Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Great line

From Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, on with Olbermann Monday night, on why Alberto Gonzales resigned:

"He wanted to spend more time spying on his family."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Little. Yellow. Different.

I admit, I'm a sucker for anything related to The Simpsons, so when I heard about Burger King's SimpsonizeMe.com web site, where you can create your own personalized Simpsons character based on a photo you provide, I had to give it a shot.

The results, predictably, are hilarious. Here's what I look like as a citizen of Springfield, USA:

Here's Kris:

And Fiona:

And Nora:

Shameless marketing ploy or well-deserved reward for a life-long Simpsons fan? You decide. For some reason, however, I am craving a Big Mac ...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Blue Ribbon, Purple Heart

For the past seven or so years, I've been a contributor to the Blue Ribbon Yearbooks that preview the college football and basketball seasons. It's great to be part of a respected national publication and it keeps me watching college sports when, left to my own devices, I'd probably watch nothing but NFL and MLB on the teevee.

But it's not the easiest writing. I sometimes think of it as the literary equivalent of the "meatball surgery" the doctors on "M*A*S*H" performed -- churn through it with competence and accuracy, but not much flair or artistry. It's darn tough to weave a thematic element through a 5,000-word piece on a college football team, or even a 1,800-word piece on a hoops squad.

Fortunately, the BR stable includes a number of talented writers so the burden is shared equitably. I usually write four football stories each season -- each checking in at 5,000 words or more -- and then get one or maybe two conferences in basketball, where there are more teams and shorter stories. Still, that's about 20,000 words per book, so it's no wonder that my fingers are screaming for combat pay as I pull back from the smoking keyboard after each marathon Blue Ribbon session.

This is a roundabout way of providing links to my football stories. It seems BR has signed an agreement with ESPN.com in which we give them our content to share with their readers, and they advertise the 800-number which you can call to order the book. It appears you have to be an "Insider" (i.e. paid subscriber) to view these, but if you're not an Insider and you're truly interested in reading these, let me know and I'd be happy to share my password with you (sorry, Bristol, it won't happen again, I promise).

I really like Mizzou this year -- I think they're going to benefit from the experience of last year's collapse after a 6-0 start, and will challenge Nebraska for first place in the Big 12 North. Colorado is interesting because they've got some young talent and a second-year head coach who was the main architect of that Boise State program that had everybody talking after last year's Fiesta Bowl. ISU and Kansas are also-rans as ever.

Hard to believe the football season is less than a week away -- even harder for me to believe it because I'm up to my elbows in my BR basketball stories as we speak.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Farewell, Turd Blossom

I can't let Karl Rove's departure from the Bush Administration slip by without comment. I've never understood why a person whose sole job is to ensure the dominance of one political party over the other should draw a salary from the American people. Seriously. Democrat or Republican or Whig or Snake Handler, I don't care -- once you've done your job of getting your guy (or gal) elected, move along to another candidate for another office. Because when you let political concerns drive your policy agenda, you're clearly only serving one half (or slightly more or less) of the citizens of this great country.

Sure, I'm being incredibly naive, I know that. This is how the machine churns. And both major parties are guilty of it (though I'd argue that Bush has allowed Rove to push the practice beyond any previous extremes of arrogance, viciousness, and general sweaty, frog-lipped creepiness). But I'd like to think the American people are better than that, and deserve better than that. Or maybe not the American people per se -- since they've done nothing to stop this practice and even have gone so far as to reward it in 2004 -- but America itself, the grand experiment in democracy deserves better.

In light of Rove's exodus from the Oval Office, I wanted to include a couple of links from people who have examined this development in terms far more detailed, pithy and entertaining than I. First of all, from the Daily Kos, the political blog that's the bane of the Bill O'Reilly crowd, we have this post from a writer named Hunter. If you don't have time for the whole post, here's the money shot:

Rove's oft-touted "genius" is nothing more than single-minded amorality. In campaigns and in the administration, he was and is unapologetically amoral in service to his own cause or that of his client: his "genius" is that he has consistently been willing to go farther, be meaner, and invent more astonishing lies than would be done by anyone in politics with a thin remaining threads (sic) of a conscience. From smearing John McCain's children with race-baiting taunts to attacking the careers and wives of critics to helping corrupt the most basic and foundational premises of the the United States Department of Justice, nothing has ever been considered "out of bounds". If a malevolent action is not taken -- such as ratcheting up the already venomous Republican rhetoric against immigrants -- it is done only in service to calculated poll numbers, never as a nod to basic morality or patriotism or human decency.

"Amoral" is the best way to describe the way the Republican campaign machine has run the country the last seven years. It's often been said that Republicans sure know how to win elections -- but governing? That's a whole other bag of babies. Rove is the walking, talking, smirking, slithering personification of that adage.

And on a lighter note, if that's possible in these dark times, here's a fantastic column by Mark Morford of SFGate.com, the web site of the San Francisco Chronicle. Thank God you are not Karl Rove, indeed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I stand corrected

You might think the name of this blog is intended as a snarky joke, a reference to the lack of cultural events or nightlife here in the Vegas suburbs. And you'd be right.

