Sunday, November 30, 2014


Caucasia is a novel by Danzy Senna who is the daughter of a black man and a white woman. The novel is about a woman, Birdie Lee, who is the daughter of a black man and a white woman.

It is a very good book and I recommend it.  Throughout I wondered if it was autobiographical. The character in the novel can pass for white, and photos of Ms. Senna similarly reveal that she can pass for white.  The father in the novel is an author and the mother a wealthy descendant of early settlers in Boston.  The author's real father is an author, and mother comes from a line of wealthy Brahmins. Ms. Senna's real parents separate.  The character's parents in the novel separate.  When I completed the book I read that in addition to this novel, the author has written an autobiography, so one imagines that while this novel may be based on her experiences, there are clear distinctions between it and the autobiography.

The novel is very well written.  A page turner.  We learn about Birdie's close relationship with her sister who is not white looking and the tensions that surface with classmates, her father's girlfriend, and even her parents to some extent because of the differences in their skin color.  At one point the "white" contingent of the family has to separate from the "black" contingent.  The reader follows the white contingent and discovers what it might be like to be black, look white, and be treated by racists as if you are white, privy to philistine jokes and slurs.

From the time of the separation, Birdie hopes to and tries to reunite with her sibling and father.  Much of the last section of the book is about her attempts to do so.  The plot in this part seems a bit unrealistic, like a just okay detective yarn.  Still, the story as a whole is a very good one.

When you have completed it you may have an even greater appreciation for how capricious is the construct of race. Consequently, it becomes even more clear how racism--this horrific blemish on our world which has spawned and continues to fuel unconscionable behaviors--is based on a foundation that has no foundation. Best line in the book has nothing to do with race however.  The daughter asks the mother if she loves her boyfriend as much as she loved her ex husband, the main character's dad.  The mother's response. "Someday you'll love like I loved your father, and you'll spend the rest of your life recovering."

Only real flaw I found in the book is that some of it deals with the late 60s revolutionary activity, yet the book is set in the late 70s.   Maybe there was still a lot of that going on in the late 70s and that fact has passed me by,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Send in the Donkeys.

They are just worms. These pachyderms.

I read yesterday that Boehner and the posse of Republicans who blame Barack Obama for the weather even when it is beautiful, are suing the president over the Affordable Care Act.

If the Democrats want to resurrect their credibility, it is time to see the Democratic National Committee take a strong, strident, jaw to jaw, stance against these Republican dwarves.

Boehner and his cohort are behaving like spoiled prep school boys annoyed that the riff raff have somehow gotten a chance to play.  Judging by the last election, the spoiled elephants are getting away with this indefensible behavior. And they are doing so because the Democrats are smoking on their pipes, dismissing the noise as just that, and doing nothing as they search for their backbones.

It is time to send in the donkeys and put to pasture the clowns.

This and That

The Celtics lost again yesterday. Vu Den. With a player like Rajon Rondo as your main stud, no team will win. Rondo is an immensely talented player who does not have the win gene in him.  He is now shooting a jaw dropping 32.1 per cent from the foul line.  If you look out your window and wait for four adults to come by.  And selected the least athletic one. And told this least athletic one that she or he could make a million dollars a year, if they could average hitting six foul shots out of ten.  And told her or him to practice for a month.  That person, for a million dollars a year, could average six out of ten foul shots.  Rondo making many more millions a year. He is a tremendous athlete who can make plays that belong in a Hall of Fame.  And he just does not work hard enough.  Here is what happens when you go to the foul line. Nobody is there. Nobody can bother you.  You need to concentrate and take your time.  A player like Rondo has been at the foul line millions of times. For millions of dollars if not just to be a professional he needs to make his foul shots.

I read today that Ray Sadecki has passed away.  Sadecki was a pitcher for the Cardinals, Giants, and Mets.  What people should remember about him is how he won many clutch games in a Cardinal uniform. What many sports people will remember is that he was involved in one of the more controversial trades of all time.  He was traded for Orlando Cepeda, a star hitter on the Giants. The Giants got Sadecki. The Cardinals got Cepeda.  "Sadecki for Cepeda" became code for a bad trade. There even was an allusion in the obituary that the trade indirectly led to another Cardinal success. You wonder how references to the trade could have had an effect on Sadecki's psyche and behavior the rest of his life.  I don't know for a fact that it had any effect.  But I wondered today as I read his obituary if he was reminded, or reminded himself, his whole life that he once was considered a bad deal.

Today is a gourmet buffet for college football fans.  From noon to midnight today there are marquis games.  Ohio State//Michigan is an intense rivalry. Likewise, Florida/Florida State.  Mississippi State//Mississippi, Auburn/Alabama.  Each of these games can determine who may play for the championship in college football.  I have been very critical of the system for deciding the champion in division I college football. This year the NCAA made a change and it has had a very positive effect. There now is a four team playoff system to determine the best team.  With TCU winning yesterday, if Florida State, or Alabama or Mississippi State lose today, TCU will likely become a player in these inaugural championship playoffs. Predictions: I think Florida State could have a tough time today.  Alabama is one of my least favorite teams, but I think they will prevail against their rival Auburn.  I like Mississippi today to defeat Mississippi State.

