Thursday, February 28, 2013

Great game last night...

...in Park Ridge! Niles West overcame a ten-point deficit at the half to defeat Glenbrook North in overtime, 53-51.

It would be hard to improve on the account in the Sun-Times, especially this:

But the Spartans, as they have been wont to do this winter, couldn’t hold the lead.

“It’s pretty much what has happened to us all year,” Glenbrook North coach David Weber said. “We’ve lost a lot of leads..."

The guy who sat next to me told me as much.
___

Yes, it was a great game, but it didn't look that way when Glenbrook North was leading, 17-5, at the end of the first quarter. Nor at the half, when the Spartans were ahead by ten, 25-15. No, my thoughts were more along the line of, What the heck am I doing in this gym? 

After all, I could have gone to see Naperville Central against Naperville North, which the Red Hawks won in overtime. Or my original choice for the night, Waukegan - Prospect, which turned out to be a good game too. I could have seen a twin-bill at Hoffman Estates (that's two for the price of one), Glenbard East vs. Glenbard West at 6:00, followed by Riverside-Brookfield and Conant at 7:30, in which the Cougars upset the No. 5 seed R-B, 67-61!

Heck, I even considered -- if for only a delusional moment -- driving all the way out to Rockford to see No. 2 Auburn square off against No. 3 Boylan Catholic. (Good thing I didn't; the Titans beat their cross-town rivals like a rented mule, 52-35.)

No, I chose to stay in the Northbrook Sectional, partly because (I have to admit) the games are close to home.

As the music blared at halftime (I so desperately wanted to shout, Turn that $#*! down!) I struck up (or tried to) a conversation with the man and his son sitting next to me. Turns out the guy had another son on the GBN team and his older boy (who played with the legendary Jon Scheyer) was a coach at one of the public schools in the city.

I was genuinely surprised (and reassured) when the guy's son told me that he thought the Northbrook Sectional was the second-best in the state, behind Argo (the one with Simeon and Whitney Young).

"Really?" I said. So I didn't make a mistake by coming here?

(By the way, I'm sure everyone thinks their sectional is the second-best in the state.)

Who knows? I thought. Maybe the second half will be better.

Hoo boy, was it ever!

I thought long and hard (well, not that long and hard) about what picture to put at the top of this post. There were so many Niles West players that contributed that it would have been hard to single one out. So I decided on coach Bob Williams, because he must have given those guys one heck of a pep talk at the half. The Niles West team that took the court after intermission bore no resemblance to the one in the first half. It's not that Glenbrook North played any differently or any worse, it's just that the Wolves were positively inspired. (I noticed Williams yelling at one of his players during a timeout in the first half and thought, I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of that!)

So Niles West ended up winning and will now face No. 1 seed Maine South in the latter's home gym. Can the Skokie squad pull off another miracle? I don't know and won't be there to see it. I'll be at Loyola Academy instead, watching the host Ramblers take on Niles North. (More on that later.)

In the meantime, is this a great sectional, or what?

I'm off to Park Ridge tonight...

...to see No. 8-seed Glenbrook North (8-2 conference, 14-11 overall) take on No. 9-seed Niles West (4-6, 15-9) at Maine South High School. The winner will play Maine South on Friday night.

The Spartans are led by Andrew McAuliffe, above, the second-leading scorer in the Central Suburban Conference, with 388 points. (Curiously, the big man is only sixth in the conference in rebounds, with 56.) The 6' 8" senior is headed to Davidson College in North Carolina next year, after having been recruited by several Division I schools, including Northwestern. (The Wildcats lost interest, apparently, after McAuliffe suffered a fractured right patella last season.)

The Wolves of Niles West don't appear to have any stars on the order of McAuliffe, but they did defeat the Spartans, 60-46, in the one meeting between the two schools way back in November. The Skokie squad's most impressive victory of the season was over archrival Niles North, 67-63, but that was in their fifth game of the year, in December.

GBN, for its part, doesn't have any eye-popping victories that I could find. But they did lose narrowly to Warren two weeks ago, 47-45; and to Niles North, 62-57, and St. Viator, 67-65, in January; and to Hillcrest, 53-48, in December. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride? We'll see.

I finally found my game...

...last night, or should I say games. Notre Dame beat Von Steuben, 67-42, in the first of a double-header in Glenview, and Foreman narrowly defeated Glenbrook South, 49-46, in the nightcap.

Foreman, as you may or may not know, is the alma mater of not just Peter Francis Geraci, above, but also Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois.

(By the way, is it really necessary for Mr. Geraci to always mention his middle name, Francis? Is that to distinguish him from all the other Peter Geracis in the world?

"Peter Francis Geraci? Oh, sorry, I'm looking for Peter Aloysius Geraci.")

Anyway, it's not easy to find a good game in the opening rounds of the playoffs, and most of last night's contests were lopsided. After poring over the IHSA schedule (for way too long), I finally decided on a twin-bill just four miles from my house.

Everyone expected the No. 2-seeded Dons to handle Von Steuben fairly easily, but I thought (hoped?) that the No. 10 Titans might pull off an upset over the No. 7 Hornets in their own gym. A brief look at each team's schedule only reinforced my hunch.

But, alas, it was not to be. Even though GBS came within one point late in the game, they never really led (to my recollection) and Foreman ended up sealing the deal with a couple of free throws in the final seconds.

The Hornets will now go on to play Notre Dame in the Regional Finals at GBS on Friday. But look for the Niles squad to prevail and advance to take on either New Trier or St. Patrick next Wednesday.

