Monday, December 31, 2007

The Energy You Trade - He Gets Right On To The Friction Of The Day

Growing up, I got a lot of the IU good, Purdue bad stuff - even believed it for a good long time - and eventually began to understand that notion as Indiana was inherently better than Purdue, with the only basis for the assertion being that we were fans of Indiana rather than Purdue, both my parents having gone to college at Indiana.

At some point along the line, my thinking on that idea changed - probably helped along by being friends with our man Scott, who at some point made me realize that just because I liked Indiana didn’t mean that Indiana was necessarily better than Purdue.

Once I could see around that, I slowly began to realize that it was - gasp! - okay to actually like Purdue. My liking Indiana had no bearing on how good a coach Gene Keady was; and conversely, my support of the Hoosiers doesn’t mean that a coach like Bob Knight gets off scott free. Bob Knight had far more success at Indiana, with respect to championships, than Gene Keady ever dreamed of having at Purdue - but Keady was much, much better at having success with significantly lesser talent.

And then...along came the Large Pooch. Everybody but Scott knows him better as the Big Dog - Glenn Robinson. He came around to Purdue as a Prop 48 phenom out of Gary, Indiana, in the early 90s, led the nation in scoring his sophomore year, and was the first pick in the Bone Thugs draft in 1994. He was a lot of fun to watch in college because he could play both forward positions and could score from anywhere on the floor. Rare is the guy who can bang in the post and stroke a pretty three. Robinson could do that.

I don’t recall exactly how my thinking about disliking my team’s rival evolved over the years, but the moment when I realized that I could actually like my team’s rival came on February 19, 1994 (believe it or not, I still have the ticket stub), when Indiana hosted Purdue at the Assembly Hall. Back then, you paid a reasonable sum of money for a claim ticket, then took that claim ticket to the Fieldhouse and got your six-pack of actual game tickets. I’m pretty sure that I did not have Purdue in my original six-pack, and I seem to recall that Ana let me have her ticket to that game, though how that came to pass now escapes me.

It was, hands down, the best IU game I ever went to. Indiana won - beating #9 Purdue 82-80 - but Glenn Robinson dropped 39 points on us from just about every spot on the floor. I love love love college basketball, and it was just incredible to see the Large Pooch rain points down like it was nothing. After the game, the group of us that went hung around while the place emptied, and the pep band kept playing and playing - and then the guy on the drum kit kicked into a good long solo, just for the hell of it. If memory serves, everyone else I was with just kept talking amongst themselves, but I just sort of pivoted in my chair and watched the guy flail away on his drums.

(Apropos of nothing, this was about a month before I saw the best concert of my life - Rush on the Counterparts tour at Market Square Arena. We had seats on the floor, nineteen rows from the stage, and those guys rocked it out that night - with Primus opening.)

I did have a period where I intensely disliked the Patriots, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I was just transferring my frustrations with the Colts onto the team that they could never seem to beat in the playoffs. It just doesn’t matter to me that much anymore. What’s the point of my hating the Patriots? Is it going to make the Colts any better? Nope. Is it going to make the Colts play with any more fire in their eyes? Nope. It’s just going to cause me consternation, and I can do without that. If they beat New England, that’s great. If they don’t, well...Desmond and Molly will probably still be singing with the band, so let’s go get a beer, shall we?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I Don't Really Believe In My Country, So This Is About As Patriotic As I Get

Live blogging during the Patriots-Giants game, as New England completes the greatest regular season in NFL history. (And yes, it's still the greatest regular season in history, even if they lose.)

• I didn't see the illegal contact penalty that kept the second Patriots drive alive. Was that a bullshit penalty, or was it legit? I was listening on the radio on the way home from work and haven't seen a replay yet.

• Brady ties Peyton Manning with his 49th touchdown pass, a gorgeous floater to Moss. Go Tom - it's your birthday - break some records! (Actually, with that catch, Moss ties Jerry Rice for most touchdown receptions of all time. Go Randy - it's your birthday - break some records!)

