Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bearing down PLUS modernity has found me

I want to know where they put all the snow that fell on Friday night and last night and this morning.  My neighborhood looks like a freaking winter stinking wonderdamnland and it looked  a smidge overcast at Soldier Field.  I could walk to Soldier Field from my house (even though it would take me about three hours as it's about 9 miles away) and the whole way, I'd be passing snow piles, snow drifts, snowy sidewalks, and other snow jobs.  But watching the game, I was amazed the playing field and sidelines were clear and totally snow free.  How can I get that to happen in my neighborhood?  I say this as someone who, as soon as this blog is posted, will be going outside to push the snow around and out of the way into a giant pile.  I am thankful I had the sense to buy an ergonomic snow shovel.

The Bears beat the Jets on snowless Soldier Field!  They both went into the game with a 10-4 record and now who has what?  The Bears are 11-4 and the Jets are 10-5 and I am HAPPY except for the snow removal in my future.  It was a game where each team played well and scored points.  It could have gone either way except the Bears held it together into the 4th quarter and a well caught interception at the end let the clock run down and then we got some ribbon, tied some bows on the package and it was a nice Boxing Day gift.  To whom shall I address the thank-you notes?  To Jay Cutler, who ran for a touchdown?  To J. Knox, who ran for at least two and in the same quarter?  Nah, I will send a mental thank you to the whole team because they triumphed over the Jets, 38-34.

-----------------

Bobby Hosea is working with youth football leagues to lower the risk of concussions.  Here's a very good read from the New York Times for you to cut and paste:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/sports/football/26tackling.html

-----------------

About NY Jets head coach Rex Ryan and his wife and their sexual foot fetish that wound up with video released on the internet:  Who the hell cares?  Here's a couple who is in love and obviously still sexually attracted to each other.   They are role models for keeping a marriage fun and frisky.   If you are interested in condemning the actions of a married couple doing consenual acts, then you are sad and I feel very sorry for you.

------------------

Through the miracle of modern technology, I am able to watch Netflix on my television.  It might not be a miracle to you, but I am really a moron when it comes to such things and cannot believe I am able to watch many things right on my television!  Sent over the airwaves!  INTO MY OWN TV!

Before the football game, I streamed in "The Proposal," a movie so light and fluffy it wasn't made by a Hollywood studio but rather was whipped up in a cotton candy machine somewhere in mid-America.  How did this movie make money?  It has the depth of a single sheet of airmail-weight paper.  There are holes in the plot through which you could drive a fleet of semis going side-by-side.  The words implausible, unlikely, and "as if" all leap to mind.  I had been watching Season 1 of "24," which is more  awesome and excellent than I'd hoped but after seeing 12 episodes of the first season, six of them in the last day, I thought I'd counter it with something less weighty.  What I should have done is watched a few shows from Season 3 of "30 Rock," another show of awesomeness and excellence.  Both "24" and "30 Rock" are both available on Netflix and both require brain matter.  Well, you don't need brain matter, but it helps.  Much like deciding not to watch "The Proposal."  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Frozen North

I was shocked to see Mr. Brett Favre haul his ancient QB rump onto the field at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota on Monday night.  Wasn't his shoulder supposed to be injured?  Wasn't he supposed to be in pain?  Wasn't he supposed to be out for the season?  Apparently, Sir Brett decided he himself was going to bring down the Bears, to stop them from becoming the champions of the NFC North.  Perhaps he consulted a northern seer or has a large crystal ball in his Minnesota living room.  Or perhaps ego, hubris, more ego, vanity, and pride got the best of him and he decided if this season were to be his last, he was going to make the most of it.  Either way, he should have stayed on the bench.

The initial drive was masterful, resulting in a touchdown almost immediately.  That must have snapped the Bears to their senses because that was pretty much that for the old stinker and his Viking crew.  He was sacked.  He got knocked down.  He hit his shoulder.  He hit his head.  He was hit so hard by rookie Corey Wooten, he should be glad that he won't be drinking soup through a straw for the rest of his life.

I said it earlier this season and I say it again:  Brett, how can we miss you if you won't go away?  This is why having something other than football to pursue is a good idea.  If you are in the NFL, save your money.  Do you like public speaking?  Work with a linguist/speech therapist/accent coach to rid yourself of your accent.  You ARE a role model that young people and testosteroney men everywhere would love to hear speak about the NFL, how you got to the NFL, what it's like to be in the NFL, how to stay in the NFL, and life after the NFL.  Mention statistics.  Testosteroney men love stats.

So up in St. Paul on the astroturf, the Bears clinched the NFC North championship with a very lopsided score of 40-14.  This week's bloodshed was caused by Bears.  Yippee!  January ball!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

To tide you over until Tuesday

The Bears and the Vikings will have at each other in the frozen north on Monday night, outdoors in the stadium at the University of Minnesota on totally frozen ground that may be covered by Astroturf.  A hard, hard, hard, hard surface coupled with Brett Favre out with his shoulder injury (this is what you get for being the Thing Who Wouldn't Leave, Brett) and a rookie QB as the starter make things look pretty hopeful for my personal Bears.  Because there is nothing else for me to write about until Tuesday evening as the game will end right about when I go to bed (leave me alone; I get up at 5:15 a.m.), I offer these two things.

1.  Today is my birthday, so Happy Birthday To Me.  Last night my sister and her family took me out to a wonderful meal of Polish cooking which we all enjoyed very much (and the leftovers of which made a very nice albeit massive birthday breakfast).

2.  My younger niece made a lovely video which she posted on You Tube which I share here:

Enjoy!

