Monday, November 10, 2008

A Question for the Ages

There are a lot of bad end-of-game coaches in the NFL. Andy Reid gave us a display tonight that rivaled himself in the Super Bowl a couple of years ago. Now I have to hear for another week that the Giants are the best team in the NFL. Thanks, Coach.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week 10

First off, to the five of you read my weekly football post, I'm sorry for missing a week. It could not be avoided. I went to Chicago last Friday, so Thursday was packed with all the pre-trip things one must accomplish (buy underwear because you're too lazy to do laundry, etc.), and was nearly too busy during the weekend itself even to set my fantasy lineup. Beyond that, though, I have no excuse at all. I should've posted this week's picks before Thursday's game, but remembered there was a game at all far too late. Between the trip, the conference I attended, the alcohol consumed, the election, the alcohol consumed, and the overall sleep deprivation, I've just been too fried to get much done.

It's a rainy Saturday in Oakland now, though, my belly is filled (note: if you're in the area, the fried chicken sandwich at Bake Sale Betty's is up to the challenge of meeting its reputation), and my mind is sharp. First, though, a peek at last week's picks that you did not get to see. Figures that I'd do well on a non-posting week.

BUFFALO (-5) over Jets (wrong)
Detroit (+12.5) over CHICAGO (correct)
Jacksonville (-7.5) over CINCINNATI (wrong)
CLEVELAND (-1.5) over Baltimore (wrong)
Green Bay (+5.5) over TENNESSEE (correct)
KANSAS CITY (+8.5) over Tampa Bay (correct)
Arizona (-3) over ST. LOUIS (correct)
Houston (+4.5) over MINNESOTA (wrong)
DENVER (-3.5) over Miami (wrong)
Atlanta (-3) over OAKLAND (correct)
GIANTS (-9) over Dallas (correct)
Philadelphia (-6.5) over SEATTLE (correct)
INDIANAPOLIS (-6) over New England (wrong)
Pittsburgh (+2) over WASHINGTON (correct)

With that out of the way ... onward ho! to the picks!

CLEVELAND (-3) over Denver (WRONG)
I don't think anybody could've anticipated Cutler throwing for nearly 450 yards. Though we should've anticipated the Browns blowing another lead.

ATLANTA (-1) over New Orleans
New Orleans has to win a game on the road eventually, but nothing stops the feel-good Atlanta Falcons from defending their home! Not even a 'roided up Saints team.

Tennessee (-3) over CHICAGO
I watched much of last week's bizarre Detroit-Chicago game at a sports bar in downtown Chicago. I've nothing against the Bears, but I did find myself rather offended, as a non-partisan football fan, that they were able to come back and win that game. It was worth it, though, to hear the horror and jeers when Rex re-entered the game. Does any other city have such a complex relationship with their QB? Maybe Philly & McNabb, but I think most of us can agree that's more irrational than complex -- insert obligatory wife joke here.

DETROIT (+6.5) over Jacksonville
It might be a little unfair to pick on Jacksonville, given their horrendous loss to the Bengals last week, but who will be surprised if they do the same thing on the road against a Detroit team whose most lop-sided loss in the past four weeks was eight points?

MIAMI (-8.5) over Seattle
Miami has to be the quietest playoff-contending team right now. The AFC East is ripe for the taking ... in an epic struggle between the Jets and Miami. God. What a weird year.

Green Bay (+2.5) over MINNESOTA
I still cannot figure either of these teams out. Despite the fact Minnesota won last week and Green Bay won, I kind of feel like Green Bay has its act together more. Grant looks to be getting healthy -- he had a very frisky 4.6 yards p/carry average against a very stingy Tennessee defense -- and you just never know when either Driver or Jennings can burn you long. Their defense just needs to show up, I think, make a couple of stops, and let the passing game pick apart Minnesota's very shaky secondary.

NEW ENGLAND (-3.5) over Buffalo
That Buffalo bandwagon is looking very deserted right about now, and I don't think it's just because it's nearly winter. I'd like to see them right the ship, and what better game than this one, when their back is firmly against the wall and on the verge of a third straight divisional loss. Ordinarily I'd pick the hungrier team, but it's just become a foregone conclusion in the league that Bellichek does not lose two straight, ever.

St. Louis (+8) over NEW YORK (JETS)
The new coach smell in St. Louis seems to have faded considerably, and the Jets seem primed for a really cheap cover ... but I simply cannot resist the points.

Baltimore (-1) over HOUSTON
All of a sudden Baltimore is relevant in the AFC again. How time flies in the NFL. With Big Ben hurting while Pittsburgh plays Indy this week, a win over Houston would give Baltimore the same record as their rival with one more head-to-head match-up. "Chance for the playoffs" trumps shit-stained pride.

Carolina (-9) over OAKLAND
Thank you, Raider Nation, for not selling out McAfee, or whatever that place is called now. Thank you, for the wonderful prize of not having either your pride and joy OR the 49ers sully my television screen on Sunday. Bad news for the rest of the country: the 49ers are playing on Monday night. HA! Welcome to my world!

PITTSBURGH (OFF) over Indianapolis
Gambling is turned off here because of the mystery of Big Ben's injury status. I'm not sure it matters, actually. With as erratic as Manning has been so far, does he stand a chance against Pittsburgh defense? Indy fans, cover your children's eyes. It could get brutal.

Kansas City (+15) over SAN DIEGO
I actually think LT runs wild here and KC gets blown out, and might even be inclined to throw this game into a two-team teaser. But as a stand-alone handing over of fifteen points, no. Kansas is just feisty enough to make this potentially interesting.

PHILADELPHIA (-3) over New York (Giants)
Let me go on the record, if I haven't already, that I still do not believe in the Giants or Eli Manning. Philly is getting healthy. If they stay so, they will be a team to be reckoned with. The only concern is that they've no proven go-to wide receiver -- well, that, and a bruising short-yardage guy. DeSean Jackson has moments, but he's too streaky, and the streaks have become fewer with each passing week it seems. I'm betting, though, that this week the Eagles take a step back into full-blown NFC relevance. They have enough balance, though, with a healthy Westbrook that they could stretch the Giants' unremarkable secondary.

ARIZONA (-9.5) over San Francisco
The Bay Area's gift to the rest of the country! Maybe Mike Singletary will get so frustrated at Kornheiser that he'll banish him to the locker room, too.

Last week: 8-6
Season: 63-63-5

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Open Letter To Al Harrington

Dear Al,

When you demand a trade publicly, it's normally not a good idea to go out on opening night and suck harder than a porn star with asthma.

Mixed emotions after the game. I didn't think they'd even compete with New Orleans, and certainly never envisioned them leading by one with less than thirty seconds to play. The defense was, at times, actually existent. Maggette brought a nice slashing style of play that was a refreshing change of pace from last year. Not sure how long they'll be able to rely on Jackson at the point. Why Nelly came to this same conclusion with less than twenty seconds, and then decided he'd put in DeMarcus Nelson (their new undrafted (whoo!) rookie point guard, who had played all of five minutes tonight before his strange appearance at the end of the game), I really don't know. For all of the good things I saw, and I did really enjoy watching them play tonight, many of the same problems as last year exist. Nelly still doesn't trust his entire team, really only playing about seven tonight, and wears out those he does. (And, yes, Al, obviously you are among the "trusted ones" -- why else would you be given the last-second three despite the screams of horror from every Warrior fan watching the game?)

Oh well, on to Toronto!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Eight

I'm really not at all confident in this picks. If I had to pick the quality of my picks I'd go REALITY (-14) over Brad's Predictive Powers.

Tampa Bay (+2.5) over DALLAS
I think most people just assumed the Dallas collapse would be in their first playoff game. Maybe they're just trying to get it out of the way early. So early, in fact, that they miss the playoffs, and don't have to worry about choking it away. As for Tampa Bay, they're not pretty (their kind of offensive balance rarely is), they couldn't cover against Seattle at home, and I really shouldn't trust them on the road, but there's really no reason they can't whip up on a a Dallas team that has completely lost its way. Expect big things from Antonio Bryant.

Washington (-7.5) over DETROIT
How many times can one person keep taking Washington to cover a big spread, and always come up short? Good on you, Detroit fans, for not selling out Ford Stadium. More fans of bad teams need to do this. Stop rewarding bad behavior!

MIAMI (+1.5)over Buffalo
This seems like a classic trap game to me. Miami isn't half bad, and we're still unsure whether Buffalo is anything more than half good. I'll be cheering for them, but it seems just the kind of divisional game that Miami wins.

St. Louis (+7) over NEW ENGLAND
Here's my reasoning here. Nobody expected St. Louis to be as bad as they were the first five six weeks of the season. Nobody thought they'd be good, mind you, but they had some offensive weapons. Those weapons are finally starting to come into their own a little. I don't buy New England's blowout against Denver, who played some of the most inept football of the season.
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over St. Louis

Just learned that Steven Jackson isn't playing today. No confidence at all that the Rams can continue their winning ways without him.

San Diego (-3) over New Orleans
The Saints already had enough excuses for losing this week, between the "we were playing in London" and "Reggie Bush is injured," but they apparently felt they needed a third one with the steroid scandal. Both teams need this win badly. I just don't see where New Orleans gets it points, other than maybe a breakout game (finally!) for Colston.

