Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hacking Barack

Turns out that Barack Obama's website doesn't have those funky cool badges that Edwards had on his site, so I had to make one on my own. This involved finding a suitable image and downloading it from the Obama website, using iPhoto to crop it down to a useable size, uploading it to Blogger, and then changing the code so that clicking on the image takes you to Obama's website and not to a larger version of the picture. Took awhile to get it just right, but I like it better than the widgets on the Obama website, and fiddling with HTML has always been enjoyable for me, since I taught myself how to do it back in college.

Neither badges nor widgets are readily available on Hillary Clinton's website (that I have been able to find - maybe if you sign up, which I was not interested in doing), but John McCain and Mitt Romney both have badges you can add to your blog. Alas, no badges for Geddy & Alex, Bill & Opus, or Calvin & Hobbes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

John Edwards And Rudy Giuliani Say Goodnight

Guess it’s time to take the John Edwards button off of the ol’ blog. Edwards announced today that he will suspend his campaign for President, without endorsing either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Despite running a fine campaign and avoiding more than this rivals the politics of personal attack, Edwards was unable to drum up much in the way of support in the early primaries and caucuses.

I admired his crusade against the corporate greed that truly lies at the heart of most of America’s most vexing problems. I have read that people are put off by the way that Edwards would rail against corporations on the stump, calling it “angry populism” - and it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder what people are really looking for in their candidates. Edwards sounded the most sincere out there on the stump - and people called it angry?

What the hell do I know? It’s down to four, two in each party: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Mitt Romney - and if we’re going to be completely honest, Romney is fading fast. Of the large pool of candidates that began this race for the presidency, those four candidates just might be the best four you could have culled for a political Final Four - if you left off John Edwards. It’s certainly the most liberal group of two from each party that you could have imagined - among realistic candidates.

On a somewhat related note, a number emerged Tuesday night. That number is 2331, and it is the number of days between September 11, 2001, and January 29, 2008 - the latter being the day when Rudy Giuliani’s disastrous campaign strategy crashed and burned...sort of like the twin towers of the World Trade Center crashed and burned 2331 days earlier. Giuliani got smoked in the Flordia primary Tuesday night, where he had hoped to win big and catapult himself back into something resembling contention on Super Tuesday. Instead of winning big, Hizzoner got a paltry 15% of the vote. 2331 days , then, is the maximum amount of time you can reasonably expect to be able to exploit a massive national tragedy for personal gain. Not that Rudy had much more to run on - this is the same guy who was going to lose the mayoral election that was scheduled for September 11, 2001, but which was not held that day, for obvious reasons.

But whose button to put up there now? I’m not all that fired up about any of the cadidates left in the race. Maybe we should go with Josh’s idea of Geddy and Alex in ‘08 - even though they’re Canadian and can’t serve as President and Vice President of this country. Josh also supports Bill and Opus in ‘08 as a “desperate choice for desperate times.” I could maybe get behind that - after all, would a couple of oddball cartoons really be that much different than what we’ve had in the White House for the last seven years?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Now's The Time To Make The Time - While Hope Is Still In Sight

I heard from Ryan at work tonight that Rush would be swinging back through Indianapolis on June 25th, 2008. I made a quick trip to their website, and it turns out that they've added another whole leg to the Snakes & Arrows tour, stopping in a number of cities in North America where they have never played or have not played in a long time. They've played Indianapolis on every tour since at least Roll The Bones, which was when I started paying attention - but that tour was also the last time they played Indianapolis twice. If memory serves, the first show on that tour was on or around Halloween at Market Square Arena, and the second show was the following spring at Deer Creek (which was the first time I saw the band).

I missed them when they were here last summer, mostly because Jackson was less than three months old at the time and we weren't sure it was fair to sic him on my parents for that long when he was so little. This time, however, I shall have no qualms in that regard, and I shall (hopefully) make up for missing the last show by getting to see them at least one more time (which will be my sixth Rush show - I've only seen two other bands more than once, and I'm ashamed to say that the Dave Matthews Band is one of those - I'm not at all ashamed to say that Pearl Jam is the other).

Their website also says that a Snakes & Arrows live album will be released sometime in April, which is fine news.

