31 August 2010

Tuesday Football: All over the map

Football related thoughts abound this week.

You shouldn't do that on television:  I can understand why, as Comcast does here in Chicagoland, a local cable channel shows games involving area schools.  The same channel also has programs for local politics and the local arts scenes, so these games clearly qualify as local-interest programs.  I can see myself caring about a football game between, say, Geneva and Batavia, partly because those two schools are close to my home.  I could easily understand why a football fan in Sacramento would watch a televised game between Grant and Folsom, two Sacramento-area high schools.

But could someone at Disney please explain to me why, in the name of all that is unholy, a resident of exurban Chicago could possibly care about that Grant-Folsom game?  I don't care how highly ranked those two teams are, they're both 3300 kilometers and two hours west of me.  Why should I care how highly regarded individual players on either side are, when some -- if not all -- of them will crash and burn once they start playing college football?  [For what it's worth, I graduated from my school two years after a high-school All-America running back who fizzled in the then-Big 8, and a year ahead of an eventual NBA player who starred in the Big Ten.]

Apparently, people who have better things to do care that much about high-school sports.  At least the ESPN channels think so.  That's why, besides the Grant-Folsom game, I had to click away from at least four other nationally televised high-school games this weekend.  This is just more attention and adulation for athletic young people who already have too much of both.

He's staying?  Okay, fine:  To my surprise, Bob Bradley is staying on as coach of the U.S. men's soccer team.  During the World Cup, I opined that he should be replaced.  The team started quickly enough in its 2-0 loss to Brazil a month ago, but that needs to become the rule instead of the exception.  I'm not convinced that he's the man to make that change.  On the other hand, a 2-0 blowout of Spain, a Confederations Cup final and (at long last) a group win at the World Cup itself are real results; and Bradley also deserves credit for those.  I would've replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann, and let him move on to Aston Villa.  (That would've been worth tracking.)  Besides those two men, though, I couldn't imagine an alternative as the U.S. skiper; so keeping Bradley makes some sense.

Twice the fantasy fun:  I wasn't sure that my fantasy-football league was going to convene this year, so I went ahead and joined a public league at Yahoo!.  That league auto-drafted last Friday, and I ended up with RB Chris Johnson, WR Miles Austin and TE Antonio Gates.  I've decided to call this team The Middlemen.

As it turns out, my old league is playing.  The draft is this Sunday night, and (as you may gather from my new tag line) I do not plan on having Brett Favre on my team this time.  Given his latest ankle issues, maybe the Vikings won't, either.  My team has a new name and its own helmet, which I'll reveal next week.

28 August 2010

Because this beer's just so manly!

Because it can, MillerCoors (or whatever it's calling itself these days) has several ad campaigns just for its Miller Lite product.  All the ads are aimed at men, and most of them revolve around the "men suck at relationships" meme.  The exceptions are a set of five spots from ad agency Draftcb, all of which look like this:

If the only problem with this ad were its sexism, it would be pretty ordinary. (It's for mass-produced alcohol product, after all.) What makes it worth posting about is the other ways it and its siblings so miserably fail. Let's count.
  1. It is, in fact, more sexist than usual.  The guy may look funny with his huge shoulder bag, but so what?  Why should the bartender care if no one else in the joint does?
  2. Oh, that bartender.  Yes, she's pretty -- and she's remarkably snooty.  In high school, she must have thought that because she was prettier than everyone else, that also made her better.  When the rest of us graduated, we were pretty happy to be rid of girls like this.  If I ran into someone like her at a bar, I'd find another place to drink.  Hell, I'd run as fast as I could to that other place.
  3. "Do you care how it tastes?"  Why, yes, you bubble-headed moron, I do care.  If I wanted actual beer right now, I'd have ordered something other than Miller Lite for myself.
  4. And then there's that "Man up!" tagline.  If "Man up!" means "Dare to drink this swill!" well, that would smack of accuracy.  Somehow, I doubt that's what the marketing geniuses at Draftcb intended.
Heavens, do these ads ever suck.

17 August 2010

The Defenders of 9/11

Mark Lennihan/AP, via the NPR Web site
When President Obama defended the Córdoba House project last Friday, I was sure that all the posturing from the GOP would have ended.  Silly me.  This isn't the party of Eisenhower, Nixon, or even Reagan; it's a loudmouthed collection of racists, Dominionists, warmongers and old-school fascists* who might well dismiss Joseph McCarthy as a commie pinko.  Of course, they were going to try turning Córdoba House into a campaign issue.  For Republican campaigners, there's nothing but win.  Who cares if innocent Muslims get demonized yet again? They aren't voting GOP anyway.  The real points are to (a) rally the teabagger base and (b)trick Democrats into demoralizing their base, again.