New YORK (JETS) over Kansas City
The Chiefs are feeling good about that enormous contract they gave Larry Johnson a couple of years ago, aren't they? Surely they have to be considered one of the most frustrating teams to be a fan of. A class act like Brett Favre can't lose a game like this. Christian Okoye has called him and given him hints on how to beat the Chiefs.

PHILADELPHIA (-9) over Atlanta
This line seems high at first, until you realize that Atlanta hasn't really played that well on the road -- their game at Chicago being the exception. Philadelphia is a completely different team when Westbrook is in the game. Their defense is more fierce, their offense more crisp. If he is in fact healthy, Atlanta won't be able to handle them. If it's a close game, though, young Matt Ryan has shown that he has tricks up his sleeve and will do more than cover.

Arizona (+4) over CAROLINA
I like this Arizona team. At some point they have to pull out a compelling road victory. Carolina is just the kind of team to serve one of those up on a platter. I'm not as prepared as I was a couple of weeks ago to crown Carolina the team to beat in the NFC.

BALTIMORE (-7) over Oakland
Young JaMarcus & his corp of pretty good runners has not yet faced a defense like Baltimore. Barring a Flacco a few untimely Baltimore turnovers, always a possibility, I've no clue how Oakland even moves the ball to get into field goal position. McGahee owners should get to rejoice two weeks in a row.

JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Cleveland
The only threat here is that Jacksonville overlooks this game in anticipation of their epic showdown with the Bengals next week (followed, incidentally, by Detroit). Take heart, Colt fans, they're bound to sleep on one of these teams.

HOUSTON (-9.5) over Cincinnati
Speaking of Cincinnati, they're in need of Daunte Culpepper right about now, no? With Palmer out for the season, how else do they win a game?

New York (Giants) (+3) over PITTSBURGH
A couple of factors working against Pittsburgh here. In addition to their injury problems, esp. at running back, Pittsburgh is in a position that they can drop a tough game and still be okay. The Giants have a two-game lead over Washington, but they need a nice convincing win to get the bad taste of the Cleveland game out of their system. Right now, nobody is really scared of them anymore. Beating up on San Francisco meant nothing. More just seems on the line for them here.

SAN FRANCISCO (-5) over Seattle
West Coast football has been pretty dire out here this year, but the drama has been wonderful! First, you had the wonderful Lane Kiffin-Al Davis saga. Was sad to see that end. Then you had the 49ers take down Mike Nolan. Well, more precisely, you had Mike Nolan being the classiest guy in the organization and say, "Hey, if you're going to fire me in two weeks, just fire me now!" And they did. And thus begins the Mike Singletary-era. It will be a very short era indeed if they can't get beat Seattle. I'm going out on a limb, given the epic numbers he put up last week in Tampa, but Seneca Wallace just wouldn't scare me much. The one thing Seattle has going for it is that San Francisco (esp. J. T. O'Sullivan) cannot hang onto the football -- they've a -8 in turnovers. The bad thing for Seattle: theirs is -6.

Indianapolis (+4) over TENNESSEE
Everything points toward a convincing Tennessee win this Monday. This is why I'm taking Indianapolis. It being so close to Halloween, it only seems appropriate that Indy play this week's living dead zombie that won't go away. They need this game way too much to drop it.

Last Week: 6-8
Season: 48-51-3

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Train Wreck

I don't normally jump on little gaffes politicians make, not even when they're funny, but this is one of the best ever.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Next Up . . .

There have been a lot of "other shoes" dropping in the economy lately. But there is one that is Yao Ming-sized: credit card debt.

Welcome to the next crisis. (Link 1) (Link 2)

Those arguments I've seen in other quarters that the absence of bread lines and the fact that Americans can watch football on plasma screens that project a clearer image than their eyes actually allow -- and, oh look, because of this the economy keeps growing, like clockwork, like nature -- proves the stagnation of real wage growth isn't a problem, those arguments are increasingly worth about as much as the balance transfer check I just filled out.

But don't fret, they'll always have their moralistic appeal to greed as the primary culprit (if we were all but a little more responsible, Bank of America couldn't take advantage of us like they do!). Why admit a systematic, materialistic deficiency when an abstraction alone will do the trick?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Bright Spot of a McCain Win

. . . . the Bay Area will suddenly become affordable, if all the good-hearted liberals around here are sincere in their conviction to move to Canada. I'm a get me a Marin county mansion!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pass the A-11

I first heard about the A-11 offense a couple of weeks ago, in a very short, very cryptic report on the local news about about Piedmont High School's football team. I didn't really follow up on it, though. The New York Times did for me.

Steve Humphries, the assistant, had an idea: What if the offense featured not one quarterback but two? Not bad, Bryan said, but things would really get interesting if all 11 players were potentially eligible to receive a pass.[...]

Piedmont’s basic A-11 formation calls for a center flanked by two guards, who are essentially tight ends. Two quarterbacks, or a quarterback and a running back, line up behind the center, with three receivers split to each side. [...]

Prior to each Piedmont play, only the center initially goes to the line of scrimmage. The two “guards” and the split receivers each stand one and a half yards off the line. Then, just before the ball is snapped, Piedmont shifts into formation for the signaled play. With this simple movement, the possibilities for eligible receivers become dizzying.

Intriguing, no? If only my high school's team had been this interesting.

Here's Piedmont in action: (note: you'll probably want to watch w/ the sound muted or low)

Friday, October 17, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Seven

I'm not sure I'll top my predictive powers last week. Or, more optimistically, I'm starting to get a feel for these teams and what to expect out of them. The one thing that has become clear, though, is that we know more about how bad the bad teams are than how good the good ones are. More about that in the picks . . . .

BUFFALO (-1) over San Diego
Definitely and obviously one of the harder games to pick. If you have money, stay the hell away from it. We know neither of these teams is awful, but we've still no clue at all if either are good. It's pretty amazing, though, how quickly everybody jumped off Buffalo's bandwagon after they were destroyed in Arizona, even though they had the heart-and-soul of that team knocked out of the game. Nobody even bothered to amend their judgment when Arizona proved against Dallas that, at least at home, they're a damn good football team. And yet now, San Diego beats the Retirement Village Patriots, and they're hitting their groove? I'm not so sure. Plus, San Diego was absolutely awful the last time they hit the East Coast. They win this week and I might start getting some confidence in them.

CHICAGO (-3) over Minnesota
Because both of these teams are so delightfully mediocre, I think we have a pretty firm idea of what they're going to be about the rest of the way. They'll play good teams tough, and get beat by inferior teams. And when they play one another, all bets are off. Chicago has to want a little redemption against the Minnesota, after Peterson embarrassed them last year on their home turf. Plus, and it's weird to even think this, Chicago would actually seem to have more offensive efficiency. But, really, who knows. Might be a wonderful 15+ point game for the kickers.

Pittsburgh (-9.5) over CINCINNATI
After spending years watching Bengal football, I know one thing ... the Steelers own the Riverfront. It seems like it's a home away from home for them, in terms of their sheer domination down there. If they were playing any other team, I might go for the underdog -- arguing that there might not be a real sense of immediacy for the Steelers, considering their dominance in that division right now. They hate the Bengals too much, though, to let up. This one gets ugly early. Palmer will be breathing a sigh of relief from the sidelines.

KANSAS CITY (+8) over Tennessee Tenessee (-8) over KANSAS CITY
I just deleted a paragraph about how Tennessee walks all over Kansas City, and will probably regret doing so, but decided that this game kind of screams out as a potential upset. Or at least as a potential scare. Sure, Kansas City has the league's worst rushing defense, but Tennessee's running attack (even w/ Chris Johnson) isn't what it was with Vince Young. And surprisingly enough, the KC secondary isn't half bad: they've only given up five passing TDs so far. Plus, doesn't it just make sense for the another AFC South to give the Colts a chance to rip the stake from their own heart?

I completely forgot last night that Larry Johnson is suspended. No chance in hell they pull this one off without him. Pray for Tony Gonzalez this week.

Dallas (OFF) over ST. LOUIS
The line is turned off here because nobody knows if Romo is going to do his best Steve DeBerg impersonation. Either way, it really shouldn't matter. How hard is it to hand the ball off to Barber and let him wreck havoc? Dump the ball to Witten eight to ten times. Hit T.O. about four to six times. How has this turned into rocket science all of a sudden for the offensive geniuses at Big D? BTW ... the solution to their growing problems with T.O. is clear: hire Charles Haley to scare him straight.

MIAMI (-3) over Baltimore
I'm still not sold on Miami at all, and do not think they'll cause the same kind of problems Indy did last week against Baltimore. Baltimore is 2-3, but their three losses are against three of the best teams in the league (Tennessee, Pittsburgh & Indy). And yet, they still can't score, no matter who they play. Miami, at the very least, has shown some creativity in all of their games. The AFC East's standing really could be pretty interesting by the end of this weekend.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-10.5) over San Francisco
If SF can figure out a way to protect O'Sullivan (which they've not yet shown they're capable of doing), they could make this one interesting. O'Sullivan will make a couple of plays, but he'll make more bad ones. Welcome to 49er football. Let me say something about the Giants. I can't remember if I said it before, but I never once so far have said, "The Giants are the best team in football." In fact, it really kind of infuriated me that people seemed so set in that belief. They may very well get things together, but the only win that really impressed me was against the Redskins. The rest of their games were against the worst of the worst. Eli is still erratic. Plax is a ticking time-bomb. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon of a fluke Super Bowl champion. Just not doing it. But yeah, they should cover this week.

