Mediocre Fred's Mediocre Blog
Monday, August 30, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Movin' on Up"


I'm a Munuvian now! Henceforth, you can look for my musings and ramblings over at my new home. I hope those of you who have been kind enough to blogroll me in the past will update your links and spread the word. For the next week or so, I'll probably be focused more on spiffing up my new digs than on posting new material, so we'll sort of be playing it by ear as to what to expect content-wise. For better or worse, though, I should be firing on all cylinders in a week or so. Cheers, everybody!
Monday, August 23, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Vacation" by the Go-Gos


So I'm going to take it. I need to recharge my batteries, so I'm going to depart the scene for this week. See you next Monday. The regularly scheduled Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice column will run next Tuesday.

A brief note to Ensie at Both Hands: I'm glad you appreciated the link. Let's be blog friends! I recommend that my loyal readers, if they haven't checked out Both Hands yet, take the opportunity to do so this week.
Friday, August 20, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Oh Boy" by Buddy Holly


Hey there, everybody! Well, I've finally returned to a normal orbit after the excitement of yesterday. That means it's time for our usual gumbo of witless, uninteresting bits of information strung together in random fashion. Let's get started!

First off, to all you Yankee fans out there: I told you so. When the Yanks dumped Jose Contreras on the White Sox in exchange for Esteban Loaiza, fans of the Bombers were too busy tap-dancing with joy over Contreras' departure to notice or care about Loaiza. But in my Pulitzer-Prize-winning trade-deadline review, I warned everyone that "Esteban Loaiza does not constitute an improvement. In his entire maddening and disappointing career, Loaiza has had one truly impressive season, which was last year. This year, his ERA is around 5.50, and he's shown the exact same inconsistency that so infuriated [Yankee fans] in Contreras."

Didn't believe me, huh? Well, three starts into the Esteban Loaiza Era, the Yankees are already looking to dump their prize new acquisition. Current scuttlebutt is that they're trying to foist Loaiza off on Texas, a team whose rotation consists, at last check, of Kenny Rogers, Ryan Drese, Gaylord Perry, the late Warren Spahn and the San Diego Chicken (acquired in a waiver-wire deal from the Padres in exchange for a mascot to be named later). Worse yet, Scott Erickson is also involved. So the Rangers just might be desperate enough to take a flyer on Loaiza.

To check the pulse of Yankee Nation, I consulted with the Yankee fan I know best, my dad.

MF: So, Dad, how's Loaiza working out for you?

DAD: Mmpf. Well, who cares? We just took him so we could get rid of Contreras. That alone was worth it.

MF: Have you noticed that Loaiza pitches about the same as Contreras?

DAD: Mmpf. Give him time.

MF: Sure thing. The Yankees are famous for being patient, right? In fact, George Steinbrenner loves Loaiza so much that the Yanks are trying to dump him already.

DAD: Really? Someone else would take him? Who?

MF: Texas. They're desperate.

DAD: Well, great! What are we getting back? Maybe their second baseman [Alfonso Soriano].

MF: Ha ha ha. No.

DAD: Well, what, then?

MF: Some minor-leaguer. Anyone, pretty much. Maybe a bag of used baseballs.

DAD: Mmpf.

Actually, the minor leaguers that the Rangers are discussing in exchange for Loiaza aren't that bad. Still, I do believe I called this one. You can thank me later.

Tip of the hat to my man Frinklin, who's written up some entertaining fashion reviews of NFL uniforms. Part one was the AFC, part two the NFC. Both parts are well-written and enjoyable, and Frinklin demonstrates good taste in uniforms, apart from an inexplicable fondness for the sixth-grade-art-project-gone-haywire uniforms of the Tennessee Titans. Check him out.