Did not take out the garbage last week.  Lot of garbage in the can this morning for the sanitation workers. Got out there at 7 am and tried to jam all the bags into one rolling garbage can.  Pushed and jammed. Tried to get the cover on.  Eventually, I managed to, but was not sure that some sort of energy would pop it up.  A metaphor there.  If there is enough natural force, very tough to keep the cover on anything no matter how much we try and suppress it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

overrated quarterbacks.

In the same way that some authors and books are overrated, there are some millionaire quarterbacks who are similarly overrated.  The difference is that in football the result of the quarterbacks' failures are posted on a scoreboard.  Consequently, it is difficult to understand how these players maintained or in one case still maintains a regular income.

The quarterbacks in no particular order of overrated-ness are.

Jay Cutler.  How does this guy keep his job?  Another stinker today on Thanksgiving.  Could a player play with less sense of urgency?  I have seen him have decent games, but when the going gets tough he is both a chicken and a turkey. Fowl.  From hunger.  A while back the Bears went to the super bowl with a stinker of a quarterback.  Fellow by the name of Grossman. He could not do much.  But his team won many games.  I would rather have a dozen Grossmans who could not do much but won, than one Cutler who is talented and plays as if he is some deity despite the fact that he loses.

Drew Bledsoe--Probably my least favorite on this list because I rooted for the Patriots while he was the quarterback there.  Bledsoe had a gun.  His ability to throw darts to a particular spot was something to marvel at.  If you gave him all day he would wow you with his throws. Problem is that in professional football you don't have all day.  You have to throw the ball with people bearing down on you. Bledsoe was not good under pressure. Also, he had no ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage, so whenever he changed a play you knew you were in, at best, for a no gain.  As soon as Bledsoe got injured, the Patriots then at 0-2, went on to become superbowl champions. And then in the next three years, they won two more super bowls. Three superbowls in four years sans Bledsoe.

Jeff George- Jeff George was akin to Bledsoe, but not really as talented. This a very bad combination. Overrated, self inflated, not superbly talented.  If you gave Bledsoe time he would hit someone who was open. If George was playing two hand touch he'd find a way to make a dumb decision.

Scott Mitchell--The Lions paid a fortune for this guy who had had a few good games for the Dolphins as a substitute.  When Mitchell was quarterback the Lions had Barry Sanders one of the best running backs in the game.  Even with Sanders to use as a decoy which would send an army of defenders running away with Sanders who would not have the ball, Mitchell would find the wrong guy to throw to. When Sanders was the running back, you would think that almost anyone would have been a successful quarterback for the Lions. Not Scott.

The Big Four: Cutler; Bledsoe; George, and Mitchell.

old man winter

Old man winter was victorious last night.   Our plans to drive to New Jersey to stay at my brother's and then off to Philadelphia for a family Thanksgiving were undermined.

All day yesterday I checked the weather maps. Our route was marked by areas that would be hit with the worst part of the weather just about the time we would arrive.  I've lived in Buffalo and Albany and driven through some difficult weather.  This snow was not as heavy or deep as Buffalo storms, but the wintry mix made driving even around my home town dicey. Plus add in the factor that people in the northeast do not know how to drive in snow as well as folks in Buffalo, gave us pause.

The plan was then to consider if an early morning departure would work.  The streets were cleared at 6 am, but the temperatures were below zero.  We talked it through and said it was not worth the risk of a dicey ride and Thanksgiving traffic even for the overwhelming joy of seeing my clan.

We'll see.  Right now I feel like I do ten minutes after I buy an expensive item.  Did I really need that suit?  Or ten minutes after I don't buy an expensive item?  Maybe I should have bought that suit.

The thing is that when I go back in my history on the decisions I have made to do something, they are almost always the right ones. Decisions I have made not to do something, almost always--but not always--ones I wonder about.  Of course, when I have not done something one does not know what would have happened if I had done that thing.

(This is how my mind works early in the morning when I have not had a good night's sleep).

Some examples:

In 1983 I bought an expensive reclining chair and coffee table. Together they cost close to a thousand dollars.  I did not have a thousand dollars to pay for an expensive coffee table and reclining chair.  But I bought it.  In the middle of the first night after the purchase before the chair was delivered, I rocketed up in bed and said to myself, "Did you just spend 1,000.00 on a chair and a table?"  "How many times will you have to teach Introduction to Communication to pay for that chair and table?"

Meanwhile when the chair was delivered and I sat in it for two days, I decided that if someone would have stolen the 699.00 chair, in five minutes I would have gone to the store and bought another one. It was so comfortable.  Thirty one years later, with the chair as my mother would say "fashimilt" which means falling apart, I had to succumb to Donna's pleading, my friend Ken's ridicule, a family member's joke about the foam rubber coming out of the cushion, to finally bring the chair downstairs to the basement. It still is the most comfortable chair (and now sells for over 2K).

