Monday, December 31, 2012

Since Christmas

Ramblings Post #211
Christmas stopped being the first kind of Christmas when I realized that Santa wasn't actually a real person, and that my cousin was incorrect about the pepper in your eyes thing if you saw him. Then Christmas stopped being the second kind of Christmas when my outgoing exceeded my incoming, which meant I'd assumed the role of Santa and I was short reindeer and elves. The third kind of Christmas, I'm starting to wonder about. That's one where you simply celebrate the spirit of the season and you hope that they really were lying the first time, because you could use a real Santa right about now.

Let's Recap the past few days...

Rode down to see the folks, and about forty miles from my parents house the car just stops running. I mean, no warning, no dramatic puff of black smoke or loud wrenching noises, just rolling along one minute and then nothing. I roll to a stop on the ramp from I-20 to I-26. This is Christmas Eve.

After it's off the road, because nobody really wants to fix my car on Christmas day, I end up spending a nice quiet day with the folks. We go see my grandparents, who are finally starting to look old. Technically, my grandparents were old when I was born, but they never looked or acted it. My grandfather worked in the fields and doing odd jobs until about two years ago...when they made him stop driving. I saw him at Thanksgiving and he looked like a shadow of the man who in his sixties told me, a high school football player, to go ahead and take a break and after I could help him finish digging the ditch. Now he looks an old man. Mortality punches you in the mouth.

The day after Christmas I get the car towed to a garage, and lo and behold its the timing belt. There are probably a half dozen other things wrong with it, but the one stopping it from getting me from A to B is the timing belt. Which is not a one day job. So I rent a car while he fixes it and ride back to Atlanta because I have prep for the February bar exam. Which both terrifies and comforts me.

This  whole back and forth thing is a horrible plan, because it involves me driving back to my hometown, and then back to Atlanta twice in one week. This one right here, is not a big fan of driving.

For the trip back, because the car place only opens for three hours on Saturday, I have to be up and rolling before dawn. Then, because my grandfather actually being old ...which is kinda a shock to everyone... my uncle decided to ride down with me so he could visit. Which made for at least an interesting ride. I picked him up at 5am and on the way down he regaled me with stories of about his job, his health, and his next get rich quick scheme before he fell asleep. Then on the way back, the longer he rode in my car, the more he wanted to fix all the other stuff that was wrong with it. 

Since my return, it's been one event after another, first a little house party, then a drop in for the last games of the NFL regular season. Both were held in very nice houses, very nice...and so I've set my goal of 24 months to be in one. Goals baby...Goals! And at the last one I even got free tickets a NYE event! Still might not go though. Not really feeling it.

Barkeep...let's finish out the year with Bookers, a splash of sprite and a bit of lime.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Personal Festival

Ramblings Post #210
If you're gonna be a bear, then be a grizzly. That line is from some movie of my youth. I want to say Cannonball Run for some reason. Anyway, what it means is that if you're going to do something, then be the best you can be. Which isn't that much more difficult to say, now that I think about it, but lacks the folksy wisdom feel of the grizzly thing. All that said, I know a lot of grizzlies.

Girlfriends - The successful black woman's ideal

Most of my personal dealings are with a specific sub-set of black women - financially independent, childless, early 30's to mid 40's and out doing the damn thing. The number of women on my Facebook page whose daily updates include gym check-in's, marathon finishes, photos from trips abroad, career sucesses, stories of their charity work and etc., must surely be above average. And living this life means they don't have simple birthday parties - they have Birthday Festivals.

What is a Birthday Festival you ask? It's just like it sounds, a festival. They usually have four or five parts over three or four days. It usually involves multiple group activities, various locations, clubbing, and lots of drinking. One I remember had it's first night start with a "Wine and Paint Hangout", where we would all go to a group painting lesson (Learning how to paint say, a still life wine bottle) while sipping the aforementioned wine. Another I one I was invited to, but didn't attend, started with a Saturday morning 5k "fun" run for some charity before heading into the north Georgia mountains for white water rafting. These festivals sometimes include T-shirts, commemorative CDs and gift bags. This all comes to mind because I just finished Serve's Birthday Festival. 

The Festival of Serve started with a Friday night of Indian Food at Bombay Cafe and then smoking hookahs at Therapy Coffee Bar. Dinner at an Indian restaurant seems to both lack and have a certain something about it in group situations. I think due to the size of our party, the service was more personable - the belly dancer kept circling the table - but the it all lacked a certain intimacy. But that may have been because this was the first Indian spot I'd been to that wasn't half empty. Therapy Coffee Bar, on the other hand, was like finding a revelation in a closet, as the tiny spot had a live jazz trio and served a mean Old Fashion. I'm not too crazy about hookahs, but when in the whole thing felt like a cool scene from a late 80's urban romance movie. Now, there was a final part of the evening that I did not attend, but from which I did get calls when people were headed home at 3am.

The festival resumed Saturday at Senor Patron, a Mexican grille in midtown. Well, that's when I rejoined, there may have been a day activity, but I had "thangs" to do. The Mexican food was supposed to be the start of a bar crawl, something I swore I had outgrown since I realized that I was way too old to be even drinking and walking any distance more than to the bathroom. I wasn't even going but Spanky begged me to come because she didn't want to be the only one to leave early and get talked about later.  However because this is a Fest- tee -vaal, the "surprise" group activity was a Midtown Scavenger Hunt. The women on my team were very competitive, but this was surprisingly fun, although I'm certain that various parts of this whole thing weren't fully thought through. Finding people to do the Mission Impossible theme, or one armed push ups, or even gathering napkins for bonus points wasn't that hard. In fact once we showed the list of items to strangers they were oddly eager to help out. No, it was the shots and drinks. At every location. By the time we were done (my team took second place), we'd "participated so throughly" it was no longer cold out.

The finale was Sunday at the Giants-Falcon game. And although me and Serve go back a decade, I wasn't about to kick out for a ticket to watch two teams I only care about in passing. There may have been something after that, but by then I was in the wind and trying to get my study vibe back on track.

I have a feeling in 2015, Serve's Festival will involve costumes.

I'm not sure what the deal with the Birthday Festival is. Maybe it's a need to get it all in while you can, as a lot of these single women are still planning on getting married and  becoming mothers at some point. Or maybe it's just a "why not go all out" attitude, that got and flaunt thang. Or an excuse to do something different with their friends while folks are in a good time mood. Or, and hope this isn't it, it'a an ego trip because they think that they're just that awesome and everybody should want to go all out to celebrate them. 

In any case I'm certain a Festival or three is around the corner. They do have their moments.

Barkeep. Water. Tall glass. It's holiday season, and all this drinking ain't even cool.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A moment for Newtown, Conn.

I've talked about enough of these tragedies in the few years that I've been blogging to not want to talk about another. The repetition of such a story in the news cycle, networks desperate for eyeballs racing at break neck speed down every possible avenue and shining it's flashlight in every corner will only exacerbate the problem. Lonely people, mad at the world see only the blaze of infamy the murderer is bathed in by the media. If they must go, this is how they will want to do it.

It says something about me that once I heard about the tragedy, I checked one or two hastily thrown up articles and then tuned out all news for the rest of the day. I too, in the long long ago, would have tuned in mindlessly for any update, any scrap of news. No more. The repetition of non-news, uninformed explanations and self serving reasoning must have been deafening. I liked to have believed that we were better than that. I guess I was wrong.

