It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Friday, July 07, 2006

On a serious note...

...Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones or otherwise suffered in the London bombings of one year ago today. You are not forgotten.

Update: July 11th brings us news of bombings in Bombay, India. Thoughts and prayers for the victimes and families there also, and hope that this madness will end soon.

A World Cup Review

Well, it's been a fascinating, infuriating, exhiliarating month of football in the land of bratwurst and sauerkraut. The 3rd place game is tomorrow between the energetic Germans and the collection of grifters masquerading as the Portugese National Team. Then, on Sunday, Italia versus France. I shall be rooting for France, because they have the preponderance of Arsenal players, and because I'm still vexed about that late penatly for Italy against Australia, although the Italians have played well overall, fighting for the football like it was the last meatball on the Donner Party expedition.

Even though the Cup is not over yet, now is about the usual time that the media starts offering retrospectives of the tournament, usually rife with myopic, ignorant, self-satisfied commentary, and that's just Sports Illustrated's Gabriele Marcotti, who stupidly claimed that "CONCACAF stinks" (Even though it's a CONCACAF side that is the only one to breach Italy's goal -albeit on an Italian own goal, and a CONCACAF side were the only ones, prior to Italy, to find the back of the German net more than once, and that CONCACAF put as many sides in the round of 16 as the African confederation, but African football is so much better than CONCACAF's version).

This is typical Marcotti, BTW. Form an opinion based on one's own deep-seated prejudices about the overwhelmingly superiority of European football, because of course Europe puts more teams into the second round, forgetting the simple math that Europe gets more teams into the tournament than any other confederation to begin with. Then back it up with childish invective. He must have been a joy on the playground as a youth, provided his current style isn't the result of brain damage from all the beating he surely took as a youth.

Actually, I agree with him about merging CONCACAF with CONMEBOL the South American confederation. If Marcotti were a less snotty writer, he wouldn't be half bad sometimes. Of course, if he were funny at all, he could write for this blog. (Note to readers: You can skip the e-mails with the line, "And so could you, Earl." I'm on to you.)

All right, too serious. Where was I? Ah, yes... retrospectives. Here's my own. Introducting the First Fando World Cup Awards, a tradition that promises to be as dubious as a Cristiano Ronaldo appeal for a penalty.

  • Most peculiar looking player - Peter Crouch, England. Someone once described six-foot-five-inch John Cleese as an enormous stick insect. Crouch is six-foot-seven-inches, meaning that he is technically a gigantic stick insect. Also, he has about -3% body fat, which means he has to wear a small container of butterfat, intravenously delivered, just to stay alive during matches. Crouch is good in the air due to his height and the fact that England players can fling him one-handed at crosses. However, he's severly tested in matches accompanied by a substantial breeze.
  • Angriest player - Wayne Rooney, England. Rooney looks like the guy you cut off in traffic at a biker rally with the "Momma Hates Me" tattoo. He snarls like someone who just bit into a bit of fried fish with a hook still in it, and liked it. He was sent off in the Portugal match for stamping on someone's groin.
    In a fair fight, Rooney would eat the second placed player in this category (Jens Lehmann) the way a Sperm Whale could devour a TicTac. I don't mean rhetorically, I mean Austin Powers-Fat Bastard, "Get... in... my... belly!" eaten. The hands down winner.
  • Most confused looking player - Fabein Barthez, France. Barthez plays with the air of a man who is constantly trying to remember if his shoes are tied or not. A very talented keeper at his best, he has moments where you'd think the ball was radioactive and he was playing with actual lead gloves. He reportedly admitted to smoking marijuana regularly at one point earlier in his career, and had several instances where he played as though he were in a cloud of the stuff and couldn't see the ball. (...mostly for Man United. Good times, good times.)
  • Biggest Crybaby - Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal. Who else? This is a player who ran half the pitch to complain to the official about Rooney's foul and then winked to the bench afterwards. This is a bloke who complained that anyone who "loved soccer" could see that the referee was unfair against him for not giving a penalty when he flopped forward like a beached carp in the box against France (I lost count of how many times). There was one incident where a French player briefly grabbed CR's shoulder, but I assumed this was to keep him from falling over, since he had already begun to fall forward of his own dramatic initiative. Apparently, the kind of soccer Cristiano thinks people love is the kind where William Shatner or Alex Baldwin would be a star player, able to command fouls and penalties at will. He's going to have a lovely time at Old Trafford this fall weeping as the fans sing his name in embarrassing ditties associating him and certain sexual practices.
  • Most annoying coach - Tie: Luis Felipe Scolari, Portugal and Sven Goran Erikkson, England. Scolari is a good coach, but his constant jumping up and down on the sidelines, berating officials, and giving Cristiano Ronaldo acting tips (and not very good ones at that) made one want to slip him a Thorozine Frappucino. Erikkson? He has a messy affair with an FA secretary, who then tells all to the media, he falls for a fake shiekh scam set up by one of the British tabloids, spilling all manner of embarassing details to them, and then he only brings 3 healthy forwards to the World Cup, including a 17 year old who has yet to play for his current Premier club and wasn't used at all in the Cup. That, and he has a habit of staring at the pitch the way a pubcrawler stares at their 7th pint. He seems to coach that way, too.
  • Worst referee - Sepp Blatter, FIFA. It's been an awful mess. Yes Graham Poll gave 3 yellows to a Croatian player, and the Russian referee made a mess of the Holland/Portugal match, but they've all been really bad. So, in honor of FIFA's overblown regulation changes and directives, I'd like to give them all red cards, but to have Sepp Blatter actually complaining about the officiating after officials implemented the directives Blatter's own committees issued? Wayne Rooney, dinner is served.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

