Sunday, December 31, 2006


I couldn't resist this - there was just no way. My Colts have been so embarrassing here lately that I was almost sure that no other team in the league could have been as embarrassing. And maybe they have not been - at least until tonight.

Bears-Packers at Soldier Field on Football Night in America, and here is the first half line for Rex the Wonderdog, the inimitable Chicago quarterback:

2 completions on 12 passes, for 33 yards...0 touchdowns...3 interceptions.

Quarterback rating: Zero.

Oh, and he fumbled, too.

But go back to the line for just a second, and take another look. That's right...Grossman threw more completions to his opponents in the first half than he did to his teammates. Apparently he wasn't happy enough with his 1.3 rating from a few weeks ago.

I thought about waiting until the end of the game to post this, but I was sure that Grossman would get at least two more completions and finish the game with more passes caught by his own receivers than by the other team's receivers. But it turns out that maybe I could have waited, because Lovie Smith yanked Rex the Wonderdog and put in Brian Griese to start the second half.

Second Bears play from scrimmage in the second half - Griese gets sacked.

Now, the only question which overrated team is going to suck more ass in the playoffs - the Bears or the Colts?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm Just A Squirrel, Tryin' To Get A - Splat

(The post title isn't going to make any sense unless you first read this post from Shane, about his homicidal tendencies.)

No discussion of evolution can begin unless all parties agree at the outset to reject the idea of “young-earth creationism” - the idea that the book of Genesis is not only the story of creation, but that it is also an exact timeline of when things on earth were created. Were the young-earth version true, then the earth could be no more than a few thousand years old, and dinosaurs and man would have walked the earth at the same time. Both notions are preposterous, and are only upheld by the most out-of-touch conservative religious types. The young-earth theory ignores proven scientific fact, which means that those who believe in it can only be trusted to accept scientific facts that are convenient to them, and no reasonable discussion of evolution can take place in such a context.

Having cleared that hurdle, we must also agree on two things about science. The first is that science is a viable means for finding out things about the natural world. By forming hypotheses, testing them under vigorous controls, and developing conclusions based on the empirical data, scientists have been able to tell us much about the various animals, minerals, and vegetables surrounding us - and floating out there in space among us, too (actually the ones floating out there in space, so far, are pretty much all minerals and gas - as though, perhaps, the universe has been subsisting on a diet of Taco Bell since the Big Bang). I cannot conceive of anyone refuting the notion that science is real and that it provides true information - any discussion of evolution would have to stop if someone did not agree on that point about science.

The second thing that must be agreed upon concerning science is that it is not, necessarily, a threat to religion - there is no good reason why science and religion cannot coexist. Religion is based on faith - the belief in a higher power. Science is based on fact - the belief in the power of the human mind. Too many religious people believe that science attempts to usurp religion, to answer the questions that the religious people deem unanswerable. Well, unfortunately for them, some questions can be answered. Religious people who think this way apply their faith incorrectly; the correct application of their faith would be to say that man, by way of the brain that their god gave them, is capable of puzzling out many of the things that their god created. The most reasoned of all religious people would then use the transitive property to conclude - wait for it - that science actually brings them closer to their god.

With those preliminaries out of the way, we can move on to a discussion of evolution in the proper context - and that proper context is that evolution is a means of understanding how species have changed over time to adapt to new surroundings and to survive on earth. Evolution does not say - and was never meant to say - anything about when, where, or how life began; it presupposes the existence of life and proceeds from that point to explain the ways in which life has changed throughout time, by means of natural selection. The evidence exists largely in the fossil record, and is so overwhelming and persuasive that evolution, though considered a theory, is actually accepted as fact by the scientific community - it is one of the most peer-reviewed theories in the entire discipline.

Skeptics point to gaps in the theory as evidence that it does not work - ironically, they point to things that do not exist and ask the rest of us to not believe in something based on evidence that is not there. And that, friends and neighbors, is an astonishing contradiction - considering that some of those skeptics do want us to believe in their god based on a story of a carpenter with delusions of grandeur.

But before we go any further with religious contradictions, let’s take apart this example of bad reasoning. First, the gaps in the theory exist because the fossil record is incomplete; and it is simply not conceivable to believe that every species that ever walked the earth left behind a perfectly preserved fossil for scientific examination. That so many fossils have been found and examined and used to bolster the theory of evolution is proof that science works, and that science is doing as thorough as job as possible in proving the reality of evolution.

Second, to invalidate the theory based on the gaps would be to use faulty logic - more evidence of evolution exists than do gaps that some say would disprove it; also, gaps alone would not disprove the theory, because their existence cannot undo what has been proven with the evidence that does exist. The gaps can only show that the theory is incomplete, which is not in dispute. If this were a lesser theory, one could perhaps argue that incompleteness is cause to discount the theory - but that argument does not hold for evolution, based on the vast amount of peer-review that has been done on it.

To return to religious contradictions - and this applies to the hard line religious people, not the moderates who are okay with both religion and evolution - perhaps the most cataclysmic of all religious contradictions is the Christian notion of young-earth creationism, which holds that Genesis is a literal account of historical events. This would be at least plausible in Judaism, which does not use the New Testament. Christianity, however, is dependent upon the New Testament; and the New Testament is the new covenant between God and Israel, created because the first one (that would be the Old Testament) did not work.

The King James version of Hebrews 8:13 reads: “In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”

The NIV version of Hebrews 8:13 reads: “By calling this covenant 'new,' he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”

If taken literally, this could be interpreted as God’s ultimate mea culpa - Sorry, I fucked up...let’s try it again, huh? If those young-earth people are going to take Genesis as literally as they do, it should stand to reason that they would take the rest of the Bible as literally, too - and that means that the New Testament effectively trumps the Old Testament. But if the New Testament is not to be taken that literally and yet the Old Testament is...

Then that proves - again - that the young-earth people only believe what they want to believe with respect to religion. Two laws in the Old Testament have to do with not working on the Sabbath (Lev. 23:3) and not touching the skin of an unclean animal (Lev. 5:2 and Lev. 20:25) - and how many young-earth people out there like to watch NFL football on Sundays? Gotcha.

Bottom line - evolution by means of natural selection works. The only reason it is remotely taboo is because the religious people are afraid of it and want to convince everyone else that it says something about creation. It does not. It leaves every single, minute detail regarding where we came from, how we got here, and why we are here, untouched - it says nothing about a creator. There just might be one. I don’t believe that, but I can’t say for sure that it is not true.

Much of my thinking on this topic is informed by two very excellent books dealing with evolution. One is Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, by Edward Larson; and the other is called Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, by Kenneth R. Miller. Both are enjoyable reads, and well worth the time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Oh Mercy (Strike A Pose - There's Nothing To It)

I now know two people who have commented on the Bob Dylan album Oh Mercy - three if you include myself, which I don’t. One of them commented on it because I asked her about a paricular song on the record - “Man In The Long Black Coat” - after I read the liner notes to the Joan Osborne record Relish and discovered that the song by that name on her record was a cover of the Dylan song. A quick Internet search gave me the album name, and I passed the information along to the only person I knew at the time who liked Bob Dylan.

Her response:

“Hey, John. Honestly, I wouldn't even bother with Oh, Mercy unless you've heard pretty much everything else Bob Dylan has done (also included in this unfortunate category--I should warn you--is pretty much everything he did in the 80s. He was in the throes of some scary religious phase. Steer clear).”

There are ten Dylan albums with release dates in the eighties, none of which I know apart from Oh Mercy - I know a handful of the songs from listening to the third greatest hits record, and all of those songs sound like eighties music, but none of them are bad.

Also, Oh Mercy has that dark, pensive feel that anticipates records like World Gone Wrong - which would be Dylan’s third studio record after Oh Mercy - and Time Out Of Mind, a record that is so good that it makes up for all the shit Dylan recorded between Desire and Oh Mercy.

Tonight at work I was listening to a CD I made for Dione which contains selections from Time Out Of Mind and Love And Theft, and when once I heard a knock on the door, I opened it to find Hillary and Katie K standing there, and Katie K asked if I was listening to Bob Dylan, the Love And Theft record. I said I was listening to Time Out Of Mind, and then I asked after her enjoyment of Dylan, and she said she was somewhat obsessed with him (hurray!), so I asked her about the new record, Modern Times, and she said that she liked it better than Love And Theft, and a bit better than Time Out Of Mind (!), but that, either way, it was no Oh Mercy.

This was a delightful thing to hear, as I was having an absolutely wretched day up to then, and desperately needed something to fire the light that had been positively sucked out of my soul before I got to work - the highlight of said day, to that point, was discovering upon arriving at work that I was going to be closing with a delightful group of people - Heather, Ryan, Katie K, Molly, and the bandana-fied Hillary.

I think Katie K is off just a bit - Oh Mercy is a great record, and an underrated one, but it is not better than any of the three most recent Dylan records - but she gets big props for liking Oh Mercy that much.

A bit later, I came back into the office, where Hillary was entering the inventory into the computer, and she had fired up one of those radio stations where the program director has decided it’s better to put an iPod on repeat all night than pay a DJ - and the song playing at the moment I walked into the office was “Vogue,” by Madonna, and I laughed out loud.

That’s a non-sequitur, of course, but applies here because it made me laugh on a day when I was short on laughs - and goes back to a moment during theatre-cleaning a week or so ago when I made a joke that included the line “Strike a pose, there’s nothing to it,” and then tried to explain the way Todd Snider used that line in his song “My Generation (Part 2),” but did not do a very good job with my explanation. Oh well - Todd Snider, I suspect, is an acquired taste.

