Thursday, December 24, 2015

It's Christmas Eve and...

...the news is slow, so here's a prediction for you.

Are you ready? (It's out of left field.) Here goes: the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist (above), on Wacker Drive in Chicago, will be sold in the not-too-distant future and reopen as a mosque, causing untold agita in the Windy City.

How on earth did I get there?

First of all, my wife and I visited the church recently as part of Open House Chicago. It's an absolutely gorgeous structure, and I even posted a picture of its organ on my Facebook page. Designed in an award-winning Modern style by noted Chicago-based architect Harry Weese, the church was completed in 1968.

If I remember correctly, by 1968 the church's membership had already peaked. And now it's in decline. (Ask yourself: When was the last time you met a Christian Scientist? The only one I can think of is Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary -- and I've never met him.) According to Wikipedia (my emphasis):

A census at the height of the religion's popularity in 1936 counted c. 268,915 Christian Scientists in the United States (2,098 per million). The movement has been in decline since then. The church has sold buildings to free up funds. It closed 23 of its churches in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1995. In 2004 it sold the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Manhattan, to the Crenshaw Christian Center for $14 million. (The building was sold again in 2014 to be converted into condominiums.)
 
There were an estimated 106,000 Scientists in the United States in 1990 (427 per million), according to Rodney Stark. In 2009 the church said that for the first time more new members had been admitted from Africa than from the United States, although it offered no numbers.
 
The Manual of the Mother Church prohibits the church from publishing membership figures, but it does provide the names of Christian Science practitioners, Scientists trained to offer Christian Science prayer on behalf of others. In 1941 there were 11,200 practitioners in the United States, against 965 in 2015 (1,249 worldwide). Stark writes that clusters of practitioners listed in the Christian Science Journal in 1998 were living in the same retirement communities.

Okay, so can we all agree this is a denomination in decline? And that maybe -- just maybe -- its few remaining members will be forced may want to sell the building on Wacker Drive? Call it a hunch.

So, how do I get to the second part of my prediction? Let's see: which religion is actually growing in America? Ding! Ding! Ding! You've got it -- Islam. I think it's arguable, but this website claims that it's the fastest growing religion in America:

There are now as many as 7 million Muslims in the United States, half of them American-born. In recent years, Americans of African, European, Southeast Asian, Latin American and American Indian descent have left their parents' spiritual paths to follow Islam, a religion that includes more than 1 billion believers from nearly every country.

I've also read that the "Nones" and the Mormons are the fastest growing religious groups in America, but the point remains: while the vast majority of denominations in the U. S. are in decline, Islam is growing.

Now, I'm not one of those who find this necessarily alarming; I'm just pointing out that if you owned a church that was a marquee property in a high-profile location in downtown Chicago, don't look for the Catholics or the Southern Baptists to bail you out. (Although you might actually find a non-denominational Christian mega-church, I suppose.) But I'm going to predict that just like the "Ground Zero Mosque" in New York, someone will purchase this property in the hope of converting it into an Islamic Community Center.

And the town will go nuts. It will be the biggest controversy to hit Chicago since . . . I don't know when. How will it all get resolved? I have no idea -- that's not part of my prediction.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

How did I miss this?

Protesters went on a hunger strike to save Dyett High School in Chicago this year.

The Times has an opinion...

...piece today written by Kyle Orton about a guy named Aflaq.

Things are getting just a little wacky at year-end.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

If Robert Kobayashi...

...doesn't win Obit of the Day he should certainly get Honorable Mention. From the Times (all emphasis mine):

Robert Kobayashi, who delighted and mystified passers-by for decades with the whimsical displays of his art in the window of Moe’s Meat Market on Elizabeth Street in the NoLIta neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, died on Dec. 14, at his home in Honolulu. He was 90.

In 1977, Mr. Kobayashi bought the building housing the butcher shop for $35,000 and turned it into his personal gallery, mounting impromptu exhibitions of his nail-studded tin sculptures and reliefs, some of which he hung from meat hooks, and paintings and sculptures in a variety of styles.
His window of wonders became a fixture in the neighborhood, though the door to the building remained locked, meaning that the curious could only press their noses against the glass.
___

Mr. Kobayashi neither courted nor found success with commercial galleries. For many years he worked in the warehouse of the Museum of Modern Art, which hired him in the mid-’50s as a gardener for a traditional Japanese house that was reassembled and exhibited for two years.

Mr. Kobayashi actually knew nothing about gardening.

“I just kept quiet and everyone thought I couldn’t speak English,” he told Alec Wilkinson, a writer for The New Yorker who wrote the catalog essay for “Tattooed Angel: Paintings and Sculpture by Robert Kobayashi” at the Nassau County Museum of Art in 1988. “If I came up with a horticultural problem, I ran across the street to the library and did some research.”

Gotta love the Times!

The Name of the Day...

...may not belong to the Rev. Rick Curry, who died at age 72, but is it really an accident that his obit in the New York Times shows him cooking?

Apparently not (all emphasis mine):

With Constance J. Milstein, a developer and philanthropist, Father Curry founded the Dog Tag Bakery in Washington last year to teach wounded veterans a craft. He also wrote two cookbooks on elemental comfort food, “The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking” (1995) and “The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking: A Year of Our Soups” (2002), laden with recipes and spiced with anecdotes.