Meanwhile, I'll be at No. 8 Glenbrook North vs. No. 9 Niles West tonight at Maine South. That way, after watching No. 4 Niles North at No. 5 Loyola tomorrow night, I will have seen all the remaining teams in the Northbrook Sectional. The finals will be next Friday.
Foreman 49, Glenbrook South 46

#12 Notre Dame 67, Von Steuben 42 - See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/highschool/cs-prep-scoreboard-022713,0,3834610.htmlstory#sthash.ihhcSdgA.dpuf

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stewart, our basset hound, has...

...been favoring his right hind leg lately. So my wife took him in to see the veterinarian the other day. (You know, the sixty-something guy with the jet-black toupee? Very natural-looking.)

Anyway, the good doctor's expert diagnosis was either a torn ACL or just a plain ol' injured knee. (If it's the former, Stew may need surgery.)

Wait a minute; dogs can tear their ACLs? And basset hounds have knees? Who knew?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

John Merwin, who wrote, fished...

...and wrote about fishing, died at age 66. Merwin wrote prolifically -- and I mean, prolifically -- about fishing:

By the late ’70s he had founded Rod & Reel magazine, which later became Fly Rod & Reel. He also started Fly Tackle Dealer, the industry’s first trade magazine. He joined Field & Stream in 1994 and became its fishing editor in 2003. He retired from that position in 2010 but continued to write articles and blog posts.

Mr. Merwin wrote many critically praised books, including “Stillwater Trout” and “Fly Fishing: A Trailside Guide.” In 1994, he wrote “The New American Trout Fishing,” which many outdoors writers consider a classic.

Wow. How much can a person write about hassling sea-dwelling non-tetrapod craniates?

Seriously, how do you suppose Mr. Merwin got his start? It says in his obit that he "studied fisheries management at the University of Michigan." Really? They have a fisheries management major at Michigan?

The obit doesn't say anything about Mr. Merwin playing on the football team.

Damon Harris, lead singer...

...with the Temptations, died at age 62.

C. Everett Koop, a former...

...surgeon general, died at age 96. From his obit in the Times (all emphasis mine):

At a sturdy 6-foot-1, with his bushy gray biblical beard, Dr. Koop would appear before television cameras in the gold-braided dark-blue uniform of a vice admiral — the surgeon general’s official uniform, which he revived...

Okay, okay, I guess Dr. Koop was an officer -- just like an airline pilot is a captain -- but don't you think he took that whole uniform thing just a little far?

Oh, and how about this paragraph:

Dr. Koop traced his interest in medicine to watching his family’s doctors at work as a child. To develop the manual dexterity of a surgeon, he practiced tying knots and cutting pictures out of magazines with each hand. At 14 he sneaked into an operating theater at Columbia University’s medical college. At home he operated on rabbits, rats and stray cats in the basement after his mother had administered anesthesia. By his account, not one of the animals died. 

Yikes! Isn't that how Jeffrey Dahmer got his start? (No wonder some people called him C. Everett Kook.)

But on a more serious note:

Dr. Koop ... almost single-handedly pushed the government into taking a more aggressive stand against AIDS...

Dr. Koop later wrote that “political meddlers in the White House” had complicated his work on the disease, and that “at least a dozen times I pleaded with my critics in the White House to let me have a meeting with President Reagan” on AIDS in the mid-1980s. Too many people, he said, “placed conservative ideology far above saving human lives.”

He added: “Our first public health priority, to stop the further transmission of the AIDS virus, became needlessly mired in the homosexual politics of the early 1980s. We lost a great deal of precious time because of this, and I suspect we lost some lives as well.” 

See? The Republicans have been fanatical as far back as the '80s. The tea party is just the latest generation of "crazy."

Have we become...

...a Nation of Wusses? Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell thinks so. And you might, too, after many of last night's playoff games were postponed due to a little snow. (This is Chicago, for crying out loud!)

Niles North ended up defeating Taft, 65-53, in the first game of a scheduled double-header at Loyola, but the Evanston - Loyola finale was moved to tonight. This changes everything for me. While I still intend on seeing the Niles North - Loyola game on Friday night, I may have to find a better one for tonight.

I'll keep you posted.
Niles North 65, Taft 53
BJ Beckford had 22 points for North. - See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/highschool/cs-prep-scoreboard-022613,0,3638001.htmlstory#sthash.owxOnIjL.dpuf
Niles North 65, Taft 53
BJ Beckford had 22 points for North. - See more at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/highschool/cs-prep-scoreboard-022613,0,3638001.htmlstory#sthash.owxOnIjL.dpuf
Niles North 65, Taf
Niles North 65, Taft 53

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is David Brooks serious...

...in his column this morning? He writes (my emphasis):

I don’t think it’s in Obama’s interest to be the liberal Reagan. This is more or less the mode he has fallen into so far in his second term. The Republicans attack government, so the Democrats defend government. The Republicans champion the individual, so the Democrats champion the collective. This allows Obama to stay within the confines of Democratic orthodoxy. He can make gestures toward balance but doesn’t really crusade for anything that fundamentally challenges his electoral coalition.

The problem is that this approach locks us into the same debate framework we’ve been stuck in since 1980, which has produced so much gridlock. If politics is framed in this way, then the country divides and policy stagnates. We will keep having these endless budget squabbles. The dysfunction will metastasize.

My main complaint with Obama is that he promised to move us beyond these stale debates, but he’s, instead, become a participant in them. 

Is Mr. Brooks living in some parallel universe? In his first term, didn't President Obama start every negotiation in the middle, only to hear the Republicans respond with "no?" And didn't he then move toward the Republicans? Isn't that what happened? Maybe the president -- who won the last election, by the way -- is tired of dealing with a party that can't compromise. 