I came so close to passing on the Landmark job...mostly because of how much fun it was to work with my people at Clearwater. Every other aspect of it sucked out loud...but those cats I worked with were a lot of fun...

The cats I work with now at Landmark are more fun, though, and they have so much more soul than any other staff I have ever worked with...and this post has gotten quite a lot more into me than my posts ordinarlily do.

But like I said...this was a fuck of a day, and it was my people at work that redeemed it for me - nothing else about my day was even remotely cool. Thanks to all of you, for making the idea of going to work fun again...

Strike a pose - there’s nothing to it.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ladies And Gentlemen...Dominic Rhodes

Okay...let me see if I understand this. With 2:41 left to go in the game, Manning hits Harrison for a touchdown to tie it up at 24. Houston then uses the next 2:41 to engineer a drive that brought them to the Colts 30, where they kicked a 48-yard field goal to win the game as time expired. The focal play in the drive was a David Carr pass for 17 yards to place the Texans in field goal range. This from David Carr, who had thrown for a whopping 146 yards in the game to that point?

The Texans were driving in that last 2:41 with an opportunity to win the game on a last-second field goal or a touchdown drive. The game was tied - a game that might not have been tied if Butterfingers Rhodes had not coughed up the ball on the first Colts drive of the day - on the second play from scrimmage. I missed most of the game because I was at work - please tell me that Butterfingers coughed up the ball because a fucking piano fell on him and there was no way that he could hold onto it. I bet that wasn’t it, though, right?

Take out the Rhodes fumble and the resulting Houston touchdown, and the next two Colts drives result in touchdowns, which would have given them the lead and the momentum and forced Houston to play from behind. That’s speculation, of course - maybe they give up a touchdown between the two they score, who knows? - but something that is not speculation is that the Rhodes fumble took the wind out of the Colts’ sails early in the game, and they played like lifeless clods for the rest of the day.

Apart from Manning and Harrison, who seem to have reignited some of the magic they had in years past, before the emergence of Reggie Wayne as the number one threat. Manning hit Harrison 8 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns. In the first thirteen games of the season, Harrison had 6 touchdowns - he has had 5 in the last two games.

Following are the lines, on the year, for Joseph Addai and Butterfingers Rhodes:

Addai - 1017 yards, 205 carries, 4.96 yards per carry, 1 lost fumble
Butterfingers - 599 yards, 178 carries, 3.37 yards per carry, 3 lost fumbles

Why does Butterfingers still have a job? I just don’t get it. Why can’t the Colts bounce back from mistakes? I don’t get that, either, and I have wasted an inordinate amount of space in the blog-o-verse trying to figure it out - and I have to say that it’s getting frustrating. Like it does every year when this team’s glaring weaknesses come back to bite them in their ass at the end of the season. There isn’t enough time for the Colts offense to adapt to a new coach before the years start taking their toll on the ability of Manning and Harrison - and even though Reggie Wayne is emerging as a number one receiver and Addai still has tons of great years ahead of him, the clock is ticking on Manning.

I said in a previous post this year (after the Buffalo game, when Rhodes had one of his fumbles) that Butterfingers Rhodes was this year’s tragedy waiting to happen. Today’s loss effectively cost the Colts the 2-seed - the only way they can win it is if they win next week and Baltimore loses next week - and that means they will have an extra playoff game to play and might have to play on the road in the second round, if they get that far.

All because of one tragic Rhodes fumble this afternoon?

Merry Christmas To The Charles A. Beard School Board, You Wankers

On the MSNBC front page, the story about the guys who made the killer teddy bear movie - who will be allowed to return to school for the second semester AND make up any work they missed since they were expelled in October.

They were urged to apologize to Mr. Clevenger - and I suppose that’s fair. If Mr. Clevenger was offended by the fact that a character in the movie was named after him, then an apology probably is not out of order.

The judge in the case also urged them to apologize to the school administration, and that is just crap. The school administration owes the guys an apology, and so does the school board. If the administration and board apologize, then maybe the guys could accept their apology and then apologize themselves. Maybe.

Of course the school board didn’t have the good sense in the first place to realize how much of a molehill was this thing out of which they made a mountain - so they are not likely to apply reason to the situation now that a judge has ruled that they were in error.

Now that the whole thing is over, I wonder if there might be some way of arranging screenings of the movie...I wonder where there might be a place where they could rent a theatre so that they could show their DVD to paying customers...


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Will Wonders Never Cease

Ran across this article on MSNBC, that talks about the fact that Texas Tech men's basketball coach Bob Knight can tie the all-time record for wins by a head coach if his team beats Bucknell today. One more win after that, and he becomes the winningest coach in the history of men's college basketball. So it's no longer a question of whether Knight will break the record that has been held by North Carolina legend Dean Smith since 1997 - it's only a question of when.

The wondrous part? That would be that the article did not demonize Kinight for the bad behavior that has colored his career. Most of the people who write about Bob Knight do that - they point to the mistakes he has made in the past and seem to say that those mistakes cancel out all the good he has done, both in coaching and in other ways at the schools where he has worked. To be sure, he has had his share of missteps - most of which have been blown out of proportion, and nearly all of which are at least as attributable to the fact that the administration at Indiana never made him understand what was acceptable and what was not as they are to Knight himself - but he has also won 878 games.

I just thought that it was interesting - if a bit unusual, a pleasant surprise - to see that there were still people out there who were willing to write about Knight without making him seem like such an evil despot. Go Red Raiders!

Sports Movies

Here is a bit posted on MSNBC that lists this guy's Top 10 sports movies of all time. He throws a few qualifications in there, and includes some factors for omission, and ends up coming up with a list that sucks. Granted, I've only seen four of his top ten, but he left out a lot of GREAT movies, so I have taken it upon myself to offer up a better list. My list sucks a little bit, too, because some of these movies are not great - they are just sports movies that I like (either a little or a lot); and I don't have any specific criteria matrix, apart from the fact that these are all movies about sports, and I liked them all. In case you don't want to check out the MSNBC thing (and you have to click through three pages to get all ten of his picks), here is his list:

10. Miracle
9. Something For Joey
8. Caddyshack
7. The Tournament
6. Slap Shot
5. Breaking Away
4. Brian’s Song
3. Bull Durham
2. Rocky
1. Hoosiers

And here is mine:

10. The Cutting Edge - Sure, it's campy and a bit too romantic, but it's a fun movie, and D.B. Sweeney and Moira Kelly really seem to have some on-screen chemistry. Plus, it's chock full of great quotes and has Terry O'Quinn, who was in Silver Bullet, an absolutely horrible film, based on a Stephen King book, which I absolutely love.

9. Cool Runnings - Another fun movie, and one that features guys overcoming racial/ethnic adversity, which always makes me feel good. I consider racism America's second-worst moral failing, after its ridiculous adherence to religion. Also, John Candy is in this movie, and he might have been the best comic actor who ever lived.

8. Pride Of The Yankees - My top ten is baseball heavy because baseball is the greatest sport in the world, and because I think most of the best sports movies have been the baseball ones. (Field Of Dreams is absent from this list only because I cannot in good conscience put two Kevin Costner movies in any top ten list, unless it is a top ten list of crappy movies that are way longer than they should be.) Gary Cooper's speech at the end is heart-wrenching.

7. Major League - Best sports parody ever, full of great quotes, and features Tom Berenger in a movie that doesn't suck, one of only two I can think of (the other, of course, is Platoon). There is a literature sub-plot, and James Gammon plays the team's manager - and he was also in Silver Bullet.

6. The Natural - Robert Redford hits a home run that brings down the lights. What more do you want? Adapated from a great novel by Bernard Malamud, this one highlights the guy who gives it all for one last go. For Love Of The Game is another movie in this vein, but does not make the list because it was just too damn cheesy, and beacuse of the Kevin Costner rule.

5. Hoosiers - Call me a heretic if you want, but I think this movie, while great, is overrated. Gene Hackman is excellent (but he's always excellent), and so is Dennis Hopper, and the basketball is good - but I just don't think it's the be-all and end-all of sports movies.

4. A League Of Their Own - Here we begin to find flims that have good sports and also have good studies of deep characters. Tom Hanks is the most lauded actor of his generation, but I think his role here never gets quite the attention it deserves. The movie does a great job of toeing the line between comedy and drama, and doesn't sell out in the end for a neat finish. Maybe the most underrated sports movie of all time.

3. Raging Bull - Speaking of character studies, this is one of DeNiro's best roles. The boxing is beyond great, and the sense of greatness never quite achieved drips from almost every character in the movie. Great supporting parts from Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty.

2. Remember The Titans - Back to overcoming racism. This is one of the best feel-good movies of all time, has some really great football, and an amazing soundtrack. Not many movies cause me to nearly tear up, but this is one of them (Field Of Dreams and Dead Poets Society are a couple of others). Based on a true story, a theme that runs through six of the films on my list.

1. Bull Durham - Offers baseball up as a religion. I'm in. Talks about life as much as it does baseball. Has some really good baseball in it, too, as well as some great quotes. Kevin Costner, who made way too many baseball movies, picked a great role here. The best twenty-one days of Crash Davis' life were the ones he spent in "The Show," which is how the minor leaguers refer to the Major Leagues. Like A League Of Their Own, this one doesn't sell out at the end.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Beating A Dead Horse (With Evil Teddy Bears)

As I write this, the first hearing in federal District Court in Indianapolis should be underway (presuming that these things start on time and aren’t finished all that quickly) in the matter of the expulsion of the four filmmakers from Knightstown High School . NUVO has an article on the subject in this week’s edition. Not surprisingly, the NUVO article has a few more details than the article that was printed in the Star back at the end of November.

