Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cavs Midseason Report


That is a pairing of numbers that is virtually unrecognizable to fans of Cleveland basketball. They represent the Cavaliers' pace exactly halfway through the season. At 33-8, the Cavs are neck and neck with the Lakers, Celtics and Magic for the best record in the NBA.

The Cavs finished the first half in impressive fashion, taking 3 of 4 on a west coast swing that saw them win in some of the Western Conference's toughest arenas. The Cavs were missing 40 percent of their starting lineup and were battling colds and nagging injuries to escape a grueling swing that could have easily been 0-4. After all, their 3 wins came by a combined 12 points.

So, now that the most scintillating half season in Cavs history is over, McBone has prepared a report card. It was rather hard to find much to complain about.


PG: Mo Williams. When Danny Ferry made the deal to acquire Mo Williams for Joe Smith and a box of scraps (Damon Jones), most agreed that the Cavs had made a major upgrade at a position that had been a weakness since the departure of Andre Miller about 100 years ago. Since then we've seen a lot of junk come and go, mostly spare parts like Kevin Ollie, Jeff McInnis, Milt Palacio, Bimbo Coles, and, of course, year after year after year of Eric Snow. Mo came to town with a reputation for scoring in bunches and playing little defense. His pledge to fill whatever roll was asked of him has proved not just empty rhetoric. Mo has been everything the Cavaliers needed and more, a masterful scorer, a capable defender, an adept ballhandler and a skilled passer who has meshed perfectly with his teammates. Mo deserves to be an all-star this year. He probably won't be, which is a damned shame. Grade: A

SG: Delonte West. As important as the trade for Williams has been, Delonte West's move to the two has been just as critical. Now playing his natural position, West is playing by far the best ball of his career. Never forcing a thing, his jumper has become a dagger and his defense is dogged enough to make fans forget he is undersized. He's also proficient enough at the point to give the Cavs three playmakers in the starting lineup. It's no coincidence that the Cavs have lost a few road games since he broke his wrist in a nasty fall. Luckily, he won't be gone too long. West gets extra points for confronting his bouts with depression and being ready to start the season in a good state of mind. Grade A.

SF: LeBron James. For much of the season LeBron has been playing in a state of athletic grace. Aside from a couple of clunkers, he has been far and away the best player in the league on any given night. His jumper is looking better than ever and his free throw shooting is way up as well, a testament to the hard work he puts in with assistant coach, Chris Jent. As ever, his passing and rebounding have been superb, and his defense merits first team recognition. What really has been off the charts however, are his leadership skills. LBJ isn't afraid to give it to his teammates when he doesn't like something, and often he leads the huddle during timeouts. Grade: MVP

PF: Ben Wallace. I was one of many who thought Ben Wallace was done. Watching him was painful at times last season, when he seemed earth bound and open dunks were routinely swatted away by the rim. And yet, what a difference a healthy back makes. Now that his minutes are closer to what a backup would play, around 25-28 per game, Ben is once again rebounding, blocking shots and generally making life miserable for would be scorers. His reemergence in the low block, along with West's perimeter defense, is the biggest reason why the Cavs are playing the best defense in the league. Still, there are nights when Ben looks a little old out there, especially on the second night of back to backs. Grade B+

C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Like a fine wine. His rebounding is down, but his jump shooting has elevated to a new level. No one complains about Big Z's heavy contract anymore. Now people talk about how many more years he will play. Well, I'm here to say that if Ilgauskas can continue shoot like was before his ankle injury, even taking and making three pointers, he can stay in the league for a long, long time. He will always be 7 feet tall with a knack for offensive boards. He will always make his free throws. He will always bother anyone trying to get to the rim. Give him an extension now. Grade: A-


F/C Anderson Varejao. He's the most valuable reserve big man in the game, and not just for his defense anymore. Though he may look slightly ungainly in the pivot, his footwork is superb. His 54 percent shooting leads the team and even his free throw shooting isn't the disgrace it once was. Still, defense is Varejao's calling card, and he's a complete master of getting under his opposite number's skin. This guy will want a big contract after this season. Give it to him. He could easily be a 10 and 10 guy as a starter. Grade: A-

G Daniel Gibson. No one can fault Boobie's effort, but, a few clutch shots aside, his lights-out jumpshot just hasn't been there all season. A mediocre ballhandler at best, he's an even worse one-on-one defender who simply can't seem to stay on his feet when his opponent throws a headfake. He's a fairly decent team defender, but really, if Gibson can't shoot better than 39 percent from the floor, he's very limited. His free throw shooting has been spotty at best this season too. Grade: C.