In early 1980 my nephew was having his first birthday party on a Sunday. I lived 9 hours away without any traffic.  Should I go, or should I not go.  I had a buddy who lived four and a half hours away.  On a wintry Saturday night I drove half way to the party. On Sunday morning I drove the rest of the way. I got a ticket en route.  So, exhausted and short 50 bucks for speeding, I arrived at the party at 1 on Sunday.

 In retrospect, having had the experience, the idea of missing that event and the joy I had there is beyond comprehension.  It was so much fun. I drove the nine hours back in time for my Tuesday morning classes.  No problem.

So, those are only two examples. On the other side.  I wonder what would have happened if I had done x or y, and decided not to.

Should I have followed up on a letter I sent that went unanswered.

Should I have taken the job in California.

As a general rule, I don't make big mistakes.  And I am willing to take risks. I think on the whole with a couple of glaring exceptions, I have made good choices.  Driving last night in an ice storm might have resulted in an exhilarating successful trip topped off with the deliciousness of spending time with my brother, cousins, nephew, and their children.  But I could have wound up around a pole.

Funny story. My dad always liked it when I retold this story. So, if you can access this dad, this will bring a smile to your face on this Thanksgiving Day.

In 1982 I rented a hoo hah apartment.  It was far beyond my means, but I rented it anyway. One bedroom, close to work, doorman, hallways vacuumed every time you turned around, super coming up if there was a fly on the wall, very hoo hah.  When I told my father I had rented it he made a speech.

He said, "Look. Spend some money buying furniture for it. Don't go cheap.  No second hand things.  You've got a nice apartment.  Decorate it. "

Now, I had just purchased a 120.00 mirror for the apartment. Very uncharacteristic. But it said "buy me" and I knew I would have it forever.  (And I still do).

So, I said to Dad, very proudly.  "Uh Dad. Not to worry.  I want you to know that I just bought a mirror for the place that cost 120.00."

His reply:  "You spent 120.00 for a mirror?  120.00 for a mirror? You know sometimes there are sales? What kind of mirror costs 120.00?"

I must have retold that story twenty times to Dad, and each time he smiled.

I'd drive to Chicago in a blizzard for one of those smiles today.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boys in the Bar

Last night at O'Hare airport I checked on my laptop and saw that Boston College was tied with undefeated Florida State in the fourth quarter.  Across from where I was sitting there was your standard airport quasi sports bar.  I went over there and nearly all the games were showing either Wisconsin or Notre Dame.  No BC//Florida State in sight.  So I shlepped my lame leg down the corridor and found another place. There the BC game was on the air.  I parked myself on a bar perch, asked for an Irish coffee, and began watching.

While Sammy, the barkeep, was making the coffee I saw an egregious facemask penalty on Florida State. So, I shouted "Facemask!" Perfectly reasonable, no?

 Sammy looked up.  "Sorry" I said. "That was definitely a facemask." My best guess is that Sammy is an Americanized version of Sami and he is from somewhere near the Red Sea.  He did not seem to get the significance of my blurting "facemask."

I am not a fanatic Boston College fan. I will root for them because I live in these parts, but it has been years since I got worked up about a BC game.   There is, in fact, something offputting about BC as far as I am concerned because despite the college name, the school is NOT in Boston, but in a suburb. (As opposed to Boston University that is in Boston, and, of course, Northeastern University my employer which is located right in the heart of the city and is the best school of the three).  Still I was cheering for BC at the bar.

A fellow to my right asked me if was a BC fan. I explained the nature of my allegiance.  He then, very affably, said we might have some trouble. He, I found out, is from Florida, went to Florida State, and can probably tell you the name of the third string guard and the waterboy.  When BC looked like it might go ahead, this guy started buying shots to calm himself. When BC missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal, the fellow bought a beer to rejoice. When Florida State kicked a game winning field goal, he knocked back a final shot.  This guy was just a wonderful football watching companion.  He described Florida State's entire season and their chances for making it to the final four.  He was a great example of fandom.

Today I went to a place I visit occasionally during football season when I feel as if want to observe my sport loving brethren.  At this place, every week, or at least every single time I have been there,  a group of diehard Cleveland Browns fans sit at the same table and stoically watch their team.  When the Browns were terrible (which they have been for quite some time) they still sat there in silence. These folks are older than I am or at least look that way. Gray, as bald as I am, look quite healthy but look also as if they have been around the track.  The Browns prevailed today and one of the group popped up after the last second field goal giving high fives to his compatriots. Earlier I had to laugh when the quarterback for the Browns made a foolish throw that resulted in an interception.  One of the Browns faithful--a fellow who is likely retired, or if not may be (or may have been) a senior executive at a computer company pulling in a million dollars a year--shouted his opinion of the play loud enough for me to hear it on the other side of the restaurant. "You stupid bastard." he shouted.

My dad used to say that he feels sorry for those who do not enjoy sports because of the joy it can bring to the fandom who do so enjoy it.  Another wise comment from my father


Several years ago I read a book called Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  It was very good and subsequently became a motion picture which I never did see but heard was similarly well done.  I was looking for something to read a few weeks ago and spotted, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier in one of the bookcases.

