Monday, January 31, 2005

Governor John Corzine, call your office

Richard Codey, currently acting governor of New Jersey, decided not to stand for election in his own right. I suspect it will take about 5.3 seconds for Craig Carton to take the credit for this.

(Duking it out with a talk show host? $100. Watching Senator Corzine claim the endorsement of several important state Democrats? $10,000. Knowing that he couldn't raise nearly enough money to campaign against the self-made Senator? Priceless.)

On the Republican side, Doug Forrester and Bret Schundler are going to duke it out for the right to get spanked by Corzine. The loser of the nomination, however, has the possibility of an interesting consolation prize: Corzine's US Senate seat. It would be rather interesting for the Democrats to hold a governorship only to lose ground in Congress - in a blue state, no less. And Forrester, you may remember, was likely to win the disgraced Robert Toricelli's seat in '02 before the Jersey Supremes let Frank Lautenberg replace him after the ballot deadline had passed.

Ya gotta love Crappy New Jersey™.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Jersey smackdown, redux

It may soon be time to settle things in a steel-cage match.

The Newark Star-Ledger ran this story over the fold on today's front page. Craig Carton is threatening to use "the power of this show" to thwart Richard Codey's election bid if the governor doesn't apologize to him. And on the interior was this curiously-titled piece.

Taste be damned? Dubious assertion. Usually the jocks take aim at corrupt politics and silly government meddling; this involves some mention of the people forwarding the bad politics, but it can't be a remorseless Sherman's March or none of them would appear on the air. That isn't the case. Besides "Ask the Governor," the station has hosted call-in hours for the attorney general, Peter Harvey; more than one Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles; the head of the Department of Banking and Insurance; and there are probably more that I cannot recall. (It's tough to find archives of this sort of thing on the NJ 101.5 website.)

In fact, the entire "taste be damned" artice really only focuses on Craig Carton. This probably isn't a good sign for Craig, though so far he's got the support of his management. But the paper also got a partial transcript of the remarks Carton made on Monday, and it's not pretty. (It's also not online.) Perhaps the worst part is, the other jocks have been fielding calls about this flapdoodle for most of their own programs.

UPDATE: You may remember that yesterday I argued that depression isn't insanity. There was this quote from the story that I'd like to reproduce here:

"A woman who comes home from the hospital and cries at a commercial, that's hormones and [it] should take care of itself," said Rosemary Smentkowski, a registered nurse in Monmouth County who works in obstetrics. "If you can't get out of bed in the morning and face the day, that's post-partum depression. People who harm their children ... have post-partum psychosis."

It's a mild satisfaction to know that I'm on solid ground there.

ITEM: This is a wider-reaching problem than I imagined. I would like some better clarification about the implication from the third paragraph, that depression is automatically a mental illness; obviously there's a difference between mild social problems and debilitating condition, similar to the specified differences in severity of post-partum depression in paragraphs 6-9. I suppose other articles do this, since the focus here is specifically post-partum problems, so I'll shut up now.

It's Cool for Cats

Based on your pet preferences, this item may be too much for you to handle.

Even I, a cat fancier from way back, think that it's...a lot.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

As promised in this space...

...a letdown!

No, that's not fair, but it's partly true. I promised pictures from my trip to Florida; I haven't got them yet, though they are soon to be developed. Instead, I updated my profile, because it was dumb and scant.

I also eliminated my birthdate from the profile, because Blogger turned it into my astrological sign, which is pointless flotsam as far as I'm concerned - and since it's my profile, it's my concern.

If you don't want to click ahead, here are the highlights - I live in New Jersey. I like it here. We have a good variety of things to see, many within easy reach: the Shore, Great Adventure, Ocean Grove, nature walks, sports teams, microbreweries...

And, naturally, many of my friends are here. I've known some for half of my life. It's not something for me to lightly set aside; I don't exaggerate when I tell you that without them I may not be alive now. Having no wife or children of my own, and no relatives within 50 miles, makes them all the more important.

Then there's lesser items such as my dek hockey league. (We're the Mother Puckers, Monday nights - but don't look now, we lost badly this week.)

All this will have to tide you over until the pics develop; and then, further, until I figure out how to put pictures in the body of one of these posts.

Rock'm Sock'm Governor

Apparently, Crappy New Jersey™ has been suffering from cabin fever following this weekend's sixteen-inch snowfall.

