Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cartography fail

I use Google Analytics to keep track of views of the home page of the organization at which I work. (In case you're curious: we're a smallish program at a university, so as you can imagine, we're not talking Boing Boing-esque numbers here--I'm more interested in where and when pageviews are happening. But that's beside the point.) Analytics offers a nifty interactive map allowing users to view activity state-by-state. As you can see and probably could have guessed if you knew that's where we're located, New York accounts for most of our hits.

But something ain't right here. Let's take a closer look.

I'm outraged on Michigan's behalf: the familiar glove and whatever-the-upper-peninsula-is-supposed-to-look-like has been replaced with a depiction of Ontario's failed 1932 invasion of Wisconsin (look it up).

Worse yet, it looks like a bigger, tilted New Jersey, and I think the world is fine with just one of those.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jon Bon Jovi is just not that into you

Oh, we're halfway there
Oh, oh, living on a prayer
Take my hand, we'll make it, I swear

Wait, what?

We'll make it, I swear.

But didn't you just say--


You just said it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.

The hell you talking about?

It was, like, twenty seconds ago.

Oh. Come on. Don't be lame.

I know it's just a song.


Well, it just makes me wonder. It's weird. I think we need to talk about where our relationship is heading.

Yeah, uh. You know, I can't really talk too long. I've got a thing.

Well, okay. Call me later, I guess.

See ya.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Michael Phelps: Nippin' it in the bud

Michael Phelps wants to let you know he’s sorry, but come on, do you really believe him? Phelps is in the middle of his “my bad” tour after some photos surfaced of him rockin’ the pineapple express, issuing today a statement that has already been parsed by everyone from family values crusaders to civil libertarians:

I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.

But what he’s probably really thinking is this:

That party was the shit!

I say all this with the obvious caveat that in the Facebook age it’s in fact pretty stupid to be photographed taking a bong hit, whether you’re a multi-time gold medalist or just your average Ras Trent, though I haven’t heard whether it was a shoot-and-run or a posed shot. Regardless, the guy who took the photo is also guilty of a Major Party Foul, btw, but that’s just common courtesy, or ought to be–but I digress.

But goddamn it, when you’re Michael Phelps most parties are probably pretty awesome, so why can’t we be okay with that? Phelps is being finger-wagged at as though lots of them hadn’t done so themselves, as though we’ve never heard of pot, as though stoner jocks are some sort of new thing–just ask any Miami fan about this kooky years-long experience, or, hell, ask this year’s Super Bowl MVP. This is particularly insufferable; it’s frustrating that a 23-year-old has found himself forced to apologize for “youthful” behavior–a responsibility that he had forced upon him for the grave indignity of being really really good at something. Alas, ya don’t have to remind me who founded this country. But just as I have faith we’ll grow to understand that what grownups do on their downtime in their own homes almost never has to be our business, just as I’m kinda hoping this brings people to start really thinking hard about marijuana’s status in sports leagues as a “performance-enhancing drug” on par with steroids or HGH. In fact, better yet, I propose we spark one up before we sit down to think about that, because that’s the only way we’ll come to a conclusion any more complex than “duh.”


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Freedom means the right of consenting adults to pound the snot out of each other

It’s tough to disagree that mixed martial arts the fastest-growing sport in the world right now, and I’d advise you not to try unless you want to end up in an armbar or chokehold. The most well-known MMA organization, Ultimate Fighting Championship, consistently draws enormous buyrates for its pay-per-view events, comparable to the top shows produced by the longtime king of the PPV mountain, World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the WWF, for those who haven’t kept track of pro wrestling since the days of Hulkamania and the Gobbledy Gooker.) The UFC’s ever-increasing popularity has resulted in a weekly reality show among other TV series, a total worth of over $1 billion, sponsorships from the likes of Budweiser and Harley Davidson, among others, and a weird Friends storyline. MMA has surpassed boxing in terms of gambling revenue and looks likely to continue to capitalize on boxing’s failing reputation.

The point is clear: anyone with any sense of business would tell you to strike while the iron's hot--or, if your striking game's not so good, maybe you can wrestle the iron a bit, go for some ground and pound, or hope you can get the iron to tap out. (Okay, that was lame. I'm trying here.)

Unfortunately, if the UFC wanted to put on a show at the world’s most famous arena–and trust me, they really do–they’d be shit outta luck.

Professional MMA is illegal in the state of New York, for which we can thank the efforts of Sen. John McCain, who, famously referring in 1998 to MMA as “human cockfighting,” led a largely successful fight to ban the sport from many states. The thing is, at the time, his assessment wasn’t all that far off; the earliest incarnations of the UFC and other MMA organizations truly were little more than crude glorified streetfights that even current UFC president Dana White agrees were pretty far over the line. The MMA world adopted a number of badly-needed rule changes–the emergence of weight classes, for one, and the banning of techniques such as headbutts and stomps and knees to grounded opponents–which not only protected fighters but provided for much more entertaining, intricate matches between vastly more technically proficient fighters. McCain has come around to some extent, and many states relaxed restrictions on MMA, including McCain’s home state of Arizona.

But not New York, which is currently ground zero for the fight over the fights. State Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who seems to have a hell of a lot of spare time despite dealing with a staggering budget crisis, has taken it upon himself to lead the crusade to deprive the state of desperately needed tourism and tax revenue by maintaining the ban on MMA. Moreover, I find the argument that “ultimate fighting” (and calling it that, I should note, is a huge pet peeve for fans–”ultimate fighting” is a scary-sounding term derived a specific brand name, not the name of any sport that actually exists) is especially more dangerous than established sporting events, an assertion usually put forward by elitist critics who don’t want to sully themselves with such low-class silliness, to be particularly ridiculous. Tell that to Kevin Everett, who was paralyzed after a botched tackle in an NFL game, or to the family of Eddie Guerrero, whose shocking and tragic death came after years of painkiller abuse in making a career as a smaller guy in the big man’s world of pro wrestling. But Reilly isn’t trying to kick the Bills out of Buffalo or the WWE out of Madison Square Garden, because those just aren’t such easy targets.

The first UFC event at Madison Square Garden would undoubtedly be among the two or three biggest sporting events of the year, and would be promoted to the point where it would be on par with some of the biggest boxing and wrestling events of all time. As a fan I’m certainly interested in the possibility of propelling the sport to unprecedented heights, but the financial upside is so obvious it hurts. Even aside from what is, to me, the stupidly simple principle of allowing consenting adults to do what the fuck they want with themselves in a controlled environment, now’s not such a hot time to prohibit the opportunity to collect a welcome bit of spare change. No one gets hurt from legalizing MMA–well, other than the dudes who might take an elbow or knee to the head, but I wouldn’t worry too much about them. They’re tough guys (and gals). They know what they’re doing. It’s long past time we left them the hell alone, if only so New Yorkers can reap the benefits.

Hat tip to Cage Potato. Creative Commons-licensed image by Fedjake.