I also want to welcome to my blogroll the Mrs. Frinklin, and her blog Both Hands. I couldn't agree with her more about the relative merits of Macaroni Grill and Olive Garden. They're both Italian chain restaurants, but Macaroni Grill is far superior. Go figure. (Incidentally, at the risk of reigniting the chains-vs.-independents debate, I would like to point out that the worst Italian meal I ever had was not at a chain, but at an independent, Luigi's in Williamsburg, Virginia. It's probably not there anymore. I hope it was firebombed by angry customers.)

I'm a little ticked off about this Slate swing-state profile on Oregon. The article itself is fine; Chris Suellentrop does a fine job documenting the increasingly hard-left drift in Portland and the disconnect between Portland and the rest of the state. However, the teaser for the article reads, "Is it so progressive that Kerry could lose it?" And the answer, as spelled out clearly by Suellentrop, is a resounding "No." I understand that the point of the "Swingers" series is to examine the scene in states that were tightly contested in 2000 (and Oregon was, largely thanks to Mr. Nader). But this particular teaser feels awfully cheap. Come on, Slate, you're better than that.

I also recommend, somewhat belatedly, Roger Simon's column on Governor McGreevey of New Jersey. Simon provides an excellent analysis of the situation, and he had a read on the situation very similar to mine. Worth taking a look at.

Last night I somehow wound up watching Jim Rome's bad TV show. Don't ask me how this happened. Late-night TV is truly a vast wasteland. At any rate, I recall having watched his show at its debut, and finding it pretty bad. The only thing that I felt it had going for its was the name, "Rome is Burning," which I thought was a pretty cool and clever name. Too bad it didn't come along with a better host.

At any rate, I saw his show last night, and he's changed the name! Now it's "Jim Rome is Burning." It destroys the whole joke! "Rome is Burning" is witty; "Jim Rome is Burning" feels put-on and stupid. How is it that, when a show has only one thing going for it, you throw that away? (Not the first time, either; the promos for his show when it debuted had some cool music that they didn't use in the show. How big a moron is Rome, anyway? Wait, don't answer that.)

I was hoping that, maybe, it would turn out that someone had trademarked the phrase "Rome is burning" and ESPN was forced to change it due to a lawsuit. But no, according to Fritz Quindt, they did it on purpose, "to foster clearer association with the star." How stupid can you be? Did anyone with a brain not see the title "Rome is Burning" and immediately conclude that Jim Rome was involved? Anyone who couldn't figure that out isn't smart enough to turn on their television.

That's all for this week. I promise to try to be less self-absorbed next week. See you Monday!
Thursday, August 19, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang


Well, I thought my year was made yesterday when I got to meet Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post. (It certainly made Frinklin jealous.) Well, imagine my emotion when I open up today's paper and find myself quoted in Boswell's column! (That's me at the end calling Loudoun County a "cow pasture." And if you didn't know my real name before, well, now you do.) I'm tempted to drop him a line telling him that he quoted the Metallica lyrics at the end wrong, but for now I'm just floating on air. I may be a big-city sophisticate and all that, but I'm not so jaded that I don't find it cool that my name is in a big-deal paper, and in the column of one of my favorite writers no less. (Papa Shaft pointed out that if Boswell ever puts out a book of collected column on the DC baseball struggle, I might well be in it. That possibility is so far off the top of the cool chart that I can scarcely contemplate it.)

I'd shift gears and actually write about something meaningful, but I keep breaking out into spontaneous happy-dance jigs that interrupt the thought process, so I think I'll give up on that. Instead, I'm giving myself a one-day vacation. See you Friday!
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Take Me Out to the Ballgame"


Howdy, everybody! I had a surprisingly good day today, all thanks to the Baltimore Orioles' DC FanFest. I'm sure that most of you find this hard to believe, which is understandable. I find it hard to believe myself. And some of you are probably wondering why I'd be at the FanFest in the first place. So for you folks, I'd best begin at the beginning.

