Monday, December 29, 2008

The VTK Year In Review


It's been an eventful year, an historic year, a year deserving of a review. It's an overused convention - the end-of-year review - but that's no reason to completely avoid it. Among other newsworthy developments, I published my graphic novel (and schlepped it shamelessly), the Boston Celtics won the NBA Championship, and Obama won the US presidency. Here are some highlights from the 82 VTK posts in 2008:

January 04 Post - The new year kicked off in frigid fashion on Von Trapper Keeper with a scientific discussion in the comment section about the temperature/water saturation point in my room - a discussion that soon grew to include references to Herman Melville, Malcolm Jamal Warner, Father Geoghan, and Brutus the Barber Beefcake. Only in VTKountry.

Update - Thanks to my free Massachusetts health insurance, my respiratory condition is now properly medicated.

January 22 Post - The year quickly intensified for this sedentary blogger when I went down South for one of the weirder bachelor parties I've ever been a part of (or heard of). A bizarre practical joke gone awry set the tone for a bone bruising physical challenge weekend that required weeks of recovery. In a portent of things to come in 2008, the good guys won.

Update: the story of the practical joke became legendary amongst the NYC contingent, with the description of my reaction to it being the punchline element. Several of them introduced their friends and parents to me at the wedding two months later.

March 07 Post - 2008 announced its intention to be a riveting electoral year early, with the Democratic Primary dominating the news deep into the first half of the year. It didn't take long for my dislike of Hillary Clinton to turn to disgust. This post came after the OH/TX primaries/caucus when Hillary was essentially mathematically done but was clearly going to drag it out until the bitter end. And it did get bitter. It wasn't clear at the time, but the protracted battle turned out to be the best thing for Obama. This post reprints the analysis from, which was probably my most visited website of the year (it also morphs into an interesting debate about wikipedia in the comment section).

Update: Clinton lost, Obama won, Clinton parlayed her strong primary challenge into a Secretary of State post. So much for change. More on the Obama Cabinet later.

March 19 Post
- The original video was removed by youtube, but here's an abbreviated clip of my favorite musical interlude of the vtk year:

Update: This fella's been taking time out to get close to the lady in 08. Thanks for the tip, Trouble Funk.

June 13 Post - "game four aka fucking awesome" - This wasn't the post after the Celtics won the title, but it was the post that recapped the moment that the Celtics grabbed the title by the balls and refused to let go. Ray Allen's layup in game 4 gave the C's a 3-1 lead in the series and set the table for their 17th championship. It was a thrilling year for the Celtics and beating the Lakers in the Finals was a dream ending.

Update: I've been wearing green laces in my Stan Smith sneakers since June to celebrate the C's title.

July 10 Post - The Obama Bubble burst rather quickly for progressives. After the Left, "the base", the grassroots progressives got him the nomination, he promptly turned his back on them (us). Not 24 hours after he officially got the nomination, he was waving the zionist flag in front of AIPAC. A month later, he made the shameful flip-flop on the FISA vote written about in this post. A heated debate on the significance of this vote followed in the comment section.

Update: Anyone who was troubled by this vote back then (and many who were untroubled), has not been surprised by his cabinet selections (and the Rick Warren face-slap) since Election Day. Obama's no liberal. More later.

September 23 Post - The long, long, awaited publication and release of my graphic novel, Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy.

Update: If you read this blog, you're sick of me talking about it. As am I.

November 4 Post

The story of the year obviously, and deservedly, was the election of Barack Obama as president of the US of A. It dominated the news, our attention, and this blog. I was on dailykos all day long for months - tracking polls, analyzing trends, stories, factors, Effects, etc. Despite my problems with Obama's post-nomination flip-flopping and my prediction that there would be more to come in that regard were he to be elected, I voted for him and urged everyone I knew to do so too. And would do so again. A McCain Palin Administration would have been a nightmare. I poured all my anxieties (rational and irrational) into a pre-election paranoid top ten post. Then, on November 4th, I began a long and nervous 12 hour live-blog of Election Day at noon. It turned out to be a great day. We elected a black man as president of the US, just 44 years after the Civil Rights Legislation was signed by LBJ. Amazing. Some of us felt an unfamiliar wave of pride in our country and, even if we knew he'd be governing from the center, we allowed ourselves to savor the feelings of hope and change. The day after the election, I wrote an op/edy victory post in which I said that, while I'd often suggested that the work for progressives to hold Obama accountable started the day after the election, I'd make an exception and postpone that work because it truly was a day to celebrate.