There are some additional details about the content of the film, which I had not read of before, and the fact that the candy-ass teacher who raised the whole stink in the first place is a seventh-grade teacher at Knightstown Intermediate School, and he...wait...what did you just say?

Right, that the teacher who got this whole ball rolling is a seventh-grade teacher at a school the boys in question have not attended in two years, and whose classes they would not have taken in three years. (Sure, there could be other factors here - such as that the boys have friends or relatives who are in middle school and perhaps have to put up with him...or maybe he’s just such an annoyance to students that the students never forget how much they hated having him as their teacher.)

But here’s the point (assuming that the veracity of the article in NUVO can be trusted) - the kids who made the movie aren’t even in this guy’s class. If the information is true as I understand it, it’s been years since they were in his class - if they were ever in his class. You know what this sounds like to me - and perhaps you would forgive me for straying from the path of objective truth and sowing the seeds of conspiratorial subjectivity just a bit - it sounds like this is the kind of teacher who always makes the kids sit up straight, never lets them chew gum in class, and always, always assigns homework over the three-day weekends - like the kind of teacher who goes out of his way to make sure that the kids don’t like him.

Teachers who rule their classrooms with iron fists do so because they have convinced themselves that there must be discipline in the classroom first and foremost, and that everything else comes from that starting point - and these are not teachers who are admired by their students, because they are teachers who think that their brand of discipline, of classroom control, is just as good as actual teaching. It isn’t, though. I had some hard-asses when I was junior high and high school - and there’s a difference between a good teacher who is strict and a hard-ass who thinks being one also makes him or her a good teacher. Guess which one Clevenger probably is...

But anyway, back to the story in NUVO. I have a couple more nagging complaints. The first is the overabundance of the word “video” to describe the thing that the guys made that got Mr. Clevenger’s panties in a bunch in the first place. The correct word, the one that places the work the guys did in the proper context, is movie. Not video, not tape, not DVD. Movie. That qualifies as art, of a sort. Granted, I have not seen the movie, so I can’t actually say if it’s any good or not - but what we are talking about is a movie that these guys spent a long time working on because it’s a calling that they want to pursue. Using words like video and DVD minimizes the effort they put into it and the scope of what they hoped to achieve.

The other nagging complaint has to do with what Michael Wallmant, the attorney for the school corporation, described as the “unlawful” acts the guys committed in making this film. Wallmant said: “What this DVD shows is an attack upon the teacher...[i]t shows threats made against Mr. Clevenger and his wife and shows Mr. Clevenger trading extra credit for a homosexual act.” we go. This Wallmant human is described as an attorney, which presumes that he attended law school and got some sort of rudimentary education - an education that was apparently so rudimentary that it did not give him the ability to understand the difference between real life and make-believe. The teacher in the movie, is, of course, not Mr. Clevenger - it is an actor portraying a character who is called Mr. Clevenger; and if there are judges stupid enough to allow cheap lawyers like Wallmant to get away with this kind of weak association, then all of us who dabble in the creative arts are in big, big trouble.

I also have a problem with the use of the word homosexual to describe the sex act that takes place. Why not just call it a sex act? Because when Wallmant made this argument, it was in a circuit court in New Castle - and words like homosexual push a lot more conservative buttons in remote backwaters like New Castle than they do in relatively more cosmopolitan places like Indianapolis. Wallmant described the act as homosexual for only one reason, which was to further demonize these young men and the movie they have made. A person with good sense, of course, knows that there is nothing about a homosexual act that is more or less wrong than the same act performed by heterosexuals. Wallmant would do well to return to law school in order to learn this particular lesson.

I started writing this while I was sure the hearing was still going on - and am wrapping it up quite a bit later than that, at quarter to noon. The hearing was set for nine-thirty. Hopefully by this point the judge has reinstated the filmmakers and made some sort of comment for the record that Clevenger is an idiot. Okay...of course a judge isn’t going to say exactly that - but it would be delightful if the judge were able to speak on the record in some way that would indicate that Mr. Clevenger has wasted the time of a lot of people by making his ridiculous claims.

Driving Lessons

This is an odd little film about a young man named Ben (Rupert Grint) who takes a job working for a little old lady who used to be an actress (Julie Walters), doing odd jobs around the house - actually, sprawling compound might be a better description - and keeping her company. I say odd because it’s a character study that doesn’t quite take enough time to properly study its characters - or else has introduced too many characters for the amount of time it was intended to occupy.

Ben’s parents (Nicholas Farrell and Laura Linney) are church people, but of entirely different stripes - his father is a vicar who preaches that being a Christian is more about actions than words; and his mother is one of those Jesus Camp people who carry the hellfire and brimstone around with them on their persons in case of emergencies and generally give whichever flavor of religion they purport to practice a bad name. There is tension between the two, which affects their son, but the tension is revealed in small morsels over the dinner table, and is not especially engaging - it is vaguely illustrative rather than thought-provoking and, you know, interesting.

Ben makes sure the audience knows that all of this tension is very troubling to him by sporting a dark scowl on his face for most of the film - a scowl, I am sorry to say, which might just as well indicate that he is in dire need of a large dose of a quick-acting laxative. Rupert Grint simply isn’t great shakes in the acting department yet, but he sure tries hard.

Julie Walters, as Evie Walton, however, does a splendid job of playing a dotty old woman who is suffering from being a dotty old woman whose former career - which, it turns out, was never nearly as glamorous nor as successful as she wishes it might have been - is many years now in the past and whose days now consist mostly of roaming around her house and lamenting the passing of her glory years. There are various plot points thrown in at different times in the film that attempt to deepen her character, but since she seems to make some things up and tell the truth about other things, these extra bits wind up doing little to elucidate how her life has failed to materialize in quite the way she had hoped.

At bottom, Ben and Evie are lonely souls who need the kind of friends you don’t just go around making all the time - this is meant to brand them as unique individuals, and Walters wrings a fine performance out of the material and actually make Evie into something of a character, whereas Grint is quite a bit more wooden - almost as though he’s not entirely sure what to do when the script calls for him to be something other than a wizard mired in his more-famous best friend’s shadow.

Sweet. Bit of a ham-handed segue there - Grint and Walters are, of course, players in those popular Harry Potter movies; Grint plays Ron Weasley, and Walters plays his mother, Molly. That the two were cast for the parts in Driving Lessons based on this past history of working together is no happy accident, of course. Unfortunately, the novelty of the idea of getting two Harry Potter players to play characters other than the ones they play in the Potter pictures is not enough, in this case, to carry the film.

And yet...I didn’t hate the movie. I just don’t think it was put together as well as it might have been - and it was not nearly long enough. I wanted to hear a bit more from Ben’s father, and quite a lot more from Ben’s mother, not to mention more between Ben and Evie - more about life and how it is lived and what it means to those who live it - why these characters believe the things they believe and do the things they do.

This is director Jeremy Brock’s first time behind the camera, so that may explain some of it - but he wrote the picture, too, which has me a bit confounded. This is either not a very good script, or Brock has been betrayed by his film editor, Trevor Waite, whose previous editing experience is almost entirely in television, and who seems here to have slapped the scenes together willy-nilly. The part about Brock that confounds me is that he also wrote The Last King Of Scotland, which was not only a great movie, but an amazing adaptation - having read the novel and seen the movie, I can say with complete certainty that he did simply an amazing job with the Giles Foden novel, crafting a film version of the story that was considerably different, yet undeniably the same, as the story in the novel.

So what the hell happened here? Nerves brought on by writing his first original screenplay? (It’s not, technically, his first original screenplay - that would be Mrs. Brown, which was steeped in history. Driving Lessons, then, would be the first one he made up all on his own.) Perhaps he was rushed to get Ben’s scenes filmed while Grint had breaks from filming the Potter pictures? I don’t know. I don’t much care, either. People have all kinds of different ideas for movies, and make movies for all kinds of different reasons - to put two Potter players together in a non-Potter picture (yes, I am having fun with the alliteration) certainly doesn’t sound like a bad idea. I just don’t think it quite worked in this case.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wistful And Weathered The Pride Still Prevails - Alive In The Streets Of The City

Shane has a really good post on those halcyon moments in life when the fact of real life is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. One of the turning points in the post comes when he talks about a connection he feels to Indianapolis, even though there is a large part of his soul that seems constantly to be seduced by California.

Having read and re-read that post several times now, I’m getting this urge to wax nostalgic - and at one point, I think, I shall even wax a bit romantic, if you can dig it - about this city I live in and continue to call home. Indianapolis does kind of get its hooks into you that way, although I can only speak from the perspective of someone who was born and raised here - I haven’t got a clue how it feels for those who came here from elsewhere and have chosen to make Indianapolis home.

(Quick aside - It should be noted that I refer here to Indianapolis, not the state of Indiana. By and large, the state of Indiana disgusts me, from its conservative politics to its uneducated population. Apart from a handful of oases, to include Indianapolis, Bloomington, Nashville, and the State Park system, I am of the opinion that it is really only semantics that separates Indiana from the most hideously conservative backwaters of the world, like Kansas and Afghanistan.)

Having grown up here, I’ve watched Indianapolis change a lot over the years, especially the downtown - I was there the morning they imploded Market Square Arena, standing with Amy and my brother and a handful of my friends, in a small parking lot, I think on New York Street, between Delaware and Alabama, literally about two blocks from the arena. I graduated from high school on the floor of Market Square Arena - and now all that’s left of it is a gravel parking lot and a mayoral wet dream to build condos that nobody wants.

