Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Animals

They pulled a 1000 lb. squid out of a New Zealand sea last week, the largest ever caught. I guess that's good news, maybe, if you're a researcher or a sperm whale or a deep sea diver. But I don't think it's ultimately going to help anyone given where matters are headed. Close observers of the media may have noted a worrying trend last week. Just as many of us working in the humiliating ghetto of 'fringe science' have long predicted, animals are making now moving aggresively against mankind and with a will to total power. Consider the unfolding in rapid succession of the following events:

1)Chimps are now hunting with spears. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6387611.stm

2)Rats are officially running most of the fast food restaraunts in town.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,254026,00.html

And finally, the squid. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070222/ap_on_fe_st/new_zealand_colossal_squid_4

You don't exactly have to be Wooodward and Bernstein to follow this harrowing trail of secrets and lies, people. This is not a drill. We are officially under assault by a consortioum of devious and lethal wildlife and very shortly will be enslaved property of bears, cougars and penguins.

And honestly, what do I care? I can ring my hands like Cassandra and no one is going to rise up to combat this threat. And really, how's it gonna be so much worse when the hogs take over? Let them do their worst. I have other matters to attend to.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Life Is Difficult Enough: A Prosecution

Life is difficult enough without that can of Natural Light you left in your gym bag exploding. But nature is a cold and apathetic place. You should have known better. You should have known if you left that can in there too long, what given this heat and the weight of your jogging shoes, and your walkman, and your CDs (when will you get an I-Pod, creep?)that sooner or later the jig was going to be up. And then what? Then you've got two inches of stale beer soaking in the bottom of your gym bag. As for the fate of the other contents in your bag, I don't know what to say. Did you leave your gray dress slacks in that bag? Well did you?

You want absolution. You want to be forgiven. Your explanation, as I understand it, goes something like: you forgot you left that can of Natural Light in your bag. It was days ago you put it in there. It just escaped your mind. Very well, lets operate on the premise that all of this is true. Do you really believe that this answers all of the relevant questions raised by this event? Is it actually your stance that forgetfulness is the only important issue here?

A brief change of subject. Pardon the digression. Did you get ketchup on the bed the other night? Yes, on the bed. Don't play dumb, you know the night I'm referring to. You were having a sandwich weren't you? And then you were preparing to lie down, when from across the room you observed an expression of ashen horror on the face of your significant other. And that person said, sounding not cross but shaken: "Why is there ketchup on the bed?" And at that very instant you knew, with accumulating dread, that you were the responsible party.

But did you take responsibility? Most curiously you did not. What was the tone of voice you employed as you unpersuasively feigned amazement: "Oh my God, how did that get there?" And your significant other just sat shaking her head, unwilling to embarrass you further, although that is what you plainly deserved.

But back to the gym bag. It was, you say, a freak accident. And indeed by any typical standard it would certainly seem to be an abnormal occurence. But, then let us get down to brass tacks, shall we? There is something loaded about the turn of phrase "freak accident", is there not? This would seem to imply, I think it can be fairly judged, that you have never had a can of beer explode in your bag before. Or certainly not recently. Definately not twice more in the past six months.

But you have put beer cans in your bag before, haven't you? And those cans have exploded too, didn't they?

I can see from your knitted brow and desperate darting eyes that you are now wondering: "What is my crime? What ill have I caused society? How is it that I have torn at the fabric of the public trust?!"

It seems, in your anxiety, that you have mistaken me for some kind of advocate of a state or municipal court, as someone who prosecutes you now in an official capacity with some kind of insitutional notion of "justice" in mind. But nothing could be further from the truth. I am not interested in sanctions or punishments or retribution for your misdeeds, if you are in fact capable of viewing them as such. I am simply saying: life is hard enough.

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Column/Quartey vs. Forrest on HBO

Hey Guys, I'm excited to announce the expansion of the Proven System brand (imperious, Napoleonic entity that it is, certain to roll into the Russian wilderness come wintertime next year) to the pages of the L Magazine website beginning next week. There is a brief preview of what to expect on line there now (www.thelmagazine.com) although I guess you guys already know what to expect, having read all of my jokes countless times by now.

