Cafe 227

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Assorted Shizzle Before I Take Off...

I need to clean out the inbox before heading to paradise for Labor Day weekend:

  • My friend's wife took a photograph of a cute dog. Now she wants to put it on the Jones Soda Bottle label. But this can only happen with your help, so please go here and vote for her photo. The dog really is very cute.
  • Apropos of my recent rants against the current state of hip-hop: I went to the Guerilla Lounge hip-hop show, which features local hip-hop artists, at Bohemian Caverns last weekend. Two local acts to keep an eye on - Priest da Nomad, a true lyricist, and Muhsinah, whose raw and soulful R&B vocals impressed me. Another local artist to keep an eye on is Wale, who may have a chance to go national with his go go-infused beats.
  • This DUI arrest video has replaced this DUI arrest video as my favorite DUI arrest video. But I question its veracity.
  • I can attest that I have nothing to do with this website. But I can't say the same for Doza.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I tried to turn a non-sighted eye to this...

Saw this on an ATM yesterday afternoon. It's a little hard to read, so what the heck, I'll just tell you. Below the braille, the following message is written:

"These instructions are in braille for our non-sighted customers."

Putting aside the fact that this message is completely superfluous, when did it become wrong to refer to blind people as, well, "blind people"? Have I been offending non-sighted people all these years by describing them as "blind"?

And is "non-sighted" even conextually correct? Wouldn't "non-seeing" work better? "Non-sighted" brings to mind a secret government agent observing a group of evildoers from behind a thick bush, completely out of sight. Do spies rely on braille instructions when withdrawing money from the ATM?

(My apologies for the poor quality photo. But imagine walking down the street and coming across a large, bearded arab in front a prominent downtown bank taking a digital photograph of the ATM with his cell phone. You'd immediately call the cops, right? Now you understand the time constraints I was under. It was like going to an airport with a T-shirt in Arabic script, which, in turn, is just like "going to a bank and wearing a T-shirt that says, `I'm a robber." Apparently.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Unabomber thoughts...

For those reading the title and pondering to yourselves, "I wonder what the hell he means by that?", the answer is forthcoming. Mr. Unabomber hated technology and the government and thought it was slowly taking over our world. Now, my displeasure for Dubs notwithstanding, I do not hate the government. I would be a world-class hypocrite if I did, since I am currently employed by it. However, technology is slowly rising on the list of hated things, behind reality shows, spoiled rich people, Dukies, and chitlins.

For the past two days I have been attempting to place online ads with autotrader and craigslist for my conveyance, and for the past two days I have been on the receiving end of the Heisman-trophy stiff-arm. One would not take bitmap photos, the government computer cannot change bitmap to jpeg, and the other one is just retarded. Ah, the joys of evolution.

On another note, this article is particularly disturbing because I worry about the curious nature of our Cuban friend with the initials A.G. Child pornography by a professor at Wharton? Disgusting. A.G., hopefully you were not a victim. Be safe out there. I will be posting some new words and phrases I learned down here in Georgia. Watch out.

Please, No Mo' Contrived Neighborhood Names

This makes me angry. From the Washington Business Journal:

Yes, they're trying to rename the neighborhood just north of Massachusetts Avenue NE "NoMa." This on the heels of the planned "Tribeca" development in PG County (despite the absence of either a Canal Street or a triangle below said street anywhere near the development). These developers aren't doing much to help dispel the perception that DC has a huge inferiority complex to New York.

Even considered apart from this apparent New York City penis envy, however, the name "NoMa" makes me cringe. To me, "NoMa" brings to mind annoying Red Sox fans circa 1999. Or something Jay-Z would say in a rap song.*

The best line of the article (which you probably can't access, since you need a subscription) is this:

"Plans for NoMa, once a crime-infested industrial wasteland, have evolved to the point that the goal now is to create DC's own SoHo or Greenwich Village, with plenty of retail and condominiums as part of the 20 million square feet of development on the drawing board."

Now, I spend a lot of time in New York. And I don't typically associate brand-new condominium developments and 21st-century McRetailers (Container Store, Pottery Barn, Barnes & Noble, etc.) with SoHo or Greenwich Village. But maybe those neighborhoods have changed a lot since I was up there in April.

* The specific Jay-Z lyric I'm thinking of appears in One Minute Man, his collaboration with Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott. It goes like this: "I'm not your man, not Ralph Tresvant, not Ronnie Romance... no ma. I'm tryin to hit you then put you in the middle of the round like I'm Roberto Duran... no mas." I love Jay-Z.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Okay, It's Time for Everyone to Admit It... The Kite Runner Wasn't Really All That Good

I love it when I talk to people who like to read. I find it so much more fun to talk about novels and short stories than just about anything else, even sports. And I love to talk about sports. Usually these conversations yield excellent recommendations and books that I wholeheartedly enjoy. I'll read ANYTHING. I have enjoyed Tom Clancy and Tom Wolfe, Dean Koontz and David Mitchell, John Grisham and Jonathan Franzen... you get the point.

In any event, I read a lot of books that are wildly popular... mainly because I'm a literary "follower" and they're usually on sale. Ninety-nine percent of the time I finish a book and say, "Okay, I see why so many people liked that."

The Kite Runner, however, is not such a book. I cannot tell you how many times this novel was recommended to me (at least 30). These recommendations were not the run-of-the-mill, "I just read this and it's good," these were, "THIS BOOK CHANGED MY LIFE!" recommendations. So, about a year ago, I read it.

Now, maybe I'm callous or out-of-touch, but what is the BIG EFFING DEAL? I mean, it's a fairly well-written novel that provides a nice portrait of a country we know very little about, Afghanistan. But the best novel of the year? Life-changing? Come on.

What baffles me the most is how many EXTREMELY well-read women have said to me, "You know... Hosseini just really GETS IT. His depictions of fathers and sons and boys growing up are just RIGHT ON. I feel like I understand "

[SPOILER ALERT... If, for some reason, you're interested in reading the novel, stop here]

Hmmm... you know what, friends, you're right. Nothing says "boy coming of age" quite like a boy's servant-friend getting ass-raped by a racist while the boy competes with said servant-friend for a detached father's affection. Now, for those of you who loved the book, I'm not attempting to oversimplify the narrative. As I said, I do think the depiction of Afghanistan is nice and valuable, but the story is not this "life-changing event" that many make it out to be.