I’ve seen the Canal Walk expand from its former northern terminus, just below St. Clair Street (where there is a particular spot on which you can stand, clap your hands, and hear the acoustics make a squeaking sound in your ears) to its new terminus at the basin just below 10th Street. If you go up the stairs there at that end of the Canal Walk, you’ll come to the Buggs Temple, a former church that is now set to become one of those places where people come to eat and drink, the scenario city officials had in mind when they first envisioned the construction of the Canal Walk.

Over the Thanksgiving break from college in 1993, some friends and I went to Union Station, where there used to be a thing called a “festival marketplace,” which is sort of like a mall but with more syllables and just a dash more pretension, and I bought a Rush poster there, a poster I still have. Later that same evening, we all convened at a friend’s mother’s house to play a card game called Mr. Mao. At some point that night, during the game, a girl stopped by with her boyfriend - she sat down on a couch and watched us playing the card game, and I recall very clearly thinking that she was just incredibly beautiful, and that she was the kind of girl who would always be out of my league. That was in November of 1993, and her name was Amy Lee. A shade less than ten years later, I married her.

White River State Park has changed perhaps more than any other part of downtown in the years I have been growing up here in Indianapolis. What used to be just the zoo and the Eiteljorg Museum now also includes the NCAA Hall of Champions, the White River Gardens, an amphitheatre called The Lawn, the new Indiana State Museum (which was glued onto the existing IMAX theatre a few years ago), Victory Field (the best minor league ballpark on the planet), sculptures for display (and sale) on the Old Washington Street bridge over the White River, and Military Park (one of the best places in the city to go with a cup of coffee to sit and read a book - the gazebo is currently being refurbished, but when it’s finished, take a seat at one of the picnic tables in the gazebo and kill a couple of spring hours with your favorite book).

On the other hand...the four days I spent in New York two years ago for my uncle’s wedding were enough to convince me that this writer will never be happy, not all the way up, in this midwestern city, as nice as it is, and as nice as it may become. For sure, the days of the Lost Generation of writers hanging out in Paris cafés and Gertrude Stein’s flat in the post-World-War-I years are long gone - and yet the streets of New York City, especially those south of 14th Street, call out to me.

While we were there, we stayed at the 414, a nice little hotel/inn in Hell’s Kitchen, and we walked all over the place, seeing maybe a fraction of what there was to see in New York City (when we were not doing wedding-related things) - but the parts of it we saw are etched into my brain and onto my soul in ways that can never be undone.

One of the days, we walked from Hell’s Kitchen south through Chelsea, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Tribeca, and into downtown, where we walked down Church to Liberty, to look at where the World Trade Center once stood; and then we walked all the way down to the tip of the island and looked out over the harbor at the Statue of Liberty from the very edge of Battery Park. Shane’s got a really good picture of what that looks like - at sunset, no less.

We spent a day at the American Museum of Natural History, where my uncle is the technology director; walked through Times Square and midtown in the rain brought by Hurricane Ivan, which forced my uncle’s wedding, which was to have taken place at the 6th & B Garden in the East Village, indoors, at a place called Dish, also in the East Village; and spent a few hours on our last day walking around the Upper East Side, going to the zoo, and eating lunch at Pigalle, which was actually the best of the four meals we had while we were there. (The others, in order of excellence, were at the Chick Inn in SoHo, Ben Ash in midtown, and the Carnegie Deli, also in midtown - and across the avenue from Ben Ash.)

The day before we left for New York, I finished the novel I have been working on since I graduated from college; and in the time since I got back from New York, I have pretty much rewritten it, to include much of the influence being in New York for four days had on me. I don’t know when I’ll go back - although my cousin who lives in New Jersey is getting married next summer, so that might be cause for a return trip - and I don’t know if I will ever be able to completely reconcile myself to living here in Indianapolis when there is so much for someone like me in New York.

So, hey...thanks, Shane, for putting up such a good post - you have an ability to put quite a lot of yourself out there into cyberspace for public consumption, something I will never be as able or as willing to do - this post being rather a notable exception - and from time to time you inspire the creativity of another writer, one who would not be out here in the blog-o-verse had he not been inspired to comment on one of your posts. Now that I am here, though, I am quite enjoying myself. Thanks, man.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Lessons Learned?

I think it might be possible that the Colts have learned a lesson in recent weeks, after embarrassing road losses to Tennessee and Jacksonville - not a lesson to do with their rush defense, nor one to do with keeping their composure when they make mistakes. No, this lesson may have been learned by the coaches - the group that I think has the most to learn if this Colts team is ever to get that playoff glory they have been looking for and failing to find in the Peyton Manning era.

The lesson (perhaps) learned? Use aggressive defense to take the other team out of their game early. The Colts put enormous pressure on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer tonight, and that may have been what made the difference. Yes, the offense was back to its lethal ways, and we will get to that in due course - but the defense, by throwing blitz and pressure packages at Palmer all night, got into his head and forced him to make bad decisions, which resulted in four fumbles. Granted, he got three of them back, but he did fumble four times.

The defense, especially Dwight Freeney, who had three sacks, got to Palmer early and often, and virtually eliminated a passing attack that was first in efficiency rating and fourth in yards going into tonight’s game. A secondary effect of crowding the line of scrimmage was that the Colts had linebackers in place to make tackles when Rudi Johnson took the ball up the middle - and for once, those linebackers made the tackles. I could be really cynical and say that they were making those tackles because Cincinnati just could not get their offense going, but that might just be me looking for something to complain about - which there is not much of in this game.

With the line of scrimmage effectively stuffed, the Colts made great use of their signature Cover 2 defense, getting great play in coverage from defensive backs Matt Giordano, Dexter Reid, Nick Harper, and Kelvin Hayden. Carson Palmer had no time to throw the ball, and no one to throw it to when he did have time to throw. The relatively open middle of the field was a non-factor, because the Cincinnati offense just could not get on track at all.

To wit: Carson Palmer was 14 of 28 for 176 yards, with no touchdowns (although he also threw no picks, which shows that he has quite a lot of self control in the pocket - he did fumble four times, as mentioned, but he got hit a lot); Rudi Johnson managed only 79 yards on 22 carries, and that would have been a lot less if he had not gotten one big 21-yard scamper, the only time all night that he found a hole in the Colts rush defense - and even with that 21-yard run, his average was only 3.6 yards per carry; and Chad Johnson had only 37 yards on three catches - he leads the league in receiving yards by nearly a hundred over the next closest guy, but was only the third leading receiver on his team tonight.

On the other hand...the Colts offense was back on track, mostly because of Manning, who was 29 of 36 for 282 yards and 4 touchdowns. (Oddly, he threw for more yards last week in Jacksonville - 313.) Three of those touchdowns went to Marvin Harrison, and the fourth went to Reggie Wayne. Neither Harrison nor Wayne had a hundred yards (86 and 84, respectively), but Manning managed to find seven different receivers during the game, spreading out the ball and keeping the Bengals guessing in the secondary.

Really, there are no big numbers in tonight’s game, apart from Manning’s line and Freeney’s three sacks - which took him from 2.5 on the season to 5.5. The Colts got a good, complete game from every player, committed very few penalties (5 for 35 yards), and made very few mistakes - the fumble by Wilkins was really a fluke, and this was the first time in the last five games that Manning did not have an interception.

And it wasn’t just the fact that Palmer had a bad night that kept Cincinnati out of the game - it was the fact that Palmer had a bad night BECAUSE OF the Colts defense. Interesting note - the Colts did not get the ball to start the game, something that they usually need in order to get themselves in gear. Instead, they forced a turnover on that first Bengals drive, took Palmer out of his game, and basically shut Cincinnati down - which is pretty much exactly what Jacksonville did to the Colts last week.

Now to playoff seeding. Only three teams can win the AFC 1-seed: San Diego, Indianapolis, and Baltimore. New England could finish in a tie with San Diego, but the Chargers are 5-0 in common games with none left to play, and the Patriots are 3-1 with one left to play - so San Diego can’t lose that tiebreaker.

San Diego wins the 1-seed UNLESS:
1) They lose out and the Colts or Ravens win out.
2) They finish 1-1 and the Ravens win out.

Indianapolis wins the 1-seed ONLY if:
1)They win out and the Chargers lose out.

Baltimore wins the 1-seed ONLY if:
1) They win out and BOTH the Colts and Chargers lose at least one more game.

The 2-seed at the moment is the Colts. In the event of any ties, the Colts have tiebreakers over both Baltimore (common games) and New England (head-to-head). Here’s something that might surprise you, though - in the event of a tie, New England has the common game tiebreaker over Baltimore. New England is currently 3-1 in common games with Baltimore, and the Ravens are 2-2. Any combination of a tie between the two, whether it be 12-4 or 11-5, would give New England the 2-seed over Baltimore. If both teams are 12-4, then New England won their last common game, giving them a 4-1 record in common games. In that situation, even if the one Baltimore win was against the common team, that would only make them 3-2 against common teams. If both teams are 11-5, then Baltimore lost the last common game, and even if New England did, too, they would still be a game better.

That presupposes that the Colts lose out. If they win one game, New England is out of contention for the 2-seed. The only way for Baltimore to get the 2-seed is if they have a better record than the Colts. So, to make a long story short (too late!), the Colts helped themselves quite a lot by beating Cincinnati tonight. It just remains to be seen if they can keep it up.

Power Rankings

5. Chicago - Yes, they are good. Yes, Grossman is making strides and improving. No, they are not in the same class as any of the contenders in the AFC.

