Free-Floating Hostility

Wednesday, November 30, 2005


What to Read...Cereal Box? Old FFH posts?

Tomorrow I am joining Michael in New York for the weekend to celebrate Grandma Peggy's 80th Birthday. As is our custom when we're both on the road, we plan to tide you over till our return with links to select vintage FFH posts. Enjoy, and see you Monday. If I'm not literally seeing you beforehand, that is.

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How Parenting Works

My classmate Susan is getting over a miserable cold. So are her kids, who were most likely the original disease vectors. Last night around one o'clock, her thirteen-year-old came into her room because he couldn't sleep. Susan heroically pulled herself out of bed and accompanied him back to his room. Normally, she would have told him a story to put him to sleep and relax herself in the process, but Susan just didn't feel up to it at that hour in that condition. So she suggested instead that he tell the story for once. Anything, she said, just a story he knew. He selected the Three Little Pigs, but before the third little pig had built his house Susan had passed out herself. And the way parenting works is, the next morning she was wracked with guilt. "That's just me as a mother," she told us, "I do my best, but my best is usually something totally fucked up!" I told her what happens when Mike falls asleep which may or may not have been relevant but is always amusing.

I'm told by my own parents that when I was about two I once toddled downstairs and interrupted a dinner party to announce "Daddy's asleep, but I'm not!" The point of children, if you didn't know, is to make their parents stronger people by embarrassing them whenever possible. And exposing them to the kind of character building you're unlikely to experience if you don't raise children, like having to remove your turtleneck after your baby has vomited inside it (again--sorry Mom).

Michael is in Brooklyn tonight, babysitting the youngest cousins (no blog codenames for them yet, maybe we should let them make some up). When I spoke to him on the phone he said the boys are so mature they really babysit themselves. So much for building Mike's character.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Je Negresse at December 01, 2005 6:51 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The little cousins may be mature enough not to require much "sitting," but they are still young enough to freak with excitement when their cool sports-writing older coz shows up. Clafoutis (the elder) almost had an aneurysm trying to express all he's had pent up in him about the zone defense and other matters sportstastic. Bombololo (the younger) was satsified to carry the visitor's wheelie luggage, which weighed more than he does, to the guest room. Perhaps this is not so much a taste of parenting as a taste of celebrity.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Mike has a Master's Degree in Science

Last night, Michael and I were having a back-and-forth, the topic of which now eludes me. Anyway, and some point after the is not/is too phase, I said, "prove it!" and the following dialogue ensued.

Mike: I did prove it. I conducted a scientific study.
Anna: Oh really? What was your source population?
Mike: The entire human race, except for you and me.
Anna: I see. What was your exposure of interest?
Mike: Hmm?
Anna: And what was your outcome of interest?
Mike: That I am right.
Anna: Intriguing. And what kind of data analysis did you use?
Mike: The red kind.
Anna: And what were your p values?
Mike: What are p values?
Anna: [explains p values]
Mike: My p value was zero.
Anna: Great study. I'm totally convinced.
Mike: Good, cause I'm publishing.

At this, of course, he made the international sign for publishing and circled his own nipple with his finger. The origin of the international sign involves Jeff's nipples, therefore I will bow out of explaining it.

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Monday, November 28, 2005


Biting Social Commentary, One Year Late

In his columns, Frank Rich (No links here, Times-Select fuckers) often uses the television show Desperate Housewives as shorthand for red-state hypocrisy. The argument is that while red-staters are claiming to vote their morals and ethics, they are tuning in weekly to watch naked Teri Hatcher lie in the bushes or Marcia Cross make the bed instead of take her dying husband to the Emergency Room. Their Sunday night TV has little to do with their Sunday morning church services. We have recently finished watching the first season on DVD, and I feel a duty to respond, even though this whole thing happened last fall and the show is, on many scorecards, starting to decline.

The problem with using something real as shorthand is that its symbolic meaning is usually divorced from the reality of the situation. That's true here. The protagonists are women with families and husbands who are trying to hold things together in their lives. Sure, the issues they face are a little more out there than the ones the average person is dealing with, but the underlying values of the show affirm (while also skewering) American middle-class ideals. Social critics are paid to jump up and down pointing out hypocrisy whenever they see it. That's their job. But most people don't think that way unless they're trying to win an argument. Sure Eva Longoria is fucking the gardener and Felicity Huffman gets addicted to her kid's ADHD medication. But those characters are readily identifiable as people who just trying to get through the day. And as long as they are decent to their neighbors and supportive of their kids, they're not bad people at the core.

Also, the show's popularity is a rare testament to American taste. The show's first season has some of the sharpest television writing I've seen in years. The cast is strong, the stories are fast moving, though not always coherent. It's just an entertaining hour of television, especially if you are watching it without commercials.

I can't wait for the second-season DVD.

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Saturday, November 26, 2005


Cinema Paraquat-o

One small note of discord in FFH's marriage is that we don't like the same shitty movies. As a rule we like the same good ones, but everyone likes to kick back from time to time with a movie we know full well will be ass, but undemanding and entertaining ass. And sometimes, one wants to watch said movie in ones own home with the sound on, so it's a problem when the kind of movie one likes provokes derisive hoots, epileptic levels of eye-rolling, etc. from one's life partner. And so it is. My taste in shitty movies runs toward puerile action/martial arts flicks and horribly dated, sexist musicals. Michael on the other hand prefers the kind of comedy in which people accidentally crap in each other's chili adjacent to a room full of topless debutantes--he calls them "farces with heart."

Thanks to Mike for the title of this post.

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Pardon me while I Invoke the Muse...Yo, Mike!

Mike made another delicious meal last night, and as he was cooking I composed him a song. Actually I finished the last verse after he went to bed when I was grappling with how to turn m4ps into mp3s. It's probably cause we went to see Rent (I am properly ashamed of myself for having enjoyed it thoroughly and have been walking around the apartment for two days belting out lyrics like "To SOD-omy, it's between GOD 'n me...to S AND M!") But anyway here is the song I wrote to Michael. The tune's bluesy.

