June 29, 2002

A few years back there was a book published called "The Millionaire Next Door", the theme of which was that most of the people in this country who had money were not C.E.O.'s, partners in lawfirms, or celebrities, but were instead average people with ordinary careers who had, for one reason or another, gotten lucky. By that, I mean they had saved money, invested it well, purchased Nissans rather than Mercedes, and had pretty much lived within themselves. But for the most part, those people had owned real property, kept it for years, not as an investment but as a home for their families, and sold it at a huge profit.

Well, its safe to say that I have never lived within my means, my stock portfolio consists mainly of busted tech stocks (ie. Palm), and I drive a sports car well out of my price range. However, I do own a condo, which as luck would have it, is situated in the West San Fernando Valley, in Warner Center, smack dab in the middle of the hottest real estate market in the country. When I put it up for sale last week, at the advice of my broker, I listed it at $204k, which I thought was an absurd price, way over what other units in the area sold for; this is, after all, little more than a single bedroom apartment attached to a collection of freaks that constitute the H.O.A. I thought it would go for $130k, which is more than what my neighbor sold their place for two years ago after they had done significant remodeling (the only remodeling I did was to install fungus in my shower).

Within a day of listing, I got a bid for $196, and after some quibbling, got them to raise it to $198. Ecstatic, but wary of the misfortune that always afflicts me whenever I stare imminent fortune squarely in the eye, I began figuring how much I would have to play with once I got rid of the payoff balance on my note (about $87k) and paying off my remaining debts (incl. my student loans). Then other offers began pouring in, from between $200k and $220k. Jeez, if I hold out any longer, I can eventually sell the place for about what a mansion in the Hollywood Hills would go for. Thinking about that, I realized that I'm never going to be a "millionaire next door", cause the only thing I will ever do with money is burn it, spend it on leggy brunettes and get drunk.
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
Turkey 3, Korea 2, as the Turks scored the fastest goal in W.C. history. Don't worry, I was too hung over from the previous night to get up and watch a consolation game live. After Monday, there will be no more World Cup posts for awhile. I am a man of my word, M.C.

June 28, 2002

Just out of curiosity, do the Rolling Stones have a bandmember known for being "quiet"?
Its less than forty-eight hours to the World Cup Final, which I await with great trepidation. I foresee little offensive activity, with Brazil winning 1-0 on a late second half goal. The Germans will be without their most consistent player in the World Cup, and will play for the tie, hoping to win the game on penalty kicks. I’m afraid there will be little excitement. Perhaps the best thing that could happen for those of us who want to see a championship game worthy of the tournament will be if someone scores early, preferably Brazil. That would open things up, and cause both teams to devote more resources to the attack the rest of the game.

Once again, I will venture out to that little piece of Culver City paradise called Joxer Daly’s for the 4:00 a.m. start. I wrote last week about how packed it was for the England v. Brazil quarterfinal game, but what I neglected to point out (in part, b/c I wasn’t there) was that it was almost as jammed for the US v. Germany game the next morning. According to the staff, the place stayed open in the three hours between games, and attracted a different set of fans, most of whom arrived at around 4 in the morning (all of whom paid the $10 cover). I would venture a guess that it will again be crowded, so get there early for the festivities !!!
Absolutely the right take about the 9th Circuit's ruling on Wednesday. If Joe Lieberman is the Demo nominee in 2004, I vote for Nader.

June 27, 2002

Just beautiful. The jewel in the crown of the nation's public universities just moved a step closer to having the NCAA impose the "death penalty" on its athletic programs. My favorite sanction against CAL has to be that it was stripped of all its wins in 1999, forever tainting my memory of that magical 3-8 season.
What to do about WorldCom, Enron, etc.? Here's an idea that makes sense...
I would like to digress a little now from the usual topics on this board to discuss something which is of extreme importance to me, and has been a peeve of mine since I was twelve years old. That is, how the cultural institutions in our society are able to manufacture beauty where none exists.