My condolences go out to the families who lost children, to the families that lost members who had dedicated their lives to the craft of educating our youth, and to all the people of Newtown, Conn.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Quick Restaurant Review - Del Frisco's Grille

How do you end up at Atlanta's newest hot spot, one which is packed to the rooftop and not accepting reservations, and still manage to score a table at prime dining time on the outdoor deck on a late fall Friday night? You travel with a VIP diva, that's how. Or at least that's how I ended up at Del Frisco's in Buckhead to celebrate Serve's birthday before she jetted out for a Caribbean getaway. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's go back a bit.

It's Friday night in Atlanta, and I'm...home. I've got a rousing evening planned with Dwarf Fortress strategy, writing sample tinkering, light bar exam prep and maybe even re-reading some home renovation magazines. Excitement! The oven is preheating, I'm about to take the defrosted chicken out of the fridge and my phone rings. It's Spanky, the VIP diva, asking what I'm doing. I explain that I'm about to have a Martha Stewart episode - baked chicken mixed with brown rice, mushrooms, broccoli, green onions, maybe some sweet corn all tossed in a pot, then add warm naan bread on the side and maybe a nice white wine or the Crystal Light - when she asks if I want to go out because it's Serve's birthday. Serve's out with a manfriend, and she's gonna meet after for drinks, but Spanky doesn't want to eat alone. I've been making it a habit as of late to actually go out when people ask because as I understand it the internet doesn't turn off in this country and it just so happens television repeats a lot. She up in arms about this spot she wants to go to Del Frisco's Grille that she read about on, so I shelve my plans and tell her I'll be over in a bit.

I need to say this now, because the idea ran through my head pretty much all night, and in fact I even mentioned it Spanky. It felt odd because this was the kinda of night that in the past I would have spent with Sporty. Fun, adventurous, and different. Without her, there was something missing. Sigh.

Spanky decides we're going to ride the train up to Buckhead. If you're from a major city and think nothing of riding the train, let me tell you now that Atlanta is not that kinda city. It's a car kinda city. Very car. So riding the train, something I formerly had primarily done to go to sporting events at the dome was out of tweak. But I was game. We boarded with people riding up from the airport, people getting off work late, collge age kids headed out into the city, a veritable smorgasbord of people. It proved convienent as well, as the station was only a half a block from the restaurant which appeared to be on valet overload maximum.

So we arrive around 8 p.m. On a Friday. With no reservations. The hostesses politely informs us that a table might open up around 10:30pm, but we're welcome to wait at the bar. The already packed, two deep, shoulder to shoulder bar. Where five guys I already know are sitting! I leave it up to Spanky and try to catch the bartender's attention. I am not successful. I am not amused. But, ten minutes or so later when I go back over to the hostess station to check on Spanky, the hostess says right this way and we're given a seat on upstairs patio overlooking Peachtree St.

I refuse to ask Spanky what she might have told that woman to get us that table.

Del Frisco's is one of the places that has the short one page menu, supposedly indicating we only cook these things and we do them well, in a movie glossy interior. Apparently they were not informed of Atlanta's "big empty room" concept of restaurant decoration. Interesting. It was a rocky start as the bar was out "good" bourbon and the seat cushions insisted on stillness, not comfort, but we soldiered on. We started with a crab cake (my habit), with Spanky getting the Delmonico steak with a potato cake and me getting the Cheesburger with no cheese. 

Sooooo, the server was great. AND, their signature shot, the Honey Badger, - pineapple juice, sweet and sour and Tuaca - were so good we had a second round when Serve and her birthday manfriend arrived (they'd dined at Dante's Down the Hatch which was right next door.) And Del Frisco's is great for people watching. And they had these outdoor heaters with flames shooting up like three feet in the air.  And the view of Peachtree St included the Christmas tree at Lenox Mall and the soothing motion of traffic. Yup, it sure did.

Oh, the food? Um, maybe I need to apologize to my brother, because I think that beef in my burger was grass fed. It didn't have that burger taste. And the fries were too skinny. And the crab cake was just so-so. And Spanky is still trying to figure out what the potato cake was...think mashed potatoes in a patty, with stuff inside. What stuff she's not sure.  She did like the actual steak though. This supposed to be steak house, a national chain steakhouse, all kitted out - the wall of wine was nice, but there are better steak houses with better steaks...and trendy stylish joints elsewhere in the city. And a steak house isn't just steak, it's sides, it's proper drinks, it's atmosphere.  Maybe it's because they're new and maybe it will get better.

I would have been getting the side eye from Sporty over this one.

Barkeep, explain to me how you run out of good bourbon on a Friday 8pm.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

So they're making Big Explosions in, Star Trek 2

Ramblings Post #209
There is an idea, a notion if you will, that Hollywood is out of ideas. It's why you see more and more other media being transformed for the big screen. It becomes maddening, seeing perfectly good characters mangled by Hollywood screenwriters trying to stuff a story into two hours, and make them match the demographic specs. And apparently it's even worse if the owner (not author) scraps the entire original concept, counting on the impetus of goodwill for the old version to help sell the new shiny version.

This is the official synopsis of the upcoming Star Trek movie for next year....

In Summer 2013, pioneering director J.J. Abrams will deliver an explosive action thriller that takes "Star Trek Into Darkness."

When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis.

With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.

As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.

Three things.

First, why is the term "explosive action thriller" being used to describe a Star Trek film? The underlying theme of Star Trek, what made it great, was that it was actually about something. Sure there was some action, but the vast majority of the stories were about larger themes like man's place in the universe, sacrifice, honor, etc. Reducing it to a series of big budget explosions makes me wonder if Abrams even understands what he's been handed. Jean Luc Picard ring a bell? Data's question of humanity? The ecology questions, relationships, the prime directive? Where are the wonderful stories? This reboot of Star Trek has the Federation looking more and more like a failure than the triumphant advancement of society Rodenberry originally came up with. I realize you can't stuff all the nuances of the various series into a two hour film, but at some point this stops being Star Trek and becomes The Expendables in Space.

Second there's the "detonated the fleet" line. What does that even mean? Didn't you just blow up the damn fleet last time Mr. Abrams? I realize this is the future, and Starfleet officers have never really seemed to worry about money, but still methinks them puppies ain't cheap. How much gold pressed latitinum does Starfleet have budgeted for ship construction? Because somewhere in that chain, somebody is going to need to get paid. How about we shrink the story and instead of threatening all of existence everytime some one charges up a warp coil, you bring it down to a micro level. Oh, wait, that might require storytelling skills. My bad. 

Third...and probably the worst...this line right here "from within their own organization." Really? I mean really? You have got be kidding. Wasn't this the premise behind the first three Mission Impossible movies? Or all three Jason Bourne movies? Or really every spy or espionage movie made in the past two decades? Even the James Bond films have fallen into this trap. I going to go ahead and suggest that the rogue agent trope be tossed on the scrap heap of screenwriting until 2025. Maybe Abrams thinks it will all be fresh and new if you do it in space this time. Wait, wasn't this the plot of Star Trek: the Undiscovered Country? This isn't even new in space! But you know what they could try? How about a having an enemy who doesn't know who the hero is, and doesn't have a personal vendetta, or isn't a rogue agent who knows all the tricks of the trade. Sounds crazy right? Seriously, this whole thing sounds like a mess. The synopsis reads like a bad 80's action b-movie starring (fill in sweaty action star here). Maybe I'm wrong..., no, I saw the first one.