Here's something I read back in July, 2011 (again, my emphasis): 

Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession.

Moreover, many important Democrats are open to a truly large budget deal. President Obama has a strong incentive to reach a deal so he can campaign in 2012 as a moderate. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, has talked about supporting a debt reduction measure of $3 trillion or even $4 trillion if the Republicans meet him part way. There are Democrats in the White House and elsewhere who would be willing to accept Medicare cuts if the Republicans would be willing to increase revenues.

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.

This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

But to members of this movement, tax levels are everything. Members of this tendency have taken a small piece of economic policy and turned it into a sacred fixation. They are willing to cut education and research to preserve tax expenditures. Manufacturing employment is cratering even as output rises, but members of this movement somehow believe such problems can be addressed so long as they continue to worship their idol.

Over the past week, Democrats have stopped making concessions. They are coming to the conclusion that if the Republicans are fanatics then they better be fanatics, too.

The struggles of the next few weeks are about what sort of party the G.O.P. is — a normal conservative party or an odd protest movement that has separated itself from normal governance, the normal rules of evidence and the ancient habits of our nation.

If the debt ceiling talks fail, independent voters will see that Democrats were willing to compromise but Republicans were not. If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern.

And they will be right.

Now, who do you suppose wrote that? Oh, yeah; it was David Brooks.

Should I go and watch...

...No. 10-seed Glenbrook South (3-7 conference, 12-15 overall) at No. 7 Foreman (9-0, 13-8) at 7:30 tonight (at GBS; don't ask)?

Or should I see No. 13 Taft (7-4, 11-12) at No. 4 Niles North (10-0, 24-4) at 6:00 and No. 12 Evanston (1-9, 9-18) at No. 5 Loyola (7-0, 21-6) at 7:30 (both at Loyola)?

While the former might be the better game, the latter combination should set up a good contest on Friday night between the Vikings and the Ramblers. (And I don't want to go into that gym cold.)

That way, I could get a good look at Malachi Nix of Niles North (above, shooting against Loyola two years ago), the conference scoring leader (442) before he takes on the Wilmette squad. Nix leads a high-scoring offense, including B. J. Beckford (307 points), Billy Voitik (154) and J. J. Myles (138).

The Ramblers, meanwhile, will rely on the steady play of Jack Morrissey (182 points) and James Clarke (95).

I think I've answered my own question.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hard to believe, but...

...football practice for Northwestern begins this week. And the Spring game is on Saturday, April 13.

Where does the time go?

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"Argo" won the Academy Award...

...for Best Picture last night, which may have been a surprise to anyone not following Intrade for the last few months.

You didn't stay up late to find that out, did you?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Tessio may be dead, but...

...Abe Vigoda is still going strong. The actor turned 92 today.

(Sally, meanwhile, is still sleeping with the fishes.)

If anyone ever invites you...

...to a basketball game at House of Hope on the South Side of Chicago, politely decline.

Why? It's not that the arena is hard to get to -- just the opposite. House of Hope is right off I-94, and I made it down there on a Saturday afternoon in a little over 45 minutes from my house in the northern suburbs. What's it like inside? Very nice, actually. The place is fairly new, completed in 2005. It's clean, the theatre-like seats are very comfortable and the people working there more than friendly. So was it a raucous crowd? No. In fact, there were times last night when you could practically hear a pin drop.

So what the heck was the problem?

According to its Web site, House of Hope is a "10,000 seat arena for family entertainment, sports and cultural events. The arena’s multipurpose use lends itself to hosting events of varying scales."

But House of Hope is really a mega-church, the home of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago. It has a Sunday morning worship service, and I wouldn't be surprised if they fill the place. And good for them! But what makes for a good worship atmosphere doesn't necessarily make for a good sports venue.

When I arrived in the building yesterday, after making it through the metal detector (which took me a couple of tries; apparently Altoids come in a tin box -- who knew?), I bought a program, a couple of hot dogs and a bag of Doritios (Saturday night dinner), and called my buddy inside.

"Where are you guys? Do I go up the stairs, or what?"

"No; walk straight ahead."

"But it looks like some kind of a church service is going on in there."

"No; that's the place."

So I strolled in -- careful not to disturb anyone -- and looked up and found my two friends in "the stands."

We shook hands, I sat down and noticed ... there was a game going on. (Proviso East was in the process of finishing off De La Salle in the first game of the 18th Annual McDonald's City-Suburban Showdown.) Huh? But it was so ... quiet.

Where were all the fans, the students, the trash talk? Where were the cheerleaders, the dance teams, the taunting home-made banners? As George Carlin once said in a bit, "Nowhere, mon frere."

No, everyone was sitting quietly, politely, almost ... reverently. It was as though they were sitting in ... a church.

In fact, my friends and I were practically afraid to speak. At one point -- we were laughing about something -- I half-expected someone to turn around, scowl, and scold us: "Indoor voices, please!"

So, if you want to go to House of Hope for a church service, have at it. But a high school basketball game? Try some crummy old gym instead.
___

As for the game itself (oh, yeah -- that), well, let's just say there must be a big drop-off after the first three or four teams in the state and the rest of the field. The marquee event, and the reason I went, was between Benet and Whitney Young. I had seen both teams before and thought that, even though Young would prevail, the Redwings should give them a good game.

Final score: Young 61, Benet 46.

Turns out that, while Benet is a really good suburban high school team, Young is a half-way decent college team, or at least that's how it looked to me last night.

To give you some idea, I can just imagine Benet's 6' 9" center, Sean O'Mara, working as an investment banker at Morgan Stanley in New York some day. At dinner with clients one night, someone asks him:

"Hey, Sean, how tall are you? Did you ever play basketball?"