More Celebrity Fourth of July Musings

Yes, it's the sixth of July, but that won't stop us from looking back at what other celebrities have to say about the birthday of the United States, or would if they were literate enough to appear on this blog.

  • William Shatner - I'm... Canadian, but I want... to ...let... YOU know, that I think about freedom everytimetheFourthofJulycomesaround...AND... I...WEEP...with joy! Free...DOM... is a wonderfulandmanysplendoredthing. It PAYS the rent on my palatial Hollywood ranch house. It ENABLED Gene Roddenberry to CREATE a television show that madeyourstrulyfamousandforwhichIhave never trulybeencompensatedenoughfor. I... BELIEVE... (pause of 20 seconds)... in freedom? (Growls) FREEEEEEEEEDOM!
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger - Hello my friends and ze people of Cal-ee-for-nee-a. Ven I came to zis country, I vas nothing but an over-muscled slab of stupid beefcake vith a penchant for hot vomen und cheesy movies. Now, I am ze governor of the third largest state in ze union, und I have a Kennedy for my vife, and ve're not talking Teddy either! Take zhat, Austria!! I love America! I love American Vomen!! I love Hummers!!!
  • Oprah Winfrey - On our next show, I'm going to look at the history of this great country of ours, a history chock full of innovation, courage, imagination, wife-swapping, lying book authors, and couch-dancing celebrities. It's a history that enabled a little girl from the South to emerge as television's most powerful and ruthless figure. It's a history that allows Harpo Productions to influence everything from television, to the publishing industry, to what kind of silly hat I make Steadman wear, while standing in a vat of Jello pudding and reciting the theme song to Teen Titans in Japanese. On the next Oprah!
  • Ozzy Ozbourne - (Unintelligible, except for a few expletives.)

Celebrities have patriotic feelings too!!!!!!

That fount of all things patriotic, Alec Baldwin, has penned a fairly remarkable piece in celebration of our country's founding. One of the most remarkable things about the article is that Alec actually was able to to piece two coherent phrases together. I don't say this as a slam against the amiable Mr. Baldwin but he is a very busy man, and his daily regimen of acting, activism, and self-actualization keeps him dancing like a cat on a hot tin roof. That, and he's flippin' looney some of the time. But who wouldn't be when one day you're providing a narration for a Wes Anderson movie, the next you're playing the lovable Mr. Conductor, and finally you find yourself as the manager of KISS tribute band Tiny KISS. It has to be a morass of uppers, downers, and crying over the picture of Kim Basinger you keep in the top dresser drawer.