I bet the lens flare budget is the biggest expense on the books.

Even the heroic sacrifice alluded to in this still from the Japanese trailer loses weight at this point, as the we'd be mourning the old characters, from the old series, not these slick new versions. We don't know them yet. There is so little here that is still Star Trek.

Barkeep, I thought Abrams was supposed to be good or something. Something light, I need my wits about me. No Romulan Ale. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Somebody is Trying to Tell me Something.

Ramblings Post #208
I wanted to put song lyrics here for some reason. Not explain it or even mention that they were song lyrics. I'm guessing they would appear as muddled train of thought writing perhaps. And people (okay, person) who reads this would look at it and be puzzled for a while until they heard it on the radio and went "Oh, yeah." Then it would be less mysterious. But I guess I'm not putting up song lyrics. Don't know why, just not.

What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.
~ Sylvia Plath

I have often mused that God speaks to us by pushing the little levers in our lives that create the opportunity for larger things to happen.  By maybe nudging the coin during the flip, by making us pause for a minute for no reason we can think of at the time, starting a chain reaction the end of which we might not ever see. It's a odd way of looking at faith if you will.

So I went to my second religious service in less than two weeks. The first service for a funeral, the second a christening. So like bookends if you will. But what was most interesting is that both sermons talked about living your life to the fullest.

The funeral was for a man who had died relatively young. Relatively, because he was way older than I am now, but as I intend to live much, much longer it's still a bit unnerving. The reverend, in the classic mold of the old Southern preacher - sweating, shouting and infusing the words with the power of truth, implored us in his sermon to "live your life so that when your time comes, they don't have to look for, ask for, beg, or pay people to come to your funeral to share your story." I've heard that idea before, live life to the fullest and all that, but then little over a week later after the christening, the sermon from a young preacher echoed this theme, pointing out we only have so much time - and so we need to start "living" that time. He asked us to do so because the worst thing you can do is "return yourself to God in the original packaging."

Perhaps "someone" is trying to tell me something.

It's not like I haven't been working towards self improvement for the past few years. I went to school at night and working by day, committing all my time, energy and attention to carving if nothing else higher education..and in a larger sense a better opportunity for me. And that plan is in its final stages, buckle down time. It is living of a sort. But then, I've kinda sacrificed a lot of other parts of my existence to get to here. And truth be told, although I've done a whole lot of living, there are whole parts of my reality unexplored.

So I've printed out a passport application.

I'm going to start back on my writing. And concentrate on one title, this time. (Well, maybe two... three... four stories tops!)

Cut back the indulgences on my diet. Yeah, that sounds counter-intuitive, but technically for the past few weeks I've been breaking my indulgences with my diet. Plus I looked good slimmer. Well, I still look good now, but I looked even better even slimmer.

I'm going to speak up on some things I've been silent about for too long.

I'm going to get back to my friends, my family, my people, the city and city living. Get back to living because as they like to say, "none of us are promised tomorrow." Get back to good company, good restaurants, and the quiet joy that comes from what seems like an unremarkable evening that you know will live in your memory forever.

Well, maybe after I take the bar..., 'cause I got like loans and junk.

Barkeep. Make this one of my last ones, because all that studying I was doing on the side is about grab the wheel again.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dallas, we have a problem...

This is a sports post.

Ramblings Post #207
I think if we start now, maybe use kickstarter and give it year, I think we can raise enough money to buy the team. If all the fans kicked in say a five bucks a week, then we could do it like Green Bay, have like a community owned team, and by community I mean the fan community. Because we need to do something. Can you start a kickstarter to buy a pro football team? Football is a kind of being creative. 

How do I know that my team, yes, MY TEAM... and I'm saying it like I own a piece of the team and have keys to the bathroom in the owners suite... how do I know that my team has a problem?  Because DeMarco Murray is has only just been eclipsed as the rushing leader for the team...and he hasn't carried the ball during a game in SIX WEEKS! Which means that for all intents and purposes the Dallas Cowboys don't have the running game of a team in the Lingerie Football League.

People like to pick on my boys, the terms and words I've heard used to describe them make think of English hooligans at times, as well as shout from the roof tops how bad a QB Tony Romo is. But the reality is that most QBs would be hard pressed to play at the same level. The defenses the Cowboys face almost treat the idea of having to stop the run as an afterthought. Romo drops back almost an average of 42 times a game, with the last few games pass attempts going as high as 62. Which in that game was over 80% of the plays. This means the opposing linebackers can drop back into coverage automatically, defensive backs never have to peer into the backfield and the defensive line can steady pass rush with little worry. This kind of play calling only creates problems for yourself. Oh wither mine Cowboys.

Oddly it's as if the Cowboys don't trust the running game.  And I say oddly because the team has only THREE rushing fumbles all season versus Romo's FIFTEEN interceptions. And two of those fumbles from rushing are by Romo during scrambles. So one rushing fumble all year. Is the salary cap so tight that they can't cut the running backs they do have, but apparently don't trust, and get some people in who they feel comfortable carrying the ball? And how much more comfortable do they have to feel? Negative fumbles?

I swear I thought the Jones boys were supposed to be businessmen. Jerry is treating the whole thing like a hobby, still playing at General Manager after all these years because he wants to be able to say "he did it" if they win another Superbowl. How many real football management teams has he run off? It's said that everything is big in Texas, but I don't think Jerry Jones ego would even fit in that cathedral to football he's built. Or maybe, because of the contract structure of the league he's still making he just doesn't really give a [censored].

Barkeep, a glass of old Kentucky rye, I'm going to start looking into a restraining order to see if I can keep Jerry away from my team.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Quick Restaurant Review - RA Sushi

I've been the house for more than a minute lately. It is partly trying to fill in this lull between when I had hoped to take the bar and when I am planning to take the bar with practical things and exercises. Things that will improve my abilities. That instead of trying to "build a time machine" out of the Atlanta nightlife and see if I can get my youth back. I've become to some degree bookish.  Tinkering with a few projects to keep my mind functioning. A bit of a homebody if you will.

I've become so ensconced that when Serve hit me up and suggested we go out for sushi, I honestly was scared going out would mess up my evening routine. This in case you're a bad thing. Real live person v. internet and TV. And some writing. So I threw on some shoes and headed out to midtown.

Ah, Midtown. When I first got to Atlanta ages ago (late 90's), still only halfway kinda knowing folks, before I hooked up with the guy who would eventually be my Running Partner and his boys, I had a fairly simple, nicely planed Friday night in Midtown. That all of these places are now closed and mostly forgotten says how far the city has come. First, The Martini Bar. It was a little old house turned bar that had live jazz upstairs and served 20 different kinds of martinis. I would hang out there until Club Kaya opened, where I would ply my pickup techniques until it got late. After I would walk back down to Vickery's Bar and Grill and get a burger and fries. Good Times. All gone.

Back to now.  Midtown is still a bunch of hot spots and eateries, I just haven't been there lately. RA Sushi is at the south end of the Crescent Ave area, actually where Kaya once stood now that I think about it. The outside is all corporate, but the inside is all brown wood and red accents, with a sushi bar up front and a real bar in the far left corner. It could be warm and cozy if the room was a bit dimmer, but as it stands its kinda like a faux atmosphere instead. Or maybe it was just that night.