4. Baltimore - Yes, the defense is amazing. Yes, McNair has helped the offense. No, they are not getting any younger.

3. New England - Yes, the schedule has been cake, so far. Yes, the last two games are going to be really, really hard. No, if they win those two games, I would not want to have to play them in the first round.

2. Indianapolis - Yes, the rush defense is still sketchy. Yes, Manning is still prone to getting rattled when he makes mistakes. No, you can’t turn the ball over on your first drive, then let them score first and have any hope of beating them.

1. San Diego - Yes, they are the best team in the league. Yes, LaDanian Tomlinson is the MVP. No, they are not going to lose again this year.


3. Tom Brady - It’s a long shot, but if the Patriots win out, they could be the AFC 2-seed. Their last two games are at Jacksonville and at Tennessee. If the Patriots win both of those, they go into the playoffs with a head of steam you don’t want to get in front of.

2. Peyton Manning - Give him a lead, or commit a turnover, and you might as well go home. When his offense is clicking, Manning is unstoppable. When his defense is clicking, too, these guys are scary good.

1. LaDanian Tomlinson - Will run riot over the Colts in the playoffs, to the tune of numbers that will probably make your eyes water. But if Colts DE Dwight Freeney gets to Rivers the way he got to Carson Palmer, Tomlinson is going to have a long night.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Every Game Counts

The Colts, oddly, can clinch the division today, even though they do not play. Wouldn’t that be ironic for a team that has embarrassingly lost three of its last four games? Here’s how it works:

The Colts clinch the division if Jacksonville loses at Tennessee today, because a Jacksonville loss means that they will have a record of 2-4 in the division. Even if the Colts lose their last division game, the Christmas Eve game at Houston, the Colts would have a 3-3 record in the division, which would be the tiebreaker if the Colts and the Jaguars finished the season with the same record. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head, which is a split. The second is record in the division, which the Colts would win if Jacksonville loses today.

The Colts could also clinch a playoff spot by beating Cincinnati on Monday night, because that would give them 11 wins, and there are only six teams in the AFC that can still win 11 games - and six teams from each conference go to the playoffs.

A wrinkle: the third division tiebreaker is common games, where the Colts lead the Jaguars because the Colts have one loss against common teams (Dallas). Jacksonville has two losses against common teams (Washington and Buffalo). So, regardless of what else happens, a Colts win against Miami, or a Jacksonville loss against New England clinches the division for the Colts, because it sews up the common game tiebreaker for the Colts.

Another wrinkle: there are three AFC teams with 6 losses - Kansas City, Denver, and NYJ. The Colts have head-to-head tiebreakers with Denver and NYJ. Well, what the hell does that mean? It means that the Colts clinch a playoff spot if ANY of those three teams loses ANY of their last three games. The Colts don’t even have to win in this scenario.

Although...if the Colts lose out and all the other AFC teams win out, that leaves the Colts tied with Kansas City, Denver, and NYJ for the last playoff spot. Like I said, the Colts already have head-to-head tiebreakers against Denver and NYJ. That leaves only Kansas City. So let’s check their record against common teams. Kansas City currently has two losses against common teams, with one game left to play; and the Colts have one loss against common teams, with two games left to play.

So this is the bottom line - the Colts are in the playoffs UNLESS they lose out and Kansas City wins out. If that happens, the Colts and Chiefs have the same record, but the Chiefs would have a 3-2 record against common teams, while the Colts would have a 2-3 record against common teams.

Getting homefield advantage is another story altogether. San Diego is 5-0 against common teams - with no games against common teams left to play - which means the only way the Colts can clinch homefield advanatage is if they win out and the Chargers lose two of their last three. The problem is that San Diego finishes with a home game against Kansas City, an away game against Seattle, and a home game with Arizona. The chances of them losing two of those are slim - probably they win all three.

So the Colts will once again not have homefield advantage, although it looks pretty much like a lock that they will get into the playoffs. Note what this says about the strength of the AFC - the Colts are 10-3 but have not clinched a playoff spot, and could, conceivably, not make the playoffs. I don’t think they will lose out, and I will almost guarantee that Kansas CIty will lose one of their last three - their game today is at San Diego, which they will lose, thereby making the point moot.

The Colts will get into the playoffs, but they can’t beat San Diego, and they would probably have trouble beating Baltimore, Jacksonville, or New England. (They may have proven over the last two years that they can beat the Patriots, but twice in the same season - and with the season on the line? I don’t think so.) Yet one more season that started great but will wind up in the crapper - the Dolphins with Marino at least got to the Super Bowl once, and the Bills with Jim Kelly got to the Super Bowl four times (they lost all four games, but at least they won the AFC title, four times in a row!).

This is a Colts team with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, two of the best players at their positions in the history of the NFL - and yet they always come up short in the playoffs. Always. As always, I hope that I am wrong - but I really doubt it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Not-Ready-For-Primetime Posts

• Judith Regan, the one who was going to publish that O.J. Simpson book about how he might have done it, has been fired. Read all about it here, but riddle me this - according to the article, she has been known to complain that her more literary side was often overlooked during her tenure at HarperCollins. Her more literary side. This from a woman who published Juiced, the sensationalist account of how Jose Canseco brought steroids to baseball, and How To Make Love Like A Porn Star, by Jenna Jameson. (Actually, I'll bet that one has to do with steroids, too.) But, you know, maybe the O.J. book would have changed all of that. I guess we'll never know. Maybe she can call James Frey - last I heard, he was looking for a publisher.

• I learned from watching National Lampoon's Vacation that they don't close the state of Florida. Maybe they should think about it, though. Earlier today, MSNBC reported, by way of the AP, that a convicted murderer in Florida took almost twice as long to die during the lethal injection process as normal, according to this article. Apparently the medical examiner's findings contradict the findings of prison officials - the M.E. says that the first injection missed the vein and went into the guy's arm flesh, but the prison people say that the chap had liver disease, which necessitated a second death cocktail because apparently his liver could not metabolize the poison. Governor Jeb Bush suspended the death penalty in the state of Florida, because of what happened (or, more accurately, because of what failed to happen properly). That might have been noble if these kinds of things went on every day, but they don't; he could have kept his mouth shut, and there still would not have been any lethal injections for awhile. This in the same state that printed general election ballots for the 2000 election that were so confusing that people who thought they were voting for Al Gore actually ended up voting for Pat Buchanan. They can't get an election right, and they can't get lethal injection right. Anything not going wrong down there in the Sunshine State?

• And, last but not least, there is this: As if the view into the Grand Canyon was not already, er...grand...enough, now you just might be able to step out past the edge of the canyon and look down into the abyss. That's right, something called the Skywalk is being built in the part of the Grand Canyon that belongs to the Hualapai Indians. The article I'm looking at now is on CNN. Construction began last April, and it's scheduled to open in March (2007, I presume). The project's architect says that the structure will be able to withstand canyon winds of 100 miles per hour, hold a few hundred people (that's an AWFULLY vague number, I think) without bending, and have shock absorbers to keep it from "wobbling up and down like a diving board and making people woozy." Yeah, because wobbliness is the only thing about this idea that would make people woozy. I'm up in the air on this one, so to speak. Don't you suppose someone is going to figure out how to jump off of this thing and commit suicide? Granted, there are plenty of other places in the Grand Canyon where one can off one's self, but most of those involve taking serious chances with bouncing quite a lot on the way down and probably enduring a remarkable amount of pain. This one would have you going 4000 feet straight down - à la Lord Denethor in The Lord Of The Rings - to a single destination point where death awaits with open arms. On the other hand, the idea of looking down through glass into the bottom of the Grand Canyon has a certain appeal. I say we all take a trip out there and get up on the ledge and put our foreheads to the glass, to see if we can see Cameron's dad down there - who's with me?

Friday, December 15, 2006

Sometimes The Jokes Just Write Themselves

So I'm going along, surfing MSNBC, which has replaced CNN as the web site where I get my news (aside - that might be the most useless piece of information any of you reads today), and I come across this article talking about people getting sick at an Olive Garden - which turns out to be the one up in Castleton. The Indianapolis Star also has the story, which goes into more detail about the incident.

Okay, so that part isn't exactly a joke - well, apart from the idea that people would actually want to eat at Olive Garden, rather than at a place like, say, Augustino's or Iaria's; and yet that's still not quite a joke.

But this is - toward the end of the article in the Star, they cite the statement released by the parent company of Olive Garden, which says, in part: "We're pleased the health department has determined our guests should feel comfortable continuing to dine at Olive Garden." Not that I would have expected them to admit fault, or anything, but come on...comfortable?!

Hell, I don't know. Maybe it was a fluke that 250 people got sick, including some of the EMPLOYEES; but I wonder just how comfortable the person who wrote that statement would be about eating at that particular Olive Garden. Reminds me of that scene from Erin Brockovich (which I hated, and for which Julia Roberts won an Oscar she did not deserve), when they're sitting around that meeting table, and Erin tells the people that they had the water flown in special just for them - and then they all get disgusted looks on their faces.

The cause of the illnesses has not yet been discovered, or not reported, at any rate - which means this one will be around to laugh at for at least another couple of days. So here's a good idea for an office pool: make up a calendar that goes for about the next month or six weeks - and then everybody in the office bets on which day in that upcoming time span will be the one on which Nancy Grace or Bill O'Reilly will go on TV and blame this recent string of restaurant illnesses on the terrorists.

But if you want something really funny, read the comments posted in response to the article in the Star. Actually, it's about half funny and half sad - there's one where the person mentions anorexia and bulimia (if you can wade through all the misspelled words), and yet manages not to make any sense at all.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Answer Is Blowin' In The Wind...