Friends (particularly female friends), I shall make a deal with you: I will not say to you, "Gosh, Kidd really GETS IT in The Secret Life of Bees... or Niffenegger really knows what it's like to be a wife," if, in return, you will stop telling me that my boyhood is best explained by a boy who wins a kite tournament.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The NY Times takes on DC

Hey look! The NY Times has an "Escapes" feature about Washington, DC today! I'm terribly busy, but I just had to give it a read...

And as expected, the author of this piece, Adam Nagourney, examines DC with a sense of smugness and contempt similar to the way European colonist may have looked upon the simple yet savage natives they encountered in the New World. Also, some of his suggestions are just bad.

Let's take it paragraph by paragraph:

WASHINGTON, in many ways, is an unsurprising place to visit — an expanse of monuments, symbols and sites familiar to any American who watches the evening news (or, at least, “West Wing”).

So far, so good. Nobody watches the evening news anymore.

So, yes, any 36 hours in Washington should include trips to all those famous buildings and memorials, but it should also include excursions to places that perhaps if less famous, are all the more interesting.

OK, so tell me about the less famous, more interesting places...

It’s your first night, so head for Hotel Washington (515 15th Street NW, 202-638-5900;, take the elevator to the top floor for drinks on the roof and walk out to a sweeping view.

Seriously? That's your hidden gem? Bro, that's so 1988. How exactly did you travel here from New York? By DeLorean? These days, EVERYONE knows about the Hotel Washington's rooftop. It's right here, plain as day, wedged between the FDR Memorial and the Air and Space Museum on the Post's "Best Places to Take Out-of-Towners" list. Lame.

Before you arrive, find out who is playing at the 9:30 Club (815 V Street NW, 202-265-0930; This is an out-of-the-way music club in a dicey neighborhood. It has great sound and heaps of personality and is arguably one of the best places in the country to see a show. The club attracts an eclectic roster of bands — think Wilco and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. These shows sell out fast, and it’s standing only for a good two hours — be warned, Baby Boomers.

Whoa - you're sending the Baby Boomers to the 9:30 Club? I think every single hipster in DC just had a collective conniption fit. Plus, your Baby Boomer target audience could potentially get mugged. In fact, I'd say it's likely.

If the 9:30 Club isn’t your thing...

Trust me - for your target audience, it's not.

...make a night of dinner. Go to Penn Quarter, a vibrant Washington neighborhood, for Zaytinya (701 Ninth Street NW, 202-638-0800) a Mediterranean tapas restaurant, that serves fresh Middle Eastern plates in a bustling setting of candles and soaring ceilings. “It feels like New York,” a friend said at dinner one recent night.

Oh really? Zaytinya feels just like the entire 300 square mile land mass of New York? Your friend's an idiot. Stated more correctly, it feels like the overpriced, pretentious restuarants in certain neighborhoods of Manhattan. I've covered this subject before - Zaytinya is a "[p]erpetual shit-show, constantly inhabited by people from Virginia who want to show out-of-town guests how cool DC is." You end up waiting for an hour at the bar with a bunch of scenesters for the privilege of overpaying for small portions of mediocre Lebanese food. You're better off going to Ben's and housing some half-smokes. (Maybe your readers can stop there on their way back from the 9:30 Club, if they have any money left after getting mugged.)

If the weather is nice, explore Georgetown, a historic neighborhood of narrow tree-lined streets, some still with cobblestones, and historic homes and churches. And the best way to see Georgetown is to get lost there. Wander the streets randomly, notice the pleasing details of the Federal houses and, if the need arises, spot what passes for a celebrity in Washington. (Emphasis added.)

Come on, Adam. That's a cheap shot. We might not have the famous actors and entertainers that New York has, but trust me - you haven't lived until you've nearly stepped on George Stephanopoulos at Two Amy's or spotted Tony Kornheiser gruffly wandering down L Street oblivious to the world around him.

Keep an eye out for “Open House” signs: it’s a great way to see the hidden Georgetown. Just walk right in for a completely authorized inside look at Washington parlors and excesses. Some friends and I could hardly contain ourselves when we visited a $2.5 million, one-bedroom town house that had a mahogany paneled bathroom and a jungle-canopy bed.

Do you and your friends routinely get your jollies by gaping at other people's furniture? You should probably take up a hobby. I hear that Kakuro is the next Sudoku.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Maya Lin’s senior thesis project, looks best late in the day, when the sunlight doesn’t shine as fiercely on the harsh, black granite. The memorial is hauntingly moving and easily overwhelming.

But go there quickly, before the federal government transforms it into a video arcade.

The Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect Street NW, 202-333-6183), in Georgetown, is as much theater as food. It is a swirl of young and old, Georgetown and Capitol Hill, Europe and Washington, and the closest thing you’ll get to a celebrity palace in Washington. (Was that really John Kerry having dinner on the patio? Why, yes!) It is not at all that unusual to find Vice President Dick Cheney having dinner in one corner of the restaurant, while Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and a friend of the Clintons, holds court from his regular table in the front right corner of the dining room.

First, Adam, it's time to quit with the "famous for DC" jokes. It's lazy and it's trite. And besides, it's not even true. When I lived across the street from Cafe Milano as a student, I routinely saw Michael Jordan there. Routinely. So how's that for a celebrity, Adam?

Second, are you seriously recommending Cafe Milano? Only two types of people generally go there: (1) Old, rich, sketchy European men looking for young, hot women of easy virtue, and (2) young, hot women of easy virtue looking for old, rich, sketchy European. My guess is that neither of these cohorts reads the NY Times.

The food here is quite good (if often staggeringly expensive).

Oh come on, I once paid $30 for a spring roll in Midtown...

Ask a cabdriver (or, if you have a car, do it yourself) for a nighttime tour of the monuments. It’s a great time to walk up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, then turn around and let the reflecting pool guide your gaze to the Washington Monument. The city is not as safe as it once was, so if you decide to walk around here, which is tempting in the moonlight, keep an eye out around you. (Emphasis added.)