In addition, here are some remarks on Saturday night's sterling matchup on HBO between Ike Quartey and Vernon Forrest, two of my favorites:

Saturday 8/5
Madison Square Garden
Ike Quartey (37-2-1, 31 KOs) vs. Vernon Forrest (37-2, 28 KOs)
Television: HBO 10 P.M.


The story lines are bountiful in this intriguing, matchup of stalwart junior middleweight veterans at the Garden. Although Forrest and Quartey have long flown under the radar with respect to the mainstream sporting public, both are well known and respected commodities amongst boxing congniscenti who have witness the two of them engage in some of the most entertaining and significant welterweight confrontations of the past several years.

Former WBA welterweight king Ike 'Bazooka' Quartey remains a virtual unknown in this country, a stark contrast to his native Ghana, where as the youngest of 27 children he ascended to heroic status by winning the title in 1994 and successfully defending it seven times. He remains a veritable dignitary in his home country and is the finest Ghanian to emerge since the legendary featherweight and junior featherweight champ of the 80's and early 90's Azumah Nelson. Possessing a punishing jab and entertaining, aggressive style Quartey's popularity at home is well deserved, his lack of notoriety elsewhere a decided shame.

Quartey is probably best known in the first world for his splendid 1999 battle with a prime Oscar De La Hoya, a disputed, razor thin decision loss in which both competitors exchanged knockdowns and many thought that it was the Ghanian who deserved the decision over the then prime Golden Boy. He followed up this disappointment with a career worst performance in a decision loss to Fernando Vargas and then hung up the gloves for five years, generating the assumption of his having retired for good. But Quartey surprised observers last year, returning with a headlong back into the division elite in 2005 with convincing wins over contenders Verno Phillips and Carols Bojorquez. Will the Bazooka's late career flourish see him finally realize the popularity and earning potential he has long deserved and? That matter will largely be decided on Saturday.

Forrest has, throughout the course of his twelve year career been an enigma of a different sort. Once a decorated amateur, the gifted, smooth boxing tactician gained an only partially deserved reputation early in his career for dispassionate reserve in the ring. Though by no means short on power (as evidenced by 28 knockouts in 37 wins) the soft spoken "Viper” was nevertheless frequently criticized for his failure to prosecute fights in a crowd pleasing fashion and accused of performing down to the level of his competition. All such perceptions were dramatically altered in 2002 when he stunned the then consensus pound for pound best fighter in the world Shane Mosley, drubbing "Sugar" Shane en route to a one sided decision, lifting his WBC 147 pound title in process. When Forrest repeated the feat several months later in nearly as easy a fashion, he was awarded Ring Magazine's “Fighter Of The Year” honors and appeared headed for a long run in amongst the sport's most highly compensated and celebrated elite.

However another unexpected shift in fortune lay in wait. The new champions's stay at the top of the mountain came to an abrupt end in his second defense, when hot headed Nicaraguan lunatic Ricardo Mayorga destroyed Forrest via third round knock, a shocking and brutal defeat that left ling time observers scratching their heads. Forrest then lost a close call in the return, and has since battled back with a couple of routine wins over lightly regarded journey men, thus setting the stage for Saturday night's crossroads encounter.

The stakes could scarcely be higher for these two noble combatants. The winner rapidly elevates himself into the high dollar sweepstakes which is comprised of boxing's best known box office draws: De La Hoya, Mosley, "Winky" Wright and Floyd Mayweather Jr. The loser is likely looking at a protracted downward trajectory. The match up feels like a veritable coin flip with age and other variables potentially coming into play in unknown fashion. I'd hate to have to bet on this fight, but if pressed I guess I would choose an aggressive Quartey by decision.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Intervention: Part One

The location was the modest, uncomplicatedly named pub called "Pub". It was downtown next to the ice cream shop. The topic was the intervention. The architects of this great humanitarian enterprise had all come gathered to discuss what recourse was avaialable to them given certain recent, shocking developments. All the arrangements had been seen to. The speeches were written, the time and place had been agreed upon by all the relevant parties, plane tickets had been purchased, accomodations arranged and payed for. A deposit had been made even been made to the caterer. Thirteen individuals from nine seperate states and three foreign countries had all arranged to meet on the appointed date. And then, at the last moment, Jake Herzog had entered rehab. Now what? Cancel the intervention? Hold it anyway? What would be the point, exactly? But if not, what a waste.