My man fixes me dinner,
so I know he's a winner
He looks mighty hot
slaving over a pot.
That's how he tamed this tired old sinner.

My guy fixes my suppers.
I say he's better than uppers.
It takes a real man
to slave over a pan.
That's how the competition he scuppers.

What could be betta
after a long day on the job
than to come home to fettu-
cine con broccoli rabe,
un poco caliente
and perfectly al dente,
tasty and nutritious.
All I do is the dishes.

My man makes me dessert, too.
I know how it must hurt you,
to hear me brag, bust sister, look,
I'm not speaking Urdu,
I'm not speaking Chinook,
I know you wish that you were me
cause my man can cook.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005


Ricardo, King of the Jungle

I like holidays. I've given myself the day off, and that means I have 24 hours to do really important things like potchki around the internet looking for tools with which to edit videos of my father acting like tarzan. I've only partially succeeded; it's now in a format most of you will be able to play without further downloading, but I had to rotate it ninety degrees, which squashed it. So, it's not a visually stunning film, but it is the sort of life-affirming thing that it's nice to see on the Thanksgiving. So, without further ado, I present my father (who, for your reference, is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the State University of New York), imitating his boyhood hero, Johnny Weismuller--aka Tarzan.

Click here to enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

This will probably take a minute to load, so don't be a spaz. Count the things you're thankful for while you wait.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I am a Domestic God

The work/football schedule dictates that we are staying in town for Thanksgiving this year. So instead of gorging on turkey in New Paltz, we're using the weekend to test drive recipes for Christmas week. Fritz, Queenie, Trixie and Ricardo are coming and that army generally requires careful feeding and watering. The real news here is that I'll be doing some of the cooking this year, which will come as a shock to those readers who have lived with me.

I've developed, cultivated some would say, a reputation of helplessness in the kitchen. But the truth is, I've never really seen the point of cooking anything elaborate just for myself. Slowly, though, my views are changing. During the diet, I came home for lunch most days and made myself sandwiches and such to my own specifications. And in the summer of 2004, when Anna was in New York for eight weeks, I developed consistent a repetoire of meat dishes
  • Sausage a la Annies: Sausage fried in oil atop a bed of Annie's Mac-and-Cheese (white cheddar, although the orange kind will do in a pinch).
  • Sesame hot dog: Cut up bits of Nathans hot dog fried in sesame oil
  • Horseradish burger: Ground beef with horseradish rubbed on it for flavor.
  • Italian Fried Chicken: This dish often turned into Italian Fried Chicken nuggets and I made the pieces smaller and smaller in order to make sure they cooked through and didn't burn.
It's fairly horrifying, I realize. But I think you can see two competing impulses, the one where I vow not to eat Indian takeaway every single night and the other procure a ready dinner (no matter the quality) quickly, generally in the 15-minute halftime of a Pistons playoff game.

These days I'm mostly a vegetarian chef. Anna's commute from Berkeley often runs into dinner time, so if I want something more subtantive than Grape Nuts, I have to cook it myself. And mostly I'm whipping up meals to share before we start doing homework. I'm close to perfecting a Carbonera with Morningstar Farms bacon instead of real pigfat. Also my dinner omelettes have earned positive reviews. So this is good news, especially for Fritz, who has often wondered where his childrearing when wrong with me. Now, if I can only avoid poisoning our parents as I work some meat into the Pasta with Caramelized Onions recipe, it will be a sucessful Christmas.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005


On to the Character Assassination!

Happily we've passed from the substantive discussion of Maureen Dowd's views on the past and future of feminism to the point were we make personal attacks. And this where I come in. The essay in the Times magazine that started this whole thought train was just her flogging her new book, as was an interview I saw her give to Tim Russert on CNBC. In that interview she maintained her stance that, anecdotally at least, men like to have sex with women subordinate or servile positions in the social stratosphere. She says that means men would rather marry powerless hill staffers than they would high-powered Op-Ed columnists. Unfortunately, it really sounds like she's complaining about not getting laid.

The previous paragraph irks me for two reasons. First, I really hate that this sounds like I'm coming from the "Oh, she just needs to get laid" school of feminist dismissal. Because those aren't my politics. Second, and most importantly, I've had a crush on Maureen Dowd since my sophomore year of college. I mean, she's even hotter than Teresa Heinz Kerry. It was to the point early in our relationship Anna made me pledge that if I ever got a job at the Times, I was not to act on my desires. So there you go.

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Monday, November 21, 2005


Boxer Brief

When I'm feeling blue I like to think about dogs. Actually, I prefer to hang out with them, but I don't have one. So today, since I'm kind of depressed that my morning train hit a guy (he survived) I am going to post instead about April's and Alex's dogs.

When I saw Quintus and Sparta about six weeks ago, they were growing rapidly, but still small enough to be immobilized on my lap. I found them and their scrunched faces irresistable, and the sight of Alex and April following them around like hawks waiting for the first sign of squatting--hysterical. Alex informed me that the housebreaking routine was funny only to me, and that if they were laughing along it was only because they were high off of shit fumes. But yesterday I could see just how much the godpuppies had grown. They are now about four months old. Sparta weighs about 28 pounds, but will still sit semi-cooperatively in my lap as long as she's allowed to lick my face. Sparta's underbite is quite pronounced, even for a boxer, and the vet is concerned. I asked if she was going to get braces, and April said if they found a dog orthodontist they'd consider it. Quintus, in the meantime, is already 38 pounds, and his paws are about the size of the palm of my hand. I struggled to get him into my lap, but nothing that huge and fidgety could stay there for long. The parents are looking much happier, too. The dogs are now housebroken, and except for a certain incident after Sparta swallowed a dryer sheet, I don't get told any more funny stories.