G/F Wally Szczerbiak. May be the team leader in enthusiasm. Like Gibson, Wally is a limited player who needs to make shots. He is routinely attacked on the defensive end, and with good reason, because his feet are like cement blocks when it comes to lateral movement. He's still got a few tricks left on offense though, and at times he's been a valuable reserve. But unlike in past seasons, when he wasn't a Cavalier, he never really seems to get very hot. Definitely on the downside of what was a pretty decent career. Look for him and his mammoth, expiring contract to be traded before the deadline, though this team has such good chemistry, Danny Ferry may not risk it. Grade: C

G/F Sasha Pavlovic. Sasha, who every season finds himself in Mike Brown's doghouse, is probably the most talented reserve on the roster. A strong, quick, explosive athlete, it seems the only thing keeping him from becoming a really excellent player is his head. Delonte West's broken wrist has meant extended minutes for Sasha, and he has come through in a major way. In five games since being inserted as a starter, he's averaged 11-4-4 and shooting better than 5o percent from the field, helping his team go 4-1. His defense, as always, has been exemplary. This is my annual plea for this guy to get 25-30 minutes a night and live with his occasion disappearances on offense. On a team that preaches defense as holy, I don't see any reason why he can't steal all of Wally's minutes, and some of Boobie's too. Grade: B (and rising)

J.J. Hickson. This is one hell of a talented and athletic big man, a born scorer and shot blocker that has only to improve his fundamentals to become a major impact player. I give him two seasons before he explodes into the athletic forward he is destined to be. What needs most improvement is his footwork (he travels EVERY time he gets the ball in the post, which is whistled about 1/4 of the time), his team defense and his boxing out. When all that comes together, watch out. Grade: C

F Darnell Jackson. A bruising, burly power forward who will be a fine rebounder/defender one day. Jackson also has what looks to be an accurate jumper from within 15 feet. He's nowhere near the talent that Hickson is, but is a hard worker and should be a fine backup big man for many years, sort of in the Mark West mold. Grade: C-

F/C Lorenzen Wright. Completely washed up in every way. Lorenzen's value has been primarily as a cheerleader, where he actually has been quite valuable. Grade: D (would be an F if not for his enthusiasm and excellent taste in clothes)

G Tarance Kinsey. Kinsey has shown flashes of why the Cavs rewarded him with a two-year deal. He's quick and can get the ball in the hoop. Still, if he's getting extended minutes, there's either a blowout or an injury going on. Grade: C

G Jawad Williams. A hard-working, local-boy-makes-good story. I have no idea what kind of player Williams is, and I sure hope I don't find out anytime soon. Grade: NA

Coach: Mike Brown. Quietly, Mike Brown has put the offense into the hands of his assistant coaches. That shows signs of maturity as a coach and he has been rewarded by his players with the best record in the NBA and the best half-season in Cavs history. More than ever, his defensive mindset has paid off. The Cavs are holding opponenets to 90 points per game, best in the league. They are also beating teams by an average of 10 points, also a league best. Brown has taken a lot of heat in the past that he didn't deserve, now he should get some of the praise that he has earned. Grade is bumped a notch for favoring Wally over Sasha. Grade: A-

GM: Danny Ferry. Bringing in Mo Williams this year, and Delonte West and Ben Wallace late last year has been a bigger coup than I could have ever imagined. I'm not sure Ferry needs to do anything this year for the Cavs to win a title (another scoring big man wouldn't hurt), but I'm confident that if he does do something, it will be for the good of the team. Grade: A

I still think the Cavs will make the finals, beating Boston to win the East. However, my preseason prediction that New Orleans would be their opponent was way off. It will take a serious injury or maybe the San Antonio Spurs to beat the Lakers in the West. However, if the Cavs are to win the title, as predicted here, they will need to get healthy and stay healthy. They are a deep team, but they need their starters back if they are to survive the grueling path to a title.



Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Twinkie Project

I can't remember the last time I ate a Twinkie, but I'm pretty sure it was somewhere around the mid 80s, when Twinkies were like the holy grail of lunchbox confections, a near-mythical, individually wrapped delicacy that other kids often got, but not me. Oh, I stumbled upon a Twinkie or two in my youth, but my mother was very conscientious of our diets when we were growing up. Sure, this is the same lady who once packed a hotdog in my thermos, but aside from the occasional slip, she made sure our meals were well-balanced and nutritious. I cursed her then for her tyranny and our kitchen's dearth of sugary cereals, soda pop and candy bars, but I applaud her now for having not raised a rolling, gelatinous pack of butterballs with symptoms of early hypertension.

