Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Problem With Joe Biden

I really like Fightin’ Joe Biden. He’s a man’s man. – the scrappy kid from Scranton. I’m sure he’s a football fan, a whiskey drinker, and loves the chicken wings at Hooters.

I’d like to shoot a game of pool with him. Or play some paintball, with Fightin’ Joe as my platoon leader.

His rapier wit would come in handy during a Mom joke showdown.

He also has extensive credentials for a VP candidate, and his foreign policy experience will serve him well in an advisory role to the Commander-in-Chief.

I gotta hand it to you Barack. Good choice. The Mill approves.

Not only does Joe seem like a cool, manly guy, but he’s also a great speaker, especially without a script.

And although he can deliver a solid scripted speech, with proper intonation and variable inflections – unlike John McCain, who always sounds like he’s reading us a children’s book - he does tend to stumble over his words now and again. He recovered nicely the other night when he mistakenly called McCain “George” – claiming it as a Freudian slip.

In fact, he seems to slip up about 3 or 4 times during every speech. Most of these are rather harmless. And it may indeed be due to the fact that his brain still moves faster than his mouth – as his mother told him when he stuttered as a child.

But mix Joe Biden’s fiery personality, his Chris Rock wit, and his penchant for verbal miscues and you have a recipe for disaster.

My friends, I ask you this:

When will Joe Biden say “fuck” on national television?

During a rant against the Republicans, or in defense of his own strongly held beliefs, Biden could easily lose control of his mouth for a split second. And that’s all it would take.

Half a millimeter away from saying "fuck."

It’s bound to happen, and probably has happened numerous times on local Delaware cable-access shows.

Can he hold it together and prevent the utterance of the mother of all curses - spilling from his lips like so much saliva? Can he at least wait until after the election to let the f-bomb drop on the American public?

I’m not sure, but for Obama’s sake I certainly hope so. And the Democrats’ dream of the White House rest on this hope - the hope that Joe Biden will not say “fuck” during a speech, or a debate, or a town hall meeting, or a PTA bake sale.

To paraphrase Barack Obama, this is the hope with which we put our children to bed, and promise them a better future as we tuck them in.

This is the hope that keeps alive the vision of all Americans - young and old - that we may seize the opportunity of this pivotal moment in history in order to fulfill those archetypal goals of our Founding Fathers: freedom, liberty, and equality for all.

Don’t fuck it up, Joe Biden.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not Quite Ready For Some Football

The NFL season is upon us. It's official. I’m not joking. It's really here.

It seems like just yesterday that we were celebrating LaDainian Tomlinson’s speed, Tom Brady’s chin dimple, and Michael Strahan’s strength (and child support payments).

Well….they’re back - except for Strahan.

And I feel a bit unprepared.

Fantasy football draft preparation is one thing. You can read up on the latest injury news, analysis of the pre-season position battles, rookie forecasts, and all the rest. That’s the easy part. With just a few 12-hour days of focused study, you can easily get yourself ready for the draft.

But what about the real-world NFL season? It’s a grueling 17 week journey. Sunday in, and Sunday out for 4 straight months. 1pm to 11pm every week.

And don’t dare forget about the Monday night games, and those strange and confusing late-season Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night games on that unavailable cable station. Then they’ll throw in one or two Saturday games just to make sure your entire weekend is booked.

You’ll have to watch them all - not out of necessity, but because any football game is the ultimate excuse to drink beer during the day. It cannot be frowned upon by even the most draconian teetotalers in your social circle.

You will drink your beer, and they will just have to deal with it. End of story.

But NFL season is also the time when men join other men in each other’s apartments to watch sweaty, well-muscled men in tight pants chase each other all over the playing field. And then they grapple. And then they tackle. And then they roll around on the ground for a while.

It's physically and emotionally draining. 17 straight weeks of drinking and watching, watching and drinking. Beer and touchdowns. Beer and interceptions. Beer and cheerleaders. Beer and John Madden.

It's exhausting. I think I need my own preseason preparation. I'm not in game shape just yet. I need to train as hard as possible over the next 8 days to get ready for the season opener next Thursday.

I believe I can do it. I can overcome adversity - just like Bengals receiver Chris Henry has overcome being kicked off the team, several trips to jail, multiple league suspensions, and the urge to bring his gun to the stadium each and every game day, only to be asked back by the team to play again this season.

