Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Here We Go - Vertigo...Video, Vertigo...Test For Echo

Here is a list of popular musical artists and bands. See if you can spot what they have in common.

Peter Gabriel, Kate Bush, Norman Whitfield, Big Star, Richard and Linda Thompson, Chicago, Rush, Styx, Yes, Pete Townshend, Carole King, Dire Straits, Steve Miller, The Cars, Moody Blues, The Hollies, Metallica, Alice Cooper, John Mellencamp, Jethro Tull.

(Cue the music they play during Final Jeopardy!)

Any ideas? Notions? Okay, here it is. None of the acts on this list (which is not in any kind of order, in case you were wondering) are in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The story behind all of this, one that asks readers which bands they think have been wrongly shunned by the Rock Hall, can be found here on MSNBC.

At the bottom of the story is a poll that online readers can take - the question asks which of the names in the list above is the most overlooked, with respect to inclusion in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There are twenty names on that list - and only three of those names got 10% or better of the voting. Chicago and Peter Gabriel got 10% each, but the band that got the most votes, 12% of the votes cast?


Of course, there may be some problems with that list, too. As I looked it over the first time, my eyes locked on Townshend's name. Surely, I thought, it cannot be that The Who is not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I searched the database of inductees at the Rock Hall's web site, and sure enough, The Who was inducted in 1990 - and Townshend was part of that induction. Actually, this is getting worse as I go along. I am searching the Rock Hall web site while I am composing this blog post, and I just got a search string back on Carole King - who was inducted in 1990, with Gerry Goffin as songwriters in the non-performance category. That's not the same, technically, as Carole King being inducted as the folkie who recorded the remarkable album Tapestry, but she is in the hall.

I may update this later tonight - I have to head off to work now, however. One last thing - while looking around the Rock Hall web site, I came across the 2007 inductee list. Van Halen is on it. Van Halen gets into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame before Rush does. This hurts me.

UPDATE: Just got home from work, and checked the poll again. Rush is now at 13%. Chicago holds at 10%, and Peter Gabriel dropped to 9.6%. Also, for the record, I think that the following artists from that list belong in the hall: Rush, Peter Gabriel (twice - as a solo artist and with Genesis), Carole King (as a performer), and Chicago. I would say Pete Townshend, too, but he's already in with The Who, and if he's done any solo material, I can't imagine that it stacks up to the work he did, or the performances he gave, with The Who. I would almost say Metallica, too, but I don't think they are eligible yet. An artist is not eligible until 25 years after their first record. Metallica's first album, Kill 'Em All, was released in July of 1983. Unless there was a single released long before the album was released, then they have a while to go before they are eligible.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Keeping Abreast Of Current Events

Here’s another one from the Dave Barry “I swear I’m not making this up” file. I was going over the news this morning on MSNBC, before heading out for the Colts rally on Monument Circle, and I came across this article concerning the debate over moms who breast-feed in public.

Now, I’ve never really thought about it (although I suppose that the topic will come up sometime in the near future), but I suspect it’s the sort of thing that can be done discreetly and which does not have any serious effect on the people who happen to witness it. I haven’t yet read the article, though, because I was just getting ready to head out the door - it was the headline on the web page that caught my eye, and this is the part that I swear I am not making up. At least as of this morning when I saw it, the link on the MSNBC front page, that lead to the story about breast-feeding in public, was in this way phrased:

“Public breast-feeding exposes divide.”

(I really did not make that up - but you know there’s some guy in IT at MSNBC who is looking at that headline and feeling proud of himself, for being topical and funny at the same time.)

I can almost hear Bill Engvall responding to this:

“Well...I guess that’d depend on the mother, right?”

Right. If it were a gymnast or a figure skater breast-feeing in public, maybe the public would not be so clearly divided. If it were Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, well...then probably the public would be much more deeply divided.

Just one last thing about this topic, which I imagine a lot of women are talking about - you know where all the men are on this subject, right?

Uh-huh...somewhere in the middle.

(It was the Atlas Shrugged one. I don't know anything about Jim Morrison's pants.)

The Pearl Jam Song Of The Day

This is a classic old bit from college, although at the time there were far fewer Pearl Jam songs to select from than there are today. Back then, we had only two albums from which to cull the Pearl Jam Song of the Day - Ten and Vs. Of the band's eight studio albums, these are two of the best, but many of their finest songs appear on other albums. Of my favorite Pearl Jam songs (yes, I have a top ten), only three appear on these two albums - although two others were recorded early in the band's life and probably could have been included on Ten. One, "Yellow Ledbetter," was recorded during the Ten sessions. The other "State Of Love And Trust," was included on the soundtrack of the movie Singles, but I don't know with absolute certainty that it was recorded during the Ten sessions (though I think it was). Another is a Bob Dylan cover that they played during a benefit concert at Benaroya Hall in Seattle. Of the other four, two are from Vitalogy, and one each are from No Code and Riot Act.

The Pearl Jam Song of the Day for today came up as a surprise on a Pearl Jam mix CD I had burned for playing in my car. While going to get coffee tonight, I caught the tail end of "Ledbetter" on X103 and ached that I had missed it, since it fit my mood at the moment. I threw in the Pearl Jam mix CD and dialed up "Ledbetter" (as a rule, all Pearl Jam mix CDs should end with "Ledbetter"), then started from the beginning to see if today's song was on the CD. I wasn't sure I had even put it on the CD, but just as I got near the end, there it was - the version from the Benaroya Hall CD.

Today's Pearl Jam Song of the Day is "Off He Goes," from No Code, which is easily their most underrated album. It's a nice little tune - one that would be fun to play if I were good enough at playing guitar to run the mildly complex chord progressions they use here. Seems like everything Pearl Jam plays has complex chord progressions, but that's probably only because I'm not very good on the guitar.

Ah, well. Who is John Galt?

Monday, January 29, 2007


Venus is the story of Maurice Russell (Peter O’Toole, in an Oscar-nominated role), an actor whose best days (actually, nearly all of his days) are behind him and who is in the process of learning how to die so that when that event comes to pass he will know how to play the role. He is content these days to take small roles and nosh at the local eatery with his mates. You get the sense, though, that Maurice isn’t quite through living just yet, or that perhaps he has some unfinished business to attend to before he shuffles off this mortal coil.

Enter Jessie, a brash young girl related to Maurice’s mate Ian, and who comes to stay with Ian to...what, take care of him in his dotage? This is the stated purpose of her arrival in the story, but the fact is that it doesn’t matter what she’s there for - it only matters that she’s there; and the only reason that matters is that there would be no character for Peter O’Toole to play if there were no Jessie in the story.

Maurice is a man who likes to give other people pleasure, both professionally as a stage actor, and personally as a sort of modern-day Lothario. Vanessa Redgrave plays his ex-wife - he left her at some point in their life because he is the kind of man who leaves his wife at some point in their life. That they have stayed in touch over the years, seemingly come to terms with each other, and now at the end of life take care of one another after a fashion, suggests that it must be surmised that love really does conquer all - or is at least resigned to the idea of forgive and forget when there is a light bulb that needs to be changed.

Maurice takes it upon himself to introduce himself to Jessie and to befriend her - yet one more conquest in a long line of them, never mind the fact that Jessie is only about nineteen or so, and Maurice is roughly as old as Yoda (and is about to undergo prostate surgery that will render him impotent). Yet that’s not really the point - the point is that it is a fine thing when we meet people who can accept us just the way we are and like us and love us not in spite of the way we are, but because of the way we are.

Jessie has little in the way of real love in her life - telling Maurice at one point that her mother once said to her that her life would have been easier if Jessie had not been born - and is eventually drawn to Maurice because she craves the love and attention that he foists upon her. She also knows, quite apart from the surgery that renders him impotent, that he is safe. The two begin a strange sort of courtship that is not really a courtship, and learn many things about life and love (and, in Jessie’s case, fame) from each other.

The problem, however, is the sexual tension between the two characters, especially the way that sexuality manifests itself in some rather crude scenes scattered throughout the film. Maurice’s ship has sailed, so to speak, in that regard - his little elf has left Midde-Earth for good - and Jessie does not truly have anything to give him, even if he had the means of taking it. She begins to relent to his awkward advances only as she begins to get to know him better, and seems at turns repulsed and aroused by the attention he pays to her body. You can almost see her working it out in her head how this might have been sixty or seventy years ago when all of him was still in good working order.

The sexual tension, then, serves only to illustrate how pathetic the characters are; it does not cause the audience to sympathize with two people who might have been a lovely couple if roughly everything in their lives (including the facts of their births) had gone differently.

Instead, it is the romance between Maurice and Jessie that opens up their characters and lets them see things about life and themselves that they have missed. Maurice demonstrates this better than Jessie does, when he shares a very sweet, tender moment with his ex-wife. Jessie, unfortunately, is drawn into another scene of overt sexuality that is both clumsy and crude, and useless.

Ultimately, this is little more than a vehicle for Peter O’Toole in the twilight of his remarkable career - a story worked up just to give him a shot at that elusive Best Actor Oscar that has eluded him the previous seven times he has been nominated for it. The story isn’t really much of a stretch, though; it’s basically Peter O’Toole playing Peter O’Toole - just sort of picture how life might have gone for him if he had turned down Lawrence Of Arabia.

In any other year, he might have won the award, too. It’s sort of a shame, I guess - although I would have felt bad for him if he had to accept his long-coveted Oscar for a movie like this. I won’t have too, though, because Forest Whitaker will win for The Last King Of Scotland, unless the Academy voters make one of those egregious lifetime achievement mistakes the way they did when Julia Roberts won for Erin Brockovich.

Friday, January 26, 2007

People Are Actually Amused By This, Right?