There is a library near me that has, four times a year, a book sale which brings folks from all over.  It is held in a tiny basement, smaller than most basements in single family homes.  The sales take place on weekends. The joint is packed on Saturday. If you can hold off until Sunday, you not only can breathe in the basement, but the books already reduced to a dollar or two on Saturday, become half priced.  So for half a buck you can get a paperback novel that sells for sixteen dollars in your local bookstore.  The classics sell for a dime.  (And what are passing for classics these days are books that were novels when I was a teenager).

That is how I think I came to have Nightwoods on my shelf.  Can't remember for sure. But I see the reference to Cold Mountain on the cover, and the excerpts from raving reviewers on the cover as well.  "Impossible to Shake" Entertainment Weekly, "Fantastic" Washington Post. "Astute and Compassionate", The Boston Globe.


I don't buy it.  To me this novel was more like a short story that had been inflated.  I rarely stop reading a novel half way through, but I almost put this one down.  I'm glad I didn't because the last section was well done and perhaps that is what the reviewers refer to.  However, so much of the background was unnecessary, and the descriptions much too much so. It takes a very long time to get to the chase and not enough time spent on the residual effects.

I'm not recommending the book, but if you want to read it for yourself you can stop reading this review now as I will give some of it away.  A reclusive woman who had been emotionally abused by her worthless mother and her twisted father, takes in the two children of her sister.  The children are homeless because the sister has been murdered by the second husband and stepfather of the kids.  The stepfather is a nogoodnik down to his ankles who somehow gets away with the murder.  He believes his sister in law not only has the kids but money that the bad guy believes is his.  He comes to town looking for the sister to find the money.  In the meantime a contemporary and former townsperson of the guardian sister comes back home and falls in love with the sister.

There you have it.  I set the stage in a paragraph. It will take you 150 pages to get there if you read the book, and then another 100 to find out what happens.

I do think the novel would have been good as a short story and could have been such. The end does have some gripping moments and I found myself wanting to know what happened, but for me the book was not impossible to shake.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unconventional Behavior

One of the "Classic 39" Honeymooner episodes is entitled, "Unconventional Behavior."  In it, Ralph and Ed agree, reluctantly, to invite their wives to join them and travel to the Raccoon Convention in Minneapolis.

In the second half of the episode, the men find themselves on the train without their spouses. Initially, they suspect that the women are elsewhere on the train and begin to review the various gimmicks they have brought along to dazzle their Raccoon brethren.  Bulging eyeballs, guns that squirt, funny masks, and something Norton just picked up on the way to the train--handcuffs.

The handcuffs are the piece de resistance as far as Norton is concerned. You latch them to an unsuspecting brother Raccoon and pretend that there is no key.  To prove the point, Norton attaches the handcuffs to Ralph.  When it comes time to extricate himself, Norton tries to do what he has been told to do in the store, i.e. say 1. 2. 3. boomf.

Problem is that while in the store, the magic word boomf separated the handcuffs. On the train, the two are attached and can't decouple. The rest of the episode is about how they are stuck together. And at the end of the skit, they realize that the reason the women are not with them, is that the boys got on the wrong train.

I'm in Chicago.  The national conference for those who examine what I do in universities is being held here this weekend.  The first time I went to this convention it was, in fact, in Minneapolis. This was 1978.   I like going to this conference.  It is enormous.  As many as twenty concurrent sessions every 75 minutes.  If you are interested in Health Communication, Mediated Messages, Nonverbal Communication, Presidential Rhetoric, Sports Communication, Interpersonal or Group, Crisis a type of Communication and someone has given or will be giving a paper on it this weekend.  (I will comment that there were not enough sessions this time on Sport Communication).

A question that I have been mulling for the last few hours is this:  How different is this group than the Raccoons to which Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden belonged?  We are more educated for sure.  A Ph.D. here or an aspiration to get one, is the ticket for entry .   And we did not bring bulging eye balls or funny masks to the sessions, but I'm not sure that beyond this, the group is that much different.

At the very first academic convention I attended, I went back to my room after a few hours--and wrote the following little poem.

At conventions folks come to attend; to pontificate and contend, with peers.
An excuse for a weekend away, a time for the heart to convey//allay--its fears.

(At this time in my life I was writing these little ditties regularly. It is meaningful I know--and not in a good way--that I rarely do this anymore.  Not sure why).

Like I said, I enjoy going to this particular conference.  There is a good deal that I listen to that is worthless, but almost always something I listen to that is valuable.  Yet, I continue to wonder if we are just better educated Raccoons.

It is almost forty years since my first trip to Minneapolis.  I see some of the people who were the elders at that time.  They look older.  Go figure.  How is it that except for when I catch a glance at myself in the reflecting walls all over the Hilton, I feel I am the same age as I was in 1978?

As was the case in Minneapolis. the place is flooded with young-uns.  Young Ph.D.s and graduate students hoping to make a name for themselves.  I recognize the lot, as I was once them.  Their duds are different.  When I started coming to these--for a time right after the "revolution"-- folks were, counterintuitively, conservatively attired.  Now jeans are as normal as ties.  Profanities are uttered in the course of academic discussions.