Adam, how old are you? 16? 17? Because the only acceptable excuse for making such a dumb statement is that you simply weren’t alive or sentient during the late 1980s-early 1990s when DC was known as the “murder capital” of the United States. According to Wikipedia (keeper of all web-enabled knowledge): "Crime rates in Washington have been dropping consistently for over ten years... In the past ten years, the number of homicides has been halved — from 399 in 1994 to 195 in 2005."

On Lafayette Square, you will find St. John’s Church, where, as the placard on the outside wall will tell you, every president since James Madison has come to pray. If President Bush is in town, the chances are pretty good that you will see him and his wife, Laura, show up for services at this small Episcopal church.

You know, other demographic groups besides white anglo-saxon protestants read the NY Times, Adam. From my limited knowledge of New York, my understanding is that a lot of Catholics, Jews, and Muslims live there too. And some of them, in fact, enjoy reading the NY Times and may be in DC soon for work, for pleasure, for pseudo-celebrity navel-gazing, or what have you. I'm sure these other non-protestant groups don't want to go to an Episcopal church and would've appreciated some alternative places of worship.

The National Gallery of Art opened a sculpture garden, above, in 1999 next to its West Wing, a splendid expanse of art, flora and fountains (202-737-4215; There is much to soak up here, in particular a characteristically playful work of painted aluminum by Roy Lichtenstein. After touring the grounds, stop by the cafe for paninis and salads that can be eaten beside the cool fountain that anchors this garden.

"Paninis." Us plebeians call them "sandwiches."

Hotel Monaco (700 F Street NW, 202-628-7177; is a spiffy luxury boutique hotel right in Penn Quarter across from the National Portrait Gallery. Rates range from $169 to $429.

Wait a minute, Adam, I thought you were from New York? Don't you mean PeQua?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More on Rap: The Evolution of Rap as seen through the Prism of Art History

I've been overwhelmed at work lately, so I've been rushing to get some of these posts done. Which is why, in retrospect, I may have been a bit premature in declaring rap dead. As many e-mailers told me, good rap isn't dead at all - it's just buried underneath all the mainstream rubbish you hear over and over again on the radio. Some of the good stuff is pretty far underground, but a lot of it is right beneath the surface. Mos Def, Common, and Talib Kweli, who continue to "hold it down" (as the kids are wont to say these days), are all pretty accessible. So, consider this a mea culpa.

Additionally, some of you took me to task for failing to mention Puff Daddy's (P-Diddy's? Puffy's? Sean Combs'?) notable contribution to the demise of rap. Fair enough - it was an indefensible omission.

But now that I've had some time to reflect, it's overly simplistic to pin the demise of rap exclusively on the individual efforts of Master P, Juvenile, and Mr. Combs. That's why I thought it would be useful to examine the brief history of rap a little further, using the various movements of art history to construct a convoluted extended metaphor that will neither (1) enhance the reader's understanding of the subject nor (2) serve any contstructive purpose whatsoever beyond providing me with a diversion as I slog through another day in the office.

Now, you may be asking yourself: "What the hell do you know about art history?" The truth is, not much. I occassionally go to the National Gallery, but mostly to satisfy gelato cravings. Oh, and I once took an art history class in high school under the guise of "Western Civilization," but that was so long ago I hardly remember a thing. I did, however, stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so off we go...

1. The Early Renaissance: The early renaissance of rap took place between 1980 and 1986 with the emergence of Grandmaster Flash, UTFO, Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, and their contemporaries. These guys were like the painters of the Early Renaissance, especially Giotto. Look at some of Giotto's works. You can certainly see early signs of perspective - nothing like what comes later, but the use of linear perspective perfected by the Italian Renaissance painters was undoubtedly the fruit of Giotto's labor. Similarly, the innovative beats and complex lyrics of the golden age of rap can be traced back to the efforts of these early rappers in popularizing a nascent genre.

2. The Renaissance: The golden age of painting corresponds with golden age of hip hop, which lasted from 1986 to about 1993. The rappers who emerged during this time - Brand Nubian, Big Daddy Kane, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth, A Tribe Called Quest, Pharcyde, and the early manifestations of Tupac and Biggie - were true masters of their craft, skillfully laying down complex lyrics over engaging and innovative beats. These guys are the Michaelangelos and Da Vincis of rap. Indeed, some of the more politically/socially- conscious artists of this era - such as Public Enemy and KRS-One - can even be compared to the artists of the Romanticism, which was "a revolt against aristocratic social and political norms" and "a reaction against the rationalization of nature." (Thank God for Wikipedia.)

3. Impressionism. The Impressionists weren't nearly as technically proficient as their Renaissance/Baroque/Romantic predecessors. Instead, they used "short, thick strokes of paint" to "capture the essence of the subject rather than its details." To me, this describes the golden age of West Coast rap, which lasted from 1992-1996. The various members of NWA and the Dogg Pound weren't gifted lyricists like their predecessors. But their music was innovative and emotionally raw. And, just like the Impressionists, who often chose ordinary subjects as their subject matter, West Coast rappers focused on everyday topics such as cars, blow jobs, or simply a typical day in one's life.

4. Pointillism - I've reserved this brief, post-Impressionist movement for two of my favorite rap groups of all time - Gang Starr (1989-) and Wu Tang Clan (1993-). Pointillism is a style of painting "in which non-primary colors are generated by the visual mixing of dots of primary colors placed very close to each other." The process is very formulaic, but the product is aesthetically pleasing- very similar to the formulaic yet fresh beats of Gang Starr and Wu Tang. Just like I can spot a Seurat from a mile away, so too can I immediately identify a DJ Premier or RZA beat when I hear one.

5. Found Art - I think this movement succeeded Cubism and occured in tandem with Dadaism, but I'm not quite sure. Anyway, Found Art describes art "created from the undisguised, but often modified, use of objects that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a mundane, utilitarian function." For instance, Marcel Duchamp - the patriarch of Found Art who coined the term "readymade" - once took a toilet and tried to pass it off as art. It is clear to me that Puff Daddy is the Marcel Duchamp of the rap world. Between 1997 and 2001, Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Entertainment flourished by blatantly stealing old hip-hop and R&B tracks and overlaying them with weak lyrics, ultimately adding very little value to the finished product. I think Mos Def put it best in "Children's Story" when he said: "They jacked the beats, money came with ease. But son, he couldn't stop, it's like he had a disease. He jacked another and another, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder. Set some R&B over the track for 'Deep Cover' ..."