If anyone ever needed an intervention, it was definately Jake Herzog. This was not a man likely to take hold of his own spiraling life, not of his volition. Jake had been the proverbial village idiot for as long as anyone could remember. A damned fool, a cowering louse, a lecth, a feisty, untethered drunk. He was not dumb- oh no Jake was really quite brilliant- but brains were not the issue. Self control was the issue. Self control and the lack there of. And finally someone was going to do something about it, before Jake inevitably hurt himself or worse still hurt someone else.

However, the fate of the intervention was struck by a sudden turn. On a Thursday, Mel Jenkins received a late night call from a very despondent sounding Jake Herzog- not an unusual occurence- and preparing himself for the usual rigmarole, the ranting and crying, the drive down to the ATM, the bail bondsman and DT addled trip back home with Jake thrashing in the back seat, Mel Jenkins turned to his wife and shrugged. But almost immediately after the conversation had begun he noticed that something was different. Jake was sad, but coherent. He spoke softly and in well articulated phrases. This was not the drooling loon of so many ruined nights past. In his sober moments Jake could sound almost professorial, the evidence of his estimable intelligence and wit showing pathetically through the thick mold of his ruined promise, like a gourmet meal gone bad. The temptation to scrape away the spoiled parts and salvage Jake Herzog's remaining bounty was constant, palpable. But repeated attempts at this very ubdertaken had proved unsanitary, poor for the constitution. Even still: the intervention.

It occured to Mel Jenkins in that moment that this was the worst thing that Jake Herzog had ever done. Following years of pathologically unconscionable behavior, without ever having provided so much as the remotest inkling of penitence for his reprehensible behavior, Jake Herzog had now suddenly seen the light some forty two hours before the intervention. It occured to Mel at that moment that point that Jake had finally taken it all one step too far. And he knew exactly what he had to do.

Steeling himself, he apodted a mirthful tone and said "Oh come on Jake! Rehab is for quitters! Why don't you take your skirt off, get down to The Trolley and have a couple brews with me? You've never sounded better, buddy. Don't give me this rehab crap..."

On the other end of the line Jake went silent. This was the furst time in many years that a friend, any friend, had addressed him in such collegial tones. He had missed it, nearyly forgotten what it felt lile. And he couldn't understand why it should be occuring now. But Mel's overture was like a siren call. Confronted with what he had thought to be his darkest hour, Jake had suddenly been reached out to. "Perhaps," it occured to him, "I am not as disgracful as I'd imagined..." Almost involuntarily, Jake heard himself accepting Mel's offer.

"Okay, I'll see you there in twenty minutes," Jake muttered, feeling his first rush of self-esteem in the past in several weeks.

Mel Jenkins was determined to get Jake drunk- good and shitfaced- in the hours leading up to the intervention. He realized that this would probably mean that he would be drunk too, and that the two of them showing up together in that state the following morning at the event might be interpreted as a little strange. It might raise eyebrows. But it seemed the only to salvage the proceedings, and he was sure if he could explain to others- if they only knew how close the entire intervention had come to being ruined- that they would fully accept his motivations. Thinking of Jake and his inhumanly high tolerance, his oceanic thirst, he knew this was going to cost a lot of money to keep him out drinking until the morning. On his way to The Trolley, feeling bleary eyed and frequently distracted by a gaping yawn, he stopped by the ATM and withdrew $80. He hoped it would be enough.