November 5 to December 31 - Obamamania. The Cult of Barack grew and grew as he cast aside the Left and kissed the ass of the Center Right. I'm Abe Lincoln! I'm Abe Lincoln, screamed Obama. Say it with me. I'm Abe Lincoln. I'm assembling a team of rivals. I'm "from" Illinois. I'm going to be sworn in on Lincoln's bible. I'm practically a Republican. I'm Abe Lincoln! Your favorite president ever? Just think of him when you think of me. And if it's not Abe Lincoln, then listen to how I channel JFK in my speeches. Or listen to how I praise Ronald Reagan. I'm a great president already and I haven't even stepped foot in the Oval Office yet.

If you're sensing anger and disillusionment in my typing tone, you're on to something. The post-election day of celebration is long over and the holding accountable is on. As expected, Obama made his intention to govern from the Center clear shortly after he became president-elect. But the degree to which he planned to shut out the Left was a little surprising. The Change President stocked his Cabinet with Washington veterans from the Clinton Administration. The Peace President selected someone more hawkish than himself for his Secretary of State, and kept the Republican Secretary of Defense, currently presiding over two wars, on for another tour of duty. Cabinet selection after Cabinet selection we waited for our token liberal appointments - the scraps that would be tossed to us in gratitude for our support, to appease us. But pick after pick went to the Center or even to the Right. Behold: Obama and his Team of Rivals! Usually, a candidate will choose some representation for the sizable base that got him elected. But Barack Obama promised Change and that's what we're getting. Wait, what am I talking about. He selected Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. Thanks, Barack. America, here's your Team of Rivals:

Update: Ok, well, so I didn't quite get around to it. I was going to include a comprehensive report card of Obama's Cabinet selections, but when I laid out all 30 of them, I found that it was going to require more time and research than I currently have for this post (it takes a long time to write a post this long). The Report Card Post will have to be forthcoming. So, for the time being, feel free to consider me full of shit (if you didn't already). My major bitches are with the selection of Clinton and retention of Gates (noted above), the total bullshit selection of Salazar for the Interior, and the fact (read: my half-educated belief) that the most significant token liberal was Solis for Labor. The sum of these cabinet selections left me with unsurprised irritation. The real ire came when he chose Rick Warren to give the invocation at his Inauguration. This is nothing short of a completely unnecessary, completely political, completely insulting slap in the face of the gay community and all those supportive of gay rights. And if the selection was not insulting enough, he piled it on with his defense of it, in which he claimed to be trying to represent the diversity of the nation and beseeched us to disagree without being disagreeable. Fuck you. How's that for disagreeable. How about representing the diversity of those who got you elected rather than spitting in their faces while trying to represent the already-well-represented part of the electorate that didn't vote for you. Just politics? Yeah, I get it. I understand. Doesn't make it any less offensive. Why aren't more liberals outraged? They don't want to let go of that feeling of hope/change/pride that they've been floating on since November 4th? They don't want to leave the Cult of Obama?

There it is - the long-brewing bitch session. I'm not completely giving up on the Obama Administration before it even begins, but I'm not psyched. I'm going to the Inauguration again this year, and it would have been nice to be in a more celebratory mood about it. At least Obama/Biden is not Bush/Cheney or McCain/Palin. I guess I'll focus my celebration on the end of Bush/Cheney. For that reason alone, 2009, or at least 19/20ths of it, is going to be a great year. It's been a long eight years. And 2008 has been one of the best of them for VTK.

December 12 Post - On another positive note, the Celtics are still playing awesome. They started the season with the best record ever for a team with two losses and won a team record 19 games in a row.

Update: Am I worried that they promptly lost two games in a row on the West Coast, one to the Lakers? No. The Celtics aren't going to win them all, but they're going to win most of them in 2009. Happy New Year, VTKountry.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Celtic's Start Strong - 1st Quarter Report

The World Champion Boston Celtics destroyed the Wizards last night for their 21st win - in their 23rd game. The 21-2 start is the best in the franchise's illustrious history. I think we can put to rest any concern about a post-championship letdown. The intensity is clearly still there - just ask Big Baby Davis (actual nickname) who was overwhelmed to tears during a timeout this week. The C's aren't lacking for emotion or drive. As Paul Pierce pointed out, you don't get remembered as a great Celtic if you only win one championship - even if you do set the record for best start to a season. These guys are hungry for # 2.