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In Which I Protect my Mother's Anonymity so she can Slander Other Feminists

I have decided to promote one of Trixie's comments out of the comments section, partly to reward her for her decision not to turn this excerpt into a piece for "Talk of the Town," partly just in case you didn't want to read all 13 comments. There are 13 of them because Trixie has not yet mastered the comments page, so she usually has to post twice: once to post, and once to say "the above/below was posted by Trixie."
This is my understanding of Maureen Dowd, about whom I think more ink has been spilt than about global warming, and sort of , enough already, but just this one more. You can only understand Maureen Dowd if you went to Catholic school. So this is Maureen Dowd. There is a ban on not wearing uniform hats and white gloves if you have any part of the uniform on. You and your friends knock themselves [sic] out confronting the nuns to get the ban lifted. There is no hope the ban will be lifted on hats, but the nuns agree that you no longer have to wear white gloves every day. You and your friends are on their [sic] way to get a celebatory coke and french fries where [sic] you see Maureen Dowd and her girlfriends, none of whom worked to have the dress code restructured, standing around with football players from your brother school lamenting the fact that their hands are cold and now Muareen Dowd is wearing gloves up to her elbow every day.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005


Hostylefax: Spokane, Wash.

Spokane is in the process of a recalling Mayor Jim West, although it's not really that simple.

About 18 months ago the Spokane Spokesman-Review reported that the mayor was using his city-issued laptop to cruise Gay.com and offer jobs to people he was interested in schtupping jobs in the municipal government. I imagine this is called pulling a McGreevey (CC '78), although I'd have to go back and check the timing to make sure that McGreevey didn't pull a West. But the story goes deeper.

See, the S-R didn't just stumble onto the story. In response to an anoynomous tip (from someone with the screen name MotoBrock), the paper hired a "forensic computer expert" to impersonate MotoBrock and allow the mayor to offer him a job and a chance to get poked. Now, said "forensic computer expert" had a system crash between the proposition and the copying and pasting of the chat window into Word. So the story becomes a little less a matter of proven public record and more of hearsay. There have also been accusations of child molestation (25 years ago, when the mayor was both a sheriff and, of course, a scout leader), although there have been no charges so it's probably routine homophobia. Anyway the mayor's recall election campaign strategy is to attack the newspaper. The newspaper has gone into the defensive crouch, defending its use of deception (which is indeed journalistically murky) and arguing that the gay-angle of the story had no bearing on the decision to publish.

Of course, in the end it's Spokane, so no one cares.

Here are the highlights of my weekend in Eastern Washington:
  • My flight into town landed on the second try because of the intense cloud-cover. And it was foggy from 3 p.m. Friday when I landed through 9:30 a.m. Sunday when I took off. There was so much fog during the football game I was there to cover that the school's sports information department had to send a guy with a cell phone down to the field to call up what was happening for stat purposes. Frankly, Spokane appears to be a hard enough town to navigate with perfect visibility. I mean, there are two streets that are one-way all the way north and south, except for like three blocks downtown, when they switch. So if you don't know where you're going, you'll drive into the river. Ugh.
  • My rental car had XM Satellite Radio, and I'm hooked. They have a channel called "The 90s," which for a while was like listening to 89X in my car in Detroit as a teenager. I mean, when what the last time you heard Lisa Loeb sing "Stay" on the radio? My point exactly.
  • Saturday morning, hoping to watch the Michigan-Ohio State game, I parked myself at The Screaming Yak, which advertised itself as a sports bar. It was a shitty sports bar though. At 10 a.m. I asked to watch the Michigan game, but they didn't have a satellite dish to pick up an Eastern feed of ABC, so I was stuck watching Iowa crush Minnesota. Fun. The establishment's namesake is a yak's head behind the bar with about 100 bras hanging off the antlers.
  • My flight home went through Portland, Ore., which is really one of the great American cities. Unfortunately for me, on a clear day, I couldn't leave the airport. That totally sucked.

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Saturday, November 19, 2005


The Vonk: The Ultimate Bassoon Stand

The above was the heading on a brochure I happened upon while straightening my employer's desk. The Bassoon is an inherently amusing instrument (though beautiful), and funnier still for those of us who remember the time Leo referred to Eugene's instrument as a baboon. But Dutch bassoon stands, I learned, are even funnier than bassoons. "The Vonk is de oplossing voor elke zittende fagots peler," the advertisement ran. And then, reverting suddenly to English, "The Vonk is available from Fagot Atelier Maarten Vonk." And, his web address is www.fagot.nl if you don't mind.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Je Negresse at November 20, 2005 7:00 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Much to the mortification of some of us former protogay double-reed instrumentalists -- and we know who we are -- "fagotto" is the Italian word for "bassoon." The abbreviation in classical scores is often "fagg." The word derives from the Latin for a bundle of sticks, which is no consolation.

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 20, 2005 2:09 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Gracious! I had no idea I had three bassoonists in my life. I don't know anyone who plays the tuba.

    I suspected such an etymology might be involved, but I remain puzzled as to how one moves from a bundle of sticks to an bassoon. Is it the double reed? Food for thought.

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Friday, November 18, 2005


Sometimes People Aren't so Nice

Today my going-home train stopped at the Martinez station, and didn't start again for quite some time. Eventually on of the conductors came on the PA system to explain that we were waiting for the police. Everybody huffed, myself included. "If Frontier Justice Gary were here," I groused to myself, "We wouldn't be waiting for the cops. The perp would be hitchiking to Suisun right now." But Gary was not in charge of this train ride, and we sat for forty-five minutes. I only found out the details of the story because we happened to have a District Attorney in my car (there's a courthouse in Martinez), and it's a good thing he was there to put the smack down. According to him, the trouble all started with a blind woman and her dog. It seems that she mistakenly sat in the conductor's seat, and when he pointed out her mistake, she refused for some reason to move. This put the conductor in an awkward position indeed, but he kept his cool and made a citizen's arrest. Perhaps you skimmed over that sentence, so let me repeat: the conductor made a citizen's arrest on the blind lady sitting in his seat. He called the police and held the train. And when the poor cop who had to respond to this call arrived, he didn't know what to do when the conductor demanded that the woman and her dog be removed, and taken into custody for trespassing. At this point the DA had gotten restless and come down to demand answers; he encouraged the flummoxed officer to refuse point blank and leave, after which the train started up again. When he recounted the story to the assembled commuters, the peanut gallery really took off. "Maybe he was afraid of the dog," was one suggestion. "Maybe the dog wouldn't stop licking his crotch" was another. I've got to find out from Gary what the deal was with the seat--is this an Occupational Health issue or did the guy just snap? The consensus on the train was not only that the guy had gone out of his mind but that they couldn't believe he had shown the temerity to collect their tickets after his behavior. When we paused briefly between Fairfield and Davis someone suggested, "Maybe the conductor got in a fight with a parapalegic."