New Orleans (+3) over CAROLINA
I went out of my way to praise Carolina last week, and then they went and looked absolutely awful on the road against Tampa Bay. Now, of course, Tampa Bay is pretty good, but looking that bad is still pretty inexcusable. They're facing a worse defense, but a considerably better offense. New Orleans just seems hungry to me, and not winning in fluky ways. If anything, their losses have been fluky. They just seem more "there" than Carolina right now -- esp. with corp of receivers they have (bolstered even more by Colston's return). I normally do not excuse the lack of a conventional running game, but right now in non-playoff football, it may not matter all that much. (Incidentally, Reggie Bush made me wonder recently why so few teams allow points for kick return TDs. I can see not allowing yardage points -- I was in a league that did that once, and we ended with Dante Hall as the number one WR -- but some kind of reward for kick returns seems fitting, esp. for players like Felix Jones and Bush, who also contribute offensively.)

HOUSTON (-8) over Detroit
Houston may be shit-stained to me, but Detroit is outright shit.

Indianapolis (-1) over GREEN BAY
Indianapolis just knows how to win games even when they're not playing like they'd like. Green Bay, not so much. Green Bay can't do well the one thing Indy can't stop: the run. And Indy's pass defense will burn you if given the chance. Green Bay is just not a tight enough unit to survive Indy's opportunism. They make you pay for your mistakes ... and Green Bay is not yet a mistake-free football team. Indy makes their fair share of mistakes, too, of course, but I've just not seen that killer instinct in the Packers. If anything, I've seen the exact opposite.

OAKLAND (+3) over New York Jets
I've no reason for this pick at all. It just seems like one of those random scores you see, pause a second over, and move on. I mean, really, would it shock if you the Raiders had a random win against Brett Favre? The Jets could win this game by forty, and we still wouldn't know if they're any good. They could lose by ten, and we still wouldn't know if they're bad.

WASHINGTON (-7.5) over Cleveland
I'm not yet ready to concede that Washington is awful after one horrible performance in St. Louis. Really, you're almost invited to overlook the Rams. It's probably bad for the Browns that they beat the Giants so badly last week -- now nobody will be sleeping on them. I'd love to see Cleveland turn it around. Braylon Edwards has been sitting on my bench the past couple of weeks, and I'd love to have cause actually to play him. But, I found their success last week a little dubious. One ... you simply cannot win with that many false-start penalties. Well, they obviously did win, but the football gods will not tolerate it on a regular basis. Two ... for some reason the Giants just stopped using Jacobs, despite the fact he was getting close to six yards a carry against Cleveland's not-so-good run defense. I don't think Zorn will make that mistake with Portis, who has suddenly turned into a fantasy monster. (If I can just get him and Westbrook on the same page, I'll cruise through the rest of my season.)

TAMPA BAY (-10.5) over Seattle
Ugh. Flex scheduling cannot come soon enough. Come on ... I live in the Bay Area, so I get stuck with at least two awful games in the day already. Monday night is ruined by the asshats on ESPN. Sunday night is supposed to be the highlight of my day. Not only will this be an awful game in terms of real football, can you think of a game that has less fantasy implications? Earnest Graham ... Warrick Dunn (maybe) ... Engram ... and who else? Poor Seattle. Maybe you should've kicked the football team out and kept the Sonics.

Denver (+3) over NEW ENGLAND
I reserve the right to change this pick sometime Friday afternoon/evening. I need to check up Denver's injury report. But really, I have a hard time seeing how this isn't kind of a replay of last Sunday's game against the Chargers. Marshall and Royal owners' eyes should be lighting up at the prospect of 40-yard bomb after 40-yard bomb.

Last week: 9-5
Season: 42-43-3

Monday, October 13, 2008

On Recent Developments in the Market

Huh ... all these years I was told socialism was not only un-American, bad enough, but that it was bad for business too.

Now, of course, the charge led by Gordon Brown to nationalize banks isn't socialism per se. Oh, but it is entertaining to poke fun at the free-marketeers. One thing to recall when you hear them say, as you certainly will if you are apt to listen to them at all, that the market's rise today (& likely beyond) is an indication that the economy's fundamentals are and were strong, and that all we ever need to do is wait for the bull market to return, is that the floor of this particular fall was established primarily because of governmental action. The "invisible hand," as it were, did not sprinkle its faerie dust and save the day here.

It is, in part for this reason, that it is wrong to assert that because the bull always wins it is somehow a more natural state for the market than the bear. Capitalism does what capitalism must do to survive: if that means incorporating aspects of socialism and/or authoritarianism (e.g., China), it will. That the speculative market craves profit and growth, and a non-speculative economy requires them, and that they will forcibly (if necessary) adapt in such a way to make this happen, is not necessarily the stuff of nature. Continual growth is, rather, the stuff of viruses and cancers, not the natural workings of a healthy body. The market, rather, and by that we must include governments, whose stake in the market is as speculative as any individual or hedge fund manager, responds to the natural -- that is to the vicissitudes & material limitations of time, death, and decay -- and evolves accordingly. The way in which it evolves, however, is not necessary. THAT it evolves can perhaps be said to be "natural" . . . into what it evolves and by what it means, not really. Adaptation and evolution are not singular narratives that explain after the fact how we got to where we are now and forecast where we are headed, as though there were no other courses possible. Rather, to speak of adaptation and evolution is to reflect on the full range of possibilities before us at any time, and to realize that possibilities (that are being) embraced are no more natural than those that were (or are being) rejected or ignored.

Owning up to the unnatural element of nature, as it relates to the market, seems essential in actually coming to grips with its declines and keeping its rises in perspective. More importantly still, it reminds us that thinking otherwise is not only acceptable but fundamental to the processes of nature.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Six

I've thrown out my back and I'm battling a day-long bout of the hiccups, so I've been a little too miserable to post my picks. There's a bit of respite now, so I'm going to take advantage of the window. Here you go . . .

JETS (-5.5) over Cincinnati

If Palmer was playing, I’d take Cincinnati here in a heartbeat, and even advise you to grab Chris Henry. The Jets passing defense is atrocious, after all, and the Bengals were due one break-out game. Good thing I didn’t write this up last night like I normally do. Palmer is now a Friday scratch, the Bengals are stuck with Fitzpatrick, and the Jets are off to the races with a blowout win.

ATLANTA (+3) over Chicago

Chicago has been a weird team to watch. They seem, at times, really intimidating and decent. And then, if you watch closely enough, they look really soft and mediocre. Atlanta is not as bad as we want them to be. I think they scare the NFC South this week with a nice win.

INDIANAPOLIS (-4) over Baltimore

I’m all over the place with this Colts team. I really have no clue what kind of shape they’re in. Granted, they should not have covered last week. And, granted, they should not have beaten the Vikings either. BUT … they did! We can bitch and moan about the cheapness of the wins all we want, but until that stake pierces the heart the vampire he’s still dangerous. I’ve no doubt that Baltimore’s defense will cause a lot of problems, but I have just as little doubt that their offense will make just enough mistakes on their own side of the field to give the Colts a chance at the end to pull out another cheap cover. This will result in me & everybody else writing off the Colts, and then watching them knock make the playoffs as a wildcard and knocking off the AFC West champion in the first round.

Carolina (+1.5) over TAMPA BAY

I’m starting to like this Carolina team. I see them winning this one, and still nobody paying attention to them. They’ll drop a few along the way, but they’re nothing to stop them from peaking at the right time of the season and running through the playoffs. They are solid on both sides of the ball, especially on defense, and give me a reason (barring injury) their offense won’t get better as the season progresses.

Detroit (+13) over MINNESOTA

Maybe this is why that ex-goalie shot himself in the face. He looked at his tv listings and saw he was going to get stuck with this crap-fest. I don’t blame him. I really hate this game. Hate it even more that I feel like I have to take Detroit. I don’t trust Minnesota to score thirteen against LITERALLY the worst defense in the league. At some point the Lions have to find some element of pride, right?

WASHINGTON (-13.5) over St. Louis

Washington, on the hand, I’m learning to trust.

NEW ORLEANS (7.0) over Oakland

Oakland could have some success against New Orleans’ defense. They run the ball pretty well – and this should be bolstered by Fargas coming back. And Russell is competent enough to complete passes if you give him time (much like Frerotte did on Monday against the Saints). So, this game could be closer than what one might expect. But in the end, the Saints just have too much firepower. Even if the Raiders get an early lead, as they’ve been doing all season, I see no reason that the Saints can’t reel off seventeen straight in the second half. Not to mention this is basically a must-win for New Orleans.

Miami (+3) over HOUSTON

For a long time, I’ve been kind of infatuated with the Houston Texans. Really, for no reason at all. Sort of like obsessing over the really plain-looking girl in the office. The one who is never flirtatious. Who never dresses provocatively. Who has been married faithfully for ten years and has four kids. And is likely a Mormon. Really, just let it go. What transpired last Sunday against the Colts was a bit like learning that the object of your office obsession was actually one of the stars of 2 Girls 1 Cup – you just didn’t realize it because at work she wasn’t cover in shit. Likewise, now, the Texans will never but be shit-stained to me.