• I don't believe in worshipping anything, especially sports teams, so I don't visit Colts Fan Blog much; but I popped in last night because there were two new posts - first new ones in three weeks! - only to find nothing about the Colts, but two posts whining about how the NFL caved and allowed two regular broadcast networks to show the Pats-Giants game. I don't care about the NFL Network, or the Big Ten Network, or any of those other proprietary groups that want to keep fans from seeing games, but here's something. This is an NFL Network broadcast, and Cris Collinsworth is doing color - a pretty good reason for everyone to boycott the NFL Network. It's not as bad as listening to Wil Wolford's cowboy mouth doing color for Colts game on the radio - but Wolford, despite sounding like a chicken fried steak, doesn't think he's Darwin's gift to color commentary. Collinsworth does. The only problem is that he's wrong.

• Ooh! If not for that guy's helmet, the records would already be broken.

Part Two

• Rich Eisen on the sideline - as someone who knows sports instead of someone who is only there because she is eye candy - might just mitigate the negative aspect of being forced to listen to Cris Collinsworth speak.

• Nope. I was wrong. Collinsworth just said that he doesn't know if NFL fans really know the significance of the offensive line. Hey, Cris! I'm a Colts fan - we had to suffer several years of Adam Meadows on our offensive line. We get to watch Peyton Manning stand in the pocket every week getting great protection, knowing he'd be toast without a great O-line because he has no scrambling skills. We have some notion of the significance of the offensive line.

• Good no-call on Ellis Hobbs. He did drag Plax Burress down, but only after Plax pushed him down.

At the half, NYG leads 21-16 on several impressive drives by Eli Manning and the Giants. A graphic indicated that 21 is tied for the most points the Pats have given up in a first half all season. I'll say that halfway through, NYG is putting up much more of a fight than I thought they would. Overall, this Tiki Barber-less team is far better than I imagined they would be this season.

Part Three

• That was almost an amazing catch on a horrid throw by Brady after he nearly got taken down in the backfield.

• A telling first-half stat: Despite winning the time of possession two to one, the Patriots were only one out of five converting third down opportunities. They start the second half with a non-conversion on third down, making them one out of six for the game.

• Sweet pass from Manning to Burress puts the Giants up 28-16 early in the third, and dare I say it? NYG is kicking New England's ass. Bryant Gumbel says that this is the largest deficit New England has faced all season.

• Suddenly the NFL Network has switched programming. I was watching the Patriots-Giants game, but now it seems as though I am watching the Wes Welker show, as Brady's pass offense wakes up and starts marching down the field.

• And now Brady, after an interference penalty against NYG, is going to have three or four shots from the one to break the two records. And yes, it was a good call.

• Alas, no records yet. Maroney runs it in from six after an illegal formation penalty against New England, cutting the score to 28-23.

• Manning just got sacked for a loss of 634 yards, as the Patriots defense finally realizes that it's supposed to have been playing for a couple of hours now.

• Wow. That pass was there, it was all the way downfield, and Moss dropped it.

•BUT WAIT A MINUTE! Who else in the whole NFL would have the enormous cojones to try the EXACT SAME PLAY on the very next down? Tom Brady, that's who. And that time Moss caught it. And that's the record. Most touchdowns in a season (50) for Brady and most touchdown catches in a season for Moss (22). On the next play, the two-point conversion was good, giving New England a three point lead with eleven minutes left.

As an aside, I can't even imagine what this game must feel like for New England fans. I'm sitting here clapping and cheering for Brady and Moss for getting the record (mostly for Moss, actually, because I'm just delighted to see him having success on a winning team for once), and feeling giddy watching the clock, waiting for it to tick down to zero so I can witness an undefeated season (even if it is done by my team's biggest rival). Jason and Dave Maier, I hope you'll comment to this post and let me know what was going on with you guys, what you were feeling, as those records were broken (also the record for points in a season) and - hopefully - as your Patriots complete the first 16-game undefeated season in NFL history.