I, on the other hand, was in no position to criticize, having picked a fight with a homeless man just a few hours before. I was passing by Noah's Bagels on my way to class, and out front a man was playing his guitar for money and being charming in that hustling sort of way. "Can you spare some change? Two eggs over easy?" asked the guitarist between bars. I smiled at him as I passed by. Well, apparently the guy occupying the piece of sidewalk directly next to the guitarist got jealous or something, cause he addressed me next. "I think," he said portentously, "he meant to say two legs over easy." Well, that really pissed me off, and I wheeled around. "You know," I said, "I bet you could find a way to talk to people in the morning without disrespecting them if you put your mind to it." "Aaaaw," he said, "Was that disrespectful?" "Yes, my friend, it was." I hoped I was withering, but as I continued down the street I heard him call out that he planned to keep on disrespecting people. I have got to acquire some impulse control.

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Thursday, November 17, 2005


The Waiver Wire

Sarah's birthday gift to me this year was the complete first season of Desperate Housewives on DVD. She said she'd gotten into it, and maybe I would enjoy it--you know, a quick way to unwind for forty-five minutes without commercial interruption. Classic pusher talk. She gave me the first taste free and now I'm hooked. And I'm not the only one. Mike apparently has been holding out a candle for Marcia Cross ever since Melrose Place was canceled (for this part I blame Form). And another for Teri Hatcher. And another for Felicity Huffman from her Sportsnight days. In fact, I've decided that hornily nostalgic twenty-something dudes may actually be this show's target audience.

Tonight, we will watch the final episode of the season, after which we plan to abstain until the complete second season is released. As we pause to reflect on how this show has changed our lives, we must acknowledge that the most profound change has been to our shared nerdiness. Besides the fact that we think about it all day long and talk about it when we get home, it has changed our standards for hotness. Therfore, we must announce some changes to our Team Rosters.

YAKIMA DINOS--Sign Teri Hatcher. Release Keira Knightley.
SOUTHBEND BLUESOX--Sign Ricardo Antonio Chavira. Release Chow-Yun Fat.

Don't act so surprised; you know I have a thing for meaty brunets with big noses and facial hair. And let me just express my pride at being married to the only guy in the country more interested in signing his high school pretend sweetheart than Eva Longoria.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at November 18, 2005 4:55 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I do not think the Teri over Eva choice is so unique. Her work with Seinfeld pretty much explains the rationale.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005


More on Schmool

I like Schmool, but the stories about him have become an endless source of amusement for me. Most of these stories involve drinking, like the times (note the plural) that he got wasted, passed out on the couch, and emptied his bladder on the sofa.

So here are some more stories:

One night, drunken Schmool walked into his sleeping roommate's bedroom and starting shaking the bed.

Schmool: Hey (roommate), is that your bed talking?
Roommate: No, go to bed Schmool.

Roommate then gets up, and locks his door. Then 30 minutes later, Roommate hears his doorknob turning. "Is that your bed talking?" Schmool yells. Eventually Roommate asked Schmool to move out after discovering that Schmool's cat had pissed on his pillow. Of course, given Schmool's habit of relieving himself whereever and whenever when drunk, one wonders if said cat was just taking the fall.

__________

Another funny thing about Schmool is that he owns a huge snake. One night, he got drunk and put the snake, which is big enough to kill a man, in the fridge for his new roommates to find. Now, I don't know if this is why he moved out of his old house, but there you go.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005


The Kid Stays in the Picture

It's something of a running joke how bad Mike is at fantasy sports. As a rule, in a league full of jaded law students and absentminded engineers who forget to set their teams each week, the professional sportswriter still comes out rock bottom. It's surprisingly entertaining for the rest of us. I've been making quite a lot of beating him this year at fantasy football, but now I'm taking my lumps (what in hell does that phrase mean?) but good. My kicker and my quarterback managed to earn me negative points this week, and due to a series of improbable events I came up with a score so low that Mike actually beat me. What is this world coming to when people who talk trash about games actually get what they deserve? What's next? Socialized medicine?

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Rich at November 14, 2005 7:22 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I wanted to comment about this, but then I realized I hadn't even checked my team. Better not open my mouth.

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Saturday, November 12, 2005


It's not your Mother's Brand of Feminism

It's been almost two weeks since Maureen Dowd's essay in the Times magazine about the current state of American feminism, but I only read it this morning. I'm pretty touchy about Dowd's generation accusing my generation of having abandoned feminism. Here are the flaws I find in her argument:

1. The female sex is not divided into two categories in which you either are or aren't a feminist. Not having been alive in the 70s I suppose I don't really know, but it seems to me that binary was a big part of the movement at the time. It made sense; it was a radical movement which was (at least in the beginning) a minority opinion. Having pride in gender equality meant being vocal about it, and therefore it mattered whether you did or did not want to be counted as a member of the movement. But I would argue that feminism has become so successful that those categories no longer apply. Not even the most hard-core rightist would publicly admit that women are not equal, even if his actions would seem to contradict it. Everyone is a feminist now. And that means that any given woman exhibits some "feminist" and "non-feminist" behaviors, falling somewhere along the spectrum between Mamie Eisenhower and Bella Abzug. Many young women disavow feminism because they have internalized a caricatured notion of it, but if they still believe they have the same right to earn money, to strive for societal roles of their own choosing, to generally shape their own destinies, then I don't really care what they call themselves.

