterback whose struggle for financial independence has put him at odds with his geographical neighbor.

An AP file photo of Bomar, current leader of Bomar.

CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour described the gathering’s mood as “hopeful”, noting that some progress had been made in the summit’s first electrifying day.

“It’s been more like a concert than a political meeting,” Amanpour said via satellite phone.

U2 lead singer and political activist Bono opened up the summit with an Abraham Lincoln quote from the 16th President’s first Inaugural Address:

We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Former President Jimmy Carter followed up the Irish rock star by reading passages from the Book of Ecclesiastes, after which boxing great Muhammad Ali released two dozen doves into the air.

“This summit has begun earnestly, with honesty, and I have the sense that real things are happening here,” said Amanpour.

“The peace process has seemed so distant at times, the barriers insuperable, the odds too impossible to allow for any hope. But the fog seems to have lifted. This has felt special from the minute [film director] Steven Spielberg screened his montage of the Oklahoma of yesteryear to the last second of the Boston Philharmonic’s rendition of Beethoven’s Mass in C Major, Op. 86. It feels as if we are walking in history’s footsteps.”

“And Rhett looked like he was enjoying the complimentary buffalo wings,” she added.

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Hawai’i to lay off 2,000 running backs, open new wide receiver plant in China

HONOLULU – The state of Hawai’i announced plans Wednesday to lay off 2,000 running backs over the next four years as part of a larger push to increase third down efficiency and reduce roster waste. Officials also discussed the state’s new wide receiver plant which is scheduled to open in China’s Zhejiang province in the first quarter of 2010.

Hawai’i receivers were named the 2006 Passing Trend Best Sport Utility Model.

“This is a time of transition, and some tough decisions had to be made,” University of Hawai’i head coach June Jones said of the lay offs. Jones is the acting deputy of the state’s controversial “revitalization” program, designed in large part to boost the Aloha State’s competitive edge in an industry marked by rapid technological and organizational changes over the past several decades.

“The Japanese and the [Texas Tech] Red Raiders have been among the industry leaders for some time now. To move forward in any way we had to acknowledge this reality. Today we move forward. The state of Hawai’i will not rest until we are the undisputed passing game leaders,” said Jones.

Jones stressed that the new direction of the state’s air industry would be seen on all levels, from the conversion of Hawai’i’s high school tailbacks into linebackers, safeties or tight ends, to the mandatory arm amputations of the University of Hawai’i’s current running back squad, to the newly proposed “only fades, posts and post-corners allowed” rule the state plans to push through for the 2007 NFL Pro Bowl, traditionally played at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

“We’re holding nothing back,” Jones declared in front of the media and a gathering of some 350 shareholders.

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Butch Davis diagnosed with “North Carolina head football coach”

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Newly hired Tar Heels coach Butch Davis has been diagnosed with a non-Hodgkin’s form of “North Carolina head football coach”, a rare affliction known primarily for its high distribution in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Davis was undergoing a routine dental examination when his practitioner’s secretary, Meredith Cho, opened a recent issue of Sports Illustrated and detected the presence of a “North Carolina head football coach” after reading an article about Davis, then looking at him and then back at the article.

“It wasn’t a big picture, but it was obvious to the trained eye. It’s hard to miss a ‘North Carolina head football coach’,” Cho said.

“Usually the stench of impending failure alerts you, in case you miss the visual cues,” she added.

Davis, center, examines the results from the initial battery of tests that diagnosed him as a “North Carolina head football coach”.

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