Back on Tuesday with game opinions.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bloodbath in the snow; we know who did it.

I am certain everyone knows how bad the weather in the Midwest has been the past couple of days.  There was so much snow in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the excessive snowfall caused the roof of the Metrodome to collapse.  First, the plane carrying the New York Giants was diverted to Kansas City.  The game was delayed until Monday night.  Next, the Giants got into the Twin Cities late Saturday night; sometime in the early a.m., someone in the hotel pulled a fire alarm.  Then, the roof of the Metrodome collapsed, snow and water pouring in.  (They had cameras on the dome and the crap was torn out of that roofing material.)  They considered clearing the snow out the stadium at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul, but the Giants thought they'd be playing indoors and didn't bring cleats PLUS the stadium had been winterized (I can only assume that fluids were flushed and anti-freeze added to the seats).  Finally, the NFL decided the two teams would play at a nice, warm indoor arena that is free on Monday night -- Ford Field in Detroit -- and if you have a ticket to the game and can get to Detroit, you will have your choice of seats with the remaining seats available for free on a first-come-first-served basis.  Aggravating for Minnesota Vikings fans but what a great bonus for Michiganders/Canadians/Ohioans who love them some pro football.  I don't care either way, but I suspect Eli Manning and company do some Viking clock cleaning, just as they would have were they at the Metrodome.  (Author comment on 13 Dec.:  Yup, the Giants creamed the Vikings, 21-3.  Geriatric QB Brett Favre really was making a difference; with a shoulder injury, the results were nothing like they might have been had Favre played.  Eh, who am I kidding?  The Vikings were just gonna lose this one no matter what.)

As for my beloved Bears, JULIUS PEPPERS SACKED TOM BRADY and there was a very nice touchdown, with Robbie Gould getting the extra point, but other than that, it was a bloodbath out on the snowy, windy field. Officials had to carve yard lines into the snow so everyone could tell how far anyone had gone.  The ball was slippery.  It was stinking cold and there was a wind.  Please note that they have cold weather in Boston, Tom Brady is a very talented QB, the Patriots are a good, cohesive team, and their coach is quite bright.  In other words, it was about even to start but the Patriots won spectacularly, 36-7.  P.S. It is still snowing and perhaps the Pats' homebound flight will be delayed.  Yo!  Pats!  If you lived here, you'd be home now!  I know that makes no sense but I am all discombobulated because the Bears lost and I was getting used to the Bears winning.  I still dream of January ball.  One of the talking footballs heads said the head coach of the Pats gave his players frozen footballs for practice and told them to get used to it.  Yeah, I think they were used to it.

---------------------------------------------

Speaking of blood, I encourage everyone to please consider donating a pint in this time of giving.  If you are able bodied, find a local blood bank or find out if there is a blood drive in you area and, I say it again, if you are able bodied, go and squeeze out a pint.  I try to donate whole blood every eight weeks and usually accomplish this goal.  I have veins like drainpipes so the whole process goes quickly for me.  I like to say that they wave the needle over my vein and blood just transfers to the bag on it own.  I don't suggest you go if you have eensy veins and they never seem to find it when you are having an annual blood test, or you have tried to donate and it takes a long time to get anything into the bag, or you always faint afterward.  If you are a super-skinny person, you will probably be refused, too.  But if you are healthy person who likes having a little bag of white cheddar popcorn and a container of apple juice every other month as a reward, please make the time to donate a pint.  This gift really does save lives.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Bears are nice but, oh, Santa!

The Bears played the Detroit Lions this week.  While they were made to work for it, Jay Cutler and the Bears prevailed with a score of 24-20.

Fantastic!

What is really fantastic is the CTA Holiday Train, a/k/a Santa's Express, a/k/a the Christmas Train.  The Chicago Transit Authority has operated this holiday-time transit for the past 19 years with each CTA line getting to experience it.  I have always managed to miss it except for one year when I was going out to a suburban shopping center on a Friday evening and as I got on the Kennedy Expressway, there it was!  I honked and waved out my window.  "Hi, Santa!" I yelled.  I suspect Santa did not notice me because the Kennedy is noisy morning, noon, and night; that year, like most years, there was nothing left for me courtesy of the North Pole.  (Never mind that I rent and have neither a tree nor a fireplace.)  This year the Christmas Train found me.

When the Christmas Train operates, it royally honks up whatever train line it is on.  I ride the Blue Line with a coworker.  Thanks to a slow-moving Holiday Train, on Thursday it took over an hour to get home.  On Friday, there was another vast crowd at the station where we board and I said the Christmas train had already come through and that things were messed up.  My friend looked up the track and said about the approaching train, "That's the Christmas Train."  I said, "No, it can't be," and he told me to look.  It was indeed the Christmas Train.

My reaction was this:  I started jumping up and down with glee (not a good look for a big, middle-aged woman).  I clapped my hands with joy.  There was a lot of waving when Santa passed on his flat-bed car.  I was so delighted that I almost started crying from sheer happiness.  I guess I'd wanted to ride the Christmas Train more than I thought I did.

Santa's Express  interior
The train is covered in twinkling lights and signs that say things like "SEASONS" on one car and "GREETINGS" on the next. There are icicles and snowflakes on the windows.  Inside there is signage for North Pole businesses and the seats all have Christmas-themed upholstery.  The vertical poles used for hanging on when the train is in motion were red-and-white like candy canes.  Garland, lights, and bows were hung throughout.  Christmas songs were piped into the cars and the scent of cinnamon was spread via the vents.  In other words, it was just what you don't expect from the CTA and it was wonderful.  It was even worth my several years of waiting.