On Monday, on his afternoon drive show, Craig Carton, one half of NJ 101.5-FM's popular "Jersey Guys" program, stirred Governor Richard Codey's anger with some comments on post-partum depression. It just so happened that the very next day was the monthly "Ask the Governor" program on the station, a program that has run since Christie Whitman's time. The Governor was a little upset. And now, this afternoon, Carton has been shooting back with both barrels.

If forced, Ebert-style, to give either an up-or-down verdict, I'd say that the Jersey Guys program is a thumbs-up. They will occasionally cross lines I would not - with Carton being the exclusive source of the crossed lines - but they run a good, smart, lively show. They also do charitable work through the program during the holidays with their "Christmas Miracle" segment, soliciting from their listeners stories of families suffering hardship, and then opening the phones for people to pledge some help.

I happened to hear Carton's comments first-hand as I left work Monday afternoon. It seemed less a product of malice toward Mrs. Codey as a matter of Carton's style, which is to make his point as pointedly as he can. I also agree with the principle he expressed, if not his method. I don't think that clinical depression of any kind is a laughing matter, but neither is it what it is too often used as - a blanket absolution of all misbehavior and misanthropy. After all, Mrs. Codey, despite suffering post-partum depression, did NOT injure her child or kill herself. This suggests some volition in the matter.

Governor Codey decried "negative stigma" in his own statements on the matter. This is a bit of red herring. Stigma helps to prevent horrors such as this.* I think we can all agree that whether culpable or not, we don't want depressed mothers to kill their kids or themselves, and social disapproval is more helpful to that end than is social permissiveness.

*An interesting discussion on this topic came out of this Flynn Files item. I wonder how the Governor would handle the title?

Friday, January 21, 2005

I knew it was a tease

The NHL has probably screwed the pooch as far as this season goes. America's Team is supposed to be visiting Calgary, the defending Western Conference champions, at 9 pm EST. They aren't. They can't even play the game from the comfort of my bedroom, since my copy of NHL 2004 has a corrupted file and must be reinstalled.

I'm not the only sufferer. ESPN's NHL page has a timer counting the duration of the lockout. The NHL's own site has a faux-tournament to determine the best team of all-time. Sports Illustrated, the Statler and Waldorf of the group, doesn't even have an NHL tab on their home page anymore. (To their credit, one of their writers blames the '94 Rangers for the whole sorry mess - sort of a plague-of-frogs-and-boils moment on many levels. I mean, that was the best logo the Canucks would ever have.)

And now, the league has been showered with abuse from beyond the grave.

If anyone prefers, you can come out to see the Nightfly and his own team play on Mondays, for free. Sure, it's only cheesy four-on-four deck hockey - but have we got anything else? Cheer on your Mother Puckers!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

He took a hundred pounds of clay

And then He said, start eating!

A Jersey girl (natch). No, the Nightfly has not made the pleasure of her acquaintence. I'm not sure I could afford to. (Uh, is only a movie OK with you, dearest?)

NB: I usually scour several spots on a website before linking to it, to make sure there's nothing objectionable. I didn't do that here. If you wish to explore The Travis' website, you do so at your own risk.

Fathomably Class-Free

It's either a protection against my own vanity, or a protection against my temper, to work in obscurity. Either way, I don't know if I could handle a steady diet of this sort of thing without going stark raving.

Mr. Goldberg has the skin of a rhino and the bones of Wolverine. How else can you not strike back at something like this:

"You must be the only person on earth with the correct mixture of shallowness, bloodthirstiness and pretension to assert (correctly) the value of "Groundhog Day" -- a beautiful tale of redemption -- fast on the heels of your previous post, which expressed your preference that a dubiously-convicted killer (19 at the time, and black in 1961 Louisiana) be executed rather than permitted to reform himself and contribute to the world."

I am increasingly sick of seeing age used as an excuse for this sort of thing. It was a bank robbery. How old do you need to be to know that robbing banks is not Nice? Then he killed one of his three wounded hostages, to boot. The correspondent might also note that the robber/killer in question, the recently-paroled Wilbert Rideau, expressed remorse and worked hard to rehabilitate himself - in other words, he admits that he did wrong himself, and deserved punishment.

