A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, March 28, 2008

E,S,L: Sports Edition

I should've been a sports journalist. Seriously. I know I write better than most of the guys I read at espn.com or sportsline.com. Frankly in most cases it would be difficult to write worse. Possible, but I would have to really work to write that badly.

Mostly I let it roll off my back-- I like what I do and I like that what I do helps people-- but every now and then something truly egregious pops up and I do a literary double-take. Such a moment occurred this morning when I read the following:
Losing one front-line veteran arm was enough, but make it two and then add No. 1 starter Erik Bedard to a live underdog in Seattle.
This gem of a "sentence" is supposed to have something to do with the California Angels' pitching staff. Anybody got the faintest idea what it is supposed to mean? There is of course the fact that this is a fragment, not an actual sentence, but that is pretty common these days. No, I am more concerned with the content in this case.

The first part is comprehensible-- the Angels lost two veteran pitchers to causes mentioned in the previous paragraph. The referencing is weak-- it was not immediately obvious to me that the veteran pitchers mentioned were the ones mentioned in the previous paragraph-- but it isn't too difficult to decipher the phrasing. But what does "...then add No.1 starter Erik Bedard to a live underdog in Seattle" mean? Did we genetically splice a pitcher and a beagle? And why is this bizarre creation living in Seattle when we're talking about a team in southern California?

Mr. Bedard is never mentioned again.

Ah well-- at least we aren't using text messaging abbreviations in newspaper and online content.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Can I Get an Amen

Bit of a kerfuffle over Barack Obama's pastor and that pastor's commentary in some of his sermons. You might have heard about it.

I've been busy so I had not had time to watch Obama's speech on the topic until today. I've read a few others who have embraced it as one of the best and most profound speeches on race and racism in America ever, but I only just found time to watch it. Or if you prefer, read it.


Seriously-- wow.

I like John McCain and I actually agree with his policies more than I do with Obama's, but after sixteen years of Clinton and Bush and the politics of vilification and obfuscation and triangulation I think maybe our country needs Obama's vision and eloquence and faith and, yes, hope more than we need anything else.

There are tons of good bits in the speech, but this one in particular resonated with me:

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”

Amen, brother.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wish I'd Said That

Great post over at Andrew Sullivan. I wish I had said what AS excerpts or what AS adds at the end of the quote. But I didn't. So all I can do is link. I will add that, in the absence of ultimate fixes, it is vital to continually examine your current positions, beliefs and ways of doing things since what worked/made sense last year or ten years ago may be completely irrelevant or inappropriate today.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In Praise of Dexter

A show about a serial killer with a moral code, if not an actual moral compass, and a job as a crime scene investigator-- blood specialist. Sounds crazy? It is a bit, but the wickedly sharp writing and tremendous acting by everyone in this Showtime turned CBS drama make it one of the best shows on television right now.

Dexter is only a vigilante serial killer-- he only kills people he knows really deserve to be killed. Snuff filmmakers, repeat drunk drivers who are not remorseful, "angel of death" nurses and the like. His foster father-- a cop-- trained him how to act normal even though he lacks most of the emotional and social responses of the rest of society. Now Dexter blends... and kills. But only those who deserve it.

Additionally, there is a mystery involving a different serial killer who knows Dexter's secret but is willing to keep it, for now, because they are playing a strange game of killer Clue. Plus, the regular drama of a good cop show (Dexter works in the squad room with the detectives and sergeants) and a fascinating love interest with Dexter's girlfriend. She was repeatedly raped by her ex-husband and consequently has little to no interest in the physical side of the boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Perfect for Dexter who d/n really get the emotional/sexual things the way the rest of us do. Except that recently Rita is showing signs of getting past her past trauma enough to find Dexter attractive... could be trouble. And this is only four episodes into the show.

I'm not sure how realistic, psychology-wise, the actual concept is-- sociopathic serial killer keeps his urges under control except to kill bad people and manages to blend in-- but it is certainly a lot of fun to watch. And the show is well enough written and acted to suspend any disbelief over the central theme of the material.

It's wickedly good stuff. Hopefully they can maintain the tension, mystery and excellence.

Watch it, I think you'll like it.

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Can't Unring THAT Bell

This is just disturbing. Yikes.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Reasons to Avoid Another President Clinton

Despite huge financial, organizational and name recognition advantages in March of 2007, Hillary Clinton's campaign has managed to mismanage its way to being the long shot to get the Democratic nomination. What does that say about her ability to lead the country? As Andrew Sullivan notes in his continuing efforts to illuminate all the reasons to avoid Hillary Clinton as president, a Clinton White House is likely to be "a bunch of extremely unpleasant people being extremely unpleasant to each other."

Exhibit B: Barack Obama has chosen/developed the phrase "Yes We Can" as his catchphrase/slogan/battle cry. It proved very effective, so very soon after the Clinton campaign realized that it was gaining traction, they introduced Hillary's catchphrase/slogan/battle cry (after realizing that "Ready on Day One" was not gaining traction). Their choice? "Yes She Can". Now, questions of plagiarism and timing aside, which slogan is more inclusive? More expressive of a president that will listen to the people? Shows more understanding that the crisis that America is experiencing cannot be solved by one individual but requires the country as a whole to step back and figure out how to do things better?