Serve had picked the place because it had a happy hour, and then fifteen percent off, and then as it turned out a eighties theme party going on, which meant even more a discount. Which explained why there was a picture of Tupac on the wall and they were playing old R&B. There was a tense moment early, when it appeared as if three girls who could have been classmates of Lil Sal and who arrived ten minutes after us looked like they were going to get served first, but our waitress arrived just in the nick of time. Whew.

The menu. Ah...well, here's the thing. You been to one sushi place, you've pretty much been to them all. Rice, fish, toppings and viola! Sushi! We got a round of drinks, I got a California roll and grilled short ribs off the special while Serve ordered the RAckin Shrimp and the edamame. I tasted a few of the shrimp, it wasn't a bad dish. The ribs were way too greasy and fatty. The California roll was....oh, you've had a California roll, same thing. I did mean to try a Las Vegas roll, but I forgot. Serve ordered something else which we split...but it was so blah I can't even remember what it was. Maybe the Lobster Shrimp Roll? I dunno.

That speaks volumes, doesn't it?

The meal was a thank you for a project of hers I'd been working on, one which the previous person she'd employed had left a mess. She figured she could trust me after my notes on what the other person had done wrong mirrored that of actual expert in the field she'd consulted. Oddly, we didn't talk about that. We talked mostly about getting old because we recognized ALL the songs, bad relationships among our mutual friends and what I'll need to do after I take the bar.

All in all a good night. A few drinks, a few laughs, good music and I was home to catch the Thursday night game still in the first quarter. Now don't that beat all? Well, it was the Bills versus the, we technically could have hung out a little bit longer.  So, RA sushi. Well, you might want to see if it's a theme night...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

"You cheated by winning!" screamed the loser...

This is a political post.

In the aftermath of what was the most contentious presidential election in modern history - with
attack ads, voter suppression efforts, bold faced lies and willful deceit, we have apparently learned one thing : Absolutely nothing. We are right back where we were some two years ago, only now a bit less polite about it.
GOP accuses Obama of fruit theft from Job Creator
The entire affair reminds me of a high school fight, where one combatant has "talked up his game" only to get knocked around and finally suplexed in the hallway by the cafeteria. Right in front of the cheerleaders. And then, instead of lying their quietly and feigning injury or perhaps re-evaluating their life choices, they stagger to their feet and still woozy and yell "Is that all you got?"

The reasons being floated by Conservatives for the Democratic win of the Presidency are mind boggling, ranging from the President won because the "urban" (read as black) voter turnout was high to the "white establishment " now being the minority to the President handing out goodies to minorities as political bribes. It's as though they want you to believe the Chapelle Show reparations skit was about to come to life. What's most significant is not that these theories are constructed to de-legitimitze the election results, that's expected, but it is that they're coming from Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the top pundits at Fox News and not the far right wing fringe.

Despite the reality bubble that conservatives had constructed for themselves completely collapsing - they're simply continuing to hold onto "the faith."They're not out of step with the majority, the whole thing was all a trick! People love us! In fact, they're not only still living in the rubble of that bubble, they're building a new one, using as the foundation a conspiracy about Benghazi, who knew what when, and trying desperately to inflate the Patraeus side piece story into something they can impeach the President for. Because they so want to. Really they do.

Only Newt Gingrich is making the rational argument and instead of asking what's wrong with the
electorate, instead suggesting a reexamination of conservative policy. The rest who are even suggesting any change at all are more along of the lines of a need for some touch up paint around the edges to soften the message. Not change the message...just change how it's told.

Instead of even the beginnings of cooperation, we have the Conservatives...lead by the conservative entertainment complex (phrase via David Frum)... heading right back down the rabbit hole, seeking a nice "comfort conspiracy" to soothe themselves of the crazy idea that their message no longer resonates with the majority of Americans. Benghazi! We have people who screamed USA at the top of the lungs at political rallies filing petitions to secede simply because the majority of country sees the future of the country differently. My "new" conservative black friend still posts things like a picture of the President playing golf, pointing out his leisure while people still haven't recovered from Hurricane Sandy - as though the President should be up a pole stringing power cables or personally guiding the operations (which of course would be evidence of him being power mad). Nothing has changed.

We're back to the kid in the hall. Bleeding, staggering, missing a tooth, totally embarrased...shouting at the guy who just finished beating on him... "Oh, you scared?" 

So, several billion dollars and two years...just to get us back to here. Absolutely nothing.
2014 people. Because stress is like...damn.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

That Damn Batman....Returns.

This is a political post.

Excuse me, I have an engagement that...just came up.
I read online somewhere a suggestion that we just scrap the electoral college and go to a straight popular vote...if only so we never have to hear about Ohio and Florida at election time again. That the fate of the nation comes down to eight to ten states every time is telling as to the makeup of this country. But as I watched the analysts crunch the data, explaining to the talking heads how they could confidently call races with so much of the vote still outstanding, the astounding work the Obama campaign became clearly evident. The creation of the idea of Romney as a blank slate who would hold firm no position only appeared to have been their opening salvo, but the real plan was a precision targeted effort in those crucial demographics in the key states, some four years in the making that was, dare I say it...a plan straight out of the Batcave. Batman Obama. 

The goddamn Batman.

But in the end, we have the same President, facing the same congress. Are we not in the same position we were just a few months ago? Are we not still in a gridlocked struggle for the future of a country?

Yes and no.

One can only hope the early cracks in the conservative assessment that showed last night as I flipped through the coverages (MSNBC, Fox, CNN, CSPAN, TV1, Comedy Central) grow into great fault lines of blame. Some are arguing that the GOP went too far to the right and turned off the moderates. Others are suggesting they didn't go far enough, and should become even more conservative. That a president who supports gay marriage and women's rights was reelected should be the first clue in, discussion. And as someone who thinks the ideologues and extremists have hijacked the party, a internal civil war might initially shrink the party, but could get the Republicans back into a position to appeal to those moderates who always struggle to decide. It may even result in a legitimate three party system.  

But it is the fiscal cliff, as it's being called, that will force some hands quickly. With the sequester looming, and the President relatively immune to the political fallout for the foreseeable future, a lot of cards are about to fall onto the table that weren't supposed to. This, and the effect the machine may have had on the Republican reality bubble may be the first step to change in this country. 

Now as the Tea Party reshuffles (one only hopes it becomes a footnote in history) and the conservative leadership comes to grips with the idea that they've starting buying into their own bullshit - Romney didn't even have a concession speech prepared! - the realization that change has to come if they wish to remain relevant becomes painfully obvious. The Obama campaign machine wrecked nearly every conservative pundit concept put forward through the past few weeks. And it promises more in the future. The map was NOT the territory. This is a reality. The problem is that they have demonized their enemies and turn viciously on even the slightest deviations. This fracture with dogma and reality may be enough to get a conversation started between the outliers and Democrats, which could start a trend. Or so we hope.

Most importantly, this victory also means that the Supreme Court may come to better reflect the mores of the world today than those of thirty years ago and Ronald Regan. No doubt some of the more staunchly conservative justices who had recently flirted with retirement are now about to rethink their positions. But as they enter their late 70s it is only a matter of time before age and fatigue catch up to them. And a shift of these nine unelected "tribal fathers" might border on tectonic for the future of the country.  