• Not that they had much of a chance after New England piled up 22 unanswered points, but NYG did themselves no favors with incredibly bad clock management in the last four minutes of the game. Clearly Eli needs to spend some time in the off-season getting some lessons on the hurry-up offense from big brother Peyton.

Game over. The New England Patriots have just completed the first undefeated 16-0 regular season in National Football League history. Congratulations. We'll see you in the AFC title game.

No Country For Old Men

I saw this movie Wednesday night, and sat down to write about it, but discovered that it was virtually impossible to say anything meaningful about it without giving away particular plot points. So I’m afraid that I’m going to have to issue a spoiler alert - I’ll do a bit of general review first, then launch into the meatier stuff.

The film is based on the novel of the same name by Cormac McCarthy - and if you haven't read this one, then run, don't walk - and concerns a young man named Moss, who comes upon some abandoned vehicles and several dead people while out hunting antelope. He goes down to investigate, employing the tracking skills honed by all that antelope hunting, and finds a satchel filled with money. He has the obligatory moment of indecision, then makes off with the bag. What follows is the pursuit of Moss by a varied cast of characters, some looking to kill him and others looking to help him.

Josh Brolin does a fine job playing Moss, if there is perhaps nothing exceptional about the work; and Tommy Lee Jones is probably perfectly cast as county sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who is working on being run-down by life; but it is Javier Bardem, as hitman Anton Chigurh, who steals the show. Chigurh has been hired to hunt down the money, which in turn leads him to hunt for Moss. Bardem plays the part stoically, with nuanced facial expressions that convey menace and danger in the calmest possible way, and his dialogue is searching and methodical. Nothing - nothing - is inconsequential to Chigurh. Bardem will be nominated for an Oscar in the supporting category for the role.

Joel and Ethan Coen will also be nominated for their masterful direction of the film (and for film editing), and Roger Deakins should be nominated for his work behind the camera, as well. It would have been easy to rush this job into a fast-paced action thriller, but doing so would have destroyed the suspense that McCarthy so carefully worked into the story. In the same vein, the camera tends to linger on scenes, or parts of scenes, drawing the viewer’s eye to clues being picked up by the characters almost in real time.

If there is a flaw to the film, it is only this - that the character of Bell is not as fully formed in the film as it is in the novel. A good deal of what we learn about Bell comes in the falling action, in the novel version of voice-overs and in conversations with his uncle, Ellis (some of which is shown, in truncated form, in the film). In defense of the Coen brothers, however, Bell is minor character compared to Chigurh and Moss; and the additional portions extending the character of Bell would have added length to the film. Clocking in at a shade over two hours, the film is neither too long nor too short, and I think that the Coen brothers were wise in their choice to truncate Bell rather than Moss or (especially) Chigurh.

Okay...spoiler time. There’s just no good way to go into the theme of the film - fate - without also discussing what happens to the two main characters in the end. Perhaps the greatest metaphysical question in human history is whether or not we are all characters in some preordained cosmic drama - whether our decisions can change the course of our lives, or whether all of the choices we will ever make have already been decided.

There are strong arguments for both cases in this film. It is certainly fate that leads Moss to the abandoned vehicles and the dead people - a drug deal gone bad; but he has three - count ‘em, three - opportunities to make decisions that will affect the outcome. The first comes when he finds the remains of the drugs. His first decision is to investigate. Said investigation (along with good tracking skills) leads him to the satchel filled with money. His second decision is to take the satchel. Between those two decisions, he comes upon a dying man in one of the trucks. Moss’ third decision, later that night, is to go back to the scene with a jug of water for the man, who sputtered out the word agua when Moss found him in the truck - even though Moss knows that he is, in his own words, “fixin’ to do somethin’ dumber’n hell.”

Sure enough, when Moss goes back to the scene, he is discovered by a band of Mexicans who were in some way part of the drug deal. He flees on foot, but leaves his truck behind. His last chance to hold control over the situation was deciding whether or not to go back to the scene. Once he is spotted and flees, leaving his truck behind, he has also, in effect, left his freewill behind. His only choice now is no choice at all - simply do what it takes not to get killed. He escapes, then returns to his wife and tells her to pack for a trip from which they will never return. Moss ruminates by way of explaining the situation to his wife, “At what point would you stop looking for your two million dollars?” He considers for but a moment. “There ain’t no such point.”