Enough about poor Alec though, he has sincerely tried to generate an honest interpretation of what HE feels is good about our country while including death, mock assasination, and a bloodlust which makes Casino look like Pippi Longstocking. I decided that there must be other celebrities that desire to unleash their patriotic feelings but don't have the forum to do it. That forum is here and those celebrities are just as flippin' looney.

Sylvester Stallone - Hey yo, dis country is great. What, you don't think it's great? Well hey yo, who are you, the freakin' pope or sumthin'? Yo, go back to the Vatican or sumthin', OK. Hey, MY country tis of thee and stuff, ya know.

M. Night Shyamalan - I love this country, it gave me my chance to display my film style and mold stories which I hope inspire others. That was, until THEY took over the bodies of Disney management and forced Playhouse Disney on us. Tell your friends and neighbors, don't let your child watch JoJo's Circus. They're watching us through the television, don't you understand, they're watching US!!! See, I love this country.

Kim Basinger - The courts of this country granted me a divorce from that kook Alec, so yes I guess I do love this country. I offer my own patriotic fantasy to you my fellow Americans. I'm left in a room with Alec tied to a stone table by his ankles and wrists. I begin by pulling out is fingernails one by one in a slow and painful process followed by applying cayenne pepper to the festering wounds. I then slowly remove the skin from his body using a rusty shaving blade and apply lemon juice to the underlying tissue. Oh yeah, got to get patriotic... then I shove an American flag up his kiester and sing America the Beautiful. Truly the American dream.

David Blaine - Look into my eyes America. Now, choose a card and write the card down on a small note and swallow it. Your card was the six of spades and you're a 36 year old divorcee with two kids who watches Desperate Housewives. Now, I'm going to seal myself in this red, white, and blue box and hang upside down over Mount Rushmore for a month surviving only on bottled water and sweet tarts. God Bless America.

Mark Northover - Not an American. Were he, however, we would be treated to a melodious patriotic sonnett which would excite our ears as though Aeolian harps were playing to Rubenesque cherubs on the plains of Elysium. But he's not an American, sorry.

Lukas P. Short - This is the greatest country in the world bar none. She's like a lady that ya treat proper and get right proper treatment in return, if ya get my meanin'. She's like a young filly that ya take for a ride in your truck or your Humdinger H2 as ya patrol your 5000 acre spread in Wyoming. You always open the doors for her and keep your filthy hands to yerself until she makes her move. Remember, that's Lady Liberty you're gropin' so be gentle.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Viagra for Missiles?

North Korea launched several missles yesterday in a large scale test to demostrate that they are still ahead of Iran as the number one crackpot dictatorship on the planet. Iran responded by acknowledging that they don't have the missiles to compete with the Democratic People's Republic of Kim Jong Il, but promised to fling several suicide bombers into the Persian Gulf as a demonstration that they can keep up with the Jongses.

Meanwhile, the missiles launched by North Korea all fell harmlessly into the Sea of Japan. "Harmlessly" means that they only killed large numbers of fish. The largest of the missiles, a "Taepodong-2" (translated: "The woeful manhood of our Glorious Leader, the son of our much more virile original dictator"), only stayed aloft for 35 seconds, which, according to reports, is 15 seconds longer than Kim Jong Il has ever managed.

After the failed tests, plans are to rename the missile (wait for it) the "Kim Ill Dong."

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy 4th of July!

Enjoy the holiday! Nuffy has a nerd-tastic post up, but for the most part we will be engaging in the time-honored American tradition of eating BBQ and watching things blow up. Also, I will be watching football. No surprise there.

Freedom is an awesome thing! Those of you outside the U.S., hang in there! Freedom also takes time, but good things come to those who wait and work, eh?

We'll be back tomorrow! Cheers!