6. Cubism - OK, this is where the wheels really started to fall off. To me, the Cubism movement is an apt metaphor of the rap era dominated by Cash Money Records and the No Talen.., er, Limit Soldiers, which lasted roughly from 1998 to 2002. During these four years, Master P, Juvenile, Mystikal, and their contemporaries burst on the scene and just starting tearing up the English language, groaning, screaming, randomly adding "HAs" at the end of words, etc. Just like Pablo Picasso and the Cubists. I mean, have you ever seen some of Picasso's works? There's an eye where a woman's ear should be, an arm growing out of her stomach, and her ass is growing teeth. Picasso's portraits do not resemble humans, just as Master P's and Juvenile's lyrics do not resemble rap.

7. Modern Art - Just because you take a canvas, paint it green, and hang it on a wall, it isn't necessarily art. You may try to pass it off as art, but to any objective observer it's just a green fucking canvas. I mean, the ingredients are all there - there's a canvas, there's paint, there are some colors, etc. But it's not art. Similarly, these countless new "rappers" who have emerged recently - Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Little John, just to name a few - aren't rappers. Unfortunately, they just so happen to be hanging on the wall...


A few lingering thoughts I had as I was listening to DJ Sixth Sense's "Wrong Songs" segment on WKYS this morning...

  • I probably should have mentioned that there are still a few skilled rappers operating in the mainstream, such as Nas, Jay-Z, and Kanye West. While the early rhymes of Nas and Jay-Z may intersected the golden age of rap, their heydays came later. In this sense, they're the Neoclassicists of the rap world.
  • For you Outkast fans out there - I'm sorry, they're simply unclassifiable. They're in a different stratosphere. So, I guess they're Sculpturists or something.
  • I also should have thrown DMX in with the Cubists. DMX, who peaked between 1998 and 2001 (before his crazy-ass got arrested for impersonating a federal agent at Kennedy Airport), is the only rapper I know who thought he was a canine. He constantly barked and growled like a rapid dog for no apparent reason at all. It was all very disconcerting.
  • My closing argument for why mainstream rap today is an inferior product: As Fifty Cent has demonstrated, the ability to open one's mouth is no longer necessary to become a commercially successful rapper. Back in the late 1980s - early 1990s, that would've been a serious impediment...

Monday, August 21, 2006

What the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum Taught Me About the Demise of Rap

The thing that really jumped out at me amid the incredible achievements in aerospace engineering on display at the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum (i.e., the Concorde, the SR-71 Blackbird, the space shuttle Enterprise) was this:

I found this to be so poignant in its symbolism, it actually brought me to the brink of tears. I mean, I grew up listening to rap. I consider myself a minor expert when it comes to rap. And I can unequivocally say that, much like the nuclear-capable missile pictured above could have killed thousands upon thousands of unsuspecting pinko commies, Lil John and rappers of his ilk ARE KILLING RAP. Unfortunately, the major record labels haven't taken a cue from the international community by signing talentless-rapper non-proliferation agreements.

It's easy to forget now, but rappers used to be skillful lyricists. I was painfully reminded of this as I was driving up to Pittsburgh last weekend and decided to listen to some old-school Pharcyde and De La Soul. The lyrical dexterity that these rappers exhibited stands in stark contrast to the incomprehensible, witless babble that emanates from the mouths of popular rappers today.

Personally, I blame Master P and, to a lesser extent, Juvenile. With his 1997 release "Make 'em Say Ugh!", Master P was the first rapper to substitute grunts, groans, and other ghastly sounds for actual words of the English language. Juvenile built upon this innovative style with his 1998 release "HA," in which he randomly adds the syllable "ha" to the end of each line to make words such as "house" and "checks" rhyme with each other.

Through their early efforts, Master P and Juvenile paved the way for a new generation of semi-literate and quite possibly retarded rappers who make liberal use of noises and "words" with no written equivalent or precise meaning. These rappers include the aforementioned Lil John, who is only capable of screaming two or three select phrases; the Ying Yang Twins, who alternatively shout and whisper X-rated gibberish; and Mike Jones, whose knowledge of English vocabulary is apparently limited to (1) his name and (2) trite misogynistic platitudes (i.e., about how "hoes" are "all up on him" now), which he repeats ad nauseum in every single one of his songs.

In other rap-related news, Busta Rhymes was arrested this past weekend on assault charges. Between this, the incident with his bodyguard, and the allegations that he administered a beat-down to a fan who asked him for an autograph, Busta is currently doing to his reputation what he's been doing to the English language since he released "Woo-Hah!!" in 1996.

Mr. Markazi, You Make It Too Easy...

To follow up on a previous post, and to respond to the excellent points made by an Anonymous commenter, I offer my closing argument in support of why Arash Markazi is an actively negative force in the world of sports journalism.

From Markazi's August 19, 2006, column, second full paragraph after the campy "leader" definition:

"Everyone has there own theories on what is a leader."

Yes, you read that correctly. Not only is the pronoun the wrong one, but it is spelled incorrectly.

Now, Anonymous and others, I acknowledge your well-said arguments, but I offer this as an example of how both the form and substance of Markazi's writing is strikingly below average and should not be tolerated by Sports Illustrated's readership... silence is consent.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Yeah... Amazon Knows What You Like...

So... for a long time now, whenever I remember to do so, I check out the Amazon Friday Sale for ridiculous prices on items they carry. Many times, it is a fruitful search... I have bought a coffee maker discounted 75%, a George Forman grill discounted 85% (with bun warmer, mind you), and gifts for my nephews (Star Wars figure at $3.99, on the rack at $19.99... shhhhh... don't tell!)

Today, however, I am baffled by not only the items they have "overstocked," but also by their juxtaposition. Please take a moment, dear reader, to peruse the list today...


Okay, now let's discuss. Now... I'm no Puritan, but I'm thinking that your target audience for this*

Might be just a tad different than your target audience for this...