Exhibit C: Rush Limbaugh, and other Right-Wing Airbags, is urging his listeners to vote for Hillary in the primaries. In part because he suspects-- rightly I believe-- that the Clintons are so enamored with power and their "right" to the nomination that they will do whatever they deem necessary to get said nomination, including ripping the Democratic party apart. In part because he suspects-- and again, rightly I believe-- that she will be much easier to defeat in the fall than will Obama.

Exhibit D: Obama puts many 2004 Red States in play. He will win the same big Blue States that Clinton will win (New York, Massachusetts, California, Illinois), but he will also put places like Missouri, Alabama, the Carolinas, and others into play. In part because of his broader appeal, and in part because of the polarizing effect of Clinton.

Yes WE Can.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Thoughts on the Primaries

Mama H. asks for my thoughts, so how can I refuse?

I am happy McCain won. He has plenty of warts and I was very disappointed in his deal brokering with Bush that helped overturn centuries of U.S. opposition to torture. But I think he is far superior to any other Republican candidate-- including Ron Paul, who originally captured my imagination and then turned out to be nearly as loony as the pundits claimed. He actually does have foreign policy experience, unlikely Hillary, and he is the smallest government candidate outside of Paul. He is also not a raving Christianist moonbat like Mike Huckabee. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

I am thrilled that Obama is ahead. I just wish that the Clintons would go away and sulk in a corner somewhere. But that is not likely to happen-- they are too close to returning to power to abandon ship now, even when it would be beneficial for their party and probably for the country. I am hopeful that Barack will be able to withstand their negativity, mudslinging and machinations. To do so, I think all of the points listed here by Andrew Sullivan are valid and important.

Obama has run an amazing campaign and despite Clinton's "big" victories on Tuesday, he lost very little ground to her. It is very much his race to lose-- or Clinton's to steal. I suppose that last is what most concerns me. Once again, Sullivan probably sums it up better than I can:

The secrecy and paranoia also remind one of the Clintons' history, especially Senator Clinton's. From Whitewater through the long nightmare of cattle-futures through legal documents mysteriously "discovered" long after they were sought, to the secret healthcare task force that helped kill healthcare reform for over a decade, the Clintons are now following their long pattern. They hide stuff they need to hide and stuff they don't need to hide. What we are learning is that these people have not changed. And their sense of personal privilege, their boundless paranoia, and their constant lies about themselves must be front and center in this campaign. Do we want to go back there again? After Bush and Cheney, do we really want another couple of co-presidents in love with total secrecy and above-the-law personal privilege?

Why do the Clintons believe that they are somehow above the normal rules of other politicians? And why does the press allow them to get away with this? Why aren't there demands for them to fully disclose their financial details now? No excuses. No delays. Now.

For me, Hillary Clinton encapsulates nearly everything that is wrong about politics. More interested in power than the people. Secretive. Almost compulsively negative. Privileged. Willing to play the victim card. Feeling entitled. Blech. Double blech.

I will be very happy if Obama wins because, for the first time in my life, I will get to choose who I vote for to be the next president not as the lesser of two evils but as the greater of two goods.

That would be cool.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

I Am Sad

After 16 years at the helm of my beloved Green Bay Packers, Brett Favre is retiring from football.


I knew this day was coming, and coming in the near future, but after last year I-- as well as nearly everyone else who cared even remotely about the topic-- thought that Brett would be back to make one more run at the Super Bowl. It just seemed like all the pieces were there-- good offensive line, emerging stable of talented receivers, a go-to running back, a very good to excellent defense that meant that the offense didn't have to score 30+ every game, a young, energetic and talented coaching staff.

It's as good a situation as imaginable for an aging Hall of Famer whose skills are still top notch and who wants to buff his legacy a little more and maybe get another ring.

So, naturally, Favre calls it quits.

Double sigh.

In many ways I really don't get it. He came back last year despite the team's struggles the two previous seasons (4-12 in '05 and 8-8 in '06) and there were a LOT more question marks in the last off-season than in this one. So why now?

But in some ways I do get it. Favre says that being "mentally tired" is a big factor in his decision and I can totally understand that. The NFL is a young man's sport and, by professional sports standards, Favre is old. Younger than me by about six months, but still old by the standards of his profession. And he looked old and tired on that miserable, -30 wind chill game against the Giants back in January.

Can't say that I blame him-- I went outside during half-time of that game just to see what it felt like and it was unbelievably horrendous. And I was outside for about five minutes. Favre was outside for 3+ hours and was getting hit by some massive, fast-moving gentlemen for much of that time. I imagine the turf at Lambeau felt like concrete.

So, that part I get. Much as I wish he would stick around for a year or two more, I understand the rationale. And though his last pass in the NFL will now be a game-ending interception, going out after the amazying 13-3 season the Pack put up last year is pretty darn close to the story book ending that John Elway had a decade ago. He went out on top-- and there is something to be said for that.

And thus begins the Aaron Rodgers era. I do not envy that young man-- trying to follow a legend cannot be an easy thing. But I've liked what I saw of Rodgers last year (which, admittedly wasn't much since Favre misses so few plays). If he can stay healthy I think he can be a good QB. Probably not a Hall of Famer or even a Pro-bowler, but at least average and maybe better than... if he can stay healthy.

We'll see.

In the meantime I must echo a sentiment that is being expressed all over Cheeseland today:

Thanks Brett. You occasionally drove us crazy, but you were always fun to watch, you played the game with the enthusiasm and almost child-like giddiness that is so often lacking these days, and you helped restore glory and tradition to Titletown, USA.

It's been a fantastic sixteen years. You'll be missed.


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