The 43rd Annual Football QUESTIONS

There was this article in the Wall Street Journal last week suggesting that the formerly hapless Chicago St. LouisArizona Cardinals got good because they changed their logo from this:
to this:

It noted that most of the logos, at least have sterner visages.
The Denver Broncos to

The New England Patriots
to

The Seattle Seahawks
to

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
to

Of course, the tougher logos don’t necessarily translate into greater football glory.

But my questions have to do with the game tomorrow.

Will you watch? Starting at what time? Do the participants affect whether you watch? Do you know who the participants are? Are you more interested in the game or the commercials? Or did you say, “What game?” If so, do you have an anti-Super Bowl tradition, such as going to the movies?

I’ll watch, starting at about 5 pm EST. Who participates doesn’t alter my watching. I will probably record it as well, if only so I can catch the commercials if I need a break to tend to the child.
***
Super Bowl XLIII and Its Viewers.

ROG

Hembeck is 56


It’s no great secret that my good friend Fred Hembeck was instrumental in getting me to start blogging. I had contributed a couple things to him that he used in his blog, and that inspired me to do my own.

In recent months, though, Fred’s blogging output had begun to slacken appreciably. Part of that was due to the work involved in preparing for his still-available book, but also, he’d seemed to have just lost a little of his blogging mojo.

Until…

Fred discovered a revolutionary new technology that has re-energized his blog in the last month and a half. It’s called:

YouTube

As Fred himself said, “Okay, I’ll admit it–regarding YouTube, I’m way, WAAAAY behind the curve. But only because I knew what would happen if I allowed myself to do more than peak into the occasional video embedded over on another blog.

I knew I’d become obsessed.”

And obsessed he has become. But an obsessed Fred Hembeck is a Fred Hembeck who’s exciting to read. If you haven’t been been by Fred Sez, or haven’t been there lately, check it out.

WARNING: You may spend more time there watching his YouTube links than you planned.

Oh, and happy birthday, effendi – you’re older than I am for five weeks!
ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Doubt


For the second weekend in a row, I saw a movie at the Spectrum Theatre, this time alone. The wife and I developed a system whereby one of us goes to the movies on Saturday and the other on Sunday. I went Saturday; unfortunately, Carol fell ill on Sunday, so she won’t see it until Super Bowl Sunday.

Doubt is set in New York City in 1964, the year after JFK. Just the visage of the Catholic school’s old-line principal, Sister Beauvier (Meryl Streep), will bring fear into the hearts of some of the lapsed Catholics of a certain age that I know. She seems to have developed some suspicions about the trying-to-be-modern parish priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and she ends up in a power struggle with him.

This a very well-acted movie, as one would expect with actors of this caliber. This movie represents Streep’s 15th Oscar nomination, though she hasn’t won since 1982. Hoffman was nominated twice before, winning once. This is Amy Adams’ second nomination and Viola Davis’ first. Adams in particular is the sweetest nun since Sally Field played Sister Bertrille in The Flying Nun.

As it is based on award-winning stage play, there is some great dialogue. I particularly liked the sermons offered as not so subtle messages.

And yet…there was something about it that is at arm’s length. Perhaps it was too stagy, that the adaptation did not fully take in the differences that cinema requires. Though I never saw the play, I can imagine this same scene-chewing dialogue produced on stage, quite possibly to greater effect. There were powerful themes and yet I never quite got caught up in them. It’s not unlike abstract art or avant-garde jazz you believe has been well crafted but just does not engage you.

I do recommend Doubt. Maybe it will take you away in a manner that I did not experience.
ROG

B is for Beatles


In honor of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan next month, where most of America first saw the Fab Four, I thought I’d track down my development as a Beatles fan.

Yes, I watched Sullivan on February 9, 1964, and I thought the group was all right. But I really couldn’t hear them or enjoy them over all of that SCREAMING. I went to school the next day and it appeared that my female classmates in the fifth grade had also been riddled by a mild form of what came to be called Beatlemania. This really turned me off from the group.

Beatles at the Indiana State Fair

But as I saw them (twice more on Sullivan) and heard them on the radio (a lot) I began to soften towards them. Don’t know exactly when, it was some point after the movie A Hard Day’s Night came out, because I had had zero interest seeing it at the time, whereas I eagerly watched 1965’s Help! as soon as it was released. Eventually, both my sister Leslie and I clamored for some music by the Beatles, and so my father brought home this:

Apparently, parents all over the country were fooled were fooled by this knockoff. Frankly, I don’t recall how, or even if, we expressed our disappointment.