And yet, there they are, one on top of the other... now, I would love to see the marketing study that believes that the impulse buyer will think, "Oh! I can get a Trojan Vibrator Ring AND a new Mongoose bike? Click, click!"

* For added amusement, please check out the "Customers also bought section..." Buddy, if you're buying the Vibrator Ring AND the 25 foot "Big Johnson" Power Tape, don't let me stop you from Livin' the Dream.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Your Favorite Celebrities, 50 Years Hence

Apparently, there's a website out there in the vast productivity vacuum known as the "internet" holding a contest for the best photoshopping of celebrity pictures to make them look like decrepit senior citizens. Here are some of the best entries. (Thanks to A. for the link via

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Time to Clean my Inbox...

As always, many of these are from Doza...
  • First and foremost, be careful around deck chairs.
  • David Copperfield has apparently discovered the fountain of youth.
  • Left-handers seem to be better off financially than right-handers. (I thought height was the only statistically significant physical determinant of wealth for men, but I guess I not.)
  • This link's only relevant for fellow Hoyas. So, fellow Hoyas, does this guy look familiar?
  • Big ups to Wonkette and FishBowl DC for picking up our post about that ridiculous Washington Post pictorial. As Wonkette says, it was a bad week for the Post overall...
  • And, your YouTube clip of the day, the Top 10 Unsportsmanlike Plays ever:

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Washington Post's Abysmal Lifestyle Coverage (or, Fun With Captions)

I really think we're witnessing the nadir of The Washington Post's "Lifestyle" coverage. First, the Best Bets winners were announced today - and surprise! - many of the winners were of the bland corporate-chain variety. At least the Going Out Gurus indicated their personal "picks" this time, which were mostly solid. And they had the moxie to include cheeky commentary for the more egregious winners (i.e., for DC's "best" Chinese restaurant, P.F. Chang's, the GoG's wryly noted: "The massive Chinese chain does fusion for the masses.") It seems even the GoGs, God bless their souls, could hardly hide their disdain this year...

Speaking of corporate chains, did you know the city was being overrun by them? Apparently, the Washington Post just found out. (Note - I actually liked this article, and the accompanying Quicktime panorama application thing kept me entertained for about 90 minutes today, which is why I'll be at work until 11. I just think this is old news. Also, I think the problem's much worse in the abiguously-named neighborhood 15 blocks to the east.)

And then there's this pictorial, which kind of speaks for itself. The lead-in to the pictorial appeared on the front page of for the majority of the afternoon directly next to stories such as "Cease Fire Takes Effect; More Fighting Expected" and "Bush: Israel Defeated Hezbollah," underscoring its global importance. And as with any issue of importance, this one requires our further attention.

So let's take these pictures one by one and see if we can come up with some better captions. (Yes, it's been done before. But I'm too busy to be creative, and my "co-contributors" are largely worthless. Also, I'm trying to stimulate commenting activity, so I encourage you to add your own.)

Monte and Wes celebrate the one-year anniversary of their domestic partnership with a decadent chocolate cake, showing the "love-birds" in the background how it's done in three dimensions.

Chaz couldn't be more pleased with the new preparation of rohypnol that he's using on Cammy tonight. She's lost control of her neck muscles way ahead of schedule, and her clothes just disappeared as if by magic.

Despite finishing his Capitol Hill internship 27 years ago, former intern James Smith (or "lecherous Jimmy" as he's known to the Capitol Hill police force) still enjoys drinking Coronas by himself and whistling at drunk women half his age through his teeth. (In the timeless words of Bubb Rubb, the whistle goes "whooooo!")

As he was taught to do by the elders in his local Aghori-devotee society, Seth (back center) prepares to devour the head of unsuspecting Sanjiv.

Kelly (17), Sarah (19), Madison (20), and Sara (17) do their fifth shot of tequila of the night. After all, if they're going to stay out in DuPont much longer, they need to be good and drunk to deal with all the people of "color." "We just don't have all these Arabs, Indians, and Ethiopians in Burleith, so we need a little elixir to numb the culture shock," says Sarah.

Thip (bottom right), doing his best impersonation of school on Sunday, proves that he has no class by making out with some anonymous, besotted 20-year old Hill intern in front of his best friend Armando (bottom, left) and Armando's hair, who both pretend not to notice. And at Front Page, no less...

Which reminds me - how did I forget to include Front Page on my list of DC's 10 worst bars?

Parole date part deux

Sorry about the lack of paragraphs, Velvet (whoever you may be). I like long blocks of words, especially for a blog.

This goes for out to everyone, and not just Chico. If anybody finds him/herself down this way for whatever reason, give me a shout and get off I-95 at exit 38. Aziz, I sent your email to Autumn. Conor, I have no idea if they let prisoners wear chapstick and I don't want to know. Some things are better left unknown.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Still waiting for my parole date...

Ladies and Gentlemen of Cafe 227! I pray that all of you are doing well in your respective locales. My current locale is the same one as the previous 12 weeks: Southeast Georgia, or as you all may remember, the "taint" of the United States. Within this lovely taint, it has come to my attention that I do not belong here. Some may say that I am very conspicuous. That, my friends, would be a gross understatement. Exhibit 1: yesterday, a classmate of mine named Sean aka "Angry Man" and I traversed north on 95 to the lovely city of Savannah for a gunshow (and no, Aziz, not huge biceps gunshow). This was an actual gunshow with guns, knives, gear, and freaky-looking people. Needless to say, the clientele were a little special. Anyway, we park our vehicle in front of the Savannah Civic Center and enter the front door listening for the sounds of gunfire and people screaming "yee-haw" while running in circles. Alas, we heard none of the above but we did manage to find the gunshow in one of the large arenas with a very familiar name. Which arena, might you ask? How about the Martin Luther King Jr. arena! Now, my buddy Johnny Shades is always discussing how the word irony is constantly misused in the English language. Well, Mr. Shades, I think irony works pretty damn well here: the hugest supporter of non-violence this side of Mahatma Gandhi has a freaking gunshow in a room named after him. That is like having the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the Mike Tyson auditorium! I saw Billy Bob, Jethro, Fanny May, and the rest of "clan" walking around with rifles, bullets, and knives. I saw one fool who ran a booth who was missing a finger because he accidentally shot himself with his own gun! I ask all of you, what the hell is going on out here?