(As soon as I heard the news from Ryan and checked the band's website, I checked Josh's blog - and sure enough, he had already posted about it. Josh also notes that at the time of the June show, his wife will be eight months pregnant - so congratulations to the Spears family on their "future Rush fan," as Josh puts it.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Requiem For A Dome

Man, I can't even write a few simple words to introduce these pictures without veering off into criticism country. This is my second try at it! These are from the divisional playoff game against the Chargers this past Sunday - they aren't actually pictures of the game itself, but rather shots for posterity that Steve asked me to take after the game ended. The Colts were not victorious. I did, however, enjoy going to the game and spending some time with Steve, since we don't hang out as much as we used to.

We even talked a little politics! Probably we were the only two guys in the whole place discussing whether or not it was smart strategy for Rudy Giuliani to ignore Iowa and New Hampshire and focus instead on Florida - but that's okay. It made it easier to ignore the drunk girl two seats to my left who spent a good part of the game sitting on the lap of a guy who could have been her father and going on and on and on about how good she would be in the sales department and how people always looked to her to be the go-to girl - and on and on with the business school jargon.

The seats were excellent, no more than a dozen or so rows up behind the east end zone. Any missed field goals that went wide left at that end would have had a good chance of landing in our laps. Thanks again for offering the ticket, Steve. Here are the pictures:

I've never been a fan of the Hoosier Dome as a venue for anything - mostly because the only seats I had ever had prior to Sunday were in the upper deck, and those barely qualify as "seats." In actuality, they are long, hard aluminum benches with no backs - though perhaps they have contributed over the years to the health of the chiropractic industry in this city. The seats in the lower deck are a tad more comfortable - they have backs! - but are so close together that you have to check your personal space at the door before taking a seat. It's also loud, and the acoustics are awful. Don't forget to hold on to your hat on the way out, or that thing will blow off your head, down the steps, and across Capitol Avenue. But for all of that, I still had a good time at the game. Thanks again, Steve. Until next year, then...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Am I Ready For Some Football?

I was hoping to watch both the Patriots-Jaguars game and the Colts-Chargers game closely - perhaps with my iBook near at hand - so I could get some good notes and hopefully have a bit more to say about this feeling I’ve been getting - that the Colts might just repeat as World Champions Of All Football.

It’s not quite going to work out that way, but I’m not entirely displeased by that. Actually, I’m not at all displeased by that. See, I got a phone call tonight at work. It was my old pal Steve, calling because he had an extra ticket to the Colts game and wanted to know if I wanted to go. So pretty much out of the clear blue sky I get to go to the last Colts game that will ever be played at the Hoosier Dome.

So...whatever comments I was going to have on the game probably won’t be as detailed as they might have been - but on the plus side there might be some nice pictures from the game, or from whatever insanity takes place on the streets of downtown before and after the game.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Now I've Got That Feeling Once Again...I Can't Explain. You Would Not Understand...This Is Not How I Am.

Okay, I’m starting to get that feeling again - akin to the one I got last year during the NFL playoffs, when it suddenly became clear to me that the Colts were going to win both the AFC title game and the World Championship Of All Football. This moment of clarity - this vision, if you will - came to me at some point after the Colts beat the Ravens in the Saturday divisional game, but before the Patriots beat the Chargers in the Sunday divisional game.

I knew in my heart that the Patriots would beat the Chargers in that divisional game, that the Colts would then beat the Patriots a week later in the AFC title game (in the Hoosier Dome), and that the Colts would then beat whichever team won the Super Bowl Runners-Up Trophy (commonly known as the NFC title game).

There was no basis in fact or reason for this feeling - but I was sure of it, and it wound up happening. I go back and forth on whether or not I really believe that the Colts lucked their way to the Lombardi Trophy last season. It’s true that luck plays a part in big success in sports - ask any Indiana basketball fan about the 2002 Final Four run - but it might well have been their time, too.

Might it be their time again this year? I have not for one second believed that during this football season. Not for one second - although that lack of belief had nothing to do with the Colts themselves and everything to do with the Patriots. I believed going into the season that the Patriots would run riot over the league and basically walk to their fourth Super Bowl in seven years.