Finally, I pause to note this quote from Jonah at the end of the allegedly-eeeeeevil post: "It speaks well of him that he feels remorse and that he got his act together. Life Magazine called him America's most rehabilitated prisoner in 1993, presumably for good reason. But, if the Supreme Court hadn't scuttled the death penalty in the 1970s he probably would have been executed for his crimes -- and, in my mind at least, deservedly so." Saying that a certain crime deserves fatal punishment is not the same as demanding that punishment, or preferring it to what actually happened, especially when Jonah said that his remorse speaks well of him.

Perhaps the only point the reader has is that Rideau was treated more harshly for his ethnicity in 1961 Louisiana. The solution there, sir, is not to let him go just because others escaped justice. It's wrong to let whites off scot free because it's wrong to let anyone off scot free.

The fun continues: "Needless to say -- as I'm sure you know it deep down --(but it feels good to say it anyway) at the end of his life Rideau will have contributed more to the health of humanity's soul than you, your wife and parents combined. By rather a lot."

Excuse me?

Jonah judged Rideau's actions as worthy of punishment, while also expressing some satisfaction and relief that Rideau himself has worked at contrition and penance. For that, this miserable wanker falsely criticized things Jonah never said and then proceeded to judge the worth of his soul! Where does he get off? That is reprehensible hypocrisy. And what in Hell does "the health of humanity's soul" mean, anyway? It's a bathetic, overwritten phrase that sounds noble without the bother of actually making any sense.

So, it's the proverbial tree in the empty woods, perhaps, but I’ve got your six, Jonah. May your Couch forever increase in comfiness.

"...they will also hate you..."

This story hits somewhat close to home for any Catholic.

Taken in concert with
this nearby atrocity, it seems that one presumes much when one presumes safety for the practice of one's religion.

Thankfully, Archbishop Casmoussa has been released. The Armanious family was denied that chance, but they took full advantage of the more important chance to tell the world where they stood, and they did that. They resisted evil even unto the shedding of their blood. I have no words good enough to praise them. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord...

Friday, January 14, 2005

One if by kick, Two if by pass

Dr. Z is a fabulous old football curmudgeon. Best of all, he’s a real guy, unlike most of my visitors for this past week, so his comments today should carry more authority.

Then again, I have to disagree when it comes to Marty Schottenheimer - well, not exactly disagree, but I'd go a bit further: he sissied it up against the Jets with his play-calling. They scored on that long pass to McCardell (he made a sweet toe-dragging catch at the back of the end zone), and after that, basically turned off their offense until they needed the points at the end. Then they got them by going to their Pro-Bowl tight end, Antonio Gates, and then, in overtime, they drove for more using screens and wide runs to LaDanian Tomlinson. Use your two best playmakers to score points – it’s so crazy, it just might work!

(Eric Barton helped with his idiot penalty on fourth down – but we all know it was an idiot penalty. Let’s keep moving.)

Alas, rather than go for the throat, they called three dives into the middle, where a number of Jets were already standing, instead of plays to the edge, in order to make the Jets chase them. Dr. Z thought it was just Marty reverting out of nerves. I think it was worse – he was afraid that if he called for play-action on first down at the 22 and it got picked, he’d be the one who looked bad, so he chickened out. He played for the field goal. Let it be known: (rookie kicker + 40 yards) x poor field conditions = lost playoff game. Doug Brien, a reliable veteran, missed a kick of his own from 33 earlier in the game – just totally lost his footing and smacked the kick off the tush of one of his lineman. Did Marty think that the sod had magically healed after three more quarters of trampling?

Incidentally, Mike Sherman had a similar nancy-pants moment in Green Bay, after Brett Favre tossed his illegal forward pass and cost his team a touchdown. Ryan Longwell missed the ensuing field goal try, for much the same reason as did Brien and poor Nick Kaeding.

Favre is a Hall-of-Famer, one of the most exciting players of my generation, a long-time veteran, Super Bowl winner, MVP, nice to furry things, etc. etc. That’s all the more reason to call him out on this. How can such a player not know where the first-down marker and the scrimmage line are? We’re not talking about well-known brain farters like Jake Plummer and Aaron Brooks. I saw this play, and instantly thought, “Maybe they should play Craig Nall to start the second half.”