Got an e-mail from Ana with an attached e-mail asking recipients to sign an online petition supporting U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, in its efforts to convince Congress, MoveOn-style, to endorse the organization's New Energy Future plan. So I signed up, which was a no-brainer, of course - and then I started poking around to see if this U.S. PIRG group was as far to the left as they seemed.

Just for fun, I Googled the search string ["U.S. PIRG" AND "far left"] - there were only 216 hits. (Oddly, Googling the same search string, but substituting right for left actually yields 307 hits.) I was sort of hoping for more. One of them was to a page on Democratic Underground that shows a list of retorts to those who accuse Senator Hillary Clinton of being too conservative. She is, of course, not too conservative - she happens to work and play well with others, which, admittedly, most people no longer recognize, since King George II, Darth Cheney, and the rest of their ilk have been goose-stepping their followers around since 2001 and playing my-way-or-the-highway politics.

Another of the hits goes to a blog on Think Progress that features a number of items related to the environment, including one, linked here, where an idiot at Fox News (as though the term idiot actually distinguishes any one person from any other person at Fox News) suggests that the movie Happy Feet is actually propagandizing the loony left's environmental agenda to impressionable children - as though, perhaps, any of the children watching Happy Feet are all that wrapped up in the environment at that age. While at the Think Progress web site, I signed up for their daily newsletter.

An older article, from MediaWatch, notes that PIRGs were created in the 1970s with funds from Ralph Nader's personal income. Even better. Not only are PIRGs out there looking out for people who can't be bothered to look out for themselves, but they were started up because of Ralph Nader - a writer and political thinker and former candidate for President whom I admire very much, and voted for in 2004.

I would encourage everyone to sign the petition, and to do whatever you can to reduce, reuse, and recycle - and to explore alternative energy sources. The sun and the wind provide enough energy to reduce to obsolescence every single company or group that currently provides energy in this country. That's a paradigm shift I won't live long enough to see - but my child, perhaps, might be around for it.

If anyone goes to the U.S. PIRG site and signs the petition, or passes this information along to someone as the result of having read this post, I would love to have you post a comment to let me know. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

We Would Like To Pre-Board Those Passengers Who Have Checked Their Reason With Their Luggage

Here’s that thing on the Christmas trees at the Seattle-Tacoma International airport. Apparently a rabbi with the Chabad Lubavitch organization has threatened to sue the airport if they do not put up an 8-foot tall menorah in order to “balance the message” of the Christmas trees - this according to an article posted on MSNBC, culled from KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas. NewsCloud has an article credited to a Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter that goes into a bit more detail. And now it appears, courtesty of the Post-Intelligencer itself, that the trees are going back up - and might already be back up.

According to the Post-Intelligencer story, Chabad Lubavitch started discussions with the airport about putting up a menorah back in October, then hauled out the threat of a lawsuit about a week ago.

That’s a bit of a problem - have the authorities at the Port of Seattle been stonewalling all this time, trying to keep Chabad Lubavitch off their backs, maybe until Christmas had passed and everyone had forgotten about it? And if Chabad Lubavitch was really going to sue over it, why wait until now?

The airport’s argument would come back to the ubiquity of Christmas trees and other Christmas decorations all over the country at this time of year, and while it is true that Christmas decorations have become obnoxiously ubiquitous, the argument does not hold for displaying one set of decorations exclusively. The commissioners of the Port of Seattle are elected officials who serve four-year terms and set policy at the airport.

Technically, then, putting up Christmas trees - and especially denying requests by other religious groups to put up decorations representing faiths other than Christianity - constitutes an endorsement of religion, which is, again technically, a violation of the First Amendment.

Their argument for taking down the trees in the first place was that, if they left the trees up and also erected the menorah, they would then have to take the time to find out what other religious decorations they would have to put up in order not to be stepping on anyone else’s toes this holiday season - never mind the even more technical fact that such a comprehensive display of religious decorations might, in its totality, constitute an endorsement of religion, generally, which would also violate the First Amendment. bottom what we have is a culture clash - between what Christians think of as the true meaning of Christmas, and what secular America thinks of as the festive, commercial, end-of-the-year meaning of Christmas. Christmas has become so secular in America that most of us spend most of the time thinking of Christmas as a time of year, not a celebration of someone’s birth.

The problem is that no amount of commercial spin can completely extricate the secular notion of Christmas from the religious notion of Christmas; Christmas is Christmas because the Christians made it that way. We cannot assume that people of religions other than Christianity are just going to sit back and accept the continued emphasis on Christmas at the expense of celebrating the holidays of those other religions - nor should we.

The Port of Seattle was correct to remove the Christmas trees in the face of objections against them - and though this rabbi person claims not to have been protesting the trees specifically, he seems to be somewhat full of shit, to me. The trees were the scapegoat in this case - the unwitting victims of this man’s, and his organization’s, objection to the preeminence of Christmas at this time of year, and the lack of attention paid to other religions at the same time of year. He was protesting the fact of the trees being there because they were the ONLY decorations in place - and he believes that if a Christmas tree should have pride of place in an airport, then so should an 8-foot high menorah.

That the trees are going back up, of course, has nothing to do with any kind of religion - apart from the religion of wanting to keep your job come next election day. I suspect that it will be difficult for most Americans to look at this kind of thing as anything but an attack on Christmas. Then again, most Americans are fucking idiots. It’s not an attack on anything. It’s a Jewish fellow and his organization asking for equal representation. Did they need to threaten a lawsuit? Maybe they did, if they were ignored when they asked nicely. Maybe not - maybe they were just being belligerent. Or maybe it’s just more evidence of how fucking ridiculous religion is.

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Blog

Apparently one blog is not enough for me and my verbosity, because I have created another one. Unlike The Blog-O-Rama, however, The Baby Blog actually has a purpose - which is to be a way for me to post information about the baby Amy and I are expecting, so that people who don't live all that close to us can check out the blog and get an idea of where we're at, and maybe see some pictures at some point (this will require that I learn how to post pictures, of course); and I hope that those of you who are kind enough to visit The Blog-O-Rama on a regular basis will glean some enjoyment from The Baby Blog, as well - probably more so once I post pictures of the baby upending its bowl of spaghetti over its head, or chucking toys across the room.

So that was it - just a quick little post today. I have a little item on Christmas trees at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, but I have to look into a bit more before I post it - and I am afraid that work calls at the moment, so Christmas trees shall have to wait.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I turned off the radio after Jones-Drew ran in for the first Jacksonville touchdown. That was 94 yards on two plays. Now all the Colts have to do is start giving up rushing touchdowns on one play from scrimmage, and the rush defense's journey toward the dark side will be complete!

Three weeks ago people were idly talking about whether or not the Colts would lose a game this year, and now I'm honestly asking myself if they will win another game this year. Is it possible that the Colts could lose out? If they do, 10-6 might not be good enough to get them into the playoffs in the AFC. Not that it would matter, since they'll be out in the first round, anyway.

Anyway, I turned off the radio after the first Jacksonville drive, and I'm curious to see how long I can go without turning it back on, or checking the Star web site, to see what the score is. This is quite a collapse for a team that should have been much, much better than they are.

One Year Later...

A year ago today (technically yesterday, but I haven't gone to bed yet, so still think of this as Saturday the 9th), the Landmark Keystone Art Cinema and Indie Lounge opened inside the Fashion Mall at Keystone at the Crossing.

A year ago, I did not work for Landmark Theatres. I was still marking time at Clearwater Crossing 12, but I remember clearly what I was doing one year ago, plus a day - on December 8th, 2005. It snowed like crazy that day, and I wound up sweeping something like eight inches of snow off of my car before slogging back to my apartment in Southport.

That day was also the 25th anniversary of the death of John Lennon, who was gunned down outside the Dakota Hotel, just off of 72nd Street and Central Park West, in New York City. A portion of Central Park, roughly across the street from the Dakota, was later renamed Strawberry Fields, after the Beatles song and in honor of Lennon. There is in that part of the park a black and white tile mosaic that reads "Imagine," after the song Lennon was best known for as a solo artist. It is that mosaic that local band Rebuilt refers to in the song "Central Park," from their debut CD, called Ghostman On First.

I spent that day, a year ago, at work, listening to Lennon's Acoustic CD, which my parents had given me for my birthday a year or two earlier. I didn't just listen to music at work that day, of course, but there weren't many customers with all the snow, and what customers there were thinned out as the day went on and the snow kept falling. I'm sure I knew that Landmark was opening the next day, but I wasn't thinking of it on that particular Thursday - nor was I thinking that roughly six months later I would have left Clearwater behind and gone to work at Landmark.

But so I did, and it was a great decision on my part - brought about by the fact that Jason Maier got a better job offer in Boston and took it, opening the position at Landmark, to which he tipped me off. I don't know if I ever properly thanked Jason for letting me know about the job and for (probably) putting in a good word for me with the GM at Landmark, so if I did not, then: Thanks, Jason.

Every single thing about being a movie theatre manager is better at Landmark than it was at Clearwater. Everything. Well, except that the projection booth was built in such a way that one could do one's self serious bodily injury (think gaping head wound) if one is not careful about the way one moves around up there. Apart from that, though, everything is better. The employees are great, the movies are a ton better than the mainstream drivel playing at what I still hear the wayward customer refer to as a "normal" theatre (as though there is much to recommend normalcy in this world), I work with the best Booth Squad on the planet, and every now and then there are cookies. Huzzah!