Okay, so maybe he does deserve the Name of the Day.

It's a curious obituary:

Born without a right forearm, Father Curry, as an aspiring actor, was once ridiculed by a receptionist when he arrived to audition for a mouthwash commercial, and he required a special dispensation from the Vatican to become a priest — when he was 66 — because canon law requires two hands to celebrate Mass.

Mouthwash commercial? Canon law requires two hands to become a priest? Wait; it gets weirder:

When Richard was a small boy, his mother took him to downtown Philadelphia to see the preserved right forearm of St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary. He was permitted to kiss the reliquary, but sought no healing.

Preserved right forearm? What are the odds?

Hey, if nothing else it's easily the Obit of the Day.

Remember this cartoon...

...from four years ago? After reading a blog post by Paul Krugman this morning, "Where’s The Rubiomentum?," I began to wonder if we'll see signs sentiment like that before too long.

As Krugman mentions, Marco Rubio is leading in the betting markets, if not the polls. (Unlike Krugman, I give a lot of weight to the betting markets; I find them to be much more predictive than polls. For example, when the polls got all excited about Newt Gingrich in 2012 the betting markets stayed with Mitt Romney.)

Right now it looks like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the frontrunners -- both anathema to the party establishment. While Jeb Bush and John Kasich look like they're both on life support, Chris Christie actually has a chance of a good showing in New Hampshire. That could really muddy the race in the establishment "lane." But at some point, the party elders have to get behind one candidate and it could very well be Rubio.

So let's assume the party says, "Oh alright. Fine. Rubio." Then what? What state does a Marco Rubio candidacy take that Romney didn't in 2012? His home state of Florida? Okay. That would give Rubio 29 Electoral votes that Romney didn't get. So the election would look like this:

Hillary Clinton 303
Marco Rubio 235

What if Rubio picks either Kasich or Sen. Rob Portman to be his running mate and the GOP takes Ohio as well? Here's what you'd get:

Hillary 285
Rubio 253

Let's go nuts and say the popular vote is really, really close and the Republicans capture Virginia this time around. Now what?

Hillary 272
Rubio 266

So even if Rubio steals the three closest states President Obama won last time he'd still come up short. He would need one more, like Colorado, to put him over the top. That would be a "heavy lift," as they say in Washington nowadays.

Oh, alright. Fine. Rubio. I'm in!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Name of the Day...

...is a near miss: Zach Line is not a lineman for the Minnesota Vikings.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Prior to 1964, all but three...

...of Great Britain's 48 prime ministers were educated at private secondary schools.

So the trick to becoming prime minister in the old days was to attend one of those so-called "public" schools, right? Surely that's causation.

Or is it correlation? Maybe, just maybe -- another way of looking at it is -- the trick was to be born into the upper class and attend whatever school your parents happened to send you.

Now, I know what you're probably thinking right about now: What on earth is he getting at today? 

In this morning's Times there's an article in the Upshot section titled, "Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise," by someone named











The class differences in child rearing are growing, researchers say — a symptom of widening inequality with far-reaching consequences. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. Children grow up learning the skills to succeed in their socioeconomic stratum, but not necessarily others.

“Early childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.”

The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which can leave children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings.

Oy! 

Ms. Miller goes on to list all of the "investments" more affluent parents tend to make that "prepare" their offspring for higher education and success in life. They include preschool, trips to museums and volunteer work. Also important for a ticket to the good life, apparently, are extracurricular activities such as organized sports and lessons in music, dance or art. Richer parents, it seems, tend to spank their children less than those with a high school degree or less. And, last but hardly least, that current panacea: Reading Aloud to the Little Dears, preferably as often as possible.

Almost hilariously, Ms. Miller also notes:

While bullying is parents’ greatest concern over all, nearly half of low-income parents worry their child will get shot, compared with one-fifth of high-income parents. They are more worried about their children being depressed or anxious. 

Do I sound just a tad cynical here? Maybe it's because the "investments" listed above are common to all upper-middle class families today.

For the record, my wife and I did pretty much all of those things when raising our own two boys. Why? Because we raised them in the 1990s. 

But as for our own childhoods, we both played organized sports and . . . that's about it. (Also for the record, we both went to college and have graduate degrees.) How did we make it so far in school? After all, we were both raised in the 1960s, when no one ever heard of all that stuff above. Think my parents ever read to me aloud? Think again. "Read it yourself!" Or better yet, "Go watch TV or somethin' -- can't you see I'm busy?"

Am I whining? Not at all. But the answer to why my wife and I went to college isn't some big state secret. In fact, it's hiding in plain sight in this very piece:

...the more affluent children end up in college and en route to the middle class, while working-class children tend to struggle.

In other words, the trick is to be born into a "class" in which pretty much all its members go to college. (Wanna be prime minister of England? Get yourself born into the upper class -- all the rest flows from there.) So don't grow up in the inner city or in some small town somewhere. Because very few of those people go to college. Why? I don't know; they just don't.

But that's really all there is to it: choose your parents carefully. The best predictor for success in college and in life is probably just growing up around other people who go to college and succeed in life.

This ain't rocket science, people.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Ezra Klein wrote about...

...high school football coach Kevin Kelley two years ago (my emphasis):

Coach Kevin Kelley of Pulaski Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas, instructs his players to never punt, never field punts, and only do onside kicks, and he claims that math backs up his innovative philosophy.

