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the mindset list

Tomorrow morning, I have orientation for my fall course, which begins the school year for me. Meanwhile, every year, Beloit College releases its "Mindset List," detailing … well, I'll let them describe it. "Our effort is to identify a worldview of 18 year-olds in the fall of 2007…. The list identifies the experiences and event horizons of students as they commence higher education." Click on the link above to get the whole list … here are some that caught my eye.

Most of the students entering College this fall, members of the Class of 2011, were born in 1989. For them, Alvin Ailey, Andrei Sakharov, Huey Newton, Emperor Hirohito, Ted Bundy, Abbie Hoffman, and Don the Beachcomber have always been dead.

They never "rolled down" a car window.

Wal-Mart has always been a larger retailer than Sears and has always employed more workers than GM.

They were introduced to Jack Nicholson as "The Joker."

They learned about JFK from Oliver Stone and Malcolm X from Spike Lee.

They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.

The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born.


rescue these mad men

Both Rescue Me and Mad Men are television series about men. One of them is an irritatingly erratic show with moments of greatness that don't quite balance out the crap; the other is a new show that, seven episodes in, has already established itself as the best of the summer shows, at least the ones I've been watching.

I am far from the only person to note that Rescue Me is at its best when it is simply showing guys being guys together. The writing in those scenes is insightful and often hilarious. The show would make a great 30-minute no-laugh-track sitcom. But Rescue Me hasn't got the slightest idea what to do with its female characters. Well, that's not true … the women on the show are supposed to throw themselves all over Denis Leary. This is particularly noteworthy this season with the introduction of a character played by Gina Gershon who wants to do nothing other than fuck Leary. Yes, there's a "point" being made about the role reversal whereby the guy gets treated in fuck-em-and-shuck-em fashion by the gal. But in the context of the show, Gershon just joins a long line of other babes (and there's no denying Gershon's a babe) who find Denis Leary amazingly attractive. (And never forget the smirk on Leary's face after he finished raping his wife and she liked it … this season, they even addressed the outcry over that scene by having Leary use his hands to put scare quotes over the word "rape" when the incident was being discussed.)

The attitudes towards gender relations in Mad Men is seriously retro, in line with the series as a whole, which takes place in 1960. Men assume the world is their oyster (given the most recent episode, that phrase takes on new meaning), women acquiesce on the surface … it sure seems like a great time to be a Guy-with-a-capital-G. What separates Mad Men from Rescue Me is the attention that it pays to the women. We see the consequences of the social norms of the times on the women, and they aren't pretty. It might not seem like much, but Mad Men will often feature scenes that have nothing but women in them … I can barely think of such a scene in Rescue Me, because the women in that show are totally defined by their relationship to men, despite the fact that some of those women characters are purportedly strong 21st-century types in a world that understands feminism. Rescue Me is a desperate attempt by men to carve out the place for themselves that they think they lost back in the day. Mad Men takes place back in the day, we see that time for which the men of Rescue Me are so nostalgic … and it's not a good place for men or women to be. The women are stifled, but at least they're starting to figure out the problem … the men, at least the ones with vision, can see the world changing before their eyes, and they don't like the changes, but the more introspective amongst them can also see that the world of 1960 isn't all it's cracked up to be for men, either.

The world of Rescue Me is one where men strive for the past. No matter how often Tommy Gavin acts out the role of the prick, he is the hero (no scare quotes necessary), and the women just get in his way. Mad Men, in showing us that past, offers a critique of the gender relations of the time by showing how destructive they ultimately are to both men and women. It's a deeper series than Rescue Me, not to mention a better one.


friday random ten, 1990 edition

No video at the top this week ... the one that belongs here can't be embedded (see #6 below).