Go Bengals!! That's what I call integrity.

Anyway, bottom line:

The NFL season is a time to drink beer during the day and watch men pummel each other into oblivion on every single play. It's the best time of year. Get yourself ready.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lake Placid Recap

Jaimi and I returned from our Lake Placid, NY mini-vacation on Sunday evening.

I had never been to the LP before. Here are a few things I learned while on the trip – about Lake Placid, and about life in general:

- “Lake Placid,” the 1999 Bill Pullman/Bridget Fonda blockbuster about some kind of monstrous alligator, was set in Lake Placid, FL, not Lake Placid, NY. This was incredibly disappointing for me. I never saw the movie, and it supposedly really, really, really sucked. But still, I had hoped to wrangle me one of them huge-ass alligators and have it stuffed by the local taxidermist.

- Lake Placid has some of the slowest drivers on the planet. They’re not bad drivers, necessarily. They’re just very, very, very slow. Like 20 mph in a 35 slow. It made my blood boil - literally. Which gave me a headache, and left me badly dehydrated.

- Lake Placid has very good beer. There are two decent brewpubs there – Lake Placid Brewpub and The Great Adirondack Brewing Co. Good beer. Below average food. Stick with the liquid diet if your constitution can handle it. Great smoked porter at the Great Adirondack place. Excellent English red ale called “Ubu Ale” at Lake Placid Brewpub.

Enjoying a miniature glass of some very light-looking beer. The thin mountain air left me drunk after 3 or 4 sips.

- Hiking is hard. I was out of breath after a few minutes of traversing a “moderate” difficulty trail. The path looked like the boulder-strewn mountains of Mordor. Except with more boulders and less fire. There was nothing moderate about it. I can only imagine what an “advanced” or “difficult” trail would be like. I picture a lot of quicksand, and many sheer cliffs. Also, some angry natives.

I find our precise location by triangulating the angle of incidence of sunlight, current time in China, and pointing in a random direction. In the end, we just followed the path.

Pretty sure we weren't supposed to eat these. Oh well. The convulsions stopped after a day or two. Or three.

A serene mountain lake. What evil lurks beneath?

- Driving is better than hiking. We drove to the top of Whiteface Mountain - and no, there is no Black face Mountain, you racist jerk. At nearly 5,000 feet, the view from the top was spectacular. It was SO much easier than climbing to the summit on foot. Hell, it was easier than running a 12-minute mile downhill with a tailwind.

Whiteface on Whiteface.

Lake Placid in the distance. I tried, but could not skip a stone from here.

- Battlestar Galactica, Season 3 totally rocks. During our downtime, we watched a few episodes (8 to be exact) of Battlestar on DVD. The action doesn’t quit during the 3rd season, and neither does my enthusiasm for this show.

- Work is good, but vacation is better. Also, as a corollary, time off from work is good, but 3 days of vacation (and 2 days of driving) is not nearly enough. We really only had 3 full days up in the LP. It wasn’t enough. I guess we’ll have to go back soon!

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Mr. Rogers Breakdancing

Check out this terrifying/uncomfortable/homo-erotic/incredibly awkward/slightly heartwarming video of Mr. Rogers learning how to breakdance. And just so you're not too disappointed, we only get to see him do the moonwalk, and that thing where you move your arms and body in a wave-like motion.

He sucks at both.

Personally, I don't remember this episode, although it looks like it would have been from around the time I was watching the show. When was breakdancing invented? 1981?

Is it possible that this episode aired when I was too old to watch Mr. Rogers?

Man, I'm getting old.

In any case, it's super-creepy, and the racial undercurrents practically explode from the screen.

Thanks to David for bringing this great video to my attention.

Mr Rogers Breakdancing - Watch more free videos

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olympics Overdose

I've been all about the Olympics over the past week or so. Even after the end of Michael Phelps's record-breaking medal haul, I'm still able to fall for the latest Olympic darling.

Usain Bolt, Shawn Johnson, Phil Dalhausser, and that 60 pound Chinese platform diver.

They're all exciting to watch, even if none of them have a chance to win 8 gold medals.

And Phelps has got nothing on the bendo-matic, flexo-rific rhythmic gymnastics stars.