But over at HendersonLive.com (I can only hope I stole their preferred name), proof that I was a bit hasty in my conclusions has once again slapped me in the face like a proverbial slap in the face.

That's right, on Sept. 1 ... LIVE! at the Henderson Pavilion ... it's Vince Neil! With special guests QUIET RIOT (not sure why that's in all caps -- Kevin Dubrow must have been compensating for something) and Slaughter. In fact, this event is so special, it merits a direct quote from the web site:

Vince Neil with special Guest Stars QUIET RIOT and Slaughter, "three of your favorites on one stage," with rock n� roll violin phenom Antonio Pontarelli as their opening act!!
If your flavor of music happens to be metal/rock you won't want to miss this.

OK. Apparently, "three of your favorites on one stage" is a direct quote from somebody or other. But whom? Sebastian Bach? Pamela Anderson? That bald, fat guy who hosted "Headbanger's Ball" on MTV? Some random kid in a Black Sabbath t-shirt playing Asteroids and sucking down a 90-oz Mountain Dew at a truck stop in Baker, Calif.? We need clarification, o great webmaster of HendersonLive.com.

And anytime you get to use "rock n? roll violin phenom" (sic) in a promo, you know you've got musical gold on your hands. Just stand back and count the money.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The totals on the board are correct

Here's the final tally for my recently completed road trip throughout 20 percent of this great country.

Days on the road: 26
Beds slept in: 10
States visited: 10
Cups of truck stop coffee consumed: Infinity
Miles driven: 5,162
Gallons of gas consumed: 213.6
Average mpg: 24.2
Money spent on gas: $625.93
Average price/gallon: $2.93
Best mileage/tank: 26.6 mpg (Minneapolis to Park Rapids, MN)
Worst mileage/tank: 21.6 mpg (Mitchell, SD to Blackhawk, SD)

The fuel efficiency numbers are somewhat surprising. I was told the hybrid engine wouldn't get great mileage on the freeway because the gas engine kicks in when you're driving above 30 mph, but I got pretty much the same mileage on this trip that I do when I'm tooling around Henderson. I'd credit that to cruise control regulating my speed and limiting the constant acceleration you see during most highway miles, but the worst mileage came on I-90 when I had the cruise locked in at 80 mph pretty much the whole way.

Regardless, I'm happy to be back, and even happier to have spent so much quality time with family, friends, and my iPod (in that order).

Friday, August 17, 2007

God. What a practical joker.

So, we'd made it seven hours into Wyoming yesterday with no blatant reminders of the state's favorite son. Sure, we passed four 100-car coal trains (all the better to choke your environment with, my dear!), but no signs pointing to the boyhood home of He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned, no trail of octogenarian bank executives with cranial gunshot wounds ... nothing. Just rolling hills, fruited plains, buffalo roaming -- lovely.

Then, as we were checking into our deluxe accommodations at the Rock Springs La Quinta (Spanish for "mediocre continental breakfast"), a fella who'd pulled in just behind us approached the desk and asked the clerk, "Y'all got any rooms available tonight?" When we went back outside, I checked the name painted on the door of his pickup truck:

"Halliburton. Houston, Texas."

I fully expect to trip over a pile of Vietnam War deferments on our way out of town today.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Signs o' the times

Number of Wall Drug signs along I-90 between Worthington, Minn., and Wall, S.D.: 84

Granted, the last 25 or so were withing 15 miles of Wall, but still, that's saturation marketing at its finest.

Heading home

The trek west has begun. After a fantastic visit with both sets of parents/in-laws, a very fun class reunion and a hilarious and (hopefully) profitable fantasy football draft, it's time to get back to Nevada. Fiona and I leave this morning for Mt. Rushmore, will reach western Wyoming by Thursday night, and will arrive home Friday evening.

I'll total up the gas and mileage numbers when we get there, just in case you're wondering how much damage we did to our vehicle, the environment and our bank account along the way.v

Monday, August 6, 2007

The New Minnesota

Being a media wonk, I'm always fascinated by the way tragedies are covered by members of the fourth estate. So in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse, I wasn't shocked to read, watch, and hear about tales of heroic efforts of both rescue personnel and interested bystanders as they risked life and limb to save complete strangers from the wreckage.

After all, in this day and age, the media misses no opportunity to uncover feel-good stories (which have their place -- to a point, but of course the coverage always blows past that point in breathless manner within 48 hours). And maybe living out of the region for two years has given me a different perspective on the matter, but we Minnesotans do love to remind ourselves how "special" we are, how care for our neighbors and an appreciation of the common good is part of what makes Minnesota the envy of the other 49 hapless states in the union. I mean, to hear WCCO/the Strib/local blogs tell it, the average Minnesotan views climbing through twisted wreckage to save a complete stranger about as difficult a decision as letting your neighbor borrow a cup of sugar when he's baking a fresh batch of Tollhouse cookies.