Exhibit 2: On FLETC, some of the people who come here are with the Bureau of Prisons. For those who did not hear this story, this article should explain what I am talking about. These people look as if they were former prisoners who were released early and given a job as a federal prison guard. One bama had a t-shirt that read, "My dick smells like chapstick". These are the people who will be issued weapons and a badge! One dude is about 6'6", 350 pounds with long braids. The moniker given to them by one of my classmates is "BOP Trash". If you saw them, you would agree heartily and shake your head in disgust.

On a brighter note, I graduated from the first part of training this past Wednesday. Hooray, only 11 more weeks left. The wedding planning is moving along quickly. For those interested, check out the location of the wedding and the reception. I am glad to hear everyone is doing well. Keep the faith and stay out of the heat.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Did Sierra Mist have Prior Knowledge of the Planned Terrorist Attacks?

This commercial was just a little too prescient...

(Thanks to Pancho Claus for this.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Barbaro Memorial "Worst Bets" Rankings, Continued: Worst Restaurants in DC

Let's continue with the "Worst of" rankings. Last week, we reviewed the bar scene. This week, we turn our attention to restaurants.

And the 10 worst restaurants in DC are...

10. Lauriol Plaza
9. Lauriol Plaza
8. Lauriol Plaza
7. Lauriol Plaza
6. Lauriol Plaza
5. Lauriol Plaza
4. Lauriol Plaza
3. Lauriol Plaza
2. Lauriol Plaza
1. Lauriol Plaza

I think you get the point. Lauriol Plaza is the bane of my existence. If I were ever overcome by the desire to plow my car into a building at top speed, I would immediately seek this place out. The ambiance is unremarkable, the food is atrocious, and the service is worse. Yet it's perpetually crowded - two-hour waits for a table on a Friday or Saturday night are routine. The staying power of this place is inexplicable. Dearest readers, if you can provide any insight as to why this place remains popular, I would greatly appreciate it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Oh, Come On!!!

At what point does this cease being funny?

Well, not yet at least.

Maurice, Maurice, Maurice...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Now Open: The Tupac Amaru Shakur Peace Garden

"Let's rent this place for a party!!!"

That was the subject line of Conor's e-mail that tipped me off to the existence of the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts.

On the face of it, how could I possibly object to Conor's suggestion? With all due respect to Biggie, Tupac was the greatest rapper of all time. Also, we're fast approaching the 10-year anniversary of his alleged death. What better way to honor this lyrical savant than to throw a bash at his eponymous Center for the Arts?

So I clicked on the link for the details. The Tupac Center for the Arts is located in Stone Mountain, Georgia. It features: (1) a "Peace Garden" with a (and I quote) "Tupac bronze statue that rises from a Gothic Cross Water Fountain!"; (2) a "Maze of Peace"; and (3) "Peace Pavillions," which are available for "events" such as "yoga, poetry, and reflection."

Well then. Let me just offer 3 brief observations:

1. I'm fairly certain "reflection" does not qualify as an "event."

2. I often misuse the term "ironic." It's thrown around so frequently these days, it's hard to know precisely what it means anymore. But the fact that the centerpiece of the Tupac Center for the Arts is a "Peace Garden" strikes me as somewhat ironic. To me, this is tantamount to including a "Wacky Hall of Torture Implements," for instance, in a memorial center for Mahatma Gandhi. As an example of Tupac's legendary appetite for violence, I offer you the incomparable Hit'em Up, in which he utters the lyrics: "My fo' fo' (i.e., .44 Magnum) makes sure all yo' kids don't grow." At the time, I loosely interpreted this as a thinly-veiled threat of violence against the children of Mobb Deep and/or Chino XL. But I could have been wrong.

3. Probably a better example of irony: the Tupac Center for the Arts is located in Stone Mountain, Georgia. You know what else is located in Stone Mountain? A gigantic "memorial to the Confederacy" carved into a side of a mountain - the largest-high relief sculpture in the world, in fact - featuring "the equestrian figures of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Jefferson Davis." That's right, Stone Mountain is just like Mount Rushmore, but for confederacy-apologists. Right next to the Tupac Center for the Arts. If Tupac were actually dead, he'd be rolling in his grave...

(PS - Conor, I put the deposit down on my credit card. We're confirmed for September 13. You buy the Alize and Cristal, and we'll call it even. )

Monday, August 07, 2006

Arash Markazi Must Be Stopped!!!

Many of you who know me are aware of my affection for sports journalism and my sometimes over-the-top criticism of sports journalists whom I consider to be sub par. I have respect for Peter Gammons, a love-hate relationship with Bill Simmons, a fondness for most of Rick Reilly's columns, and a disdain for virtually any Atlanta Journal-Constitution sportswriter (minus Tony Barnhart, of course).

My most passionate hatred in this realm to date, however, has been directed at Arash Markazi of Sports Illustrated. The rage that Markazi's writing inspires in me is unnatural, unnerving, and unhealthy. I am sure that Markazi is a decent guy... he survived cancer and he likes soccer; those are two pluses in my book. His column, however, represents to me everything that is terrible about sports journalism. His whole shtick is to be an unabashed jock-sniffer who concentrates more on the Hollywoodesque aspects of being a professional athlete rather than on such minor things as, oh, I dunno, the actual SPORT or the athlete's TALENT or even the athlete's good nature.

What infuriates me the most, though, is that Markazi isn't even good at what he does. I've read a few of his "columns" and they're not good sports journalism, not good yellow journalism, not good Page Six-ism, they're just...NOT...GOOD.

Markazi's most recent column deals with a party in Los Angeles where Tony Blair, Snoop Dogg, and Venus Williams were hanging out and celebrating with the Chelsea footballers. Besides a few glib remarks and observations about the scene (including a completely unnecessary anecdote about Snoop recognizing Markazi) the "column" adds absolutely nothing to either the literary or sporting worlds. There was no follow up with the Chelsea players about playing in the U.S., about how incredible it was to chat with the P.M. about their prospects, about anything in which a reader might be interested.