Point is, there's plenty left to watch. And NBC and their advertisers are still counting on your viewership.

In fact, I just love the Olympics so goddamn much, that I had to journey to the closest former home of the Games - summer or winter.

That's right. Jaimi and I are in Lake Placid, NY right now, for an itty-bitty mini vacation. For about 35 bucks in gas, and another 5 or so in snacks, we made it up here from Brooklyn in about 5 hours - minus a pit stop at the Cracker Barrel in Fishkill, NY.

The truth is, my sister-in-law's family owns a condo up here, and we get to stay for free. The ultimate economy vacation for these tough economic times. We're saving so much money on lodging though, that we've been bathing in Perrier, and burning barrels upon barrels of diesel fuel because it burns better than paper money.

But back to the Olympics. Oh the drama.

Both men's and women's U.S. 4X100m relay teams dropped the baton tonight. We waved goodbye to elderly platform diver Laura Wilkinson. Jeremy Wariner had his ass handed to him on a Pupu platter in the 400 meters, by fellow American LaShawn Merritt.

You probably already know all of this - what with the automatic email and iPhone updates, constant TV coverage, and water cooler talk. You don't need this blog for your latest Olympics news.

But if you are here for an Olympic update I'm happy to oblige. Let's just say that if internet searching were an Olympic event (probably by 2016), you wouldn't even qualify for a try-out, no matter which country you hail from.

Try NBC Sports, or ESPN. I hear they're pretty popular sports sites.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Raising Your Own Millk and Meat

We will milk you for a while, and then eat you.

Have you always dreamed of raising mythical mini-cows in your own backyard, or living room, for fresh meat and milk?

Of course you have.

Well, it doesn’t have to be dream. And these animals are real.

I had never heard of the Dexter breed of cattle, until Jaimi sent me this article.

I’m not entirely sure why she sent me the link – we have a one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. But the living room may be just large enough so that we could cordon off an area and raise tiny cows – somewhere near the A/C unit so the cows would be comfortable year-round.

The last thing I need is PETA protesting outside my window.

As the article explains, with skyrocketing food prices, the always frugal and industrious Brits are turning to home-farming. All you need is an extra acre or two of grass in your backyard. Or at least a decent-sized patch of blacktop. Just remember that although these Dexter cattle are relatively small, they still consume about 12 pounds of hay or grass a day, and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds when fully grown.

Excuse me sir, do you realize that you're milking the dog?

They also produce 2 gallons of milk per day - and when you get bored of the little cow, you can slaughter it for hamburgers.

It’s a win-win: You win when the cow’s alive, and you win when the cow is dead.

You'll also win if you enter your Dexter in a "Hilariously Small Cow Competition" at your local state fair.

Not to mention, the small size and friendly temperament of this breed makes them a cinch to care for. Your child can do the milking, and your bichon frise can finally be the cattle herding work dog that it’s always wanted to be.

Watch me scare the shit out of these tiny-ass cows.

So hop onto eBay, or surf Craigslist for a good deal on tiny cows.

That lifelong dream is closer than you think.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michael Phelps for VP

I'm looking for a little leeway from the Constitution on this one.

Heretofore, the minimum age for VP was 35. Let's change it to.....I don't know....maybe 23? That way, we could have the greatest Olympic athlete of all time as the next Vice-President.

I sure as hell don't want to wait another 12 years before Phelps will technically be of age. So let's petition our congresspeople to do something about this serious obstacle to freedom and democracy.


The Vice Presidency would basically be the only silver medal he's ever received. So although he'll have to humble himself in order to accept this role. he should be able to handle the pressure. He won 2 bronze medals at the 2004 Athens games - but that's the equivalent of being Secretary of State, or some lame position like that. And we know he has little interest in foreign policy or diplomacy.

Phelps was born to straight-up kick some serious ass.

This young aquatic gentleman has proven he's unbeatable in 2008. Adding his name to the ticket would guarantee victory for Obama or McCain - whomever gets to him first.

I don't know if he's pro-life or pro-choice; pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian; pro-environment or pro-global warming; pro-war on terror or pro-al Qaeda.

And I don't really care.

All I know is that he's AWESOME at swimming, and seems like a pretty cool guy. So let's make sure he's only a heartbeat away from being Commander-in-Chief.