The last question - as my brother put it - is if the machine is truly a "Democratic Machine", or just an Obama Machine. The Republicans are already looking ahead to 2014 and 2016. And although Obamas are now out of the game - they like the Clintons, are going to cast a long shadow...for a long time. The search or "grooming" of the next candidate begins now.

Because that's how Batman does things. 

I just like this pic. I do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter #28
Sometimes it's not enough to make a whole post...but still it deserves to be said.

I voted. And now we wait.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Election 2012 - The Endgame

This is a political post.

As we enter the endgame of the 2012 presidential race the campaigns are furiously at work trying to gather as many of the swing state hearts and minds as they can. I feel a little sorry for the people of Ohio. It promises to be a fight to the finish.

 And I have no idea why.

When is the alligator lurking in political swamp going to snap? Mitt's been dancing in a veritable alligator farm for the last...well, since forever really. Is Fox News really that good?

That Romney has lied to the people of the swing state of Ohio, in claiming that Jeep is moving its operations to China  AND THEY KNOW HE LIED appears to have had no effect. I am amazed that even after the company refuted the allegation - in fact revealing plans to create even more jobs - the campaign has continued to press this as a failure of the current administration's policies. One would have imagined that bold faced lying by a candidate would cause a something of a shift in the polls... but apparently not. No alligator.

One would think that Romney having completely changed his tune about FEMA,  five minutes after the "wind shifted"  would have some effect. But then a number of the Fox supporters probably believe that Obama turned on a Hurricane making Machine to boost his profile. I'm not even going to get into the Romney's campaign's absurdly transparent attempts at to appear like they were providing some aid.  One imagines had Romney simply written the Red Cross a personal check for two million dollars how much better it all would have come across. But other than get New Jersey's Gov. Christie to admit the Federal Government CAN do some good...again no 'gator. 

Think about it. His tax plan is reminiscent of the underpants gnomes, his foreign policy is Obama's with the name crossed out and his version of the past reads like rapper Rick Ross's autobiography. alligator.

So I worry.

My new conservative friend keeps harping on the attack in Benghazi, which is apparently Obama's 73rd or 74th Watergate moment. That has be something of a record for squeaking by comeuppance, beating out even Charlie Sheen for comebacks. The conservative slant keeps demanding "the truth", which in reality means "tell us you're an incompetent boob." Because unless the demanded "truth" espouses their predisposed notion, then in their opinion there is still something left that's being covered up. This despite reports emerging that show the government used everything but the top secret teleporter technology to get assistance to the scene.

Then again, you kinda figure that even if Obama announced at 8am that he personally had found the cure for cancer and was giving it away for free...that the GOP would have a press conference by noon denouncing the administration for trying to put doctors out of work. I mean, even though Obama oversaw the saving of the auto industry, brought the stock market back, got corporate profits to record highs and got passed the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare), according to his detractors he can't run on is record. Because to them, if Obama were any good he would have also balanced the budget, paid off the national debt, personally captured all the terrorists AND cured cancer. But then Fox news would report that he was only trying to put accountants, the military and doctors out of work. And what's really odd is that apparently half the country believes them.

So I worry.

Tuesday it's all over. Thank God for Tuesday.

At least I hope it's over on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Disney bought Lucasfilm. Thank God.

Ramblings Post #206
I have somewhere, downloaded from the internet someplace, a copy of the first draft of Star Wars. Reading it is much like watching the comedy short of a fictionalized George Lucas in college, where you can see where the concepts that eventually become the icons we all know originated. Its almost a fascinating study in development. I am getting my geek on over here. Man, I should be writing.

I too waited breathlessly for the first prequel, the one which would actually start the story after the first movie was cryptically called "Chapter Four". Star Wars, which captivated millions and solidified the modern "franchise" process of movie making promised to be epic storytelling. Now, I didn't wear a storm trooper outfit or anything like that, but I dutifully stood in line and paid my money. What did I get? Trade Federation woes, a crude Jewish stereotype, pod racing, a kid who couldn't act, Midichlorians and more things you could eventually make into merch than you could count.  And Jar Jar.

I was not amused.

I didn't even waste the energy to go see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The whole Lucasfilm experience began to feel like going back to a place you loved as child only to find out they've torn down the old burger stand, cut down the natural forest for a golf course and setup cabana and ATV rentals on what was an unspoiled beach. Memory didn't match the new reality and I felt cheated. Finding out the entire Star Wars saga is really about Darth Vader's evolution was a truly WTF moment. I'd just about written the whole thing off as something that used to be, that was never going to be as good as it was.

This sale gives me hope. A new hope.

George Lucas is not a good writer. Think about it - his old mentor, his two kids and the two droids he had as kid pop up on the Death Star and all Darth Vader gets from the force is a mental tickle? There is the huge time hole/anomaly in The Empire Strikes Back that we all over look, along with many other moments that we simply all went along with in the original trilogy because it was a good story. The prequels made little blips that only geeks would normally spot glaring, or worse created new problems in the original trilogy. It was kind of sad.

The heart of good movies in the modern era is writing. Not special effects or explosions, but good writing. Or at least writing good enough to hide obvious stupidity (I swore it was just good writing until I checked the top films for 2012 - 2011. The Smurfs? Ted? Really?) The new groove in Hollywood is character development, something Lucas completely threw off the lot once he'd figured out CGI. Developing the character from brute to hero, or from brooding to active is a trick that makes people re-watch movies. It does not usually however, sell merch if done wrong. But, as it turns out...Disney and its partners (Pixar) are kinda is good at both.

I'm at heart a writer. Maybe not a "finisher", as my brother likes to point out, but a writer nonetheless.  And I know it hurts to hand over your creations to someone else. But it was time. George had done all he could, and rather than let someone else dabble at it then snatch back control... like your average record producer, he did what had to be done. I will note that in the pics for the deal, he didn't exactly look overjoyed. 

I personally would have thoughts to rights to Star Wars would have been worth more than four billion though. But I understand there is stock involved, so, *insert shrug here.* That Disney pretty much owns my childhood now is beside the point. For now. 

Barkeep. Give me whatever Han Solo was drinking when he shot Greedo. And yes, Han shot first.

If this happens though, I'm suing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

...and then came Sandy

Ramblings Post #205
Back in the day we used to say remark "you got me setup for failure" to indicate that one had been invited into a bad situation. It was kind of a cultural shorthand. These form over time and can be said to bind certain groups, almost unconsciously. I've recently heard a new phrase. This new saying signifies that the person being spoken of was true to the words of their exploits or did exactly what they said they did. It's usually used in the negative indicating  that the person in question lied. The common use, directed to towards someone who has been found to be false is "You ain't about that life." With that I mind, I think I can safely say, that Sandy IS about that life.

Times Square - Midday

I got people in Washington DC, and New Jersey. Sporty is up that way, as is Shade, and Singe is a Brooklyn girl as are few other folk I know. I haven't heard anything to get alarmed at yet, but I'm still concerned. And despite my general assessment from my time there that the whole city is a hype job, basically "a hicktown with more streets and less grass", there exists a psychological - cultural - iconic idea of New York City. It is the big apple. The city that never sleeps. If you can make it there you can make it anywhere.

And it's gone dark.

If you're not from America, you might not get it, and that's understandable. Or maybe you do. It is unsettling to us. 