So, Twinkies were out, and they never have become a part of my daily regimen, even though I'm old enough now to eat whatever I want. And since learning what actually goes into a Twinkie, any remote, lingering temptation has dwindled into nothing.

And just what does go into a Twinkie? Well, a lot of stuff. Take a look, McBoners. I've reproduced here a word-for-word list of ingredients:

Enriched bleached wheat flour [flour, reduced iron, "B" vitamins (niacin, thiamine mononitrate (B1), riboflavin (B2), folic acid)], sugar, water, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrgenated vegetable and/or animal shortening (soybean, cottonseed and/or canola oil, beef fat), whole eggs, dextrose, contains 2% or less of: modified corn starch, glucose, leavenings (sodium and pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), sweet dairy whey, soy protein, isolate, calcium and sodium caseinate, soy flour, salt, mono and diglycerides, polysorbate 60, soy lecithin, cornstarch, cellulose gum, sodium stearoyl lactylate, natural and artificial flavors, sorbic acid (to retain freshness), yellow 5, red 40. Contains wheat, egg, milk and soybeans.

All that crammed into one little Twinkie? That alone is enough to earn a spot on the McBone List of Boycotted Substances. And it would appear that, aside from ethanol, a Twinkie contains just about every corn-based product known to modern science. While I applaud Hostess for not bullshitting us with some business about how a Twinkie, 'contains 8 essential vitamins and minerals,' this list of ingredients is scarier than any Oregonian bogeyman. Hell, a Twinkie isn't even vegetarian, not that I mind a little beef tallow in my desserts from time to time.

Anyway, all this is getting away from the most important point, and that is what a Twinkie actually tastes like. As I've done in the past, I was willing to lay my health on the line for the sake of McBoners everywhere. So I slapped $3.99 down at Kroger and came away with a ten pack of the iconic snack treat.

Let's start with the smell, and, folks, a Twinkie does not smell good. This ain't a fresh-baked French eclair we're dealing with. Nope, all those corn sweeteners and other unfathomable components combine to release an ultra sweet chemical corruption. I feel my digestive tract recoil. My salivary glands shrivel. My body wants nothing to do with this 'golden sponge cake with creamy filling,' and yet, duty calls.

Part of my brain tries to reason against this reaction. It's cake. Cake can't hurt you. I remove the vaguely phallic treat from its superfluous wrapping (did you see Wall-E? No Twinkie will ever get stale), and the first thing I notice is how flaccid a snack this is. It sags and seems to want to die in my hand, as though all food life has been processed into oblivion. It's also moister than is quite natural and leaves some sort of sticky/greasy secretion on my fingers that I'm sure is leaching right into my bloodstream.

I'm sickened to the point of delirium already. I know I shouldn't, but I take a bite, and a decidedly undelicious chemical explosion detonates inside my mouth. The 'cream' gushes and instantly sets to work on the enamel of my teeth. The flavor of the cake itself is not difficult to pinpoint: artificiality and awfulness are the overriding flavors, with undertones of corn syrup, plastic wrapper and preservatives. I stop chewing, but know I must swallow, lest the experiment fail.

The masticated blob fights its way down my esophagus and plops into my stomach. I can feel the acids and the sugars in epic combat. I've ingested a weak poison, and my instincts have me searching for the epicack. Ultimately, the stomach acids prevail. Though most of the Twinkie will be jettisoned as fast as my intestines can manage, at least part of this science project of a snack cake gets digested. My liver, kidneys, my entire internal filtration system have suddenly been put on orange alert. Already I have the beginning of a headache and the barrage of sugars is giving me a bizarre urge to put on one of Alex's dresses and roll around in the snow. I suffer depression, hysteria and mild schizophrenia all at once. Through it all my mind clings to one thread, one single, calming thought that is like a lifeline to my sanity: never again.*

Truly, the Twinkie is a terrible tasting food, and I say shame on the parent who puts one in their child's lunch and expects them to perform well at school while this seemingly innocent dessert is running riot inside them. The Twinkie can beget nothing good, only cavities, obesity, hyperactivity, borderline insanity, and therefore I feel it necessary to add the Twinkie to the McBone List of Boycotted Substances. Do not be fooled by the mystique surrounding a Twinkie, nor its firm, fond place in American lore, and should anyone offer you a dubious delight known as the deep-fried Twinkie, for goodness' sake just say no!