It is interesting that so much of what is said in the coffee shops and lounges is exactly what had been uttered forty years ago. What people are teaching; what are the chances for tenure; where are people being hired; who is the son of a bitch making completing the degree difficult.

There is an exhibition hall where textbooks are displayed.  I have a few books out so it is heady to see my titles displayed and hear salesperson say how swell they are to prospective adopters.  And if you want to be obtuse for a few moments you can become buoyed hearing the salesperson blow smoke at you.

Adjacent to the exhibition hall are poster sessions. There, young whippersnappers, talk through studies they are doing.  I go to a number today.  I see a young woman and then a young man who are very enthusiastic about their work.  I listen to the young woman but for the first five minutes I can't get past the fact that she has a hook in her nose.  She is very attractive and what I would like to say to this 20 something person is, "why are you wearing that ridikalus hook in your nose".  And then the fellow, equally handsome, speaks about something which, coincidentally, I know quite a bit about.  What he is saying is not that profound and, while not egotistical, he is speaking as if he discovered the wheel. Similarly the woman with the hook has spoken about a phenomenon that is not real new.  And I begin to feel embarrassed because I wonder if at age 26 I was spewing wisdom enthusiastically that proved to someone who had been around the track, just how unwise I might have been.

So, are we Raccoons?

In some ways no.  We are better educated; don't think throwing balloons with water out of a window is hysterical.  And many of the papers I heard do or at least can make a difference in what we know about Communication.

But in some ways, we may be just Raccoons without the uniforms.  We frolic differently after the sessions are over. But we frolic. Probably knock them back as good as the Raccoons.  And I think symbolically we are handcuffed to assumptions about how we should be.  To boot, we sometimes. like Ralph and Ed, find that we are heading in the wrong direction.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Just saying

In case you missed the prediction in the last paragraph.;postID=8353714960969442325;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oakland Chiefs

The first year of Monday Night football, the fall of 1970, the New York Football Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles in late November.  I just checked on the net to make sure that my memory was accurate.  It was/is.

I remember the game because at the time I was a fanatic Giants fan.  (I remember everything-as long as it was more than fifteen minutes ago).  It was the Giants to whom my dad, brother, and I paid homage during our youth.  In the late 50s and early 60s the Giants were contenders. In the mid to late 60s the Giants were from hunger.

But in 1970 the Giants surprised everyone and had a winning streak of six games.  And on Monday night November 23rd the Giants were scheduled to play the then hapless Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were 1-7-1 at the time.  It looked like an easy game. A gimmee.  The Giants, inexplicably, were headed for the playoffs.

Except they lost.  On national television. They came into the game asleep.  And the Eagles who were flying barely off the ground during that season were the winners.  Because of this loss the Giants had to defeat the powerful Los Angeles Rams on the last game of the season in order to make the playoffs. Didn't happen. The Rams shellacked the Giants. No playoffs; Giants went home.

It is now 3 pm Eastern time, Thursday night, November 2014.  It is five and a half hours before tonight's Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs national telecast.  The Oakland Raiders are winless. The Chiefs have a head of steam going. The Chiefs are in a good position to win the tough AFC West.

But they will lose tonight.  You read it here first.  The Oakland Raiders who have a record of 0 and everything, will prevail against the charging Chiefs.  Just like the Eagles beat the Giants 44 years ago. The Chiefs will go to the playoffs, but they will lose to the Oakland Raiders tonight.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Last year on Thanksgiving I flew to Florida to be with my Dad.  We hung around watching football all day.  He had clipped out a coupon for a turkey dinner at a diner about a half hour from his home. Then, instead, we decided to go to a Chinese restaurant close by.

So that's how we spent the last Thanksgiving we had together.  The fare was fine as far as I was concerned. Hot and sour soup, egg rolls, shredded beef or something like that in garlic sauce, and ice cream.  Bliss for me.

But Dad was glum--as he was for the entire nine month period between the time when my mother died and his own passing.  He could not get through the loss.  While I tried to point out the good news that was all around for which we should give thanks, like---we both were healthy, we were enjoying the day together, he had a nice home, both of his kids had done ok, he had enough dough in the bank to pay his bills and still go out for hot and sour soup whenever he so chose, the weather was good, Obama was president--no matter what I pointed out--it did not stick.

After the ice cream we went back to the house and watched another football game.  Dad and I always liked watching sports together.  And, if we want truth in history, that was not always easy to do when Mom was with us.   Still, he could not see the glass full.

Three months later he died from a broken heart. Three months after that his brother's wife, who was the last Zaremba standing from that generation, died in an automobile accident.

As kids, Thanksgiving was always at this aunt's home.  We would drive into Queens around 4 on Thanksgiving day and meet with my cousins, my dad's brother and sister in law.  My grandfather would come and sometimes my maternal grandmother would be invited to join us for the day.  We sat around their table in the duplex townhouse on Springfield Boulevard and, implicitly at least, gave thanks for each other's presence.

No more presence.  This year all of the parents are gone.  My cousins' dad--my uncle--died in the early 90s and now their mother is gone.  My folks gone in a nine month period.