I have to know. I get this kind of garbage in my inbox from time to time, and my knee-jerk reaction is to take pity on people who find these things amusing - but then I wonder, who are these people? Do they really find this stuff funny, or do they just sort of pass along these banal e-mails because it makes them feel like better fans? I have no answers to any of these questions, but I offer up the following, which I got in my inbox just a moment ago, for your consideration:

"Anthrax scare in Chicago
CHICAGO (AP) -- Chicago Bears football practice was delayed nearly two hours today after Rex Grossman reported finding an unknown white powdery substance on the practice field. Head coach Lovie Smith immediately suspended practice while police and federal investigators were called to investigate. After a complete analysis, FBI forensic experts determined that the white substance unknown to Rex and the team was the goal line. Practice resumed after special agents decided the team was unlikely to encounter the substance again..."

Am I just missing it? Is that actually funny? I don't even like the Bears, and I could not manage to find any humor in it. Maybe it's because I know that the Bears had one of the best offenses in football - they were second in points, behind San Diego but tied with...guess who...yeah, that would be the Colts; tied with three other teams for eighth in passing touchdowns; and tied with two other teams for eleventh in rushing touchdowns; and they had more special teams touchdowns than any other team in the league.

I'm all for trashing the Bears, I really am - but don't bring me dumb shit like this. Bring me the 1.3 and 0.0 quarterback ratings that Rex the Wonderdog achieved this season. Bring me his 20 picks against 23 touchdowns - which is actually better than the ratios offered up by Ben Roethlisberger and Brett know, guys who have won Super Bowls. Bring me the fact that they had the easiest schedule in the league and that the toughest team they played all year was New England, and that the Patriots beat them.

Oh, and by the way - that white powdery stuff that makes up the goal line? It makes up all the yard markings on the WHOLE FUCKING FIELD! I can see it in my head - a field full of Chicago Bears, all jumping nimbly over every yard marker, Turk Wendell style, over the hash marks and numerals denoting the yard lines - all in some bizarre kind of dance to avoid that white powdery stuff.

Okay. I have to go get some lunch and go to work now.

He Is Not A Crook...Yet

Oh, the foibles of our Cheap Executive - who today called himself “the decision-maker” when it comes to what’s happening or going to happen in Iraq. Too bad all of those decisions are bad ones. He doesn’t have a track record of working and playing well with others when his party was in power - and he is doing nothing to establish his willingness to work and play well with others now that his party has been roundly dismissed from power on Capitol Hill. The AP article can be found by following this link to MSNBC.

He’s ignored most of the recommendations in the report issued by the Iraq Study Group, and now he’s challenging lawmakers not to be too hard on his new plan until they’ve seen if it has a chance to work? Based on what - all of the previous success we’ve had in Iraq? He says that he’s “picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed.” He says this as though it is news, or as though it means something. Of course - as the decision-maker - he’s going to pick the plan he thinks has the best chance of success. Does he actually believe that the American people think he would select a plan that had no hope of succeeding?

I doubt that he thinks that way - because I don’t think he would actively sabotage this country. He’s a bad president, but that does not necessarily make him a bad man. On the other hand, he’s got a shade less than two years left to go, no policy successes on either the foreign or domestic side, and supporters backing away from him like he’s got bird flu - there's a lot space there for paranoia to set in, especially if you've got Darth Cheney whispering in your ear all the time.

He has also challenged lawmakers from both parties to come up with their own ideas about how to fix the quaqmire that is Iraq. First of all, the lack of any other plans on the table does not automatically mean that the plan Bush has decided on is the right one. Second, no high-profile Senator or Representative is going to stick his or her neck out to propose a plan that might not work, and might not even be considered - I can’t imagine that anyone in Congress would want to get close enough to Bush that they might be risking their own careers in a vain attempt to pull this nimrod out of the quicksand. This is election season - not quite election year, of course - but election season.

There will be some ideas thrown about by some of the higher-profile Republicans who need to distance themselves from Bush before the 2008 Presidential election campaign gets into full swing. John McCain, the Senator from Arizona, supports both the war and the “surge” of new troops - and views an immediate or near-immediate exit from Iraq as tantamount to throwing up the white flag to the terrorists. McCain was in Vietnam and should know better - but is also running for President and knows that he must appeal to the war hawk faction of the Republican party if he is to stand a chance of winning the nomination.

The problems in Iraq are different than the problems in Vietnam, but the lesson is the same - it does not serve the interests of the United States to be involved in the internal disputes of a foreign country. Well, unless you’re an oil tycoon. There’s a fine, fine line between helping a country stand on its own two feet and helping a country fights its battles for it. The inept management of the Iraq war in the last going-on-four-years has blurred that line to the point that no one is really sure there ever was a line - and now there is this nebulous concept of “victory” that is keeping Bush from seeing just how badly things need to change in terms of what the United States is doing in Iraq.

Let me ask you this - when he actually turns into Nixon, how do you think we the people are going to know? For a long time, Bush opponents compared Bush to Nixon and came pretty close on most aspects of their characters except for the fact that Bush has never possessed the debilitating paranoia that so badlly hampered Nixon - and led him to have committed the break-ins at the Watergate.

Will there be a civil war in Iraq? That really depends on whether or not you consider what is going on there now to be a civil war. If you can still convince yourself that there is not yet a civil war in Iraq, then yes - eventually there will officially be one (or you will finally understand that what is happening in Iraq right now is civil war) The specter of Iran looming over all of this has to make you nervous, too. It’s only two years until the thirtieth anniversary of the overthrow of the Shah (who was, himself, a United States puppet - but whatever) and the installation of the Ayatollah in Iran. Suppose Ahmadinejad has something up his sleeve for that?

Because of the stretching of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11, the United States has no answer if Iran rises up with fists - against Iraq or any of its other neighbors, such as, I don’t know...Israel? There’s quite a lot resting on the decisions of our “decision-maker” in Washington. He gets to turn over the reins to someone new in less than two years, so he can go out on the lecture circuit. I don’t imagine he’ll be called back to Washington to advise on anything. If he keeps making decisions the way he is doing, though, I wonder just how much there will be left to hand over to the next President.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Take Back Perry Schools!

I went to the Perry Township school board meeting this past Monday night, and I have since been trying to decide whether or not I should say anything about it - though this is not beacuse it is not worth talking about, nor because I don’t have anything to say on the subject. It is worth talking about, and I have plenty to say about it, and not a few links to share for those who are interested.

However, one of the key issues in the current imbroglio down in Perry Township is that of civility - and the fact that four of the seven members of the school board have been less than civil to the growing number of citizens and educators in Perry Township who are vehemently opposed to what the school board - and it’s important to note that the people trying to do this are only four of the seven members - is trying to do.

Here it is, in a nutshell. The school board has placed Perry Schools superintendent Dr. Doug Williams on paid administrative leave - and their basic intent is to fire him. Their reasoning, according to this article in the Star, is that Williams has engaged in a pattern of uncooperative behavior with respect to the board, that he has abused his power, that he withheld requested financial information pertaining to the township (field trip travel receipts, I seem to recall), and that he circumvented the board when hiring contractors and approving contracts.

Whether these allegations are valid or not is a bit of a grey area. However, they are all minor issues that have little to do with education in Perry Township. The reasons behind why so much of this debate is taking place in the public square may only truly ever be known to a handful of people - I can think of four off the top of my head.

The citizens of Perry Township, to understate it quite a lot, are not in agreement with the board on any facet of this situation concerning Williams. The school board meetings have become contentious, and the board has squelched every opportunity for the people to address it. Indeed, citizens have been forcibly removed from some meetings for daring even to disagree out loud with the decisions of the board in this matter.

The by-laws of the Perry Township school board, as noted by board President Susan Adams herself, on Monday night, call for a 15-minute period after formal adjournment of the meeting for the public assembled at the meeting to engage in a question and answer session with the board. It was apparent on Monday night that the number of people who wanted to speak, and the scope of the things they wanted to say, would have resulted in a question and answer session lasting well beyond fifteen minutes.

As it happened, it wasn’t even close. Adams allowed one man to speak - a man who presented to the board the grievances that many of the citizens of Perry Township wish to have aired to and answered by the board. Granted, this gentleman did take the microphone in a brusque and somewhat argumentative way - though if you had attended the meeting and listened to the venomous condescension dripping from virtually ever word uttered by board president Susan Adams, you would have been hard pressed to have blamed the chap for being fiery when finally given the chance to talk - but the problem is, he wasn’t actually given much of a chance to talk. Adams cut him off in mid-tirade, and then she and the other three members of the board who control the majority got up and walked out of the meeting.

I mentioned civility earlier, because civility is what has been asked of people who support Williams, in a post on the blog site called Citizens In Support Of Dr. Williams. Reciprocating the lack of civility displayed by the four members of the board - who, by the way, are President Susan Adams, Vice President Nancy Walsh, Secretary Barbara Thompson, and Member Rubie Alexander - would only serve to bolster their rationalization for continuing to ignore the opposing viewpoints of the vast majority of citizens, and I would guess virtually all of the educators, in Perry Township. Bringing that lack of civility back upon the board by way of opposition would only drag the board’s opponents down to the level of its four lowest members.

And please believe me when I say that, after having witnessed the embarrassing display exhibited on the auditorium stage at Southport High School on Monday night, I would sooner step in front of a bus driven by Sandra Bullock than be brought down to any level that would place me on equal moral footing with Susan Adams.

The four previously mentioned members of the Perry Township school board are acting - primarily under the leadership and direction of Susan Adams - unilaterally to achieve an objective, the firing of Doug Williams, that they have not demonstrated will lead to a better system of education in Perry Township; they are undertaking this action without listening to the input of citizens and educators across a broad swath of Perry Township, and without considering the input of the three members of the board who sit in the minority on this issue; and they are doing it loudly and publicly in order to make a spectacle out of a situation that is not - based on its merits - remotely spectacular.