Next on TMZ, Santa at ORD
I can be an excitable photographer and only managed to snap off one decent shot on my phone's camera and so decided to find the Christmas Train on Saturday and take the pics I wanted.  The Saturday train was stuffed with happy adults and kids, glad to be having this experience (except for this one little boy who wanted to sit with his older brother so he could watch the sibling playing on Nintendo DS and kept crying and screaming "NO!" at the top of his lungs when his parents and even his brother asked him to cooperate).  When we got to the O'Hare Airport terminus, the massive crowd sorted itself out and I took a totally TMZ picture of Santa ("We got Santa, you know, Jolly Old Saint Nick?  On the Holiday Train at O'Hare Airport in Chicago," as Harvey nods and writes S. Claus on the board).  Plus I got to ride the Christmas Train two days in a row and that made me very happy.

I took a regular CTA train back toward home, delighted that something so simple could make so many people so happy and even more so that I could feel this sort of delight, and I am delighted it was the CTA that did it.  Now if they'd just fix the actual transit system, I would be delighted 365 days a year.

Wishing you and yours peace, good health, and great joy.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Sport of Kings and the Bears Played, Too

For ten days, I was internally fretting about Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles coming to town and doing horrible things to the Chicago Bears.  Either my fretting was for naught OR my fretting was powerful and caused ripples in the Universe that made the Eagles lose.  Or maybe with ten days to rest up, the Bears just outplayed the Eagles, giving the Bears a victory in a 31-26 game.

Let's look at some facts, y'all.  Jay Cutler was sacked four times but Michael Vick was sacked four times. And the Bears won.  Each of the teams went into the contest with three wins in a row.  And the Bears won and now they have four consecutive wins.  Who doesn't?  Philadelphia, y'all.

To put it all in perspective, it looks like some nice January ball might be played in the frozen north, i.e. here. Have you ever been to Chicago in January?  Sometimes it never gets above freezing the entire month. If I could have a wish for January it would be (1) we get some playoff action and (2) we play guys who just left 75-degree weather and forgot their long johns at home and (3) are so cold they can't toss, run, kick, or catch. That is my January wish.

--------------------------

The day after Thanksgiving is Black Friday here in the US, so called because it is the day retailers finally get their accounting books into the black.  It is also the Sport of Kings, when the kings and queens of retail acquisition get up at oh-dark-thirty, get in line at stores, and wait for doors to open so they can BUY!  We never did anything like this when we were children, but my sister and I have embraced the tradition and look forward to it.

On Thanksgiving Day, my sister and brother-in-law cook and I bring over two newspapers.  We scan the circulars and determine our plan of attack.

I fetch my sibling in my 1998 Honda Civic at 5:30am (sometimes earlier).  We never get the big-ticket items everyone else is trying to buy.  We look for the $3 mixers, the complete third season of The Big Bang Theory, and winter gloves that are reduced by 60% until 11a.m.  We are doorbusters but we don't hold the actual battering ram of commerce.  We follow in the second wave, the wave of wallet-wielders wanting wares.  We get the quilts, the frying pans, the cheap gift wrap.  We save a bundle, stuff the car, and then we have breakfast.

This year offered an interesting twist.  I woke up at 3:30 and could not get back to sleep.  On the television there was only Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy's tale of misery, unhappiness, and zero laughs so I got dressed and went to Target for the 4 a.m. opening.

I was in the store by 4:05 a.m. and missed out on the $3 hand mixers. Where those mixers were stacked now stood only a sign and four $3 toasters.  There were dwindling numbers of $28 vacuums.  The $1.50 towels, while thin, were also quite thinned out.  In the Sport of Kings, I am a low-level countess or maybe a court jester. My sister and I scored some great personal-victory bargains all the same and I look forward to participating again next year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

While Visions of Shutouts Danced In My Head

We all know that there is no way to make a pro-football game go much faster.  A baseball game can be played lickety-split (or drag on interminably), but a professional football game is pretty much going to take three hours.  Sometimes, they seemingly defy physics and go by in a joyful blur.  This is how it was for me when I watched the Bears pound the stuffing out the Miami Dolphins last night.

The Bears played this past Sunday and had one practice, singular, uno, before this out-of-town game.  Even with the tiny bit of time to rest and prepare, the Bears played shockingly good ball including Jay Cutler, who everyone (and one may be the right word) reading this blog knows I don't worship.  Tyler Thigpen, the game-day QB for Miami, was sacked six times. (The Chads (Henne and Pennington), the main Miami QBs, are both out with injuries). I am all for sacking a quarterback as long as it's not a Bear getting stripped, knocked down, or whomped.  My favorite moment was not one of the Robbie Gould field goals (three from which to choose) nor the Matt Forte touchdown. My fave was in the fourth quarter when Danieal Manning tackled Miami bitch (wide receiver, WHATEVER) Davone Bess.  Bess leaped in the air and caught the ball thrown by Thigpen.  While he was still in the air, he was tackled by Manning, a move categorized under "Wow, That Had to Hurt."  The Bears beat the Dolphins 16-0 and have 10 days to prepare for their game against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on November 28.

The Bears-Dolphins game was brought to us on WGN-TV, good old Number 9, a local Chicago station whose morning news I really enjoy.  We were not given the benefit of any WGN sportscasters and were instead had put up with NFL Broadcast TV guys including Joe Theisman.  At the half, they regaled us with stats about Cutler and Thigpen but then added that the stats were deceptive because they didn't show how the game was actually progressing.  Then why share them!?!?!??  Because they would run out of things to say, that's why, and the network would find someone more verbose.  (I've said before how I feel:  Statistics are fine after the game and in newspapers and for those unit-measuring contests guys seem to enjoy in bars or at work, but they are useless predictors of how any game is going to be played or even one that's in progress.)