Five Times the Nerdtastic Adventures

Quick nerd test. What do the letters MMORPG mean? If instead of answering the question in your head you just got angry, then you are unfortunately not nearly enough of a nerd to suit either my tastes or the tastes of the future of humanity. However, if you chuckled geekily and said in your Star Wars-clouded mind, "Silly, it means Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game," then you, yes you, are 100% grade-B Geek-Nerd. Congratulations, you've joined the ever-growing army of pretend elves and pseudo-Klingons and velcro-shoe wearing hobbit-obsessives. The future belongs to you.

For those of you who play sports or go outside occasionally instead, let me fill you in. In an MMORPG, you play a video game, but not like those quaint games of yore where yellow circle man ate mysterious pixel marks in a crude maze for endless minutes of time. Nay! We're talking about a game wherein thousands of gushing stench nerds create pseudo-morphs, such as dwarven horse tamers or magical wizardly Canadian streetwalkers, and wander about in a video game world, clashing with other unbathed persons of the nerd persuasion and earning pretend money and having pretend adventures in pretend land with pretense in every direction. It's the utterest excitement you can have, this side of a Mark Northover film festival.

By far the most popular MMORPG these days is a game called World of Warcraft, which boasts of somewhere between six million and eleventy three quadrillion subscribers on four continents, three island chains and your mom's basement. In this game, elves and lumbering green persons roam about a magical candy colored land of prancery called Azeroth and utter mysterious phrases like "WTF" and "STFU nub" and "LFM UBRS NO HUNTERS" and "GTFO I PWN U" and "I haven't looked upon a real live human being in two years. Are they as lovely as I remember them to be? Please, someone, describe what grass and sky and the Earth look like. I can't remember. *weep*." Almost every geek who is a geek of the nerdiest echelon of geekiness loves World of Warcraft, including, apparently, Dave Chappelle, the lead singer for Blue Oyster Cult, Reginald Fatneck and your grandmother.

But Nuffy Noe is no tool! I am Five Times the nerd of the nerdiest nerd who ever nerded a nerd, but I don't play tool games like World of Warcraft. I mean, come on, a whole world studying the craft of war? Who needs that trash! Probably your mom and your smelly pet hippo, but not me. Instead, I play a better game, a Five Times Better MMORPG than the geekiest MMORPG you could ever conceive of in ten thousand years of conceiving nerdy geek-nerd geek games. Yes, I play Mark Northover The MMO. Granted, there aren't many subcribers to this game, but let me just describe it to you for a paragraph or two, and you will be mouth-drippingly searching for this game in your local Best Buy ere the night is through.

In Mark Northover the MMO, you play one of three heroic archetypes: The Mark Northover, the Warwick Davis or the Al Franken. The Mark Northover is the warrior class, able to wield secret weapons that he pulls from his pocket, like the Staff of Amazing Bestness and the Pants of Egregious Non-Nudity and the Mace of Everlasting Handsome Little Personness. The Warwick Davis is the healing class, able to lay hands on the dead, the dying, the having died, the will have been dying, and the have had been dead for a while, and bring them back to glorious prancing wellness, like a pantlessly excited William Shatner. And the Al Franken is the odor-exhuding class, gushing clouds of brownish thick sauce from his gaping orifice. When you see an army of gurgling filth-gushing Al Frankens charging against a team of light-shimmering Mark Northovers wielding their Axes of Unlimited Sensuality, you know there will be epic excitement like as unto a supernova of James T. Kirkish proportions.

You see what you're missing, people? Do you see? Get the tape out, wrap it around the horn rim of your Coke bottle glasses and get back inside the house where the sun is beautifully hidden from sight. MMORPG's are calling unto you, and if you will close your eyes and turn off that stupid baseball game, you will hear their siren song licking at your ears tips.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

All right, about Stew's Frappuccino problem


Our friend Stew has an addiction. No, it's not to Carne Asada, to which I am similarly hooked, as anyone can tell by the tracks of cilantro juice down my arms; nor is it to the peculiar unnamed concoction he was sipping as our families watched Gone with the Wind last night, after a fine meal prepare by the Millers at their palatial home (my only regret was that we didn't dine in the Batcave).