The needs of the students and educators of Perry Township are not being met by the actions of the four members of this school board - and by failing to meet the needs of students and educators in the township, the school board is failing, utterly, in the job its members have been elected to do. If Wiliams is to be removed for such minor issues as have been offered as evidence by this board - what then is the remedy for the actions of the board itself?

There is no remedy - except the remedy of election. But if you were at the meeting Monday night, you did not get the idea that Susan Adams is concerned with re-election. She and the other three members of her majority will not be re-elected - and they know it. They are not removing Doug Williams because it is the right thing to do. They are removing him because they want to - they are removing him because they can - and for reasons the rest of are likely never to know.

For more information, and to find out how you can help, go to: Take Back Perry Schools.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

2007 AFC Champions (Part 2)

Scott has an excellent blog on the AFC title game, over at Scoot’s Random Thoughts - he makes a good case for Manning as the player of the game, and points out a number of aspects about the game that I did not mention in my post. The long and the short of it is that if you think my posts on the Colts are, um...thorough...then you should definitely check out Scott’s posts.

What follows here started out as a comment to Scott’s post about the game, but, as per my usual, I got wordy - so I elected to post it in the Blog-O-Rama. I also did that as a way to shamelessly plug Scott’s blog for the sports fans out there who might not have wandered into Scott’s part of the world just yet.

I noted in my post that I thought Manning had not had a particularly good game, and that the Colts, for most of the first half, looked the way they always look in the playoffs - like kids who are about to have their lunch money stolen on the playground. However, I would like to make it clear that I was not thrashing Manning in particular when I said that Dallas Clark deserved the game ball. Manning, of course, is the bedrock foundation of the offense - he says let there be catches, and there are catches. And he sees that it is good. And so on. As goes Manning, so goes the Colts offense.

I think that Clark gets the game ball because he was the one who finally stepped up and started making the plays that Manning was putting out there. Prior to that, the Patriot secondary was making the plays - and they were just sick. There's no other word. The New England secondary is so good that they should have to play with some sort of handicap, just to even the score. My suggestion would be gravity boots.

Anyway, Clark was the one, I think, who really got the Colts fired up on offense - in part because of his catches, and in part because of his infectious spirit. I don't think there is another receiver in the league who is as excited when he catches a ball as Dallas Clark is - and the team feeds off of that. They needed not only the important completions, but also the spark, the fire, that Clark brings.

Up until their second field goal drive at the end of the first half, however, there was no spark - and that's why it's hard for me to call this a great game for the Colts. A great WIN, yes - but maybe not a great game.

The Colts did regroup nicely, as they always do. And yet, I see this as something of a negative - a result of the flawed Tony Dungy game plan. Said game plan, as I see it, is:

1. Win the toss.
2. Score quickly and intimidate other team into going vertical before they wanted to, thereby letting the Colts Cover 2 defense do its stuff.

Things get more complicated when the Colts do not win the toss - and they of course have no control over the coin. This means that the Dungy game plan comes down, in large part, to luck.

There are only so many days in a week, and so many dollars underneath the salary cap. Paying for the offense and perfecting the Cover 2 use up much of that resource base, which leaves the run defense high and dry - especially when you have a good linebacker fire sale every off-season.

What is most frustrating about it is that the run defense still has good personnel and can play well. They just don't (always) - and the breakdown between what they CAN do and what they DO do is a huge vulnerability. It isn't just Manning who gets rattled when the offense isn't firing or when he throws a pick - that affects the confidence of the run defense, too, becuase it shifts to them a burden they haven't trained themselves to carry. I suspect that the guys in the run defense feel slighted by the coaches and management, too, with all of the attention paid in practice and during the off-season to the offense and the guys who make up the Cover 2.

Yes, the Colts can - have generally always been able to - recover well at halftime (this year’s road divison games being notable exceptions); it concerns me that a team as loaded with talent as the Colts so frequently has to go back to the locker room and regroup.

I will readily admit that I may, in fact, be too critical of the Colts - but it’s very difficult to watch/listen to this team when they play poorly, because they have so much talent. It would be one thing if this were the Detroit Lions or the Arizona Cardinals. Those are not good teams - they aren’t even close. The Colts are a good team - in fact, they are a great team. They are loaded with talent at every position, and have some of the best guys in the league at quarterback, runningback, wide receiver, center, defensive end, free safety, punter, kicker, and return specialist. They have the best offensive coordinator in football, and one of the best head coaches. Apart from the fact that the run defense does not play well consistently, this is a team with few flaws.

The mark of a great team is not just that it plays well when it is supposed to, under ideal circumstances - it is also that the team plays well under adverse conditions, in hostile territory, and sometimes without key personnel due to injuries. Being able to regroup when things go wrong is a necessary part of every coach’s preparation, but for a team as good as the Colts, it concerns me that they have to rely on that part of the game plan as often as they do.

Monday, January 22, 2007

2007 AFC Champions

It wasn’t pretty, most of it was not particularly good football, and they spent a lot of time looking almost exactly like the deer-in-the-headlights team that got shown the playoff door two years running by this very same Patriots team. I still think the Tony Dungy game plan is flawed, I still think that there are glaring holes in a number of places, but none of that matters right now, right this second - and won’t matter for the next two weeks.

For now, the Indianapolis Colts are the AFC Champions - and for just a little while, that will be enough.

For the first time in the Peyton Manning/Marvin Harrison era, for the first time since the Colts came to Indianapolis in 1994. For the first time in NFL history, a team came back from an 18-point deficit to win a conference championship game. Speaking of firsts...

Earlier today, Lovie Smith became the first black man in the history of the National Football League to take his team to the Super Bowl after the Bears pounded the Saints and ended what had been a great Cinderella story. Just a little while ago, Tony Dungy became the second black man in NFL history to take his team to the Super Bowl.

For the first time in NFL history, a team gave up more than 100 yards rushing in EVERY game in the regular season - and that team was this year’s Colts. In the playoffs, none of the three teams the Colts have faced have rushed for 100 yards against the Colts rush defense.

For much of this game, the Colts looked cooked. The Patriots went for it on 4th and 6 and converted, then followed that with a 7-yard Corey Dillon run for a touchdown, with no Colt even close; Dillon walked in. On the Colts’ next offensive series, Manning threw a pick to Asante Samuel, who ran it back for a touchdown. Manning could not connect with any of his receivers deep downfield - a testament to how incredibly well the Patriots played the Colts in coverage and how ridiculously good their defensive backs are (even if they do make a lot of un-called contact). I thought Ed Reed was a disruptive defensive back - the New England secondary was all over every play, until late in the second quarter, when Manning finally started looking underneath to Dallas Clark (who had 6 balls for 137 yards, by the way). By contrast, the Colts looked horrendous in coverage, leaving wide stretces of the field open, and Tom Brady put passes there every time.

The Colts were unable to get any penetration on Brady, who had what felt like years to look downfield for receivers - seemingly a waste of time, since all he really needed to do was look underneath. The Patriots, on the other hand, got to Manning a lot - and Manning even got to himself once. With 9:25 left in the first half, Manning dropped back and swung around to his right. With no options at receiver, he slid to end the play, not quite making it back to the line of scrimmage. By rule, that goes as a sack, which was credited to Eric Alexander. But if you saw the game, you saw what happened - Manning sacked himself. The next play was a real sack - Roosevelt Colvin, who was born and raised in Indianapolis and went to college at Purdue, dropped Manning for a loss of 11 yards. On the next play, Manning failed to get the play off before the play clock ran down, and was called for a delay penalty. Hunter Smith had to punt from the Soldier & Sailors Monument.

And yet in spite of all that, the Colts managed to win the game - in spite of what was not a great game from Manning (and would have been downright atrocious, not to mention a loss, if Dallas Clark had not been there to finally make Manning look like Manning again), in spite of a running game that was only so-so until Addai ran those three perfect little yards for the touchdown that gave the Colts their first lead.

It was appropriate that Addai be the one to get that touchdown - the one that gave the Colts their first lead and wound up providing the margin that won the Colts the right to play in the Super Bowl. It was a play that Edgerrin James could never have made - the kind of play that cost the Colts the game the last time New England came to Indianapolis.

Despite some poor play-calling, a slew of dropped balls, and an 80-yard Ellis Hobbs kick return that set up a Jabar Gaffney touchdown that Dungy challenged. (The play stood, which was the correct call - it was one of the best end zone catches I have ever seen. Gaffney got one foot inbounds, barely, and also managed not to step out of bounds at any point while roaming the back of the end zone before the ball was thrown to him.)

There were some nice Colts plays - they were just few and far between, and were virtually nonexistent until the last drive for the Colts before halftime. The second half featured the tackle-eligible play in which Manning connected for his only touchdown pass, the Manning quarterback sneak for a touchdown, and the Jeff Saturday fumble recovery for a touchdown.

And now another first - this was the first time in NFL history that two offensive linemen scored touchdowns in one game. And not quite a first, but something unusual - Manning had a total of zero rushing touchdowns in the combined 2003, 2004, and 2005 seasons. In the 2006 season, he has had five rushing touchdowns.

The Patriots also played pretty clean football, which is unusual for them, at least when they play the Colts - the only fake injury was near the beginning of the game when Richard Seymour pretended to be hurt, but he actually ended up sitting out a lot of the game, so he may actually have been hurt. But he might just as well have been faking, too. If it were any other team but the Patriots, that would not have occurred to me, but playing dirty is one of the things that has helped New England win three of the last five Super Bowls. You take advantage of the rules when you can - Manning likes to catch the opposite team with twelve men on the field and call a quick snap, which results in a penalty. And even though that does exploit the rules, it isn’t cheating - which is what it is when the Patriots fake injuries to get extra timeouts.

That’s a minor quibble, though - the Patriots are an incredibly good team, mostly because they have the guy who I think is the best coach ever in NFL history, Bill Belichick. They also have one of the most poised quarterbacks I have ever seen play the game. Tom Brady has no fear - and will literally stand there in the pocket until he finds an open receiver. The Patriots have had the number of the Colts in the playoffs in years past - and they had the Colts’ number for almost half of this game, too. The Colts had just enough to win. I don’t know if that’s enough to win in Miami in two weeks, but it should be a good game.