2. Feminism was supposed to give women choices. The evil of sexism is that it restricts the freedom of both sexes to carve their identities and take certain societal roles that would be most fulfilling to them. If what you're fighting for is Choice in its widest sense, then you have to accept that some women will choose traditional roles. What made a woman's job so horrible wasn't only the job itself, it was that she was forced into it without the power of reshaping it. Someone who truly wants that role and stays in it because it makes her happy is not a bad feminist. Therefore you can't simply look at numbers (or, in Dowd's case, anecdotal evidence) and take that as proof of the failure of feminism. I don't personally think the traditional man is a creature I should imitate, nor do I think it's my duty to do so by virtue of the fact that men have been slow to imitate the best aspects of womanhood. And even if you do, why are women being blamed for this phenomenon while the men are let off the hook?

3. The other problem with looking at "numbers" alone, is that it involves a distortion of the experience of 70s feminism. It's not as though there was a consensus among women as to the virtues of feminism at the time. What, there were no housewives in Dowd's generation? Please.

4. Feminism then as now has been concerned with the most convenient aspects of gender inequality: A. The success of the top rungs of professional women and B. Cosmetic issues. It seems obvious to me that if women earned the same amount as men, and truly had equal roles in their family lives, then no one would give a shit about whether or not they changed their last names or wore makeup. It also seems obvious to me that women of low socioeconomic status have the most to gain from feminism--they don't have a choice about whether or not to work. They have the most need of self-reliance and the chance to achieve equal benefits of their labor, and they are not much better off today than they were thirty years ago. While Dowd and her generation are up in arms about Harvard Business Graduates giving up their jobs, there are thousands of mothers who couldn't give up their jobs if they wanted to. That is a real feminist issue.

5. The reason the behavior of Harvard grads is changing is that in Dowd's generation, the women who went to business school were mostly women who allied themselves with traditional feminism. Now that, as I have argued, feminism is all-pervasive, any "type" of woman can go to business school, and that's going to include some Phyllis Schlafly types. That's the consequence of true success. If you really want to create a society in which women and men don't have to give up their jobs to raise children, then you have to create a structure that helps them to raise those children. I sure wish the energy that went into mainstreaming the title "Ms." had gone into creating widely available and affordable child care. I really see no point in denying that women who keep their jobs have a harder time raising their children the way they would ideally like to and blaming the women who have observed this phenomenon for themselves.

I don't wish my argument here to come off as a defense of the status quo. I know full well the limitations of gender equality in this country, and let's not even talk about the rest of the world or I'll be too frustrated to finish typing this sentence. But I think it's such a waste of emotion and resources to argue about the symptoms of gender disparity instead of its true causes. I can't help feeling that if Steinem's generation of activists had kept its eye on the ball, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

13 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 12, 2005 6:41 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Couldn't have said it any better myself.

    A(1)

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at November 13, 2005 9:12 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dowd irritates by projecting such a femme persona - check out the pictures she permits to be published on the Times website. Also elitist.

    At this point, 57% of college students are female. Among higher income whites, it's still 51%. Some Ivy schools have gone from 0% female in the '80's to majority female. White married women voted for George Bush, almost to the degree of white married men. Can any person who voted for Bush be considered a feminist?

    skjvaro

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 13, 2005 12:12 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Dodger, I have to disagree with both your points. My position is that criticizing people for being "femme" or insufficiently so distracts from truly important women's issues, and that includes Maureen Dowd.

    As to the second point, I think it's eminently possible for a feminist to vote for Bush. S/he just can't be a pro-choice feminist, and would probaly subscribe to the notion that the measure of feminism's success is the performance of the highest socioeconomic sectors. I have registered my objection to the latter, but I also think it's a red herring to argue over who should be allowed to call him/herself a feminist. I'm more interested in how people write, vote and spend their money.

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at November 13, 2005 12:25 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I am concerned with how people spend their money too, and people who know they are going to stay at home with the kids should not spend their (or their parents') money on graduate school tuition. If you have already made up your mind not to use a graduate degree (not undecided), don't take a future bread winner's spot. This has to do with a fetishizing of educational success, which is true elitist narcissism. People need to stop thinking about how they are going to look on the Sunday Styles and start being practical.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 13, 2005 2:04 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • On the other hand, what woman knows for sure that she'll have the opportunity to stay home with the kids and not need to earn money? Assuming that one won't have to be the breadwinner seems unwise.
    - Sol

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 13, 2005 2:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I take your point, Dave, and on a personal level it pisses me off, too. However, I don't think achievement makes women beholden to the rest of us. Particularly when achievement in this case is not measured by social contributions but by personal attainment. We don't demand of men entering coveted academic programs that they know they will never burn out or change fields or become unemployable alcoholics. Again, I think it's a symptom of larger problems in gender roles, family structures and the burden of raising a child without the "village." And I also think it's worth noting that women who give up that kind of career often come back to it eventually. An interrupted career path is not the same as societal parasitism. I wish women with gifts and opportunity would use it to the fullest, but I think it's going at the issue backwards to blame them for their choice instead of addressing why they are willing to make that choice when it obviously compromises so much.

  •   Posted by Blogger Form at November 14, 2005 9:25 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • All I am asking for is good faith. If you are undecided as to whether you want to work in Corporate America, go to business school. And I would never demand that people with Law Degrees spend their entire lives as lawyers. But I read a New York Times article about female Yale grads enterring grad school with full knowledge they were going to stay at home once they got married. That seemed to me to be stupid.