But they lost uber-sub James Posey! How could they continue to win? Last night, the usually insightful and entertaining commentator Reggie Miller said that Posey was the reason the Celtics won the Championship last year. With all due respect (always a preface for a statement of disrespect), that's complete bullshit. That's like saying that a good 8th inning set-up reliever on a baseball team is responsible for that team's success. Bullshit. Posey was a great sub, clutch shooter, staunch defender, good energy guy, character guy, etc, etc. But the reasons the Celtics won the Larry O'Brien trophy were named Pierce, Garnett, Allen, Rondo, Perkins (yes, Perkins), and the bench as a whole. And they're all still on the team, and all still playing well. Pierce, Garnett, Perk, and the bench have been very good, and great at times, but the specific reasons the Celtics are 21-2 and the best team in the NBA right now are in the backcourt - Rondo and Ray. Both players have elevated their games beyond last year's level of play and I'd put them up against any backcourt in the league, including Fisher/Bryant, Iverson/Hamilton, Williams/West, Paul/Peterson, etc. There are better guards in the league, but there is not a better starting tandem. Rondo's triple double last Friday put him in rarified Boston air: only Pierce and Bird have had games with stats that high in points/assists/rebounds. [here's a great breakdown of his skills from truehoop, making the case for Rondo as an all-star] And Ray's been the team MVP so far, shooting over 50% from the field for 20 points a game. He credits the continuing healing of his ankles for his success. If his ankles, and the other key body parts of the team, stay healthy, I think we'll be attending another parade this spring, and I'll be getting another Tommy Point for my flourescent green wig / geriatric sunglasses look.

Barring any big news developments or new creepy VTK photos, this'll probably be the last post until after Christmas. I'm sure I'll cook up a good year in review, which hopefully will be more interesting than "Celtics Win! Obama Wins!". For those, and other reasons (yes you, BVM), it's been a good year. Happy Holidays, VTKountry.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Colbert Report Blatantly Plagiarizes From Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy

UPDATE -- Video evidence added to the bottom of this post

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery. I say fuck that. Not until I'm getting paid as well as the imitator. As Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy (©!™!) struggles in Boston area comic book stores to get me my printing cost back, its images are being ripped off by the multi-mega-millionaire comedy writers over at Comedy Central's Colbert Report! Too lazy to come up with their own material, they, or perhaps Stephen Colbert himself, decided to just steal an image from my underground cult classic - and completely destitute - graphic novel. Paranoid? Usually. But not in this case. Check out the evidence. Page 49 of Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy, released earlier this year, conceived a couple years before that:

It's one of Glenn Caperton's many dream sequences. So imagine my surprise tonight when I heard the following come out of Stephen Colbert's mouth:

Folks, if this Anything Goes attitude catches on, we won’t just be saying yes to learning guitar and Korean, we’ll be saying yes to socialized medicine, primate voting rights, and freaky three ways with the mailman and a mountain lion. So I guess it won’t all be bad.

This was accompanied by a picture of Colbert, in bed, between a mailman and a mountain lion! Not only did he steal my mailman/mountain lion image, but he took a few liberties with it. Who does Colbert see himself as in this fantastical tangent? Business Casual Stag Devil Death Boy? Paula The Pretend Punk Hottie? The Bubble? There's no pictorial or video evidence of his brazen plagiarism online yet, but I'll update this post as it becomes available. Kanye! Call me. I got your back. Let's take this Colbert chump down! He can't handle two wars at once.


Aha! Big mistake by Colbert: he posted it on his website. He really is trying to start a war with BCSDDB. Doesn't he know? Doesn't he get it? See the video evidence starting at about the 11:45 mark of this video. Here are the screenshots:

Who the fuck does Stephen Colbert think he is? I'm with you Kanye: Who the fuck is Stephen Colbert.

Monday, November 24, 2008

End of a Sloppyass Era


A bar can die but once: all bars owe God a death. Especially the Abbey.
- Shakespeare

Wednesday night, the famed Abbey Lounge will close its doors after a local rock show for the last time. One of the finest dive bars in the Cambridge/Somerville area (in fact, exactly on the Cambridge/Somerville line) will soon close those doors for good - 75 years after they opened.

I didn't get in on the Abbey action until I moved to Boston in 2000. They were 67 years into their groove (rut?) at that point, yet I'm guessing my first impression caught me up pretty quickly. It was still a two-sided bar then - the bar was set in the middle of the building and served two separate rooms. You could pay for the show and go back and forth between both rooms, or you could go into the no-cover bar area and, if you angled for the right spot, see the bands between the opening in the bar where the bartenders served both rooms. Acoustics were not an issue - it was loud and non-exclusive. Friends of mine lived across the street and had semi-residency status. They gave me my first taste of the Abbey one night when we hit the non-cover side to hang with the locals. The memory of that first night at the Abbey would have been completely nondescript, were it not for a minor detail of my exit: as I left the Abbey, I had to jump over two separate sets of barf in order to get out of the bar. There was barf, then there was a small non-barf landing pad, then there was more barf. The options were: a) step in barf (twice); b) remain in the bar until physically thrown over the barfs (gamble on a few levels); c) execute the double-drunk-leap over the barf splatches. I dislike barf, so I choose c. My aim was true and I made it out. But it set the bar(f) on the Abbey Experience for the next eight years - anything short of barf-hopping was a sub-Abbey Abbey night. Since that night, I've seen many raucous bands there, been surprised by the lack of toilet paper in the bathroom on at least one occasion, and one time helped drink a twelve pack at the bar with a friend (who brought the twelve pack (as in, my friend brought a twelve pack to the bar, put it on the bar, and we sat at the bar and drank the twelve pack (while hanging out with the bartender (friends of VTK and said-friend will not find this abnormal)))).