The balance of the film finds Moss running from the Mexicans and from Chigurh; and though Chigurh has been hired to find Moss and get the money back, it is the Mexicans who bag Moss. Both the Mexicans and Chigurh have receivers that pick up a signal from a transponder hidden in the money, but Chigurh is the more menacing, the one who gets into Moss’ head and drives him, almost like a cattle rustler. Surely it was Moss’ fate to end up as he does - gunned down in a motel room - right?

Not so fast. I said there were strong examples of both fate and freewill in the story. Moss was the example of fate. Chigurh is the example of freewill. Early in the film, he is arrested and taken to a police station, where he slips his cuffed hands under his legs and then calmly strangles the officer who arrested him. Near the end of the film, after confronting Moss’ wife Carla Jean and offering her a coin toss (you’ll have to read the book to find out exactly what happens), Chigurh is driving away when the vehicle he is driving is struck by another vehicle at an intersection. Chigurh pays one of the young boys who witnessed the accident one hudred dollars for the boy’s shirt, then fashions a sling out of the shirt to support his left forearm, which sustained a compound fracture in the accident. Chigurh then walks away.

The traffic accident is fate, but Chigurh chooses to walk away from it rather than wait for an ambulance one of the boy witnesses says has been called. It could be argued that Chigurh’s fate lies in another story, but within the context of this story, Chigurh controls fate - his own, the fate of Moss, the fate of Carla Jean, the fate of the gas station proprietor who also is offered a coin toss, the fate of Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson as another hitman, though he is hired to get the money back by protecting Moss).

Thus the question of whether fate can coexist with freewill. Or does the devil, if he really exists - because Chigurh seems in many ways supernatural - still walk the earth? Big questions - and no ready answers. The film is open-ended in a couple of ways that the book is not, and by crafting the film in such a way, the Coen brothers have extended and deepened the story and theme, making a film that is greater than its source material - a rare achievement.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Some Colts Fans Seem To Have An Underdeveloped Ability To Make Valid Arguments

Good old Scrooge here, for a bit of Christmas coal for you. An ESPN poll yesterday asked the question:

Will Tom Brady break the NFL’s single-season touchdown record?

The key word in that question, of course, is WILL. The question is not SHOULD he break the record, or DO YOU WANT HIM to break the record. The question is WILL he break the record.

The results of the poll are:

Yes: 89%
No: 11%

If you take the time - and I did - to look at the poll results state by state, factoring out Indiana, the results are 90-10. That’s right, sports fans, the ever-insightful football fans here in Hillbillyana managed, with a scant 492 votes, to swing the results by a whole percentage point.

The lowest Yes percentage in any non-Indiana state is 83 (South Dakota). Not surprisingly, the four highest Yes states are Rhode Island (95), Maine (96), Masachusetts (97), and New Hampshire (98) - all of which are in the geographical region of New England. If you factor in the other two New England states (Connecticut and Vermont), the aggregate New England Yes average is 94. The aggregate non-New England Yes average is 89.

Spot anything odd so far? No? Here’s what you’re missing. Obviously there is a bias in favor of Brady in New England states and a bias against Brady in the state containing the biggest rival the Patriots have for league supremacy (Hillbillyana). If you take out the New England states, the aggregate Yes percentage does not change. But if you take out ONLY Indiana, the aggregate Yes percentage goes up a point.

Indiana’s Yes result, by the way, is 71.

So what’s the point of all of this? It is to illustrate a point about Indiana football fans. They are either remarkably prescient, or astonishingly unable (or unwilling) to make valid arguments. Based on his performance so far this year, Brady is absolutely going to break the record. He needs to throw two touchdowns on Sunday against NYG to break the record. So far this season, he is averaging 3.2 touchdowns per game. He has thrown fewer than two touchdowns twice in fifteen games. He has thrown for four or more touchdowns a remarkable FIVE times in fifteen games.