But we’re through the wild card games; the divisonal round is this weekend; and the matchups are interesting, if you’re a little bit superstitious - and if you’re paying attention. Most of the sports fan who wander into the Blog-O-Rama do pay attention, but I don’t know that quite so many of them go in for the same kind of superstitious sport dreck that I go in for.

I’m only going to talk about the AFC, though. I got much love for the indestructible Brett Favre because he loves to play the game and plays it so well, and much love for NYG (even if they are coached by Tom Coughlin) because of what a great job they have done this season sans the services of Tiki Barber; and the Seahawks and Cowboys are okay, too. But as a group, they don’t hold a candle to the Patriots, Colts, Jaguars, and Chargers.

So here’s what I’m thinking. The Colts have the Chargers at the Hoosier Dome, in what will likely be the last game ever played in the Hoosier Dome. It’s a revenge game, because the Colts lost in San Diego earlier in the year in what might have been the ugliest game this Colts team has ever played. If not for (insert any of a huge number of things that went wrong), then the Colts win that game. They played as poorly as they could possibly play, and still only lost by two, on the road, to a team that didn’t look very good back then but looks awfully good now.

Will the Colts repeat their performance from earlier in the season? No. Will they obliterate the Chargers? Not likely, but a greater possibility than the six-pick, two-shank game they played previously. Will they win the game? I think so. I’m not completely convinced...but I’m close. These guys do make mistakes, but they generally do a very good job of learning from those mistakes - and there’s a potential rematch with the Patriots in the offing if they can get past the Chargers. They won’t be looking ahead to New England - or at least won’t say so publicly if they are - but they will know it’s a possibility, and they’ll want it. They’ll want that rematch so badly that that alone will give them the fire to beat San Diego.

Now to the Patriots and Jaguars. The Patriots have stumbled three times this season - Colts, Eagles, Giants - but have not fallen. They say you can’t go 16-0 in the modern NFL, but New England did. They also say that you really can’t go 19-0. New England hasn’t done that yet - and even though I think they will, I also think that Jacksonville is flying under the radar, if any team that goes 11-5 in the toughest division in football can be thought of as flying under the radar. They only managed a 2-4 record in the division, but were 6-0 against the other teams they played in conference, including wins over San Diego (home) and Pittsburgh (road). (Like the rest of the non-Colts teams in the AFC South, Jacksonville went 3-1 against the NFC South, clearly the worst division in the league this year.)

But if they win...not only do they hand New England its only loss of the season, but they just might get Indianapolis in the AFC title game. The Colts have already beaten the Jaguars twice this season, and the Jaguars have got to feel good about their odds in a third game. I don’t have any numbers on this, but how often do teams play each other three times in a year? It can only happen in the playoffs between division rivals, making the competitive nature of the game that much more intense. Again, nothing concrete here...just a feeling. They know what they’re up against in the Patriots, and probably can’t help but look ahead - wistfully, maybe - at a third chance at the Colts, with a trip to the Super Bowl as the prize.

I don’t much look forward to a third game against Jacksonville, not when the Colts have already beaten them twice and when Jacksonville would be a week removed from knocking off New England. All things being equal, I would like the Colts’ chances against the Jaguars more than I would like them against the Patriots - but this is the playoffs, and if a little bit of luck shines on Jacksonville...who knows? I think I would rather have the rematch with New England - and that’s really the part that makes this bizarro feeling such a strong one.

I honestly think, in this situation, that the Colts would have a better chance against the Patriots - in a second revenge game - than they would against the Jaguars. Something else to note is that if they beat both San Diego and New England to get to the Super Bowl, they will have beaten in the playoffs the only two teams that defeated them in the regular season (obviously, the Titans loss in the last game doesn’t really count). For reasons passing understanding, I’m more confident that they can beat teams they’ve lost to than the one team left in the AFC playoffs that they have beaten. Doesn’t make any sense statistically, of course...but there it is.