Nate Silver has an update this morning. Interesting stuff.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Most Appropriate Name...

...of the Day belongs to Luigi Creatore, a songwriter and record producer, who died at age 93.

Creatore, who with his cousin Hugo Peretti formed the songwriting team of Hugo & Luigi, produced such hits as "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" and "Honeycomb," above. 

I didn't see the debate...

...last night, but the betting markets this morning are affirming what many people have been saying lately: the Republican nomination is coming down to a three-man race -- Rubio, Trump and Cruz. The latest from PaddyPower (with odds and my thoughts in italics):

1. Marco Rubio, 6/4
Down a touch from last Friday's 11/8.
2. Donald Trump, 9/4
Holding steady.
3. Ted Cruz, 3/1
Up from 5/1; coming on strong in Iowa.

4. Chris Christie, 10/1
Up from 12/1; New Hampshire dark horse?
5. Jeb Bush, 10/1
Fading fast. Wow; what happened to the early front-runner?

6. Ben Carson, 66/1
Fading really fast. Might not get a "ticket" out of Iowa.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

I'm going to go out on a limb...

...this morning and say that Donald Trump doesn't win anything. That's right; and here's how I get there.

First, I'm going to not go out on a limb and say the Des Moines Register Tribune poll is right: Ted Cruz takes the first state on February 1. Everybody in the know seems to respect this poll, and besides, Cruz is lining up some key endorsements in Iowa, e. g., Bob Vander Plaats and Rep. Steve King.

Next is New Hampshire, where Trump currently leads the field with either 26.8 percent, according to the Huffington Post aggregate poll, or 28.7 percent, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. But if you add up the percentages of the establishment candidates -- Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich -- you get a total of 36 percent on HuffPo and 36.6 on RCP. And I'm going to say that the establishment coalesces, more or less, around one of these four candidates in the next two months. (At this date it looks like it could be Christie.) So let's say Trump stays in the high twenties, Cruz gets a bounce out of Iowa and comes in third at around 15 percent, but the establishment candidate gets a little over thirty and wins.

Now the Donald is oh-for-two. And the guy who's made his campaign . . . about his campaign is suddenly not looking like a "winner."

Next comes South Carolina, and it looks like it could be Cruz against the establishment. Trump? By now he's yesterday's news. Conservatives will have to rally behind the freshman senator from Texas to stop the establishment candidate -- Christie, Rubio or Jeb. And the establishment will have to rally behind its guy to stop Cruz. Whoever wins that one will be well-positioned for the SEC primaries on March 1 and Super Tuesday on March 15.

If Trump loses both Iowa and New Hampshire, I'll say he finds a convenient excuse to drop out ("I never wanted to be president anyway"), but he'll certainly be gone if he loses all three.

I know the Donald has a commanding lead in the national polls (Monmouth had him at 41 percent yesterday, a new high!), but I'm skeptical that his numbers will translate into real votes when the time comes. So I'll say the nomination comes down to Cruz vs. the winner of New Hampshire (the establishment choice). After the Granite State, it could be a two-man race.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Unfortunate Picture...

...of the Day is from a piece in the Times, "From Stanley Cup Finals to a High School Coach," about a hockey coach named George Gwozdecky. (And let's not even get started on how you would pronounce that last name.)

Is some mischievous player holding up two fingers behind Gwozdecky's head? Or is he related to Ray Walston (below) from the old My Favorite Martian series?

I have to think the photographer took more than one picture of this guy. Doesn't seem like he would fly all the way to Colorado just to take one shot, right? "Okay, got it; let's go."

So is the Times' sports editor having a little fun at Mr. Gwozdecky's expense? Or did this one just slip past him?

Can you believe there's...

...talk of a Romney - Ryan redux in 2016? (Ask yourself: Is that any crazier than the thought of a Donald Trump candidacy?) It's true; in the event of a deadlocked convention, the party may once again turn to its 2012 ticket. (Go to the very end of this video.)

So here's my question: With a recovering economy in a little better shape than in 2012, and with President Obama's approval ratings essentially the same, what states, exactly, would a Romney - Ryan ticket hope to win that it didn't capture last time?

Let's have a look at the three closest states Obama won in 2012: Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Altogether they add up to 60 Electoral votes. If you subtract those from Obama's total of 332 and add them to Romney's 206 you still get an Obama victory, 272-266.

In fact, Obama won nine of the ten closest states. Again, what would make anyone think Romney (or any Republican candidate, for that matter) would do better this time around?

Remember how people talked four years ago about drafting Jeb to come in and save the day? Now the tables are turned and Romney may be the new GOP savior. Here's a prediction for you: I'll say Hillary beats whomever the Republicans nominate in 2016 by an even greater margin than Obama did in 2012.

The Iowa caucuses are...

...on February 1, in 52 days. That's only seven weeks from Monday.