I didn't expect, however, to hear such glowing reports of our trademark resolve and neighborliness from national outlets. But it was out there, from a variety of outlets, best exemplified by an editorial that ran in the Chicago Tribune (and, naturally, reprinted in the Strib, the better to stroke our egos). The gist of the article was delivered in the last sentence of the first paragraph: "Helping others in need is part of the Minnesota ethos, a culture constitutionally incapable of proclaiming, 'Me first.'"

We've loved to believe that of ourselves, going back at least as far as the Time Magazine cover of Gov. Wendell Anderson hoisting a fish from one of our 10,000 jewels that ran back in the early '70s, accompanied by the headline "The Good Life in Minnesota." And yeah, it's a great place to live. A great place to work. A great place to raise your kids. Minnesota will always be "home" to me and I will always love it.

But Time Magazine could just as easily run a cover photo of Gov. Tim Pawlenty hoisting a survivor from the Mississippi River with the headline "The Real Life in Minnesota." Because anybody who's being honest will admit that the "Minnesota ethos" as described by the Chicago Tribune is nothing but a memory. Minnesota's not a terrible place, it's just no longer worthy of its own massive self-regard. The Minnesota Miracle has become the Minnesota Myth.

It's been funny (and sad, and predictable) to read the typical right-wing screechers racing to defend Pawlenty and the GOP that's run Minnesota for the past decade or so. In their minds, to suggest that the bridge's collapse was somehow related to Pawlenty's transportation tax veto and the GOP's constant demonizing of any tax increase is akin to stating that T-Paw pulled out a submachine gun and personally executed the five victims (with eight more missing) of the bridge collapse.

Yes, it is fair to flesh out the links between the "no new taxes" mindset and the crumbling of America's infrastructure. It's fair to consider the culpability of politicians who eagerly aligned themselves with "taxpayer advocacy" groups like the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, knowing how that would play in the minds of potential voters who've been told over and over ad nauseum by the likes of Jason Lewis and Rush Limbaugh that government is evil and you're all being overtaxed.

But it's not fair to say Tim Pawlenty has blood on his hands, because we put him there. We elected the guy, twice, just as Americans elected George W. Bush twice. It's not the politicians' fault -- there was no bait and switch, at least in Pawlenty's case. We knew what we were getting, and that's apparently what we wanted.

So when a plurality of Minnesotans said "me first" and elected a politician because he wouldn't raise their taxes, we were merely following a national trend. It's interesting to hear friends of mine who grew up in other parts of the country tell me they were surprised to hear that Minnesota had a Republican governor and that a no-taxes mentality had swept through the Gopher State.

But Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale and Wendell Anderson are ghosts. That was the Old Minnesota. The New Minnesota has much more in common with the rest of the country than many of its residents (and expats) would care to admit. Keep that in mind the next time you read a glowing editorial from a national media outlet praising us for an image that's about as fresh as the Vikings' last Super Bowl appearance.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Large-minded ballplayers

If it's true that consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, the Twins clubhouse must be a freakin' Mensa meeting. After reading what Johan Santana had to say about the Twins' inaction at the trading deadline, and his teammates' support for his attack on the Twins front office, I wanted to throw a brick through my laptop screen.

Because if you followed the team the past four months, you know the running theme for this season has been, "Don't break us up! Don't trade Torii! Give us a chance to show what we can do! We like the team we've got! We can beat the Tigers and Indians with this bunch, so keep us together!"

Then, the day after they decide to keep the team together (save for slap-hitting free-agent-to-be Luis Castillo), Santana and Hunter go all prima donna on the bit and whine about the front office not getting them any help. Wait, I thought you liked the team you've got? I thought all you wanted was a chance to show what you can do down the stretch?

I tell ya, if I were Terry Ryan, I'd have walked away from this a long time ago, not because Pohlad doesn't give him enough money to do his job, but because he's overseeing a clubhouse full of candy-assed babies who cry to the media when they don't get their way. (Granted, when I'm wearing my media hat it makes for good copy, but as an unabashed Twins fan, it wears thin. Real fast.)

It's as if Hunter and Santana were listening in, George Bush wiretap-style, as Ryan rebuffed team after team begging to ship their superstars to Minnesota in exchange for the Twins' rejects. I'm just guessing here, but if the Rockies had wanted to send Garrett Atkins to the Twins for Juan Rincon and Lew Ford (who can pack their bags for Rochester or Mexico right now, as far as I'm concerned), Ryan would have obliged. But the teams who were selling apparently wanted more than what the teams who were buying were willing to offer.

Example: the Twins were interested in pig-faced journeyman infielder Ty Wiggingon of the Devil Rays to fill their Punto-sized hole at 3B. But the Devil Rays reportedly were asking for Matt Garza in return. (See my post last month about Garza if you need to discern my feelings about that trade offer.) Garza for Wigginton has the potential of, say, Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas. And, if the Twins had traded Garza, it's even money that Santana, Hunter, et al, would have griped that the team was trading away its future, so why should they consider signing a long-term deal with them?

Unreal. Just come right out and admit you're looking for a way out of Minnesota and don't blame it on Terry Ryan and the rest of the front office, fellas. You only come across as ungrateful, spoiled multi-millionaires, and hey, you don't want to let the public in on that secret...