So, my cousin has invited us all to Philadelphia.  We are all going down.  My cousin Sam from DC is coming up with his two kids to his brother's place.  My brother, nephew, his wonderful sweet kids Jack and Sophie, spouses, we are all meeting in Philadelphia.

Life goes on.  This life. We have it until we don't.  And when we don't we cannot embrace and give thanks.  As Andrew Marvel wrote in a poem with different motives, but appropriate words nonetheless "The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think in there embrace."

Embrace. Tell the ones you love, that you love. Give thanks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


I blogged last week about a facebook friend's posting after the election. He had written "the party without balls lost to the party without brains."

After I clicked on the link below, I felt that he would have better expressed the situation had he written, The party without balls and brains lost to the party without brains.

Still cannot get over how the Democrats in the last election tried to distance themselves from President Obama.  It was akin to how Gore distanced himself from President Clinton in 2000. This, another brilliant tactic.  Clinton would have won that election for Gore and for all of us. Instead we had to endure George Bush who brought the country to its economic knees.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Post week 10

Some musings after watching games during week 10 of the NFL.

The importance of being ready to play was never more evident in the Jets defeat of the Steelers yesterday.  The Steelers, having walloped better teams in prior weeks, thought they could sleepwalk passed the 1-8 Jets.

Jay Cutler really is playing poorly. I don't know the man but it does not seem as if he can accept that he needs to work on his game. Rather, his attitude appears to be that he is great no matter what. Some horrible throws, bad clock management. Guy was defeated before the game started. 55-14 and one of the two Chicago touchdowns came on a special teams play.

Eli Manning's pass in the beginning of the third quarter was the one play that cost the Giants a chance at victory. Difficult to claim that one play in a game that ended with a more than one touchdown difference could have caused the defeat.  However, this did. The Giants were still in the game and he throws up a prayer.  Not sure to whom he was kvetching when he saw the throw was intercepted. Pretty good picture of Tom Coughlin on the bench after the play.

Speaking of good pictures, best of the day was the 49er head coach throwing up his play cards into the air when it looked as if the Saints had won in the last second on a hail Mary. As it turned out the Hail Mary reception was disqualified because of a push off.

Speaking of push-offs, it was a good call to call Graham for the push off in that game.  He doesn't push off he does not catch the ball. True, very good Marlon Brando acting by the offended defender, but it was still a push off.

Kansas City is a very well coached team and will beat the Broncos at home when next they meet.

Any coach saddled with an inept quarterback will look bad. And a coach with a great quarterback will look good. John Fox in Denver looks like a genius. Tressman in Chicago looks like a stiff. If Tressman has Peyton Manning, he gets coach of the year honors.

Arizona will do well with the back up quarterback.  Carson Palmer was erratic and did not come up big in big games.

Saw Birdman this weekend.  The difference between Theatre and Sport is that in Theatre you can pretend to be what you are not. In sport, if you pretend to be what you are not, you will be exposed and it will take an army of sympathetic reviewers to create a positive narrative from the actual one.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


I have teams I root for and teams I root against.  And I root against Alabama.

Therefore the yelp you heard last night at about midnight eastern time was watching LSU find a way to lose to Alabama when they had the game won.  Hearing the coach of Alabama discussing the victory last night was such that I shut the sound off.  The better interview would have been to ask the LSU coach how his team managed to blow the game.

Actually, neither team played like a top four team.  If you are not following college football this year, the following may be news to you.  The top four teams in Division I will play at the end of the year in the first ever playoff tournament to determine the national champion.

One reason why I am not a big fan of Alabama is that a few years ago, after Alabama had lost a big game, the wizards that then controlled what was called the Bowl Championship Series, decided that Alabama deserved to play for the championship.  They did not so deserve to play because they had just lost a big game. Nevertheless a committee thought they were entitled to play for the championship, did play for it, and one the game. Zip zip they became the national champion. Ridiculous. Not ridiculous that they were victorious in that game. Ridiculous that someone decided who could be one of the two teams who might play in a championship game and Alabama was plucked from the unworthy to participate.

At least this year there will be four teams who will compete.

If either LSU or Alabama is among the final four, do some sleuthing to see who did the lobotomy on the decision makers.  People talk about how Alabama is so great and how their one loss this season was a fluke. Alabama could not move the ball the entire game last night.  They looked as punchless as an old drunk. It is true that at the end they were able to mount a drive that resulted in a tying field goal which subsequently allowed them to prevail in overtime. But LSU made so many mistakes at the end, you can't give too much credit to Alabama.

There was a great picture of the LSU coach after a gaffe by the LSU kickoff team.  Mouth open incredulously.  My sense is that his mouth is still open and his head has not stopped shaking since last night.  There are many insomniacs that got more sleep than the LSU coach and faithful last night.

My two cents. Alabama found a way to win. Good for them and a grudging congratulations for finding that way.*  But they do not deserve to be one of the final four if several other teams wind up their season with a similar one loss record.

*(Can't help but remind anyone who cares, that Alabama found a most unusual way to lose last year when they played Auburn, so they are not always as resourceful as they were last night.  Up by less than seven points with seconds left they tried a long field goal when they could have just punted the ball away. An Auburn player caught the short kick at the goal line and ran it back for a touchdown outrunning the fat Alabama field goal blockers. I still enjoy recalling that moment).