Also, the Key Cinema is still alive and kicking. Its owner seemed certain that the opening of the Landmark theatre, despite being all the way on the other side of town, would spell doom for his own little operation on the south side (southwest corner of Keystone and Hannah, which is just south on Keystone from I-65). It has not. Hopefully both theatres can continue to coexist for many years to come.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Why...oh, why...must there always be a happy ending - or, at least, a relatively happy ending? Not all stories lend themselves to happy endings, or even relatively happy endings. A tragedy is called a tragedy for a reason, and the reason is not that everything is wrapped up in a nice little bow at the end. Just ask Romeo, Juliet, Keaton, McManus, Fenster, Hockney, or any of the characters in Requiem For A Dream. There is not always a pound of pure at the end of the rainbow.

Shortbus succeeds in a number of ways - not the least of which is obliterating whatever taboos there are surrounding sex between two or more human beings - but it fails almost spectacularly at its attempt to write a worthy conclusion. It is also more than a little heavy-handed with the electricity symbolism, but that’s a minor quibble and not nearly as much of a distraction as the impotent ending.

Other than those two things, though, Shortbus is a splendid film, one that challenges the viewer to accept the fact that life is not always lived in the ways that most people expect it to be lived. If you have heard of this movie at all, then you have heard about what goes on in the first five minutes, and I won’t ruin it for anyone who hasn’t heard of the movie by going into it here, except to say that it pretty much lives up to the hype. John Cameron Mitchell, who wrote and directed the picture, clearly does not want the average moviegoer to sit through this movie, and so throws enough at you in the first couple of minutes to make sure that the only ones who remain to see the rest of the movie are those who have an outside chance of being able to appreciate the story he wants to tell.

What goes on in those first couple of minutes is all real, and that is not so much shocking as it is quite brave - both for Mitchell to have conceived and for the players (perhaps more so) to have delivered. Why go to such extremes to tell a story, extremes that are sure to be misconstrued by not a few of the people who are going to pony up the dough to see this picture?

Because the central theme of the film is that to fake it is to deny one’s right to life. And by it, I am not here referring to what you probably first thought of when I used the phrase “fake it.” Rather, I mean to say that faking life is to deny one’s right to it. Thus, to have simulated the sex that is shown in the opening montage would have been to sweep the legs out from under the film - by doing immediately the one thing the film wants to say should never be done.

The tragedy of it all is that such lengths are required by the characters; they go to these lengths because they long for something so fundamental in the human condition that to recognize its absence in one’s life is to, in a sense, lose one’s mind, lose one’s grip on reality - and to grasp desperately at anything that offers the faintest hope that what is missing might be found.

To connect intimately with another person - not sexually, not physically, but intimately, in that difficult to demarcate space where the body, mind, and soul meet - is as much a fundamental human instinct as is the instinct to survive and the instinct to procreate, and I suspect that the necessity of it for a human being lies somewhere between those other two instincts. The instinct to survive is paramount among all living species, and the instinct to procreate is innate in all living beings, complicated in human beings only by the fact that we can apply reason to the situation - I do want kids, or I do not want kids. Animlas in the wild rarely have to decide whether family or career is more important to their well-being; such a consideration can, by contrast, drive a human being quietly mad.

The characters in the movie descend upon Shortbus, which is a club, in order to come to terms with what is lacking in their lives and to seek that fundamental connection that is missing in the lives that they have built for themselves. The results are mixed, and the only dishonesty in the movie is that it tries to convince you, in the end, that those characters found their connections. One of the denizens of the club, upon showing a new person a room full of naked people in various throes of what may or may not be passion, describes the scene as “like the 60s, but with less hope.” True. Also a good way to describe the theme, not only of the film, but of life in America in the 21st century. The end of the movie, in concluding properly, should reinforce the notion that all is not as well as it seems. Unfortunately, the ending does not do this; it’s a fake.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

From Time To Time, Modern Popular Music And I Actually Collide

Grammy nominations are out, and I am actually vaguely interested, since two albums I bought this year have gotten some nominations. The most recent Pearl Jam album is missing from the list of noms (a plain text version of which can be found here), but the newest releases from Bob Dylan and the Dixie Chicks are on the list (each in multiple places). First, the Bob Dylan nominations:

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance (Someday Baby)
Best Rock Song (Someday Baby)
Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album (Modern Times)

Yes, that's right. The song is nominated twice in the Rock field, but the album from whence it came is nominated in the Folk field. The Grammys are really hit and miss like that. While I suppose it's nice that Dylan was nominated for his work this year, I'm a little bit surprised that he wasn't nominated for Album of the Year. This new album, Modern Times, the third in what is purported to be a trilogy of sorts (along with Time Out Of Mind (1997), which won Album of the Year, and "Love And Theft" (2001), which was nominated for Album of the Year), is in the same vein as the previous two, and just as good, in its own way - what it manages to do is take the gritty, dark mood of Time Out Of Mind and bring it together with the playful sound that underpinned "Love And Theft". Here's the list of Album of the Year noms:

Taking The Long Way - Dixie Chicks
St. Elsewhere - Gnarls Barkley
Continuum - John Mayer
Stadium Arcadium - Red Hot Chili Peppers
FutureSex/LoveSounds - Justin Timberlake

I don't know enough about the Album of the Year nominees (apart from the Dixie Chicks album) to be able to say whether any of them are more or less deserving of the nomiation than Dylan might have been - except to say that it sort of makes my skin crawl to see that Justin Timberlake and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are up for the award. I'm sure they are all fine albums, but something makes me wonder if they are quite as good as the Dylan album. Like I said, though, modern popular music and I rarely collide, so I'm probably just behind the times.

Next, the Dixie Chicks nominations:

Record of the Year - Not Ready To Make Nice
Album of the Year - Taking The Long Way
Best Country Performance, Duo/Group w/Vocal - Not Ready To Make Nice
Best Country Album - Taking The Long Way

I had originally intended to do a whole post on the new Dixie Chicks album, shortly after I saw the movie Shut Up And Sing, but I never got around to it. The album is an amazing blend of country and rock (or maybe rock and country), with liberal sprinklings of blues and bluegrass in there, too. So much of what they have gone through since Natalie's comments on stage in London in 2003 made it onto this album - as evidenced by the fact that this is their first album on which the three members of the band claim whole or partial songwriting credit on every track. Emily Robison is listed as lead songwriter on all but one track, and that other track lists Martie Maguire as lead songwriter. And that's really just a long way of saying that they have grown as musicians since 2003, that they have done much more than survive the mountain that the backwoods rednecks made out of the molehill of Natalie's remarks.

If there is a better story out there among the Album of the Year nominees, a better distillation of that better story into an album of great songs, I'd honestly be surprised to hear of it. But by all means, if anyone out there knows of one such better story or album, let me know. In the meantime, I'm rooting for the Dixie Chicks to win Album of the Year for Taking The Long Way.

Save Finca Vigia! - Part Two

Two good articles about the political firestorm surrounding the former Hemingway home in Cuba can be found at the web sites of PRI and the New York Times. The Times article gives some more detail about how the Bush administration put the kibosh on getting American aid down to Cuba to help with the restoration. The PRI article provides a little more color, with bits of interviews of some of the principals involved in the work.

I wonder what student gets through high school without having read The Old Man And The Sea, which students of literature get through college without experiencing The Sun Also Rises. Those two novels, along with For Whom The Bell Tolls, are the most famous of Hemingway's books. There are also a number of very fine non-fiction books to go along with the novels: read about big game hunting in Green Hills Of Africa, and bullfighting in The Dangerous Summer and Death In The Afternoon. A Moveable Feat, which chronicles the time Hemingway spent in Paris, is one of the finest memoirs you are likely ever to read.

Obviously, I am fairly biased in my appraisal of Hemingway's work. He was a favorite of my mom's, so I heard the name from time to time as I grew up. I read A Farewell To Arms in a literature class in high school, one of only two books in the whole class that I actually enjoyed at the time (the other was The Grapes Of Wrath). It was probably The Sun Also Rises that was the first Hemingway book that really got its hooks into me - the classic tale of young people meandering through life, blissfully unaware of their own mortality, going through the motions because that's what they think they're supposed to be doing. The entire literary oeuvre of Bret Easton Ellis (another of my favorite writers) is based on variations of that theme. I even sort of dug The Garden Of Eden, even though it has sort of an impenetrable feel to it - it was one of a number of books Hemingway had not finished at the time of his death, so the end for it that Hemingway might have had in mind will never be known (the ending to it that was published was slapdashed together by the folks who edited what there was to edit of the manuscript after Hemingway's death).

But apart from my own personal bias, there is the issue of saving an historic landmark, one that holds significance for two countries, not just the one where it exists. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed Finca Vigia on its list of the most endangered U.S. landmarks - and it is the only one that exists outside the United States. If there were money in it for America - like there is in our robust trade with China, which is both Communist and atheist - you can bet that Bush would be on this one; but the only money in is it is for Cuba, so the Bushies fall back on outmoded law and the politics of fear, at the expense of art and culture. As usual.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Things I Had Not Experienced Until Today

The first was in my car, driving to work. I came to a stop at the red light at the top of the off-ramp from 465 West to Allisonville Road and saw, on the back of a black Civic, one of those little Jesus fish emblems. Now, my eyes are not the best in the world, so at first it just looked like a Jesus fish. Then I looked a little closer and realized that Jesus was not the word contained inside the body of the fish. Neither was it one of the other emblems like a Jesus fish that I have seen - the Darwin turle/fish, the Jesus fish eating the Darwin turtle/fish, the Darwin turtle/fish eating the Jesus fish. No, what this fish said within it was: N Chips. Something like that can go a long way toward mitigating the ire that festers while driving in traffic.