I don’t know who got the official player of the game award, but if it went to anyone other than Dallas Clark, then it was given to the wrong guy. The Colts don’t win this game - aren’t even in a position to win it - if he doesn’t make some key catches.

It feels pretty good right now, even though the game was so ugly. It’s going to feel even better tomorrow...and then it’s going to feel pretty good for the next two weeks. And, of course, I’ll take an ugly win like this if it means that the Colts get to take home the Lombardi Tropy.

But for a guy who has had to endure so much criticism in the face of such great play for so many years, I really hope that Manning has the kind of game in Miami that he has had so many times here in the Hoosier Dome - 400 yards, 4 touchdowns, maybe a naked bootleg for a rushing touchdown. That would be a great end to what has been an odd season - sometimes frustrating, sometimes inspiring, and now, the best season the Indianapolis Colts have ever had.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

One Billion Dollars

I never thought that going to work would make me this rich. Was I ever wrong. Wrong as wrong could be, boy howdy. There I was, just minding my own business, milling about the lobby, when I happened to notice a piece of paper lying on one of the racks that hold our FLM magazines. I ambled over. Glory be - and I say this in almost all honesty - there it was, a billion dollar bill. Some yo-yo had left a billion dollars just lying around for me to find.

Oh Hosanna, oh don't you cry for me. It was almost the same size as real money, and bore colors similar to those found on the new twenty dollar note. But, oh was this one worth so much more than twenty little dollars. See...on the back was the "billion dollar question," which was: Will you go to heaven?, no. Have you ever lied? Shit. Stolen anything? Shit. Used God's name in vain? Goddamnit. Unless one or more of those, including the last one, was a foul tip, I'm out of there.

Good thing there are web sites for future brimstone fodder such as me. One of them, pimping a radio and, apparently, TV program called The Way Of The Master (which actually sounds kind of cool, until you remember that Bruce Lee is dead), is just sort of run-of-the-mill evangelical propaganda, including many examples of "actual" telephone conversations in which people who had been having doubts about their faith were firmly informed that anything less than full frontal faith in Jay-zus would mean death by wood-chipper and a lifeimte of burning in hell. (That's where they get those videos of fireplaces that you can play on your TV so it makes it look like you have a fireplace. Those are sinners burning in hell - Heathens Gone Wild!)

Anyway, a second web site pimped on the billion dollar bill was for Living Waters, an online portal full of evangelism resources (although, oddly, it makes no mention of where they stockpile all the hot air) - and this one actually had something that made me laugh out loud. Really hard. I was half afraid I was going to wake Amy up. Are you ready for this? Are you sitting down?

There's a board game you can get. Swear to...well, you know. I mean it. There's a board game you can get - apparently people around the world have been clamoring - clamoring, I tell you - for this kind of game, and now, AT LAST, it's available. It's called...Intelligent Design Vs. Evolution, and here's the tag line, which I promise, Dave Barry style, that I am not making up: "At last, a board game that reveals the insanity of perhaps the greatest hoax of our times - the unscientific 'theory of evolution.'"

Well. So much for that, I guess. I suppose it is safe to say that the people behind this board game will not be working with the people I wrote about yesterday, the ones who are going to work on global warming with the scientists. There are literally tens of millions of people in this country who buy into this kind of nonsense - depending on where you glean your information, the number is between forty and one hundred million people.

But hey, before this gets too dark and scary, let's go back to the first web site I mentioned, The Way Of The Master, and end on a light note. One of the little menus on their web page leads you to a News page (which you can get to by clicking on the above link), where they tell you what they're up to, what's new and exciting in their corner of the Internet. The News page contains not one, but two, jokes about people with only one tooth, and it also talks about the upcoming new design of their web site. They say that it's going to be a "spanky" new design. Not "brand spanking new," which was probably what they meant. No, a "spanky" new design. Again, I have to reiterate that I am not making any of this up. I swear to...well, you know.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Most Endangered Species - The Honest Man - Will Still Survive Annihilation

Here is a web-exclusive question and answer from Newsweek, a talk with Eric Chivian, director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, on the recent announcement that evangelical Christians are going to work together with scientists on the issue of “global and environmental climate change.”

There’s an anesthetized phrase for you - “global and environmental climate change.” Remember when it used to be called “global warming?” The way we sanitize the language here in America to make everything sound less horrible than it really is is just one of the many things comedian George Carlin has been right about over the years. I don’t know if he has ever actually used global warming in his skit about how we have changed what we call things in this country, but here’s one he has used, by way of example. “Post-traumatic stress disorder” used to be called “shell shock,” until the prescription drug companies figured out how they could make money off of it if they gave it more syllables, and a hyphen. (The first part is George's - the swipe at the drug companies is mine.)

Anyway...the evangelicals and the scientists are going to work together to, well...actually the Q & A doesn’t actually offer up many specifics, apart from the fact that the two groups are going to start working together. Apparently this means showing the world that the two nearly diametrically opposed groups of hominids can, in fact, agree on at least one thing. It also appears as though they plan to meet with “a bipartisan group of members of the Congress.”

It sounds like a good idea. The web site for Harvard’s CHGE, linked to above, has a number of links related to this story - including the press release, letters of support from Senators such as Richard Lugar (R - IN) and Barack Obama (D - IL), and various kinds of contact information.

I started to write some pretty cynical commentary on this story - such as the timing of the announcement of the plan and the somewhat empty nature of the rhetoric in the press release. Politicians and Christians are oh-so-good at talking without actually saying anything - and that makes this somewhat hard to swallow. I also can’t help but wonder if we ever would have heard about anything like this if the Republicans had not lost in November and Ted Haggard had not been caught soliciting sex and meth from a big burly guy.

But I’m going to hold back, for now, on the most scathing comments, and see how this one plays out. The science of global warming is nigh on overwhelming, but there are still far too many Appalachian-Americans (and their ilk - the Appalachians not, obviously, being transcontinental down the long axis of the country) whose only experience with books is with The Good Book. And for every Al Gore who goes on tour with the truth, there is a Michael Crichton who is only trying to sell books.

Okay, that got a little bit cynical. I guess I can’t help it. But it could have been worse. What I wrote originally had a bad 9/11 joke in there, along with a Deuce Bigalow reference (to the sequel, no less). I’m really going to try to be positive about this. Of course, I was positive about the sequel to Jurassic Park when I heard about that project. Ah well...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Kekse, Platzchen, Kekse, Platzchen

Hey, how about this...for the second day in a row I have discovered that one of my friends has landed in the Blog-O-Verse. Yesterday it was Scott, to liven up your sports world, and today it is Hillary, to liven up your baked goods world.

Backen Backen Backen promises to delight the reader with well-told treatises on the art of baking, as well as with candid descriptions of the foibles sometimes encountered while practicing said art.

She makes a mean Snickers-stuffed peanut butter cookie. Perhaps one day she will open her own bakery, so that all the townsfolk may partake of these delightful cookies. This would be splendid.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

1400 Yards!

Just a quick little shout-out tonight, to make it known that my buddy Scott has entered the Blog-O-Verse. Scoot's Random Thoughts has just lately gone live - and if you thought I blogged incessantly sometimes about sports, just wait until you head over to Scott J's blog. He'll hit you with way more sports than I will, and he will have better information on it than I will. The Colts are pretty much the only team I follow with any consistency - although I do like college basketball and will probably do a bit o' blogging about the NCAA tournament when that rolls around in March, especially since it looks like my Indiana Hoosiers might have a chance to win a game or two in the tournament this year.

For a wee bit of background, Scott is my best friend, and we have been best friends since high school, back in the day at Warren Central before the football team was any good. They actually used to lose football games - some quite spectacularly. We went to college together for a year at Indiana, too - and Scott said hi to Bill Raftery once as we were leaving a basketball game at Assembly Hall. That's neither here nor there, you understand - but it is the kind of goofy stuff we used to do back in college. There was once an incident at Taco Bell - the story appears in a fictionalized, embellished version in the novel I am writing (provided, of course, that said novel ever actually appears).

Ah, the good old days! Welcome to the full-on blog-fest, my friend. Good times, noodle salad...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Here's A Topic I Haven't Covered Before

I was sitting in my car and listening to Nights With Alice Cooper at one point tonight, and he played a bit he had recorded earlier, wherein he was talking with Jack Blades, one of those quasi-iconic rockers mostly known for having been involved with a one-hit wonder band (in the case of Blades, he was in Night Ranger when they recorded “Sister Christian”) and who has existed on the fringes of rock music ever since.

Over the years, he has worked with Tommy Shaw, whose zenith with Styx occurred at roughly the same time as, or perhaps a bit before, that of Blades, on a collaboration album and in an early-90s band called Damn Yankees. Blades and Shaw are set to release, in February, their second collaboration album, called Influence, a record of songs by other bands that Blades and Shaw have recorded, apparently to let the world know about some of the music they came up on.

One of the songs that Alice Cooper mentioned from the Shaw/Blades record is “The Sound Of Silence,” recorded originally by Simon & Garfunkel. Upon hearing that this song had been recorded by Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades, I decided that the time had finally come to kill myself. I cannot possibly listen to Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades sing “The Sound Of Silence” and still allow myself to live.

Which is sort of odd...because I actually like “Sister Christian.” I also like a couple of Styx songs; and I really liked Damn Yankees. I landed on the popular music scene between when Styx and Night Ranger were popular and when Shaw and Blades formed Damn Yankees with guitar legend Ted Nugent - though I landed much closer to Damn Yankees than I did to Styx and Night Ranger.