As it turned out it was not enough, and some forty five minutes later Mel found himself back in his car, driving the mile down the street to the nearest ATM. The feeling he got in the pit of his stomach when he saw the police lights flash behind him was quite unlike any fear or anxiety he had ever experienced. "Oh my God," he thought to himself, and the sight of his wife's face at the local police precinct flashed before him- bitter, humiliated, concerned- in his mind's eye Mel Jenkins could see her holding six hundred dollar bills and turning it over to central processing. The image was curdling, nauseating. As he saw the flashlight and heard the approach of the police officer slowly clanking heavy steps in heavy boots he wanted to crawl beneath the dash. Pathetically he unwrapped a piece of "Big Red" gum and began chewing concertely, even manically upon it, as though this would somehow magically ameliorate the fact of his having consumed five beers and three shots of tequila in recent short succession. Mel knew this was not the case. He did not believe in witchcraft.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Thrill Is Back!: Mickelson Botches U.S. Open, 65th at Western Open

It is, by any measurable standard, a perilous world which we occupy, confronted as we are at every turn with treacherous and worrying developments, most of which involve Phil Mickelson. That Phil Mickelson is my everpresent nemesis is a matter of carefully documented record. I don't like Phil Mickelson, and I have a very strong sense that even though he does not know exactly who I am, Phil Mickelson also does not like me. For one need not always be able to identify their adversary via name or appearance in order to know that he is out there, silently rooting for the forces of darkness to mass on their door, maliciously casting hex and curse in your direction, hour after hour, day after day.

I want to clarify something though, a common misconception, one which I myself am probably in part responsible for giving rise to. I am not angry at Phil Mickelson, as so many apparently mistakenly believe. While it is accurate to say that the very invocation of this lumbering loon of the links, the mere mention of his name, inspires in me an explosion of colorful and varied emotions, I must emphasize that anger is not amongst them. Those who know me best, noting my somewhat untethered emotional state dating back to last summer around the time of his ill gotten victory at the PGA Championship- a state which worsened considerably in April after Lefty's admittedly convincing march through Augusta at the Masters- have speculated that perhaps all of this is more than coincidence. Well okay. Regarding these matters I don't wish to argue, for I am perhaps not the greatest objective arbiter of my own mental condition. I do not think I'm "crazy" as some have been overheard to chucklingly whisper, though I guess in the interests of level reportage you could state that I have been a touch "wound up".

Yes, things have gone well for Mickelson this year, and it has taken a certain toll on me, such is the inverse cause and effect nature of our double life. Where he has been assured of his game, playing confidently and conservatively to his strengths, allowing his natural talent to surface and carry him to victory, eschewing the questionable judgment that has so often undermined him through many a glorious failure, my own behavior has been largely, dramatically in contrast. I have not, metaphorically speaking, kept the ball in the fairway these last several months. You might say I have been spraying it all over the course. My swing plane is a mess. Short game abrupt, impatient. I couldn't hit a putt into a manhole. Candidly, to summarize, I have no idea what I am doing out here on the course. My handicap, once respectable, has now bloated into something obscene, grotesque. I was club champion, and now my membership is nearly revoked.

Okay, fine then. Duly noted. But then as assuredly as the melting of icecaps will soon render us a race of dorsal finned amphibians, so has the tide begun to turn with respect to mine and the Mick's fortunes. Who amongst us was not thrilled to their core by the sight of Mickelson's elegant screwballing of the 18th hole at the US Open, snatching humiliating defeat from the jaws of historic victory with a veritable Abbot and Costello routine of absurd misjudgments? As he approached that final tee, seemingly riding a lightning shaft of invincibility towards his third consecutive major, I felt myself at death's door. My knotting innards told the tale of imminent deep sleep. I made a certain peace with the facts that I was not made for these times- Mickelson times.

But then the folly commenced! And with what hilarity the husky harlequin proceeded. As his boggled gallery of staunch supporters stared on with stuttering astonishment, the villian seemed transported back to those lamented, halcyon days when his genius for creative losing made him the hallmark of many a gleeful Sunday for me. I too was changed back to a happier, previous form. As hook followed shank followed I don't know what that was supposed to be, I could feel the blood returning to my brain and muscles. Longstanding anxities receded. I suddenly recollected the answers to several complex mathematical equations, long since abandoned, forgotten, perhaps willed away- all suddenly accessible to me. The rejuvenation was quite complete. A man in my building- a complete stranger, with handsome olive skin- commented that I looked "lively", and I confess he was quite right.