I am hoping, hoping, dreaming that the Bears will get to play some January ball.  That would be a nice 2011 gift for us all.  I don't want to talk about past January as that would surely jinx the works.

---------------------------

National Opt Out Day.   Please do not participate.  While you're exercising your right to freedom of expression, the airline could very well be operating right on schedule and if you are not at the gate and on board in a timely manner, they will leave without you.  "But," you will say at the gate and the agent will simply advise that one needs to allow extra time for checkin and security.  Consider this as well:  You may want to protest, but maybe the guy behind you has been away from home for three weeks and all he wants to do is hug his kids and hold his wife in his arms, or maybe a lady's mom is dying and if she gets there in time, she can say goodbye.  A better suggestion is to write Janet Napolitano (the head of Homeland Security, y'all), your congressman, your senator, President Obama, the CEOs of your preferred air carriers, and even the mayor of the cities where you travel most.  There might be a better way of screening -- think El-Al anywhere; think Incheon Airport in Seoul, S. Korea, where they give you slippers to wear while they are x-raying your shoes; think Dubai where your goods are x-rayed and you go through a metal detector when you enter the airport and again at the gate and if a pat-down is required, you and the screener step into a tent, out of view of passersby -- but until it's implemented, try to not be left behind and don't screw it up for someone else either.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Bears Don't Need Me to Watch and Six Things of Which I Am Fond

This morning I was given the opportunity to go out to couple of stores, to lunch in Chinatown, then to the library and the post office with family members.  I could do that on a lovely day in Chicago or I could stay home and watch Fox Football Sunday Featuring Men followed by the Bears vs. the Vikings.  As regular readers (mostly unidentified) of this blog will note, I love me some Chicago Bears.  Why, I don't know, but I love 'em.  Loving me some Chicago Bears goes against everything I have every thought I believed in my life and no, I don't have a brain tumor.  Things change and since I really do enjoy learning new things and am very curious about almost everything, it is really not that weird that I have said affection for this team.  However, I like socializing with people and I especially like having a good meal in Chinatown and getting my mail so I chose to not assist the Bears with my viewing and went out instead.

We visited T.J. Maxx where I scored a reusable shopping bag with shades of pink and a silhouette of the Eiffel Tower for 99 cents.  Then we were off to Chinatown.

We had a meal of lamb with cumin, eggplant in garlic sauce, and I-don't-know-the-real-name-but-it-was-pork-belly-and-mushrooms-as-a-stew.  There was rice.  There was lovely spicy cabbage as a starter.  The mystery pork belly must assuredly be prepared in a delicious and satisfying form but this was not it.  It was okay and I did try it twice to make sure, but it wasn't my favorite.  One day we'll stumble on the preferred way to eat it.   But I ask this:  If we don't try different things, how will we know it's not our favorite thing?

And then we went to Target.  There were some sensationally bad fake Xmas trees but WTF was with the lime-green aluminum Xmas tree?  We saw huge, steroidal Xmas ornaments and poorly executed ornaments that with a smidge more thought and care would have been fabulous but instead just looked cheap.  We looked at charming Xmas lights that were pine-cone shaped or shaped like small round balls.  I spent $3 total on some things I can use like Trident.  I know -- let's go crazy.

When I go to the library, I like checking out lots of books of various subjects like psychology (mostly that offer a way to a new better me which is slamming the old me and that person doesn't even know me but whatever), wedding planning (step one, find a spouse), home decorating (step one, tidy up, girl!), or exercise (step one, crack open the book, even for a glance).  We all gathered books, walked over to the post office, and then I was taken home in time to have missed the entire game.  This is when I went to the computer and made my discovery that the Bears don't need me.

The Bears beat the Vikings and are tied for first in the NFC North.  It seems Brett Favre -- the actual Thing Who Wouldn't Leave -- was intercepted thrice and the Bears won 27-13.  Great news!  Maybe what they needed was me not sitting and watching.   Somehow, the Universe sent the message that I was out and about, that I like a nice winning game where the opponent is crushed decisively, and it was a good idea to play that game today.  Which is fine.  Bears fans are happy, I am happy, I don't have to talk about how the offensive line sucks or how Mike Martz looked like he might barf.  I can just say, "Yippee!" and think about the nice afternoon I had.  This doesn't mean I am not going to watch; it means I didn't watch this week.  Thursday they play against the rumored-to-be-not-so-good-this-year Miami Dolphins.  This means they will have one (1) day of practice before they play but I have all kinds of fingers that are being crossed.

-----------

Six Things of Which I Am Fond

1.  Paris, France.  If I am feeling flush and the dollar is doing well against the Euro, there is nothing I like more than a trip to Paris.  The aforementioned Eiffel Tower?  I am pretty in love with it.  Yes, I speak enough French to get me around.  No, I don't think the people are rude.

2.  United States Post Office Boxes.  I've had a post office box since 1989 when the mailbox of a neighbor in a not-so-secure building got popped open and their mail stolen.  Since then I've enjoyed the luxury of someone else looking after my mail.  Even though the present Chicago location where I've my PO box is experiencing a severe work slowdown in that people retired and were not replaced; even though I won't renew my Newsweek and Time magazine subscriptions because getting news a week late is useless; even though I know mail delivery in the suburbs is far superior, I will not get rid of my PO Box because I just love not having to worry about mail being stolen.  (Note on 28 December 2010:  A new box person has been hired and things appear to again be timely.)

