Friday, September 29, 2006

well, the Terrell Owens Might Have Committed Suicide event seems to be over. The Owens camp is denying everything. The police are a little bit angry that the Owens camp has lamely claimed a police conspiracy to make him look bad. but it looks like he will go back to playing football, probably way too soon. (

Senor Beavis (coefficient of relatedness = 0.5) spoke well about the complex and awkward relationship our society has to depression in light of the Terrell Owens incident. ( In his piece he also discussed the fact that we are having trouble generating opinions because no one is sure what if anything took place.

My first night in my first apartment out of college in San Francisco, my craiglist roommate/master tenant was taken away in an ambulance. Her friend who had been on the phone with her determined that she had intentionally overdosed on NSAIDs and called the cops. Upon her return the next morning, she claimed she had a bad reaction to a combination of meds and a head cold. I don't care which it was, it isn't my business, but the point is that suicide isn't like pregnancy. Often times, it cannot be determined objectively.

There has been an swirling undercurrent that this whole event might have been staged as a publicity stunt/ploy to make the nation feel sorry for him. (For the non-sports-inclined, Terrell is a famously self-centered wide receiver and about as close to a national villain as we have. Even Tom DeLay has partisan support.) If this was a publicity stunt, it is so ill-conceived and poorly executed, that it displays a fairly serious detachment from reality. and if it wasn't and his actions were suicidal, it shows a similar level of unwellness. I feel sorry for terrell owens. But I always have. The whole event reminds me a little of "Network" and"Rollerball." I guess it is just the public death of public figures aspect.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I want to take a moment for Clinton Portis. Has anyone crafted a more offbeat, yet likeable football persona? I don't know his motivations and I don't pretend to, but the costume chacters (Bro Sweets, Jerome from Southeast, Dr. I Don't Know, Sherriff Gonna Getcha) simply exploded the paradigm of the formulaic sports interview. (For the not sports inclined, Portis made a habit of dressing up in different costume-shop wigs, glasses and fake mustaches every monday when he was obliged to be interviewed about the previous day's game. It was mind-blowing)

I also support his Charles Oakley throwback hairstyle. I think the understatement of his hair when juxtaposed the chad johnson's self-aggrandizing version of a nearly identical haircut explains my fondness for Portis well. He is incredibly fun without being distracting. (see phil ford on RBs vs. WRS-- On top of that he is incredibly good. Adios Champ Bailey.

It is very possible that I am heartbroken after the departure of LaVarr and this is simply a rebound. but Clinton Portis, we salute you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Just Give [him] the Damn Privacy

We should all leave terrell owens alone right now. Any more commenting about the incident would imply that this is a story right now which it isn't. it might be in a week, but it isn't right now.

however, the fact that Odell Thurman was the SIXTH Bengal arrested this year is a story. are they the new blazers?

Billy Bragg is cool, but old. He played Peg City last night. It was just him and an electric guitar (and several mugs of tea) which made for an interesting show. solo electric just about sums up Bragg's positioning in between punk and croony singer-songerwriters. The whole show had a feel of a leftist rally which I found a little distasteful. I can't help but wonder what a right-wing balladeer show would look like. Then I remembered just how amazing and ahead of it's time Bob Roberts was. Hello World posted about the corporatization of viral/guerrilla marketing (, which I think is relevant to the ethos of modernity. and Bob Roberts mastered that idea16 years ago.

The opener was Geoff Berner ( who played funny and innappropriate songs with his accordion. I was particularly struck by his piece "Lucky God Damn Jew" which was meant to be provacative but I thought it sat nicely in the Roth/Allen (Woody, not George) tradition of laying forth the bitter, sarcastic, and possibly conniving side of judaism and/or aggressively mocking people's preconceptions about it rather than presenting an idealized picture for the betterment of the race (see Ellison's "Invisible Man"). It is also relevant to an article I read recently in salon called "cool jews" ( about the fact that contemporary jews in cinema and television were nebuschy and neurotic (Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer) as opposed to the 60s and 70s when they were tough, cool, or both (Lou Reed, Dustin Hoffman). I applaud Berner in his efforts. Bragg suggested (before playing Eisler on the go) that the HUAC hearings were actually an anti-semitic purge. I think these issues are important in a time when the world at large is turning against Israel for a poorly executed but not unprovoked war. Berner also plays pure humor well including "Don't play cards for money with Corby Lund"which is sadly absent from his album. (Btw Corby Lund is the lead singer of Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans--big stars in Canadian country music).