Thirteen Days in September

Thirteen Days in September is a new book about the Camp David talks in 1978 which, after a trying thirteen days, yielded the peace between Egypt and Israel which has essentially held up for close to forty years.

The book had received rave reviews. I am interested in the Middle East so I thought this would be a good read.  I am glad I read it, but I did not think the writing was as good as the reviewers suggested. When I am in a good book I take it everywhere and read whenever I have a spare moment. With this book I took it everywhere but found reasons not to read it.

You may remember that in the Fall of 1977, Anwar Sadat surprised the world by announcing that he was willing to go to Israel to make peace.   Israel welcomed Sadat and his entourage with open arms and this was the vestibule to the peace that exists now.  However, for a year after Sadat's courageous visit, not much had taken place to guarantee peace.  President Jimmy Carter decided to invite the leaders to his retreat in Camp David in September 1978 and attempt to hammer out an accord. The book is the description of these days. In addition to the day by day account, the book explains the history of the Middle East conflict.

I can't recommend the book with any real enthusiasm. I did not find it that well written and while many events in the thirteen days were recounted, there seemed to be gaps.  Maybe I feel this way because I could not maintain attention always, but that says something in and of itself since I am inherently interested in this subject.

Some takeaways for me.

(1) While I always thought of Sadat as courageous, the book makes this case convincingly.  Not a nuts and bolts guy--he was a big picture leader--and he saw the big picture from a perspective that was, from my perspective, a humanitarian one.

(2) The peace accord does not happen without the industry, perseverance, and commitment of President Carter.  There were so many times that a less committed leader would have said, "the hell with it. Let these stubborn guys go on killing themselves."  Carter did not and he did not because he felt compelled to try and bring peace to the region.  He deserved far more credit than he received for his work at Camp David.

(3) Intuitively I know that emotion runs the show and that logic typically takes a back seat.  This would be apparent to any reader of the book.  Begin was absolutely intransigent on an issue that would have ended the talks.  Carter was angry and had given up. But Carter had promised to sign some pictures for Begin's grandchildren. He did, wrote the names of each of the grandchildren on the photos. Carter brought the photos to Begin and told Begin that he, Carter, thought that Begin was being stubborn and had aborted the peace process.  Carter left Begin's cabin and when he returned to his own cabin Begin was on the phone. He had been moved by the photos, wanted peace for his grandchildren and signed a document.

(4) Begin does not come out so extra in this book.  Carter thought he had an agreement on an issue related to the Palestinians. Begin claimed that he had not agreed to that component of the treaty.  The author suggests that a different sort of Israeli leader would have accepted this, been able to trade land for peace, and the kind of peace Egypt and Israel have enjoyed might have been characteristic of the entire region.  Of course it is important to remember that Begin's entire family was butchered by the Nazis during World War II.  Still, even among the Israelis, there are some who feel that Begin was not the kind of leader who could take advantage of this opportunity.

(5) I wonder if the author, Lawrence Wright, has taken some heat for the book.  He has made me wonder if the American Israeli narrative regarding the Middle East should be reconsidered.  I had always thought of the Israelis as the victims in 48, 56, 67, and 73.  I am aware that Israel had its back against the wall from day one when in 1948, immediately after Independence Day, they were attacked.  But some Israeli actions described in Wright's book in the years and wars that followed are not wholly defensive or defensible.  And, in a number of cases--the 56 war for example--at variance with the narrative I've heard and read throughout my lifetime.

(6) Peace with Egypt might not have occurred at all if not for the input of Ariel Sharon.  Sharon-- a hawk if there ever was one--told Begin that withdrawing from the Sinai (one of Sadat's conditions) was worth it for peace with Egypt, so Begin agreed to withdraw.  Sharon is typically not considered a peace maker.

There is a very moving part of the book when injured Egyptians and injured Israelis from the 73 war meet at the signing of the peace treaty. Initially, the groups stay away from one another. But a blind Israeli asks his son to bring him to the Egyptian group of ex soldiers.  And when he does an Egyptian soldier in a wheelchair wheels himself out to meet the Israeli and they embrace. Then all the soldiers from both sides meet in the middle of the room and embrace.

The Egypt Israeli peace is not perfect. There are bumps. And nobody of my vintage is unaware that Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own people because he had the audacity to attempt peace with Israel.

Still there is peace between Egypt and Israel. It is not impossible. A tip of the hat to Carter and Sadat particularly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sans Spine

There is a fellow who is a facebook friend whom I only know peripherally.  His sister and I were contemporaries in the 6 floor apartment building I grew up in until age 10.5.  At the time the facebook friend was a pipsqueak. Not sure he was able to walk by the time we moved away.

So I don't know him well, but I love his posts on facebook.  Today he wrote,

The party without any balls lost to the party without any brains.