I went to the FanFest strictly and solely to meet up with Papa Shaft, with whom I planned to go to lunch. I got there a while before the end of the event, when we were to meet, so I figured I'd wander around and examine the scene. The first thing I noticed was a lot of lines. Lines up and down the square. Lines, lines, lines! It called to mind Communist Russia. It was definitely a line-oriented event. I attempted to avoid the lines and find a shady spot to stand and watch for the protesters.

I'd heard some scuttlebutt that DC baseball boosters were planning to picket the FanFest, an idea I applauded. What better way to publicize the cause than to crash Peter Angelos' market-protecting party? After strolling the premises awhile, and dodging the lines to work into the center of the square, I located Protest Central. Not much of a show; two youngish guys (college-age, I'd guess) holding signs standing next to a middle-aged man. The signs contained a Peter Angelos quote, "There are no real baseball fans in DC," and the phrase "Support baseball in DC/NoVa." I was about to go over and tell the sign-wavers to keep the faith, but something about the middle-aged man seemed familiar, and I was trying to place him. I looked a little closer and noticed that he was writing in a long notepad. Suddenly it all clicked into place: the man was Thomas Boswell!

Boswell is a baseball writer for the Post, one of the greats. I'm a huge fan of Boswell's work; I read his column religiously, and I have all his books. The man is, to me, a legend. And here he was, standing three feet away. Naturally, I couldn't resist going over and introducing myself. He shook my head and invited me to walk and talk. We shot the breeze about the FanFest and DC baseball. After a while, he pulled out his pad and made a few notes. Thomas Boswell was interviewing me! How cool was that? He excused himself after a few minutes, and I drifted off with a huge grin on my face. My day -- nay, my year -- was made.

Incidentally, Boswell is a good guy. He was low-key and friendly, engaging me in baseball chat like two fans sitting in the bleachers on a summer afternoon. I'd love to watch a game with him. He's shorter than I expected, shorter than me, in fact. If I have any criticism of the man, it's that, like many journalists, he appears to dress in the dark. He was wearing a short-sleeve button-down shirt that was maroon-and-white plaid. Boswell has a wife, and I would have thought she would have but the kibosh on a shirt like that. (Boswell, however, was a GQ model next to Jay Gibbons, who was wearing a light-blue shirt with this bizarre Western-ish embroidery along the back at the shoulder blades. Gibbons must not be married, because any right-thinking wife would have long since thrown that shirt in the incinerator.)

Incidentally, I think I understand how the Greg Packer "scandal" happened. (For those not familiar, Packer was a New Yorker who got quoted repeatedly in the Times, so many times that right-wing critics started calling them out on it.) Boswell was following what I presume is the standard procedure for journalists at events like this: he was wandering around, chatting up people who seemed willing to talk and jotting down notes. I'd imagine that, journalistically speaking, this is a safer and saner alternative to collaring people at random and trying to make them talk to you. Obviously, given a story with idenitifiable major players, you need to talk to those people whether they want to talk or not. But at an event like this, where you're just looking for some faces in the crowd, obviously you're going to want to talk to people who want to talk to you.

Given that, if you're someone who wants to get in the paper a lot, the best strategy would be to hang around crowd-based events, learn to identify the journalists and approach them, preferably with compliments. Odds are, if you're a friendly face with something to say, you'll probably make it in the paper. I'd guess that that's just what Packer did. (Was it the Times' fault for not catching on? I'm inclined to say no, because it's the sort of thing that's only obvious once it's pointed out.) I don't have any desire to follow in Packer's footsteps, but I was happy to get to meet a journalist I like and admire.

I did meet up with Papa Shaft afterward, and he called my attention to something I missed: In the office building over the Orioles team store at Farragut Square, mischievous office workers had taped signs in the windows reading "Baseball in DC" and "DC Fans Don't Sell Out for a Free Hot Dog." (Free food was part of FanFest.) Papa Shaft approved the sentiment, and so do I.