Postscript:

Last weekend Lefty made his first start since the magnificent humiliation at Winged Foot. Following a stellar 67 on the first day, he proceeded to shoot his way out of the tournament with 74 and 75 on Friday and Saturday respectively, finally finishing in a pathetic tie for 65th. So, is Mickelson in decline? Am I in ascent? These are the key questions which bear monitoring as we approach the seasons last two majors, beginning with the British Open in two weeks. Is it unrealistic to think that he might get caught in one of those pot bunkers during the weekend, score a fourteen on one hole and shoot 90? Am I aiming too high here? Did Beowulf aim too high when he defeated Grendel? Is this thing on???

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mendoza Line/Slow Dazzle Events In NYC This Week, Tour To Follow

Hey we're playing at the Sine with the great Jennifer O'Connor on Wedensday night and at the Bowery Ballroom with the fantastic Devotchka on Saturday. Then we are off on tour. It's be delightful to see any and all. Hope you're well!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Friends I'd Shank

Two opposing premises:

1)Loyal friendship is what makes life worth living and

2)Maximum security prison is no kiddy theme park.

A man can be said to be the sum total of his close companions and confidantes. And yet when you're working for Copper John you better not turn your back on anyone for even a solitary second. Yes, only the strong survive on the inside, but it's nice to have people to share your problems and life changes with as well. How to resolve this difficulty? No one ever wants to be faced with the difficult decision to shank a close freind, that is stab him with a makeshift knife crafted from the scrap metal of a prison-issued boot or shoe. But lets face facts: it happens. That's life. So it's best to know in advance who the friends are that- if pressed into unwelcome action- you'd definately cut.

I keep a list. That helps me. Maybe you don't want to write it down, maybe you just want to keep track in your head. It can be awkward when one of the friends you'd shank indavertently runs across your list and sees his name. I'm forgetful, so I leave my list in obvious places- like on the bulletin board by my bunk. But one day Bill Jeffries was over- we were shooting bull, sipping Pruno- and he saw his name on my list of friends I'd shank (he was actually #1) and I could detect a definate rise in his temperature. He said it was pretty clear to him that things weren't the way he thought they were with us, and that he was going back to the library, and that we were 'done'. And believe me: I felt awful. I sent him a florid apology a couple of days later stuffed in a half full pack of Camels, but nothing came of it. No reply. Which is just as well, because two weeks later I shanked him.

I shanked Rick Monroe-Peterson, who I have always liked, because I caught him touching my foot locker. He was actually just sitting on it, not looking in it or anything, waiting for me to get back from the mess, because he wanted me to get my opinion on who should be the starting front court in our A-yard basketball team. But you can't exactly have guys touching your locker without asking, unless you want every punk in the block stealing your Pruno, which I definately don't want, and so I shanked him. But I didn't kill him, I just gave him a 'smiley'. But it clearly effected our relationship adversely and definately hurt team morale. Honestly, now I feel like a jerk. I'm a hothead! What can I say?

I've always respected Rene 'Cochese' Olivares, and most especially following his legendary ninety day stint in the Hole following the Mardi Gras 2004 lockdown in Block D. He's a nice man with a pleasent, affable way in the company of children and a wife he speaks of often and longingly. All and all a considerate, decent man. Anyway I certainly never expected to shank him. But shank him I did, on a chilly November day last year, after one of his buddies commented on my unkempt beard and tattered jumpsuit. I was naturally going to shank the bastard ruthlessly for this slight, when Rene jumped between us.

"Back away Cochese!" I shouted, "This ain't about us."

But Rene did not back away. In fact he tried to take my shank. I can't really recall what happened after that, but anyone that touches my shank- friend or not- is going to wind up fishing at the wrong end of the barrel. Time just kind of stopped. I could see the sun parting briefly through the clouds over the main wall, and there was a sort of high pitched sound running through my head like a train whistle. The next thing I knew I woke up in the infirmary. I had shanked nineteen guys and a telephone pole before they tazed me down. I felt terrible. I'm not really a violent person. Especially when it come to friends.