Markazi is nothing if not consistent. He cut his teeth as a "reporter" following Matt Leinart around and basically stargazing at athletes. His niche seems to further distance sports from the actual competitions and turn them into cults-of-personality cum reality t.v. cum celebrity stalking. Perhaps this is appealing to some, but it is certainly not to me.

I lament the rise of the celebrity athlete from Babe to DiMaggio to Jordan to Tiger in that it has stripped athletes' privacy from them and turned them from specimens of physical prowess to be admired from the stands to just another uber-rich celebrity to be "seen" with. I hope that someday soon Sports Illustrated will realize that its sports journalistic integrity is on the line and that it should not allow "columnists" like Markazi to write without art or substance.

Until then, I will read my copies of The Best American Sports Writing from years 1989-2004 and search for those who share my passion for perfection both on and off the field.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Welcoming Judge Rufus G. King to the "Reggie Cleveland All-Stars"

In Bill Simmons' column* today (yes, he still occassionally writes columns), Simmons officially inducted Howie Kendrick into the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars. For those of you who live in a pop-culture vacuum, the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars, according to, is a "fantasy award team created by sportswriter Bill Simmons for sports figures whose names do not seem to match their ethnicities, especially white players with 'African-American-sounding' names."

This reminded me to do something I've been meaning to do since last October when I served for jury duty: By the powers invested in me by the supra-state of the interweb, I would like to officially induct the Honorable Rufus G. King III, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of DC, into the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars. Congratulations, your honor...

(*For those of you who actually miss Bill Simmons' columns, you can now write your own, courtesy of the Chicago Sports Review (via Deadspin)! I will now light myself on fire.)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Barbaro Memorial "Worst Bets" Rankings: Worst Bars in DC, Part II

Here they are, the Washington, DC metropolitan area's worst bars, ranked from "barely tolerable" to "execrable." Be sure to first read the introduction, which I posted earlier this morning. And remember, this is a work in progress - I'm more than happy to modify or append this list if I hear any compelling arguments to do so.

Without further ado:

10. Wonderland - I hesitate to put this bar on the list at all, because I know I'm going to catch some flack from my friends. To me, Wonderland is the Modest Mouse of the DC bar scene. Everyone I know whom I consider to be culturally attuned tells me I should like Modest Mouse. I've picked up their album, I've listened to them over and over again, I've tried real hard to like them, but it's not working. I'm sorry, Modest Mouse sucks. And so does Wonderland. Occassionally they have great DJs, but when they do, it’s packed to the hilt. And when it’s not packed, it's sparsely populated with angst-ridden hipsters who appear to be mocking me and my painfully unironic garb. Look, just because a bar is located in a sketchy neighborhood on the cusp of gentrification doesn’t make it a good bar.

9. Dan's Cafe - Similarly, age doesn't automatically equal character. Dan's Cafe has been around since 1965, so ostensibly it's been sucking continuously for the past 41 years. It's small, always cramped, filthy, the toilet constantly overflows, and the proprietors force you to mix your own drinks. Granted, some people think the net effect of all this is charming. But then again, some people enjoy getting peed on. That doesn't make it universally fun.

8. Both Pool Halls in Ballston - Yes, I'm talking about the two-headed fun-sucking monster of Carpool and Bailey's. This isn't a knock against Northern VA, which has some genuinely great bars. These two places would be bad anywhere. Now that Rockland's is no longer located there, there's really no defensible reason to ever go to Carpool. (Although I hear it's going to demolished soon, so things are looking up.) As for Bailey's, they can fill it with as many TVs and checkerboards as they want, but it's still a contrived, cavernous monstrosity located in a shopping mall. The last time I was there was over a year and a half ago, and I'm still waiting for my jack-and-coke.

7. Madhatter - Narrowly edges out Rumors as the worst bar on that particular block of M Street. Jam-packed with GW students, who are generally loathsome. I've never not seen the bathroom floor covered with vomit - but hey, when you allow 17 year-olds to drink like that, those things are bound to happen.'s review of this place doesn't look like it has been updated since the early 1990s. I don't blame them - I wouldn't go back to this place either.

6. Rhino Bar and Pumphouse - Easily the worst pumphouse in DC. Before I go on, let's get one thing straight - I'm not at all opposed to places like this in theory. DC needs a place where obnoxious, pretentious, self-indulgent Georgetown students can congregate, get hammered, and fight each other. For instance, back when I was such a Georgetown student, we went to Champs. And I loved it. But Champs - being a larger venue and located in an alleyway - was somehow able to contain the debauchery, like one of those ghost traps from Ghostbusters. (I really don't know how else to explain it.) Rhino, on the other hand, is unable to control it - and as a result, the depravity of the place routinely spills out and pollutes the neighborhood at large. It's not fair to the residents of Georgetown, and it's not fair to society. On top of that, Rhino caters to Red Sox and Eagles fans, two groups of people that I generally find abhorrent. No sir, I do not like this place at all.

5. McFadden's - I'm going to be intentionally parsimonious here, because nothing I could say would accurately convey how much I despise this place. I actually considered moving away from DC after spending a few hours here one night.

4. Kelly's Irish Times - This place wasn't fun when I was 17, and it's not fun now. The's review of this place, written by Michael Dowd, incorrectly states: "pretty much anyone could appreciate its Old World feel." I guess being an inaccurate, overwrought hack runs in the family. (Ed. Note: Since I've already taken gratuitous shots at both GW and Georgetown students, I originally intended to say something disparaging about Catholic U students here. But I think we can all agree that they've suffered enough.)

3. Royal Palace - For years, I thought this was a quaint little Indian restaurant. Well guess what? It's not. I'm not sure what the exact opposite of "a quaint little Indian restaurant" is, but this might be it. Even if you're overcome by a seemingly irresistible sense of morbid curiosity, do NOT go into this place. In the name of all that is good and righteous in this world, just don't.