"Yeah, I played in high school. I once went up against Jahlil Okafor."

"The guy on the LAKERS? Really?"

Whereas, if you ever ask Okafor if he remembers that Benet game at House of Hope in 2013, he'll likely reply:

"Bennett, you mean ... Transit?"

"No, no; not the hip hop artist. The basketball team."

"Oh. That was the game between the city championship and the state tournament, wasn't it? I wasn't feeling very good that night."
___

Lastly, there was the matter of the Ronald McDonald clown, or at least the guy dressed up as such. (It was sponsored by the fast-food chain, remember?) He really didn't look like the clown on TV, and when he opened his mouth, all I could think of was this scene from Seinfeld.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

St. Rita defeated St. Joseph...

...last night, 55-50, in a thriller in Westchester. Junior Victor Law led the Mustangs with 15 points, 12 rebounds and three dramatic, crowd-pleasing dunks.

While seniors A. J. Patty and Loren Horton starred for the Chargers, a number of underclassmen on both teams deserve mention. For the Mustangs, Charles and Dominique Matthews (brothers?) and Armani Chaney played well, as did Paul Turner, Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash of St. Joe's. (The guy who sat next to me told me to keep my eye on Ash, as he could be considered one of the best players in the state next year.) Suffice it to say, both teams should have several good returning starters next year.

After a quick meatball sandwich at Rocky's Pizza, above, on Cermak (which was excellent, by the way, and -- I know, I know -- it's Lent; sue me), I drove over to the St. Joe's campus for the game. There was only one small problem: there was no game! Did I get the time or location wrong? Had I been punked?

Turns out, St. Joe's merged with next-door neighbor Immaculate Heart of Mary in 2006 but retained the old building in back for its athletic facilities. That must be where all those cars are heading!

I followed the crowd into the ancient vintage gymnasium, which is actually quite charming. While the lighting could only be described as "subtle," the wood-beamed ceiling made me feel like I was in a ski lodge somewhere.

(By the way, speaking of "vintage," how old is Gene Pingatore? The St. Joseph coach has over 900 victories and Hoop Dreams was made back in 1994!)

Since this was the last home game of the season, it was Senior Night at St. Joe's. The place was packed. (I found out later, again from the guy next to me, that it may very well have been the last game ever in that gym. There's talk, apparently, that the archdiocese may buy the property and build a seniors' residence in its place.)

Each senior -- from the team, the cheerleaders and the dance team -- was introduced and walked out to center court with his or her parents. (It's a nice tradition, but it was a little bittersweet for me, as I was reminded of my own two sons, who are both out of high school now.)

All right, let's play the game, darn it! (Pardon my French.)

The Chargers jumped out to an early lead, mostly behind the play of Division I-bound Patty, and were up, 24-21, at the half. Was I to witness an upset? Not so fast. In the second half, St. Rita settled down and Law began to light up the place. Wow, this kid is only a junior!

The Mustangs went on to win, as I mentioned, but don't be surprised if both teams go deep in the playoffs. They are both tall and hustle, hustle, hustle. I'll be looking forward to watching them again.

P. S. Oh, and that guy next to me I kept referring to? It just so happens he was the brother-in-law of St. Joe legend and NBAer, Isiah Thomas.

P. P. S. Tonight it's Benet vs. Whitney Young at House of Hope. Should be one for the ages!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Tomorrow night's game is...

...a no-brainer: Benet vs. Whitney Young at House of Hope. (More on that later.)

But what about tonight? Should I go to St. Ignatius at St. Patrick, or St. Rita at St. Joseph? (That's a lot of saints.)

Remember, my motto has always been The Best Game Between the Best Teams.

So which one is it? Well, let's see. St. Ignatius is 15-11 and ranked No. 105 in the state of Illinois by MaxPreps. St. Pat's is 17-7 and ranked No. 57. (St. Patrick is closer to my house, but shame on me! for even taking that into consideration.)

St. Rita is probably the best of the bunch, at 17-7 and No. 19. St. Joe's, meanwhile, is 16-10 and No. 67.

Hmmm.

St. Ignatius beat St. Rita, 42-38, back in November. But the Wolfpack lost to St. Joe's two weeks ago, 47-41. (They're also coming off a three-game losing streak.)

St. Pat's beat St. Joseph in December, 61-54, but got crushed two nights ago by Marian Catholic, 52-38.

St. Rita is on a four-game winning streak and ranked No. 19 in the Trib and No. 24 in the Sun-Times.

St. Joe's, however, is coached by the legendary (or is it notorious?) Gene Pingatore, above, and has won three out of its last four outings. (The Chargers fell to Loyola Academy in a 43-42 heartbreaker in Wilmette last Friday.)

So, again, which one's it going to be?

I think St. Joe's could upset the Mustangs tonight. And I want to be there to see it.

What's that sound...

...I hear? Is it ... ice cracking? From an article in the Times this morning (my emphasis):

In a softening of their hard-line stance toward the use of contraception, Germany’s Roman Catholic bishops said Thursday that hospitals run by the church could provide women who had been raped with versions of the morning-after pill that prevent fertilization.

Did I read that right?

I've mentioned "Fox Geezer...

...Syndrome" in this blog twice before, here and here, ever since I first read about it here. It must be that time of year, because I feel compelled to draw attention to it again. In case you're not familiar with FGS, here's an excerpt from the original piece in FrumForum (my emphasis):

Used to be I would call my mom and get updated on news from the neighborhood, her garden, the grandchildren, hometown gossip, and so forth. I’ve always been interested in politics, but never had the occasion to talk about them with her. She just doesn’t care.
 