Papa Shaft also reports that among the O's players, Jay Gibbons and Todd Williams were nice and friendly guys, while Rodrigo Lopez and Buddy Groom were, um, not. Groom won Papa's official "Mondo-Asshole of the Day" title for sitting there and bitching constantly to Lopez about how they were forced to sit in the sun, while the rookies across the square were sitting in shade. As Papa pointed out, when the session started, Groom's table was in the shade (Rafael Palmeiro having moved it there). But there's not much shade to be had at high noon. My personal take on it is that Buddy Groom should consider himself fortunate to have a job at this point. He's an adequate left-handed reliever, but he's 39 and had rarely if ever been more than a marginal player. If anyone should have been grateful just to be out there, it was Groom.

But then, isn't it usually the case that the most marginal members of a club usually have the worst attitudes? The closer you are to losing your grip on membership in the elite, the harder you're going to fight to stay there and the less pleasant you're going to be to the non-elite. Up until now, I'd never cared one way or the other about Buddy Groom. Now, I'm so irritated by Papa Shaft's report on Groom's bad behavior that I feel no qualms about informing the world that Buddy's real first name is "Wedsel." No, really. Any fans who wish to start up a "Let's Go Wed-sel" chant the next time Groom enters a game have my blessing and admiration.

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it, I think that this pretty much defines the concept of "taking a joke too far." The front page is mildly cute, I guess. But I encourage you to poke around a little further. Someone clearly put a lot of time and energy into this. If you're not convinced, click on the "Order Book" tab. Yes, it's for real. You can actually spend $30 for a book that, by the time it arrives, will probably be a forgotten memory of a lame, discontinued ad campaign.

I elected not to blow the $30 and instead downloaded a copy. It's about 130 pages long. Granted, it's in large type and includes a lot of pictures, but there's at least a good 60-70 solid pages of writing in there. And it's not even good! It's not an effective parody of fad-diet books, it's too long to be an effective product plug, and it's not particularly humorous on its own. Certain elements merited a chuckle (particularly the section on supermodel wrestling, and yes, I'm dead serious), but the overall effect is like a movie based on an SNL sketch: a 30-second premise stretched much, much too far and too thin. Anyone who actually drops $30 on this book should immediately be placed under house arrest and forbidden to make future spending decisions without consulting someone with a brain.

I look at this, and at the Subservient Chicken, and I wonder just what they're smoking over at Burger King HQ. I know Burger King is hemorrhaging market share, and I know Wendy's has passed them for #2 among fast-food chains, and I imagine drastic measures are called for. But is this what it's come to? This is beyond bizarre. Unless they're trying to position themselves as the fast-food chain of choice for stoners (an honor currently held by Taco Bell), I don't know what they're thinking.

That's all for today. See you tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Chariots of Fire"


Hello, everyone! Today I'm going to write about the Olympics, largely because everyone else is. It's one of those big conversation topics, you know? Unfortunately, there's a little problem for me in writing about the Olympics. Specifically, I haven't watched a minute of them. I haven't watched a significant portion of the Olympics in over 10 years. Since this qualifies me as, at minimum, a weirdo, and at maximum un-American, perhaps I'd better explain why.

As you might expect, I'm a fan of obscure sports like curling and handball, so you might think my anti-Olympic viewing stance has to do with NBC's obsession with the major sports (basketball, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, etc.). And that might be true, except that I don't watch the sports I like either (such as hockey and basketball). And like Oliver Willis, I don't care for NBC's Olympic coverage, particularly the noxiously syrupy soft-focus features. But it's more than that. Part of it, perhaps, has to do with the fact that I'm too young to appreciate the Cold War America-against-the-world aspect of it. I certainly never felt jingoistic enough to feel any special thrill when the Americans one. If anything, I think I wound up rooting against the Americans more often than not. (My contrarian streak at work.)

