ozzie ozzie ozzie, oi oi oi

To answer that last trivia question:
The five professional team leagues that have average attendance over 30,000 spectators are the National Football League (U.S.), Major League Baseball (U.S./Canada), the Bundesliga (Germany — soccer), the FA Premier League (U.K. — soccer again), and the Australian Football League (which is, duh, Australian rules football).
At least according to here. I used to love watching Aussie rules football on ESPN when I was a kid. ESPN was better back when it couldn’t afford to show the showcase sports and had to rely on things like badminton and Irish hurling.

stalin and the planet of the apes

An opening sentence you don’t get to write every day: “The Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.”
Weirdly, this is the second article I’ve run across in the last week on early-20th-century Soviet mad scientist Ilya Ivanov, who was the USSR’s top man when it came to human-animal crossbreeding. There was also this King Kong-themed piece in the NYT. Interesting, the two pieces look at the same chain of events but ascribe totally different motives — either a desire to stamp out religion or to create ape superwarriors.


Two facts needed to understand this post: 1. My employer lets workers submit questions/complaints about the workplace to the top bosses via the internal web site. 2. A lot of people here are out of shape, so the company sponsors various aerobic, weight-loss, and yoga classes for employees on site.
Anyway, here’s a question one of my stupider coworkers apparently submitted: “I find the yoga room offensive. Despite its secular popularity, it is a form of Buddha worship. If it is to remain, will the company consider a Muslim prayer room or Christian chapel?”
Man, those Buddhists are out to destroy Christmas too! It’s not just the Marxists who run Target!
(Buddhists, Hindus…they’re all the same, I guess.)

excluding jews, spacediving, narnia, dancing

How elite colleges kept out the Jews. It’s interesting to see how the techniques developed to exclude a certain minority persist — and are now (some folks could argue, at least) used to keep out a different one, Asian Americans. (Related: A bio of Kingman Brewster, the Yale president largely responsible for ending anti-Jewish and anti-working-class bias in college admissions. A great man. Also, he has a hot granddaughter.)
Video of a man skydiving from the edge of space, 1960.
SNL rap on Narnia. It’s good to see the Lonely Island having an impact on the show.
Dancing around the world.

poor nauru

Poor Nauru. First, the source of their fabulous 20th-century wealth, the Pacific island’s massive phosphate deposits. (Those deposits had supported one of the developing world’s highest per-capita incomes. Nauru only has about 12,000 people, one of the smallest countries in the world.) Then corruption and mismanagement pisses away all the island government’s savings, despite efforts to turn the place into a tax haven for the Russia mafia.
Then, on top of all that, they lose their one plane. “The impoverished Pacific island of Nauru will throw itself at the mercy of the U.S. to try to recover its only passenger jet, which was lost in a court case last week. The loss of the Air Nauru 737 to a U.S. government credit agency has forced the struggling airline to charter planes from other Pacific airlines to prevent the island’s 10,000 residents from being cut off from the outside world.”
Read that link from The Australian for a bizarre tale of espionage, hidden terrorists, and North Korean defectors. Poor Nauru.

football, basketball, foers, syriana

Len Pasquarelli is one of the best — if not the best — writers on the NFL beat. He knows his stuff, has unparalleled sources around the league, and is an entertainingly informal writer who seems to have fun penning some purple prose on occasion. (Plus, unlike some of his colleagues, he doesn’t focus on the big-market teams at the expense of others. He’ll have more Saints items, for instance, than his peers.)
Every Monday during the season he writes the “Morning After” column, which sums up his analysis of the previous weekend’s games. And one of the best parts of that column is the “Scout’s Take” sidebar, which is supposed to be a bunch of anonymous quotes from sources around the league, evaluating players and coaches. It’s great stuff.
But I don’t believe a word of it! The quotes always sound like the same voice — a sort of forced folksy manliness, with sentences twisted into form halfway between writen and spoken. For instance: “Shawne Merriman really did a number on the Indianapolis offensive line. He went around them, over them, through them, you name it. Amazing what a pass rush can do, isn’t it? That San Diego secondary isn’t very good, but pressuring Peyton Manning up front made it a lot better unit on Sunday. Even Quentin Jammer played pretty well. The guy had five or six [breakups] and an interception. One of the better games he’s played all year, even if he gave up some balls to Marvin Harrison.”
No one speaks that way! The clauses are all wrong. Len adds a bunch of edits to bleep out the “swear words,” which makes it seem real, and I’m sure these are real ideas expressed by real scouts to Len. But I’ll eat my hat if those are exact quotes week in and week out.
Speaking of sports, Yocohoops is a good national college basketball blog. ACC BasketBlog does the same for (duh) the ACC.
In non-sports news, this might make a good gift for all your easily depressed friends. The DMN photo staff really did a bang-up job on Katrina, and it won’t shock me one bit if they win another Pulitzer because of it.
People have been bashing Wikipedia lately, which makes me sad. Some thoughts.
My internal class-warrior really wants to have a gut opposition to all the 20-something Foer brothers — novelist Jonathan Safran and journalists Franklin and Josh — because they all seem to have been bred like racehorses for wordsmithing success. (JSF getting on the NYT bestseller list in his early 20s; Josh getting his byline in top pubs while still at Yale — it just feels like they’re all behind a clubhouse door somewhere.) But in the end, I’ve got to admit they’re pretty good. Frank, in particular, just plain kickass. He’s been on a real roll at The New Republic, and he’s a very reliable voice on their very good new(ish) blog.
Saw Syriana over the weekend and ended up actively disliking it, to my surprise. Didn’t care too much for Traffic either, and for similar reasons. They both make art-house audiences feel good about themselves because they get to “see” past the surface to the conspiracies and intrigue Stephen Gaghan “exposes.” But they’re really just feeding into viewers’ preexisting assumptions.
An example: The movie (appropriately) takes pains to make every character’s POV understandable and even sympathetic — even (perhaps especially) a group of young Muslims training at a madrasa run by a terrorist. Every character, that is, except for every last Texan in the movie. They’re all reduced to blithering idiots, defined by their drawls. The normally more nuanced Chris Cooper becomes a parody of a Texas oilman, and Tim Blake Nelson is an absurd corrupt hick supreme. It’s Fahrenheit 911 rechannelled and given more legitmacy. Ergh.

shop new orleans

If you’re looking for a musical gift for the holidays, buy the Our New Orleans compilation CD. All profits go to Habitat for Humanity’s homebuilding efforts in NOLA, and you get very fine (newly recorded) tracks from Dr. John, Buckwheat Zydeco, Wild Magnolias, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Allen Toussaint, and more. (That damned Randy Newman track makes me cry every damned time. And that guitar solo on the Buckwheat song — which sounds like producer Ry Cooder — rips your heart out.) There’s a nice mini-documentary of the recording sessions on the site, too.
And as Chuck says, you can buy it from a Louisiana record store online to help out even more. While you’re at it, do all your shopping at online New Orleans stores.
Other New Orleans shopping opportunities: Renew Orleans and the t-shirts at Metro Three (although it looks they’re all sold out for holiday purposes). Love those slogans: “Go with the contraflow,” “Let’s mess with Texas,” “Make levees, not war,” “Nagin for President,” etc.