Or didn’t. I don’t know when it happened, exactly, but she began peppering our conversation with red-hot remarks about President Obama. I would try to engage her, but unless I shared her particular judgment, and her outrage, she apparently thought that I was a dupe or a RINO. Finally I asked my father privately why Mom, who as far as I know never before had a political thought, was so worked up about Obama all the time.
    
“She’s been like that ever since she started watching Glenn Beck,” Dad said.

A few months later, she roped him into watching Beck, which had the same effect. Even though we’re all conservatives, I found myself having to steer our phone conversations away from politics and current events. It wasn’t that I disagreed with their opinions – though I often did – but rather that I found the vehemence with which they expressed those opinions to be so off-putting.

Then I flew out for a visit, and observed that their television was on all day long, even if no one was watching it. What channel was playing? Fox. Spending a few days in the company of the channel – especially Glenn Beck — it all became clear to me. If Fox was the window through which I saw the wider world, for hours every day, I’d be perpetually pissed off too. 

Back home, I mentioned to a friend over beers how much Fox my mom and dad watched, and how angry they now were about politics.
 
“Yours too?!” he said. “I’ve noticed the same thing with mine. They weren’t always like this, but since they retired, they’ve gotten into Fox, and you can’t even talk to them anymore without hearing them read the riot act about Obama.”
 
I started to wonder how common this Fox Geezer Syndrome was. I began to poll conservative friends of my generation who had right-wing parents. At least eight different people – not an Obama voter among them, and one of them actually a George W. Bush political appointee in Washington – told me that yes, they had observed a correlation between the fevered emotionalism of their elderly parents’ politics, and increased exposure to Fox News.

Does this sound familiar to you? Every time I call home, my mother starts in on the president:

"Can you believe Obama is taking a vacation?"

"But, Ma, every president takes vacations..."

 "Did you see that he gave an interview with Hillary?"

"So, what? She's retiring from State and he owes a campaign debt to Bill..."

"They're running the country from Chicago!"

"Huh?"

It's at about this point that I plead with my mother to turn the channel. Watch something else, for crying out loud! But it's no use.

Now my mother is the sweetest old lady that you would ever want to meet. But, I swear, Roger Ailes is turning her into a bitter old woman. It's a shame, really.

As the week draws to a close...

...Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana (above) is the clear leader for next pope on Intrade, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes. (Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy is in second.)

Will the Catholic Church really select its next pope from Africa?

(Paddy Power has this note on its Web site: If the cardinals elect the First Black Pope, we will refund all losing bets on the Next Pope market. What the heck does that mean?)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

W. Watts Biggers, the co-creator...

...of the classic 1960s cartoon "Underdog," died at age 85.

The head of the fallout...

...shelter program in the Kennedy administration, Stuart Stewart Steuart Pittman, died at age 93. You don't suppose anybody ever had trouble with that first name, do you?

P. S. That's my dad and me in an undated photo.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Speaking of bad Republican...

...hair, what is with this guy? Does Sen. Rand Paul -- like Sen. Everett Dirksen (below) -- comb his hair with an egg beater (as my grandmother used to say)?

Never mind Chuck Hagel's...

...politics. Who is this guy's barber? Are those supposed to be bangs in front, or what?

When I was growing up...

...in Minnesota, it was common knowledge that our Norwegian brothers and sisters were, well, boring. Even Garrison Keillor implied as much on his radio show, A Prairie Home Companion:

"A Norwegian bachelor farmer can sit at a bar and nurse one drink until it gets better and walks away."

What about you? Do you think Norwegians are boring? (Do you even have an opinion?)

If you said yes, a story in today's New York Times, "Bark Up or Down? Firewood Splits Norwegians," may make you think again (my emphasis):

A TV program, on the topic of firewood, consisted mostly of people in parkas chatting and chopping in the woods and then eight hours of a fire burning in a fireplace.

Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point to the program, which was shown on the state broadcaster, NRK.

In a country where 1.2 million households have fireplaces or wood stoves, said Rune Moeklebust, NRK’s head of programs in the west coast city of Bergen, the subject naturally lends itself to television.

“My first thought was, ‘Well, why not make a TV series about firewood?’ ” Mr. Moeklebust said in an interview. “And that eventually cut down to a 12-hour show, with four hours of ordinary produced television, and then eight hours of showing a fireplace live.” 

“National Firewood Night,” as Friday’s program was called, opened with the host, Rebecca Nedregotten Strand, promising to “try to get to the core of Norwegian firewood culture — because firewood is the foundation of our lives.” Various people discussed its historical and personal significance. “We’ll be sawing, we’ll be splitting, we’ll be stacking and we’ll be burning,” Ms. Nedregotten Strand said.

But the real excitement came when the action moved, four hours later, to a fireplace in a Bergen farmhouse.

Perhaps you have seen a log fire burning on television before. But it would be very foolish to confuse Norway’s eight-hour fireplace extravaganza on Friday with the Yule log broadcast in the United States at Christmastime.

While the Yule log fire plays on a constant repeating loop, the fire on “National Firewood Night” burned all night long, in suspensefully unscripted configurations. Fresh wood was added through the hours by an NRK photographer named Ingrid Tangstad Hatlevoll, aided by viewers who sent advice via Facebook on where exactly to place it.

For most of the time, the only sound came from the fire. Ms. Hatlevoll’s face never appeared on screen, but occasionally her hands could be seen putting logs in the fireplace, or cooking sausages and marshmallows on sticks.

“I couldn’t go to bed because I was so excited,” a viewer called niesa36 said on the Dagbladet newspaper Web site. “When will they add new logs? Just before I managed to tear myself away, they must have opened the flue a little, because just then the flames shot a little higher.