And I did watch the Olympics once upon a time. I enjoyed the Olympics at Calgary and Seoul. I wrote about Albertville for my school paper (no, I didn't go there). But the wheels came off after that. Why? It has to do with something that happened at the '92 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

My romance with the Olympics was already fading by the time Barcelona rolled around. I was tired of NBC's crappy coverage, tired of American arrogance, tired of being force-fed the same tired selection of events. But one evening during Barcelona, I went bike riding with my dad. There's a nice trail on an old railroad right-of-way that runs behind the house, and we took advantage of the long summer evening to get in a few miles before dark. On the way back, the sun was sinking low and my energy was ebbing. I pressed on, trying to beat the setting sun and my dad back home. And I felt a kinship with the Olympic athletes, pushing myself to the limit, seeing what I was capable of. I said to myself, "When I get home, I'm going to watch the Olympics." I felt my romance starting to rekindle. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

So when I got home, I immediately turned on NBC. As it happens, men's volleyball was on. The Americans were playing (of course). And the entire team had shaved their heads. Why? I assumed this was some sort of team solidarity gesture and/or superstitious ritual, and I was down with that. About five minutes later, though, I found out the real reason: In the previous game, the Americans lost due to what they felt was a bad call by the officials. In protest, they respond by shaving their heads. And that was it. I clicked off the TV, and the Barcelona Olympics, permanently. (When I later read about the American basketball players covering up the Reebok logo on their jackets because they had deals with Nike, my non-viewing policy was confirmed.)

After that, I watched a little bit of the '94 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, but the media-commercial orgy surrounding the '96 Summer Games in Atlanta so turned me off that I didn't watch a minute. Nor did I watch Nagano in '98, Sydney in 2000, or Salt Lake City in '02. And I haven't watched a minute of the Games in Athens.

And I don't regret it. I may be a bit less water-cooler-conversant for my no-Olympics policy, but I don't miss it. I still hate the syrupy profiles. American manners haven't improved. And I still can't stand to watch figure skating. All the headlines any more are about scandals, doping and judging, and if the actual events matter it's due to the failures of high-profile American athletes (see also: the Creamed Team).

So what would get me interested in the Olympics again? Well, I suppose that axing the soft-focus features, showing the minor events and not being so Americo-centric would help. But truth be told, my best shot for rekindling the dead flame has already come and gone. It came, probably unsurprisingly, in the form of a woman.

In high school, I was friends with a terrific long-distance runner named Jackie Kerr. Jackie and I met in middle school, and we rode the same bus in high school. In addition to being a great runner, Jackie was upbeat, likeable and funny. We were good friends, but we never dated. Never, that is, until prom came around. It just seemed natural to ask Jackie; neither of us was seeing anyone, and we felt comfortable with each other. So I asked, and she said yes.

Was it magic? Not particularly. We did the prom thing, danced and ate and took pictures, but we didn't have any great romantic moments. Nor did it lead to anything afterward; I went to UVA, she went to William and Mary, then transferred to Stanford. We haven't spoken in some time.

But for a while, she had legitimate Olympic potential. She was the state mile champion in high school. (I was, surprisingly, a pretty good runner myself; she kept trying to get me to go out for the team, and I kept demurring. Then I got fat and lazy.) She was legendary for a while; people said she had Olympic potential, and they meant it. But injuries got in the way; she kept getting hurt, and the injuries wound up derailing her running career. She wound up graduating from Stanford with a degree in Slavic studies, I hear through the grapevine. I'm sure she's doing great in whatever she's up to now; she was always very bright.

Call me selfish and parochial if you want. But if Jackie -- my Jackie -- had been running in Sydney or Athens, you can damn well better believe I'd have been tuning in. Without her, though, I'd just as soon skip it. (I'll show you how parochial I am: there's a runner from my home town who's in the Olympics this year, and I barely care. I didn't know him.)

For more on the Olympics, I highly recommend this exchange of letters between ESPN's Bill Simmons and pop-culture writer Chuck Klosterman. They bring a quirky, offbeat take on Olympic basketball and American culture that I really like. Check it out.