So, yeah, the Abbey. Rock and Roll. Here's some rare footage of The Kinks playing the Abbey back in the 60's:

Oh no, wait, that's the Konks, a local band. I love the part in the video where you just see liquid (read: cheap beer) splashing up across the singer. The Konks will be one of the nine bands there Wednesday night for the "last blast" show.

Parting is such stale beer sorrow
- Shakespeare

Monday, November 17, 2008

Palette Cleanser

It's time to move on from the election obsession. In lieu of a substantive post, here's a little palette cleanser for you:

That's Mogwai's video for The Sun Smells Too Loud. Thanks to wzbc's John Straub for the tip to this video in his promotion for his video night at River Gods in Cambridge (Tues 11/18).

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Oh no he didn't. Oh yes he did.

This is an astounding moment in US history, in world history. Is it even possible to overstate the magnitude of this moment? I still can't believe it. The USA elected a black man as its leader. Racism is over! Finally, the scourge of slavery can be wiped from the history books.

Ah, the jokes. But seriously, it's amazing to look at how far this country has come. 150 years ago, slavery was legal in the United States. 112 years ago, the Supreme Court affirmed that racial segregation was constitutional (Plessy v Ferguson). 62 years ago, "negroes" couldn't play baseball with whites. 55 years ago school segregation was legal. Discrimination on the base of race was legal until 44 years ago (when Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act). Barack Obama is 47 years old. And he's the 44th President of the United States.

On this day, four years ago, I was devastated. I'd been getting out the vote in New Hampshire for days, had given the maximum donation to the Kerry campaign, and had really believed that the country would reject the despicable policies of Bush and the neo-cons. When they didn't, it was one of the most depressing days of my life. I remember walking around Cambridge and not being able to look passers-by in the eye because I felt that if I saw anything less than equivalent suffering in their eyes, I'd either cry or fly into a rage. In Cambridge! It was brutal. But I also remember emailing with friends the day after the election about an Obama 08 campaign. Earlier that year, Obama had taken the DNC by storm with his keynote speech. He was the chosen one. But could a black man really win the presidency yet? Surely one day, but was it too soon? Where would he get the electoral votes? Wasn't racism still too strong of an undercurrent for this to happen? Even as recently as yesterday, this same question lingered. And now that question is obsolete. Racism, of course, lives on in the US. But - wow - how far the nation has come.

I've said elsewhere on VTK that, while I support Obama for president, he no longer represents the progressive left, and the work to hold him accountable starts the day after the election. I'm going to flip-flop on that. Today's a day for celebration and reflection. Accountability starts tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


UPDATED - 11:20 PM

12:00 Noon - It's on! I just voted. Time to do my other civic duty: live blogging!

I'll be updating throughout the day if I find interesting links or vtkworthy news items. I'll pick up the pace around 6 PM EST. I'm sure you'll be reading/watching your favorite news sources, so I'll try not to be redundant to those. This may end up reading like a giant anxious op/ed piece. I know that I have two polar opposite op/eds cooking in my head right now - one of which will make it out, the other of which will be tossed on the scrap heap. It's a weird situation in that there will be exactly one of two outcomes in a scant several hours, and I can't really believe that either one of them is going to happen: I can neither wrap my head around the idea of a black man being elected president of the US, nor can I fathom the US not electing this black man this year. The former is an amazing possibility, the latter a terrifying one (mostly because it will be the result of racism or fraud). Feel free to join in the live blog via the comment section. Yes you can.

2:00 PM - here are some midday links to get you through the countdown until the polls close:

- Exit Polls - In the comments, Joel brought up the uncertainty and unreliability of exit polling data. This is a good primer from dailykos, explaining what to look for, who to listen to, etc. Personally, I'm not giving any exit poll much credence. The false optimism created in 2004 and its subsequent collapse was too brutal. UPDATE: in fact dailykos and nate silver are now suggesting we ignore exit polls (which don't start coming out until later (5 EST) anyway).
- The Final Pollster - speaking of false optimism... who knows how accurate these polls are going to end up being, but's final state polling has Obama winning 273 electoral votes in the strong category - meaning McCain could win every toss up state and "leaning Obama" state and Obama would still win. Also of note, as pointed out by fuge, Karl Rove is predicting an Obama landslide. Though any sports fan will tell you this is a classic jinx move, so I'm not buying what he's selling either.
- Poll Closing Times - The real shit starts at 7 PM EST when the polls close in VA and IN (parts of IN close at 6). If VA goes Obama early (or at all) that's going to be a huge sign as to what we can expect. If IN is too close to call initially, that's another good sign. If IN actually goes Obama, get out the drape-measuring stick. The Gary, IN area (Chicago media market) is in the Central Time Zone though, so by the time the networks call IN, we might have a good idea of what's happening in VA, NC, and possibly FL and OH so it might be moot. FL and OH will probably take a while though.
- Steelers beat Redskins - This is supposed to mean that Obama's going to win. I don't know about that, but I know it's nice to see Pittsburgh beat a team from the NFC East.