1. Geto Boys, "Fuck 'Em." Imagine the worst-possible gangsta rap group of your nightmares. The Geto Boys would fuck that group up. They're everything that is said to be wrong with gangsta … misogynist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, violent, lacking any redeeming value whatsoever. (Well, actually, some of their songs DO have "socially redeeming value," but we'll skip that for now, because shuffle play didn't give us one of those.) "Fuck 'Em" samples Scarface (hey, it was original back in 1990), does a fine dj-scratch on the title phrase, and lays out a series of antagonistic screeds that probably scares people who thought the Ramones were really hoodlums. I first heard this song driving down the highway with my friend Tom … we'd asked Neal, who was also with us, to bring some good tunes we might like, and "Fuck 'Em" was the best of them all … we couldn't quit laughing. Your mileage may most certainly vary. As the lyrics to this song go, "Fuck the motherfuckin' critics, fuck newspapers, fuck the radio stations, and fuck your parents against rap. We buried ya fuckin cockroaches." (As a teacher, I feel obliged to quote these lyrics as well: "You call yourself teacher, but what's bein' taught? How to fuck kids and not get caught? How can your teacher reach ya? They're too busy in the hall tryin' to fuck the other teacher.")

2. Katy Moffatt, "Child Bride." Shuffle play gets a bad grade for this one. I could try all night and never come up with a reasonable explanation for the segue between Geto Boys and Katy Moffat. She was born in Texas?

3. Koko Taylor, "Tired of That." In the late 80s, Taylor, who had been a mainstay on the blues circuits for a few decades, was involved in a serious car crash that almost killed her. Around the same time, her husband of some 35 years died. In 1990, she reappeared with this album, titled Jump for Joy. Thing is, she seemed pretty old when she was in that crash, but she was only a year or so older than I am now. I guess I'm pretty old, too. Now in her 70s, and she's still got it, as the video link shows.

4. Snap!, "The Power." Probably the first song on this list that most people who read this have heard before. A lot catchier than "Fuck 'Em," I suppose. This is one of those tracks that demonstrate the astounding reach of hip-hop across the globe. Snap! was the product of a couple of German producers (the next time you hear this song, remember that the masterminds behind it are named Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti). For "The Power" they sampled Chill Rob G (without permission, of course) while adding an obscure rapper named Turbo B. and Turbo's cousin Jackie Harris on vocals. Oh, that isn't Harris belting out "I'VE GOT THE POWER!" For that, the producers sampled another singer entirely, Jocelyn Brown of Kingston, North Carolina. Sounds like a mess, but in fact "The Power" was one of the most mesmerizing/ubiquitous/irritating songs of 1990.

5. Madonna, "Vogue." New decade, same person atop the charts. This one was released first as a single … it ended up on an album of songs related to the movie Dick Tracy. When it hit #1 in the U.K., the song it knocked off the top slot was … "The Power." The Yet Another Famous Video From Madonna is especially recommended to fans of her breasts.

6. Sinéad O'Connor, "Nothing Compares 2 U." Due respect to everything else on this list, but here is the song of the year. And due respect to Madonna, Queen of the Videos, but the video for this song was the Best Video of that year's MTV Video Music Awards. Like the recording, it makes the most of its minimalist approach. There is little that I hate more than cheap emotional appeals … there is nothing cheap about that video.

7. LL Cool J, "Mama Said Knock You Out." Shuffle play is really doing a bad job of creating a flow. "Don't call it a comeback, I've been here for years."

8. Mojo Nixon, "Don Henley Must Die." You'll know whether or not Mojo is your cup of tea just by looking at the song titles from this album: "Destroy All Lawyers," "Perry Mason of Love," and "Put a Sex Mo-Sheen in the White House." Or maybe you just need to hear a few lyrics from this song:

He's a tortured artist
Used to be in the Eagles
Now he whines like a wounded beagle

Poet of despair
Puffed up with hot air
He's serious, pretentious and I just don't care

Don Henley must die
Don't let him get back together
With Glenn Frey

9. World Party, "Sweet Soul Dream." Karl Wallinger, who is World Party, has had a long and varied career in music, but the apex was probably this album, which included #1 hits and was named album of the year by Q magazine. Yet to me, he's a one-hit wonder, not because I think his music is bad, but because "Sweet Soul Dream" is so much my favorite of his songs that it's the only one I ever play. I seem to be the only person who feels this way, which is why the video link is to the hit … I can't find one of my fave.