The first week of play at Wimbledon began on Monday, and as always on the first day of any Grand Slam tennis tournament, one of the big stories was the utterly predictable defeat of Anna Pornikova, err, Kournikova. I’ve always thought the saga of the Russian lolita was more amusing than sad, since I have no idea why anyone thinks she’s that good-looking to begin with. I understand that beauty is largely a subjective criterion, and that different men might see something extraordinary in even the basest of creatures, but c’mon !! For about five years, the media has hyped this mediocrity, first as a tennis prodigy, later as a groupie for the Red Wings, then as a pin-up girl, and she’s NOTHING. SHE ISN’T ATTRACTIVE. She can do all the calendars she wants, dress up in tight, revealing outfits, get her picture taken by the top photographers, have all her warts air-brushed out later, and she still is a chubby faux-blonde who has no game.

It’s times like this that I feel like the victim of some big media joke, and eventually I’m going to get the punch-line. Every so often, a magazine like People, Vanity Fair, or EW will pretend that Linda Evangelista, Julia Roberts, Christina Ricci, Paris Hilton, Helena Bonham-Carter, or some other femme is hot, and we, the public, are encouraged to go along with it, even if we wonder why so much hype (and money) is being devoted to hatchet-faced women. A few years back, Vanity Fair did a cover story on the next big bombshell in Hollywood: Gretchen Mol (I kid you not). She wasn’t even cute, she hadn’t been in anything of note, and VF was hyping her as if she was one of the Miller Sisters. I’m sorry if I’m beginning to sound insensitive, but Julia Roberts is not now, nor has she ever been, pretty !!!!! She’s a decent enough actress, but so is Angela Lansbury (who actually was quite hot about fifty years ago). At some point, though, “Hollywood” decided that a nice pair of lips, a decent body, and some solid acting chops added up to sex appeal, and imposed it on the rest of society.

Even more ridiculous are supermodels. Just as Jackie Robinson broke the color-line in baseball, Evangelista shattered the ugly barrier in modeling, and paved the way for women such as Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum, and others to ply their craft. By the way, has anyone seen the new Cover Girl ad with “supermodel” Niki Taylor. I didn’t think you were supposed to notice the make-up. I feel sorry for the tragic accident she was in, and for the way-too-untimely death of her sister, but who knew that she would become the Tony Conigliaro of modeling. Enough said about that; she should try to retire with some semblance of dignity before she becomes indistinguishable from Carol Channing.

Lastly, there is the odd case of Jennifer Aniston. I’m inclined to believe that she must be more attractive in person than she is on TV, where she is the third most attractive actress on Friends. Anyway, if any of you have a selection for the most overrated beautiful woman in the world, click the magic button on the top and let me know.

June 26, 2002

"(optional deity) Bless the Ninth Circuit." By the way, the two little words in controversy are recent additions to the Pledge, imposed by Congress back in the 1950's, during another era when the government tried to squash our civil liberties, and needed a distraction.
Concerning the Bolton / Hansen et al concert below, one reader sends a link as to who might play in the grand finale...(thanks again to C.A.H.)
How exactly do you you hide $4 billion dollars? In any event, this column, published on Saturday, before the WorldCom debacle, now seems even more prescient.(free registration required)
Take note that my next long post is being published tonight. Its a "think-piece" about Anna Kournikova !!!!
Damn. Kentucky v. North Carolina in the Final. Oddly enough, the two countries have never played each other in the World Cup.

Same score, but a much better, more competitive game than yesterday morning. Both teams were on the attack throughout, and Turkey had plenty of good chances. For all the talk about how far the U.S. has come in soccer, take note that the Turks were playing in their first tournament since 1954, and did not win a single qualifying game in the 1980's. I mean, they sucked, and I mean Michael Bolton / Hansen / Moby / Dave Matthews Band all-day concert-in-the-park sucked. From what I can gather, their recent international rise stems in large part from the heavy influx of immigration to Germany; many of their players, in fact, are German-born (Senegal, by the way, had more than a few players who had either been born, or raised, in France).

June 25, 2002

One of the cool things about doing this is how enthusiastic all of you are about correcting my occasional mistakes or flashes of ignorance. For example, "the Ron" points out that Lena Olin was, in fact, nominated for an Oscar, in Enemies: A Love Story, which I never saw, on account of the fact that I'm a guy.
Now that Korea has been eliminated, can we stop hearing that the World Cup was somehow tainted by their presence in the Final Four. Bad calls are a part of the game, and the calls in their win over Spain were particularly lame, but up until this year, no one ever thought there was a conspiracy led by "Third World" refs to advance a particular team.