But then, that kind of music has always provoked strong feelings in me. Sometimes I hear songs done by bands other than the one who recorded the song, and I just want to...well, kill myself. Other times, I hear those kinds of songs, and I just laugh (like when Limp Bizkit did George Michael’s “Faith” and dropped an F-bomb in the middle of it). And then there are times when the new version is even better than the original version, although I think this happens less often than the new version sucks ass.

Jason Maier once called me a purist because I cringed when I heard the Dave Matthews Band doing a version of “All Along The Watchtower.” I am and I am not. Hearing Dave Matthews sing “Watchtower” is cringe-worthy. Then again, I can’t stand Dave Matthews or his band. I heard this song a couple of years ago when Jason and I were still working for Another Major Competitor in the movie theatre business.

It was 39 years ago when the album John Wesley Harding was released. This was the album on which first appeared the song called “All Along The Watchtower,” and the album was recorded by Bob Dylan...39 years ago. I was not alive 39 years ago. My parents had not yet married 39 years ago.

(Oddly, though, there was a dumb Texan in the Oval Office 39 years ago - one who escalated, against popular opinion, an unwinnable ground war in Asia.)

I shudder to think what a poll of one hundred random Americans would return to the question of who sang “All Along The Watchtower” - although I suppose it would depend on how you phrased the question and the age of the people you asked. Dylan wrote the song, but the best known version is the one done by Jimi Hendrix - and this is the best example of a song that was done better by the person who covered it.

The second best example is probably the song “Take It Easy.” Poll one hundred Americans about that song, and probably everyone would say the Eagles. But it would, again, depend on how you phrased the question. If you asked who wrote the song, and asked it of people my age or older, the more musically informed of them would say Jackson Browne, which is correct. He wrote the song, and recorded it, but did not have a hit with it. Then he let his pal Glenn Frey take a run at it - and Frey gave it his own unique twist, by extending the word “easy” into a long sing-song, and thereby turned an anonymous Jackson Browne song into one of the best-known songs the Eagles ever recorded. It remains Frey’s signature Eagles song - and was one of two songs the band played when they were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (the only time that every man who had ever been an Eagle, and there have been seven of them over the years, played together on stage). The other song they played was “Hotel California.”

Things don’t always turn out as well when someone records someone else’s song, though. Madonna butchered - literally, by cutting a couple of verses - probably the best folk-rock song of all time, Don McLean’s “American Pie,” when she “recorded” that song for the soundtrack of The Next Best Thing.

This also isn’t the first time that Simon & Garfunkel have been re-recorded. The Lemonheads did a version of “Mrs. Robinson” that sounds like they want to be the Byrds even though they are not; and the Bangles (seriously) recorded “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and managed not to mangle it, but they made it heavy with electricity, whereas Simon & Garfunkel made it heavy with implication and vocalization.

Sometimes the results are mixed. Bob Dylan has a song called “Make You Feel My Love,” on his amazing Time Out Of Mind album - a song that was later done by both Garth Brooks and Billy Joel. It’s easily the least impressive song on that Dylan album, though, and neither Brooks nor Joel really did anything to make it any better.

Then there is Billy Joel’s song “Shameless,” which appears on his mostly forgettable second-to-last rock album Storm Front. Billy Joel sounds like he’s forcing the song out of himself - but when Garth Brooks covered it on Ropin’ The Wind, he knocked it down, made it electrifying, and put more soul into it than Billy Joel could have done if he had recorded it on The Stranger rather than Storm Front.

Hell, bands sometimes even cover themselves. Whitesnake did it on Slip Of The Tongue when they re-recorded “Fool For Your Loving,” and Chicago did it on XVIII when they re-recorded “25 Or 6 To 4.” (Part of the reason for that may have been to take a shot at Peter Cetera, the best known singer Chicago ever had, and who left the band between XVII and XVIII. He sang lead on the original “25 Or 6 To 4,” and the band may or may not have wanted to prove how good newcomer Jason Scheff was - he was the one who sang the lead on the newer version.)

You’ve got the good and the bad. I’m probably more sensitive on the Tommy Shaw/Jack Blades cover of “The Sound Of Silence” than I am on other covers because it’s a song I grew up with and have grown to love over the years - especially since I learned what a happy accident it was, and how it might well have been that happy accident that helped launch Simon & Garfunkel to superstardom instead of anonymity.

The song almost never became a hit. The version they recorded originally was all acoustic, but it never played well. For the album version, an electric guitar track was substituted for the original acoustic track. The song and album both became hits, and Simon & Garfunkel shot almost instantly from relative anonymity to superstardom.

I can’t even stomach the idea of listening to Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades sing this song - yet there are many covers out there that are far better than the original material. Is it the iconic nature of a song that makes it uncoverable? I honestly don’t know. Hell, the world may never know.

(I apologize to anyone who set themselves to reading this post with the hope that eventually I would get around to the point. I am afraid that I have failed to include one here. What I fear that I have done is to loosely collect random observations with the hope that something central would emerge. That seems not to have happened. Sometimes what I do here is try to spur discussion. It does not always work as well I hope it will.)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Year Of Reading Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve been meaning to get around to this for a while, and just haven’t. Part of it is the fact that the press blitzed us with it last week, starting with NUVO; part of it is that I just haven’t had a chance to get into any of the books yet this year - I’m currently reading Boating For Beginners (Jeanette Winterson), Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand), A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway), and The Painted Veil (W. Somerset Maugham). And there are five other books from the library waiting in the wings - two memoirs (former HP CEO Carly Fiorina and former New Jersey governor James McGreevey), a book on the Rosslyn chapel, a book on Tarot, and a book on modern Greece.

As a somewhat related aside, when my buddy Steve was helping me move into my house last summer, he helped me carry into the house box after box of books - enough to fill the four six-foot and two three-foot bookcases in my office/study/writing room - and made this witty comment: “John, stop reading!”

So here it is, then - 2007 is The Year Of Reading Kurt Vonnegut here in Indianapolis. This is part of the One Book, One City program that Indianapolis got on board with a few years back - a program wherein people submit to the library their ideas for books that they would like to have everyone in the city read at roughly the same time. The library then whittles the list down to a number of finalists, and the winner is selected, if I recall correctly, by a panel of library folks, the mayor, and probably some others.

They have chosen to focus on Vonnegut this year, to honor the contributions to literature of perhaps Indiana’s best known writer. The article from NUVO, now a couple of weeks old, I’m sorry to say, can be found here, and the information on the library web site can be found here.

I’ll be interested to see which book is chosen to be the “one” book that everyone reads, once the final decision has been made. Slaughterhouse-Five is his best known and most popular book, and Cat’s Cradle is the one that put him on the map, back in the sixties. I half expect one of them to be chosen (probably the former), but would be impressed and surprised if the choice were something a bit less under the radar - such as Palm Sunday, a non-fiction book of essays, speeches, and other bits that he has written over the years, and one that sings something of a song about Indianapolis, where he was born and raised. Player Piano would also be a good selection - it’s his first novel, and it reads a lot like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, except that it’s also funny.

Monday, January 15, 2007

He Got (No) Game

It is no secret that I have been hard on the Colts this season, even when they were doing well. I was quick to praise them early in the season when things were going well, and I even hung in there and wrote about what happened when things were not going well. I have had my theories, which I have talked about over and over again - which mostly center around the ideas that this Colts team will never win a Super Bowl, because Tony Dungy doesn’t have the heart to get it done and because Bill Polian refuses to spend money on building the defense the way he has built the offense (apart from Dwight Freeney, but Dwight Freeney alone does not a defense make) - and I have given credit where credit is due, and doled out blame where I thought the blame was due.

As the Colts went 3-4 in their last seven games, I gradually stopped referring to them as the best team in the league - because, clearly, they no longer were. The Chargers had stepped up to take that mantle away from the Colts, behind the incredible play of LaDanian Tomlinson and the emergence of starting quarterback Philip Rivers.

Last week, I even started to write about a Bob Kravitz column, which can be found here, in which our local columnist mentioned that he heard, while leaving the Colts-Chiefs game, Colts President Bill Polian say, “(Bleep) defense, huh?” to another reporter (not to Kravitz), as Polian walked away.

Well...okay, they did have a good game against the Chiefs, but I’m not sure that one good game makes up for a season in which the run defense gave up 173 yards per game. I did not put that post into the Blog-O-Rama, though, because I decided that it was not fair to thrash the Colts after they had done so well in their first playoff game.

But I still did not believe that they were going to go to the Super Bowl, much less win it. I have gotten my hopes up way too much over the last couple of years, only to see those hopes dashed up against the cliffs of reality, to get that excited about the Colts WITHOUT some proof that they had the game to back it up.

Now they have gone and beaten the Ravens, though - and they did it on the road, against a Ravens team that was much better in almost every respect than the Chiefs team that the Colts dismantled last week. The Colts, who gave up 173 rushing yards per game in the regular season have given up a TOTAL of 127 rushing yards in the playoffs, against two different 1000-yard backs.

And last night I wrote a blog post about how the Colts were going to beat the Patriots in the AFC Championship game in the Hoosier Dome next weekend, even though, at the time I wrote the blog, the Patriots had not yet beaten the Chargers to earn the right to play the Colts nex weekend for a spot in the Super Bowl. I wrote that blog because I really believed that the Patriots were going to beat the Chargers, and because I really believed that the Colts would then beat the Patriots - behind four Manning touchdown passes, all of which could come in the first half.

Because I’ve got that feeling again about this team. They have played football that has made me feel good and has been fun to listen to and to watch. I don’t think you necessarily have to have Manning throwing for 400 yards and 4 touchdowns every game - just like I don’t think the rush defense needs to hold the opponent under 100 yards each game. But they need to do something equivalent in every game, because this is a team that is capable of dominating most teams in this league.

And that’s what they have done in the playoffs so far this year - they have dominated their opponents. Kansas City was never in the game last week, and Baltimore was never really in the game last night, although it’s hard to say while the game is being played that either team is really out of it as long as only field goals are being scored.