3.  The Chicago Bears.   I wish I weren't but I am fond of them.  This fondness is accompanied by my fondness Fox Pocket Square Men in Suits Featuring Excessive Bla Bla Bla and Sports Stats Live.

4.  Trying something new because the new thing might turn out to be my favorite.

5.  Vacations out of town (non-Paris).  I am energized by a vacation where I am going from morning to night.  For me, a beach vacation is akin to torture to which sand and water vistas have been added.

6.  Dannon coffee-flavored yogurt.  It is 6 ounces of tasty.  It used to be 8 ounces of tasty but don't get me started.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Buffalo Bills Won't You Come Out Tonight; What Will Save Detroit

The Bears went to Toronto to play the Buffalo Bills and kept the Bills' record of wins at zero for the season.  The Fox commentators, Sam Rosen and Tim Ryan, waxed lyrically, enthusiastically about the Bills.   The Bills QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, went to Harvard, they reported, even though they admitted he was the starting QB because there was no one else to be had.  See how smart he is?  HARVARD!  One of the commentators said, "He is so smart he wears his wedding ring on game day."  Running out of  things to say?  The answer is yes.   Rosen and Ryan seemed Bills-centric in their commentary but har-dee-har, losers, the Bears WON 22-19.  The offensive line managed to keep Cutler from getting sacked except for once (it is the Bears offensive line and Jay Cutler, after all), Greg Olsen, the golden bitch (yeah, yeah, tight end) scored a TOUCHDOWN, Matt Forte made me want to find him and shake his hand.  The bye week seemed to have made the offensive line a much more cohesive unit.  When the Bears were at 20-19 and Matt Forte getting the two-point conversion to make is 22-19, Rosen and Ryan suddenly were all about the Bears.  Yes, the Bills have some very good players including that one guy whose neck seems wider than his head, but the Bears won, the Bills lost, and onto next week when the Bears play the Minnesota Vikings at that alligator-in-a-kangaroo's-pouch next to the Field Museum of Natural History, Soldier Field.

I ran errands at Target and Costco (heaven help me, I love love love Costco with its big lots, harsh lights, steroidal chickens, giant cakes, cheap drugs, and concrete floors) but managed to get my rump home to watch Fox Game Day Live with the Pocket Square Guys and Michael Strahan.  This week's tie and square action actually addled my brain as much as that 102.4 fever.  Here was the lineup:
Howie Long = Blue tie with lavender spots and a lavender square
Curt Menefee = blue tie with yellow stripes and a blue square (or was the tie yellow with blue stripes?)
Michael Strahan = three piece suit, tie, NO SQUARE (thanks, Michael)
Jimmy Johnson = yellow tie, yellow square
Terry Bradshaw = orange and blue tie and TWO SQUARES of orange and blue
Yes, I think Terry Bradshaw's combination is what made my eyes cross.  I readily admit that I am obsessed with this issue.

I am shocked to report that I think Curt, Terry, Michael, and Howie are very smart and very good commentators.  They know what they are talking about and express it with great intelligence.  I wish Howie would stop looking for the camera but he is no dope.  Jimmy, oh, Jimmy, I did not scream at the TV when you were talking but sorry, Jimmy, I want you to please, please retire and let someone else come in there and say something that is more worthwhile.  Yeah, you balance it out agewise but Jimmy, what have you to say?  What you said this week was instantly proven to be wrong by, oh, everyone.  Sorry, sir, everyone else is just so bright, so charismatic, so well spoken about the game of professional football that I wonder why you are there.  Fox Game Day Sunday Football Live (ah, if only I would bother to learn the actual name) is one of my new favorite  guilty pleasures but I don't care for Mr. Johnson and I don't care how much NFL experience he has. (This week they said he was on Survivor which made me superglad to have stopped watching that show after Season 2.)

-------------------------------------

There is much talk in the media about what can save Detroit.  Earlier this week, I read about large cities that are running out of water and I realized that water, its availability, its presence, is what will save Detroit.  The southern part of the country has been enjoy major growth but plenty of large cities in the south -- Orlando, Houston, Tucscon, Los Angeles to name a few -- are running out of water.  Detroit, by the Great Lakes, is in no danger of this.  (Of course, winter is a real bitch (and I mean neither a tight end nor a wide receiver) and the southern part of the lower peninsula is the only place I've ever experienced white-outs:  one minute you are looking at a normal landscape and within minutes there is so much snow so that you either can't see or simply have trouble driving or walking.  Once I went for a walk with my dad and when we were five minutes from home, we suddenly could see nothing in the swirling white wind.  Just as suddenly, the whiteout was over and large puffy clouds danced in the blue sky.  But it is the north; winter happens.)  There is plenty of water for thirsty families who want jobs that can be just as easily created in Detroit as in Dalla or Tampa or Atlanta.  There are highways that are already built, neighborhoods that are ready to be reinvigorated.  There is water, the essence of life.  Someone else can, no doubt, express this better than me, but it stands to reason that a place with as many lakes as Michigan (Great and lesser) is a smart option for someone looking to expand their company without worrying about having to relocate one day because the well simply went dry.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bye Week Fever and Reflection

That "feeling poorly" of last week turned into a full-blown festival of fever that made me miss two days of work.  It seems I'd literally rather die than miss work as I was sitting at my desk and taking calls with a temperature of 101.4.  I finally called my doc who got me some lovely antibiotics (it wasn't the flu; I know the difference and so does my doctor) and I went home and took the meds and then my fever went to 102.4 and stayed there long enough for me to reflect on my actions.  I decided that if I survived I would never again go to work with a fever in excess of 100.  I also decided that I will buy a new car in 2011.  That is pretty much it for honest disease-inspired reflection.  I was relieved that October 31st would be a bye week because then I could write about something easier like the upcoming political races.

