Mailvox: An Australian whinge

JamieR keeps Nate up to date:

If you didn’t know (you most probably did), if Australia beats Uruguay on November 12 in Uruguay, we qualify for the World Cup. We always get the hard route, Oceania doesn’t get an automatic qualifier, and that usually means we have to face the South American team that finishes fifth, of all bloody regions! We almost had to play Brazil to qualify in 2002…

And sure, if we win on November 12, there’s another game in Sydney 4 days later, but that’s in the bag if we win in Montevideo. These are the same pricks that prevented us from qualifying for 2002 – with their home ground tactics of hiring mobs to spit on our players arriving at the airport, abusing them and trying to fight them, and forcing our team to stay holed up in their hotel rooms like prisoners, unable to do anything but sit and wait for the game to start …and that’s when the fans got rough. This time around, we’re going to Argentina to train, and get into Uruguay at the last minute and head straight to the ground after that.

Good luck, mate. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Ozzies make the mondiale. As for me, I’m just hoping Team USA makes it farther than the Italians again. My calcio-playing friends always enjoy a rousing round of The Star-Spangled Banner being sung in their ear; my Portugeuse teammate introduced me to some very bad new words after the USA scored its third goal against Figo and company last time around.

I’m kind of conflicted about France, though. While Spacebunny and I always pull for England, it’s hard to cheer against current and former Arsenal stalwarts such as Henry, Pires, Viera and Wiltord.

Speaking of Arsenal, how about that Dutch kid? The second-coming of Dennis Bergkamp, he is. I thought he had that five-minute hat-trick until the ball went wide.

Why yes, I am in a good mood

I had a chance to meet up again with Umberto Eco last night; I was surprised and more than a little delighted to find that he remembered me. (Spacebunny wryly notes that when you follow someone around for 17 hours, accompanied by a film crew, they only wish they could forget you.) Even better, he said that he had no objections to my using an old essay of his in the anthology I’m currently editing.

It’s not a done deal yet because I still have to get permission from the publisher, but the lady with whom I spoke didn’t seem to feel that would be a problem. We’ll see. I’m not going to start counting any chickens yet.

And yes, it was pretty funny when midway through the conversation, it suddenly hit him that we were speaking Italian.

Spacebunny may mock me for being such a fanboy, but at least I’m not writing derivative fan fiction. That would be Dan Brown.

And they wonder why we don’t buy it

The Opinionista is really, truly, very sorry. At least, she’d like you to think so:

I’m a liberal apologizer. The phrase “I’m sorry” rolls regularly down my tongue like wheeled luggage on a ramp. I’ve been told it’s a common female trait, that women are taught to be meek and cave in the face of conflict, suppressing their aggression behind an endless stream of penitential apologies. But in my case the words flow easily because they hold little actual meaning. The implicit “You were right, I was wrong” expressed in the phrase never fails to placate and mollify, so I employ it with aplomb. I can’t think of any other word that serves such multi-purposes – appeasing others, dissipating anger and deescalating nearly any situation, so everyone wins. As long as my end result is achieved, I’ll gladly apologize my way out of a bind with all guise of contrition.

I remember a girl in college who couldn’t figure out why I stopped seeing her after a minor social offense. I think she was an hour late for a date or something equally trivial.

“I said I was sorry,” she protested.

And she had, immediately, just as she had on all the previous occasions. Now, I’m not a time fascist, but I harbor an inherent distrust of anyone who will so readily apologize without feeling any sense of contrition or obligation to modify their behavior in the future.

The ability to apologize is tremendously important, but without the force of genuine contrition behind it, an apology is meaningless.

By the way, the Opinionista’s blog is quite entertaining. Among other things, it offers ample justification for one’s opinion of lawyers as evolutionary precursors to Gromphadorhina portentosa. I couldn’t help but notice this bit too:

Because junior associates in competitive law firms embody a peer group of twenty/thirtysomethings dominated by a slavish work ethic and near-maniacal eagerness to please. Be it for our parents, teachers, coaches, admissions officers, professors, interviewers, we are skilled experts in the art of presenting a human blueprint of perfection to anyone in authority. We’re the proverbial pack of Pavlovian labradors dying to salivate on cue – all you have to do is ring the dinner bell and we’ll obediently come running every time. We’ll do anything in our physical power to amuse today’s masters. But begin beating us if we fail to drool quickly enough, and we’ll crawl into our crates, lick our wounds and eventually snap our jaws at the sight of you striding angrily down the taupe hallway.

That should explain why so many lawyers are jackboot-licking Democrats. Although one of my best friends is an attorney, he’s one of the few good guys I’ve encountered from the profession. Of course, he couldn’t stand the law firm nonsense either, so he went corporate and I don’t think he’s regretted it.

Big Chilly and I once attended a reception at TPAM’s law firm when he was still there; the lawyers didn’t realize we were corporate clients and not mere lowlife friends because we were both wearing ripped jeans and t-shirts. TPAM nearly had an aneurysm trying not to burst out laughing after the firm’s resident jerk offered his hand and introduced himself to me in the most contemptuous possible manner.

I simply shook his hand, smiled beatifically, and said: “I’m not wearing any underwear.” Big Chilly howled, TPAM’s eyes bulged out as he tried to avoid doing the same and the lawyer jerk just stared with his mouth open, with no clue what to do or say.

I don’t have much interest in primate dominance games, but they can be amusing from time to time.

100 things I hate about television

I don’t know if I can actually make it to 100, but we’ll see.

1. The preponderance of lethal violence.

Television writers who show violence through their portrayals of criminals or mentally unbalanced individuals like to claim that they are simply showing reality. But the actual reality is that in a nation of 300 million people, only 16,137 people were murdered in 2004. This is one in every 18,591 people, which means the average American has a .00538 percent chance of becoming a murder victim.

The televised murder rate, on the other hand, has to be something on the order of one in thirty. With only thirty or so characters on a show, one or two people are usually getting whacked despite the stupendous odds against this. This is only realistic in comparison with portrayals of faster-than-light space travel, alien invasions and straight women’s basketball coaches.

And don’t give me the excuse that this surfeit of unlikely violence exists only because it’s a police show or whatever. The average police officer never once fires his gun in the line of duty over the course of his career. In fact, I would surmise that there are probably more TV criminals killed by TV police in a single season of television than there are real criminals killed by real police over an entire year.