    So I do not ask for certain commitments, only good faith that you might use the degree.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 17, 2005 8:16 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I will post a longer comment but need to believe it will get htere. Trixie

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 17, 2005 8:22 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Ok, so I think this will get there. What exactly is the ball that STeinem and her generation (mine) have not kept our collective eye on? We've worked till we're blue in the face for day care; no one would give an inch on it. And feminists have been committed to social justice disproportionately given their numbers. And we've worked extremely hard for equal pay--. If you believe that feminism is so successful, you're in cloud cuckoo land. It is a perfectly respectable prejudice for people to believe, and say, that women are not as fit as men for certain important jobs. That they are more emotional; more likely to make "soft" decisions, less likely to make hard ones, more ready to bail out for family or personal reasons. And there's Larry Sommers feeling quite cheery to say women can't do science. To say nothing of the strong belief that women are naturally better suited to changing diapers and wiping up vomit--so men belong in the outside work force, because they're suited to everything else. The hatred of women is visceral, deep, and omnipresent. The grip of appearance and its importance to the success of women is unloosened. The horrors of this, from eating disorders to plastic surgery for teenagers are obvious. I would be much more sanguine about women staying home to take care of their children if men did in anywhere equal numbers. I grant your point, that parents who work probably know that their kids aren't getting the care they would get if they were home. But even Anna limits that concern to women. Why aren't men worried enough, in equal proportions, to adapt their work life to this problem. To sacrifice the ego and other satisfactionds, the autonomous pleasures of earning a pyacheck--if it's such a damn great thing to do. Trixie

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 17, 2005 9:19 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I believe I already addressed your point, Trixie, when I said, "I don't personally think the traditional man is a creature I should imitate, nor do I think it's my duty to do so by virtue of the fact that men have been slow to imitate the best aspects of womanhood. And even if you do, why are women being blamed for this phenomenon while the men are let off the hook?." I don't in the slightest limit it to women, I am in fact pointing out that only women are being criticized for the decision and therefore are in need of defense. I think both sexes could profit from a cross-fertilization of job descriptions.

    I also pointed out that I'm not a moron, and that anyone who thinks gender equality has been achieved is probably asleep. My point is not that your generation didn't care about child care, but that the project has been all but abandoned. And my objection to Dowd's article was not that I think feminism has been a complete success but that she is looking at all the wrong criteria. I am arguing that that misemphasis contributed to the failure of some of the more important aspects of gender equality.

    You feel that hatred of women is visceral, deep and omnipresent. I feel that it is irrelevant. I don't care who does and doesn't like women as long as they are treated equally. Dowd's article was all about how no one likes feminists anymore, and that speaks volumes about the strategic and methodological flaws of the 70s feminst movement. It's not a popularity contest, it's civil rights.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 18, 2005 10:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • What it also speaks to is the success acheived by the millions and millions of dollars and hours the enemies of feminism have spent. This is my understanding of Maureen Dowd, about whom I think more ink has been spilt than about global warming, and sort of , enough already, but just this one more. You can only understand Maureen Dowd if you went to Catholic school. So this is Maureen Dowd. There is a ban on not wearing unfiorm hats and white gloves if you have any part of the uniform on. YOu and your friends knock themselves out confronting the nuns to get the ban lifted. There is no hope the ban will be lifted on hats, but the nuns agree that you no longer have to wear white gloves every day. bYou and your friends are on their way to get a celebatory coke and french fries where you see Maureen Dowd and her girlfriends, none of whom worked to have the dress code restructured, standing around with football players from your brother school lamenting the fact tha ttheir hands are cold and now Muareen Dowd is wearing gloves up to her elbow every day.

  •   Posted by Anonymous Anonymous at November 18, 2005 10:14 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The above was posted by Trixie

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 19, 2005 1:59 PM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • I think I speak for everyone when I say "What?"

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Friday, November 11, 2005


Yet More Fun with Spam

I feel honored. Today Kofi Annan himself e-mailed me to ask my help in laundering the profits he reaped off the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq. Don't believe me? Here's the e-mail:


From: "KOFI ANNAN"
Subject: READ AND GET BACK
Date: Fri, 11 Nov 2005 23:08:34 +0400

Full Headers
Undecoded Letter
I KOFI ANNAN, secretary-general of the united nations, would like to ask
your partnership in reprofilling funds over $250m in excess ,the funds would
be coming via a string of selected banks in Europe and Asia.

The funds in question were generated by me during the oil for food program
in Iraq.

I have been getting scandals/ controversy in this regards, you can read
more on the links below-

(ED NOTE: LINKS DELETED)

You would be paid 5% as your management fee. please do not write back
directly to me via my official email address as all further correspondence
should be sent to my private mail box. As soon as you indicate your interest
i will give further details, remember to treat this mail and transaction as
strictly confidential.
I will wait to get your urgent correspondence via my private mail box-

KOFI ANNAN,
SECRETARY- GENERAL
kofiannan005@walla.com
www.un.org



Unfortunately, Kofi was e-mailing a reporter, so strictly confidential was not really on the table.

Also, I received software offers from Inordinate O. Caravans and Workhorse H. Tubae.

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Thursday, November 10, 2005


On Politics: Just Say No

We, by which I mean Californian, were asked to vote on seven statewide ballot initiatives Tuesday and all of them went down to defeat. And then there was a local issue, about a proposed development in Davis that also went down in flames. Also there were some members of an area school board recalled for firing an intensly popular football coach. All of which goes to prove that Californians hate everything.

Actually the Governor -- who is Arnold Schwarzenegger, by the way -- put his support behind four of those propositions. During the campaign, all of his ballot initiatives were cast as attacks on public workers and teachers. His calculation, I suppose, was that he could garner enough popular support through the force of his personality. One of the interesting outgrowths of living in a time when politics are so ideological and divisive, is that it's impossible for anyone to remain a non-partisan, uniting figure. So although Arnold won election because of his charisma and energy, it's hard for a liberal Republican with no independent power base in his own party or any true inclination to reach across the aisle to the Democratic majority to strongarm anyone. So this next re-election campaign should be fun.

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I Hereby Make it a Hat Trick of Occupational Ironies

First I worked at an Occupational Health Center located atop a half-cleaned radioactive Superfund site.

Second, I enrolled at a School of Public Health wherein I spend most of my time in a condemned building.

Third, I now work at an Environmental Health Sciences Division, directly under a pipe that leaks unidentifiable, brown, smelly, cold nast onto the desk I share with three other students. It is a measure of how much I like my boss that I have agreed to wait another strategic week before she busts some heads.