2. Coyote Ugly - If it were possible to capture the essence of clinical depression, bottle it, mix it in with a drab acrylic, and paint the inside of a bar with the resulting concoction, I believe you would be able to replicate the ambience of Coyote Ugly. I've never so palpably felt such mass despondency at a bar before. Sad, old men stand by their tables and gawk at the "Coyotes" on the bar, their mouths slightly ajar, each of their expressions telling a unique, unbearably sad tale of desperation and hopelessness. But on the bright side, they serve free peanuts. Bonus reason to hate this place #1: It replaced the Rock, which in retrospect wasn't such a bad sports bar, especially in a city notably devoid of good sports bars. Bonus reason to hate this place #2: Ever since Polly Esther's, LuLu's, and Tequila Beach closed, this place has become bachelorette party central. I think you can deduce how I feel about bachelorette parties.

1. Smith Point - Come on, you knew this was coming. It was inevitable. Don't act so surprised.

I don't know what else I can say about this place that hasn't already been said, but I'm going to try to add to the conversation anyway. First of all, despite the erratic hours (I'm not exactly sure which days they're open), Smith Point is actually a very capable restaurant. Second of all, this ranking is not indicative of "sour grapes" - I'm on all the proper lists and I get the Jetties e-mails every week. I can go whenever I want.

Which is precisely never. Smith Point not only embodies, but epitomizes everything I hate in a bar. What do I like in a bar, you ask? I'm not that picky. Give me a place with a genuine atmosphere, a diverse and open-minded customer base, no barriers to entry such as outlandish cover charges or "member's-only" policies (ostensibly to falsely portray a sense of exclusivity that just doesn't exist in DC), some good music, a solid beer selection, and friendly service. Places like Saint Ex, Aroma, Science Club, Russia House, Mantis, Tonic, Stetson's, Cantina Marina, Cafe Nema, Bossa, and Capital Lounge all pass muster.

Smith Point is the exact opposite.

Now, I know Smith Point may be some people's cup of tea. For instance, the Bush twins used to frequent it. And the members of the super-exclusive social club LateNightShots consider it their favorite bar, as you can plainly see here on their super-exclusive online newsletter.

But these are my rankings, so we'll just have to agree to disagree and leave it at that...

The Barbaro Memorial "Worst Bets" Rankings: Worst Bars in DC, Part I

I hate's annual Best Bets contest. The polls for this year's contest closed last week, and results will be announced Monday, August 14. I can't wait to see which contrived, exanimate corporate chain wins in each category.

And therein lies my frustration with the contest - it's not the "best" of anything at all, it's simply a popularity contest. And more often than not, it's a reflection of the metropolitan area's collective poor taste. I would much rather read Fritz Hahn's and Tom Sietsema's best attempts at objectively ranking the region's bars and restaurants than rely on the collective opinion of the area's residents, many of whom have no basis for judgment to begin with.

For instance, check out last year's rankings for Best Gym/Health Club. Now, it's quite clear (to me, at least) that the ultra-swanky Sports Club/LA is in every respect "better" than Gold's Gym. It has better equipment, it provides bath towels (Gold's Gym surprisingly doesn't), it has a basketball court, it has a swimming pool, it has a steam room, it's in the Ritz Carlton - what more proof do you need? There is, however, only one (expensive!) Sports Club/LA in DC, compared with well over 20 (cheap) Gold's locations. The result? Gold's ends up on top, while the Sports Club/LA (in a very Matt Leinart-like fashion) falls to ninth.

See? The Best Bets rankings reveal absolutely nothing about what's actually "best." If they're not going to change the format of the contest, they should at least change the title to something more accurate, such as "Popular Places" or "Our Annual Appeal to the Least Common Denominator Among Us."

So why have I wasted your time with this seemingly pointless diatribe, you ask? Because this afternoon, I plan on partially rectifying the abomination known as the Best Bets contest by providing my own, objective rankings of various establishments in the DC metropolitan area. But here's the twist - instead of ranking the 10 best establishments in each category, I'm going to attempt to rank the 10 worst. It's more fun, and besides - this heat has left me a bit cantankerous.

Since most of my closest friends are drunkards and vagrants, let's start with the worst bars. Before I proceed with the rankings, which will be posted this afternoon, here are a few notes on my methodology:

  • You may be asking yourself, "Johnny, why are you including precisely 10 establishments in your rankings, as opposed to 7 or 12? After all, those other numbers seem perfectly suitable to me." Well, I’ve chosen to use the same arbitraty numeric device employed by's Best Bets contest for simplicity's sake. It requires less thought, and I’m on company time here.

  • While my aim was to be as objective as possible, I honestly don't have an objective set of criteria by which to judge any of these establishments. Overall, I tried to capture the real fun-vacuums in this city. To paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, I can't really define what makes a bad bar, but I know it when I see it.
  • One thing to keep in mind, though: a dive bar is not the same thing as a bad bar. Indeed, many of the best bars in the city are real shitholes - Townhouse Tavern, the Raven, and Jay's Saloon immediately come to mind. Conversely, a lavish, expensive bar does not necessarily preclude it from being a bad bar.
  • I didn't consider any LGTB bars in coming up with my rankings. I haven't had the occassion to visit any such establishments, so I really have no basis for judgment. However, I'm sure there are some really crappy LGTB bars in the area (for instance, I've never seen anyone walk out of The Fireplace smiling), so I'd be happy to append my list if I get enough feedback about one or two particular places.

  • Similarly, I didn't consider any Maryland bars in coming up with my rankings. To me, Maryland's kind of like Enceladus, one of Saturn's many moons. I mean, I know it exists, I've seen pictures, I know it's located somewhere north of DC, and I know it has the basic conditions to support organic life. However, I've never actually been there.

That's more than enough by way of introduction. I need to grab some lunch. The full rankings will be up sometime this afternoon, so stay posted.

(Update: Here they are, the rankings in full...)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

It's Not Alleged Rape, But...

I'd say that Duke's football team has a few problems of its own. And not the "losing games" thing. Apparently, their starting QB was suspended for a year for plagiarizing. How did I miss this story? Oh, maybe ESPN found a way to squeeze it in between interviews with Mike Krzyzweski and his Amex commercials and I somehow missed it.

But, maybe, just maybe, do you think that if you're an athlete at Duke you should try to keep your nose clean for the next few months? I mean, I'm not trying to step on any toes or anything, but you might be under just a little bit more scrutiny than you're used to...

Or maybe they're all just really dumb and that's why they didn't get into Georgetown.