The odd part is the storm didn't even directly hit NYC. Despite the flooding of Atlantic City, and extensive damage in lowing lying parts of New Jersey, where the storm actually did make landfall, it is the City that is the focus.  There is something about that place that holds our imagination, our hope. The power is out from Detroit to DC, and far north as Vermont, but we seem entranced by the vision of the NY metro now serving as waterlogged canals.  Our fascination is kinda hard to explain.

N-Line, completely flooded.
I'm not sure when we started calling them First Responders, but this is the time we should appreciate the dedication of the firemen, police officers, EMTs, and national guard willing to wade out into the darkness to help their fellow man. That takes courage in a sense that many of us only hope to have. To trundle off into the chaos, into the storm....well, damn.

I've heard from Sporty and Shade, a few others, my family is okay for now...but to everyone else out there my prayers go to you.

Barkeep. Water. But put a round for NYC on me.  Oh, and everybody else too. We still haven't gotten to the snowstorm part of this yet.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

James Bond (revisited)

Ramblings Post #204
I've come to the realization of a number of things of late. That I have a tendency to over-commit, that I like comfort and that ruts can get deep. And I have a thing for french fries. Not sure why that's relevant. I like what I like, and I don't particularly like when it changes. Unless it changes for the better, then cool. So my original premise that I don't like change makes no sense. I think I need a drink. 

 This is not a film review, sorry.

A few years ago I expressed my opinion about Daniel Craig as James Bond. Unlike his previous incarnations, this Bond was brooding and blunt force and I was little off-put by how he was much more phyiscal than cerebral.  This isn't an agent Ernest Starvos Blofeld would see as a worthy adversary.  This isn't an incarnation that could bluff Auric Goldfinger - a villain who not not only bolted Bond to a table so he could cut him in half with a laser, he didn't leave the hero to die, he hung out so he could watch! This was James Bond was somebody else.

And I  am kinda getting to like him now.

My affection for the film series was rekindled by Goldeneye, which was a return to the more lush idea of film making, one in which the story went on for long stretches without the central character inhabiting the frame. The script had teeth, and didn't appear to be just a series of stunts and set pieces with bits of conversation jammed in between. Craig's debut, Casino Royale, went deeper into that kind of dense storyline, harkening back to the character's original incarnation, where Bond had been a little rough around the edges. It grew on me.

A new kind of Bond built from the old, but with new the villains updated as well. SPECTRE probably isn't going to make into the new films, having been replaced by Quantum or whatever its called. Nor do I see SMERSH ever being used in film, originally shelved for political reasons even at the start of the film series. The old has had to fall away. And while it would be neat to have Blofeld turn out to be the real head of Quantum, I doubt that will happen. The previous connecting of the two films, the almost segue from the ending of one to the start of the other, and the smarter writing gives me hope that the story in this will just as dense in this next outing, something that doesn't happen often in film as of late. I just hope that we can get away from the grossly overused "rouge agent" storyline that has been plaguing the spy movie genre for the past decade or so.

The new pic, Skyfall may be the first film I go see in a theater in years. And understand the next two Bonds, which I believe Craig is signed on for will be done ala Kill Bill - as part of one larger meta story. It is a good time to be a Bond fan.

Barkeep. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

And Obama lands an uppercut.... (Debate No. 3)

This is a political post

Mitt apparently had no binders on foreign policy
 ~ tweet from John Kerry

I watched the debate on CBS this time. I make it habit to watch it on different channels because the commentary at the end is different and you kind of get a sense of how different people react to different things. Of course, after Fox news reported that Romney had somehow beat the President in the coin toss backstage during the second debate, I realized I would have to temper my viewing a bit. To get a clear head, and stay outside the selective media bubble we've all decided to inhabit, I've taken to waiting a while then reading the commentary on BBC and Al-Jazzera to get a better picture of what actually happened. It's shame that it's come to this reality. 

But onto my view of the proceedings.

The difference in the moderator styles as we went through this whole series was palable. It was though we went from the replacement refs to the real refs, with Bob Schieffer at the helm for this last tiff. There was very little over talking, very little going long on answer. And when it was time to move on, dog gone it they moved on. And both men, perhaps because they respected Bob, perhaps at the insistence of their wives but more likely a political operative that informed them doing that was polling badly, followed instructions. Not as much political brawl, as choreographed duel.

Romney looked strong at first, but then I'm not sure if that's I've grown used to his face or because the words coming out of his mouth were actually those of the Obama.  It became evident quickly, as in the Biden/Ryan debate that the points of difference were missing. On the big issues, Iran and Syria, all Romney could do was agree with the current actions, only swear he'd have done them better. And his attempts to make seem like the President had tarnished America's good name around the world sounded hollow in the face of facts.

Then came these two telling items:

"Syria is Iran's only ally in the Arab world, its their route to the sea. "

At first I wanted to write this comment off, as a throwaway line. The candidates had really wanted to talk about the economy as it seemed like every other answer segued back to how a strong economy is necessary for foreign diplomacy to work, so I discounted this statement's importance. But the reality is this line says a lot. There are two issues, here. First, Iran sits on the Persian Gulf, which has it's own route through the Straits of Hormuz to the India Ocean which is a fairly large body of water, it being called an ocean an all. And that Syria is Iran's route to the sea only if Iran goes through Iraq. In fact the part they would have to go through, currently controlled by the Kurds is actually pretty well run and could be model for how the rest of the country could be run. But this may have been a brain freeze... so I'll pick that flag up.

But the second one basically is the Governor actively refusing to admit that the Obama Administration really is poised exert that strength Romney keeps claiming only he'd be able project. As we used to say as kids, "don't talk about it, be about it." As part of the efforts to put the stranglehold on Iran, the US Navy has placed multiple carrier groups in the Persian Gulf. Obama has effectively parked missiles in a "floating Cuba" off Iran's southern coast. It was the kinda of thing you try not to mention, or even pretend exists, if you're trying to make your opponent look weak.

"Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets"

In response to a claim the Navy was shrinking was the zinger of the night, the kind of shot that Romney had been hoping to score since he'd started practicing for the debates in August. You almost wanted Obama to lean over the desk and remind his opponent that the defense budget is part of the regular budget, that thing we're trying to cut. You can't expand one without expanding the other, and since we're trying to cut expenses, giving them more money won't add up. Dummy.

Our current defensive needs aren't more warships or tanks, we already spend more than the next ten countries combined on military expenditures and we have brand new tanks rusting in the desert now because the military doesn't need them. We're no longer fighting Russia, we actually need this former enemy to go along with our plan for Iran for the sanctions to work. Antagonizing them won't help us in the long run. Our new enemies are non-state actors and for that we need a different kind of military. Obama couldn't have made it clearer that Romney had other intentions with the need to expand the military, like adding to the bottom lines of military contractors.

Then there was the look the President was giving Romney during his answers.

I would think the look that Obama was giving Romney when he spoke was the same look he uses on the basketball court - a look of fierce determination, an almost "try me" look, daring the other person to do anything other than pass the ball. It was a marked difference from the almost loving stare both Romney and his running mate do when listening that comes off as practiced and a little creepy. You could almost see Obama waiting to pounce.

Then around 10pm something happened. I'm not sure if Romney had a sudden gas attack or suddenly realized he was merely repeating what Obama was saying. The loving gaze faded for a moment and a fine sheen of sweat appeared on his brow. This might have been a Nixon moment.

