Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Northwestern finally won a close home game, beating Ohio State 72-69, ending a 17-game losing streak against the Buckeyes, and keeping hope alive for the post-season. The game looked like it would end again in heartbreak since the 'Cats continued to struggle against pressure defenses in late games, but Shurna managed to hit the dagger with three seconds left. Kevin Coble led the 'Cats with 26 points, 4 boards, and total world terror engulfment.

Big Ten teams beware, the Mantis has been unleashed
and this Kevin Coble should have the nickname
"Mantis" running joke is showing no signs of relenting.
He's tall! He's spindly! He scores a bunch of points and
according to the trailer for this movie, the stern-voiced
scientist character played by one of those grave-looking
characterless 1950s actors who played either scientists
or ineffectual army commanders who keep ordering
their men to fire at the monster with conventional
weapons, in all of Mother Nature there is no creature
more deadly nor voracious [head nod] than the praying
mantis, so there's clearly a basketball link somewhere
in there and all of this makes an enormous amount of


Elsewhere in the Big Ten and continuing the theme of the unleashing of prehistoric terror, Penn State upended the Illini by the score of 38-33. The Big Ten Network characterizes it as a "defensive struggle" instead of a gross insult that would surely cause James Naismith to recoil in horror at what had happened to his beloved game, although in fairness he would probably also recoil in horror that basketball was no longer a lawn sport for matronly women.

An early ad for the Nike Naismith Zoom Wingtip, forerunner to the
Chuck Taylor, the Air Jordan, and the Starbury DNP-CD.

This was certainly not Penn State's first experience with bizarre and improbably low-scoring games. Their football team lost to Iowa 6-4 in 2004, a result of a turn back the clock promotion that banned the forward pass and replaced all stadium concessions with Victory Cabbage.

Penn State and Iowa train for their game with a regimen of gymnastics
and weighted semaphores


Today is February 19th, the birthday of the late Saparmurat Niyazov, best known as Turkmenbashi, the founder and President of Turkmenistan as well as the Association of Turkmens of the World. Turkmenistan broke from the Soviet Union in 1991 and Niyazov, like so many other Central Asian rulers, made the effortless switch from local Soviet strongman to ardent nationalist. It's a path similar to that of Uzbekistan president Karimov, who has the cheerful habit of boiling dissidents alive. At least, according to Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who objected to Britain's support of Karimov, was ousted from his post, and wrote about the whole thing in Muder in Samarkand: A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror although some versions have the more evocative title Dirty Diplomacy: The Rough-and-Tumble Adventures of a Scotch-Drinking, Skirt-Chasing, Dictator-Busting and Thoroughly Unrepentant Ambassador Stuck on the Frontline of the War Against Terror. In the book, Murray provides scathing criticism of British (and American) hypocrisy in the war on terror by supporting thugs such as Karimov as well as the occasional glamor shot of his Uzbek mistress.

Nadira Murray (left) stars in a one-act play at the Arcola theater. The play promises
to reveal "the politics, the dirty tricks, the shenanigans, the journey from
ambassadorial palace to rented flat in Shepherds Bush and Craig's obsession with
Dennis the Menace ties. This will be their unadulterated story." You can also see
Murder in Samarkand: The Movie, starring Nadira and Steve Coogan, coming in 2011.

Turkmenbashi one-upped Karimov by developing a truly astonishing cult of personality around himself. He renamed the months in the calendar, claiming January as Turkmenbashi and April Gurbansoltan after his mother, banned the ownership of more than one pet by citing laws against herds, and, of course, built a giant golden statue of himself in Ashgabat that rotates to constantly face the sun.

A medley of Turkmenbashi golden statues. The rightmost statue tops the Neutrality Arch,
celebrating Turkmenistan's splendid isolation

Until his death in 2006, Turkmenbashi filled the important of role of doing ridiculous dictator things. For example, he banned the use of car radios and recorded music at concerts, and demanded that doctors recant the Hippocratic Oath in order to swear an oath to him. In a full-on Bananas touch, he ordered government ministers to climb up an eight mile path through the hills on Health Day, while he would meet them at the top via helicopter. These, and more anecdotes, can be found in a wonderful article for the Times by Waldemar Januszczak, a filmmaker who made a documentary on Turkmenistan, gaining access to the country by claiming he and his crew were on a stag party. Given the vast amount of damage per hectare inflicted on any nation by an average British Stag party (measured in total headbutt output), I'm shocked that they got in. A brief snippet of his film can be seen here. It's these sort of things that land someone on Parade magazine's hilarious annual "Ten Worst Dictators" feature, which is like the BCS rankings of dictatorship that conveniently appears next to produce circulars in your Sunday paper.

Of course, the key to Turkmenbashi's personality cult is the Ruhnama, a pink-bound book of philosophy, history, and assorted wisdom written by Turkmenbashi and required reading for people who want to hold office or drive. The full text is conveniently available, and, as page 208 states: "Rukhnama is our way! Every Turkman will know himself after reading Rukhnama. Peoples of our other nations will understand and know the Turkman after reading the Rukhnama!" Turkmenbashi named a month after the book, and also, in a sort of standard dictator behavior that transcends time and place like how European monks inevitably built bone churches as part of some monk default setting, made it into an enormous statue.

Turkmenbashi announces the creation of new Turkmenistan gameshow "Who
Wants to Quote From the Giant Pink Book I Wrote?" on state television network
"You Are Watching This"

Today, Turkmenistan is in the hands of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenbashi's Deputy Prime Minister and former personal dentist. Though Turkmenistan is not experiencing anything like de-Stalinization under Khrushchev, Berdimuhamedow is rolling back some of the excessive personality cult ephemera, but some For example, "Melon Day" is still celebrated. Berdimuhamedow may be yet another legacy of Niyazov, as he's rumored to be Turkmenbashi's illegitimate son due to "the striking physical resemblance between the two men."

So in honor of Turkmenbashi and his curious regime, I suggest the following arbitrary and unncessary laws be put into place:
  • NCAA basketball games where no team scores more than 40 points are now illegal. The offending teams will be forced to settle the games in a slamball arena surrounded by the type of sweaty men in full operation of the incomprehensible Van Damme movie betting system that involves shaking money .
  • When possible, all soccer must include elements of horse soccer.
  • British stag parties are now illegal everywhere but in Turkmenistan and select former Soviet republics in the Commonwealth of Independent States.
  • Live music at concerts is now banned, replaced by Microsoft Soundsmith, a program that takes a vocal track and builds a backing track based on harmonies so disastrously dissonant and styles so nonsensical that they can only be created by an inhuman computer program that is biding itself to wipe out humanity and initiate a series of mind-bending time travel paradoxes that make even less sense than the semi-apocalyptic Bifftown. Behold the horror:

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