“I’m not being ironic,” the viewer continued. “For some reason, this broadcast was very calming and very exciting at the same time.”

Tom Friedman wrote something...

...in his column this morning that would probably prevent him from ever becoming Secretary of Defense:

It would not be healthy for us to re-create with the Muslim Brotherhood the bargain we had with Mubarak. That is, just be nice to Israel and nasty to the jihadists and you can do whatever you want to your own people out back.

Wha-a-at?

I thought people in the Middle East hated us for other reasons. According to President George W. Bush:

Americans are asking "Why do they hate us?"

They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

Now Friedman is saying what everyone really knew all along, but was afraid to say out loud: they hate us for what we did to them, i. e., the United States supported dictators who oppressed their own people.

There. Now why did it take so long for anyone to actually say that?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

I was on the CME trading floor...

...last week and ran into an old colleague of mine, Rick Santelli. (Not sure if he remembered me or not.) Rick and I don't agree on most things nowadays, although he is far from disagreeable. He's actually a very personable guy. And modest, too. In fact, I'm pretty sure Rick would never agree with me that his famous rant had a significant impact on America. But as for me, not only do I think Santelli created the tea party movement, but he may have also slowed the nascent economic recovery in its tracks. How? By thwarting mortgage relief for individuals. Don't believe me? Then check out this video:


I think the Obama administration was genuinely intimidated by Santelli's rant. After TARP, the stimulus and the auto bailout, any more help for the economy from Washington was just too much for people like Rick and the tea party to bear. And the president and his people knew it.

Just imagine how much faster things might have recovered if we'd bailed out individuals like we did Wall Street and Detroit. Who knows? The economy could be humming along today at three percent GDP growth with unemployment under seven percent. Oh well.

The Times has an article...

...on Guy Cecil today, the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Is Cecil any good at his job? According to the piece (my emphasis):

Mr. Cecil’s approach to Senate elections goes back to the vicious 1998 re-election campaign of South Carolina’s Ernest Hollings, the last Democratic Senate victory in that state, and 2000, when he helped former Gov. Mel Carnahan of Missouri defeat John Ashcroft, a Republican, despite the fact that Mr. Carnahan had died in a plane crash three weeks before Election Day. 

I finally made it to Booby's...

...for lunch yesterday. (I had driven past it many times without stopping to eat.) The restaurant, located on Milwaukee Avenue in Niles, features not only the Big Boob (a half-pound char-broiled burger) but also the Fat Boob (a Polish sausage).

I ordered a hot dog.

We're back to a horse race...

...in the betting for the next pope. Intrade is pretty much a three-way tie, with Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy coming up fast along the rail. Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana is still in the lead, albeit slightly, and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy is in third.

On Paddy Power, Scola has taken the lead, followed by Turkson in second and Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada in third (and fading fast).

Finally, Ladbrokes still has Turkson in first, but Scola is rising fast. Ouellet and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Italy are tied for third place.

Remember, if Scola ends up winning, Chris Matthews called it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tony Sheridan, a singer...

...who had the Beatles for his backup band, died at age 72. How many people can say that?

The best movie I saw...

...this weekend was Woman of the Year, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (no relation). It's a fascinating study of marriage and gender roles, and I absolutely can't believe it was made in 1942.

(The moral of the story for me was, the person you marry is the person you marry, not the one you wish you'd married.)

I kept wondering what men of that era (like my father) thought of Hepburn's character (who seemed a lot like the real-life Hepburn). Tess Harding would have been such a threat to the typical man in the 1940s; she would have scared the hell out of him! And, considering the times, I have to think that most men watching the movie imagined beating a woman like that. (I think that was more common back then than we'd like to admit.) In fact, the last scene of the movie had to be specifically included to satisfy that urge; it implied that Tracy's character beat up another man off-camera (a proxy for his wife). Only then could men in 1942 walk out of theaters with their egos in tact.

Woman of the Year was also the movie in which Tracy and Hepburn first met and began their legendary romance. I'd bet their relationship was very similar to the one on screen. Good flick.

I saw "Silver Linings Playbook..."

...last night. It was okay. The best part was the song above.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The quote of the day...

...is from Connie Britton*, from a profile on the actress in today's New York Times Magazine:

“The thing about taking risks is, if it’s really a risk, you really can fail,” Britton said. “It’s only a pretend risk if you really can’t fail.” 

* The picture above is from The Fitzgerald Family Christmas. Am I the only person in America who saw (and liked) that movie?

Barnaby Conrad, "Man of Many Hats...

...and a Cape" as his obit in the New York Times describes him, died at age 90.

Why do I like the obituaries so much? (Besides the fact that I'm Irish?) Just read these first three paragraphs (my emphasis):

As a 19-year-old art student one summer in Mexico City, Barnaby Conrad attended a bullfight, and, with a whimsical bolt of Hemingwayesque bravado, leapt into the ring and challenged a bull himself, using his Brooks Brothers raincoat as a cape.

He barely escaped, but the stunt amused and impressed the famed bullfighter Felix Guzman, who had been preparing for his turn in the corrida when Mr. Conrad performed his spontaneous, amateurish veronicas. Guzman soon became Mr. Conrad’s tutor in the art of the matador — though, alas, in their first training session together with a live bull, Mr. Conrad was gored through the knee. Just about the time he recovered, he learned he’d been admitted to Yale. His flight back to the United States crashed on the runway in Burbank, Calif.