And just like that it was over. I thought Obama won and came through strong, roused up enough to even start cutting at Romney over his record - which suddenly Romney called personal attacks. If your state was at the bottom of job creation when you were in office, how is mentioning that out of line if you're using your job creation skills as a selling point? I'm also sure Fox news, Red State and other conservatives sites have it for Romney, despite him parroting the President most of the evening.

And now, we return to our regularly scheduled diatribes on love, relationships, places I've eaten and things I think about while waiting through the commercials. Wait, in two weeks, NO MORE POLITICAL COMMERCIALS. Even better.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Debates - Round 2. Better...but not best.

This is a political post. 

Romney don't look happy. Image via Tom Joad, Facebook.

I realize that I'm expecting way too much, but I don't think I'll be satisfied until in the middle of the debate, the President just does a Joe Biden and calls his opponent out. Or even better,  just leans back, throws his head to the sky and in the fashion of almost friendly arguments everywhere yells "You must be out your goddamn mind!"

Expecting. Way. Too. Much.

What I found most interesting about the debate this time wasn't actually in the debate, but that the moderators of late are exercising journalism, asking followups, correcting the speakers. In today's partisan news cycle, where the news acts more like propaganda to see journalism is refreshing...twice in one year.

I say that the journalism was interesting because the people in the arena calling themselves undecided are apparently the people in the country who don't do serious political analysis, or even simple political analysis. Those questions weren't hard questions, or questions that even made the candidates think. Despite claims that the two choices aren't really choices, the two candidates couldn't be more different. The idea that you're still weighing options mean the vast majority of the undecided have discarded everything but the one issue that affects them most - jobs, healthcare, abortion, whatever. They're essentially flipping a coin to say if they hold fast their convictions or drink the respective kool-aid, from the point of view of whichever direction it is that you are coming from.

I was also interested in that the candidates seems to rattled by a format they should be familiar with. Two minutes, that's it. Both Obama and Romney found reason to keep speaking past their time. I realize these were impromptu questions (kinda) but I still think the moderator should be able to turn off a microphone after two minutes and thirty seconds, but that's just me.

In reality Mitt has changed the entire concept of debating. Since truth, facts or explanations are no longer required, and everything is spin and self promotion, what does one do, short of kicking the opponent in the teeth? Because of this there were times when neither candidate engaged the crowd, to busy verbally kicking one another or promoting themselves. And that's bad for us all. That's not the purpose of a debate.

Does the President need a debate coach. I realize that the President isn't culturally allowed to do what Joe Biden did, or go HAM on him, or even play a smoothed out Katt Williams, but I think he can still do better than he did. Case in point: when he has to check Romney, he needs to state the man is wrong, state why is one or two sentences, and move on. He should know what Romney thinks are the pressure points by now...and his team should know which ones are lurking. Have the responses memorized. He also needs to work in a few key buzzwords and terms he can repeat over and over, like his opponent does. I mean his staff writes great speeches, do they need help for snappy answers? We're available.

Though this week, two questions presented themselves that make me wonder are any of us really listening?

First, Stephen Colbert asked the question (in a skit while debating himself) that if Romney is going to lower tax rates by twenty percent, then close loopholes and deductions to make the reduction revenue neutral, then why lower the tax rate? And second, if Romney claims the government doesn't create jobs, then why is he promising to create twelve million in four years if he's elected? And I'm not even a reporter, you would think more than just a TV comedian and myself would think of these questions.

Are we really this slow as a people?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Joe Biden. Well damn.

This is a political post.

Is she available for the next debate? My favorite line of moderator Martha Raddaz was after she asked Rep. Ryan if his plan had specifics. He'd launched into a short piece on bi-partisanship so she stopped him and repeated the question. When he started again with explanation she cut him off flatly : "So, No, no specifics then."


Although Red State disagrees, and for some reason saw Ryan as the winner, Joe Biden broke through the image of the politico always good for a verbal gaffe.  Can Biden give Obama the debate prep for next time, or maybe a blood transfusion or something? Given his foreign policy background and unpredictable mouth I actually expected Biden to do well, but his showing was so much better than I expected. He was Samuel L. Jackson in white face - electrifying, agitated, almost scary good. Now, I say that with the caveat that his debate performance was the equivalent of in game adjustments, that after seeing the chamelon-like Romney's performance last week, he prepared for more of the same from Ryan. And so prepared, Biden came out of locker room and brought the wood.

Newt Gingrich remarked that it's hard to debate a liar, and I guess that's because debates are usually a very polite and professional affair. But it's easy to debate someone who "massages the truth" if you call them out on it. Biden didn't hesitate to call out Ryan when he veered off the edge of the reality, alternately laughing at him and looking shocked at the younger man's comments.  I could almost see the glint in his eyes when he caught himself just before cussing on national TV, changing his sentiment to a more prime-time palatable "stuff." Where Ryan was cagey, Biden was direct. Libya? It was the Ryan's Republican House that cut the security budget for the embassy. Iran? Toughest sanctions ever. Syria? All that's left is to put troops on the ground. Budget? Yours is mathematically impossible. Medicare? Call it what you want but your plan is still a voucher program. What else ya got?

I half expected Biden to blurt during one of his "bet against America" comments that Ryan doesn't even believe in his own campaign - and point out he's still running ads for re-election in Wisconsin.

My spit-take moment however, was when asked what he could bring to the office of the vice president character wise, the first word out of Paul Ryan's mouth was "honesty." Does he not understand we can see him? What was his best marathon time again? He claimed he didn't ask for stimulus money right before we found out he did? Honesty? You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Bill Mahar summed it up the best in a tweet that should be on the news : Hello 9-1-1? There's an old man beating a child on my TV." 

Obama, I think Joe deserves one of those White House beers, ya think?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Cowboys plan to beat the Ravens (no really)

Thanks good folks at Wikipedia.
This is a sports post. 

Ramblings Post #204
You win a few, you lose a few. And then you lose a few more. And when you've lost a few, you go back, study the tape, figure out what you did wrong and then try and figure out why did that and what you can do to not do that again. It's kinda of a convoluted type of self torture. It is also a great way to effectuate self improvement away from the game. Might be kinda hard to get tape of yourself, but hey, you do what you can. 

I know you read the title and immediately assumed that my plan works like a Oceans 11 casino heist, involving split second timing, precision teamwork, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, a drop shipment from the ACME corporation and all of the Raven defensive players come down with the 24-hour flu on Saturday. This is not the case. I actually have.... a plan.

On any Given Sunday.

The full saying is that "on any given Sunday, any NFL team can beat any other NFL team". It's why we play the games. Surprises happen, people step up, it is a game of inches. Again, no, my plan does not call for any of the Raven defensive players to suddenly be moved by the spirit of good health and pacifism, renounce football and all it's violence for the less contact intensive croquet.  This is an actual game plan, well, game strategy, that if followed improves the Cowboys chances to say....maybe 50%. Which against the Ravens is way higher than it was.

1. Don't put it all on Tony Romo.

My Boys rank almost dead last in league rushing right now. The idea of smash mouth football or even grinding out the clock when leading seems to have been completely lost if not intentionally knocked out, bound hand to foot and tucked away in the trunk of someone's car.  But the truth of the matter it is nearly impossible to win if you don't have an effective running game. So I don't care of they come out in a Wishbone, Wildcat or a Wing-T, they need to stop throwing the ball so much.  Hell, take Tony off the field, direct snap and just 11 go on 11 for a while.