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I had a crazy thing happen last night. For those of you who don't know, I have been attending nigerian evangelical church. it is really fun. There is lots of singing and dancing and if you ignore some of the more strident sermons, it is a good time. I think I started going out of curiousity and kept going because it is basically an immigrant community church (mostly Nigerian with some Ghanaian and Rwandan) and I am basically an immigrant here. the really involved community feel was really nice. I actually have a nigerian immigrant staying in my spare room right now. he was in a roach motel.

but that's not what happened last night. I got invited (maybe because my english is good and I understand economics, or maybe just because Ike thinks a white guy will give him credibility, I don't know) to go to a meeting between an NGO that nominally specializes in home ownership for immigrant communities and the church (it was me, the pastor (Ike), his wife (Grace), and another guy (Immanuel)). This NGO is called Heart Housing, and it seems to consist of 4 christian bankers with guilty consciences and a new age-y preist. they have this vision of selling houses to "immigrant communities." only problem is: you can't sell a house to a community, you can only sell it to an individual/family. so they are trying to use the pastor to get to the immigrants in the church to buy houses (but it is totally unclear if they help wiht money or just advice or what they do), and the pastor wants them to help finance a church. He has presented a business plan that just doesn't hold a drop of water in western financial circles. I spend this time feeling a little embarrassed for him and wondering if this is a cultural difference (he is pledging his word, but with no savings and no prospect of significant income) or just Ike not having a lot of business sense. so that gets nixed pretty quickly.
then we get to the obvious idea that this NGO help Ike and his wife buy a house which they can hold church in if they want. this seems like a good idea. the guy I've never met before keeps talking about how god sent him a vision of the logo of Ike's church, but not the name and he had to seek it. and the banker's keep wanting to talk him into buying a house. and the priest keeps speaking slowly and making gestures and talking aboutb being able to save money by buying a 50lb bag of rice to share between the families. It is obvious that he is either experienced with immigrants with poor english, or has polished this shtick past reason, because all the nigerians speak fine english. We all feel good. I try to push the NGO about what it actually will do--they stammer and equivocate.
oh, and the whole thing is in an office at the big downtown mall (Portage Place) where we are served dinner, and Immanuel refuses to eat and gives the excuse of being overweight and one of the bankers keeps trying to tell him that losing weight is about portion control not skipping meals. again big glaring cultural differences. and the meal is all homemade by the preist and consists of a salad of raw kale, tomatoes and nesturtium flowers as well as garam masala beef stew and tang. and at the end Ike wants to end with a prayer and a song. The prayer tkaes 8 minutes and has an intensity that makes the NGO lutherans look at each other, and for the song, in trying to think of a song everyone will know, we wind up sitting around the table, heads bowed, singing "Oh come all ye faithful." we might as well have been the soldiers at the end of full metal jacket singing the mickey mouse theme for all the absurdist incongruity.
it was interesting, because I have certainly been on the side of the helpful establishment white folks when helping the "needy" (soup kitchens and clothing drives and whatnot) but it was weird to actually be on the immigrants negotiating team and see the NGO through their eyes. it was also sortof funny to see all the good intentions and handwringing and fuzzy planning to famously typify non-profits. I don't know. I haven't fully processed the experience, but I wanted to share because it certainly was memorable.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Other People's Junk

So after ridiculous mike, my cougar-trapping roommate moved out and took all the furniture, blue truck, the internet, and I have conspired to refurnish the place better than ever. this is exhausting as it all takes place during the hours after work. but the project is going well. particularly well given that instead of craigslist, the preferred sales site here is (this is not nearly as sexually explicit as it sounds).

I purchased a barbecue given as a wedding present to a couple who met on the internet on september 11 after which she moved from the US to Winnipeg to marry the guy. I feel a little silly given the cultural associations of grill ownership and hollow false suburban masculinity, but it is a very nice grill and embarrassingly cheap. it is a shame I won't be able to take it back to canada.

my dining room table came from a older couple. neither man nor wife was taller than 5'2". It was very strange for me to be around them. they had just sold their cottage on lake winnipeg, and were moving the furniture out so thier house was chocked full of duplicate furniture. These tiny people bustling about thier overstuffed house made me feel like I had stumbled into a fairy tale.

My bed came from a mixed Argentine/canadian couple. The husband had finally prevailed and was moving the family back to his homeland. it was thier guest bed I was buying; therefore, they could part with it before they moved.

pots and pans are from value village. their stuff is solid, but they don't give it away. if you sift, you can get good quality used stuff for about the same price as low-quality wal-mart new stuff. I prefer it, but there is very little magic here. only solid buys.