There are exactly two factors, and two factors only, that will influence how many touchdown tosses he has on Sunday against NYG - how long he plays, and how well he plays. How long he will play will be based largely on how badly Bill Belichick wants his team to win all 16 regular season games. How well he will play is well documented - you can click on his ESPN player card to see for yourself just how well he has done, with respect to numbers, this season.

It’s possible - yes, possible - that Brady will not break the record. His touchdown production has fallen off considerably in the second half of the season. After eight games, he had 30 touchdown passes, putting him on pace for a total of 60 for the season. In the second half, he has 18 touchdowns in seven games so far. In the first half, he averaged 3.75 touchdowns per game; and in the second half he is averaging 2.57 touchdowns per game.

But it’s not likely that he will not break the record. Any rudimentary examination of this season’s stats will tell you that. You can WANT him not to break the record - but you cannot honestly say that you believe he will not, based on what he has so far done this season. Not that I’ll ever mistake Indiana football fans as bright enough to understand that - but that’s the way it is.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Why Does It Happen? Because It Happens. Roll The Bones.

Got an e-mail about a week ago from Mike Redmond, a fellow who used to write columns for the Star. I quoted one of those columns in a blog post back in June to do with James Taylor. Somehow, one of Mike’s friends ran across that particular post and passed the link along to Mike, who was kind enough to send me a note.

I tried to reply to his e-mail, but got a return message saying that my message had been refused because the IP address of the mail server it came from was a “direct spam source.” The message provided a link to an anti-spam lookup page that let me know that my mail server “is being abused unchecked by spammers,” though it also said that the refusal did not imply that I was a spammer. I found that odd, since I don’t get spam e-mail anymore since I switched from Earthlink to iQuest. I mean that literally. I get no spam e-mail now. I used to get...I don’t know...five or six spam e-mails in my Earthlink inbox for every one e-mail that was actually valid. Just one of the many, many reasons that Earthlink sucks out loud. (“Sucks out loud,” by the way, is a fantastic phrase. Thanks, Josh.)

So make a long story short, following is the text of the e-mail that I tried to send back to Mike - posted here on the off chance that Mike will wander into the Blog-O-Rama again at some point so he can discover that I was not ignoring the fact that he was nice enough to send me an e-mail out of the clear blue sky.

Hey Mike,

Thanks for the note, and for such a nice review of the band. Of all the different material you used to write for the Star/News, the rock music columns were always my favorite. I have a Rush poster from the Roll The Bones era, to which I have affixed a few different articles and clippings about them that I have collected over the years - that review of yours that I quoted was the first clipping to go on that poster.

I'm fascinated by the viral way that people pass information about blogs to one another, so I'd be curious - if you don't mind sharing the story - to find out how your friend happened upon my relatively anonymous little chunk of blogdom. Happy Holidays to you and yours, as well - and thanks again for the note.

(A bit of arcane John-O history: That Rush poster mentioned above? I bought it at Union Station during the Thanksgiving break of my freshman year at Indiana. Later that night a bunch of us gathered at a friend’s house to play a card game called Mr. Mao. At some point, an incredibly beautiful girl came in and sat down on the couch. Apparently she was with a guy, but I don’t recall that part. What I recall - verbatim - was the thought that ran through my head. “Damn. Now that girl’s out of my league.” Turned out not to be true, although I didn’t actually meet her until the following summer at a birthday party. The girl, of course, was Amy.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jackson Meets Santa

These are two shots of Jackson with Santa at Christmas At The Zoo, which we braved this evening, even though it was cool and dreary and we had already had Jackson out and about for most of the day - starting with a fine lunch at Santorini for Amy's birthday. Some more shots of Christmas At The Zoo will follow these in another post.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Little Bit Of Blog Glory To Aaron Haag

Got a call from Aaron at work today, and he was calling to tell me that the guys on WNDE sports radio's show The Drive read on air today a post on Aaron's blog about some person called Ravens Dale.