2:30 - Wonk out tonight and follow the Presidential election and all the Senate and House races on the awesome kos electoral scoreboard (go to to see tricked out version (map below is a limited version)):

Also from kos, check out this election guide that breaks everything down by poll-closing time.

4:00 - This waiting is killing me. 2 hrs before we find out that KY went for McCain and that IN is too close to call. Question: if Obama/Biden win what happens to their Senate seats? Do the state governors select the replacements? The governors of IL and DE are both Dems.

4:20 - Vote yes on 2 in MA.

4:30 - Joe the Plumber: tax-evader, reckless driver, liar, moron, and ... fraudulent voter! End this, God. Please.

6:55 - excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous excited nervous Polls close in VA in 5 minutes and completely in IN in (inINin) 5 minutes. I was watching MSNBC but Chris Matthews was waxing ridiculous and it was a pretty boring panel. I switched to CNN and they've got graphics and gadgets and poll numbers! Woohoo! That's what I'm talking about. Can we get Chuck Todd to switch to CNN?

7:00 - Obama wins VT! McCain wins KY! Polls are closed in GA, IN, SC, and VA. It'll be a while before they call them in the presidential election though. (D) Warner wins the Senate race in VA. A couple of good pundit points: Conservative hack Bill Bennett gives credit to Howard Dean on his previously maligned strategy of trying to compete in traditionally Republican parts of the country; David Gergen says that the Obama campaign was one of the most impressive presidential campaigns ever. I would add that conversely the McCain campaign was one of the worst campaigns, on any level, ever. What a mess. That would be one of the most discouraging things about a McCain win - that they could run this poor of a campaign, in a year when the Republican brand is in the shitter, and the American people would still vote for them. C'mon, America. No way.

7:40 - Well ... uh. well. I like that Indiana is too close to call still. I don't like the numbers from VA so far. Florida's looking good - with 2% of the vote in. Can't really say anything about anything yet. Looks like (R) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's in for a tough fight for his Senate seat in KY. The graphics on CNN are much better than those on MSNBC.

8:00 - tons of CNN projections, none of them significant. MSNBC called Pennsylvania for Obama?!!? Switching channels... This would be huge. CNN hasn't called it yet. Did Gergen say CBS called NC for McCain? searching ...

8:05 - MSNBC not backing off the Penn prediction. NC still too close to call. No Reds switched to Blues yet but the PA serve-hold is huge. Stealing PA was a major piece of the McCain campaign's strategy. VA not looking great, but I don't know if the heavily Democratic areas have reported yet. C'mon VA, c'mon VA!!

8:13 - MSNBC called NH for Obama too. CNN hasn't called PA or NH yet. The MSNBC calls are clearly based on exit polls - troubling. Jeanne Shaheen beats incumbent John Sununu in NH. Good pick up for the Dems. KY McConnell vote not looking great.

8:43 - CNN called PA too, so that seems solid. Dole lost to Hagan in NC to give the Dems another Senate seat (+3 so far). #'s looking decent in the presidential race in NC. I wasn't expecting to win that one. It would be a nice consolation for a VA loss though (not looking great there, but again, I don't know what part of the state is lagging in reporting). Still no reds to blues. And I recall being ecstatic over the Kerry PA win, only to be devastated later on that night. In other news, I'm starting to develop a massive headache.

8:49 - Gergen and Bennett think the PA/NH wins close the door on McCain. they're not dumb and they're not liberals. I still have a headache though.

9:00 - Obama sweeps the upper-midwest blue states - MI, MN, WI. Solid holds. Still no red to blues yet. Can I get a MO? Can I get an NC? Can I get a tylenol? VA still too close to call according to MSNBC - but they said that they're still waiting on Northern VA. That's good. Chris Matthews: "it's a good time to order a pizza. We're not going to be able to call this until well after 11." fuck me. Dems have picked up 4 Senate seats so far.

9:15 - David Gregory just interrupted Chuck Todd to call Arkansas for McCain. You don't fuck with the Chuck Todd. Never interrupt Chuck Todd. Especially not for something that obvious an inconsequential. Todd's not as optimistic for Obama as the CNN gang is. He doesn't think VA's looking good for Obama. But NC's still looking decent. I'll swap that for VA.

9:26 - 0 FUCKING HI O !!!!! MSNBC's calling Ohio for Obama and I think CNN's about to follow suit. Huge huge huge. My headache just went away.