Second was a bit later, at work. Hillary baked cookies and brought them in, and said that I should try one because there was a surprise inside. This could have been anything, of course - razor blades, mercury, bits of a small rodent - but I was momentarily dulled by the peanut buttery smell rising out of the container holding the cookies to really consider that she might have been trying to off me; and so I just picked one up and tried it. Sure enough, a surprise - a slice of Snickers bar baked into a cookie. Baked into a really, really good peanut butter cookie.

So, yeah. There you go. Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing topical. Just fish, chips, and Snickers. And this on the day the report of the Iraq Study Group came out, listing 79 separate recommendations for the Bush administration to ignore. And all you get from me is bumper stickers and cookies.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Save Finca Vigia!

Ernest Hemingway spent most of the last third of his life in a house in Cuba that he called the “Finca Vigia.” Over the years, that house has deteriorated to the point that major restoration work and repairs are needed to maintain it as a Hemingway museum. An article on MSNBC notes that the Bush administration has blocked American monetary and material assistance that would help rehabilitate and repair the house, alleging that it would help support the Cuban government, thereby violating the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba.

Occasionally I think that we’ve certainly gotten to a point where Bush and his minions cannot possibly behave in a more ignorant and ruthless way than they already have done; and then something like this comes along, and I realize that there is truly no limit to how literally he will read every word of every law, without ever taking the time to try to understand what was written between the lines. This is another danger of conservative thinking, and it is folly; no law could ever be written that could possibly envision every scenario that might ever come up that would require its application.

Thus the reason for an entire branch of government that exists in order to interpret laws. Times change, people change, values change, and laws therefore have to change - or at least be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the spirit in which they were written (conservative) but also applicable to the changing times (liberal - sometimes you can have both at once and it actually works). When judges make decisions like this, they are labeled as “activist,” for trying to usurp the will of the people. This is not what they are trying to do; they are trying to reconcile laws that were written in one time, and under one set of circumstances, with modern events that sometimes radically fail to correspond with those events that caused the laws to be written as they were in the first place.

I hate to cut this short, but I always manage to run across these little items just as I’m getting ready to do something else - in this case hang out with Scott one last time before he goes back to Florida. I suspect I’ll have more on it later, but I just wanted to throw it out there now, before I forgot about it. Regardless of what you think of Hemingway as a person - misogynist, alcoholic, shooter of animals - his writing stands as a pillar of American literature, and his memory and legacy deserve better than this.

The Worst Thing About Liking Sports Is Feeling This Way When Your Team Loses

The Titans had four players with long rushes of ten yeards or better. Of those four players, the lowest per carry average was 4.7, which is a good average. Two - yes, TWO! - Titans had per carry averages higher than 8 yards, and one of those guys was their quarterback, Vince Young. By contrast, the highest per carry average for the Colts, among three guys who ran, was 5.0, and that was Manning, who ran one time for those five yards. Rhodes and Addai - the same Joseph Addai we were all ready to send up white smoke over a week ago - had 16 carries for 56 yards, a 3.5 yards per carry average. Turns out that what’s written on his chest is the number 29, not a big red S.

It’s a shame that this was the game in which Marvin Harrison did this and this and this, which gives the Manning/Harrison tandem such and such a distinction; and the reason that it is a shame, at least as far as The Blog-O-Rama is concerned, is that the Colts get no praise today. None. For die-hard fans, this kind of game hurts more than big wins feel good. For someone who has defended the Colts all year, for the last however many years, this is the kind of game that erases the previous eleven. The Colts are back to square one, with a lot of work to do before the playoffs come.

I can’t even point to one thing in particular that wrecked them today. You could say that the Drew Bennett touchdown after the second pick of Manning gave the Titans the margin they won by. You could say that they underestimated the opposing head coach, who put his field goal unit back on the field at the end of the game, after the Colts called their last timeout. You could say that Marlin Jackson’s somersault that resulted in a 15-yard taunting penalty destroyed the momentum after Jackson picked Vince Young, the kind of momentum the Colts have turned into touchdowns all year - so there is the Tennessee margin of victory again. You could say that the rush defense gave up an astonishing 219 yards on the ground. They gave up 200+ yards to Tennesee the last time, too.

In a year where the rush defense is clearly not learning from its mistakes, this was an especially hard lesson - and you can stack a whole lot of blame up here, too. You can blame the personnel, who are not making tackles; you can blame the head coach, who can’t fix it; you can blame the suits, who let key linebackers walk away each year because all of the money is going to the offense.

You could blame penalties, of which the Colts committed eight, for 59 yards; but penalties come down to a lack of discipline, and even though you could call out the personnel for not getting it done on the field, the person you really have to call out is the coach, who is clearly not meting out consequences for consistently poor play. You could even maybe blame injuries, because the Colts have played so many games this season without so many key players.

This is a team that is built to play with the lead. Built to play with the lead. Built to play with the lead. This means that they have to come out strong and actually GET a lead with which to play. That should mean that they come out confident and aggressive and ready to play, ready to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. Except that you would never get afraid just by looking at Tony Dungy, even at his most fired up. You know which coaches are scary when they get fired up? Bill Cowher. Jon Gruden. Jeff Fisher. Mike Shanahan. Bill Parcells. Do you see the pattern? What do all of those coaches have in common?

They’ve all been to the Super Bowl. All but one of them has WON the Super Bowl. Parcells and Shanahan have done it twice.

The Colts don’t come out onto the fiield with fire in their eyes and a stance that says that they are about to crush you into submission. That would be, you know, mean and stuff. The Colts play very polite football. They don’t quite come out onto the field and politely ask their opponents to roll over and play dead so that they can look good on TV this week - but that’s the way they act. They play presumptuous football, but they don’t have the balls to back it up. The reason that it works so much of the time is that so many of the teams they play in the regular season are bad. They play polite football and take baby steps in terms of progress, but Manning and Harrison aren’t getting any younger.

The cream of the crop is starting to rise to the top, especially in the AFC. In the NFC, the current playoff picture has the sixth playoff spot going to the 6-6 New York Giants. By contrast, in the AFC, there are FIVE 7-5 teams that would have to wade through a sea of tiebreakers to determine which two get into the playoffs if the season ended today. That would leave three 7-5 AFC teams on the outside looking in, while the 6-6 Giants go to the playoffs.

I’m being too hard on the Colts and I know it; this is not the end of the world, and it isn’t even the end of this season. This team can bounce back from adversity. But it concerns me deeply when a team content with taking baby steps forward suddenly takes such a disastrous leap backward.

Power Rankings

Like last week, the Monday night game (Carolina at Philadelphia) has no bearing on these rankings.

Honorable Mention - Seattle and New Orleans, both at 8-4, must now be thought of as real threats, Seattle because they’re healthy again, and New Orleans because it’s not just a fluke. These guys can play. And Reggie Bush jumps back ahead of Joseph Addai in the Offensive Rookie of the Year category this year. New England would be an honorable mention, too, but they struggled at home to beat the Lions. Age is taking its toll on the Patriots.

5. Baltimore - Sure, Cincinnati had to have the win to keep its playoff hopes alive, but that was a game the Ravens should have won. It doesn’t take long for doubt to resurface when you’re talking about a team with such an enormous aggregate age as the Ravens.

4. Indianapolis - When they commit turnovers, the Colts are very vulnerable, because they have a hard time regrouping. On the other side of the coin, if you let the Colts come out and score two touchdowns on you in the first half of the first quarter, you don’t have a prayer. Just depends on which Colts team you get.

3. Dallas - Key division win over NYG solidifies their lead in the division. Huge matchup next week against the Saints - who have the conference 2-seed right now. Oddly, though: the Cowboys, even if they beat New Orleans, would likely not be the 2-seed after next week. Why? The Seahawks, also 8-4 (like the Cowboys and Saints), play Arizona. If Seattle and Dallas both win, Seattle is the 2-seed based on a 7-3 conference record against Dallas’ 6-3 conference record. Maybe the NFC isn’t as bad as everyone was starting to think.

2. Chicago - What can I say? First team to clinch a playoff berth and first team to clinch their division. Key stat? Grossman - 0 touchdowns, 3 picks. But the Bears won. Manning the elder had 1 touchdown and 2 picks. The Colts lost. The Bears gained only 107 total yards of offense, committed five turnovers, and still won. That’s impressive.

1. San Diego - Speaking of impressive. Yes, they were playing the Bills, but with the Colts loss, the Chargers are now knotted with Indianapolis and Chicago for best record in the league. The Bolts also have the best player in the league, the best young quarterback in the league, and the best offense in the league. This is what the Colts would look like if they had fire in their eyes when they took the field. The Colts are built to play with a lead. The Bolts are built to destroy you, lead or no lead.


3. Tony Romo - Dallas is playing great football at the right time, thanks mostly to Romo’s super-efficient passing. The Cowboys have the easiest remaining schedule of the three 8-4 teams, and could conceivably be the #2 seed in the NFC.

2. Peyton Manning - The rush defense is actually getting worse, and Manning has apparently reached a critical mass in terms of how much of the rush defense problem he can mitigate on his own. Without him, though, this team doesn’t make the playoffs.

1. LaDanian Tomlinson - Has been neck and neck with Manning most of the season, but had better numbers today, and his team won. The #1 seed in the AFC may not be determined until the last game is played. Tomlinson has his team moving in the right direction - Manning doesn’t.