In any event, this was a dominant German performance today; 1-0 does not quite express how one-sided this game was. With about ten minutes left, Germany had a 16-4 edge in shots on goal, and completely contained the speed game of the Koreans. Instead of playing it safe, the Germans continued to press the issue at the end, and nearly scored a couple of insurance goals in the final minutes. The goal scorer, Ballack, got hit with his second yellow card in as many games, forcing him to miss the Final. Considering how the U.S. kicked their ass in every respect but on the scoreboard last week, it is a testament to how close we are to making a serious run in 2006 or 2010.

By the way, for about ten minutes in the first half, Adelphia Cable decided to shut down its entire network to provide an Emergency Test. Odds are, nothing was going to happen anyway, but I had just had this notion at the time that they were going to return to the action, and the score would be 2-1 Korea, and the referree would be showing the red card to a whole gang of German players, and the announcers would be screaming that this was "a disgrace", etc.

June 24, 2002

One of the local throw-aways has a good piece on a hip music club downtown, that I have on good authority is "Moby-Free". Take note of the "shy owner" pictured in the article.
The first of the semi-final games is coming up on the morrow, twixt Korea and Germany. Whoever wins will be the weakest team to make a World Cup Final since, well, ever, with the paranoid believing that the Koreans are only at this stage because of a FIFA-sponsored conspiracy involving the home team. Both teams were out-played in the quarterfinals, but got some favorable calls (Korea got some very favorable calls) from the refs to get through. I'm sorry, but I just have a hard time feeling sorry for either Spain, the U.S., or Italy; each team had plenty of other opportunities, and the fact that only the Americans haven't whined about the bad breaks they got redounds to the prestige of the "Homeland". The attacks that have come from some of the overseas papers, particularly in Spain, have bordered on the racist. Teams like Korea have been screwed so often by lousy officiating and homerism that its about time they caught a break, and one has to feel that much of the criticism now is being aimed at tomorrow morning's officials: if you so much as think of giving a German a red card, or calling offsides, a couple thousand international papers are going to label you a crook and a shill for the Koreans. In any event, the real problem in the quarterfinals wasn't bad officiating, it was the overly-defensive soccer the teams played.
Then again, maybe the Palestinians can just have our Supreme Court choose its next leader. This article rightly skewers the President's phony peace plan.
It's the beginning of the week, so it must be time to visit the old MAILBAG:

Sir Mix-a-lot writes:
The Bush adminstration keeps saying the Arafat can do more to stop terrorism. To me it seems like he has been handcuffed by both Sharon and the US. Even though I realize that Arafat still has some control over his militants, I can't really see what if anything he can do because Sharon and the US don't want to work with him on a diplomatic level. Realistically what can Arafat do?

I don't see why anyone can make excuses for Arafat. A good deal of the suicide bombers come from his organization, and not all of the bombers appeared to be particularly motivated by religion. A few high profile arrests, convictions, and imprisonments of some of these nutcases would have sent a message. The fact that Sharon and his party happen to believe that Arabs are indistinguishable from cockroaches doesn't create an atmosphere conducive to a permanent peace, yet by doing next to nothing to stop terrorism, and in fact financing many of the groups responsible, Arafat has created a situation where it would be impossible for Sharon to not send in the tanks. Which is probably what the General wanted in the first place; I half-expect the old thug to start talking about "hitting the trifecta". But lets not mince words here. If the A.N.C. had allowed its militants to start necklacing Africaaner teenagers, I doubt Mandela would be revered as the secular saint he is today. Anyways, thanks for your correspondence; it felt good not writing about soccer, Alias, and/or pub-crawling.

June 23, 2002

Here's a provocative take on the World Cup, by a writer who usually pisses me off. (Registration needed)
For those of you who subscribe to the "Smythesworld Premium" package, two more proposed sites: Mundo de Smythe, which will simulcast this site in Spanish; and SmythesworldWatch, a site dedicated to ridiculing and debunking Smythesworld. Take note that none of the additional services are available on basic cable or satellite.
MoDo strikes again !!!
Well, this turned out to be a more interesting weekend than I could have ever anticipated.

Tom Tomorrow has a good idea for a game based on a just-released movie.