9:43 - CNN called OH, McCain's victory party is focusing on Hank Williams Jr, not the news, John King and his fancy big board "cannot get McCain to 270". It's only my well known paranoia/superstition that's stopping me from giving Obama the coveted VTK call. It's real close though. And my head really does feel better. How bout that.

9:55 - Brian has started a Call The Final Obama Electoral Vote Tally contest in the comments section. He has 364. I have 339. Anyone? (note - this does not constitute an official call from VTK; this is strictly for contest purposes). NM goes Obama. big. Headache's still gone.

10:02 - ** VTK OFFICIAL CALL ** IT'S OVER. BARACK OBAMA WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. CNN just called Iowa. Assuming CA and HI goes Obama, that's game, set, match. Yes!!

10:16 - Also, for those of you not paying attention to the MA election, Prop 2 passed!! Spark it up, Massachusetts!! Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in MA is now decriminalized. I gave up smoking years ago, but I strongly believe this change in law is long overdue.

11:00 - + CA = USA elects an African American to be the President of the United States of America. Awesome. I'm so proud.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Don't forget to check in to the VTK special Election Day Live Blog tomorrow.

(did you think I was going to remind you to vote? If you forget to vote, you probably don't have the internet.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Decision 08 – A Paranoid Presidential Top Ten

Five days from now, barring a two month recount battle, we should know who the next president of the United States will be. If you take the word of the pundits, you probably think we already know. Here are the top ten paranoid anxieties which make me wonder if Tuesday night might be longer and tenser than we expect. Worse yet, could some combination of these factors add up to a stunning disaster (a McCain/Palin win)? I’ll be live-blogging on Tuesday night, possibly throughout the day too, so if you’re not at a bar or an election party, feel free to stop by (in person or on the internet).

10. Karl Rove - What about Karl Rove? I don't know. But he makes the list because he’s Karl Rove and he can do stuff. And there are a lot of hours left before the polls close.

9. Joe Biden – Muzzle thyself, Gaffey McGafferson. There are a lot of hours left before the polls close.

8. November Surprise? Too late? Is it?

[ok - those three were mostly filler. now we get into my real paranoid anxieties:]

7. Malfunctioning Machines – There have been reports of electronic voting machines that have been flipping people’s votes – they choose the Democrat candidate and their selection is switched to another candidate instead. They just need to be recalibrated? What if they still don’t work after recalibration (as happened in West Virginia (see video below))? And isn't it possible that this recalibration bullshit is going to open the door to massive fraud? And what if people are given a paper receipt? Should we be happy then? Not if there’s no way to verify that what’s going on inside the machines is accurate. Am I being paranoid? Why are all the reports of machine vote flipping about flipping away from Democrat selections? Wouldn't the Republicans be raising hell if this was happening to them? It's probably not going to matter for Obama in West Virginia (which will likely go McCain), but it might make a big difference in Pennsylvania where voting machines were breaking down across the state in the primary season. When you vote on Tuesday, bring your camera and video your vote. Raise hell if there's something fishy going on.

6. The Bradley Effect - In 1982, the black mayor of LA, Tom Bradley, ran for governor of California and enjoyed a lead in both the pre-election polls and the exit polls. And he lost. The effect named after him suggests that people didn’t want to appear racist so they told pollsters they voted for him when in reality they had not. I don’t think this is going to be a huge factor in this year’s race, but it’s possible that there will be some effect. I saw one Princeton poli-sci professor who suggested that black politicians factor in 5 points worth of Bradley Effect when looking at their polls. That’s scary. But the Bradley election was 26 years ago. We’ve grown as a nation since then. Haven’t we? Have we?

5. The Undecideds are all going to vote McCain - Some analysts seem to think that all the undecideds are going McCain; others see no reason to think they won’t be split. Paul Begala suggested that it’s not the people who say they’re going to vote for Obama who can’t bring themselves to vote for him (Bradley Effect), but the people who say they’re undecided who would rather say that than that they won’t vote for him.

4. The Fear Factor – Will people be swayed by the desperate and irrational fear-mongering of the McCain Campaign and decide that it’s just too risky, too dangerous, to vote for Obama? This concerns me. If we’ve learned anything from the past 7 years it’s that the American people are very susceptible to fear mongering.

3. The Stupid Factor – Will people fail to understand that we already have a fucking progressive tax structure in the United States and that Obama’s tax plan is in no more socialist/Marxist/communist than George Bush’s or any other non-flat-tax-pushing politician?

2. Republican Electoral Shenanigans – Forget about the bullshit misdirection of the ACORN hubbubabaloo. They haven’t done anything wrong or illegal. The real threat to the very fiber of democracy is the continued, systematic, Republican voter suppression effort – which has ranged from disenfranchisement (voter roll purging) to intimidation to discouragement (disproportionate number of voting booths in white and black neighborhoods). In 2000 it was Florida; in 2004 it was Ohio. What state will it be in 2008? Pennsylvania? Virginia? Nevada? Will it even matter this year?