The Colts have played football that is worthy of respect and admiration and extraordinarily verbose blog postings. They have played the kind of football of which they have been capable all year, and they are going into an AFC title game - on their home field - with a full head of steam, to take on a team they have already beaten once this year.

I told Amy a couple of weeks ago that three things needed to happen in order for the Colts to win the Super Bowl. The first was that they had to beat Kansas City; the second was that they had to beat Baltimore; and the third was that San Diego had to lose before the Colts got to them. All three of those things have happened. I see no obstacle to the Colts winning next week against the Patriots, and I see no way at all that either the Saints or the Bears can compete against EITHER the Colts or the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

And then I read ridiculous comments on Shane’s blog about how getting to the Super Bowl doesn’t mean that you belong there. Getting to the championship game of any sports league that has a legitimate playoff system OF COURSE means you belong there, because it means you have won enough games in the regular season to make the playoffs, and then won the games you were asked to play in the playoffs. You have survived the postseason system.

The person making the comments mentioned the Falcons, Giants, and Raiders, teams that have, in recent years, not performed well in Super Bowls. Well...let’s take a look at those then, hmm? The Raiders played Tampa Bay in the 2003 Super Bowl - that would be the year Jon Gruden was hired to replace the fired Tony Dungy, who was fired because he could not manage to get his lauded Tampa Bay team to the big game. Gruden did it in one year, largely by bringing fire to the locker room and inspiring the same players Dungy had to play better football. And let’s see...about the Raiders. Oh yeah, that’s right - that was the year that Rich Gannon won the MVP award. They usually give that to guys who play on crappy teams that don’t belong in the Super Bowl.

The Falcons lost in the 1999 Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos. The Broncos in 1998 and 1999 were, quite simply, a team of destiny. John Elway was in the last years of his career, Rod Smith was in the prime of his career at wideout, and Terrell Davis - who won the MVP award for the year in which the Broncos beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl - was an unstoppable force at runningback. No team from the NFC was going to beat the Broncos that year.

The New York Football Giants lost the 2001 Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens in what was probably the classic example of the old adage that “defense wins championships.” That was a Baltimore defense that was very similar to the Baltimore defense of this year - which was tops in the league - and featured a younger version of Ray Lewis (the Super Bowl MVP), along with a linebacker called Peter Boulware. The Giants didn’t choke - they were annihilated. You can’t say a team chokes when the other team comes out and flattens them like Baltimore did that year, or like the Chicago Bears did in the 1986 Super Bowl against the Patriots.

In all three cases (although somewhat less so for the Raiders), the losing team was up against a team that was much, much better. But all of those losing teams deserved to be there, because they won playoff games. And you can’t just win playoff games in the NFL without playing good football. You hear it said that it’s a whole new season once the playoffs start - and this is true in the NFL more than in any other sport, because it’s single elimination. And in this way, the NFL playoffs are much like the NCAA Tournament in college basketball. The regular season is there so that deserving teams can demonstrate that they deserve to be in the playoffs. And once those playoff teams are determined, all bets are off, and it’s a whole new ball game, so to speak. Just ask the George Mason team from last year’s NCAA Tournament.

His last statement reads: “Proving you belong in the Super Bowl doesn't have anything to do with getting in. It has to do with how you play when you get there.”

Incorrect. How you play when you get there proves whether or not you deserve to WIN the Super Bowl, not play in it. Winning the playoff games actually DOES prove that you belong in the Super Bowl.

I’m all for going round and round talking about the Colts specifically and the NFL in general - but really, if you’re going to make an argument about the Colts, you’ve got to come with much, much better game than this guy did.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Bizarro Colts And The Strange Case Of The Hoosier Dome AFC Title Game

Who are these guys and what have they done with the Colts? Who would have thought that the Colts could win not just one, but two (and one of those on the road), playoff games despite five Manning picks against a scant one touchdown? Who would have thought the rush defense could hold the opposing running game to an average of 63.5 yards? This was a Colts team, you may recall, which gave up well over 170 yards per game, on average, to the opposing tailbacks during the regular season. Clearly we have slipped into some Bizarro world where everything is topsy-turvy and nothing makes sense. Next thing you know, the Colts will be hosting the AFC title game...

I haven't fired up a Colts blog since they blew the Texans game a while back, though not because I have completely lost interest in doing so. See...I'm a little bit superstitious when it comes to sports - and have therefore, of course, decided there must be a correlation between the Blog-O-Rama's silence with respect to the Colts and the fact that the Colts have not lost since my last blog about them.

Which means that it will be my fault when they lose next week in the AFC title game in the Hoosier Dome...except that they are not going to lose next week in the Hoosier Dome. They are going to beat the Patriots - in what should be an amazing game to watch or listen to - and they are going to then board an airplane and fly to Miami, Florida, where they will compete in - and win - Super Bowl whichever the hell this one is (XLI, I think).

There are myriad reasons why they will win next week's AFC title game in the Hoosier Dome, including the fact that they have not lost in the Hoosier Dome this season. You could also point to the fact that they have played pretty solid, complete football in the last two games and that that play has helped them gain momentum at a time when momentum is sometimes the difference between hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and watching the game at home.

Those are both valid reasons why the Colts will win next week in the Hoosier Dome to advance to the Super Bowl, but neither is the best, nor, in my opinion, the correct one. The reason the Colts will win next week over the Patriots in the Hoosier Dome is because Manning is going to throw for four touchdowns, and there is no team on the planet that can beat the Colts when Manning is in his zone and playing his kind of game.

He was ineffective due to picks in the Kansas City game because, as Shane correctly noted here, the Kansas City secondary contains Ty Law, to whom Manning has an apparently pathological desire to throw footballs, despite the fact that Ty Law always insists on playing for the other team. Also, Manning was nervous - first playoff game, pressure to win, pressure for the defense to contain Larry Johnson, etc. I doubt anyone will ever say that Manning handles his pre-game jitters as well as, say, Brett Favre. Manning was ineffecitve due to picks tonight against Baltimore because...

What the hell is up with Ed Reed? This guy is the most disruptive defensive back I have ever watched play. You may say that Champ Bailey is a better cover corner, or that Ronnie Lott was a better tackler - but did you see how many times Ed Reed just appeared on the scene tonight, as if from nowhere? He could go up to the stands to sell popcorn and peanuts while the other team is in the huddle, and still get back down on the field in time to break up a play or make a tackle. He's just a freak - and you can point to the fact that the Colts got some amazing clutch kicks (crossbar!) from Vinatieri tonight, and also that the Colts shut down the Baltimore running game...but luck played a part in this game. The Colts have to feel very fortunate that Ed Reed did not get the chance to run back one of those picks for a score.

I actually said almost as much to Amy last week when we were talking about whether or not the Colts stood a chance against the Ravens. (By the way, even though I never said this and you'll probably suspect me for only bringing it up now that the Colts have the Ravens safely behind them - I was more worried about Kansas City than I was about Baltimore. I have thought all season that the Ravens were overrated. Something you will notice about teams in the NFL is that the ones who have great defenses, and win a lot of games MOSTLY because the other team fails to score points, get overhyped by the media. Both the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears are cases in point this year. Also, both teams had schedules that were just ridiculously easy.) I told her that, if Manning threw three picks to Baltimore like he did to Kansas City, Ed Reed would run at least one of them back for a touchdown.

Manning will not have such a rough time against New England - the Patriots are not nearly as disruptive in the secondary, Manning knows he can beat them, the game will be in the Hoosier Dome, and the Colts will come out with fire in their hearts for the first time all year, at the best possible time they could have picked to come out on fire. Manning may even have those four touchdowns in the first half - we could conceivably see Jim Sorgi take a few snaps in the AFC title game. Wouldn't that be something?

Friday, January 12, 2007

One Large Pizza With Chorizo And Jalapeno, Por Favor

Here’s an article on MSNBC that talks about a chain of pizza restaurants in Dallas that has decided to take pesos as a form of payment. The chain is called Pizza Patrón, is based in Dallas, Texas, and has been in business for over twenty years. The founder of the chain is called Antonio Swad.

Guess where he’s from? Hell, take a thousand guesses, like that game on The Price Is Right where you get ten chances to write down the right prices of three different prizes. Okay, your time is up. According to the MSNBC article, the guy is part-Italian, which probably does not come as a surprise - he’s also part-Lebanese, which probably does come as a surprise.

Part Italian. Part Lebanese. Not at all Mexican. Not that that is a problem, you understand. Seems like a no-brainer to me that a store in Dallas would accept pesos for payment. According to the U.S. Census bureau, Dallas is approximately 42% Latino - chances are that a lot of those folks are going to have some pesos to spend from time to time.

Here’s the nice thing about it - Pizza Patrón is reaching out to the Latino population, asking for their business, acknowledging and accepting that population as part of its community, and embracing these folks. Good, good, good, and good.

And yet they are getting death threats and hate mail because of this policy? Can someone explain this to me (without also using hate speech)? Can anyone explain to me how it is that a country founded by immigrants and steeped in the ideas of freedom, equality, and opportunity can just arbitrarily turn its back on a certain group of people who want to come here for the very same things we came here for in the first place (apart from religious freedom, which they already have)?

We’re not losing our national identity here, okay? What we’re losing is perspective. You know what is great about this country? Its diversity. What would New York City be today if not for all the Jews, Irish, and Italians who came over here and set up shop in Manhattan? What would San Francisco be without the gays and the hippies? What would New Orleans be without all the black guys playing jazz and the blues? BORING!

Without all of the color, this would be one hell of a boring country, nothing but white conservative boredom from sea to shining sea. We could rename the country Kansas. But let’s not. Let’s embrace the fact that we aren’t all the same, that some of us don’t speak the same language as most of the rest of us, and that all of us are here because this is, at least for a little while yet, the best place in the world to live and work and raise our kids.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Save The Afterbirth! And The Umbilical Cord, If It's Convenient!