And I have to wonder, are law students working in these conditions? Business students? Hmm?

I love Public Health, but at the rate I'm going after graduation I'm going to find myself conducting disease surveillance from inside a Porta-Potty, or studying injury prevention from inside a shark tank.

1 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger BrooklynDodger at November 10, 2005 4:35 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • The essential difference between graduate work in science v. humanities is that science is a group endeavor, rather than solitary study in a carel somewhere in the bowels of a library. The concept of hiding from your thesis advisor until you have results, common in the lab, is alien to the humanities where finding your boss is the problem. Finally, those who get PhD's were forced to do some actual scientific work, as opposed to MD's and JD's, who only had to not flunk any courses.

    Sorry for this pedantrant

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Monday, November 07, 2005


That Single Guy Smell

I sat with coworkers F. and Schmool (not his real name) today as they ate lunch and talked about their various issues with women.

F is happy because he's finally dating a journalist. That's important because she'll understand his scheduling quirks. She's apparently also into sports, which F reports is a good thing. He's ready for a commitment. That means that while he's still trolling the bars looking for college girls to hook up with (using lines from Anchorman, no less), he'll stop as soon as she tells him to.

Schmool, meanwhile, is dating a girl who he thinks might be, "the one." The main problem with that is that Schmool's girlfriend drives oil tankers for a living and works four months at a time. They had been together just a couple of weeks before she started her shift. But it must be serious. He was dating the daughter of the owner of his favorite sandwich shop (which got him discount meals) and ditched her for the merchant mariner. That was fairly traumatic, he reports. It was so bad for a while that he was paying people in our office to go buy him sandwiches because he was blacklisted. But his favorite sandwich is so distinctive that when people would go in and order it, his ex would ask, "How do you know Schmool?"

Anyway, Schmool is famous around the office bouncing from girl to girl. He reported that the ex-girlfriend of one of his buddies bet him he couldn't make it the full four months without being unfaithful.

"What's the definition of unfaithful?" F asked.
"Oral sex and sex," Schmool responded. "Kissing doesn't count."
"That's bullshit," I said. "In the real world, kissing is definitely cheating."
"What if some girl walks up to you in a bar and starts making out with you?" Schmool asked.
"What bars are you going to?" I asked.

But then F and Schmool shared a joint memory about going to a bar and meeting a girl with a shirt that said, "Makeout Bandit" on it. Schmool and two or three of his friends made out with her that night. F was there, but kept his tounge to himself.

"Once she kissed you," F told Schmool," she was off limits."

You couldn't pay me to be single.

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Sunday, November 06, 2005


Hostylefax: Nacogdoches, Texas

This weekend's trip was different than the previous two. Instead of parachuting into a town late on Friday and drinking with the local beat writer, I ended up getting there early and kicking around a city that was not really built for tourists. Nacogdoches (pronounced NAGA-do-chez) is supposedly the oldest city in Texas, which is actually a fairly interesting fact. But it's so generic in a sprawling Texas sort of way that it's pretty hard to find anything worth doing there. The fun of trying to pick out the differences between West Texas, our old stomping grounds, and East Texas was sufficiently interesting to occupy me once all the Houston radio stations (Rush Limbaugh, country music, country music, Rush Limbaugh) cut out. There are more towns and fast food along the road in East Texas. Also instead of brown and dead, things in the East are green and full of pine trees. It's also really humid, more on that later.

Here are the highlights, y'all:

  • I was greeted upon arrival in Houston with news that a death row inmate -- in town to receive another death sentence for a murder-for-hire plot from jail -- made an audacious escape from custody. Apparently someone smuggled him clothes and he pretended to be with the attorney general's office. The angry-leftwing-activist-with-no-sense-of-proportion in me wants to say, "With the number of executions in Texas, it's hard to tell the difference between someone in the AG's office and a blood thirsty multiple murderer." But I let that pass. The story is pretty amazing, though. He showed the county jail people his state prison ID with the word "Prisoner" covered in tape, and then walked out of jail. And that worked. He was still at large when I flew back today.
  • I have a weak spot for the chain Sonic, mostly because of the Tater Tots. Every town in Texas has a Sonic, and most have multiple locations. Even Hobbs had two of them. I wonder if anyone has done a study to see if Sonic has a Wal-Mart-style effect on local restaurants. The good news was that I limited myself to one visit for the entire trip. I also managed to eat an order of chili-cheese tots while driving 60 MPH without spilling anything on myself.
  • Hurricane Rita hit the town fairly hard a few months ago, but the only lasting aftereffect seemed to be that the wireless Internet router in my hotel room no longer works. Supposedly it was working everywhere else in the hotel, but I limited myself to dial-up. That meant I really limited myself to checking e-mail.
  • Someone in my office has friends who lived in (as the locals say) Nac, so I did arrive in town with a list of two good restaurants to try. I couldn't find the first one, but instead managed to criss-cross the old downtown. My eyes perked up everytime I saw cars, but the only people I saw out were sitting in Church-sponsored "Recovery Centers." And there were multiple sitings. That was depressing and reassuring all at the same time. Dinner turned out to be chicken wings and chimichangas. Anna is rolling her eyes.
  • Saturday morning I breakfasted at a place called "The Hot Biscuit." It's a chain, and not really that good, but when there's a place called "The Hot Biscuit" across the parking lot from your hotel, you eat there. That's really all there is to it.
  • The game started at 4 p.m. instead of the usual 2 because of the opening of whitetail deer hunting season. So I found the sports bar in town and had more chicken wings (Garlic flavored!!!). One table over were two women who were loudly rooting for Boston College to beat North Carolina. It turned out that one of the women was the mother of a B.C. player. I imagine this happens a lot in Texas, but it was kind of cool. I had sat between mothers of players on the plane ride to Texas, and it's interesting to hear the way present their understanding of the team. It's very different from mine.
  • The stadium is against a mountain, and from the press box you can see the pine trees that line that mountain. It's actually fairly beautiful, and beauty was not anything I expected in Texas. Luckily the game started, and that wasn't beautiful. Any port in a storm.
  • My ride back to Houston went quickly, although the humidity was so bad that the wipers on my rental car proved completely impotent when it came to handling the condensation. It made for a fairly harrowing ride when I got lost two exits from the hotel and struggled to see my way to the Holiday Inn.
  • I was at the back of the plane on the flight home, meaning I was right next to the bathrooms. This is a wretched way to fly.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005