This eventful summer vacation was a mere prelude to Mr. Conrad’s eventful life. He survived the crash to fight more than 40 bulls in Spain, Mexico and Peru, to write more than 30 books, to earn a living as a portrait painter and a cocktail pianist, to own a celebrated nightclub, to start a writers’ conference. He would descend into and re-emerge from alcoholism and befriend a long list of boldface literary names, including Sinclair Lewis, John Steinbeck, William F. Buckley Jr. and Ray Bradbury, many of whom he painted; his portraits of Alex Haley, James Michener and Truman Capote are in the National Portrait Gallery collection. Perhaps to tempt fate, perhaps to keep it in his own hands, he also learned to fly a plane. 

How can you not read on?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cardinal Peter Turkson...

...of Ghana now leads the betting on Intrade, Paddy Power and Ladbrokes. Could the next pope really be from Africa? What would my father say? (I know what he said about the first African American president, and I can't print it here.)

But, no matter; from what I've read about Cardinal Turkson, he's just another old, reactionary Catholic priest. According to Vatican watcher John Allen (my emphasis):

"Theologically, he's seen as a moderate: for example, Turkson has signalled openness to the argument that condoms might be appropriate for couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other isn't, on the logic that the intent in that case is not to prevent pregnancy but to prevent disease."

Might be appropriate? Is that what passes for a moderate in today's Catholic Church? (Reminds me a little of Sen. Marco Rubio -- a fresh face on stale, old ideas.)

Black, white, whatever; don't expect the Catholic Church to end its slow, steady slide into irrelevance any time soon.

Shadow Morton, who wrote...

..."Leader of the Pack" and other songs, died at age 71.

His obit notes that Morton later "had a second career as a designer of golf clubs."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Mark McKinnon tweets...

..."Two of the most thoughtful, articulate guys in the GOP (Gerson, Wehner) have some solid prescriptions for the future." McKinnon, above, a former advisor to President Bush, is referring to a piece in Commentary, "How to Save the Republican Party."

I read it this morning and all I could think was, this is what passes for thoughtful in the modern-day Republican Party? Really?

For starters, the authors maintain that:

...the resounding Republican midterm victory in 2010 now seems more like an aberration—a temporary backlash to presidential overreach—than evidence of an upward trend.

Really? Overreach? Is that what that was?

Or were Democrats punished because they were in control of the White House and both houses of Congress when the worst recession since the Great Depression kicked in, in 2009 and 2010. If you lost your job during that period, or saw your 401k and/or house decline in value, or whatever, wouldn't you naturally blame the party in power and want to "throw the bums out?" Or would health care reform -- which polled so well leading up to the 2008 election (and doesn't even fully take effect until 2014!) -- really drive everyone to the polls to vote Republican? I just can't see that.

As for Gerson and Wehner's "prescriptions" for the GOP, the two recommend -- for starters -- that it turn its back on the rich, large corporations, banks, xenophobes and the anti-science crowd -- in other words, the Republican Party base. Whom do they think will be left to vote for them?

About the only "thoughtful" thing I found in this piece was the following:

And it is no wonder that Republican policies can seem stale; they are very nearly identical to those offered up by the party more than 30 years ago. For Republicans to design an agenda that applies to the conditions of 1980 is as if Ronald Reagan designed his agenda for conditions that existed in the Truman years. 

And they're right about that. One of the biggest problems Republicans have is that for them it's always 1980. They don't seem to realize that the world has changed, today's problems are different from the ones Reagan faced in the 1980s, and that the GOP must come up with new solutions to today's problems.

Am I the only person...

...who thinks "chicken and waffles" is kind of an odd combination? Why not "cheeseburgers and French toast?"

No consensus yet...

...on the next pope (from the three betting Web sites I follow). While both Intrade and Ladbrokes have Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana (above) in the lead, Paddy Power has Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy as the favorite.

Here are the top three on each site:

Intrade

1. Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghana)
2. Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada)
3. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Italy)

Ladbrokes

1. Cardinal Turkson
2. Cardinal Ouellet
3. Archbishop Angelo Scola (Italy)

Paddy Power

1. Archbishop Scola
2. Cardinal Turkson
3. Cardinal Ouellet

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Robert Draper has a long piece...

...in the New York Times Magazine this week, "Can the Republicans Be Saved From Obsolescence?" It's a good read, and on page five you can find this paragraph:

“And we can’t be afraid to call out Rush Limbaugh,” said Goodwin’s fiancĂ©e, S. E. Cupp, a New York Daily News columnist and a co-host of”The Cycle”on MSNBC. “If we can get three Republicans on three different networks saying, ‘What Rush Limbaugh said is crazy and stupid and dangerous,’ maybe that’ll give other Republicans cover” to denounce the talk-show host as well. 

And I had a bit of an Ah-hah! experience. I had been thinking the same thing as Ms. Cupp for a while now: What the Republicans needed was a Sister Souljah moment.

But I may have been wrong.

Rush Limbaugh and his ilk say the things they say because that's what the GOP base wants to hear. They don't shape opinion; they reflect it. And to contradict them is to contradict the party faithful (which is, of course, electoral suicide).

So until this present generation of Republicans passes from the earth, there's just not a lot anyone can do to change the GOP. I'm afraid they're destined to be the out-party for some time to come.

The cartoon of the day:

Mental health break:

What Sen. Marco Rubio was...

...thinking the other night when he was making his Big Speech.

Jake McNiece, one of the...

...last surviving members of the "Filthy 13," died at age 93. From his obit (my emphasis):

D-Day started early for Sgt. Jake McNiece and his fellow paratroopers. Not long after midnight on June 6, 1944, they parachuted behind German lines just ahead of the invasion of Normandy. Their goal was to destroy Nazi supply lines and escape routes. Some called it a suicide mission. The paratroopers called themselves the Filthy 13.