If you look at the latest from the Huffington Post aggregate of 235 polls from 33 pollsters you'll find it to be essentially a four-man race, with Ben Carson fading fast:

1. Donald Trump, 35.8 percent
2. Ted Cruz, 14.1
3. Marco Rubio, 12.3
4. Ben Carson, 11.9

The average of polls at Real Clear Politics is similar, with Carson falling since his peak in early November:

1. Trump, 30.4
2. Cruz, 15.6
3. Carson, 13.6
4. Rubio, 13.6

Over at Paddy Power, the Irish betting website, it's a five-man race if you include Jeb Bush and Chris Christie (Carson is in sixth place, at 40/1 odds):

1. Rubio, 11/8 odds
2. Trump, 9/4
3. Cruz, 5/1
4. Bush, 8/1
5. Christie, 12/1

It looks like the world has finally caught on that Dr. Carson, while perhaps a brilliant surgeon, is thoroughly unqualified to be president of the United States. Jeb Bush, although he's going backwards in the polls, can't be written off entirely because his super PAC still has over $100 million. And Chris Christie, with the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader, could conceivably do well enough in that state's primary to be back in the thick of the race.

But, having said all that, it appears today that the GOP nomination is a three-man race between Trump, Rubio and Cruz. Charlie Rose asked a number of pundits the other night who was the likeliest Republican nominee and (with about 5:10 remaining in this video) most of them (reluctantly) said Trump. I'll go with the lone dissenter, Evan Osnos, and say it remains to be seen if Trump can translate these good poll numbers into actual votes. While the others were basing their opinions on data and evidence, I'll use a more faith-based approach. And that is to say I have too much faith in America to think one of the two major parties would nominate someone so clearly unqualified for the job.

P. S. There's reporting that the Republican Party brass is preparing for a contested convention. Pinch me!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

You'll never guess...

...who the most admired male politician is among Republican voters. Yep, incredibly, it's President Obama, at a lofty eight percent. (George W. Bush was next, at three percent.) Don't believe me? I wouldn't either, but I read it this morning in a piece in FiveThirtyEight, "How Republicans And Polls Enable Donald Trump." (Here's the original Gallup poll.)

But here's a question for you: Should you really be surprised by this? And the answer is: Hell yes! 

I watched Fox with my mother and sister last week and I can attest it's all Obama-bashing all the time. Lower gas prices? Won't hear about it on Fox. Good jobs number on Friday? No mention at all. Nope, it's non-stop wall-to-wall Obama-hating! No wonder these people have such a warped view of reality.

But, on second thought, maybe we shouldn't be so surprised. (Yes, we should.) One thing this poll underscores is something I've been thinking for some time now: one of the (many) problems with the Republican Party is that they have no leadership. George H. W. Bush? Bob Dole? George W. Bush? John McCain? Mitt Romney? Mitch McConnell? Paul Ryan? Reince Priebus? (Who?) All of them polled lower than the skinny socialist Muslim atheist black guy with the funny name from Kenya who is bent on destroying our American Way of Life.

No wonder a clown like Trump is leading in the polls.

Holly Woodlawn, transgender actress...

...and subject of the 1972 Lou Reed song “Walk on the Wild Side,” died at age 69. According to her obit in the Times, the opening lyrics were about Ms. Woodlawn:

Holly came from Miami F-L-A,
Hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.,
Plucked her eyebrows on the way,
Shaved her legs and then he was a she.

I had never heard of Ms. Woodlawn and don't necessarily love that song (or Lou Reed, for that matter), but I thought it was worth a mention.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

This is what it's like...

...to drive up to Minnesota and back for six hours with my sister. (Or just imagine what would happen if someone chugged a pot of coffee.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Before I leave...

...to visit my mother in Minnesota (she'll be 96 on the 11th -- can you believe it?), here's the latest from PaddyPower on the Republican race for president. (The betting odds appear next to each candidate's name and the comments in italics are my own.)

1. Marco Rubio 5/4
The establishment favorite?

2. Donald Trump 3/1
Is he for real?

3. Ted Cruz 11/2
Will the freshman senator from Texas end up as the conservative alternative to Rubio?

4. Jeb Bush 6/1
Needs a good showing -- BADLY -- in New Hampshire. What if he doesn't get it? Dead man walking?

5. Chris Christie 16/1
Just got the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader; dark horse?

6. Ben Carson 22/1
Could still do well in Iowa, but fading fast. Like Trump, the retired surgeon is out of his depth; but unlike Trump, people seem to care.

7. John Kasich 25/1
Also needs a good showing in New Hampshire or else he's probably out.

8. Carly Fiorina 40/1
Only seems to attract attention during debates. 

There are no new polls out, so that will have to tide you over. Blogging should resume on Sunday or Monday.

P. S. This just in -- a new poll.

The Tom Toles cartoon of the day:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Name of the Day...

...belongs to Caroline Margaret Peerless Leather, wife of British Gen. Sir Robert Ford, who died at age 91.

Honorable mention: Lord Chief Justice John Passmore Widgery, from the same obit.

Veddy, veddy Briddish, don't you think?

The final rankings...

...are in -- wait a minute! Wasn't that all decided on the field last weekend?

Well, sort of. Except that four teams are still undefeated: Loyola, Glenbard West, Montini and Phillips. (Six, if you count 2A Tri-Valley and 1A Arcola.) While everyone (outside of Glen Ellyn) seems to think Loyola and Glenbard West are Nos. 1 and 2, it gets a little muddy after that.