After all, couldn't be much worse than Bush.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to Choose a Running Mate

The Vice Presidential choices. We’re all waiting with bated breath.

Will Obama choose Fast Eddie Rendell, or Fightin’ Joe Biden?

Will McCain choose Mike “Jesus” Huckabee, or Charlie “Jesus” Crist?

As far as I’m concerned, the answer should clearly be none of the above. The answer also shouldn’t be Evan Bayh, Lindsey Graham, Tim Kaine, Bobby Jindal, Jack Reed, Tim Pawlenty, or any of the other so-called “top picks.”

No, I’m afraid all of these would be rather poor choices.

According to the conventional wisdom, a VP candidate should offer some sort of contrast – a young guy in McCain’s case, or a white guy in Obama’s case. Or a woman in either case.

The VP candidate should possess certain strengths, of which the Presidential candidate may be lacking. For Obama, that might mean someone with a great deal of political experience, or deep and broad foreign policy knowledge. For McCain, that could mean someone who is less old and less mean, or someone who knows how to balance a checkbook.

And finally, a VP candidate should appeal to an important portion of the electorate that might otherwise vote for the other candidate.

Well, forget all of that.

It’s, like, 90% bullshit.

So what’s REALLY important in choosing the right running mate?

Well, if you let your brain take over and drive for a minute, you’d realize that only a few factors really matter in politics – and in life.

1) Physical beauty
2) Attractiveness
3) Looks

My obvious point, of course, is that the hottest ticket always wins.

Nobody wants an ugly President. And everybody knows who’s next in line if something happens to the Commander-in-Chief. Thus, we also need a beautiful VP.

The whole thing about offering a contrast, and complimenting strengths, and offsetting weaknesses -well, those are still worthy of consideration. But they're somewhere down the list – right after all the hot, beautiful, and attractive characteristics have been considered.

With this in mind, it’s not too hard to come up with the best VP choices for each party – those that might actually win the election for their respective ticket.

For John McCain:

Tyson Beckford – He still offers a great contrast to the old, white McCain. Super-handsome, multi-talented, Pro-Life, supported the war in Iraq from the get go. He's a real Republican Yes Man.

I will not raise taxes.

Tyra Banks - Super-hot, successful, world traveler, top swimsuit model, talkshow host, ex-Navy SEAL, former Assistant Attorney General in the Nixon administration. She is also known for her strictly literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. A true Neo-Con. What, you couldn't tell all of that from watching her talk show?

We will remain in Iraq until the job is done.

Mitt Romney - A well-spoken, handsome man. In fact, if you google the term "handsome man" Romney's name will be one of the top ten results. He's also a very successful businessman, and he doesn't hate the gays. One of the top picks for those in the know. But a little too Mormon for the rest of the electorate.

I hate John McCain, but would not hate being Vice President.

David Beckham - The sexiest man alive, by most accounts. Supposedly not very smart, but very malleable. Short temper, and would be very willing to bomb Iran or Russia, or whatever. Unfortunately, not currently a U.S. citizen, but maybe Bush could pass some kind of amendment or law or something that could make him eligible. Also, very rich.

For Barack Obama:

Angelina Jolie – The contrast is obvious. But she also has a great deal of foreign policy experience - sort of. She’s adopted kids from a total of 10 different countries, including 3 out of 4 Axis of Evil nations. Also, she can rely on knowledge gleaned from her role in the “Tomb Raider” films. If there are nukes in Iran, she’ll find them.

If elected, I promise to wear this exact outfit to the inauguration.

Paris Hilton – Her energy policy is hot.

Beyonce Knowles - Very hot, very liberal. Was against the war in Iraq war since before she was born. However, it's not clear whether or not the country is ready for this jelly.

I'm crazy in love with America.

John Edwards - Very handsome - perhaps too much for his own good. Many female admirers, many of whom like to have babies with him. Makes for difficult and uncomfortable press conferences. Will foreign female leaders fall in love with him too easily?

Oprah Winfrey - One of Obama's top supporters; one of the richest women in the world; commander of a massive army of groupies and book club members. I actually think, with Oprah on the ticket, Obama is a lock.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

80's Toys Revisited - Volume 2 - M.U.S.C.L.E. Men

Another crazy-ass toy. Remember these?