Sherm wouldn’t have dared – bench Favre at Lambeau field? Well, yes. If he’s going to react to a possible tackle by flinging the ball away, in such a fashion that he’s lucky it wasn’t intercepted – yes. But such a move leaves the coach in the crosshairs, so he let Favre (and all the Packers) twist in the cold, cold wind. Favre threw four real interceptions, and a game which had been within reach for most of three quarters faded away. And now you are all home for Sunday, watching Randy Moss’s tush overshadow his ABA-worthy afro and magnificent play.

It appears that TMQ’s theory is correct – coaches shirk necessary risks out of the herd mentality. (He also dovetails with Dr. Z's disdain for most TV commentators.) They wound up covering the same third item this week, one that TMQ regularly calls "Kick Early, Go for It Late." Is it Zen? Serendipity? Maybe they were tailgating together? In any case, here's
a concrete example:

Your team scores with about ten minutes left, and it's 15-10. Go for one, or two?

The answer is, One. You want to force the other team to reach your endzone for a win. If you go for two and fail, you let the other guys off of that hook. Two FGs will beat you, and there's enough time to get them, but not, perhaps, enough for you to get a last chance afterwards.

So go for one, make it 16-10, and then two FGs can only tie the game. In the meantime, you get a possession of your own in between, to get more points and bleed that clock dry. But say you break down and the Bad Guys do get the touchdown. Now your fiendish scheme becomes all too clear. It’s 16-16, so what will they do? Of course, make it 17-16. BUT if you'd failed earlier going for two, then it's much more likely that the other guys, now up 16-15 (instead of tied at 16), will try for two themselves, knowing you only have one more shot. If they don’t get it, well, you aren’t any worse off at 16-15 than you were at 17-16. But if they get it, you then have to get a TD to win: a FG only gets you to overtime, where anything can happen (see Chargers entries above).

In other words, one point forces the other team, even in your worst-case scenario, to leave you a last-chance try for the FG to win. You take away their opportunity to force you to play for the tie. And best of all, if you hold at 16-10 and then kick another field goal, it's now a two-score game with insufficient time for the other team to get them. You win, fans tear down your goalposts, and they name a candy bar after you.

Luckily, all of that analysis can be condensed to a handy mnemonic, simple enough for the simplest coaches: Two Possessions, One Point; One Possession, Two Points. And by One Possession, I mean ONE – theirs. They get the ball, and either they score and beat you, or you hold and run out the final few ticks.

My service to you.

This shouldn't happen before breakfast

The sight of a four-year old girl apparently channeling Aquinas makes for a distracting morning, even after you’ve woken. It’s bad for your shaving, too, which figures. You wouldn’t expect too many after-effects; however, the last few mornings have been surreal affairs at the Hive. The morning reports about the most recent State of the State address prompted more figmentary encounters before work.

This one started during a half-hearted shower. Outside the curtain I distinctly heard a curious phrase, immediately familiar: “There oughtta be a law!” I could never figure out if that actually was a popular thing to say in the ‘30s, ‘40s, or ‘50s, or if it was more a product of television shows set in those times, but I have the unshakeable image of a Jimmy Stewartesque Everyman, confronted with Potterism of the worst sort, shaking his finger and working himself up to finally speak up for all the little guys: “There oughtta be a law for something like this!” Whereupon he gets elected to Congress in a different movie and passes said law.

In either case it’s in the culture, and better heads than mine are at a loss on how to remove it, or even to curtail it. The spirit of this phrase is responsible for nearly as much mischief as “the Spirit of Vatican II.” Too many people use it to mean, “This ought to be illegal because I don’t like it.” That is not a reason. Mere danger is not a reason: for example, I don’t like wearing a bike helmet. It knocks off my headphones. If I get smushed by a beer truck because Hendrix, like, totally blows my mind, well, that’s my problem. Inconvenience and petty annoyance are not reasons either: it’s a drag to be stuck on line because someone has 43 items in the express lane, but I’m not in favor of (say) fines for such a thing.

But at the time I wasn’t thinking about Hendrix or Church councils or 43 tins of cat food. I was just curious to see who was in my bathroom, demanding new laws. I peered around the curtain. It was a man in a brown suit and fedora, facing away from me and towards a butcher’s counter. “That’s a big jump in the price,” he said to the butcher.

“I know, Bill,” said the butcher. “But even at 18¢ a pound, I’m barely even on the chops.” He shrugged – whaddya gonna do? – and began wrapping Bill’s order.