Jacksonville (+3.5) over DENVER

Let’s see … Denver’s defense is awful. Denver’s offense is playing without Royal and Scheffler. And yet at 4-1 are sitting pretty in the AFC West. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh, and has everything to lose by losing this week. I’ll go with the desperate here.

Dallas (-5) over ARIZONA

There are going to be a lot of people taking Arizona here, I think. They’ve seen the Cowboys stink it up the past couple of weeks, and they’re worried about “America’s Team.” Oh dear, they’re not even the best team in the NFC anymore, we’re told. This may be so, but Arizona is the all-time king in suckering people into overestimating their potential. A bit like, say, Arizona’s most famous politician, no?

SAN FRANCISCO (+5) over Philadelphia

Word has come down today that Westbrook is out. Philly is not just a different team without Westbrook … they may actually think they’re playing a different sport. It’s something to behold, actually. Plus, again, San Francisco is not nearly as bad as what we think they are. They’re bad, don’t get me wrong. But they’re getting close to that coveted “competently bad” tag. I am a bit worried, though, that Sullivan might not make it out of this game alive.

Green Bay (+2) over SEATTLE

Green Bay is suddenly as crappy as Mike Holmgren is fat. I did not see this coming. I thought they’d have a nice bounce-back win last week against Atlanta, but that defense of theirs stunk it up once again. If they do so again, this time against a worse offense, then they’re really toast. This game is not worth watching, listening to, watching recaps of, thinking about head of time. I feel dirty for even writing about it.

SAN DIEGO (-5) over New England
The conventional wisdom is that anytime Norv Turner gives Bellichek five points you take the points and run. Maybe I should, considering San Diego's deer-in-the-headlights game last week in Miami. I think they throw a wrinkle in what we think we know, though, and win convincingly this week.

New York Giants (-7.5) over CLEVELAND
I'm clearly not ready for a world in which Eli Manning is better than Peyton Manning. That must explain my present condition. At least you East Coasters have a reason to go to bed early on Monday.

Last week: 5-7-2
Season: 33-38-3

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Where's the Chimney?

I first heard about rooftop gardens when I was living in Cincinnati a couple of years ago. Apparently, against all odds & expectations, the Dept. of Architecture (I think) at the Univ. of Cincinnati is actually one of the trail-blazers here. It's good to see that city leaders are actually getting behind the idea.

Don't count out the Queen City. In many ways, I miss her dearly.

. . . . I could really go for some Camp Washington Chili right about now.

Friday, October 03, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Five

(Home team in caps.)

GREEN BAY (OFF) over Atlanta
Will he play, or will he sit? This isn't just a question that Green Bay fans are asking of Aaron Rodgers, it is something I've been asking of my fantasy team since he left with a gimpy shoulder last week. I've no clue about the severity of the injury, let alone the pain he's feeling, but it's hard to see him sitting. Seeing him do well, on the other hand, is different.

Tennessee (-3) over BALTIMORE
Damn you, Chris Johnson! I sat him last week, reasoning that he'd have a hard time getting much done against the Vikings' front line. One quarter in, and my decision had already cost me a win. I'm not making the same mistake this time around. Baltimore's defense is looking as good as it ever was, but I think a little caution is merited -- esp. when playing against what is quickly becoming a Tennessee juggernaut. Thus far, Baltimore has faced the likes of Jamal Lewis and Rashard Mendenhall. This week, I think ... I hope ... Johnson exposes them like he did Minnesota.

San Diego (-6.5) over MIAMI
This San Diego team is like most of Leonardo DiCaprio's latest movies. Flashy lead actor that everybody thinks actually has legitimate chops, but nothing I'd ever spend money to see. Have you seen the preview of his new one with Kate Winslet? It looks like Mad Men, doesn't it -- except for the minor detail that the movie looks like a bayonet to the balls. The problems are legion -- a slow-starting LT, and a woeful defense. LT owners, take out, he rewards you this week. The stats behind Miami's defense lie. As for the defense, I do not see Ronnie Brown replicating the performance he had against New England. Without that, I'm not sure Miami can keep up. This game, I think, will tell us a lot about what we can expect out of both teams the rest of the way. I could be saying that, though, because it's one of the games I'm stuck with out here and desperately need a reason to care.

HOUSTON (+3) over Indianapolis
I really can't be picking against the Colts, off a humiliating loss two weeks ago and a bye last week, can I? Oh, wait, I guess I did. Houston has some things working in their favor. Slaton appears to have the goods to do the kind of things the Colts cannot stop; Schaub actually plays pretty well at Houston; and Houston's WRs are more competent than they're given credit for being. Indy could very well gut out a win here, and nobody would be surprised. From what I can tell, unlike the rest of the league, nobody in the AFC South is actually afraid of the Colts. They may not know too well what it's like to beat the Colts in the grand scheme of things, but they do know they're beatable in the regular season. This is why Indy's divisional games are often so entertaining.

Seattle (+7) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Have you heard The Roots' "Birthday Girl"? There are hundreds of reasons this song shouldn't work on me. It comes at the end of one of the hardest-hitting CDs in recent memory, filled with brilliant social commentary and incendiary lyrics ... and absolutely doesn't fit the tone of the album at all. More importantly, it features the lead singer of Fall Out Boy. A damnable offense normally. And yet, somehow, it works. It all works. It's not a great song, but it makes me laugh every time I hear it. The moral: sometimes in life the recipe doesn't tell you whether the dish will be good. I've said some harsh things about Seattle this season, and I think it's been with good cause. But this week, against the Giants at home (always a scary prospect for Eli), I think Seattle surprises a few people here.

Washington (+6) over PHILADELPHIA
I don't get how Philly is favored by this much. Did Vegas not watch the Dallas game? Or maybe they assume they only won because Dallas decided to play with one hand tied behind their back -- a like McCain, I think, in choosing Palin. Either way, Washington seems really disrespected here. They deserve our respect, if but for a week.

CAROLINA (-9.5) over Kansas City
Kansas City comes back down to earth this week. Carolina isn't a great team, but they don't do anything badly either. Denver had a stupid loss coming. It was no indication of life in the Chiefs. Big week for owners of Panther players, I say.

Chicago (-3) over DETROIT
I think I've said it here. And if not, I should've. Chicago is going to be a tough out all year. Even in comes where they should win, like this one, I think they'll make it tough on themselves. Orton has shown, though, that he punishes you if can't bring any pressure. And as luck has it, 'can't bring any pressure' is what Detroit's defense yells every time they break huddle.

DENVER (-3) over Tampa Bay
So begins the quick jumping from the Bronco bandwagon. Not so quickly, people. THe AFC West is still wide open. This is going to be one of those games that slips through the cracks for casual football fans. But I think it is also one that a lot of people will be switching to via DirectTv. Tampa Bay is a curious team. So far, they seem to have an ability to play up or down with whoever they're playing. I expect much the same on Sunday. They have just enough juice to stick with Denver's defense if it turns into a shoot-out, and just enough defense also to turn it into a ugly slug-fest. Denver puts them in a bind, though, because they can thrown AND score points. It could be a replay of Tampa's first week loss to New Orleans.

Buffalo (+1) over ARIZONA
Buffalo just wins. It's rarely pretty, but have they given us any reason to pick against them yet?

Cincinnati (+17) over DALLAS
Just on general principle, I can't pick somebody -- esp. not this weird Dallas team -- to cover a spread this big.

New England (-3) over SAN FRANCISCO
I realize I'm picking against a lot of home teams. That doesn't bode well for my record. Oh well, that's already going to hell anyway. There is one good thing about having SF games on my tv each week. It's always fun to see QBs get crushed on nearly every play. With luck, J. T. Sullivan may soon replace David Klingler as the QB I've seen sacked most.

JACKSONVILLE (-3) over Pittsburgh
Both of these teams have an uncanny ability to disappoint opposing fans. Your team is on the verge of pulling off a nice win, and yet they always find a way to rip your heart out. Interestingly, they also have an uncanny ability to have their own hearts ripped out. Neither team goes into that good night quietly. This one will not be pretty. In fact, it could be three-and-a-half boring quarters, followed by a late flurry. I'm taking Jacksonville only because they're healthier.

NEW ORLEANS (-3) over Minnesota
The curse of Daunte Culpepper endureth!

Last Week: 5-8
Season: 28-31-1

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Safe For Work Porn

I'm posting this on the weekend, so you won't have to determine whether it is in fact safe for work.

Friday, September 26, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Four

An unexpected blogging hiatus this week cannot deter me from my football picks! The need my bad picks, I told myself, like McCain needs an international crisis. Who am I to deny you the medicine for what ails you?

(Home team in caps.)

San Francisco (+5) over NEW ORLEANS
Maybe I'm turning into a Bay area homer with my picks, but I can't resist taking the 49ers on the road. They've already endured the insanity of playing up in Seattle. The only thing marginally frightening about playing in New Orleans is a broken levee or two. Offensively, New Orleans has an edge -- with the belated arrival of the Reggie Bush-era. But, because the 49ers actually field something that resembles a defense, I don't think the different is as big as you might immediately think. I'm not overly confident in this choice, since despite its statistical strength SF's defense is still giving up quite a few points, but it's one I'd regret not stepping out on.