Mike Helfgot at the Tribune has the four undefeateds at the very top of his list:

1. Loyola
2. Glenbard West
3. Montini
4. Phillips

Beth Long, over at the Sun-Times, sneaks a couple more teams in there, one of which had two losses:

1. Loyola
2. Glenbard West
3. Montini
4. Libertyville (13-1)
5. Homewood-Flossmoor (10-2)
6. Phillips

And, finally, MaxPreps has only one other squad, also with two losses, in the mix:

1. Loyola
2. Glenbard West
3. Nazareth (12-2)
4. Montini
5. Phillips

Michael O'Brien, at the Times, says the "Ramblers are simply the best high school football team in the state." Full stop. End of conversation, right?

But I saw Loyola defeat Mount Carmel, 49-21, and then watch Glenbard West beat the Caravan two weeks later, 7-0. Could Loyola really have beaten the Hilltoppers? I don't know.

And what about Montini? They bested a bunch of schools in higher classes: Maine South, East St. Louis, St. Rita, De La Salle and Fenwick. How would they have done against the other undefeateds?

And don't forget Phillips. They also beat Fenwick, Carmel and 8A Simeon.

So what's the answer? I'm not sure. Mike Helfgot thinks a whole new class system is needed after all the lopsided games this weekend. But maybe this year was just a fluke. As I pointed out yesterday, in the previous two years, half the games were decided by a touchdown or less. Still, Helfgot says:

The time has come for a separation, to throw out the current eight-class structure and create separate divisions for public and private schools.

His reasoning? (My emphasis.)

Private schools have a huge competitive advantage. Their enrollments are not restricted by geographical boundaries, and they actively recruit students in order to stay in business.

But Fenwick coach Gene Nudo told me almost two years ago, "We don't recruit. In fact, we can't even use the word 'recruit.' " (A few months later, a high-profile quarterback transferred to Fenwick.) Stop smirking everyone.

(Oh, and remember that kid who showed up at Wheaton Warrenville South a few years ago from Arkansas? It cuts both ways.)

So Loyola draws from outside Wilmette. So what? Don't forget, if Palatine had succeeded on that two-point conversion attempt late in the semifinal game they would have sent it into overtime and then -- who knows? -- ended up in DeKalb instead of Loyola. It was that close.

I don't pretend to have the answer for the "perfect" playoff system. I used to say -- grouchily -- that 5-4 teams shouldn't even make the postseason until my son said, "Shut up, Dad! The playoffs are for the kids and their parents. Most of these kids will never play football again and they just want to play in the postseason!" And he was right. (He usually is.) Also, not allowing 5-4 teams would lead to easier regular-season schedules. 

But if you stripped out the "privates" from the "publics" we'd still be wondering if Loyola could beat H-F, or if the Ramblers could have beaten Stevenson last year. (Or if Providence could have beaten Cary-Grove.) Or a hundred other what ifs.

The current system may not be ideal -- it still leaves that potential Loyola - Glenbard West showdown in limbo -- but it's the best they've come up with so far. (The only change I would make -- I might make -- would be to have an extra round: 8A vs. 7A, 6A vs. 5A, etc.)

But if it ain't terribly broken -- and it isn't -- don't monkey with it too much.

Monday, November 30, 2015

I missed Mike Helfgot's...

..."four downs for state finals" last week somehow, but I read it this morning. His third down, "Private issue," reads:

As many as five private schools can win state championships this weekend, which could renew calls for the separation of private and public schools. The IHSA has come out against it, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that enough public schools will ultimately band together on the issue.

I guess I didn't know this was such an issue. And why would it be?

Turns out, four private schools, Loyola, Montini, Nazareth and Bishop McNamara won the 8A, 6A, 5A and 3A state titles while four public schools, Glenbard West, Phillips, Tri-Valley and Arcola captured the 7A, 4A, 2A and 1A crowns. So, for you non-math majors, that's exactly half. Impressive, but hardly dominant.

What's more, Palatine and Prairie Ridge almost ended up in the 8A and 6A finals instead of Loyola and Montini. Where were the private schools in 7A? Mount Carmel and Benet were both knocked out in the second round.

I went back and looked at the last five years, and in each of them three out of the eight classes -- less than half -- were won by private schools. And, if you'll notice, many of the same names keep popping up.

2014: 7A Providence, 6A Nazareth and 5A Sacred Heart-Griffin.
2013: 7A Mount Carmel, 5A Sacred Heart-Griffin and 2A Newman Central Catholic.
2012: 8A Mount Carmel, 5A Montini and 3A Aurora Christian.
2011: 7A Rockford Boylan, 5A Montini and 3A Aurora Christian.
2010: 6A Rockford Boylan, 5A Montini and 2A Newman Central Catholic.

My opinion? Leave it alone; it's working just fine.

P. S. Seven out of the eight contests this year were blowouts. Does that mean anything? In the previous two years, half the games were decided by a touchdown or less. Macht nichts.

The New Yorker cartoon of the day:

“The coffee is free, but now we rent the tables.”

Friday, November 27, 2015

When it comes to your...

...career, is it "completely garbage advice" to listen to your inner voice, be true to yourself and follow your passion? Is it silly to think your future is limitless?

I think that's what David Brooks is saying beginning at about 3:08 in the video above.

Wow. So what did Mr. Brooks do with his life?

A few minutes later, at about 5:34, the author, columnist for the New York Times, political pundit, part-time professor and father of three says:

"When I graduated from college, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I knew I wanted to do some teaching. I thought I wanted to be a playwright or a novelist, go into politics, have a spouse, children."