What could be better than pink plastic choking hazards, shaped like little half-naked alien wrestlers?

Well, in 1985 Mattel thought that nothing could be better than this. And so they launched the M.U.S.C.L.E. line of collectible toys.

Also simply known as “Muscle Men,” the name is actually an acronym - Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere.

Again, Mattel’s idea. Not mine. I couldn’t make this stuff up.

The Muscle Men were basically ripped off of a Japanese toy line known as Kinkeshi (thanks Wikipedia!!) which was in turn ripped off a Japanese cartoon known as Kinnikuman.

I remember these toys rather well.

They were sold in 4-count blister packs, 10-count plastic garbage pails, or 28-count briefcases. Or some shit like that.

Choking hazards packed inside suffocation hazards.

You could also buy a little wrestling ring – in which to hold some sort of homo-erotic, half-naked, pink, muscly, alien battle royale.

The Muscle wrestling ring: hours of mind-numbing, slightly gay fun.

The figures themselves were an entirely bizarre amalgamation of animals, buildings, vegetables, robots, and planets.

Not kidding. One character was composed of little planets. Another one had a tea cup for a head. There was one guy made of rocks, and one that was an aerosol can with legs. I remember thinking, back in fourth grade, that many of the uglier characters strongly resembled my worst teachers….and looked a lot like your Mom.

Despite the deviant undertones of these toys, M.U.S.C.L.E. Men caught fire soon after their introduction, and remained popular for several years. Strange but true. And I was swept up in the frenzy along with everyone else.

Part of the fun was collecting the different characters, and discovering one that you’d never seen before. There were well over 200 different designs, and some were scarcer than others. You considered yourself lucky if you found the really rare, anatomically-correct ones. Those were very controversial.

We traded them like baseball cards, which only added to the fun.

Help me out here. If you remember the M.U.S.C.L.E. men, tell me why you think they became so popular.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hu Jintao's Juvenile Jymnasts

With the astonishingly intricate opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics behind us – and nothing else nearly as interesting to show on TV – recent Olympic coverage has focused on allegations of cheating and chicanery.

Is the French cyclist blood doping?

Is the Argentine rowing team on ‘roids?

Did the Greek archer just snort some Ritalin?

And of course, is the Chinese Women’s Gymnastics Team actually of legal age?

Read about it here. Or here. It’s all over the news. The controversy erupted as soon as the team members were announced a few weeks ago. It seems that a few of the girls might be younger than 16 – the minimum age to compete - and even as young as 14. Of course, the Chinese government was able to quickly produce passports that clearly and unambiguously demonstrate their age to be 16.

The passports might as well say they’re 45. And Norwegian.

But now that we’ve all had a chance to see these girls run, jump, flip, and play with dolls, we’re free to make up our own minds.

Um, yeah. She looks 16. And I just saw Elvis riding a unicorn.

I’m not sure why there was all this hubbub as to whether Linlin Deng and He Kexin were either 14 or 16 years old. They’re clearly of neither age. It seems like everyone’s missing the point entirely.

These girls are 3, maybe 4 years old.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re amazing athletes, and superior gymnasts. Their rubbery bones, small stature, and still-appreciable fontanels add up to an extremely lightweight package – easily flung about on the uneven bars or the floor routine.

I can see how this makes for an unfair advantage. How can even our smallest gymnast – Shawn Johnson, at 4 feet 9 inches, and 90 pounds – compete with 4 year old Chinese gymnasts who are maybe half her size?

"16" year old Jiang Yuyuan. She's about 3 feet tall and can easily ride a Shetland pony.

It’s ridiculous. And although more years on Earth mean more years to train for the Olympics, the tiny size of the Chinese gymnasts far outweighs any benefit gained from training for 11 or 12 more years - when they’ll actually be 16, and able to legally compete in the 2020 Fairbanks, Alaska Olympics.

As Bela Karolyi shouted to reporters yesterday, “You can’t teach smallness!!”

And he’s right. You can’t.

But you can teach a 4 year old to do some amazing vaults and somersaults.

2008 Chinese Men's Gymnastics Team

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Cheese Glorious Cheese

Jaimi and I spent the evening at Murray’s Cheese Shop on Friday for a Cheese 101 class. For 50 bones, you get a big plate of 6 very nice cheeses and all the wine you can drink.