Arizona (+1.5) over NEW YORK JETS
This game may very well tell us whether the balance of power has shifted to the NFC, after years of AFC domination. It's hard to say for sure, but Arizona's defense actually looks to have some spunk to it. Certainly more fire so far than Miami's. Consider this: the fact the Jets have played only one team with a legitimate passing attack (San Diego), they rank 21st in passing defense. Boldin and Fitzgerald could drop them a few more spots down before the week is through.

CINCINNATI (-3.5) over Cleveland
I'm not giving Cleveland anymore credit. If they can't get anything going there, Anderson is going to be another highly-paid backup QB. I didn't watch a second of their game last week against Baltimore, and still can't fathom how they were beaten so badly. A lot of what ails the Bengals will be solved if they can keep Chris Perry on track. That inability of that defense to prevent a big play at a big moment, though, has been a downfall for years. If anything can shake up Cleveland, if but for a week, it's this game. Braylon Edwards owners, don't give up on him just yet.

Green Bay (+1) over TAMPA BAY
Tampa Bay is a capable team. But they really shouldn't be favored in this game. Losing to Dallas last week should not be a big set-back for Green Bay. They're still the class of the NFC North. They're still loaded offensively. And Dallas was clearly had its A-game going. Not to mention Ryan Grant was still not 100%. From what I understand, he's nearly there now. With a play-action option comes the deep threat that is Greg Jennings. The only problem with Green Bay, so far, is its defense. The playmakers on each of the teams they've faced have gashed them in a bad way. With that in mind, Earnest Graham owners, take heart. He should bounce back from his horrible showing in Chicago.

CAROLINA (-7) over Atlanta
I can't figure out this Carolina team. They have played a hell of a schedule so far, and come out 2-1. Not bad. But the numbers have not been sources of confidence. Not to mention their atrocious record of covering spreads at home. That said, I think this is the week Delhomme and Steve Smith really get to shine, and Michael Turner gets reminded once again that running against Detroit and Kansas City is a very different thing running against a quality defense.

TENNESSEE (-3) over Minnesota
This should be a really fun game for people like me who love defense over offense. The balance of Tennessee's defense so far is almost as shocking as the imbalance of Minnesota's. I foresee good games for Bironas and Longwell here.

JACKSONVILLE (-7) over Houston
Jacksonville's offense should basically come in with the same game plan as last week against Indianapolis. Run. Houston has been woeful so far -- giving up around 170 yards p/game on the road. I'm really intrigued to see if Slaton can pick up where he left off last week, against a worst defense. But, even if he does, like last week, it just won't be enough. I see Houston playing scrappy, keeping it close for two-and-a-half quarters, and Jacksonville's two-headed running attack wear them down.

Denver (-9) over KANSAS CITY
Buffalo (-8) over ST. LOUIS
Not much to say about either of these game. Both Denver and Buffalo have their problems, but KC and St. Louis, both with newly installed backup QBs (because, yeah, Bulger was the cause of that trainwreck) seem as capable against them as Sarah Palin was when interviewed by Katie Couric.

San Diego (-7.5) over OAKLAND
I'd love to take Oakland at home. Not because I'm a fan -- but only because it would add another level of fun to the whole drama playing out here, between owner & coach, fan & owner, organization & media. Really, it's a delight. San Diego, however, is going to beat the holy hell out of them this week -- and for a brief moment, we'll remember how bad they are on the field.

Washington (+11) over DALLAS
It seems like a no-brainer to pick Dallas, I know. I really should, too. It just seems too easy to do so. As good as they are, Dallas still is pretty bone-headed. And I really could see them somehow sleep-walking into a divisional game after a big win last week. Plus, I grew up a 'Skins fan, and even now that I've grown out of that phase of my life, I can't yet go against them against the 'Boys. (BTW ... I read Boys Will be Boys this week. Brilliant book. Buy it. Check it out. Steal it. Whatever. If you're a fan of football, you'll love this book.)

Philadelphia (-3) over CHICAGO
Chicago's defense is no slouch, but Philadelphia's is something to behold. I like the Bears, but I see Orton making one too many mistakes here, and giving a weakened Eagle offense just enough leverage to get by. This is, however, a bigger game for the Bears. A statement game, saying that the opening win against Indy wasn't a fluke. (My hypothesis: it wasn't a fluke -- Indy is actually that mediocre right now.) It pains me, but I might have to sit Westbrook for this one. This is probably the game I'm most excited about this week.

PITTSBURGH (-5) over Baltimore
Parker out. Big Ben's nursing a gimpy shoulder. Pittsburgh offensive line exposed by Philadelphia last week. Baltimore, against all odds, actually looking good on both sides of the ball. But in the end, I've picked against Pittsburgh way too many times, only to see them defy my expectations. Plus, it's Flacco's first encounter with a Pittsburgh crowd. That doesn't bode well, no matter the injuries for the home team.

Last week: 6-10
Season: 23-23-1

Friday, September 19, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Three

(Home team in caps.)

TENNESSEE (-5) over Houston
The Chris Johnson-era (or, maybe even more precisely, the Albert Haynesworth-era) of the Titans would seem to hold a lot more promise than the Vince Young-era. I'd like to see Young back out on the field and doing well. I'm not enjoying his collapse. If Houston can get anything going on the ground with Slaton & Green, this one could prove interesting.

Arizona (+3) over WASHINGTON
It's weird to think, but I actually trust Arizona more than I do Washington. Plus, Boldin is playing out of his mind right now. Go with the hot hand.

Carolina (+3.5) over MINNESOTA
All hail Gus Frerotte and Bernard Berrian, saviors of the Twin Cities! Yeah that makes sense. Remember how I said last week Jacksonville was a formerly underrated team that is now overrated. Minnesota is just instantly overrated. Hope you're in Barry Sanders Five, Adrian Peterson, 'cause he'll be counseling you on putting up amazing numbers for a crappy-to-mediocre team for most of your career.

ATLANTA (-5.5) over Kansas City
I hope there's a good NASCAR race on instead for those of you stuck with this one. Good week to start Turner & Norwood, though, if you have them in your fantasy league. The Chiefs' run defense is non-existent.

NEW ENGLAND (-12.5) over Miami
The Patriots are back, apparently. At least this is what ESPN tells me. My first reaction to this line was, "No fucking way." My second reaction was, "Well, maybe." My third & final reaction, "It is Miami, after all."

Oakland (+9.5) over BUFFALO
I like Buffalo a lot. And I think they win this game. I just think this line is a little inflated. I don't think Buffalo will ever go up enough that Oakland will feel compelled actually to start passing the ball. If they continue to grind it out with Bush and McFadden (I know, it depends on McFadden's health), Oakland should keep this one reasonably close. Enjoy the Raider sideshow, Buffalo -- it'll take your mind off your own issues.

NEW YORK GIANTS (-13.5) over Cincinnati
This week, two friends of mine have been negotiating a trade: Wes Welker for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Neither are putting up stellar numbers. Despite the fact the Bengals are 0-2, I still see more upside for Housh. Just not this week.

CHICAGO (-3) over Tampa Bay
Brian Griese returns to Soldiers Field. The drama! How did this not make primetime? Fortunately for fantasy owners, Joey Galloway is likely out. So, you won't have to deal with the heartache/headache that is the decision whether he's worth starting.

DENVER(-5.5) over New Orleans
Another fun one in Denver. I really could see this going either way. Possible let-down game for Denver. And who knows what you're ever going to get with New Orleans. Denver's defense is really awful, so Brees & Bush could make enough plays. But Denver's offensive attack is scary. I think they're a little like the Bengals from a few years ago. Watch out your knees, Jay.

SAN FRANCISCO (-4) over Detroit
This game represents, in full, why I want to move away from the Bay Area. Well, that and the $2000 rent. This comes down to the 49ers defense. They can't stop the run: but Detroit has nobody to run. The 49ers have a pretty good pass defense: and Detroit has a trigger-happy QB prone to throwing untimely interceptions. Oh, and while I'm dishing fantasy advice, Gore should have a nice week.

SEATTLE (-9.5) over St. Louis
You really have to feel for Seattle sports fans this year. So many of them hoped this would be a nice send-off year for Mike Holmgren. I never quite understood the optimism, or the random Super Bowl picks by a few national commentators. Their offense's shining star right now is Julius "I peaked way too soon" Jones. The defense should win this one, possibly with another couple of TDs. If you got 'em, start 'em.

Indianapolis (-5) over Jacksonville
One of the hardest games this week to pick. Jacksonville is still without Jerry Porter (surprise, suckers -- a number two receiver, at best, anyway), their remaining wide-receiving corp is comprised mostly of number three receivers, their offensive line is in disarray, and I'm running more on a Sunday than Jones-Drew and Taylor combined. BUT ... Indy's offensive line is possibly in even worse shape, they're without Bob Sanders, and Marvin Harrison couldn't win a footrace with Jeff Saturday. So, I don't know. Indy still has Manning. Manning hates to lose. And I can't imagine they start 0-2 at their new building.

Cleveland (+2.5) over BALTIMORE
I basically see Cleveland's offensive problems being parallel to Cincinnati's -- they can't get much worse, but they could get a lot better. Not necessarily to the heights they've been in the recent past. But to a level they win games they should win. For examples, games against Baltimore. The question I've yet to hear is how much longer before Brady Quinn makes an appearance -- in a game, not on the cover of Out.