It would be a strange turn of events, certainly - but the Colts proved in the playoffs last year that everything you know is wrong. They have the potential to do the same thing this year, and I’m starting to get the feeling that they will. It’s not as strong as the feeling I had last year at roughly this time, but it’s there - and that’s saying something, because I never really had much hope that the Colts would repeat as World Champions Of All Football.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Crannies And Nooks - Books Read In 2007

Back in September, I wrote about a poll indicating that 27% of adults polled in the United States had not read one book the previous year - and I also posted a list of the books I had read in 2006, which was a total of 42. Now that 2007 is in the books, so to speak, here is my list of books read this year. The total is 51, up nine from the year before, although some of the books I read this year are ones I have read before. (I have no problem reading books more than once - in fact, I think you sort of have to sometimes, depending on how hard the book is. I also think that it's a great pleasure to re-read books that I especially loved, because subsequent readings almost always open up new layers of enjoyment that are not possible the first time around.) First are the non-fiction books, then the fiction ones.

The Audacity Of Hope - Barack Obama
A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway
The Confession - James E. McGreevey
Like A Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan At The Crossroads - Greil Marcus
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid - Jimmy Carter
Irvington Haunts - Simnick and Hunter
Roadshow: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle - Neil Peart
Pearl Jam & Eddie Vedder: None Too Fragile - Martin Clarke
Edie: An American Biography - Jean Stein
The Mighty And The Almighty - Madeleine Albright
Fates Worse Than Death - Kurt Vonnegut
I’m Chevy Chase...And You’re Not - Rena Fruchter
Howl: The Poem That Changed America - Jason Schinder
Tough Choices - Carly Fiorina
The Assault On Reason - Al Gore
My Rear View - Dorothy Dugdale
Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade Of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas
American Mafia: A History Of Its Rise To Power - Thomas Reppetto
Bringing Down The Mob - Thomas Reppetto
Dead Certain: The Presidency Of George W. Bush - Roger Draper
The Terror Presidency: Law And Judgment Inside The Bush Administration - Jack Goldsmith
Into The Wild - Jon Krakauer
For Love Of Politics: Bill And Hillary Clinton - The White House Years - Sally Bedell Smith
Schulz And Peanuts: A Biography - David Michaelis

Factotum - Charles Bukowski
What Was She Thinking?: Notes On A Scandal - Zoë Heller
Boating For Beginners - Jeannette Winterson
The Painted Veil - Somerset Maugham
Hocus Pocus - Kurt Vonnegut
Hearts In Atlantis - Stephen King
Traveler - Ron McLarty
Mother Night - Kurt Vonnegut
Deadeye Dick - Kurt Vonnegut
‘Salem’s Lot - Stephen King
Cold Spring Harbor - Richard Yates
Blaze - Richard Bachman
The Children Of Húrin - J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince - Jo Rowling
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - Jo Rowling (twice)
The Godfather - Mario Puzo
The Last Don - Mario Puzo
The Sicilian - Mario Puzo
Middle Age: A Romance - Joyce Carol Oates
American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis
The Lost World - Michael Crichton
Lust, Caution - Eileen Chang
Women - Charles Bukowski
Post Office - Charles Bukowski
Ham On Rye - Charles Bukowski
The Golden Compass - Phillip Pullman
No Country For Old Men (twice consecutively)

The best of the bunch this year:

Non-Fiction: Schulz And Peanuts - Probably the best biography I have ever read, a thorough and thoughtful telling of the life of Charles Schulz. Peanuts is absolutely the greatest comic strip ever created (with apologies to those who prefer Calvin & Hobbes, which is also great, but which would never have existed had Peanuts not existed first), but its creator remained a mystery, to those who did not know him, for most of his life. This book illuminates so much about the artist and his creation that it qualifies as an instant classic.

Fiction: No Country For Old Men - Though short (just over 300 pages), this novel is extremely poweful and somewhat uniquely written (some contractions have apostrophes, some don't - and quotation marks in dialogue sections are entirely absent) and presents a haunting story about how the world has moved on. In Anton Chigurh, author Cormac McCarthy has created a character rich in unrevealed back story and layered with such subtle quirks that to believe you know him completely is impossible. This is one of the very rare books I began a second time the moment I finished reading the last page.

Other Receiving Votes (Both Categories): The Golden Compass, Ham On Rye, Traveler, Dead Certain: The Presidency Of George W. Bush, Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade Of Curious People And Dangerous Ideas, Roadshow: A Concert Tour By Motorcycle