A study pulblished in the journal Nature Biotechnology indicates that there are stem cells within the amniotic fluid surrounding babies in the womb - and that these cells, which can be extracted without killing anything that can be remotely thought of as “life,” even by the most ignorant conservative, have the potential to be nearly as exciting as embryonic stem cells.

Not the same as emryonic stem cells - amniotic cells are extracted much further down the line than are embryonic stem cells - but possibly more exciting than adult stem cells, which are extracted at an even later stage of the game. Newsweek has an article that talks about the research published in Nature Biotechnology, and discusses the ways in which amniotic cells are different from ebryonic cells.

I heard about this a couple of days ago and have been sort of wrestling with it - is it good, or is it bad...can I find something nice to say, or will I just be an argumentative shit like I usually am? I believe I can come up with a wee little bit of all four.

My first inclination was to be indignant about it - because work along these lines was made necessary when work with ever-increasing numbers of lines of embryonic stem cells could have been going on since 2001 when Bush, during his un-elected term, banned the use of federal dollars to extract new lines of stem cells from fertilized embryos. But what would be the point of that indignance on my part?

So Bush sees a fertilized embryo and a living, breathing person as the same exact thing - sort of like a packet of tomato seeds and a garden full of plump, ripe, succulent tomatoes would be the same thing. He’s an idiot; everyone knows this by now - too bad you fucking Republicans can’t take your stupid votes back for a refund, huh? Okay...that takes care of “is it bad” and the “argumentative little shit” portions. Let’s turn that frown upside down and look on the bright side of pro-life. Ready?

In spite of all the roadblocks to their success that come with having King George II in the White House, scientists have soldiered on, and have come up with this amniotic stem cell idea. Since the potential of amniotic cells seems to fall somewhere between the potential of embryonic cells and the potential of adult cells, the research to be done on them and with them will probably help scientists to learn even more about the other two kinds of cells than they already know - although this absolutely should not be seen as any kind of equivalent substitution for unfettered work on and with embryonic cells.

They’ve still got a long way to go on it, and they can probably find a way to spend most of the next 739 days - that would be the countdown to a new and better President - working on the amniotic cells. Then, on the 740th day, when the new President undoes the damage Bush did, by reversing the ban on federal funding, they can go back to work on finding new lines of embryonic stem cells and be able to use all the progress they made working with amniotic cells to further their work with the embryonic cells. turns out that research on amniotic stem cells “is good,” and I also found “something nice to say” about it. It probably won’t be the only time I’ll weigh in on this one. The issue of stem cell research may become the most important matter of science in our lifetimes, and it will be left to liberals and progressives to make sure that it remains in the spotlight and gets the attention it deserves, because conservatives will feel compelled to invoke their “god myth” in order to excuse their fear and lack of understanding of it.

You can probably expect Bush to say something about the promise of amniotic cells in the coming weeks. His speech last night, about sending more troops to Iraq, was poorly received, and the House is about to pass a bill that would bolster federal funding for embryonic stem cell research - a type of bill that Bush vetoed last year and will veto again when and if it hits his desk this year. He will veto the bill even though polls show that most Americans support research with embryonic stem cells - and the veto will do nothing to help him gain back support from the people he has alienated. He will probably try to latch on to amniotic cell research as a way to placate a vast number of people, even though he doesn’t have any more elections to win.

I have this sneaking suspicion that he will in some way try to equate the potential of amniotic stem cell research with the potential of embryonic stem cell research - and that some ambitious member of his communications office will help to craft a speech in which the Presdent blurs the line between the two so much that the American people are fooled into accepting his illogical thinking. Bit of America bashing there, huh? Ana had a nice blog the other day in which she said in its second sentence that she did not mean to bash America.

That can be difficult not to do, though - we just aren’t getting much right at the moment. America is the broken-down Ford Taurus going along the interstate in the fast lane while doing only forty miles an hour, while the rest of world, tired of waiting behind us, finally elects to pass us on the right in their Hondas and Toyotas (hybrids, don’t you know?). If you got rid of all the people who shop at Wal-Mart, plus all the people who eat at McDonald’s, plus all the people who drive SUVs or any other vehicle with more than four cylinders, plus all the people who voted for Bush the second time - how many people would be left in this country? Thirty? Thirty-five? However many it is, I would like to meet them all; and I would be quite pleased to get started on rebuilding this once-great country with people like them working alongside me.

(Oh...and the title of this post is a quote from a movie, not just random gobbledy-gook.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Why College Football Sucks (#1)

The official boycott is on. Just say no to college football. Just a few hours ago, the Florida Gators thrashed the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS Bowl (or whatever in the fuck they call that arbitrary new game that adds yet one more dumbass bowl to the most ridiculous postseason contrivance in the history of competitive sports) and will win at least one half of the college football national championship. They’ll probably win the AP half of the championship, too.

So why the boycott? Because both Florida and Ohio State finished the season with records of 13-1. Boise State finished the season 13-0. The Boise State Broncos are the ONLY team in Division 1-A college football who DID NOT LOSE a game this year, and they will not be the national champions. They did not even get an opportunity to play in tonight’s BCS Bowl to have a chance to win the championship.

Only in college football, ladies and gentlemen, can you win all of your games and not be declared the champion. Indeed, college football remains the one big sport where it is likely that the champion will finish the season undefeated. Most teams in college football play only 12 games - make that 13 games when you add in the bowl game. Some teams have 13-game schedules, like Florida and Ohio State, and so wind up playing 14 games.

In college basketball, teams play upwards of 30 games. Pro football plays 16 games. The last time a college basketball national champion finished the season undefeated was in 1976 (Indiana University); and the last time a pro football team finished the season undefeated was when the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl in 1972. You can’t even expect to go undefeated in pro basketball or hockey (both leagues play 82 games), or Major League Baseball, which plays a whopping 162 games.

All of those other sports have a playoff system at the end of the season - college basketball, pro football, Major League baseball, and pro hockey. College football does not have a playoff system - and because it does not, teams like Boise State get fucked.

The argument is that teams like Boise State, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference, are not of the same caliber as the teams from the so-called “big six” conferences, which are the: Pacific 10, Big 10, Big 12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, and Big East. Teams in conferences like the Western Athletic, Mountain West, Big Sky, and Conference USA don’t get the same kind of talent that teams in the “big six” get, those teams don’t play the “big six” teams in the regular season, and they don’t get the national television exposure.

And that’s what this is really about - money. The bowl games are big-money games for college football, and they represent huge amounts of money for the schools that play in them - and the conventional wisdom is that people won’t watch those games unless there are big-time teams playing in the games. The Bowl Championship Series was designed to make sure that conference champions from the “big six” conferences got to play in the four biggest bowl games - the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Fiesta Bowl. And yet there is an exception for Notre Dame, which is not affiliated with any conference. There is an entire line item in the BCS eligibility rules that makes an exception and allows Notre Dame into one of the big four bowl games if Notre Dame finishes the season ranked, I think, in the top twelve.

A fifth bowl game was added this season, and the rules expanded, so that teams like Boise State could at least have the opportunity to play in the series and gain some national exposure. Guess what Boise State did in their bowl game - the New Year’s Day Fiesta Bowl, where they played Oklahoma, a team from the Big 12?

The game was a thriller, which Boise State won, 43-42, in overtime, thanks to two trick plays - a hook-and-ladder that scored the tying touchdown, and a Statue Of Liberty play for the two-point conversion that gave them the win. It was the most exciting bowl game of the whole stupid season - a season in which everyone pretty much thought Ohio State was just going to run the table and walk away with the national championship. Apparently they did not count on wide receiver and superstar return man Ted Ginn getting injured early in the title game tonight - possibly while celebrating the 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown that was the first play of the game.

It’s time to dump the BCS, which rarely works the way it’s supposed to, and go to a playoff system. Here’s how it will work. First, you take every team back down to an 11-game schedule. This will peel at least one, and a lot of times two, games off of every school’s schedule. Then, you use a ranking system - and I think you can go ahead and use the current BCS ranking system for this, provided that there is an exception allowing entry into the playoffs for any undefeated team that, for reasons passing understanding, does not get into the final top eight - to determine the top eight teams at the end of the season. Those eight teams are then seeded, with the #1 seed playing the #8 seed, and so on. Three games later, you have a legitimate national champion. Even if you wait a week after the end of the regular season to start the playoff, you would still have the season over with by the early part of January, just like it is now.

You get two of the big four bowls to host the first two games, and then you have the title game played in a third of the big four bowls; and to make sure that each of the four big bowl games gets its turn in the spotlight, you rotate which bowls get which games, and which bowl does not participate in the playoff system each year. You still play all of those other little bowl games, for the schools who qualify to play in bowl games but do not qualify for the playoffs, but you just play them around the the playoff games.

Of course, there will be people who are against this kind of system for monetary reasons - but all of those people can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut. College sports used to be about sports, but now it’s mostly about money, and it’s time for that to change. Step one is tossing out the BCS and bringing in a playoff system.

It's (Going To Be) A Boy

Today we had the ultrasound done, and there was pretty conclusive proof on the monitor that Child of Peddie must henceforth be thought of as Son of Peddie. From just about the first moment we could see anything on the monitor, it was clear that our baby is not just active, but positively fidgety. The ultrasound lasted for about fifteen minutes, during which time that evolving bit of protoplasm did everything but play the banjo. Some of the highlights would include - rolling over onto its stomach, moving one arm around in the air (okay, not really air, but, you know - work with me here), and wiggling its little legs while lying on its back. We also got some pictures of the ultrasound, but none of the electronic variety, so I guess maybe there won't be any pictures in the Blog-O-Rama until after the baby is born.