It occurred to me that sports statistics are very much like history except that those who know statistics are not doomed to repeat them.  Because they are affixed to something someone might find pleasurable or interesting or simply worthy of their attention because it is less serious in nature, the knowledge of them is more easily acquired.  That is why Joe Blow might not give a crap about the mid-term election but is really concerned about Drew Brees and what he and the Saints will do to the Steelers tonight.  It isn't a weighty issue so Joe can give it his full-on attention and still be able to pay attention to other issues like the Rangers vs. the Giants in the World Series or how satisfying his favorite beer is.  Joe will even get impatient with his neighbor who is very much into Democrat vs. Republican vs. Tea Party vs. Independent because does it really matter?

Yeah, Joe, it does.  This and every other race is pivotal as it sculpts the face of our day-to-day lives.  It says who will be running things, passing bills, using his/her connections for whom or for what, and enforces opinions to be the boss of you, i.e. pass laws.  The big game, while pleasurable, is a game.  The election shapes your life.

--------

As a guilty pleasure, I enjoy screaming at my television set.  I usually save it for the years of presidential elections or months that end in "R" as in "screams at the TV set 'R' always in season" but I found a new source of being aggravated this morning.   It is the local Fox affiliate that has Fox Game Day Live featuring a couple of ex-Bears, a guy who used to be on a different channel doing something else, and Jeff Joniak, a local broadcaster. One of the two ex-Bears actually wondered if the offensive line were intentionally playing this way per the coaching of Mike Martz.  That was when I started screaming.

"NO!  NO IT ISN'T INTENTIONAL! OTHERWISE MIKE MARTZ WOULD NOT HAVE LOOKED LIKE HE WAS GOING TO BARF DURING THE 4TH QUARTER LAST WEEK! INTENTIONAL?!?  RISKING THE LIVES OF HIS QUARTERBACKS IS INTENTIONAL?"  Otherwise, I have no strong opinion there except for "ARE YOU THE ONE WHO HAD THE FEVER THIS WEEK THAT COOKED YOUR BRAIN?"  There was other bout of light yelling which made me see I need to watch this show regularly during the remainder of the season.  Usually, I grow tired of the political stuff that's winding me up and simply change the station; but this is football and all their blabbing is so ridiculous and nonpartisan that after the show is over I feel well vented, pleased, and refreshed.

The local show was followed by Fox Sunday NFL Sports Spectacle of Frippery and Fanfare Live, which everyone knows I love/hate for the Pocket Squares and Ties Guys.  They did not disappoint.  Curt wore yellow-yellow.  Howie had red-red.  Terry was bedecked in purply pink-purply pink while Jimmy got purple-purple.  Michael Strahan wore a grayish three-piece suit and a chartreuse-striped tie and, of course, won my admiration again for not caving to what appears to be sports-commentator convention.  I saw exactly three minutes of the show and then family members very kindly came and fetched me and we went out.  After being sick all those days and it being Bye Week, it was nice to be out among people, breathing fresh air, and not sitting and watching the TV, screaming because someone is a bigger knucklehead than me about football, which is really saying something.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Bears and Skins and the Matchy Men of Fox

After I watched CBS Sunday Morning, in spite of not feeling good, but aware that if I didn't get the things I needed they would not be had for another week, I got myself to Target and Costco and then home to watch Fox NFL Sunday Live or whatever the heck they call it. After last week's lambasting of the same show, why did I want to rush home to see it? It's the pocket square effect.

Curt Menefee, Jimmy Johnson, Terry Bradshaw, and Howie Long all wear ties with matching pocket squares.  Every single week.  I noticed this two weeks ago and noticed that Michael Stahan does not wear one.  Michael looks good, wearing a vest under his suit jacket this week, but he does not wear a pocket square.  The others are so freaking natty, tidy, pulled together, and perfect that they could be women.  I like Michael Strahan.  He talks, I listen, he sounds good. Curt (red tie, red pocket square), the basic host, is easy to listen to but he is well groomed to the point of perfection.  Howie (yellow, yellow) did not seem to be in the "me, me, me" school of on-camera this week but, of course, Howie is perfection, isn't he?  At his age to have hair that good?  I hope he thanks his luck stars each and every washing.  I never know what Jimmy (hot pink, hot pink) has said because the whole time he is on screen, what's going through my head is, "Go away! Get someone else!  GO AWAY!" or else "If he smacks someone upside the head with the giant ring he wears, I bet they'd remember it forever if they were able to remember anything at all."  I do like Terry (purple, purple) because when he listens, he actively listens.  His body says, "I hear what you are saying, it is good to hear you say it, I will have something to say, too."  Sirs!  All that matchiness is just too much!  Do their socks match their ties and squares?  What happens if they all show up wanting to wear aqua?  Do they thumb-wrestle it out?  (I call them pocket squares because handkerchiefs are what you use to eliminate nasal volume and those square just don't seem up to the task.)

