Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Cold and rainy, that's true . . . But there's still room for a Tuesday Top Five

Greetings from cold, rainy, and foggy Los Angeles. That's right. We're in the midst of the rainy season here, and the temperature's a chilly 60 degrees or so, not at all what Our Man and Our Woman in LA signed up for when we headed out west. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up in a favorite chair and read a book or watch some basketball.

If you agree, you'll probably notice a certain theme running through this edition of the Tuesday Top Five.

5. Busby's Bar and Grill in Santa Monica. Went here on Saturday to watch the Texas-LSU game with a buddy of mine. The outcome of the game was far from ideal (but what the hell, the Longhorns had a good season and the Elite Eight ain't bad), but the surroundings were just fine. Texas fans held court at the bar and in the booths, rooting for the burnt orange until Big Baby and the lads from Louisiana put them away. Decent food, good beer on tap, and an interesting way to watch a game.


You're watching the game, and CBS takes you to commercial. What does the bar's DJ do? He takes down the sound, so you don't hear the shills for Just Tires or Coors Light or whatever. Instead, you hear whatever Top 40 song he decides to shell out - and like a light rock Top 40 station, he played the best of the 80s, 90s and beyond.

Seriously, listening to the music was like strapping into a time-traveling DeLorean a la Marty McFly. The game would go to commercial, and Genesis would come up on the speakers. Whoa! We're back in college, at a CD-release party at the late and fair but not great Rose Records.

I turned to my buddy. Told him I was having weird time travel flashback thingies from the music. He shared my feelings about the mix of songs.

Then next commercial. Pow! Dave Matthews Band is up. Holy cow, it's the mid-90s again. People have just heard of this guy. Then back to the game. Then back to commercial. Crash! It's some song from high school. And so on.

Alas, unlike Marty McFly, I did very little in my time traveling adventures. Mostly I just drank beer and ate nachos. Which may or may not be how I spent a good deal of college and the mid-90s.

4) BIRTH OF A NATION by Aaron Magruder, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Baker. An amazing little graphic novel from the folks who bring you THE BOONDOCKS, HOUSE PARTY, and PLASTIC MAN. Funny and smart, it tells the tale of a presidential election where a number of African American voters in the extremely rough town of East Saint Louis are disenfranchised and unable to vote. As a result, a moron from Texas wins.

High fantasy, I know. Suspend your disbelief as best you can.

On the heels of this election injustice, the city of East St. Louis secedes from the USA and becomes its own country. Its mostly African American leadership creates a new army, creates new avenues for education and development, and with the creation of an "onshore off-shore bank" quickly goes from being one of the poorest cities on Earth to one of the richest nations.

I'm a big fan of Magruder's BOONDOCKS cartoon, not to mention Kyle Baker's work on PLASTIC MAN. This book plays as great satire, with more than a few laugh out loud moments that will make your wife turn and stare at you as if your hair is on fire.

Really good stuff. Check it out.

3) Pre-season baseball reporting. For my money, if you want high comedy, look no further than the bevy of baseball reporting going on right now from your favorite newspaper or online publication. It's all pretty hilarious.

Take for example, this article:


Shucks, if you don't want to read it all, I'll summarize. In two sentences:

"Oh my Gosh, is this the year that the Cubs finally overcome the curse and win the World Series? No."

Here's another:


And here's my summary, again in two sentences:

"Guys, it's possible - just possible - that Barry Bonds has been using steroids, according to this new book. He gained a whole lot of muscle mass a few years back, and his head got really, really big, and it's possible it wasn't natural."

There are more articles, of course. Things like "Here's the team that we think is a dark horse to win the World Series but will likely be terrible." For those of you who follow baseball, that's usually the New York Mets or the Toronto Blue Jays.

And so on.

Well, anyway, I think it's funny.

2) STRAY BULLETS by David Lapham. This, on the other hand, is not really funny, but it's another terrific graphic novel. Drifting from story to story, it shows the ripple effects and consequences of petty crime and living a low life in early 80s Baltimore. Witness a virginal teenage kid get the come-on from a 20-something barfly, only to be pummeled nearly to death by her drug pusher boyfriend. Check out the life and times of a little, borderline psychotic girl who witnesses a murder and then tries to kill one of her third grade classmates, only to have a really horrid revenge visited on her.

Or there's the story of the hired killer who ends up killing all his buddies because they crack wise about a prostitute he loved mostly from afar.

Nope. It ain't funny stuff at all. But the art and writing are tremendous. You can't take your eyes off it. Critics at fourthrail.com have described this series as Ferris Bueller or the Breakfast Club meets Taxi Driver, and that's about the size of it. Every time you come to really like, really sympathize with one of Lapham's characters, you remember that he or she lives in this terribly violent and nihilistic world - and that this character is a product of that environment. Chilling, really.

Finally, we have our number one thing for the week of March 27. It can only be one thing, right? And that's . . .

1) The Final Four. Seriously, how can't you love these four schools. I love them, and one of them knocked off my Texas Longhorns on Saturday. But I can't stay mad at any of them. What a great group. All the sure things packed up and went home this weekend, creating the first tourney matchup since 1979 (when Bird faced Magic for the first time) that no Number One seeds make it to the end.

Look at these four. Just amazing . . .

LSU - So they knocked off the Longhorns. So I'd almost rather see LSU play Texas in football. So what? How do you not love Big Baby, their star center? What is it about LSU and big men, anyway? How do you not love these guys, all hometown Baton Rouge talent, who have seen their home state go through hell this year. Love them Tigers.

UCLA - Is it possible that the Bruins are taking their rightful place among college basketball's elite again? True they haven't been really gone, but for the most storied college b'ball team of all time (sorry, they are, Indiana and UNC fans), it's great to see them back on top. Especially the way they did it. The Pac 10's soft, everyone said. They won two rounds. Gonzaga's going to eat them for lunch, people said. Adam Morrison and his porno moustache went home crying. But Memphis is great, they said. No. The Bruins are back.

Florida - Normally, I'm not a fan of the Florida schools, but if I had to choose one, it'd be these guys. Love the Gator nickname, love the toughness they showed all the way through the tourney. This is a team that knows its way around March Madness and it shows. Plus, how do you not like Joakim Noah's fro-tail?

George Mason - First, allow me to apologize to fans of the historically great programs that George Mason had to fight past to get here. This is a tiny little commuter school from the DC suburbs that didn't even exist 100 years ago, and this year, it smashed past Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut to get here. How don't you love these guys? How don't you root for them to win it all in HOOSIERS fashion? How do you not like the fact that the school was apparently named in honor of a character on Our Man in LA's favorite TV show 24?

You can't not love em. Maybe the most interesting Final Four ever.

For the history-minded among you:

Of course, George Mason University was not actually named for the brave CTU agent who sacrificed himself to save his country.

George Mason was a delegate to the constitutional convention in Philadelphia in 1787. His claim to fame was in drafting the Virginia Declaration of Rights and then convincing James Madison that the Constitution also ought to have an enumeration of rights. (Madison and others believed that listing the rights would imply that those not listed did not exist. That is, they feared that if they had a list and it didn't contain -- just to take a wild example -- an explicit mention of a right to privacy, then 200 years later some bonehead would say the founders thought there was no such right. But Mason argued you needed a list, or 200 years later, some bonehead would say the founders thought we had no rights at all. It's not clear which bonehead poses the greater threat, but there you are.)

Now you know. And knowing is half the torture-assisted interrogation of the terrorist who knows where the ticking time bomb is and won't tell Jack, who doesn't have time to follow procedures, damnit.
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