One thing I've yet to see, though, is a direct connection to "9/11" -- not the actual 2001 attacks, but the metaphorical cudgel that the Cheney-Bush cabal created from them.  I remember arguments with conservatives during the Bush years.  Anytime the right-winger sensed that he could no longer win an argument with logic, his inevitable response was to invoke 9/11.  Leave Iraq?  "No way; 9/11 changed everything."  End warrentless wiretapping? "9/11 changed everything."  Opposed to No Child Left Behind?  "Too bad; 9/11 changed everything."  [I'm not even making that last one up.]  For Bush's supporters, the attacks were a way to "unite" the nation behind even the worst Bush proposals.

But time has passed, Chimpy has retreated to Dallas and Cheney has gone back into hiding.  Most of us have put 9/11 the event in the past, where it belongs.  But in blocking Córdoba House, the Republicans are trying to bring back the trauma.  If they succeed, and they also take either house of Congress this November, they will have revived 9/11 as a weapon.  They didn't stop at Muslims the last time they used it, and there's no reason to believe they will this time, either.

In other words, the GOP must defend 9/11.  It's too important a tool for them to just let fade away.

* Supporters of increased corporate influence in government, like Mussolini and Pinochet.  Used properly, it's a more elegant word than the clunky "corporatist."

More administrivia:  I've opened the two Victory Weighting pages to comments.  If you have more questions about the system, feel free to comment on either page.

05 August 2010

Administrivia alert #1

I've been playing around at the edges of the blog design, adding and dropping widgets, and enjoying the new Pages feature.  A purplish button bar now separates the title from the posts; and right now, it has a button marked, "Victory Weighting."  Press it, and you'll find a page explaining what Victory Weighting is (an alternative standings scheme for NFL games) and why I think the NFL should adopt it.  Last year, I put the Victory Weighted standings in a widget at the bottom of the page.  This year, they'll live on a semi-permanent page of their own, and you'll be able to get to it via the purple button bar.

I love, love, love this new feature, and the toolbar widget Google provided to go with it.  Thanks, Google!  (But no thanks for trying to cut a side deal with Verizon!  Bad business, there.)

03 August 2010

The Ghost-Grey Cat Presents: (7) All Unregistered Aliens

Episode 779:  All Unregistered Aliens
First aired:  9 February 1978
Author:  Victoria Dann

Play the teaser

A doctor helps anywhere.  What is so special about here?  -- Uncle Stefan

This past week saw a Federal judge set aside most of Arizona's infamous SB 1070, one day before it was to take effect.  The news reminded me of one of the most unusual episodes from the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

"All Unregistered Aliens" starts as a hospital drama, but writer Victoria Dann needs only a couple of minutes to steer away from that well-worn path.  For one thing, the center of this drama isn't a hospital, but a free clinic in a struggling urban neighborhood now dominated by immigrants and street gangs.  Dr. Anne Quiller (voiced by Ann Williams) grew up in the area when it was a little more prosperous, and, for reasons she doesn't quite understand, she has just come back to run the clinic.  Her uncle Stefan (Court Benson), proprietor of the local cafe, never left, and she finds herself turning to him for advice on navigating a terrain she no longer recognizes.  Apart from an immigration-obsessed cop's efforts to convince her to snitch on her clients, Quiller's life has settled into a comforting, if not entirely comfortable, cadence.

A botched warehouse prank sets triggers the main story.  One of the would-be pranksters, a teenager named Cleo, has been shot, and his brother Eli (Earl Hammond) must try to get medical attention.  A full-scale hospital isn't an option:  it could treat his wounds properly, but it might also expose his status (and Eli's) as an illegal alien.  Eager to avoid deportation (effectively a death sentence for them), they go instead to Dr. Quiller's clinic.  Without the resources to treat him, she can only leave poor Cleo to die at Eli's side.

Suddenly, Quiller finds herself in a difficult spot.  Cleo dies, but his body disappears.  The police won't help her; in fact, they think she's hiding Cleo.  She must solve the case herself, and that means answering some uncomfortable questions.  Who are Cleo and Eli, really?  What is their nationality?  And why has Quiller herself really returned to her old neighborhood?

The story feels more like a tour than a mystery, but it does exemplify Radio Mystery Theater's willingness on contemporary social issues every now and then.  "All Unregistered Aliens" made its debut just ten days after the ultimate midpoint of the RMT run.  By then, the series had already addressed not just illegal immigration but also even touchier subjects like race and abortion.  RMT certainly didn't do that every night, but it did so more directly than most crime-drama series do today.

Score:  89/100.  Not great, but solid, provocative and, for 1978, even innovative.

Why do I call it "innovative?"  The reason includes a spoiler, so I'm putting it beyond the fold.