In sports, whenever a team plays passively, defensively and is unwilling to stand strong they will lose.  John Madden the former football broadcaster commented regularly about the so called, Prevent Defense employed by NFL teams.  In football, the Prevent Defense is implemented when a team is ahead in a game and plays a passive defense hoping that there will be no quick scores against them. However, this passivity almost always costs them.  Madden famously quipped, "The only thing the prevent defense does, is prevent you from winning.

Throughout the country this fall the Democrats campaigned gutlessly.  The democrats were passive as opposed to proactive, and the result is that some people who probably would like to reconsider the virtues of slavery are now in office.  

The Democrats were afraid to be who they are, fearing the public did not like who they were. They distanced themselves from Obama because everyone supposedly disliked Obama.  Er, ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama won two elections with a name like Barack Obama in a racist country.  Barack Obama mobilized the masses to vote. Barack Obama stood up strongly when a bunch of whiny petulant irresponsible bullies SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT.  Hello.  That was all of about ten months ago.  They cost people their jobs, they cost the taxpayers millions, but they were upset because they lost the election and everyone now has access to health care. Barack Obama stood up to them and made them back down.

Where were the Democrats in this campaign?  They were busy hiding the family jewels is where they were. 

 "Ohmygosh, let me try to outconservative conservatives.  I'm not really for women's rights. Not really so much in favor of the affordable health care act (Who could be for affordable health care?) Some of my best friends are rednecks. Guns aren't all bad."

Meanwhile the stock market is at 17, 4 something. Unemployment is down.  Interest rates are absurdly low. And everyone has access to health care.  So, let's not run on our record.

Consequently we now have the likes of that great American, Mitch McConnell still in the Senate. Just great.

You may recall that there was a stretch when the main verbal weapon for Republican candidates was to call a Democrat a liberal.  And if you really wanted to ice an opponent claim that she or he hauled around an American Civil Liberties Union card. 

 Instead of fighting back and saying, Damn right, I have the card.  Civil liberties means citizens' freedoms.  And yes in a democracy one should support such freedoms. The Democrats wussed and shied away from acknowledging that yes, they were liberals.  Sans spine.

I don't agree with my facebook friend's assessment of Republicans. They do have brains.  And some Republicans are very good people with whom I sometimes agree and often disagree.   

But some are not very good people who attempt to fool the blue collar worker that the GOP is concerned for them.  A riot, that. And many Republicans, pure and simple, are racists who can not stand that a black person is in the White House.

My facebook friend, however, is right about many of the Democrats who ran during this campaign. They did not stand up for who they are. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

better team

On Sunday, after the Denver Broncos were shellacked 43-21 by the New England Patriots, a safety for the Broncos-TJ Ward-- made the following remark.  "We're still the best team" he said.

Well, er, Mr. Ward, you mean the "better" team.  Not sure how religiously you attended English classes at the University of Oregon, but when comparing two entities the word is better not best.  You only use best when comparing more than two.

Of course, that is a minor point.

However, there is a major point. And it is ignored by sport analysts on a regular basis.

The major point is that there is only one way to determine who is better than another in a sport contest.  And that mechanism has no degree of subjectivity.

The better team in a contest is the team that wins.  That is how "better" is defined in sports.

If some media wizard opines that, say, the Baltimore Orioles are actually the best team in baseball, or that they are better than the Kansas City Royals--just change the station.  The Orioles lost in the playoffs. The Royals advanced to the World Series. The Giants are the best team in baseball because they won the World Series.

As anyone who has followed my blogs would know, I find decisions made by experts to determine champions to be an abomination. This is why for years I argued that college football division I champions are illusory.  Until this year, a committee or a computer made the determination of who was the national champion in NCAA division I or who was invited to compete for the national championship. The situation is better this year with a playoff system in place that will add credibility to what had been a sham of a national champion.

Way back before I rooted for the Boston Celtics, during the years when the Celtics would annually beat the Lakers in the 50s and 60s, pundits would whine that the Celtics were not the best team.  Bill Russell the center for those teams in both senses of the word "center" would hear such remarks and quip, "We laughed all the way to the bank."  Of course, the Celtics were better than the Lakers when they defeated the Lakers.--regardless of how great Jerry West and Elgin Baylor played.

In sport, head to head is where it is at.  The better team is the team who, after the game or series is over, is victorious.  One could make the case that the 1984-85 Villanova Wildcats basketball team did not have nearly the talent of the Georgetown Hoyas.   But in the championship game that season Villanova won. This made them the better team.  In fact, this made them the best team in all of NCAA basketball regardless of any other factor. That they "should" have lost, had a bad record during the year, shot an incredible and atypically high percentage in the championship game--is irrelevant.

Last year in the AFC championship game, the Broncos defeated the Patriots. The Patriots did not have Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots' best defender was knocked out of the game in the first half by a questionable block, and Peyton Manning played like some sort of superhuman being.  All this does not undermine the reality that last year the better team between the Broncos and the Patriots, was the Broncos.

After Sunday's game TJ Ward was asked how come the Broncos lost. He commented that the wind was a factor.  He said, he's "not really a wind person."  Well Mr. Ward my first suggestion is that you consider Scrabble.  My second suggestion is that athletes who opine that they are better than another after a loss, might save the wind they expend with such an utterance.