PHILADELPHIA (-3.5) over Pittsburgh
Philadelphia is one ugly botched hand-off away from being the most impressive team in the league. More importantly, I'd like to thank the three people who drafted ahead of me for allowing Brian Westbrook to fall into his allotted spot on my fantasy team roster.

GREEN BAY (+3) over Dallas
This is a wonderful way to cap what should be a great Sunday of football. You might not like Dallas, but they put on a hell of a show, don't they? (Not to mention, they make great material for a book.) It didn't hurt them last week, but Ryan Grant's hamstring injury could this week. The euphoria of the moment, playing Dallas at Lambeau during primetime, could be enough though to make a young man forget his pain. That and some of Favre's old painkillers. More than anything else, I'm not sold on Dallas' secondary, and Green Bay still has the best wide receiving corp in the business. Slow T.O. at all, a bit like Philly did in the second half on Monday, and you're golden.

New York Jets (+9) over SAN DIEGO
San Diego is the hard luck story of the first quarter of the season. I know they got screwed, but it's not as though they didn't have a chance to stop the two-point conversion. Of course, San Diego has no defense, so this is obviously asking too much. The worst thing about the Denver game ending the way it did is that for the rest of the week we only heard about the referee, and not Antonio Cromartie. Cotchery, Coles, & Stuckey have to like their chances anytime they find themselves anywhere near him. Hard to see how Favre doesnn't pick San Diego team apart?

Last week: 7-7-1
Season: 17-13-1

Wall Street: We're Saved From Economic Doom!

.... or are we??

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good Question

From Steve Benen:

Let's also not lose sight of the broader pattern. McCain thinks the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia was "the first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the Cold War." He thinks Iraq and Pakistan share a border. He believes Czechoslovakia is still a country. He's been confused about the difference between Sudan and Somalia. He's been confused about whether he wants more U.S. troops in Afghanistan, more NATO troops in Afghanistan, or both. He's been confused about how many U.S. troops are in Iraq. He's been confused about whether the U.S. can maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. He's been confused about Iran's relationship with al Qaeda. He's been confused about the difference between Sunni and Shi'ia. McCain, following a recent trip to Germany, even referred to "President Putin of Germany." All of this incoherence on his signature issue.

I'm curious. What do you suppose the reaction would be from the political establishment if Barack Obama had made these mistakes over the course of the campaign? What would reporters, pundits, and Republicans have to say about Obama's ability to lead a complex world in a time of war and uncertainty?

I think an intellectually honest person would agree that if Obama had made these same mistakes he'd be labeled "clueless" on foreign policy. So, why the double-standard?
Good question.

Of course, we know the answer. As we rehearsed a few weeks ago, McCain has an adult perspective on these matters. Free pass for the adults when they flub details.

6 A.M. Anger

Why the fuck would a landlord put a smoke detector that repeatedly screams a high pitch, dog-depressing beep when the battery is a low in a place that a tenant cannot easily get to it without a 30-foot ladder? WHY? WHY???

"My problem child"

I caught the History Channel's excellent documentary From Peyote to LSD when it first aired back in April, and have since then, from time to time, thought that I should look and see if it is streaming online anywhere. As luck would have it, it is.

Normally, I'm the first to laugh at the idea of middle-aged white guys embracing shamanism. I worked for one of these guys last year. The mental image of him shirtless, with no doubt expensive paints adorning his pot-belly (with the all the significance squiggly lines can convey), is burned into me in such a way that I can only describe it as horrific. Be that as it may, the peyote cult is still really fascinating. If you agree, or if you want your disbelief challenged, this documentary is a brilliant way to spend 90 minutes of your life.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

George Saunders Will Save Us

Man, that post last night was kind of depressing. Apologies. It'll never happen again. Until it happens again.

In the meantime, we still have George Saunders to keep us sane.

So, when Barack Obama says he will put some lipstick on my pig, I am, like, Are you calling me a pig? If so, thanks! Pigs are the most non-Élite of all barnyard animals. And also, if you put lipstick on my pig, do you know what the difference will be between that pig and a pit bull? I’ll tell you: a pit bull can easily kill a pig. And, as the pig dies, guess what the Hockey Mom is doing? Going to her car, putting on more lipstick, so that, upon returning, finding that pig dead, she once again looks identical to that pit bull, which, staying on mission, the two of them step over the dead pig, looking exactly like twins, except the pit bull is scratching his lower ass with one frantic leg, whereas the Hockey Mom is carrying an extra hockey stick in case Todd breaks his again. But both are going, like, Ha ha, where’s that dumb pig now? Dead, that’s who, and also: not a smidge of lipstick.

A lose-lose for the pig.

There’s a lesson in that, I think.

Minor Details

I find myself dwelling tonight on the minor details of memory. Instead of sleep, I recall the bench where, each morning, I come with the dog. She likes to sit here, and does not seem to mind my company. The benches here at that hour are generally wet with dew and/or the spray of the sprinklers. We sit here, sometimes for up to thirty minutes, and occasionally watch the fog sneak above and below, and sometimes between the highest and lowest points of, the nearby bridge that connects Oakland to Alameda.

If a cloud can be construed to appear vaguely as something lifelike--a cat eating a dog bone, a dog with a boner, or a man peeing onto a leaf--then fog is a bit like its Golemesque cousin. Its lifelike qualities are more than appearance. It feels organic in a way that we would probably not allow other atmospheric phenomenon. Fog seems in a way closer to being "real"--or, at the very least, hiding something real.

In popular imagination, fog is the precursor to doom that clouds rarely are, despite the fact clouds are far more likely to bring destruction. Maybe this is because of fog's immediacy, its closeness, the fact that we can sometimes touch fog and shudder at the ghostly fingers we imagine on the verge of meeting ours.

Not long ago, I found what fog is hiding. I took a long drive along the northern California and Oregon coast. At some point, I forget where, I encountered a beach unlike one I'd ever encountered. The sand was littered with death: driftwood, vacated shells, dried seaweed, and the trunk of a tree. The ocean was situated behind a smoky layer of coastal fog, peeking through occasionally, and then hiding again as though a shy child. It all smelled and sounded like a beach, but it looked as though the staging of the apocalypse.

If in fact history did end there that day, inside the fog, and everything beyond it been a hellish nightmare, much would be explained.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"It got to the point of ejaculation.”

Bill Simmons mentions this in his Friday column, so I would imagine you're likely to hear more about the public-masturbatory exploits of former 49er & Cowboy Charles Haley over the next couple of days. Because the site Kissing Suzie Kolber will almost certainly receive a substantial uptick in its traffic, on account of people Googling "Charles Haley penis," I thought I'd just post a direct link for the chosen few who frequent this here den of ill repute.

UPDATE: Another great Charles Haley story has come to my attention via a friend of Silentio, about a reporter who just happened to cover football in San Francisco and Dallas during Haley's decade-long reign of terror. I really regret not going to journalism school.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

NFL Predictions: Week Two

I totally forgot to blog about my Week One picks. You'll have to take my word for it that I went 10-6. I missed on Jacksonville-Tennessee, New York (Jets)-Miami, Pittsburgh-Houston (STUPID!!!), Detroit-Atlanta, San Diego-Carolina, and Indy-Chicago. To be fair, I shouldn't be credited with getting the New England-Chiefs game right, but it reverted to a Pick 'Em on Yahoo when Vegas couldn't get enough people to bet on Kansas City (even after they were getting nearly seventeen points). I'll take it though.

From here on out, I'll post weekly picks on Thursday. Feel free to abuse me on my stupidity before and/or after the games have been played.

(Home team in caps.)

DETROIT (+3) over Green Bay
I'll concede that I'm pretty iffy on this pick. I liked what I saw out of Aaron Rodgers on Monday -- so much so that I ditched Carson Palmer and picked him up instead. But, I think they've a few things working against them this week. Not only are they coming off an emotional win, Ryan Grant is nursing a tweaked hamstring, and I think Detroit is due a couple more TDs than they could manage last week against Atlanta. They're a bad team, sure, but that offense should be better they showed.

New Orleans (PK) over WASHINGTON
New Orleans won the best-played game last week, so they should be rewarded at least a little bit of credit. Washington, on the other hand, is due nothing after their stink-bomb performance against the Giants. Even without Colston, I think New Orleans has enough offense to pull it off on the road.

CINCINNATI (-1) over Tennessee
How can I do this? Cincinnati was absolutely awful. They didn't get shell-shocked like the Raiders, but I think they might've been worse. Whereas Tennessee beat the Jags into the ground. And it's not as though playing at Paul Brown Stadium is a huge advantage for the Bengals. BUT ... they have a certain something whenever it comes to playing Tennessee. Palmer could very well make me regret not having him on my fantasy team this week. Plus, who knows what Tennessee will get out of Haynesworth, who apparently rubbed dirt on his concussed brain last week and finished the game. We saw last year what happens to the Titans when he's not in. (I'm avoiding saying anything about Vince Young, because I think Jason Whitlock deserves the final word for now on him. The great thing about Whitlock's column is that it demands you think about it, rather than begging you to agree or disagree instinctively. That doesn't happen too often in sports writing.)