(As an aside, the most interesting lines last night were as we watched the scene where Scarlett tries to cover her covert drinking by gargling with "Eau de Cologne"-Earl and Stew alternately doing Clark Gable voice:

"Scarlett, why your breath smells like Old Spice!"
"Well, I'm not after you for your breath!"
"Sounds like breath, though!"


I suppose you had to be there.)

No, Stew is completely and hopelessly addicted to the dreaded Frappuccino, as prepared by that lovingly capitalistic neighbourhood enterprise known as Starbucks.

Stew has been known to start, end, and fill his day with Frappuccinos. If the local Mexican eateries serves them, his carne asada would be sizzled with Frappuccino. If the local BBQ joints served mixed coffee drinks, he would have his baby back ribs rubbed, coated, glased, and served with a side of Frappucino. The man has an "addict-cion de cafe con creme a la Frapp." As a result, he is frequently a twitching mass of nerves. I used to chalk that up to his having two boys undere the age of five, but as his eldest has reached half a decade, now I know for sure it is the Frappuccinos, the cursed, posionous, temptress, silky smooth, luscious (whoops, almost feel for them myself!) devil's weed Frappuccinos! It is by now well known that the Starbucks closest to Stew's home has a permanent IV set up for him that he can hook himself up to 4 hours a day, whilst avoiding posting to this blog.

Yes, my best mate is a Frappuccino-fiend.

Now, a word about Starbucks, just by way of full disclosure. I have nothing against coffee-houses, which are great places to grab a drink and a nice biscuit, and to listen to some classic songs as freely adapted by local musicians, some of whom actually know how to play their instruments, and know all the words to the songs. I don't even have anything against large international restuarant chains, having a healthy respect for a fairly applied captialism and reliable standards in food production.

However, a Starbucks coffee house gives me the same kind of feeling that one of their fully caffienated products might give a small, sickly child who had never so much as ingested a molecule of caffiene. Which is to say they make me shudder convulsively and twitch like Chief Inspector Dreyfus in Revenge of the Pink Panther.

I stopped at a Starbucks for the first time in Central London during a 2002 visit, and was immediately overcome at how un-London like it was inside. If not for the accents behind the counter, the drizzle outside, and the copious amounts of tweed on the clientele, I'd have sworn I was in New York or L.A. or even Cedar Rapids.

Now, they are building a Starbucks here in town, right next to the golf shop where I procured my discount Footjoys. It sits there in the middle of our little metropolis like a pimple on Cameron Diaz's bum (Note to self: DOUI hit count automatically shoots up 200% - a joke that never gets old, because it's true). It quietly entices thousands of people, young and old, to enter into the grasping, snaring tendrils of this corporate octopus, with a snarling beak of caffiene lying at the center.

I myself, avoid caffiene whereever possible, as it makes me bounce off the walls like the football in the new Nike commerical featuring the Brasilian team in their locker room, putting on their shoes (thank heavens it's not the HBO version). I do succumb myself, usually to the delightful and intoxicating flavour of American Southern Sweet Tea, which is the local name for the only drink that can truly be called ambrosia on this planet, which I am happily sipping now.

As for Frappuccino's, with all due respect to Stew, my own feelings can be summed up by the littlest Fando, who upon driving by the local Starbicks and hearing me refer to the dreaded drink in a discussion with her mother (my wonderful wife), quizzically responded, "Crappuccinos?"

Exactly.

World Cup Fever Hangover

No, I haven't been engaging in a bout of post-England-penalty kick-washout drinking, although I suspect that English pubs everywhere in ole' Anglia are brimming with soused football fans, soaking their sorrows in pints of bitter, spiced with pub onions and lathered with expetives about overrated Swedish coaches.

No, I'm referring to the actual physical sickness I felt in the pit of my stomach when England went out on penalties. Just for a moment, when the diving and acting troupe known to the world as the Portugese National Football Team missed two straight penalty kicks, I said aloud, "The curse may be broken!" I should have known better. Portugal would have needed to miss another two, just to be safe.