And then there were 5 - One cheese is mysteriously missing before class even begins. I'll give you a hint: It's in me.

So it’s basically a Happy Hour with open wine bar, and some cheese. And a cheesemonger instructor – not normally found at your average New York happy hour, in case you didn't know.

I’ve always been a big, huge, fat fan of cheese. It’s one of the best foods out there. I like it soft, semi-soft, fresh, aged, hard, semi-hard, moldy, canned, and from a jar.

In fact, I don’t trust people who don’t enjoy a nice piece of cheese – much like I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs.

I guess if you’re lactose intolerant, you have a good excuse for not eating cheese. This is one of the only forms of intolerance that I can tolerate, and the ONLY legitimate excuse for not eating your cheese.

So what did we learn in cheese school?

Not really all that much, to tell the truth. But we got to sample several great cheeses that we wouldn’t normally have tried.

I already knew that cheese probably originated when some ancient human, transporting milk in an old animal stomach, found that the milk had partly curdled due to the rennet residue left in the dried stomach. It tasted pretty good, and our ancestors eventually figured out how to control the process.

I also already knew that unpasteurized cheeses need to be aged at least 60 days in order to be sold in the U.S. (most store-bought cheese is made from pasteurized milk), and that the blue part of bleu cheese comes from magic pixie dust injected into the cheese by tiny invisible elves.

What more could we possibly be taught about cheese?

For one thing, cheese should always be warmed to room temperature before serving, in order to get the best flavor.

And fresh goat milk cheeses are only really available during the summer and fall, due to the animal’s natural reproductive cycle. Did you know that?

Also, goat milk picks up flavors from the animals surroundings more than other kinds of milk. For example, if a goat spends time in a lavender field, and its udders brush against the lavender, the milk will taste a bit like lavender.

Hard for me to believe, but I guess it could be true. And if that is indeed the case, why not raise goats in fields strewn with piles of freshly cooked bacon, or piles of rich chocolate.

Last but not least, Murray’s Cheese Shop does not, and will not, carry any cheeses made from dog, kangaroo, or squirrel milk.

I asked.

Ate all my cheese, like a good boy should.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Shout Out to the Sausage Party!!!

I just wanted to give a quick “Thanks for all the sausage!” to Jeff and Sheryl. They are the geniuses behind the Big Brooklyn Sausage Party, which Jaimi and I attended last night.

There were a few ladies there, but more than enough sausage to satisfy all the men. We had spicy chicken, savory lamb, fennel pork, and several others. There was also a delicious pasta salad – with crumbled Italian sausage, and a tasty paella-style rice dish with saffron, onions, and a smoky chorizo.

Now, this may not be the only sausage party to have taken place in Brooklyn, but I’d like to think it was the best. I hope that several years from now, we can refer to yesterday’s party as “The Beginning.”

What you’ll need to throw your own Sausage Party:

- Lots of dudes
- Pirate costumes
- Beer
- More beer
- Bon Jovi and/or Def Leppard CD’s
- Aggressively chauvinistic attitudes
- Various emails from girls who say they “might stop by later” because their “apartment is a mess” or their “bestest friend from college is throwing a cocktail party at this cool new lounge in SoHo.”

Wait, wrong kind of sausage party.

Here’s what you’ll really need for the better kind of Sausage Party:

- Sausages (lamb, pork, chicken, and veggie)
- Variety of tasty microbrewed beers
- Cheese plate
- Friends like Sheryl and Jeff
- Pre-printed labels for each kind of sausage – this is critical as sausage is one of the few foods that can be made from absolutely any kind of animal, and you don’t want your guests to have to guess what they’re eating. Although that could be a fun game as well.

That's all there is to it. Please let me know if you need any help planning your own Sausage Party. I now officially consult on the subject of Sausage Party Policy and Implementation.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Beijing Olympics. Is the Visibility at Least the Length of a Ping Pong Table?

Canoeing. Table Tennis. Beach Volleyball. Handball. Synchronized Swimming.

You might think this is simply a list of the most exciting and competitive professional sports in the world.

You’d be wrong. It’s actually a list of the top Olympic sports – as judged by me. And I didn’t even include other fan favorites like Track ‘n Field, Swimming, or Log Rolling.