*I ate not one but three Twinkies for the sake of this experiment.

Me and My Five Bottles of Rum

I just wanted to take this opportunity to show you what five bottles of South American rum look like. Notice how I have lined them up in a row to maximize your viewing pleasure. Also notice my protective posture and a glowering visage that says: mess with my family, if you must, but stay the hell away from my rum! I suppose it's the pirate in me, but when it comes to rum, I can get downright ferocious. See how every muscle in my body is taught and ready to spring like some sort of wild, starving feline. I'm an ocelot, a puma and a jaguarundi all rolled up into one. One false move toward my rum and I'll claw you to ribbons.

You'll also notice that I'm wearing a hat with the word "Cavaliers" embroidered on the front, indicating my loyalty to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. While pirates and cavaliers may be fundamentally at odds, they do share certain common traits, namely a deathly fear of jaguarundis, and a fondness for swords, bonny lasses, and, of course, Venezuelan rum.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Five Bottles of Rum

I am the proud owner of five bottles of rum. I guess you could say I'm lucky, but let me tell you, there's a lot more than luck that goes into acquiring five bottles of superior quality South American rum. When I married Alex it was not simply because she's brilliant and beautiful. No, like any chessmaster, I was thinking ten or twelve moves ahead. Sure, I knew it was a smart match, but I also knew that by pledging my undying devotion to someone with deep roots in Venezuela, I was, for all intents and purposes, laying a pipeline for a nonstop flow of liquid gold from Caracas. Oil, you say? Bah! We're talking rum here, people. Ron anejo, to be specific. My wife's latest journey to tropical climes produced no fewer than five bottles of that dark elixir without which any bar is incomplete. That's one problem I shouldn't have for a while.

What makes rum so great? Well, for one, it's the beverage of choice of pirates everywhere. I mean, sure, pirates will quaff a flagon of ale without thinking twice, but lets face it: pirates and rum are inextricably bound. One sip on a chill wintery night and you'll know why, when you find yourself transported instantly to the high seas, awash in sea spray and warm, tropical sun. You're captain of a commandeered British ship, a swarthy band of cutthroats at your call. You know that this scurvy, sunburned lot would lay down its life for you in a second, and in the next second would cut your throat. You set a course south of west and cast a look over your men that would curdle the blood of Satan himself. The bottle in your hand is empty. You toss the vessel overboard and repair to your quarters, your charts and compass, and a crate of Venezuelan bliss.

If that's not reason enough, then I can also tell you that rum straight up, on the rocks, in a daquiri or mixed with cola is completely delicious. If you find yourself jealous of my exquisite collection of five bottles of premium South American rum, I don't blame you. If you don't, something must be terribly wrong with you, and you're no friend of mine, you miserable, land lubbing cur.



Sunday, January 11, 2009

1/4 Armenian

I've always considered the most interesting portion of my ethnic background to be the Armenian part. My mother's father, Aram Kerkian, was a full-blooded Armenian whose parents fled Turkey to escape pogroms that saw hundreds of thousands of Armenians massacred at the hands of ruthless Turks. My grandfather died when I was 5, but he was a cool enough guy to have made a big impression on me, enough of one that the memories I have of him are many. Among the most prominent: I distinctly remember him ordering me once to stop picking my nose. He also bought me my first fishing rod, which he taught me to use at the pond in back of his house.

I still have the rod, and the baseball glove he bought me, but the fact is that I would gladly trade that stuff for the chance to have known him better. By all accounts Aram was a larger than life type of guy. A big, burly, barrel-chested man's man, a football standout with broad shoulders and a taste for black and tans, he also had the best hairy chest this side of Sean Connery and devastating dark good looks. And, seemingly hellbent on increasing the population of Armenian-Americans, Aram (with some help from my grandmother) spawned no fewer than 6 half-Armenians in his heyday.

Yet this was not your typical brainless, breeding Armenian jock. Aram graduated from MIT and made his career as a chemist. He once ran for mayor of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and would have won if not for a vicious false rumor that got out that his wife was, gasp!, Jewish. In his spare time he was fond of gardening, cooking and oil painting. Here was a renaissance man to the core, a sensitive, artistic family man who also happened to enjoy a beer with the boys at the local watering hole after work.