My couch came from using the truck to move chintzy leather furniture into the house of a nigerian minister in my department. he was going to throw out his pink, plush loveseat, so I offered to take it.

my creamsicle-colored chest of drawers came from a yardsale as did the lamps, microwave, toaster, and plates. (6 yardsales in all. One of those sales also yielded unused hockey skates for $10 and a copy of 'appetite for destruction for $0.10'.

There is definite yardsale season here, like duck hunting or berry picking. it is localized temporally and very intense. you can tell a lot about people by what they sell and how they price it. there are those who simply want it gone (wholesale underpricers--the best kind). those who mistake their junk for something better (overpricers--run), those who are selling only used baby items (run), and people selling mostly nick-knacks (It is worth sifting through these sales in the hopes of finding a hipster treasure or something that is more valuable than the owners know, but don't expect much--low yield on effort).

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

is there anything less attractive than watching ivy league graduates ruminate on the meaning of attending their alma mater.
I think not. I said this last spring, the NYT's school girl obsession with Ivy League gossip is one of its biggest black marks.

Monday, September 18, 2006


Peg Ska City

It was a busy weekend on the Manitoba front.

Went to see local heroes, The Weakerthans, play a sold-out show at the 2,500 seat Burton Cummings Theater.

For any readers born after 1975, Burton Cummings was in "The Guess Who" and is a Winnipeg native. In a charming gesture he saved the Walker Theater (a delightful midsized venue that every market needs). Souring that charming move, he renamed the theater after himself.

The Weakerthans are hipster faves in the states but play 500 person clubs like TT the bear's in Boston and Down the Hill in SF. But in winnipeg they are voice of a generation and they embody a strain of hope for the kids with a bit hipster who are stranded in the prairies.

They made a point to play all their songs with winnipeg geographical references. and one of the encoures was, of course, "One Great City (I Hate Winnipeg)." Their stage presence could best be described as "silly rock stars." There was a lot of self-ironic knee-slide guitar playing, but it was all part of the self-effacing charm that is winnipeg. And it was clearly fun for them to play a show where they could do no wrong. I find it curious that two of my top five musical influences of the past year have been Neil Young and the Weakerthans. Do I listen to Winnipeg music by social reinforcement because I am in Winnipeg, or does the emotional tone of Winnipeg music resonate because I am here?

On Sunday I was lucky enough to see an exhibition NHL game between the Coyotes and the Oilers. (BTW the Phoenix Coyotes used to be the Winnipeg Jets until 1996 when they relocated. WInnipeggers have never gotten over the loss.) I asked upon entering the arena if having the team that left come back for exhibition was sortof like going on a date with your exgirlfriend. Apparently so because the Oilers (who were bitter rivals when the jets were in town) were clearly the crowd favorites. There was an undercurrent at the game which both cute and bizarre. It was "If we cheer loud enough, the NHL will give us a franchise again." The exhorations from the announcers made it pretty clear. But on top of that was a genuine love of hockey. The MTS center was sold out (15,015) at $50-100/ticket (we lucked into some comped tix) for an EXHIBITION game without full rosters. The fans gave a standing ovation to both teams when asked to thank them for coming. Can you imagine that in Carolina or Dallas or even Washington.
This display by the hockey faithful of winnipeg brings up an intersting question: Why did the NHL take hockey to the sunbelt? Does the corporate and economic strength in the US (Luxury Box revenue) really make teams financially successful in non-hockey markets? Or are those teams doing poorly and no one wants to admit their mistake. Globalization is brutal stuff. Especially when it is your recreation getting outsourced due to competitive advantages.

Friday, September 15, 2006

movies for 20-somethings are officially ridiculous. "The last kiss" a remake of an italian movie starring Zach Braff as (surprise!) a confused 29 year old who struggles with the theory and practice of being a grown up. Starring opposite as the alluring but naive college student is the painful Rachel Bilson. arggh. Has the line between actor and type-cast monkey become this blurry or does this sort of synergistic role selection help to reinfornce the suspension of disbelief?