That’s why the Summer Olympics are all the rage right about now. There’s something for everyone. And with the Women’s Shooting 10-meter Air Rifle finals tomorrow, this international athletic extravaganza really starts out with a bang.

Sorry. That was a stupid pun – but unavoidable, I’m afraid. After all, the Olympics – whether summer or winter – is always a time of media super-saturation, inevitably loaded with bad puns and forced overly-nationalistic enthusiasm.

And this time around, we’ll have a new media obsession to deal with – Beijing’s infamous air pollution.

A clear summer day on a lovely and quaint Beijing back road.

It sounds real nasty, for sure. And I can’t imagine competing in the 10-kilometer Race Walk, or the Men’s Fencing – Individual Epee events in that particulate-permeated pea soup they call “the atmosphere” over in Beijing.

To me, the Earth’s atmosphere is mostly transparent. But that’s just what I’m used to in the West.

Just because we can see the buildings on either side of the street, doesn’t mean the air in New York is better or more healthful than in Beijing.

For example, the air in Beijing, due to its substantial thickness and mass, actually provides a good amount of calories and nutrition to those who breathe it. Go ahead and take a big gulp of Beijing air. You’ll immediately feel full and satisfied.

Mmmmm. Looks like lunch.

Now try the same thing in New York. The most significant sensation you’ll feel is a headache.

So even though many competitors are concerned about their health – and their performance - during these Olympic Games, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see the strength and speed athletes perform better than ever before.

As an ancient Chinese proverb posits, “Breathe the exhaust of a thousand coal-fired power plants. Inhale the fumes of 10,000 petroleum refineries. Consume the emissions of 5 million diesel engines. You will have the power to move mountains, and to run six consecutive sub-4 minute miles.”

On a particularly smoggy day, this athlete would barely be able to see the ball in her hand - thus leading to numerous double faults and unforced errors.

The point is, don’t knock it until you try it, Olympic athletes. You may do better than you think.

Now go bring home the gold for us couch potatoes, while we comfortably watch our televisions and breathe our mostly odorless, tasteless, colorless air back in the USA.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

80's Toys Revisited - Volume 1 - Manglord and Manglor Mountain

Anyone else remember this crazy shit?

In 1983, the Ideal Toy Company revolutionized the slime-based toy playset with the introduction of Manglord and Manglor Mountain – “Made of the Strangest Stuff on Earth.”

You can say that again.

At the same time, the company traumatized a generation of youngsters by producing a toy figure whose arms, legs, and head could be torn from its body and reattached anywhere a child could imagine.

That’s right. Manglord was the first – and last – toy whose head could be attached to his crotch. Or whose leg could be attached to his ass.


Not only that, but this ultra-realistic action figure was sold with a plastic sarcophagus/holding cell filled with translucent and (presumably) non-toxic, non-teratogenic slime.

The slime kept Manglord young, or some shit like that.

Ignoring the mythology of Manglord’s origin, it was a pretty fucked up toy. My brother got it for Hanukkah one year, and we tore it limb from limb like it was going out of style.

As it turned out, it was already out of style by the time the box was opened. The toy was only on store shelves for a short time, and was generally considered a failure. Nowadays, you can only find it on sale through eBay. And apparently, only from Italy.

Still, Manglord and his Manglor mountain will haunt me until the day I die. I don’t even know if he was a hero or a villain. And I’m not even entirely sure whether Manglord was male – the figure was NOT anatomically correct, unfortunately.

If I had to guess, I’d say Manglord was born from the sulfurous lava of Mordor, or the raging fires of Hades.

I’m probably way off. I think the packaging says “Made in Thailand.”

Who needs absinthe or LSD, when you could probably smoke whatever the hell it is that Manglord's made from?

And yet many other questions remain:

First off, why create a toy like this?

What psychoses were present in the diseased mind of the toy’s original designer? Did he die of insanity? Did he receive a handsome bonus for creating this freakish plaything?

And perhaps most importantly, why did my parents buy it for my brother?

I’m still having nightmares 25 years later.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Traveling From Brooklyn to China - 20 Minutes in my Mazda

I get most of my news and information from The New York Times, and as a result, I view the world through a liberally-tinted lens.