If you click on the comments to the Ravens Dale post, Aaron has a link to a forum thread where he goes back and forth with this Ravens Dale person. The whole thing apparently started when Aaron heard Ravens Dale proclaim on air that the Colts were the best team in the league, after they embarrassed the Baltimore Ravens Sunday night.

Aaron writes that "[t]he most loyal Colts fan cannot grant this point," which is that the Colts are the best team in the league. In the forum thread, he refers (hyperbolically rather than maliciously) to Ravens Dale as a "lunatic fan" who "mindlessly proclaims" the "supremacy" of the Colts. In the Ravens Dale post comments section, he corrects the assertion that Ravens Dale is a fan, while reiterating that Ravens Dale is "still way off on his assertion that the Colts are tops in the NFL."

It's good to see Mr. Haag blogging a bit more often. His accurate and insightful commentary with respect to where the Colts stand in the league is refreshing.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Here’s an ironic pill for the Miami Dolphins to have to swallow. According to the recap of their game today against Buffalo, the Dolphins had never in their history lost 13 games in a season. Today’s loss was their 13th this season, and their 16th consecutive overall, dating to last season.

Bad enough, you could surely argue. Trouble is, their status as the lone franchise ever to 16-0 in a season is in serious jeopardy, as well. The New England Patriots cleared their last serious hurdle toward a perfect regular season by smoking the Pittsburgh Steelers this afternoon.

New England has three games left, against NYJ, Miami, and NYG - two of which are at home (NYJ and Miami). The clincher, so to speak, is that that last game against NYG looks to be meaningless for the Giants as well as for the Patriots.

The Patriots have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs unless they lose out and the Colts win out. The most likely scenario is that both teams win out, unless the Colts sit their starters after clinching the #2 seed. The Giants clinch a wild-card spot by winning one of their last three games. The only way NYG does not make the playoffs is if they lose out and either Washington or New Orleans wins out.

The only way the New England-NYG game matters is if NYG loses their next two games AND New Orleans OR Washington win their next two games. If either New Orleans or Washington lose one of their next two games, they’re out - and if NYG wins ANY of its last three games, they’re in.

If the Giants have locked up a playoff spot, they'll sit their starters - if not for the whole game, then certainly for most of it. Maybe they play the first quarter to sort of feel out New England and see what they can do against them (thinking about Dallas coming up in the playoffs). But the Giants won't take the chance on getting hurt - and if they don't play their first team, the Patriots will play their first team just enough to win.

I know they say that no team can go undefeated in the NFL - but the Patriots have 13 under their belts already, and the last three are a relative cake walk. Add in the fact that they’ve got a massive chip on their shoulders - and the outside chance that Brady won’t yet have the touchdown mark by the time that last game rolls around - and you’ve got the recipe for a 16-0 season. The tipping point? The Patriots are brash enough to go for it just because they can. They have a singular will to dominate the NFL and win football games. That's their job - and they do it very, very well.

I hope they get the 16 wins, too. So they taped some defensive signals their opponents were using - who cares? It’s not like they were filming movies that try to sell atheism to kids. Oh, wait...that’s a stupid argument, too. They’re getting some shady calls from the refs? Aw...poor whoever their opponent is. The Colts are getting shady calls from the refs, too. Give the Patriots some credit for being a great team and for having a great season. And sit back and watch some really good football.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Daemon Quiz

Just took the Daemon Quiz on the website for the new movie The Golden Compass. A daemon called Brienne, a snow leopard, was chosen for me.

My profile revealed that I am: Solitary, assertive, shy, modest, and softly spoken.

(You answer 20 questions on the strongly agree to strongly disagree scale and then have a daemon chosen for you.)

I'm astonishingly backlogged on movies that I want to see, but The Golden Compass is on that list. I started reading the book this week and am about a third of the way through it.

That is all. (I just hadn't blogged in awhile and thought this was fairly innocuous.)