Adding insult to injury is a film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake" starring Kal Penn (the guy from Harold & Kumar) as Gogol. Ms. Lahiri apparently makes a cameo as "Aunt Jhumpa" in the movie. I am disheartened.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

that's right. I'm back. Now you can all stop staring at the apostrophe I misused in the previous post. Is the correct use of the apostrophe (and maybe quotation marks) the gang sign of the overeducated or what? Anyway, I saw it and decided to leave it up there as a feeble middle finger to SNOOTitude.

amazing things seen since returning to Manitoba:

an angry looking 30 year old who had spray-painted over the "friendly" on her license plate that normally reads "friendly Manitoba." adolescence run wild.

a promotion on campus led by the industrial food provider called "Rollin' with Aramark." just keep working that one around in your mind and see on how many levels this is absurd.

a $300 class to hone your soap carving skills. This is not a joke. The DAT (dental aptitude test) in Canada has a "soap carving" section where they give you a bar of soap and ask you to make a specific shape and size. I guess you don't want clumsy dentists, but that is pretty bizarre.

a girl stopping a lecture with 800 (that's right) people in it, and mind you, this was not a Socratic-style lecture with a lot of audience participation, to ask a question that simply proved she had no idea what was going on. now 800 people think you are rude, but also know you are an idiot.

time for clovers' bookclub:

I am Charlotte Simmons is a truly hateful book. Unlike "A man in full," Wolfe creates no sympathetic characters. Now the idea of a dystopic youth culture isn't new, but Wolfe's vision of elite college stocked with stereotypes (the dumb jock; the ambitious jewish nerd; the promiscuous wannabe banker frat boy; the sarcastic elitist boarding school roommate; the ignorant, powerful athletic coach, the liberal jewish professor who misses the '60s) that simply make the author appear to be a doddering fogey rather then capturing any sort of zeitgeist of nihilism. Now these classes of people do exist in modern colleges, but where Wolfe's novel fails is in exploding their subtlety. Nobody plays against type. He takes the behavior (particulalry that of the boorish males) at face value without allowing them motivation or internality, and this makes the novel flat. Charlotte, the protagonist, is not so much a stereotype as a figment of Wolfe's imagination. She is academically brilliant, from very rural north carolina, possessed with beauty an a budding sexuality which are hugely understated due to her heavily religious upbringing. I know somebody misses the '50s ideal of womanhood, but trying to cram her into a modern character and make it believeable is absurd.

Reading "a man in full" and I am charlotte simmons" back to back reveals the formulaic weaknesses in wolfe's writing. Both contain an extended passage of the generalized behaviour of those suffering mild depression in relation to the protagonists' responses to bad situations. Both contain flourishs of Greek philosophy which are used as clear and beautiful beacons in the murky immorality of modernity. Wolfe is overly fond of the construction "Bango!--..." to express a quick occurence. MOst unfortunate are the passing allusions to rappers in the novels. "man" includes the work of a fictious rapper "Dr. Rammer Doc Doc," while the collegians in "Simmons" are endlessly listening to "Dr. Dis." The music of both is characterized as liscivious and degrading. One must assume that these are awkward references to Dr. Dre; however, the there repetition reveals Wolfe to be out of touch stammering like James Traficant or Ted Stevens about "Beaver and Buffcoat" and "the tubes of the internets."

The only redeeming quality of "Simmons" is the ability to play the game "who am I and or my friends and aquaintances in this college landscape?"

There is a strong tradition of American men writing slightly sexists novels in the last 50 years (Roth, Bellow, etc.), but there is a lack of subtlety, a lack of believability, and most crucially a lack of empathy in Wolfe's writing that makes the common sins of these authors seem more glaring in Wolfe. That being said, his novels do turn pages. They are easy reads that bob their heads just above the abyss of pure trash to allow readers to read them. There is a place in this world for good old fashioned yarns that don't teach us too much about ourselves or others but sure do pass the time. I place Wolfe happily in this catagory. I hope he does not aspire to escape it.

Zadie Smith's "On Beauty" is another modern novel about a university setting (a thinly veiled Harvard). Smith also creates few likeable characters within the university setting. SHe paints most of the professors as irrelevant, power hungry and/or petty and most of students are posturing and pampered; however, she does show some respect for and understanding of hip-hop. She loves Levi (the youngest son of the protangonist family) and is deeply sympathetic to his conflicted relationship to rap music as a middle class child with one african-american parent. This exploration of Levi's urban culture is the high point of the novel. Smith is guilty of a number of sins including incomplete mastery of the Americanness and a willingness to engage her own long-shot cliche in the form of Charles the brilliant street poet. This novel probably attempts to take on the internal worlds of too many people (upwards of 10) which was also a problem in White Teeth, but her writing style is much closer to the great novel as insight into others which isn't even visible in the distance of "I am Charlotte Simmons."

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