So perhaps it's no wonder that I have something of a fascination with my Armenian side. Also, it's kind of cool that a lot of people don't even know what Armenia is, let alone where it is. Here are some facts for your enjoyment, though not all of them are cheerful. Or true.

-Population of Armenia: 3.2 million.

-Capital: Yerevan.

-Armenia is a tiny, mountainous republic on the eastern border of Turkey. It also borders Iran, Azerbeijan and Georgia.

-Armenia was once a vast empire that, in its prime, stretched from the Mediterranean to the Caspian Sea.

-Armenia was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its religion.

-Armenia's Mount Ararat, the nation's highest peak, is the supposed final resting place of Noah's Ark.

-Throughout its embattled history, the Armenian language and alphabet have remained unique and relatively unchanged. Click here to see a sample! I'd say it would be really cool to learn Armenian one day, but it actually seems more like a lot of work that I don't want to do.

-Armenian last names generally end with "-ian." If ever you see a last name ending with those three letters, chances are, it's Armenian. Jack Kevorkian? Damn straight he's Armenian. Cher (Cherylin Sarkissian) is Armenian. LeBron Jamesian was born and raised in Armenia until the age of 12, when he relocated to Akron, shortened his name and switched from soccer to basketball.

-Up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks from 1915-17 in one of the worst genocides in history. 90 years later, the Turkish government still refuses to acknowledge any wrongdoing, putting them in the elite company of neo-Nazis and other white supremacy groups who deny holocausts.

-Armenia had the misfortune of being annexed by the Soviet Union in 1922, becoming independent again in 1991.

-Today the Republic of Armenia is considered by the world at large to be a, "pretty much free country," with, "mostly legitimate" elections and an economy that is, "occasionally thriving."

-The current president of Armenia is Serzh Sargsyan, whom you might remember from last season's "Dancing with the Stars."

-Armenians are considered the pinnacle of human intelligence and beauty. Michaelangelo's David is famously modeled after Armenia's legendary founder, Haik, purported to be the great grandson of Noah himself. The philosopher Plato was a closet Armenian.

-The manufacture, sale, purchase or consumption of mayonnaise is forbidden in Armenia.

Having married Alex, I'm excited that my own offspring will have a unique DNA makeup that includes Armenian, Scottish, English, Venezuelan and Danish. I'm not sure what kind of kid is going to slide out of that womb, but it's bound to be interesting. I can only pray that there is some semblance to Aram, the man who gifted me a pair of sunken eyes and a hairy back.


Monday, January 5, 2009

Girls: Scary!

I've always been a bit afraid of girls--terrified actually--and I think I know the reason why: girls are scary! All through elementary school, high school and college I perceived the opposite sex as the vastly superior gender, fully capable of reducing me into a huddled, quivering wretch. They always seemed to move in great, giggling flocks, and ever appeared to be one step ahead of me, as though they could read my feeble mind like any roadside billboard.

On those rare occasions I had the gall to even think about approaching a girl, I would start sweating profusely. Soon my shirt would be soaked through, but my mouth would be bone-dry. Ultimately I'd retreat, tail between legs, to the safe solitude of my Nintendo. Eye contact was a big step for me, but it was almost always met with a sneer so cold, so disdainful, that I might as well have had the words "total asshole" tattooed on my forehead. And when, once, I summoned from the deepest recesses of my soul enough nerve to actually talk to a girl, so off-balance was I, so petrified, so hopelessly stricken that I muttered some nonsense about the weather, apologized and wriggled away wormlike down some dark high school hall, leaving a slimy trail of fear in my wake.

I thought things would change once I got to college. Armed with a thirst for knowledge and beer I was ready to accept girls as one of the many challenges that higher education would offer. What was college for, if not to prepare me for the world? What I found was an even smarter, more sophisticated brand of girl. I got an education all right. I meant to use this space to talk about my first night in a girl's dorm, but more than a decade later, I'm still not ready.

What is it about girls that's so scary? Well for starters, girls are pretty. That's intimidating enough. Also, girls are evil. While boys are a generally foolish, guileless lot, girls commonly display tendencies that are normally exhibited by monsters. Seductive as Dracula, clever as a mad scientist, motivated as a zombie and, like the wolf-man, they transform monthly into unspeakable ghastly horrors.