And so the Chicago Bears hosted the Washington Redskins.  Offensive coach Mike Martz looked like he might barf at one point in the fourth quarter.  Why?  Because the offense was having another Stink Festival.  Dudes, how many Stink Festivals can you have?  Going into this game, Jay Cutler had been sacked 23 times. This game, I lost track at four sacks but 23 + 4 = STINK FESTIVAL.  Yes, there is much going on out on the field and everyone is rushing and racing and moving, moving! But I said it last week and I say it this week again - PROTECT YOUR QB!  It was not a game that made my skin crawl but Donovan McNabb and his Redskins got the job done which is not my preferred result.  The Bears should be the ones getting it done.  Two weeks to the bye game!  Then I won't have to hear Troy Aikman saying things like, "I expect Julius Peppers to be impactful in the game today."  I paraphrase except for the word "impactful."  Dear Troy, It's a real word but using it belabors the English languarge needlessly - kinda like this sentence. XOXO, Southwest Corner.

--------------------

The Texas Rangers (a former owner of which was ex-President G.W. Bush, around the time he wanted to be Commissioner of Baseball) and the San Francisco Giants will be going to the World Series.   The opener is Wednesday in San Francisco.  Don't ask me who I think will win because I have honestly given it not a bit of thought and won't either because as I stated above, I don't feel well.

--------------------

Congratulations to Lord and Lady Football who welcomed a baby boy into their family.  Prince Football was born on 9 October 2010 and I wish their family a lifetime of happiness.

--------------------

Health Haiku
Leave me alone, you!
I have a low-grade fever.
Gonna go lie down.

-------------------

The Mysterious Johnson
Brett says it's not his.
Yes, he left the messages.
Johnson pix not his.

Now, let's say you are Brett Favre and you cannot leave the NFL -- you have a great talent and a wife and people still want to see you play (but not with your wife) and you like the adulation too much.   Why would you be so dopey as to (1) come onto a young woman in a voicemail and (2) think no one will know it's you and (3) send accompanying pix to seal the deal?  I am thinking the league's best example of "how can we miss you if you won't go away" doesn't realize the pictures came by PHONE.  From a PHONE NUMBER.  I would smack my head to try to make sense of it but it will be very windy in Chicago today and I am saving head smacks for possible flying debris.  The why gets down to that most embarrassing of them:  hubris.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicago vs. Seattle and a trip west

Welcome to Chicago, Seahawks, and please don't let the door hit you in the ass. The Seahwaks had been having a bad season on the road but coming up against the oh-so-sackable Jay Cutler (six times), they managed to win. Devin Hester ran a zillion yards at the two-minute mark to get us so very close to a tie (and then on to overtime) but, alas, the Seahawks out performed the Bears, 23-20. BEARS OFFENSIVE LINE: What the heck are you doing? COVER YOUR QB! I am no fan of Mr. Cutler but dang, dang, and double dang (quadruple dang in total), keep the other team off your QB. Stop thinking about lunch, birds, girls, dinner, the color of carpeting in your house, and snacking. GUARD YOUR QB! The other team is looking to prance around you and knock down the QB, or smack the ball away, or yank it from his hands, or crash into him like they are the evening express to Downers Grove and he is a poor wrong-place-wrong-time deer. See how that works? Guard your QB! While football is a teenage-girl pillow fight compared to other sports, you know the QB has the ball and you know the other (large) men in the defensive line want that ball, so stop them from getting to the QB. Yeah, yeah, gain yardage but you can't gain an inch if the QB no longer has possession of the ball. How can he get the ball to the bitch (yeah, yeah, wide receiver) if he doesn't have the ball?

On a side note, I was not despondent after this week's loss because of Hester's masterful touchdown run and realized I am finally -- FINALLY -- getting into the mindset of "it's a game to be played poorly or well." There were elements of both and I didn't take the loss personally.

I made the giant mistake of watching some of the pre-game show on Fox with Terry! Michael! Howie! An older guy! And another guy who is well groomed! Bla bla bla stats and hats and stats and cats and stats and rats in flats on mats. Stats don't matter before the game, gents, and predict nothing. Stats are for after or for comparisons. Stats are for guys in bars when the dick measuring contest needs to be subtle ("For Chubby Guys Who Have Considered Dick Measuring When the Statistics Aren't Enough," soon to be a major motion picture starring Kevin James and The Actor Formerly Known As Drew Carey) or in the hallway at work, trying to impress guys who don't know you very well. Blabbing about stats just proves you know stats, that your prediction has as much value as my prediction, and that Howie Long likes looking in the camera way too much. That last part has nothing to do with actual football stats, but statistically speaking, the chance of him not glancing toward the camera to see if it's on him is slight. What's Howie thinking? "Is it on me? Now? Is it on me now? Now? How 'bout now?" No, Howie, it's not. We are also not there yet, just in case there's a car trip in our future. The Stats-en-jammer Kids so aggravated me that I opted to listen to the first half of game in my car while also going to Jewel-Osco and Target, where I scored black mascara.

-------------------

Thanks to the stanky economy, it had been a long time since I'd made reservations for air, hotel, and car all for me, got some fine travel insurance, and went to the airport for a trip out of town. It had been even longer since I'd gone on my own so it was, therefore, quite the occasion. My destination was Austin, Texas.

Highlights of my fave things:

LBJ Library Isn't it funny? I thought this would be of marginal interest but it was fascinating and well worth the time I spent there. Plus, for the frugal among us, it is free and parking is free (but make sure you are in the correct LBJ Library parking lot).

The Bats The largest urban bat colony in the world lives under the southern end of the Congress Street Bridge. There are hundreds of thousands of Mexican freetail bats and every night at dusk, they head out to eat insects. I watched from the park on the side of the bridge (across the Colorado River) and the thing that impressed me most is (1) the bats really do have a smell all their own when they take to the skies and (2) it is hard to see anything when it is almost dark (but you can hear the flapping wings and there is that aforementioned stank) so (3) maybe next time watch it from the bridge. Plus, for the frugal among us, it is free but parking is free-opposite.