Sounds to me like he listened to his inner voice, was true to himself and followed his passion. Mr. Brooks is only 54 years old; I'd say his future is limitless. You never know; he may even one day write a play or a novel.

Cynthia Robinson, trumpet player...

...and "original member of the seminal psychedelic-funk-soul group Sly and the Family Stone," died at age 71.

In addition to supplying trumpet riffs, Ms. Robinson chipped in with vocals. At the beginning of “Dance to the Music,” the group’s first hit, she can be heard shouting, “Get on up and dance to the music!”

The Unfortunate Picture...

...of the Day is from a piece in the SportsFriday section of the Times today, "With TV Proposal, Ahmad Rashad Married Sport and Pop Culture."

Yep, that's O.J. Simpson and Bill Cosby flanking Rashad at his wedding to Phylicia Ayers-Allen in 1985.

The couple divorced in 2001. 

Remember when Jeb Bush said...

...the Republican can­did­ate for president may need to be will­ing to “lose the primary to win the gen­er­al”? (Those were the days.)

Sam Popkin, a political science professor at the University of California San Diego, says about You Know Who (my emphasis):

You don’t have to win the nomination to win the conversation.

He’s re-defining conservative as someone who hates Mexicans and Muslims. 

It’s his party now. He’s not filtering it and that may make it impossible to get beyond 30 percent of the electorate, but it’s enough to get power within the party. He matters whether or not he gets the nomination.

There’s no way to kiss and make up with Hispanics, to say we’re sorry we didn’t stop this sooner.

The Quote of the Day...

...is from a David Frum piece in the Atlantic, "How to Beat Donald Trump":

Now the same [Republican Party] leaders who insisted that Sarah Palin COULD do the job of president, if need be, want to persuade the rank-and-file that Trump can’t? Good luck with that.

P. S. Trump just hit a new high of 35.1 percent yesterday in the Huffington Post aggregate of 223 polls from 33 pollsters.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

What the heck, as long as...

...I'm recommending things today how about Witness, by Whittaker Chambers? (I was reminded of it by a piece in the Times today about the Rosenbergs and Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Bridge of Spies.)

Witness is the memoir of Chambers, a spy for the Russians who did a 180-degree turn and became an outspoken opponent of Communism. (He led a truly fascinating life.) It's by far the best spy "novel" I've ever read (not that I've read many) but, best of all, it's true.

Actually, best of all, it's an interesting human nature story of how someone could be a True Believer in something and then evolve into a True Believer in its exact opposite. Remind you of anyone?

A book review...

...of Carly Simon's new memoir in today's Times gave me another excuse to post one of my favorite videos. What the heck, it's Thanksgiving -- indulge me.

Mack McCormick, "a folklorist...

...who spent a lifetime searching out forgotten or unrecorded blues singers all over Texas, helped revive the career of Lightning Hopkins and unearthed a trove of historical material on hundreds of blues singers, including Blind Lemon Jefferson and Lead Belly," died at age 85.

Blind Lemon Jefferson, you may or may not know, was the inspiration for the name of the 1960s band the Jefferson Airplane. From Wikipedia:

The origin of the group's name is disputed. "Jefferson airplane" is slang for a used paper match splint to hold a marijuana joint that is too short to hold without burning the fingers – an improvised roach clip. A popular conjecture suggests this was the origin of the band's name, but band member Jorma Kaukonen has denied this and stated that the name was invented by his friend Steve Talbot as a parody of blues names such as Blind Lemon Jefferson. A 2007 press release quoted Kaukonen as saying:
"I had this friend [Talbot] in Berkeley who came up with funny names for people," explains Kaukonen. "His name for me was Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane (for blues pioneer Blind Lemon Jefferson). When the guys were looking for band names and nobody could come up with something, I remember saying, 'You want a silly band name? I got a silly band name for you!'"
Okay, okay, I'll admit it: this was just an excuse to listen to the Airplane. Can you blame me?

David Canary, who played...

...Candy Canaday on Bonanza from 1967 until its end in 1973 (we never missed it at our house!), died at age 77.

But did you know this?

He turned down the opportunity to play for the Denver Broncos, which drafted him in its first year as a team.

“I thought they were out of their minds,” he said in a 2004 interview for the Archive of American Television. “I was 172 pounds, I wasn’t very fast, and I couldn’t catch a pass. They called me stone fingers.”

I did a little cipherin'...

...and here's what I came up with:

4A: Phillips by six over Althoff, 33-27.
Over/under: 60.

5A: Nazareth by two over Lincoln-Way West, 28-26.
Over/under: 54.

6A: Montini by three over Crete-Monee, 28-25.
Over/under: 53.

7A: Libertyville by one over Glenbard West, 26-25.*
Over/under: 51.

8A: Loyola by ten over Marist, 34-24.
Over/under: 58.

You can probably figure out the crude methodology I used. If I'm anywhere close to being right I'll share it with you. If not, it never happened.

* I'm not at all comfortable with that Libertyville - Glenbard West pick. I've seen both teams play and my gut tells me to go with the Hilltoppers. The rest of them look okay, though. In fact, I'd take all the favorites given those point spreads.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My brothers, who both...

...live out of town, want to know more about Marist, Loyola's opponent in the finals Saturday night.