Ain't nothing wrong with that. And besides, along with news and opinion, I also discover great places to eat and drink in and around the city of New York – places that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

For example, this past week’s NYTimes article about authentic Chinese food in Flushing, Queens piqued my curiosity. So, Jaimi and I decided to venture forth from the generally non-Asian confines of DUMBO, Brooklyn for a taste of China.

Queens Chinatown is the real deal. If you knew zero English, and only how to speak Chinese, you’d get around perfectly fine. Also, if you’re a vegetarian (as Jaimi is) and you want to make sure you’re not getting any pork in that so-called "shrimp-vegetable taste" dumpling, you need some help.

So I enlisted the assistance of two fine, young, ethnically Chinese gentlemen from work – Dennis and Jimmy.

Dennis, as he put it, is about as Chinese as I am. But he still knows his way around the neighborhood rather well.

Dennis enjoys good food, Coca-Cola, and risking his life by wearing a Red Sox hat in New York.

Jimmy, on the other hand, is a flowing fountain of Chinese culinary, cultural, historical, and political knowledge. Not only that, but he grew up in Flushing. He’ll point you to the best place for bubble tea, or the best meat on a stick.

He could probably be the mayor of Chinatown if he had any interest in local politics.

Anyway, our first stop was the Flushing Mall. Not much of a shopping destination by any account – a Verizon stand, a wedding photo studio, and a plant shop seem to be the anchor stores. But the basement level food court is where we planned to spend our hard-earned Washingtons - and maybe a few Lincolns.

The food court consists of 8 or 10 vendors of varying menu sizes. Some specialize in just a few items, whereas others serve everything from soup, to dumplings, to steak, to chicken hearts on a stick.

Jimmy led us on a quick walkthrough, and as we gazed at the menus and open kitchens, he added historical context and sociopolitical commentary wherever appropriate.

It was as informative as a course at the University of Phoenix Online. And as you’ll soon see, even more delicious.

We decided to start with some traditional Taiwanese cuisine from the Ay-Chung stand. Ordering things that Jaimi could share with me (no land or air meat, but seafood is okay) we got a bowl of squid thick noodle soup, and a shrimp pancake.

First the soup. I found the menu’s designer to be disingenuous at worst, and ambiguous at best. The broth was indeed thick, but the noodles were not – they were the thin cellophane kind.

Squid thick noodle soup. Thick soup, yes. Noodles? Skinny as Kate Moss.

Still, the soup was steaming hot, savory, and filling. For $5.50 you get a giant-ass bowl of soup – enough for two people to share.

The shrimp pancake was even better – and its description wasn’t misleading at all. Loads of shrimp mixed with eggs and bok choy, formed into a pancake shape. This was topped with sauce, and a chewy, glutenous rice dough of some sort.

Forkful of savory shrimp pancake. Very tasty. Too slippery to use chopsticks - at least for this amateur.

Very tasty. Fo shizzle.

Jimmy had a pork dry noodle dish, that he described as "Chinese pork Sloppy Joe over fettucine."

Jimmy, master of all that is Chinese, enjoys his Sloppy Chinese Joe Noodles.

Indeed, it was tasty and a little sloppy.

Dennis ordered a hearty-looking pork chop platter. This guy can eat like a cowboy, and let's leave it at that.

A steaming plate of pork chop, noodles, and veggies.

Our next stop was the second level of the mall, to a little, out of the way Shandong dumpling shop. The crowd gathered around a counter, behind which stood four little ladies busily assembling dumplings by hand, and dropping them into pots of boiling water. Their kitchen looked like your grandmother's house - out of date all-white appliances and all - except with 4 industrial-sized sinks off to one side.

We ordered a plate of pork/shrimp/chive dumplings with a side of kimchi.

Dumpling glamour shot.

The flavor was fresh and savory. The dumplings were juicy and satisfying. The dipping sauce was like crack - I couldn't get enough, and it was only 50 cents for another serving.

I couldn't get enough of that sauce. They had to restrain me from eating the chopsticks.

Our after-lunch activities included bubble tea from the Ten Ren tea shop and meat on a stick from an old street vendor - honey green tea flavor, with fun, chewy, slightly sweet tapioca balls, and spicy beef, respectively. Although I probably would try spicy beef bubble tea if they offered it.

Thanks again to Dennis and Jimmy for steering us in all the right directions. We'll definitely be headed back to Flushing - maybe even on our own next time.

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