10. Garth Brooks, "Friends in Low Places." I sleep with the radio on. That's not exactly true … the radio is on, but I have an earphone, a "pillow phone" actually, so the music doesn't bother my wife. One night I fell asleep listening to a ballgame, and I guess the station that carried the game was a country station the rest of the time, because when I awoke in the middle of the night, I heard the chorus to this song. I was so clueless at the time that I was the one person on the planet who had not, up until that time, actually heard "Friends in Low Places." I awoke just as the crowd begins singing along, and in my stupor, it was one of the most touching things I'd ever heard … I wanted to cry into my pillow, thinking of this poor soul who didn't have his woman but had all of those loud friends from those low places. To this day, when I hear the song, I can only ignore it for so long … when the crowd starts singing along, I always join them. I can't help myself.


last post, i promise

Finally, here are the video highlights of the SuperLiga match, whittled down to five minutes for you non-fans. You can see the awful own-goal ... the odd "Death Sentence" logo ... the Beckham injury ... the amazing bicycle kick (it comes about 2:20 into the video ... "I don't even know if I could do one of those on my bed" was Klein's post-match desciption of his goal) ... Donovan's missed penalty ... all in five minutes. You even get to see Beckham's fancy suit, and hear Pablo Ramirez yell "GOL! GOL! GOL! GOL! GOL!

For the highlights, click here.


superliga post-mortem

I write my soccer posts for the non-fan … at least, I assume most people reading this blog have other interests. And so I should note a few things about last night's SuperLiga championship match that didn't make my earlier post. Some of this comes from Grant Wahl's column at SI.com.

  • David Beckham has done a lot in his life. Just on the soccer field, he's been involved in world-class matches while playing for Manchester United, Real Madrid, and the English national team. It is not disparaging MLS to note that the LA Galaxy aren't quite Man U or Real, and it's fair to say that whatever the quality of MLS, Becks has had a rough ride, physically at least, in his first term with the Gals. But one thing about Beckham, he cares. Maybe he was just thinking about how last night's injury affected his chances of playing World Cup qualifiers with the national team, but whatever … he was in tears as he sat on the bench after his injury.
  • Wahl included some great quotes in his piece. Landon Donovan is something of a whipping boy for certain American fans … in the Bay Area, he led our team to two league championships, but we boo him now because he went to hated Los Angeles, and the general opinion of Donovan seems to be that, no matter how good he is (and he is our best player), he lacks "heart." Bullshit. Our best player isn't as good as the best players from Brazil … that's just a fact, it's not Donovan's fault. Donovan is expected to deliver everytime he touches the ball and half of the times he doesn't touch the ball … kinda like Barry Bonds, who people will yell at if he doesn't hit a homer in every at-bat. (Perhaps a better comparison would be to Eric Wynalda, one of the finest American soccer players ever and the first star of the MLS San Jose Clash … people didn't like Waldo because he didn't score six goals a match.) Thing about Donovan is, he, too, cares, but then he verbalizes his thoughts in a way that I find makes him seem more human, but which others may take as … well, as making him more human when they'd prefer a superhero. Here's what he said after missing that crucial penalty kick last night (Donovan regularly makes his penalties): "The most disappointing thing was I told myself I wasn't going to get caught up in everything. I've never taken a penalty to win a game like that in a penalty shootout. So I told myself not to get caught up. Usually I slow myself down and take a look at the goalie. But in that moment I just panicked a little bit, and that's the worst place I could have put it. Maybe if I put it low it sneaks in." He panicked a little bit … trust me, he panicked less than 99.9% of the world would have in that situation, and trust me, people will hold that comment against him in the future.
  • Frank Yallop was another person I could have mentioned in the earlier post. Yallop brought championships to San Jose as the coach of the Quakes, so we have a soft spot in our hearts for him. He then coached the Canadian national team (he is from Canada) before taking on the Galaxy job. It has been a thankless job at best, despite the presence of Donovan and now Beckham … GM Alexi Lalas has saddled Yallop with a mostly-crummy roster, and MLS fiddled with the schedule, knowing that Beckham wouldn't arrive until late in the season, to maximize the number of games Becks would play here, resulting in a Galaxy schedule that has them playing far too many games now in far too short a time period. Yallop has taken a lot of the public bashing for the team's problems … word is that he was going to be fired after the SuperLiga, and the name Jürgen Klinsmann is never far from people's lips. After last night's match, Yallop had finally had enough. "I could go over why we come out flat, why we look like we're not interested, but guys are fuckin' knackered, to be honest. That's the truth. But I'll tell you what: They kept going. They're fucked ... All the crap that we've been fuckin' through, I'm telling you, it's been difficult to fuckin' deal with -- sorry to swear -- but it's been hard. But they kept going, and that makes me proud."
  • Yallop may have lost his job by the time I post this, for all I know. Meanwhile, he is a leading candidate to be the head coach of the New Earthquakes to begin play next season. He will be welcomed with open arms by Quakes fans.