So who are these Marist RedHawks, anyway? And just who do they think they are, challenging big, bad Loyola for the 8A crown? The Ramblers are in the midst of an historic, undefeated season; shouldn't Marist just stay home on Saturday night and watch the Notre Dame - Stanford game?

First of all, even though Marist, at 5-4, appears to have gotten into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth, the RedHawks (and that's how they spell it) were actually the third best at-large qualifier, with 48 Opponents' Wins and 19 Defeated Opponents' Wins. What does all that jargon mean? They played a tough schedule.

What's more, head coach Pat Dunne is no stranger to the postseason, having brought the RedHawks all the way to the 8A finals as recently as 2009.

But before we go any further, let's have a little context, shall we? (I love context; but this is the part I'm sure my brothers will skip right over.)

According to my research staff Wikipedia, Marist High School is "a coeducational, college preparatory Roman Catholic secondary school located in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois." (That's right near Beverly, for you out-of-staters.)

Despite being located on the Southwest Side of the city, Marist -- just a five minute drive down Pulaski from archrival Brother Rice -- was founded in 1963 and therefore too late to be included in the prestigious Chicago Catholic League. (A mixed marriage, in that part of the world, is when a kid from Marist weds a girl whose father went to Brother Rice.) Instead, Marist plays in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which was founded in 1960. While the ESCC tends to get less respect than its older brother (funny how that works), the Trib had a nice article on it just yesterday. Other members of the conference include Joliet Catholic, Notre Dame, Nazareth, Benet and Marian Central. Those are all good programs!

Marist's band, by the way, "is somewhat unique in that it is not only an activity, but also an Honors academic class. The band functions as a marching band generally in the autumn (performing pregame, halftime, and postgame shows at home football games), and as a concert band for the remainder of the year (highlighted by Christmas and Spring Concerts). The general exceptions are their annual performances in the Chicago Columbus Day Parade, the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parades."

Even though I didn't get to see the football team this year, I did have the privilege of hearing the band as they marched right past my house on Columbus Day in Little Italy (above).

Okay, back to football. (Are you guys still reading?) Here's Marist's 2015 regular season schedule (with home team in CAPS):

MOUNT CARMEL 21, Marist 14 (Soldier Field)
MARIST 56, DuSable 0
MARIST 45, St. Viator 28
Marist 49, NOTRE DAME 42
BENET 29, Marist 25
MARIST 45, St. Patrick 21
MARIST 41, Marian Catholic 7
NAZARETH 62, Marist 45
JOLIET CATHOLIC 35, Marist 28

As you can see, they were nothing if not inconsistent. Quickly, Marist split their first two games to a couple of playoff-qualifiers, then beat a 1-8 team before being the only team to defeat Notre Dame in the regular season. They then fell to Benet, another playoff-caliber squad, before besting two losing teams at home, St. Patrick and Marian Catholic* (not to be confused with Marian Central). The RedHawks then limped (?) into the playoffs with two losses on the road, to Nazareth (who is in the 5A final) and Joliet Catholic.

Even shorter synopsis: Marist beat only two winning teams but lost to four really, really good ones.

Okay, now for their, yes, Cinderella run in the postseason. (I also love that Cinderella cliche.) A No. 23-seed, the RedHawks played higher seeds in their first three games and won all three by a grand total of nine points before outclassing No. 30 (out of only 32 schools) Waubonsie Valley (another Cinderella team) by two touchdowns.

Marist 17, NOTRE DAME 14 (again!)
MARIST 59, Barrington 56
Marist 38, OSWEGO 35
MARIST 31, Waubonsie Valley 16

Now, finally, no self-respecting BOWG profile would be complete without some meta-historical perspective, i. e., how Marist has fared against Loyola over the years. (My buddy Kevin thinks I'm nuts -- "Who cares what happened seven years ago when these guys were all in grade school?" -- but I think any good technical analyst would want to know.) And guess what? The two programs haven't faced each other on the gridiron in the last ten years, if ever. In all that time, as far as I can tell, Loyola has only played one team from the ESCC, in the second round of the playoffs two years ago.

2013: Loyola 24, NOTRE DAME 0

Do I detect a little Catholic League snobbery going on here? I wonder if Marist will have a chip on its shoulder Saturday night? Ya think?

In any event, I'll be live-tweeting my comments @BoringOldWhtGuy (beginning with the Phillips - Althoff contest on Friday night). Enjoy the games!

* Trivia: Loyola coach John Holecek is a 1990 graduate of the Chicago Heights school.

The Tom Toles...

...cartoon of the day.

When I read that Rex Reason, a...

..."dashing movie star" died at age 86, I thought: Okay, what was this guy's real name?

From his obit in the Times (my emphasis):

Oddly, for an actor with a name made for Hollywood, Universal insisted that he change it to Bart Roberts when he appeared in “Taza, Son of Cochise” and “Yankee Pasha” in 1954. But he demanded to use his real name again starting with “This Island Earth.”

It's my Name of the Day.

In case you live in a cave...