And that's all for today. Something else tomorrow!
Monday, August 16, 2004
  Today's Musical Selection: "Never Can Say Goodbye" by the Jackson 5


Hello, friends and readers! I hope you all had a fine weekend. Mine was fine, though a little rainy thanks to the edges of Hurricane "Chuck" blowing through the Fedroplex. Today, I offer you the latest romantic stylings of Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice, coming to us today from Buffalo, New York, where Aunt Beatrice was born and raised. I'm sure Aunt Beatrice is enjoying old home week, but how is Uncle Millie enjoying life in upstate New York? I'm sure we'll find out in today's dispatch. Take it away, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice!

- - - - -

When a Man Loves a Woman, a Good Time Is Had By All, by Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice

AB: Hi, everybody! Uncle Millie and I are in my hometown, Buffalo, sitting at Carlos O'Reilly's. I'm so happy to be home again. I've really enjoyed seeing my family!


AB: Uncle Millie is having a little trouble talking today.


AB: Actually, he hasn't said a word since yesterday evening. It's been awfully nice.


AB: See, last night we went to the world-famous Anchor Bar, where Buffalo wings were invented. As soon as we walked in, Uncle Millie discovered a few guys sitting at the bar competing to see how many shots they could drink. Naturally, he couldn't resist joining in.


AB: After all, nobody drinks Uncle Millie under the table. Right, my dear?


AB: It wasn't until after the contest had begun that Uncle Millie discovered that they weren't doing shots of alcohol, but shots of hot sauce. This is another proud Buffalo tradition, but one with which Uncle Millie was sadly unfamiliar. At least until now.


AB: Uncle Millie downed 11 shots of hot sauce, which was good enough for third place. However, in the aftermath of the event, he began signaling for emergency assistance. He attempted to still the fire in his mouth and throat with whiskey, unfortunately not realizing that alcohol is completely ineffective at combatting pepper poisoning.


AB: We visited the doctor this morning, and he said that Uncle Millie should regain his voice in a couple days. However, we had this column due, so we worked out a system. He'll write down his thoughts, and I'll read them out loud. Uncle Millie, do you have any words of welcome for our readers?

UM: (scribbling)

AB: Uncle Millie says... I can't read this. I'd forgotten how awful his handwriting is. So I'll just have to sort of guess. I imagine Uncle Millie says, "Hello, lads! Greetings from beautiful Buffalo, New York, where my beloved and I have repaired to see her lovely family."


AB: Uncle Millie is nodding. I must have captured his thoughts reasonably well. I think this will work! Let's take a look at our first letter.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I'm 27, and about six months ago I broke up with my girlfriend, "Lisa." It didn't end well. A lot of nasty words were said, things that were hard for us to forgive. Anyway, neither of us has seen anyone since then. Recently, we bumped into each other at a club, and we got to talking. We're not interested in getting back together again, but Lisa approached me with an intriguing offer: sex without commitment. It seems she's gotten awfully "lonely" lately, and she'd rather sleep with someone "safe," someone she already knows, rather than picking up a one-night stand. Now, I'm "lonely" too, but if this is going to lead down the road to us getting back together, I'm not interested. Should I say yes?

Ronnie in Daytona Beach

AB: Hi, Ronnie. I can understand why you'd be interested in that offer, but I'd advise you to steer clear of it. For one thing, I don't think sex without love is ever a good idea. I applaud Lisa for wanting to avoid the one-night stand, but what she's proposing is essentially a one-night stand with you, isn't it? For another, I'm not entirely sure I believe her that this is all about sex for her. Maybe she knows that you don't want to try again, so she's trying to find another way back to your heart. I wouldn't fool with that, if I were you.

Do you have anything to say, Uncle Millie?