Re: that last point, I offer up again the following picture, of Frank Yallop after the Quakes won a playoff matchup against the Galaxy, back when Frank was our coach (and back when that match was considered the best in MLS history … might still be true, although a recent match between LA and New York may have taken over top spot):


nice try

Tonight was the final match of the SuperLiga, a new competition that pits soccer teams from Mexico and the United States. These kinds of competitions need a history to really grab the fans' attention, so this inaugural year was more about beginning that history than anything else. Still, the soccer nations of the U.S. and Mexico do not like each other … they are each other's greatest rival. So it was inevitable when a Mexican team and an American team made it to the finals, that Mexican fans would rally around Pachuca while the Americans looked to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

I was a bit torn … back in the good old days when the Earthquakes still existed, the Quakes-Galaxy rivalry was arguably the best in MLS. And I watch a lot of Mexican club soccer, more than I watch MLS, so I have some familiarity with Pachuca.

The teams for the tournament are chosen based on past performance, which may explain the presence of LA … they are the worst team in MLS this season, having won only three league matches all year. Nonetheless, they are America's most famous soccer team, because they are the team for whom David Beckham plays. Or doesn't play, as the case may be … Becks has been injured a lot, and when he does play, he always goes full-bore, which more often than not means he gets hurt again. But he was going to play in tonight's SuperLiga final, which added some pizzazz to the match.

The match goes as expected for awhile … Pachuca is a good team, the Galaxy are not, but the Gals have Becks and they have Landon Donovan and they have a fine goalkeeper in Joe Cannon, so for awhile the match is scoreless. And then … well, first off, there's always a little advertisement attached to the score atop the screen, and suddenly it reads "Death Sentence," which I suppose is a movie or something, but man, does it look ominous. As if to demonstrate the odd connection between the ad on the screen and the play on the field, one of the many mediocre Galaxy players put the ball into his own net to give Pachuca a 1-0 lead.

And then, a couple of minutes later, Beckham goes charging in on a 50/50 ball, clean play by both players, but Becks comes up short, and the next thing you know, he's lying on the ground. Injured. Out of the game. On his way to the locker-room.

And the ad on the screen changes to State Farm Insurance.

At this point, Landon Donovan wakes up. Landon has a long history with the Mexicans … he speaks enough Spanish to do interviews on the Spanish-language stations, the Mexican fans, who know quality, recognize that Donovan is our greatest player, so they hate him more than they hate the other players, which gets him fired up, and he usually plays his best against Mexico, and Pachuca is a stand-in for Mexico anyway. So Landon tries to take over the match, and he certainly has the skills. But the only other good outfield player on the team is in the locker-room getting his knee fixed, and so Landon runs around, and Landon makes nice passes, and Landon gets open for the nice passes of others, and Landon puts in corner kicks, and it amounts to nothing, because the Galaxy stink.

But, to give them credit, they are busting their asses. It's almost sad, seeing how hard they are trying, knowing that they aren't quite good enough. In the second half, the eternal Cobi Jones takes the field for LA … Cobi has spent his entire MLS career with the Gals, he's finally retiring at the end of the year, he's lost much of the speed that made him special, but one thing about Cobi, if he isn't on your team, he is one hell of an irritating prick. He's on the field about five seconds and a Pachuca player knocks him over as if he still remembers Cobi's role in the USA's great 2-0 World Cup victory over Mexico in 2002. Yellow card.