In 1965, I started a paper route, which meant I had my own money. At some point after June, I joined the Capitol Record Club. 12 albums for only a penny! (If you buy 12 more at the club’s inflated retail price, plus shipping.) I ordered all the Beatles’ albums that were out at the time, and was horrified to discover that my Meet the Beatles was in stereo, rather than mono, since the warning on the stereo albums was that they were incompatible with a mono player; ultimately, I played it anyway.

That year and the next, we would lipsynch Beatles’ albums, especially Beatles VI, which was the first of the full-price albums I bought, using brooms and mops as guitars and Quaker Oats boxes as drums. . I was John, the literate, intelligent one; Leslie was Paul, who was left-handed and she thought he was CUTE; our neighbor Mary Jane was Ringo, because she thought he was CUTE; and our baby sister Marcia was George, because he was the only one left.

I started reading all the magazines about the Beatles. One article stood out: John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful indicated that Drive My Car was his favorite album on the album Rubber Soul. EVERYBODY knows that Drive My Car was on Yesterday…and Today, didn’t they? It wasn’t until a couple years later, possibly until after the breakup, when I discovered that the British albums and the American albums were not the same.

I quit Capitol Record Club when I realized I could buy the albums not only cheaper, but sooner from the stores. I got Rubber Soul and Revolver from the club, but Yesterday…and Today from the Rexall Drug Store ($2.99) and Sgt. Pepper at W.T. Grant’s for the outrageous amount of $3.67. I noticed I was at least a little colorblind because it took me forever to find the word Beatles on the Magical Mystery Tour cover. I recently discussed the white album.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, I started reading books about the Beatles and became rather expert at what was on which album in the UK and the US, and even Italy. Recently, a colleague went to a funk concert and asked about a song called Bad Boy. I could tell him, without looking it up, that it was a Larry Williams song from my beloved Beatles VI in America, but that it didn’t show up in Britain until the mostly singles collection A Collection of Beatles Oldies But Goldies in late 1966. It’s on the Past Masters 1 CD.

I decided, probably foolishly, that in the next couple weeks, at random intervals, I will rank the entire list of Beatles songs, based on how much I would enjoy a piece if I haven’t heard it in, say, six months. It is NOT necessarily a list of BEST songs, though quality can enhance enjoyment. The list will punish perfectly good recordings that, from overplaying, I just don’t want to hear anymore.

I’m going to limit the list to the canon; that is, the songs released on Beatles singles, albums and EPs through 1970. In other words, the tunes from the British Beatles CDs and from the Past Masters CDs. There will be no songs from the Anthology albums.

If I were a purist, I would have separate listings for the single and album versions of Love Me Do, Let It Be and Get Back or the alternative and album versions of Across the Universe; I don’t. While the single version of Get Back is what I had in mind, the coda on the album version has its charm.

NASA beamed a song — The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” — directly into deep space at 7 p.m. EST on Feb. 4, 2008. The transmission over NASA’s Deep Space Network commemorated the 40th anniversary of the day The Beatles recorded the song, as well as the 50th anniversary of NASA’s founding and the group’s beginnings.

ROG

Gillibrand and Bruno

Friday was a happening day politically in the Capital District of New York state. On one hand, there was descent. A federal grand jury indicted former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno on felony charges alleging he used his elected position to extract $3.2 million in private consulting fees from clients who sought to use his influence. Joe, who represented an area east of Albany for a number of years has his name on the relatively new minor league ballpark in Troy, among other things. I freely admit to experiencing a bit of schadenfreude over his fall, and it’s based on a connection I’m just not going to get into just now; maybe someday.

The other story was an ascent, one you might have heard about, even out of state or out of country: Gov. David Paterson picked Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to the U.S. Senate, succeeding Hillary Clinton, who resigned after her confirmation as Secretary of State in the Obama administration. One of the out-of-town headlines read: “Little-known, pro-gun Democrat gets Clinton’s Senate seat.” I thought it was unfairly reductivist, so for the benefit of those of you not the Albany area, a primer.

The Congressional District east and south of Albany, currently the 20th, was gerrymandered to sustain a Republican member of Congress. While the adjoining 20th (where I live) contains the Democratic-leaning cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, the vast 20th, largely rural and small towns was a GOP delight. The Congressman there for 20 years was the late Gerald Solomon, who was very conservative. He was succeeded in 1999 by John Sweeney, similarly conservative – he helped George W. Bush in Florida in 2000 – but a bit of a party animal. He was seen as drinking at a college frat house, e.g.