“There oughtta be a law, Frank,” said Bill, shaking his head ruefully.

Frank was already finished wrapping. He took a grease pencil and wrote quickly on the surface of the neat parcel, and had it across the counter before the pencil was back behind his ear. “See you at bowling on Thursday, Bill?”

“Sure thing, Frank.” He handed the parcel to his young son, whom I had just noticed. He had said nothing, taking in the whole exchange with the wide eyes of someone witnessing the Important Things for the first time. “Say hi to Betty for me,” Bill said, waving over his shoulder as they went through the bathroom door. Quite considerately, he remembered to re-lock it behind him.

I didn’t want to pop into Frank’s butcher shop with shampoo in my eyes. I finished quickly and snuck back down into my room, and found the man in the suit again, sitting at my desk, which was now part of a long lunch counter. He was older. I wasn’t the guy he was waiting for – the son, now grown, popped out of my closet and sat beside him. “Hi, Pop,” he said. “We should have gotten a booth.”

“Nah,” he said, implying that it would have been too much fuss. “You probably have to get back quick anyway. I don’t want you wasting my tax money on three-hour lunches.” He grinned at his son.

“Aw, come on,” he replied. “I hope you and Mom did better than that.” And that’s why he met his father once a week for these lunch deals, even if Pop didn’t live in his district. Which reminded him: “Hey, I’ve got news. You have to promise to keep it under your hat, though; everyone else has to wait for the evening papers.”

“What is it?”

“We got enough votes to get out of committee,” the son said proudly. “The price control bill. Probably enough votes to pass it in a full session, and it should sail through the Senate.”

Bill blinked at his beaming son. “Price control? How is the government going to control something like that?”

“Remember when I was boy and you’d take me to the shops downtown? I remember quite clearly, you and the butcher talking about how even raising the prices meant that he only just made ends meet.” He suddenly smiled. “Butchers making ends meet. Gosh, that’s horrible. Anyway, I remember you saying that there ought to be a law, and now there is.”

Bill took off his fedora and looked fondly and sadly at his son, in a way which suddenly made the man question his accomplishment – not that Pop wasn’t proud of him, in Congress and all. He always said just that, whenever he talked to other people about him: “In Congress and all,” as if it were his official title, where other people would put M.D. or Esq. He was always grateful for his father. The suit had been a gift at Christmas, the month after he was elected, though Pop had adamantly refused a newer style. The lapels were too wide, he said. And the hat was probably the very same he’d always seen as a child. He brushed it now against his leg, and the son saw that the brim was shiny on either end from many years of brushing; Pop’s universal expression of frustration. “Did you notice something else about that?” Bill asked his son. “The chops went up, so we got sausage that week.”

“Yeah, but now people won’t have to,” he replied, still smiling, but uncertain and trying to hide it.

And Bill thought, My boy, I love you dearly, and I’m proud of you, in Congress and all – but sometimes… And the next time he pops into the bathroom Frank will be gone.

The radio was on the whole time, but I think that I was the only one who noticed Richard Codey talking about the State of the State of New Jersey. They never heard him bemoan the expected four billion dollar budget deficit while simultaneously pledging $150 million for the stem-cell research center. Gov. Codey also called for the State to raise the minimum wage to $7.15 per hour, which is the price-control idea operating from the other end.

Bill’s son wasn’t real, but his well-meaning meddling is. The bottom line is that the State can write the checks, but it’s the taxpayers and businesses that wind up cashing them. Lining up at the back door of the Statehouse to beg for some of our money back is the wrong solution to the problem.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Lay off the BBQ-flavored corn chips before bedtime!

Once I found myself in the mall, I knew I was dreaming.

Now, like ghosts and Bigfoot, dreams are camera-shy, and melt into the background once you notice them. The trick is to shrug and say, OK, now I wonder what’s next. It never works, but it makes you feel like you tried, anyway. Your obligations to the dream are fulfilled and you can wake up with a clean conscience.

But this time, it did work, and it paid off in a visit with James Lileks. It just didn’t work very well. I can’t remember if I went to Minnesota, or if he decided to do a pictorial of Jersey Malls for the Institute of Official Cheer. I also can’t remember what he sounded like. (I’m not much good in a dream, am I?) But he was good company. I’m guessing that, because it was a dream, it all came off as natural – where else would James Lileks be but at a Jersey mall in January? – and so I didn’t stammer and gawk like a sophomore at a sci-fi convention. We shook hands. He had polite suggestions about a story I’d written. (Nice to know that I finally do finish the dratted thing.) His daughter, the famed Gnat, was properly adorable.