...or don't have access to the Internet, here are the matchups in the top five classes this weekend:

4A:
No. 1-seed Phillips (13-0) vs. No. 1 Belleville Althoff Catholic (13-0)

5A:
No. 7 Nazareth (11-2) vs. No. 7 Lincoln-Way West (11-2)

6A:
No. 1 Montini (13-0) vs. No. 6 Crete-Monee (11-2)

7A:
No. 1 Glenbard West (13-0) vs. No. 3 Libertyville (13-0)

8A:
No. 1 Loyola (13-0) vs. No. 23 Marist (9-4)

As you can see, six of the ten teams above are undefeated. Five of them, or half, were seeded No. 1 before the playoffs. Interestingly, two No. 7s will face off in Class 5A. And one team, Marist, made it all the way to the finals despite a No. 23 seed.

Now let's look at where the three main news services, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and MaxPreps, had these guys ranked before the season.

First the Trib. Mike Helfgot, like his counterpart at the Sun-Times, Beth Long, had Homewood-Flossmoor in the No. 1 spot. (I seem to recall someone saying that was the "kiss of death," but I can't remember who it was right now.) Of the ten teams above, here is how he ranked them in his preseason Top 20:

3. Glenbard West
7. Loyola
11. Phillips
12. Libertyville
14. Montini
On the verge: Nazareth

No Althoff, Lincoln-Way West, Crete-Monee or Marist. (To be fair, the Chicago papers don't rank teams from downstate.) So give Mr. Helfgot credit for picking six of the ten finalists. (That's 60 percent for you folks keeping score at home.)

Ms. Long at the Sun-Times, besides also picking H-F No. 1, had her Top 25 this way:

2. Glenbard West
3. Nazareth
7. Libertyville
13. Montini
14. Loyola
19. Phillips

She also missed Althoff, Lincoln-Way West, Crete-Monee and Marist. (You don't suppose they talk to each other, do you?)

Finally, MaxPreps had Loyola at No. 1 for the entire season (and H-F at No. 5 in their preseason rankings). The website also had:

6. Glenbard West
9. Nazareth
21. Libertyville
23. Phillips

So, while MaxPreps gets (Max) props for recognizing Loyola so soon, they also missed Althoff, Lincoln-Way West, Crete-Monee, Marist and Montini. (How do you overlook Montini?) And, in fairness, MaxPreps ranks teams from outside the Chicago area so they could have included Althoff.

Is it fair to look back at the preseason rankings at this point? Probably not -- I wouldn't want anyone to do that to me! -- but I just thought it would be interesting. I'll leave it to you to decide who did the best job. As for me, I think 60 percent (and that number would be higher if you took out Althoff) is pretty darn good!

Enjoy the games!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Obit of the Day...

...(heck, of the Week or even Month!), has to be that of Adele Mailer, Norman Mailer's second wife.

Adele Mailer, an artist and actress who made headlines in 1960 when her husband, the novelist Norman Mailer, stabbed and seriously wounded her at a drunken party in their apartment, died on Sunday in Manhattan.

The relationship, marked by heavy drinking and ancillary love affairs on both sides, was stormy.

Yep, a marriage in which you get stabbed by your husband would definitely qualify as "stormy."

“I decided I was going to be that beautiful temptress who ate men alive, flossed her teeth and spit out the bones, wearing an endless supply of costumes by Frederick’s of Hollywood,” she wrote in her memoir.

Wow. 

On the verge of announcing his improbable candidacy for mayor of New York, Mailer decided to celebrate with a party at their apartment on the Upper West Side.

With the liquor flowing, it all made for a volatile mix. Ginsberg and Podhoretz got into a fight and had to be separated. Drunk and belligerent, Mailer, wearing a ruffled matador shirt, repeatedly tangled with his guests. Around 4 a.m., he confronted his wife in an incoherent rage.

Ruffled matador shirt?

In her memoir, Mrs. Mailer recalled having taunted her husband, bluntly deriding his manhood, and making an ugly reference to his mistress. Some guests recalled that the point of no return came when she told her husband that he was not as good as Dostoyevsky.

Well that oughta do it!

Anything else?

“After he died,” she said in a telephone interview, “all she could say was, ‘He was a monster.’ ”

If you're like me, then...

...you get just a little impatient when they show preview after preview after preview at your local theater. Just show the damn movie already!

There's an article in the Times this morning, "Church of England Defends Ad Refused by Movie Theaters," that you can be absolutely sure will find its way into our presidential race. (Who do you think will be the first Republican to bring this up, Mike Huckabee? Ted Cruz? Donald Trump?)

From the piece (my emphasis):

Showing Christians in public and private prayer, an advertisement produced for Britain’s main church was designed to promote a moment of contemplation among moviegoers as they settled down to watch a pre-Christmas blockbuster.

Instead, it has provoked a ferocious debate over the role of religion in an increasingly secular Britain.

Based on the Lord’s Prayer, the 60-second commercial, which was to be shown before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” when it opens next month, has been refused screen time in most of Britain’s movie theaters.

The decision to reject the advertisement has been criticized by the Church of England, which commissioned it. The church said it was “bewildered” by the move and claimed it could have a “chilling effect” on free speech.

But campaigners for a secular society argued that if the advertisement were shown, other religious groups might by law gain the right to have their material distributed in the same way.

Can't you just hear the Republicans going on and on about a "War on Christianity"? Oy.

But I think I have a solution: Show the ad. That's right, and if other religions want equal time, give it to them. I can just imagine: first the Lord's Prayer, then a Jewish blessing, then something from the Koran, then Hindu, then Buddhist, then Wiccan, then . . . Just show the damn movie already!

That'll teach 'em.