We haven't thought of any boy names yet - all of the good names we had thought of to this point have been girl names. Some possible candidates, mostly thought of today after the ultrasound, include: Jackson, Ryan, and Andrew. We haven't really ruled anything out, although I'm not interested in naming the baby after myself (which would make it the fourth in a series - we are not, after all, French monarchs). I'm also not interseted in Biblical names, which is the only real problem I see with Andrew. But hey...there's still time, I suppose. A slightly more detailed version of this post can be found over in The Baby Blog.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Little Children

I started to write about this movie Thursday night after I got home from screening it, but I began to realize as I was writing that I wasn’t really saying anything positive about a movie that I thought I had liked. What I was doing instead was noting the many ways in which director Todd Field was channeling Stanley Kubrick - lingering on scenes for longer than necessary, slow-motion, cut-to-black cuts for some scene breaks (like Kubrick used in The Shining). I also noted that some of those elements, especially the lingering on scenes for longer than was strictly necessary, in some ways helped to elucidate the second layer of the theme - the anesthetizing effect of settling for a life in middle-class suburbia despite strong inclinations toward a more dynamic and adventurous lifestyle.

(That second layer of the theme applies only to Brad and Sarah. The primary layer of the theme, that being an adult does not always mean one has actually grown up, applies more generally to the rest of the characters.)

Beyond that, I was not sure what I wanted to say about the movie - especially about the Ronnie McGorvey character, whose place in the story bothered me because he did not seem to fit. Then I talked to Hillary about it at work tonight, and something she said made me realize what it was I wanted to say about the characters, and what I thought of Ronnie. Hillary said that she hated all of the characters in the movie, and that they were all despicable people.

It is in my nature to play the devil’s advocate in a lot of cases just because it amuses me - thus, my first inclination was to disagree with Hillary; as soon as it occurred to me do so, however, I realized that it was not an argument just for the sake of argument. It was also correct - the characters are not all despicable people. Ronnie is - and acknowledging that instantly gave me Ronnie’s place in the story.

All of the main characters in this movie are flawed, to one degree or another (except for the actual children). Ronnie, a paroled sex offender with strong inclinations toward recidivism, is not just flawed - he is a despicable character. His place in the story, then, is to provide perspective with respect to the flaws of the other characters, especially Brad and Sarah, who are sympathetic characters - tragic characters, but sympathetic ones.

Brad and Sarah each have two flaws - one is that they are each on the cusp of settling for a suburban family life that does not suit them, and the other is that they choose to rebel against those choices by pursuing a love affair (sex affair?) together, rather than take the issue up with their spouses.

Their spouses, Kathy and Richard, are flawed because they are emotionally unavailable to Brad and Sarah; Kathy pressures Brad to pursue a career that he does not want because she is stuck in a career that she does not want, and Richard, well...Richard is off in his own selfish little world and losing whatever tenuous grip he still has on reality.

That Brad and Sarah fall into an affair with each other is hardly surprising, even if societal convention would say that it is wrong - and from a technical point of view, it is wrong...they commit adultery together. But it is an adultery committed at least as much out of desperation as it is out of real desire. Todd Field is not at all subtle with his use of ticking clocks to indicate that time is running out on Brad’s and Sarah’s dreams, and the meticulous progression of the film serves to illustrate the desperation of the characters, to help the audience to see how close Brad and Sarah came to getting it right, through the lens of how badly they got it wrong. There is an amiguity to the end of the film that I find thought-provoking - what is the real motivation behind why Sarah asks her daughter if she would like to go home, and why Brad asks the paramedic to call his wife? Are those the things they really want to do? Or do they do those things because they know that doing them will be safe?

Patrick Wilson, playing Brad, and Kate Winslet, playing Sarah, give fine performances, occupying those lingering scene’s of Field’s in such a way that it is almost impossible not to think of Thoreau’s brilliant line - “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” The affair they have re-ignites the passions that have begun to fade out of their lives - and yet...the moment is fleeting. Real life gets its hooks into you, and there comes a point in your life when you set down roots and those roots take hold, and then there is nothing, no passion or trifle or flirtation, that can uproot you.

This is the tragedy for Brad and Sarah - that they discover the full truth about the lives they have made for themselves, and the natures of the people living those lives, far too late to do anything about it. By the end of the film, real life has snuffed the flame of passion for Lysander and Hermia - er, Brad and Sarah. And you can almost hear Field, somewhere off-screen, whispering:

“If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended;
That you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream,
Gentles do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend.
And as I am an honest Puck, and if we have unearnèd luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue, we will make amends ere long.
Else the Puck a liar call. So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.”

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Times They Are A-Changin'

Here’s a letter from Monday’s Star from an idiot in Indianapolis who apparently has quite the low (though obviously unfounded) opinion of Illinois Senator and potential 2008 Presidential candidate Barack Obama. He calls Obama a liberal as though this is some sort of revelation; and he also says that both of Obama’s books are filled with nothing but “fluff,” which goes to prove that he has not read either book.

(Well, maybe he has read the books, I can’t really say for sure as I have never had the misfortune of meeting him; but if he thinks all they contain is fluff then he has grossly misinterpreted them. The idiot also says that Obama has taken no noteworthy positions, although Obama’s second book reveals a number of positions he has taken - including opposing the Iraq war before it started, when he was not a U.S. Senator and so did not have to vote on it; voting against the confirmation of John Roberts to the Supreme Court; and voting against the Central American Free Trade Agreement - a decidedly unliberal position to take.)

I usually write letters to the Star myself when I read something this idiotic, but I just don’t know if I have the heart or the energy at this point - my soul is weary at the moment. And it’s possible that you might be thinking - well, if he’s taking the time and trouble to write out this blog post about it, why not go ahead and write the letter?

Well, the simple answer to that is that I can say whatever I want to say in my blog posts and not have to worry about which parts of it will or will not see the light of day. That’s something that bothers me about writing letters to the Star - even when I pare down my letters to what I think is a nice, concise, somewhat brief response to whichever idiot has drawn my wrath, they manage to edit my letters even more...sometimes to the point of leaving out a whole paragraph or point I was trying to make.

Had this idiot read either one of Obama’s books, he would have discovered that the first, Dreams From My Father, is actually an excellent self-examination of Obama’s family history and how that has affected the man he has become and the things he has chosen to do with his life. I just finished reading it again, and enjoyed it even more the second time. The second book, just recently published, is The Audacity Of Hope and reads almost like the platform on which he will campaign when he runs for President - whether that be in 2008 or later. I’m in the middle - literally - of reading it for the first time.

And he may indeed run for President in 2008 - or at least take a run at the Democratic nomination. The field of Democrats is not top-heavy with big names at this point - Hillary Clinton is the obvious front-runner, but Obama is gaining steam and is incredibly popular. If he really wants to be President - and one of the things he has said for the record is that he will only continue to work in politics if he is able to do good work and actually make a difference - then he will have to give serious thought to running in 2008, while his popularity is high.

The reason is that a Democrat will be elected President in 2008, and if it is not Obama, it will be a long time before he can run again - presuming that the Democrat elected runs for re-election in 2012, it would be difficult for another Democrat to run for the nomination and would probably be political suicide if someone tried it.

I suppose a Republican could be elected in 2008, but I just can’t imagine that that would happen, based on what the preceding eight years of having a Republican President - granted, an astonishingly bad one - has done for this country; and there is also the fact that the two front-runners for the Republican nomination, John McCain and Rudy Guiliani, are far too liberal to be appealing to the ultra-conservative Republican base.

Naysayers like this idiot who wrote the letter in Monday’s Star will continue to trumpet the fact that Obama is a relative unknown with little experience in politics - and I am sure (shamefully so) that there will be many people in this country who will not like the idea of having a black man be our President.

But you know what? The times, they are a-changin’, and it’s time for the American people to wake up to this reality before it is too late. The ominous truth that scares the hell out of a lot of fat, lazy Americans is that the global economy is changing and it’s just about time for Americans to change with it or risk being left behind. Too many Americans seem to think that all of the hard work that has been done over the years since the American Revolution, to make this country free and prosperous, has rendered America a place where its citizens can do no wrong and don’t ever have to lift a finger again in order to keep hold of their remarkable freedoms and their (relatively) remarkable wealth.

People complain about and are afraid of outsourcing, offshoring, and globalization - because these things cost Americans jobs. On the other side of the coin, though, are the Indians and Chinese and Mexicans who are out there and who want good jobs themselves and are willing to work hard and learn new things in order to get and keep those jobs. The American free market economy and the global concept of free trade mean that American corporations can essentially staff out certain segments of their employment needs to the highest bidder - whether that be a factory in Mexico City, a textile plant in Beijing, or a Hewlett Packard help desk in Bangalore. These low-paying, relatively menial jobs are not there for Americans by right based on our past.

Americans have to learn a whole lot of new things to be able to be competitive in the 21st century - working on an assembly line, sewing shirts, and answering phones aren’t going to cut it anymore because there are other people in the world who will do those jobs for less money. We the people have grown far too complacent with our station in the world - and the rug is being pulled out from under us by people who are more motivated, more hard-working, and more focused than we are. The middle class in India numbers three hundred million - that’s the same as the population of the ENTIRE United States.

We can either fight this changing dynamic with fear and hatred, or we can sack up and admit that it’s time to redefine the American Dream just a little bit - and that means learning new skills and going with the flow when it comes to new ideas and new a black man in the White House. Americans can no longer afford to believe that conservative values and conservative thinking will let us keep the status quo the way it is. The status quo is going to change whether conservatives want it to or not - and the real measure of America, more than any other measure that has been taken of this country since it was founded, will be whether or not we can rise up and meet that kind of challenge, or if we will just be swept under the rug by the people who are willing to work harder for what must now be thought of as the Global Dream.

(For a positive deluge of information about globalization, outsourcing, and offshoring - and why these things absolutely cannot be thought of as threats if the American way of life is to survive into the next century - check out The World Is Flat, by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.)