Still, when Kirsten Gillibrand challenged Sweeney in 2006, she was not given much of a chance to defeat him, such was the nature of the district. Then there were allegations of possible spousal abuse in the Sweeney household. This probably sealed the seat for Gillibrand.

The best time to knock off an incumbent is after his or her first term in office. The GOP candidate in 2008 against Kirsten Gillibrand was Sandy Treadwell, who is quite wealthy. I started seeing his ads – it’s the same media market – months before I saw hers. Yet she won the general election with 62% of the vote.

A successful Democrat in a conservative district, who was able to do some meaningful fundraising, became one of the front runners for the Clinton seat. Here’s a dichotomy in the narrative. When Gov. Paterson announced her at the press conference, he said that she was picked because she was best qualified, not because she was a woman or from upstate. Yet Gillibrand’s new Senate colleague, Chuck Schumer of Brooklyn said at that same press conference that it was important that the selection be a woman because there are only 16 women in the Senate. He added that it was also important that the candidate be from upstate, something that hasn’t happened in 38 years, because upstaters can speak better to the needs of upstaters. (I discussed the odd, complicated upstate/downstate tension here.)

Kirsten Gillibrand is no wide-eyed liberal, but she’s no hick. My wife suggested I not write this, but write it I must: she’s no Sarah Palin. She’s descended from political royalty in these parts, She received her first experiences in Albany politics from her grandmother, the legendary “Polly” Noonan. City of Albany politics, because it’s been one party for so long, engenders a certain conservativeness, a complaint about Gillibrand that she attempted to quell.

“I will represent the many diverse views and voices of New York state,” said Gillibrand, adding that she would work with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat who has criticized Gillibrand’s A rating from the National Rifle Association. “I will look for ways to find common ground between upstate and downstate.” On December 7, 1993, McCarthy’s husband Dennis and five others were killed, and her son Kevin and 18 others wounded on a Long Island Railroad commuter train by Colin Ferguson.

The New York Immigration Coalition also suggested now-Senator Gillibrand must reconsider her positions on immigration. During her tenure in the House, Representative Gillibrand took positions on immigration that are deeply troubling, to say the least. She sponsored legislation that sought to require local police officers to take on immigration enforcement duties, even though police chiefs have testified it would impair their ability to protect the public. She strongly supported throwing more resources toward ineffective border enforcement, but appeared to oppose any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Simply put, these are positions that put her at odds with the majority of New Yorkers, whose values reflect our state’s history of welcoming immigrants, as well as with President Barack Obama, who supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

I could be wrong, but I think, as a statewide representative, she’ll be more liberal, if only because she’ll have to be to get the nomination. On the very day Gillibrand was named to the Senate seat, Carolyn McCarthy vowed to challenge Gillibrand, directly or indirectly, in the 2010 Democratic primary. The seat will also require candidates in 2012, when Senator Clinton’s term would have been up.

Here’s an interesting perspective in the New York Times about the whole process of naming Hillary Clinton’s successor:
Now that Gov. David Paterson of New York has completed his operatic quest to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat and Roland Burris, chosen by the embattled Illinois governor to succeed Barack Obama, has made it past Capitol Hill security, we can safely conclude that appointing senators might not be such a good idea.

Actually, Americans came to that conclusion in 1913, when the 17th Amendment mandated regular senatorial elections…

The very problems the amendment was meant to address persist. Consider this: Nearly a quarter of the United States senators who have taken office since the 17th Amendment took effect have done so via appointment. Once Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, Mr. Paterson’s choice, joins the Senate, she will be one of more than 180 senators named by governors since 1913.

By contrast, the Constitution mandates special elections for all vacancies in the House — even though representatives are far less powerful than senators.

Yet only a handful of states routinely fill vacated Senate seats by special election. The result is a tyranny of appointments.

Not so incidentally, the race for the Gillibrand House seat will have at least three well-known Republicans, including the wealthy Sandy Treadwell, whose ads netted him 150,000 votes in 2008, but only a couple unknown Democrats. The seat will almost certainly go back to the Republican column. It may be better for Gov. Paterson, who’s up for election in 2010, to have an upstate woman on the ticket running with him than to worry about one House seat. Moreover, New York will lose one, maybe two Congressional seats in 2012, after the 2010 Census, and the map, drawn by the state legislature, currently controlled in both houses by the Democrats, might well gerrymander the district out of existence.

ROG