Meanwhile, Joe Cannon is having a terrific match in goal for LA, so that Pachuca's lead remains 1-0. The Galaxy bust their asses, Pachuca keeper Calero makes a few good saves, and the 90 minutes of regulation end with Pachuca still up by a goal.

The referee adds four minutes of stoppage time.

Chris Klein was a good player in the early years of MLS, and had a minor career with the national team. More recently, he'd fallen victim to the same thing that gets us all … he's now 31, which is getting on in soccer years. A couple of months ago, the Galaxy traded a couple of high-profile young players to acquire the aging Klein … nothing against Chris, but it was the kind of dumb move by team GM Alexi Lalas that has made this Beckham-and-Donovan team so bad.

And so, of course, as the clock ran down those four minutes of stoppage time, Klein found himself in front of the Pachuca goal as the ball bounced off of several players. It came to Klein …

And he laid out a perfect bicycle kick to tie the score.

This led to thirty minutes of overtime, and who should show up on the Galaxy bench but Becks himself … dressed in an absolutely gorgeous suit. I know nothing about these things but it looked like it cost more than what some players in MLS make in a season. He got excited, he chewed out the refs, he encouraged his teammates … it was almost inspiring. Meanwhile, more than one player left the field because of cramps … it ain't easy running back and forth on a soccer field for 120 minutes. After overtime, the score remained 1-1, which meant penalties.

A miss here, a miss there, and suddenly the Galaxy had a chance to win it all. If they made their next penalty kick, the trophy would be theirs. And they'd saved Landon Donovan for just this moment in time.

Landon went through his long pre-penalty ritual, which among other things always aggravates the opposing goalkeeper. He stood up, ready to win the championship for his team, salvaging a bit of pride for that club which had been bad for most of the year. On the sidelines, his teammates locked arm-in-arm, Becks in the middle. Perhaps all of the abuse Landon had taken from Mexican fans over the years was in his mind as he stepped up confidently to take the penalty.

And Calero made a diving save.

So much for a Hollywood ending. Pachuca made their next penalty, the Galaxy missed theirs, and the first SuperLiga champion was a Mexican club.


not quite a tv party, but it will do

We had a lot of fun at Tim Goodman's TV Party last year, but we'll be out of the country for the 2007 edition. Luckily, Goodman is going to do one of those person-comes-on-stage-to-be-interviewed things in October, so we got tickets for that instead. It's put on by the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, and only costs $10 for non-members. The TV Party is still the first place to go, but we'll settle.


the moron in the white house

On the anniversary of Katrina, Mark Evanier makes a good point:

By now, you've probably seen the video of Miss Teen South Carolina giving a pretty clumsy answer to a question in a beauty contest. Matter of fact, I don't know how you could have avoided it. We have a guy in the White House sending men and women off to war who gives equally incoherent answers to questions...but somehow, this eighteen year old woman who has no responsibility for anything (and no real job except to just look cute) gives a lunkheaded reply and it's Front Page News.


shit happens, life doesn't always go on

Last Saturday, I was watching Sevilla play their first soccer match of the new season while Robin and our friend Tina worked on some tatting. A little more than half an hour into the match, one of the Andalusian club's players, Antonio Puerta, stopped running, bent over in a crouch, and then fell to the ground. The medics ran as fast as they could from the sideline ... meanwhile, one of Puerta's teammates who was closest to him, Serbian Ivica Dragutinović, went to Puerta ... the televised image, replayed several times, was frightening, as Drago reached into Puerta's mouth, trying to keep him from swallowing his tongue. The medics arrived, and a few minutes later, Puerta stood up. Everyone let out a sigh of relief as Puerta and the medics walked off the field into the changing room.

At halftime, I wandered into the kitchen and told Robin and Tina that a player seemed to have swallowed his tongue during the match. Didn't make much sense ... I'm not sure any of us had ever seen an example of someone actually swallowing their tongue ... we chatted about this a bit, and I went back to the match.

Unbeknownest to me, Puerta collapsed again in the changing room. He was rushed to the hospital, receiving CPR along the way.

Today, three days later, Antonio Puerta died. He was 22 years old. He leaves behind a girlfriend, who is expecting their first child.