I can understand Frank Lampard missing his penalty. Quite frankly, over the last month Stevie Wonder fresh from a two-week pub crawl would have found the back of the net before Lampard. The Chelsea man, their leading scorer this past year, had plenty of shots in Copa Mundial 2006 and even hit several on goal, but always into the waiting arms of a keeper. His penalty was similarly aimed. Portugese keeper Ricardo, who was very good in the shootout for someone who didn't have to dive more than six inches in either direction, was kind enough not to unwrap the ribbon off of the ball after Lampard's gift of a shot.

Steven Gerrard's penalty though was even worse than Lampard's. Perhaps he was counting on Ricardo to dive one way or another but even so, if you're going to plant one down the middle you might try, oh, say a bit of pace on the ball. This is the midfielder who tormented AC Milan a year ago in the Champions League Final, who had West Ham seeing double in the FA Cup Final, and who came into this match with 2 goals to his credit, one of them a cracker of a shot. Either his legs were completely gone, or his mind had succumbed to the dark vision of "England and penalties," and he was moments away from crouching into a fetal position.

Carragher's shot... oh, the first one was fine. However, you can tell a player's nervous when he shoots before the whistle's even gone. Perhaps he was just sneaking in a warm-up shot, but even that proved worrying. For example, I know that if I make a nice smooth practice swing on the golf course, my actual shot will wind up well to the right and behind me. (Don't ask me to explain how this works. Experience is all I can offer.) The worst of it was that Carragher was brought on precisely for the penalty shoot out. I think Walcott would have been the better choice. He's an actual forward, and he's young enough to where the pressure would soar right over his head. Well, most anything would. The bloke is almost as short as Aaron Lennon.

That would have been too much thinking for Sven-Goran Eriksson though. The England manager's tactics have been just shy of Maginot Line defensiveness. Only instead of getting overrun by Germans, England have thrice been needled to death by a Brazilian named Scolari, whose pre-game needle was to apologise for turning down the England job and suggesting that another offer from the FA might produce better results after his contract with Portugal is over later this summer.

Given that the selection for the next English coach is Steve McClaren, the man who has sat at Eriksson's right hand for the disaster of the past 8 years, my advice to the FA is to make that offer... make it a good one. The worst that can happen is that Scolari is merely teasing. Better though to have him on our side rather than seeing off yet another English side in Euro 2008.

Oh, and so as not to be completely negative, Peter Crouch was quite good in the match. I must confess that when Eriksson sent him on, my first reaction was, "Oh, bloody hell, we're trading pace for a target man, when we've got no one to support him, " but Crouchy did well to get into midfield and hold up the play. He created some chances and even briefly mesmerised the Portugese defence with the sight of a giant stick-insect of a human controlling the ball as though he were Joe Cole.

Also, for every one who said Owen Hargreaves was crap, Owen stuffed it back in their faces with a performance that was abosolutely incredible, not only making superb tackles but seemingly being in every part of the pitch at the same time. I'm not sure he was ever out of camera frame in the last sixity minutes of the match. He was tireless and even hit his penalty with power, pushing it past Ricardo, who actually got a hand on it. He was the official man of the match and now surely has almost every English club wondering whether he'd finally like to play in England for a change. Cheers, Owen! You deserve it.

As for Wayne Rooney...I was as frustrated as anyone when the card came out, as I though Rooney was just shuffling his feet for position. I saw a replay later though that made it clear that "Roo-naldo" had clearly and deliberately left his boot-print on the Portugese player's bollocks.

I know that watching the Portugese kick and push and shove England's players around and then dive to the pitch and flail around like salmon on a boat deck any time someone so much as grazed them with a shirt cuff was sickening, and that there were more than a few England fans wondering if they had any testicles at all. However, to actually use one's boot to find out for sure was, pardon the expression, a step too far. Wayne Rooney is a magnificent player, but someone needs to figure out a way to turn off his testosterone just a bit, and hopefully without having to stamp out a gonad.

All right, that's a find evening's venting. Now to find some black coffee and pour it over my head.