I do remember quite clearly that I suggested a diner, and we all went. He showed me the proofs for his new book over lunch. It was great, of course. I immediately decided to buy it when it was done. (Now that’s marketing – infiltrate the dreams of potential customers and shake their hands. Mwuhuahahaha!) One of the bits in the book was a conversation with God; someone asked Him a series of questions, and He replied exclusively in numbered lists for His own inscrutable purpose. One reply stood out. Darned if I remember the question, but God didn’t start with I, II, III, but with VIII, IX, X. And that was it.

“What happened to one through seven? Did they leave out a page?”

“No. God left out one through seven, for His own inscrutable purpose. You find out why later on.”

“Oh. That’s cool.”

“Actually, it was my idea,” Gnat chimed in. “Mortality can’t fully comprehend Infinite Being, so any physical manifestation of God is reductive by definition.”

“So, God must obscure Himself to be understood at all,” I replied.

“Not exactly,” she said, thoughtfully stirring her mac and cheese. “The limitation is ours. We have to screen out a lot of what He says in order not to be overwhelmed. Silence isn’t Him not answering, it’s us being unable to listen, but we can still hear enough to convince us of His goodness. That’s why you can read the same page of the Bible 20 times, and then on the 21st time you see something new.”

“Oh, and did you notice this?” James asked. He flipped over a few pages and pressed a little speaker icon, and the book promptly spoke.

“Man. Isn’t that expensive?”

“Hideously so. We can’t do it on every page, but it’s good for emphasis.”

“And is that really Charlton Heston as the voice of God?”


“How did you manage that?”

“It was nothing,” he said. “The Mac stuff is all integrated. I downloaded the sound file from the email attachment, opened it in iTunes, and linked it to the text the way you put a hyperlink into a web page. All very intuitive. Then you use this special paper – it has microfilament woven directly into the page; essentially it’s an extraordinarily thin memory card. The printer codes the sound file directly into the fibers. Two clicks and you’re done.”

“Neat,” I said, “but actually, I meant, how did you get Charlton Heston…”

He shrugged and said, “Hewitt owed me a favor. I got him to pull some strings.”

“And if I took the page and scanned it, would I be able to download the sound file?”

Well, duh. “Mike – this is MAC we’re talking.”


“Daddy? Can we go back to the mall and get a My Little Pony?”

Even as Gnat asked, we were interrupted by a guy talking about how fat New Jerseyans are getting. It turned out to be a real guy on the radio, in real life, waking me up. He was a professor at the Rutgers Department of Exercise Science and Sports Management.

I didn’t much care for the tone of his comments – apparently we’re just sacks of meat looking for a comfy sofa with which to merge. We circle for good parking at the foodstore “like vultures, just so they can go in and buy snacks.” I don’t know, maybe it was cold and raining and we only had a few minutes to rush in and get something for a dinner party. Maybe we were meeting someone later at the diner, for lunch. Maybe the gummint can step in and mandate that all non-handicapped parking be at least 100 yards from the front door, “for the children.”

Before this nonsense woke me up, I hope we all had flan. I love the flan at the Omega. One thing I do know is that on the way back to Minnesota, Gnat got her Pony.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Sad Sad Kiddie

I was sort of hoping that the NHL lockout would be fixed while I was on vacation. Alas, no.

Now, people I've talked with have just shrugged and said, eh - hockey gets the ratings of the Paint-Drying Channel, so who gives? I say, consider the ripple effect. Tuesday, I flipped on ESPN, "The Worldwide Leader in Sports," and this is what I got:

"The Deuce" had women's billiards. Worse, Jeannette Lee was not involved. That's like spaghetti with ketchup. Pass.

ESPN was carrying the Classic Sports feed, a 1971 fight between Muhammad Ali and Jurgen Blin. They followed with better fare: the "Rumble in the Jungle" (Ali-Foreman) and then Ali vs. Chuck Wepner, the famed "Bayonne Bleeder."