1. Obsolete Polling Methodology? – Are we all being completely fooled by inaccurate polling information? Here’s an interesting interview with UberStatMonkey Nate Silver about polling this election cycle. Silver is the managing partner of the highly respected baseball stat site, Baseball Prospectus, and the brains behind the popular polling site, Of particular interest is this exchange:

NATE SILVER: Well, what I'm worried about is that this reliance is happening at the same time the polling itself is getting more and more difficult to do. You know, it used to be considered good if you could get 40 percent of the people to pick up the phone when you called and responded to your survey. That used to be kind of the benchmark. And now, if you get 20 percent of people actually responding, or even 15 percent, that's considered good to adequate. You know, people screen their phone calls a lot more now. People who have cell phones aren't called, in the first place, by most of the pollsters; there are some exceptions. You know, people have Vonage, these services on the internet, where they don't even have a telephone. So it's hard to reach people who are busy, who are distrustful of a random number coming up on their land line. And so, the non-response problem is becoming, you know, very serious. We might have to move into some kind of a hybrid, where you do try some kind of a survey instrument on the internet, combine that with a telephone sample. But these polls, you know, as we saw numerous times in the primaries this year, are not terribly accurate. It's not because the pollsters are dumb. There are a lot of very smart people in the industry. It's just inherently very hard to do when you're trying to do a survey, and, you know, four out of five or five of six people won't take your phone call. It's kind of very hard to balance everything to kind of make up for that fundamental problem.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And is there any concern and any analysis been done of the people who are refusing to be polled, whether they have any particular political perspective or viewpoint that might end up skewing your—the total results of a poll?

NATE SILVER: There are different kind of groups. Usually older people still pick up the phone more than younger people, women still more than men. You know, there's some thought that maybe people who are quite conservative won't pick up the phone as much as people who are more liberal. So it does depend. In this election, those kind of different kind of things balance out, where you might get too few young people, but maybe too few conservatives. That would kind of balance out. But, you know—but there definitely is what's called non-response bias. What the pollsters try and do is say, you know, if the woman answers the phone, to say, "I want to speak with the person having the next birthday," for example. But you can't always correct for that. Some of these polls use automated scripts; they're so-called robopolls. And so, they won't have a chance. Someone can say they're are a woman, if they're in fact, you know, not a woman, if that's what they feel, if they feel like trying to mess with the polling script and stuff like that. So there are kind of numerous problems with your kind of selection and with your non-response bias.

Are we chained to the floor in Plato's Cave, taking the puppet shadows for reality?

Verdict: I think Obama's going to win. But these ten things will keep me anxious and uncomfortable until he reaches 344 electoral college votes. I need a solid 74 ECV comfort zone this year.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Paul Pierce is a Big Crybaby


Paul Pierce humiliated himself, his teammates, and the city of Boston tonight by opening up the waterworks at the TD Banknorth Garden when he received his championship ring and raised the Celtics' 17th World Championship banner to the rafters. After he stopped bawling like a kindergarten bitch, he went on to further shame his family and friends by scoring a piddly 11 points in the first quarter to "set the tone" and finished with a pathetic 27 points, "leading" his team to an season-opening win. What a pussy.

And we're done with Bizarro World. I admit it: I got a little chill seeing the oft-stabbed warrior-captain (-) of the C's crying and raising the long-awaited 17th Banner to its place next to the 1986 banner. Trivmaster John and the Practical Slacker were watching the ceremony with me and they had the decency not to scrutinize my moist eyes. Perhaps they were busy concealing their own.

In the midst of a World Series freeze-frame and a month of obsessive political poll-monitoring, it's a joy to welcome the Celtics back into my life. It was nice to see the pomp and ceremony celebrating last season's title, but it was great to watch Pierce, Powe, Rondo, and the gang grind their way to a solid win against a very good Cavs team. The first half of the game was not the most impressive performance, but the sloppiness could easily be explained away as an emotional hiccup after the pre-game ceremony. Their defense locked down in the second half, limited LeBron and the Cavs to 35 points, and closed it out. Good win. I like the C's chances to make it back to the NBA Finals this year. The loss of James Posey will be felt, but I feel good about those minutes being redistributed between Powe, Tony Allen, and super-rookie Bill Walker. If Rondo, Perk, Powe, and Big Baby all continue their improvement this year, we're going to be in good shape.