I blame this on Jerry Jones, who seems to have a fascination with big name receivers. The Cowboy teams of lore were built on a concept lost to the football ages - the good offensive line. It's a simple progression : Good offensive line means the team can run, which slows down the linebackers who have to read for the run first, which frees up the quarterback from immediate pressure, which gives him time to go through his progressions and if necessary check down and throw it to the open receiver who is a little bit freer... because the defense has had to be careful of the run. A average QB with time can make mediocre receivers into great players. But we haven't had a coach who focuses on the O-line in ages.

Tony may not be the greatest passer, but he's better than he's playing, because he's playing a system that seems singularly focused. I mean, you throw it 70% of the time and....well, here we are.

2. Go back to basics.

The old playbook of your old southern type university: Sweep left. Sweep right. Same play, different player. Repeat.

Wishbone people, wishbone!

Maybe that's an oversimplification, but you get my point. Let the offensive line hit some people. Wear the linebackers out by the middle of the second quarter. They need average only three and half yards per attempt. When the Ravens put eight in the box run a quick out or a hitch and go. March down the field. Go deep once or twice to keep them honest, but don't over do it.

3. Limit the blitzing to a minimum.

If a blitz is picked up, then the QB has the luxury of one on one coverage. Playing the percentages, blitzing is statiscally a bad play. Better to drop six into coverage and rush five pretty much every time. Decent coverage will make the QB hold the ball for six seconds, more than enough time for a sack. But don't tell a NFL defensive coordinator that. It's too vanilla.

Well I happen to like vanilla. And with six in coverage, you can run splits (zone with particular man coverage) and increase the time needed for a player to get open. Which results in coverage sacks...unless you have a scrambling QB, which the Ravens do not possess. I wouldn't run this against a Cam Newton or Mike Vick, but most of your pocket passers it would be most effective, even covering the check down reciever. Now the occasional blitz to slow down the double teams, and stunt or two to keep the back in worrying about a late comer rather than floating out into the flat. So no more than 10 blitz packages per game. AND especially not late or in two minute drills! And don't rush three and drop back eight. Run the basic package...offenses in two minute runs are looking for soft coverage and aren't ready for that.

4. Use the Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator!

Okay, not really. But the 'Boys do need a spark. When you've been down for a minute, or have had troubling times, a little something unexpected can be a quick pick me up. Five yards when there shouldn't have been. A tipped passed for an interception. It's the idea in the player's mind that things are suddenly going their way. It can be a great motivating factor.

Unless of course you actually happen to have a Illudium Pu-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

Barkeep. This is gonna be a long Sunday. Make that drink a double.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Obama, you're taking too many punches kid!

This is a political post. 

I would like to believe that the President is employing some kind of political rope-a-dope in this situation, letting his opponent talk himself into a corner. But watching last night I think Obama got caught flat footed by Romney - who presented yet another version of himself that I don't think anyone saw coming.

Romney won. I think this despite the fact that there is something about his voice that I find generally annoying. I'm not sure if its his patter, his cadence, or what, but there is something there that I find unsettling. And despite that I still think he debated the President to a standstill. But then that maybe because Romney last night didn't sound anything like the Romney of the past few weeks as he denounced his own previous statements multiple times from the podium. Suddenly he's for regulation? When did this happen?

Jim Lehrer didn't help, letting both candidates go over time, talk over one another and dance around questions as though they trying out for the Russian ballet. I think the next moderator should have a little buzzer and if the candidate hasn't started actually answering the question in 30 seconds they get buzzed, the moderator repeats the question and says quite clearly "That's not an answer, try again." After their third try the moderator just turns their mic off.

But the first round is over, and Obama's corner men need to man up and tell him he sucked last night. He took a lot of jabs, didn’t move his feet. Obama is going to need to counter-punch, work the body and do all of the following:

1. Facts to back up facts.

Romney's budget plan, one which is too complicated to explain to anyone, does haves a five trillion dollar tax break. This figure comes from the estimated revenue loss created by making the current tax cuts permanent, Romney's proposed twenty percent additional reduction, and the elimination of the estate tax, all over a ten year period. It's not set in stone because Romney has been cagey with specifics. Obama should have known this is where the number comes from, who created the math, and been able to hold Romney to that figure. Or where any statement he was going to make is based on, so that when called on it he could easily respond. This is bad prep, plain and simple.    

2. Add Logic to the Discussion.

When Romney trotted out that old Republican chestnut that "profits create jobs", I wanted to cheer because this is the easiest of all topics go at with a logic weedwacker* in the past three years. Basic economics - markets create jobs, not profits. But the President didn't start educating, touting instead his own efforts to cut taxes. Because I doubt the next moderator will be as easy, he may have missed his chance, but whenever possible Obama needs to be able to in the Clinton-ian style walk people through the logical flaw (or question) in thirty seconds or less.

3. Employ Republican tactics.

The Republican party has for the past decade used the fairly simple idea of "if you repeat it often enough, then people will think it is true." In the debate, time and time again Romney repeated the idea that “he is for jobs” at least five times. Early on one phrase of the President's caught my ear - Economic Patriotism - but he never used it again. Obama is going to need two or three phrases which he can repeat over and over, that he segues to with ease to hammer home the idea he will be the better President. 

4. Let the Truth ring out.

When the President mentioned his use of Romneycare as a model for the Affordable Healthcare Act,  Romney turned it into a study of his own collaborative works. Obama should leapt on the chance to use this to delineate the difference that he's clearly received no support at all, if not outright hostile opposition from his Republican colleagues, since he's taken office. Idea put forth : Democrats work with you, Republicans don’t. Instead, we got nothing. Obama shouldn’t be afraid to state things that everyone can check for themselves.

5. Watch your language.

The President should be aware, as should his whole team, that any bad phrasing will be exploited by the opposition. After all, they made a bad juxtaposition of words into the theme of their convention. And Romney’s attempt at a "you are no JFK" moment in stating he doesn’t know of a tax break for taking jobs overseas should serve as a clear warning. I’m politically knowledgeable, and I realize the idea trying to be put forth is that we have granted to tax breaks to firms who then took jobs overseas anyways. Not stating it clearly is a gaffe. Language is very important. And not being able to correct him was just more of the previous bad prep work.                                       

In the future, Obama needs to prep not for Mitt Romney, but for the audience. Romney has demonstrated that he is not gonna be who any evidence has shown him to be. One can predict the usual questions, so prep to defend the administration's positions with short answers, and personal real people stories where appropriate.

Now, there are a lot people who think the race is already over, and that Obama has already won. Mathematically speaking, he should take the electoral college handily, but nothing is set in stone. There are still a few tricks left than be played that can make a difference, and a little difference is all that’s needed for the election to go into overtime. I realize Obama doesn’t have a lot free time here to get ready...what with running the country and all...but he’s gonna have to man up, down a few five hour energy drinks, burn the midnight oil and miss a few family dinners. I’m sorry his anniversary fell on debate night, but this is just too important. 

We don't necessarily need this guy to show next time. Okay maybe we do.

*The supposition is that businesses need profits so they will hire people. But corporations currently have high profits and they're not hiring. The response is that  the times are uncertain, and businesses need certainty. But I this conflicts with the idea of the job creator who gets the reward for taking the risk - if there is certainty, why is the reward for risk justified?  And this flies in the face of basic economics which says markets dictate business creation, not profit.