UM: (scribbling)

AB: More nonsense. I imagine, however, that he's thinking something like, "Have you taken leave of your senses, lad? A woman is offering you sex without commitment, and you're thinking of turning her down?! I worry about you, lad. If you're not interested in this lady's generous offer, kindly forward her number to Uncle Millie, so that I can give her what she deserves." Have I got it pretty well down, dear?


AB: He's nodding. Well, my dear, as usual you've got a disgusting, one-track mind. But really, if you didn't, I wouldn't recognize you. Who would you be if you weren't you, my dear?


AB: He's shrugging. I'm not surprised. Let's move on.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

I'm 31, and I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever find a woman. I have no problem getting dates. My problem is turning those dates into relationships. They all seem to follow the same pattern: a few good dates, then slowly trailing off into nothing. I can't figure out why it keeps going wrong. I dress well, maintain good personal hygiene, I make a decent living, and I'm reasonably charming in conversation. Yet none of my relationships last longer than a month. What am I doing wrong?

Glenn in Scarborough

AB: Hi, Glenn. Well, I guess the first question I'd ask is whether you've ever had a relationship that lasted longer than a month. If you haven't, chances are you aren't experienced in the sorts of things that make for long-term relationship success. Having a successful long-term relationship is an entirely different animal from having a few good dates. And you might even be sending out unconcious signals that you're only interested in short-term relationships.


AB: I just paused naturally there, expecting Uncle Millie to cut in with some sarcastic or boorish remark. It's so unusual to have the floor to myself! I don't think I've ever been able to talk this long without being interrupted before. This is rather nice. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, Glenn: I think your best bet is to talk to your female friends, and see if you say or do things that subconciously turn women off. No one has a better eye for what impresses women than other women, and they're liable to notice things that your male friends wouldn't, such as that you brag too much, or monopolize the talking time. These are exactly the kind of things that might be costing you relationships without your even knowing it.

Now let's see what Uncle Millie might have to say about this.

UM: (scribbling)

AB: Now, let's see.... "Bringle lotmrshky drvltay?"

UM: (scribbling)

AB: Let's see... something here about "women," "marriage" and "evil." I believe I know what he's getting at. "Lad, a great many women your age are desperately seeking marriage. These women are evil, and must be avoided."


AB: He's nodding. I must have figured it out. "Now, lad, I'm sure that, like me, you are trapped in a state of perpetual adolescence and believe that being in a faithful, monogamous relationship will give you cooties. If you're like me, the mere thought of settling down with just one woman causes you to break out into hives. And like me, you probably have at best a primitve reptilian sense of morality."


AB: What's that? You're shaking your head. Did I not get you right there? Let me try again: "Lad, long-term relationships with honest, caring, STD-free women are more trouble than they're worth. Better to enjoy casual, meaningless sex for the rest of your life. Better to avoid anything resembling a responsible adult existence as long as possible. I should know. Of course, I chose this course in no small part because I don't really know how to satisfy a woman." Have I pretty much got the essence of it, dear?

UM: Mmpf....

AB: Now, dear, you remember what the doctor said. Don't try to talk. It will only make things work. There, that's better.

Dear Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice,

Far be it from me to criticize someone else's personal life, but I can't help but wonder: Is anyone with a marriage like yours really qualified to write a romantic advice column? In every column, the two of you wind up fighting, saying nasty things about each other, and generally acting as though you can't stand one another. If you can't run your own marriage any better than that, why should we listen to what you have to say about our relationships? It's like taking morality advice from John Dillinger. What do you have to say for yourselves?

Chuck in San Antonio

AB: Hi, Chuck, and thanks for writing in. I'm sure you're not the only person who wonders about this question. And no, Chuck, Uncle Millie and I do not have the "perfect marriage," if there is such a thing. But really, our marriage is not as bad as it might appear in this column. We do argue a fair bit, but it's almost always in a loving spirit. Besides, I'd argue that those best qualified to give advice are those who've experienced a few bumps. How do you know how to fix something that's gone wrong if nothing ever goes wrong for you? By that standard, Uncle Millie and I might be the most qualified advice-giving couple in history.