In addition to the Celtics, I'm excited about the whole NBA this year. The Lakers, Hornets, and Cavs are all better, the Spurs, Mavs, and Suns are all older, and the Sixers, Jazz, Rockets, Pistons, Raptors, and Blazers are all intriguing. I was looking forward to watching the debut of the Blazer's "Glass" Greg Oden in the 2nd game of the doubleheader tonight against "Glass" Andrew Bynum and the Lakers. Oden looked like the man-child he is in the first 13 minutes, pulling down 5 boards and awkwardly missing 4 shots. Then he sprained something in the foot-ankle range of his right leg. Not the knee though. He was held out for the rest of the game and the MRI is forthcoming. I really hope he's alright because he seems like a great kid and a monster talent. I hope he's not going to end up on the long list of of NBA disappointments.

Random trivia question: who started their NBA career by getting their first points on a goaltending call and finished their career in the top 20 all-time for points and steals?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lousy Literature - (lousy like a fox. A fox infested by louses)

While in the San Francisco Mystery Books store last year, I picked up a couple garbage pulp non-classics. One was Plugged Nickel - a train mystery about a stranger who appeared to have been split in two on the tracks - but wait! The bottom belonged to a woman and the top half belonged to a man - whaa??? It was horribly written and fantastically so. The other book was Henry Kane's Death Is The Last Lover, which promised to be both crappily entertaining and mildly pornographic. Plus it had what looks like a large rat bite out of the side. (or a large louse bite)

Sold. It is quite possibly the worst piece of writing I've ever read. And I love it. It has yielded such masterful constructions of the English language as:


Awesome. Why has it taken me 35 years to discover the joy of crappy mysteries? I'm hooked. Hooked like a fish on a hook. Like a sardine that's going to be crammed into a can of sardines. Here's another sample for your reading pleasure/pain:

Mousie Lawrence, born Morris Lawrence, was a fifty-year-old man with all the moral scruples of a despondent rodent. He was small, wiry, rough, tough, and heartless. Fifteen years ago he was still groping, clawing for his niche in the world of his peers - that was when he was apprehended and jugged for armed robbery. But Mousie was not stupid and he had come a long way since then. Ten years ago, he had hooked up with a major narcotics outfit operating out of Mexico City and he had been paired off with Kiddy Malone. They had fitted together like a screw and a bolt, they had complemented one another: they were a rousing success in the nefarious traffic which was their milieu. They were front men, advance men, salesmen. Operating out of Mexico City, with enormous funds at ther [sic] disposal, they descended upon various points in the United States where they set up depots, organized intricate personnel, managed and stayed with an operation until it was meshed, geared, flawless, and self-performing. Then they retreated to home base, where minds concentrated on the next site of burgeoning business for this enterprising duo. Mousie was a sour little man, dry and humorless, and a teetotaler both of alcohol and drugs. Kiddy Malone was an addict, a small man like Mousie, but outgoing, robust, twinkling-eyed and happy-natured when he was on the stuff - and since he was in the business, he was always on the stuff. Kiddy's Christian name was Kenneth and I was much more intimately acquainted with Kiddy than I was with Mousie Lawrence. Kiddy was an Irishman out of Dublin. Sixteen years ago, he had been a seaman who had jumped ship and had remained, without benefit of quota or citizenship, in the United States. Kiddy was a woman's man, and I had first met him when he had got into trouble with his first woman in this country (or second or third or thereabouts). He had been effusively appreciative of my efforts in his behalf - which was no more than fair since he could not afford to pay for such efforts at that time in his career - and a casual acquaintanceship had ripened into a rather ribald and entertaining friendship, until Kiddy had commenced to sin with the syndicate, and I had commenced to disapprove of the new ways and habits of one Kiddy Malone. Before long, Kiddy's papers were straightened out, a forged citizenship was forged for him, and he began to patronize the correct tailors, the correct haberdashers, the correct barbers, the correct booters, and he began to flash bankrolls as thick as salami sandwiches.

That's just a taste (see what I did there!?!?). I'm sure there'll be more entries to come (just as their will be more sandwiches to come)...

UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Duffless for pointing me to the winners of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest and to commenter Sandy for tipping me to the trashy fiction review blog, Pop Sensation, written by 2008 M5K Dorkfest winner, Rex Parker (that's more prestigious than you think - I was extremely remiss in not getting my credentials in on time (can one be extremely remiss?)). Nice work, Rex.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

O'Bama vs. McCain

Here's a little ditty to get you pumped up for the third presidential debate:

I'll be semi-live-blogging in the comment section if anything interesting happens. Feel free to stop by.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm a dork.

I love this new pollster graph with all the breakdowns and tools to manipulate it. I suspect that I would hate it if the blue and red were reversed.

UPDATE - I had to switch from the interactive graph to a picture because it was causing VTK loading delays. Go to to see the interactive graph and dork out on manipulating the tools function. Or enjoy the state-by-state, updated-daily, color-coded electoral breakdown from I put a link to this one in the right margin. And if you're a total addict, check out the data from the links underneath the chart. But I guess I don't need to tell you all this if you're a total addict. I like the cartogram myself.