Sergeant McNiece spent more than 30 days behind enemy lines after D-Day.

How terrifying would that have been?

They were a skilled group, trained as the Demolition Section of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. But they were not the most disciplined of soldiers. They disobeyed orders, bathed infrequently and often disappeared from their barracks for long, liquid and sometimes violent weekends. If they received promotions, odds were good they would eventually be demoted again.

“He spent a lot of time in a stockade,” Hugh McNiece said of his father, “and he was O.K. with that.”

Rick Huxley, the bass player...

...for the Dave Clark Five, died at age 72.

The group, part of the British Invasion in the early 1960s, was known for such hits as “Bits and Pieces,” “Glad All Over” and “Catch Us if You Can.” But I think I prefer "Because" most of all.

That's a good tune for Valentine's Day, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Paul Tanner, who played the...

...theremin on the 1966 Beach Boys hit "Good Vibrations," died at age 95.

A former trombonist for the Glenn Miller Ochestra, Tanner helped invent the unusual device. From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

How Mr. Tanner ended up playing with the Beach Boys is uncertain, but one version of the story is that Brian Wilson, the group’s leader and chief songwriter, called ABC looking for a theremin player and was directed to Mr. Tanner. On “Good Vibrations,” the instrument created a delirious, rising-in-pitch backdrop to the song’s chorus. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“Strange group to work with,” Mr. Tanner said in a 2001 interview. “The only one who seemed to have any idea of music at all was Brian Wilson.” 
___

“Nowadays they’re so intelligent and ask so many questions, you’re kept on your mettle,” Mr. Tanner said about his students in a 1976 interview with the jazz writer Leonard Feather. “The question I remember best was asked in class one day. One kid said, ‘Professor Tanner, did they have groupies in the swing era?’ I said, ‘Yes, your mama.’ ”

Remember Jim Greer, the...

...chairman of the Florida Republican Party, who didn't want President Obama to speak to schoolchildren about the "importance of education?" In 2009, Greer wrote (my emphasis):

As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power.

While I support educating our children to respect both the office of the American President and the value of community service, I do not support using our children as tools to spread liberal propaganda. The address scheduled for September 8, 2009, does not allow for healthy debate on the President's agenda, but rather obligates the youngest children in our public school system to agree with our President's initiatives or be ostracized by their teachers and classmates.


Remember that guy? He pled guilty yesterday to grand theft and money laundering charges and is expected to face prison time.

Cardinal Marc Ouellet...

...of Canada is the frontrunner for pope (at three-to-one odds) on both Paddy Power and Ladbrokes (as of this writing). In second place is Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. Rounding out the field is:

3. Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria
4. Archbishop Angelo Scola of Italy
5. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina

I still don't see anything on Intrade.

Monday, February 11, 2013

How do you say...

...glasnost, perestroika and demokratizatsiya in Latin?

While you're waiting for Intrade...

...to come up with a market on the next Pope, Paddy Power is giving Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec the best odds of becoming the next pontiff. Ladbrokes, however, has Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana in the lead. Meanwhile, Chris Matthews has Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan as the frontrunner.

Looks like we've got ourselves a horse race!

How many political parties...

...does the United States have? Two? Last week I argued three: the Democratic, the Republican establishment and the tea party.

Tomorrow night, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address to the nation. Sen. Marco Rubio (above, right) will then deliver the official Republican response and Sen. Rand Paul (above, left) will then deliver the tea party response. Let's see, that's -- one, two, three -- speeches from -- one, two, three -- political parties.

Ira Rubin, a champion...

...bridge player known as "the Beast," died at age 82.

The Beast? Really? It's not like Rubin was a middle linebacker or anything. Can a bridge player really have a nickname like "the Beast?"

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

"You didn't see nothin'."

Do you think Gov. Bobby Jindal...

...of Louisiana was a little harsh when he called the GOP the "stupid party?"

In his column today, Paul Krugman reminds us:

Last year the Texas G.O.P. explicitly condemned efforts to teach “critical thinking skills,” because, it said, such efforts “have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When reading about the big snowstorm...

...out East in the Times this morning, I was relieved to find out:

The Boston Archdiocese released Roman Catholics from their obligation to attend Mass on Sunday, saying they should attend only if they could do so safely.

This New Yorker cartoon...

...hits way too close to home.

Friday, February 8, 2013

I wrote a post last year...

...after Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin survived his recall election. The gist of it was, it's a consolation prize at best:

...the Republicans and Democrats in the Dairy State are essentially fighting over a dead body. The economy in Wisconsin, if it ever was anything special, has long been lost to history ... Stuck between prosperous Minneapolis and Chicago, Wisconsin is resembling -- more and more -- Indiana.

Today, I came across a piece comparing the economy of Wisconsin with its neighbor's to the west (my emphasis):

Minnesota’s per capita income is higher than Wisconsin’s in both pre-tax and after-tax terms.

In terms of jobs, Minnesota’s unemployment rate is lower than Wisconsin’s and its rate of job growth is higher.

Wisconsin’s per capita income relative to the national average has, in the best light, stagnated since the 1950s. Minnesota passed Wisconsin in the late 1960s and the gap has grown every year since then.

The bottom line: Minnesota’s economy fared better than Wisconsin’s during the most recent recession and recovery. Further, average incomes for Minnesotans have been higher than Wisconsinites since the late 1960s, even accounting for tax differences.

These data imply that companies that want to avail themselves of a deeper pool of unemployed workers whom they can pay lower wages would do well in Wisconsin. Perhaps setting up a subsidiary in Wisconsin (to take advantage of lower labor costs) and keeping the high-skill, high-income headquarters in Minnesota is the way to go for those businesses.