AB: He's nodding. Do you have anything you'd like to say to Chuck, dear?

UM: (scribbling)

AB: Let's see... "Yes, lad, it's true that my beloved and I occasionally have our ups and downs, but in the end we have a basic understanding about our relationship. And our understanding is that everything that goes wrong is my fault. My philandering, lying and general shiftlessness are the root cause of all our marital disturbances."


AB: Why are you shaking your head, dear? This is very nice. Let's see what else there is: "Truth be told, I'm not sure how my beloved puts up with me at all. I'm a completely unfit husband, a broken-down cheating alcoholic, and I'm especially unworthy of someone so special as my dear Beatrice. She's a saint for putting up with me."

UM: Mmpf...

AB: "In fact, I'm so deeply sorry for what I've done to her over the course of our marriage that I'm going to give up drinking for good, effective immediately." Oh, Millie! That's so sweet of you!

UM: Mmpf!

AB: Your vocal cords, dear, your vocal cords. If you have something to say, write it.

UM: (scribbling)

AB: Oh, now, dear, you know you can't say that. You promised Fred you wouldn't use those words. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.


AB: So he's not saying anything. Ah, well. Goodbye, everybody! See you next time. And on behalf of Uncle Millie, "Happy hunting!"

UM: (scribbling)

AB: No, dear, you can't say that either. And it's not anatomically possible anyhow.

UM: (scribbling)

AB: No, I would not like to see how it could be.

- - - - -

Well, that was certainly a change from the typical column! Thank you, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice. Millie, I hope your voice comes back soon. Look for them again in their regularly scheduled slot a week from tomorrow.

Well, I'm sure you've all heard by now about the mauling that the USA men's basketball team endured at the hands of Puerto Rico on the weekend. On Saturday evening, Papa Shaft and I were out driving, and we heard something about "U.S. men's basketball" and "Puerto Rico" on the radio. Papa said, "Why is the U.S. men's basketball team playing in Puerto Rico? Shouldn't they be in Greece?" I made the requisite joke about having to find alternate facilities because the Greek basketball stadium wasn't finished yet, then said, "I don't believe the U.S. men's team is playing in Puerto Rico. I believe they're playing against Puerto Rico." Papa nodded, but after a pause asked: "Wait, why would Puerto Rico have its own team? Aren't they part of the United States?" This was a good point, and as I did not have a good answer we let the matter drop.

Well, as we all know now, Puerto Rico does have its own team, and I believe the reason why is that they quite sensibly decided that they wished to avoid the embarrassment of being associated with our men's basketball team. Also, they don't have any votes in Congress.

In the aftermath of the game, I have two thoughts:

- Washington D.C. should field its own Olympic team next time. I mean, hell, if Puerto Rico can do it, why not us? We don't have any votes in Congress either. We're not a state either. And fielding a separate squad means that Fedroplexers too could avoid the humiliation of being associated with Team Jersey Sales, a.k.a. Allen Iverson's Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings. I think we should look into this at once.

- had a great and beautiful headline in the wake of the loss on its Olympics main page. The hed read "Dazed and Confused," and it was directly above a picture of Larry Brown and Greg Popovich looking for all the world like the living embodiment of the words in the headline. Absolutely magnificent. I wish I'd printed out a copy for my wall.

Finally, I'm a bit late in announcing this, but everyone should go congratulate The Smart Lady for being accepted to Columbia Law School. I, of course, believed she could get in from the first, and it's about damn time that the admissions officials over there recognized her brilliance. Take a bite out of the Big Apple, Smart Lady.

And that's all for today. See you tomorrow!
Valium for the soul. Don't worry, none of those pesky strong opinions here. All are welcome. No shirt, no shoes, no service.

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