I was two when the Rumble went down, and if you'd like to know it all, you should go rent the documentary "When We Were Kings." Until then, here's the Very Short Version: Ali deserves his rep. The man could fight. His hands were bloody fast, and he had choices on defense - either block everything and let a man punch himself out, or take a few while countering. But it seemed to my apprentice eyes that he was nearing the end as a great fighter. His legs were only there in fits; he did a lot of clutching and shoving that other fighters would have lost points for; and especially against Foreman, the ropes were so slack that Foreman could barely even reach him when Ali leaned back.

About Ali-Wepner there's not much to add. As you can tell by his nickname, Wepner wasn't especially noted for grace or technique. What he was, was tough as hell. Ali barely did anything in the first two rounds, and Wepner came right after him; when he finally did catch Ali solidly, Wepner actually put him down. That got Ali's attention, and Wepner spent the rest of the fight blocking leather with his face - but it still took five more full rounds before Ali knocked him out. (It was the first time he'd ever gone down, too.)

The real deal about this fight came outside the ring. I never got the name of the play-by-play guy, but the color guy was Redd Foxx. (Yup, that Redd Foxx.) He was pretty good, too. (I still wonder if, before the fight, he got in any plugs for Sanford and Son.) The other side note is that this fight inspired a certain struggling actor to write a boxing movie you may have heard of.

Boxing's not really my thing, though. We're talking about one of the five great heavyweights ever, back when there was a Heavyweight Champion of the World, Period, and I only tuned in sporadically. It's worse now. How many heavyweight titles are there? Five, six? Can you name even one of the titleholders? In the end it only reminded me how far things have fallen.

Fox Sports Net has been reduced to replaying every old hockey match they can grab, even the ones the Rangers lose. My own teammates and I spend time debating, not which teams are strong now, but which ones will lose older players to retirement because the layoff is too long to keep in game shape.

We also debated Marginal Hall-of-Famers, loosely defined as anyone you have to really think about before talking yourself into a decision. Some of our names? Brian Propp, Ken Morrow, Trevor Linden, Neal Broten, Alexander Mogilny, Peter and Anton Stasny, Pierre Turgeon, Kevin Stevens, Clark Gillies, Bernie Nichols, Mike Liut, and Mats Sundin.

Some of these will of course seem like slam-dunks one or the other way, but in a group of a half-dozen or so, none of these guys got a unanimous in or out - at least, not unless the one holdout eventually got convinced, which demonstrates the point. There were at least fifteen more, too, that I can't recall right now.

But like the boxing, the Marginal Hall-of-Fame debate just turned out to be depressing. I'm gonna put on my Islanders sweatshirt and cry myself to sleep...

Now that I'm home...

...I finally get to catch up on things. Here's one of the first items that caught my eye.

You don't need me to tell you that a BAC of .386 is far beyond mortal levels of drunk. It takes years of "practice" at the craft just to survive such a number, let alone successfully start a car with it.

The bad news for John, 43, of Pembroke, is that he now can stay home and funnel the Blue Ribbon to his heart's content, since he's not going anywhere and doesn't have to worry about the cops. Given the probable state of his liver, he may not live long enough to get his license back.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The less wonderful time of the year

Yep, you guys know what I'm talkin' about...Cold and Flu Season. I think about this every New Year, not from morbidity but from habit - my mother invariably celebrates the New Year by losing her voice for a few days.

Sure enough, during my recent visit, she decided to honor family tradition by getting an early case of the Perennial Laryngitis.

It's a commonplace, so I noted it and didn't think to include it here, until
this recent offering from Jonah Goldberg in the Corner. A reader then followed up a few hours later with his own effort. I'm no great musical shakes, myself, but faced with this sort of convergence, I went off and dug around a bit and found the following. I wrote it in high school, at least 16 years ago.
Oh, I stay home from my job
And I loaf around like a slob
My nose runs and my head throbs
Since I caught the flu

Oh, I can scarcely move
I feel like gum that’s been chewed
There’s nothing left to watch on the tube
Since I caught the flu

It must have been at my family reunion
I won’t be going back again
Aunt Helga sneezed on me
In walked this misery
And it’s been here since then

[key change]

Oh, I’m so tired of bein’ ill
And I’ve had more than my fill
Of Sudafed and Nyquil
Since I caught the flu

And now it's got it's brief glimpse of the winter sun. I like the Web.

And yes, Mom is feeling much better now, thank you.