KANSAS CITY (-3.5) over Oakland
I foresee a full-blown meltdown in Oakland after this game. Kiffin is the first coach fired this season. Damon Huard will shock us all with his efficiency, and may very well fool somebody in your fantasy league to pick him up.

CAROLINA (-3) over Chicago
We'll know if Chicago's defense is for real again after this game. Carolina's offensive unit is just a lot more with it right now than Indy's -- they held their own against a dinged up SD defense, but one that is still pretty good. Two in a row on the road from Orton is asking too much. If Carolina wins this, the rest of the NFC will immediately pay attention. Steve Smith's return awaits.

New York Giants (-8.5) over ST. LOUIS
Wow. St. Louis was spectacularly bad against Philly. I don't think they will be THAT bad this week, since the Giants likely don't have the same kind of firepower as Philly. But, it won't be pretty either. St. Louis fans, stay home so your city isn't stuck with this one on their tv! As a Bay Area fan, I know all too well the evil that is the shitty sold-out NFL game.

Buffalo (+5.5) over JACKSONVILLE
Now, I'm not all-in with Buffalo. (Unlike my friend up in Buffalo who sees them winning TWO Super Bowls this year, to make up for the sins against them.) Seattle, though, is set to be VERY bad. Buffalo did to them last week what you're supposed to against bad teams: beat them within an inch of their life, and be sure to take out their remaining wide receiver. Jacksonville, on the other hand, looked lost in week one. Granted, they always look kind of lost against Tennessee. But they gave off the vibe of a team that used to be underrated and very quickly became overrated. Kind of like Nicole Kidman as an actress. Give them a couple of weeks without their starting offensive line, Jones-Drew's requisite six weeks to get going, Jerry Porter's lifetime of unrealized potential, and they'll be back among the ranks of underrated soon enough. Just in time to take Buffalo's place.

MINNESOTA (+2) over Indianapolis
Indy fans, I know you're saying, "He just hates us." But you have to believe me, I really wanted to take you in this game. But, consider this. Minnesota had a shot to win on Monday in Green Bay, despite Tarvaris Jackson's horrible performance and a fairly underwhelming defensive display. What happens when they're playing at home against a really dinged up team whose timing is way off? It's really hard to see Indy go 0-2. But, if there is a year for it to happen, it is this year. If Indy scores ten points early, though, Minnesota's toast.

San Francisco (+7) over SEATTLE
God, I hate that I'm going to be stuck with this game on Sunday afternoon. Anyway. I saw today that Peter King is picking Seattle to win this one 40-17. Now, I can see picking Seattle to win. They're playing at home after all, and a contest between two shitty teams can often be settled by the home-field advantage, but 40-17!!!! How in the hell will Seattle score 40 points? Is Julius Jones going to have a career day? -- if so, that's 150 yards and two TDs. Where do the rest come from? San Francisco is pretty bad, true. And, yes, they're still starting Jack Quinn's Bar & Grill. But they weren't as bad on Sunday as a lot of people say. Well, okay, strike that, maybe they were -- but why does Seattle's badness get a free pass? Maybe I'm just responding to King's prediction here. A TD win over SF doesn't seem unrealistic. But, screw it. I'm sticking with it.

TAMPA BAY (-7) over Atlanta
ARIZONA (-6.5) over Miami
HOUSTON (-4.5) over Baltimore
Nothing to say about any of these three. I'll be stunned if Tampa Bay doesn't cover. Considerably less so if Arizona doesn't against Miami. And legitimately haven't a clue about the third one. Flip a coin -- it'll probably be more interesting than the game.

DENVER (+1.5) over San Diego
I know they were playing Oakland on Monday, but Denver actually looked really good. See my rationale for picking Buffalo for why I think this shouldn't be counted against them. San Diego is without their defensive leader. LT has a bum toe, and will soon have a sore thumb from biting it to suppress his tears. Philip River is in frat boy grudge mode against Cutler. I think they're due for self-combustion in Denver, thus continuing their streak of being awful in September and scaring us all in December.

NEW YORK JETS (-1.5) over New England
I think I'm supposed to pick New England to overcome adversity and piss off the whole of America by still being good even without Tom Brady. I'm not seeing it. The Jets weren't great last week, but they were serviceable. Plus, they'll be pumped up for this game in a way that nobody is against Miami. No storybook ending for New England and its "I'm not a QB but I played one for the New England Patriots" QB this week.

CLEVELAND (-6) over Pittsburgh
This is probably the pick I'll regret the most. I never pick Pittsburgh to win, and they always do. But, Cleveland HAS to be better than they played last week. Don't they? I think I'm hearing "No" from the majority of you. Well, at the very least, they want to repay the Steelers for thumping them in Cleveland last year. Yeah, that's my justification for this stupid pick.

DALLAS (-7) over Philadelphia
This game is so good. It's just too bad that it's stuck with those ass-hats from ESPN calling it. They will destroy what is otherwise a perfect match-up. I'll be cheering for Philly, but think Dallas is just too complete a team right now. A little concerned about Barber's health. But not enough to think they don't cover.

Sarah Palin ♥ Rapists

I know it is sexist to criticize Sarah Palin's actual policies. She is irreproachable. So, I won't say this as a criticism, but merely as an observation.

Sarah Palin loves rapists.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Renewed Mind is the Key

This is just stunning. Absolutely stunning.

John McCain ♥ Pedophiles

Why does John McCain want to protect children from knowing the difference between good touches and bad touches? What does John McCain have to hide here? I understand the need to shore up his credentials with the crucial NAMBLA constituency, but this seems a little too open. Or is America ready to make this a truly historic election, between a black man and a pedophile?

My friends, I think not. As a friend of Silentio just said to me via IM, Obama's most suitable response to this is (in light of the duplicitous turn McCain has decided to take his own campaign): "John McCain: Wrong to be in a room alone with your prepubescent daughter. Wrong for America."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Pre-Game Coin Toss Makes Jacksonville Jaguars Realize Randomness of life

Reformed Maverick

This is well, good, and hilarious .... but, where Brando's fall from grace was greeted by laughter, McCain's fall may well be greeted by an inauguration. Give the people what they want, I guess.

Now, we can laugh at this all we want, but as has been the lesson of this blog for years, The Onion is right:

Smiling Now Primarily Used To Communicate Anger

The smile, a facial expression traditionally used to convey joy, pleasure, or amusement, is now mainly used to suppress rage, according to a five-year study released Monday by the Countenance Institute. "More than 85 percent of smiles are involuntary responses to mounting anger," the study read in part. "In addition, the length and intensity of these smiles directly correspond to the amount of anger the smile is concealing. A smile that lasts less than two seconds represents just a passing annoyance, while a smile of four to eight seconds indicates a genuine hatred for its target." The study noted that individuals smiling for more than one minute while nodding and baring their teeth are most likely preparing to kill the person they are smiling at.

Friday, September 05, 2008

“I’m a radical, but I hate radicals. I’d forget the revolution over a glass of wine.”

There's a really fine article in The Believer about the life & times of Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. If you don't know what that is, you're in good company. In the '20s, Haldeman-Julius set up shop in Girard, Kansas, and through his insanely popular "Little Blue Books" mail-order business contributed to the town's bizarre notoriety as a hotbed of socialism and radicalism.

Initially called “The Appeal’s Pocket Series,” individual titles sold for twenty-five cents. From the beginning of his publishing project, Haldeman-Julius made an effort to promote controversial rationalist and sex-education writings not available from other outlets. At a time when many working-class Americans didn’t finish high school—let alone attend college—his books aimed to inform, provoke discussion, and promote independence of thought. Many of the books were public-domain reprints of classics, which included “all the famous authors from Aesop to Zarilla”—though he also hired freelancers to write original books, often on political or how-to topics. Protofeminist Margaret Sanger, for example, was recruited to write about birth control (a taboo subject at the time). Sherwood Anderson contributed short stories, and Theodore Dreiser penned How the Great Corporations Rule the United States. Scores of lesser-known writers weighed in on various other topics, from Great Pirates and Their Deeds to How to Make All Kinds of Candy. An atheist himself, Haldeman-Julius made it a point to publish excerpts from sacred books as well as tracts on skepticism. “I am against all religion—I think the Bible is a dull book,” he later wrote. “Yet I print the Bible, and in the face of an appallingly low annual sale I keep the book in the series. I do this out of stubbornness. I am determined, because I know I am prejudiced against the book, to give it more than a fair chance. Could supporters of the Bible ask any more of one who does not like it?”

There's more where that came from in the article, you crazy radicals!

A Tip of the Hat

I'm late linking to this, but I've only recently come out of blogging hibernation. (That's right, if you haven't noticed, tell your friends, Silentio is open for business again. The whore is ready for one and all ... at the same time.) My friend Adam has co-written a splendid post on The Dark Knight slamming the argument that the movie is a paean to militaristic neo-liberalism, insisting instead that the anarchic Joker is the true hero. Also, this is one of the few instances where the comments supplement a blog post and make it even better.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

On the Radio

Slavoj Žižek is in town this weekend, and found time for an interview on KQED. Really timely stuff -- on Obama, Batman, Kung-Fu Panda, flash mobs, and even Burning Man. For those interested, it can be heard here.