Surprise Torso


I always feel that when I'm getting low, nothing picks me up like a little abstract art. Especially when I can't think of anything to post about. Posted by Picasa

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Friday, November 04, 2005


You're Gonna Eat my Borderline-Racist Chicken

Watching the ads for El Pollo Loco makes me feel embarrassed for my country. I haven't felt such intense chagrin since I figured out how to turn off the Microsoft Paper Clip. I looked up the spokesman--I pity him so deeply it actually tempers my rage--and apparently his only name is El Caliente. What makes it particularly galling is that there's a mildly amusing and inoffensive set of ads with a totally different concept being run in Spanish. I just wish this kind of cynicism didn't pay off. I want to put the creative minds behind that ad in a cage with the creative minds behind the new film starring "Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson" and poke them with sticks and pelt them with inedible peanuts and shoot them with water guns and harmless but intimidating darts.

Next issue.

2 Comment(s):

  •   Posted by Blogger Mike at November 05, 2005 6:39 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • It could be like that scene on The Shield, where Mackey locks the two guys (rappers, I think, but my memory is hazy) who hate each other in one of those storage containers so they can make peace, but then one actually kills the other. Let's go death!!!

  •   Posted by Blogger Anna at November 05, 2005 11:45 AM | Permanent Link to this Comment
  • Actually, I believe they were rival gang leaders. Given that one of them was played by Sticky Fingaz, I can see how you got confused.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005


Ravings of 1) Madmen 2) Me at 7:00 AM

I left the house this morning with my chin defiantly up, crying, "I'm packing my gloves today, and the world can blow me!" It was a slightly elevated but not entirely unusual level of drama for me at that hour, and when I found myself stuck at the nonexistent Berkeley train station for an hour and a quarter tonight with the wind off the Bay chilling me to the bone, I was damn glad I had taken a stand for what was nerdy.

Yesterday evening while I was similarly engaged in losing hours of my life to Amtrak, one of the guys who lives on the other side of the track (literally) wandered across. I would guess he might be a former professor who went off his nut. The conversation he was having with himself didn't differ much from mediocre standup, though I was inclined to agree with his analysis. "Why is it," he asked the station, "that women have experiences, and men just have baggage? Women have experiences, and they just move on and use them in new relationships. Men have baggage."

Last week, while waiting an hour and a half under the incredibly loud and incredibly innaccurate electronic schedule, I made the acquantance of one Gerald. Gerald mostly lives in the empty building that I'm told, ironically, used to be the train station. As I waited, he gave me some of the low-down on the local homeless. The guy who occasionally wakes up and yells until the overpass rings with his unintelligible hostility is, according to Gerald, really large. "He don't have no hustle," he told me, as though he just couldn't believe it. Gerald also feels that recent immigrants are giving the homeless a bad name. "It's the Mejicanos," he said wearily, "They make a lotta noise, and they pee, sometimes the even take a dump. And then the cops come and tell me I gotta move. But when they do it's like, 'Gerald is that you?' 'Yeah man, it's me.' 'You gotta c'mon out of there, can't sleep here tonight.' I'm not like that. I'm homeless, but I'm happy." He paused to pick up a soda can and scrunched it. "Well," he decided, "I ain't happy."

Gerald did not seem to me to be obviously mentally ill. He credits his prison record with his current living situation. He and his brother committed armed robbery at a young age, and after that came a series of parole violations, which Gerald says make him unemployable, and I can believe it. "I'd work if I could," he said, "That's why I'm out there doing this," and pointed at his cans.

Gerald hasn't been on a train since he was a kid. "I remember it so clear, though," he said, "It was in England. I was maybe five years old. My mom and dad got up and left me for a minute, told me to watch my two brothers while they got us something to eat. And I started to see the train move through the window, and it was just for a few seconds like, but I thought my mom and dad left me, and there I was with my two brothers to take care of. Scariest moment of my life. All those years, and I still remember."

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Adventures in Loafing and Nostalgia

In a fit of nostalgia last month, I downloaded a Nintendo emulator and a copy of the game Super Tecmo Bowl. It's been a great couple of weeks. The version of the Tecmo Bowl I downloaded has updated rosters, meaning Joey Harrington (not Rodney Peete) is Detroit's quarterback. But it doesn't have Carolina or Jacksonville, the Tennessee Titans still have the old Oilers helmets and there are only three divisions. Still, it's a pretty good game.

We were not a video game household, but Tecmo Bowl was still a formative experience in my life.

My interest in playing fake football is a nice parallel to the evolutionary picture of the fish growing legs and eventually becoming a human. First, I had a box of plastic magnetic numbers that I segregated by color and played against each other on cut up wine boxes. Then I had a game I would play against my father, where we would pick plays offense vs. defense, put them inside a little plastic casing, spin, then move the football accordingly up and down a field. Then, Anna's advisor's son had one of those vibrating-board football games where you could set up a formation and then turn on the juice and the pieces bounce into one another. Then, one of my friends had a text-based game where you could call plays against the computer and then watch them executed by a series of Xs and Os.

Tecmo Bowl was the first time I crossed the line into controlling characters. And I played it a lot. My friend Chris had an NES and we would spend entire weekends playing multiple seasons on the game. But it was just the game. Tecmo Bowl also had these sweet cutaway graphics of touchdown and sack celebrations, as well as animated halftime show. The playbook is tiny compared to future games and the game play and graphics are positively primative next to what Madden or EA Sports is putting out. But I think realism is overrated in video games. Call me an impressionist, but if I want a real-life looking football game, I'll turn on the NFL Network. Of course, I can't seem to get the Lions past the first round of the playoffs, so maybe there's more realism than I thought.

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