How I wound up with a wife is a mystery that I may never come to understand. I have fleeting recollections of a courtship and a wedding, but those memories are so vague that I suspect they were implanted into my mind via microchip. While her motives remain a mystery, I believe that my wife sups nightly on my blood and keeps me alive purely for spawning purposes.

Maybe you find me a bit paranoid. Perhaps you think this is all in my imagination, that my ramblings stem from low self-esteem. I disagree. I believe that girls hold a power over males so formidable and absolute that a full-blown world takeover is imminent. Not that I'm complaining. We men had our shot, and proved a stumbling, fumbling bunch. The time has come. Let us give the world over to our true masters: the girls!


Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Cowbird; A Tribute

Over the past 4 months or so I've developed a keen interest in bird watching. Upon moving to our new residence in West Lafayette, Indiana, I was delighted to see that our rental house was equipped with a hopper-style bird feeder, which I began filling at once. Armed with my Golden Guide to Birds of North America and a pair of binoculars, I have spent weekend mornings searching for new species in our small but well-vegetated yard. Now, thirty species later, I can say that I'm surprised by the variety of birds that have come to call, everything from finches to woodpeckers to sparrows to nuthatches to hummingbirds to hawks. But today was the first day that I've sighted a brown-headed cowbird.

Cowbirds aren't the loveliest of birds, as the name cowbird may suggest, nor is it the most beloved, as the name cowbird may also suggest. Why then, when there are cedar waxwings and common flickers to fawn over, does the cowbird capture my imagination?

Because behaviorally, the cowbird is among the most fascinating. We don't commonly think of birds as parasites, but if ever there was an all-around a-hole of the bird kingdom, the cowbird is it. A cowbird, instead of building its own nest and sitting on its own eggs, will invade another bird's nest and lay an egg there. Sometimes the cowbird will actually remove one of the host bird's eggs to make room for her own. Check out this photo. Can you tell which of these eggs doesn't belong?

The cowbird doesn't stick around to care for its young, either. No, she instead lets the host bird incubate her egg and subsequently raise the baby bird. Even more amazingly, a cowbird typically hatches a day or two before the host eggs and a baby cowbird will pine more noisily for food from its foster parents. The result is often detrimental to the other chicks, who cannot compete. Interestingly, a cowbird, unlike other parasitic birds, does not kill its 'siblings.' Scientists believe that in joining a chorus of hungry chicks, parent birds will bring more food to the nest, which the aggressive cowbird will then hog. Subtle and villainous, even at birth.

And it gets even better. Cowbirds have been documented to have invaded the nest of 220 different species of bird. Yet very few are the cowbird eggs that result in a healthy offspring. Often, host parents reject the egg or the baby cowbird. But cowbirds lay eggs so frequently and are so promiscuous in their mating habits that the species thrives in spite of the low percentage of successfully raised chicks. And woe to those birds who do reject the cowbird egg, because female cowbirds are not totally disdainful of their progeny. Periodically during the incubation period a mother will check on her egg, and cowbirds have been known to ransack the nest of the host bird if she finds the egg missing.

Unattractive, gluttonous, greedy, manipulative, ruthless and even vengeful, the cowbird is the Nixon of the birding world. I thank the little bastard for brightening my day.


Friday, January 2, 2009

10 Resolutions for the New Year

Normally I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions, which have always seemed to me a litany of empty promises made to the self when one is intoxicated with champagne and a phony spirit of renewal. January first is just a date in the calendar, after all, and it comes during the bleakest time of the year. Seems to me we annually try to talk ourselves into living right, and quickly slump back into old habits and winter gloom.

And yet, I must admit that 2008 was a bit of a disappointment for me. I feel that, as I advance deeper into my thirties, I should strive to maintain a youthful vigor and a zest for health and happiness that I let slip away in recent past. A renaissance is in order, and therefore this year I resolve to:

1) Finally put on those extra 45 pounds.

2) Triple, nay, quadruple my drinking.

3) Replace fiber in my diet with cigarettes.

4) Live by the old rule, a pickled egg a day keeps the doctor away.

5) Break my personal record of not urinating for 87 hours straight.

6) Avenge my grandfather's death.

7) Throw up like I mean it.

8) Lance this boil.

9) Watch YouTube until my eyeballs bleed.

10) Spawn a master race of super-robots.

On behalf of the M.I.A. and presumed-dead Jeff Bowler, the NOML, the NIML, the AMA and everyone at McBone Inc, Happy New Year everyone!