Wednesday Apocalypse Watch

First, a little mood music.

"We could very well be in that quick slide downward in terms of passing a tipping point," said senior scientist Mark Serreze at the data center in Boulder, Colo. "It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now."

NASA ice scientist Jay Zwally added that within "five to less than 10 years," the Arctic could be free of sea ice in the summer.

"It also means that climate warming is also coming larger and faster than the models are predicting, and nobody's really taken into account that change yet," he said. (courtesy, LA Times)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How To Survive The Republican National Convention

If you're like me, you are a glutton for punishment and will inevitably find yourself watching some of the Republican National Convention this week. Now, we each have our own reason for subjecting ourselves to this -- morbid fascination, liberal hope to understand, etc. -- but none of us will be able to survive without proper precautions. In addition to copious amounts of alcohol and/or mind-altering substances, one also needs an appropriate soundtrack. You will need something that will at first blush harmonize with and be approprite to the drone of the speakers, and thus not immediately overwhelming, but will ultimately turn everything on its head and make the time you invested in watching not an entire waste of time. The drugs and alcohol will do most of the heavy lifting here, but appropriate music that does not kill the buzz helps. Tonight, I'm experimenting with La Monte Young's Eternal Music. Feel free to join me:

Part One

Part Two

This is What American Democracy Looks Like

(via Rushkoff) I have to first mention that I’m wasn’t at the DNC protests nor am I going to the RNC protests. I’m staying in DC doing media support and jail support from afar. I went to NYC for the 2004 RNC protests and I was, in the following order, beaten with a nightclub, wrapped in a giant orange net by the cops, set on fire (swear I’m not making that up), beaten again, arrested, put in a cage, hit by a cop car. So I’m taking it easy this time around.

The protests at the DNC are being organized under a couple of different umbrella groups. Broadly, it includes everything from progressives to anti-authoritarian radicals, with a lot of students and youth under 30 and vets.

The conditions were pretty poor. The police had also erected a mini-Gitmo of free-speech zones–protest pens–into which to corral the bulk of demonstrators and any kind of activity was almost immediately curbed. The other major problem was that there was effectively zero press coverage, even among liberal bloggers. I spent my week seeing liberal blogs excitedly gush about what was going on inside the convention and rail about Republican radicalism of the last eight years while I was cradling a phone in my hand listening to friends tell me stories of being beaten up a couple of blocks away.

That lack of coverage in a lot of respects really emboldens the police and allows them to get away with just about anything, aside from it absolutely impoverishing our ability to engage in a reasoned analysis of how power works and whether the Democrat vs. Republican frame actually depicts anything even close to reality.

And, speaking of police brutality, it’s pretty notable that they’ve been consistently targeting press. There was a documented incident where an ABC news producer was knocked down and arrested trying to get footage of delegates and donors. The police also detained and seized the equipment of the Glass Bead Collective (a well-known indymedia group). There was also the knocking down and detainment of a Code Pink member–probably the worst bit was seeing her get shoved down, the footage then cutting to her being interviewed by journalists, and then the cop walking up and grabbing her in the middle of the interview and dragging her off.

But that kind of one-time sensational pushing doesn’t really capture the full scale of what was going on. Marches were immediately surrounded by walls of police, people were told to leave, and then they weren’t given any exit to leave and those who tried were arrested. There was a 100+ person mass arrest after the police simply decided that a large group of people milling about looked “suspicious” and were carrying rocks (which were never found, naturally), a convergence space was raided, and vehicles were simply stopped and searched and equipment was seized.

My connection to this is that I’m part of DC Students for a Democratic Society, which is part of the national Students for a Democratic Society organization. We’ve become known for an event called Funk theWar, which is a Reclaim the Streets style event–we like to call it a Militant Mobile Disco, and we’ve been called “suburban terrorists” by a couple of right-wing writers, which is offensive as we all live in DC. A good chunk of people in my chapter and a lot of people in SDS went to the DNC and are also going to the RNC protests.

I have to note though that this hasn’t stopped with the end of the DNC. In the Twin Cities, where the RNC is taking place, there was a massive raid on a convergence space with all inside (several hundred) detained in handcuffs (including a four-year-old) for hours simultaneous to a raid of three private homes around the area and then a raid on the base of I-Witness Video, a documentary outfit that specializes in recording incidents of police brutality and proved instrumental in getting people’s charges dropped after the 2004 RNC. The police called the whole thing a “criminal enterprise” and a handful of individuals have been charged with “conspiracy to riot”, but no evidence has actually been found as far as anyone can tell.

I’m gonna cut this short because I’m going on a bit, but I think one really important thing comes out of this and this is really what I feel like you’d be interested in: What the police are doing here isn’t stopping the demonstrations. They’re getting us to change the frame of discussion. Since these raids started, we’ve all switched from talking about the war, about capitalism, about the system, and about what we want in place of all this. We’re now talking about police brutality and we’re all getting a certain amount of titillation out of that. But it effectively completely sidelines why my friends are out there on the streets and why they’re willing to risk being beaten and arrested. Police action against doesn’t just shut down our march or cast a chill over organization activity–-it helps us forget why we’re fighting and that scares me more than anything else. I saw the same thing happen to the anti-globalization movement after 9/11 hit and I hope we’re strong enough this time around to inoculate ourselves against this sort of attack.

The last paragraph strikes me as off the mark a bit. The police action may "sideline" why the protesters choose to on the streets, but it actually illustrates all too well why more of us should be on the streets. Police violence is not a distraction. It is, in fact, the very embodiment of that against which the protesters fight. Here is exemplified the violence that sustains and perpetuates the status quo; when its ever-present gestures of defense are betrayed as aggression and projection of power at all costs. We are distracted most when it is ignored.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Four Increasingly Esoteric Thoughts About Politics

§ 1: Picking Sarah Palin strikes me as a very poor decision. A lot of people are calling it savvy (a PR term for "cynical"), but I think that given a little time it will prove very clumsy. Of course, Obama & co. have to tread gingerly when they assail her lack of experience, but this doesn't mean they can't exploit it. As a presidential candidate, Obama has plenty of chances to convince people that he is ready -- he will either do so or he won't. Palin doesn't really have that luxury. Not only will she not get the same amount of media coverage to make her case, having to make the case at all unavoidably reminds people why it is an issue in the first place ... because McCain is older than the dirt that makes up more dirt. Does he seriously want his age & health to be in the back of people's mind, especially as they watch videos of Obama playing hoops and lifting weights? (Maybe if McCain's captors in Vietnam had served more arugula he'd look more lively and vivacious.) Of course, what do I know, Palin may well poach scores of female Democratic & independents voters who (a) are vehemently opposed to abortion (even in instances of rape & incest), (b) are against gay marriage (& health benefits for the domestic partners in same-sex couples), (c) don't care about getting equal pay as a man (unless, that is, she is determined to convince McCain otherwise on this), (d) hate polar bears, and (e) think that human activity has nothing to do with climate change. Oh, and how can I forget, independent women who, like Palin, thought Bush was too moderate and supported super-isolationist Pat Buchanan during the 2000 general election. Barring that, at least she'll be the Far Right's seasonal pin-up girl. Welcome to your base, Senator McCain.

§ 2: After watching Obama's speech last night, I really have a hard time seeing him lose the election. While I've not drank the Kool-Aid on him, and still support him for naively Leftist reasons, I simply cannot envision a defeated Obama. (Note: In the event of a McCain victory, it's so much that I'd be disappointed -- I'm far beyond that at this point. Simply speechless.) He is successfully speaking to the country's better angels, and this might be one of the few times in recent history that the country is open to that. Maybe this is due in part to the crises of climate change and economic decay, to the dread that we are most threatened by those things we cannot help but create. While I don't necessarily put a lot of hope in Obama & co. leading the way on adequately addressing these issues, I do think there is a certain power in a promise believed -- even when that promise is a half-truth (at best). Obama's claims of being post-partisan should be believed, I say, if only because doing so, against Obama's intentions surely, creates a kind of hyper-partisanship, which in effect opens the way to a kind of revolution in the way we as a people set priorities and/or cast our attention.

§ 3: When a lot of people read something like that last sentence, they instinctively and dismissively think I'm describing a utopia, and point out that what I'm arguing for leads to gulags and mass executions. And I say, yes, it can and has. The better angels of our nature rarely win out for too long. But we appeal to them not because they are safe, but because the failure to do so causes us to forget and/or repress the revolutionary kernel of our being: the possibility of creating ourselves as something different. The betrayal of the Other in ourselves, e.g., the rejection without question or pause of a new set of possibilities that do not map out onto the contours of our country's prized pragmatism, is perhaps more destructive than even our persecution of the Other "out there" -- the one(s) we believe threatens us. The latter is deadly, but (typically realized in retrospect) impotent and pathetic. How can one faithfully identify foreign threats when one is not willing to identify the fundamental threat one poses to oneself? Who should trust such a person?

§ 4: We Westerners are a depraved people, for whom our politics are well-suited. This is why many of us say we're more interested in the strategy than the policy, and why one can watch 24-7 cable news coverage of politics and never hear a discussion of what a policy actually means (only how it sells!). But if the religions across the world teach us anything of value it is that redemption or enlightenment emerge only from the depths of our depravity. Would that this be true, and for a moment our depravity got us somewhere productive.