Road from San Marcos to Johnson City Yeah, yeah, I went to San Marcos and scored underpants (I had a stellar coupon) and a handbag (60% off) at the Prime Outlet. I got directions and a very good Texas map from the San Marcos Tourist Information Center. The route they suggested was fantastic (there was a major discussion about the best way but they all agreed this was the most scenic). It wound through Texas Hill Country and the views were wonderful. After about 30 minutes of this, I realized I was smiling because what I was seeing was making me so happy. I later found out this particular stretch of road from San Marcos is called the Devil's Backbone. From I35, take 12 west to 32 west. That is where you will get the best views. The road winds so don't have some adult beverages before you start driving. There are not a lot of scenic overlooks, so be prepared to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy this lovely place on earth. (Continue on 32 west to 281 north to 290 west to get to Johnson City.)

Original Texas White House
The LBJ Ranch and the Texas White House A joint venture of the Texas State Parks and National Park Service, visiting the ranch is, for the frugal among us, free. At the state park, you are given the free loan of a CD that details what you are seeing as you drive (yes, you can stop along the way at designated points). The tour of the Texas White House is USD2. Per the agreement made with the Johnson Family when they acquired this 650 acres, it's a working ranch and there is a good chance of some large beef animal wandering on the road which totally adds to the charm. Splurge on the tour because only then can you see the lovely views of the Pedernales River from the front porch of the house. The park ranger offered info I'd never heard before -- like LBJ's favorite music was Muzak/elevator music and that is what was played on KLBJ, the radio station the Johnsons owned (now Austin's premier heavy metal station).

Texas State Capitol and University of Texas campus The Capitol is huge. It is historical. The tours are free. The campus is a few blocks north and is huge. Walk from one to the other and back again. If the Tower at UT is open when you visit (being renovated when I was there), remember that you can bring ONLY a camera up there. Anything else has to be left in a locker at ground level. (It reminds me of visiting Mao's tomb in Beijing except there you can bring nothing in your hands. And when leaving, there is the most wonderful view of two temples from a vantage point you get only there. Where is your camera? Across the street, all checked in. They don't want you to take pictures. UT sensibly doesn't want you to take potshots, thanks very much.)

My bottom line is this: I really enjoyed my Texas trip. Austin has a lot of traffic (a lot lot lot lot lot for a city of that size) but the people are genuinely nice. Public transportation is woefully lacking-to-nonexistant. (If [insert fave deity here] had intended us to pay attention 100% of the time on the way to work, s/he would not have invented iPod movies, magazines, and books.) Texas Hill Country is every bit as pretty as I'd heard if not more so. Finally, the new Nissan Sentra I rented made my 1998 Honda Civic seem like a piece of crap that probably needs a brake job.

The Texas Book Fair was going on the weekend I was leaving and who should I see in the airport? Laura Bush and her daughter, Barbara. What struck me about them is that they did not seem to carry handbags. How the heck do they get away with that?

Laura and Barbara Haiku
Where are your purses?
What about tampons or combs?
Don't you need money?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

This week, no one said "sheesh"

Last week's monumental loss to the NY Giants gave Jay Cutler such a smack that this week he was sidelined to get over the concussion. We won't discuss the overly-large orange t-shirt he was wearing on the sidelines today at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte that made me wonder if he were still concussed, or if he perhaps owns no mirror, or if he just doesn't give a sartorial crap. Yeah, whatever. I thought Messrs. Collins and Haney did a fine job of it, although one of the statistics I heard by the commentators is that Jay Cutler, he of the 9-time sacking last week, is ranked third among all quarterbacks in the league and Mr. Collins is way down on the list. How is that possible? I will be summarily drubbed with "well, you admit to not knowing anything, so you obviously don't know" but come on, he was sacked nine times and has yet to impress (me, that is) as being anything special. Okay, okay, I modify -- he works with a verifiable offensive line and we don't have to count on Robbie Gould to save each and every game as we did when Rex Grossman was the first-string QB.

On to the show -- we won. We held the Panthers -- whom the commentators kept saying was a young team and that was why they sucked so hard -- to two field goals. Matt Forte had a great game, running for 122 yards and two touchdown carries. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Charles Tillman all had interceptions, the it's-mine-now play. Robbie Gould kicked two field goals, the second of which was a career-long 53 yards.

The Bears win 23-6.

----------

The Chicago Marathon men's division was won today by Olympic-champion and last year's winner, Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, who beat out Ethiopia's Tsegaye Kebede in the last 800 yards of the course. Not wanting to miss a minute of CBS Sunday Morning, I tuned into the TV coverage of the Marathon in time to see a terrific footrace between these two elite runners. When Sammy Wanjiru had passed Kedebe for the last time and was well ahead, Sammy Wanjiru did something wonderful: Sammy Wanjiru smiled. Had I tuned in earlier, I one (me) would have been reminded of the spectacle of paint drying. The women's race was also run by last year's champion, Liliya Shobukhova of Russia. This marks the first time there have been back-to-back winners in both categories at the Chicago Marathon, which started in 1977. I missed Ms. Shobukhova crossing the finish line because I was blabbing on the phone to my friend who actually watched most of the race but had to leave before the finish. I snapped the TV back on to advise of Ms. Shobukhova's victory, that the top spots in the race were won by superfit, supersleek Ethiopians, Kenyans, and one American, and that the women seem to run in bikinis and while the men wear baggy tanks and shorts and what the heck is that about? Yes, it was a warm day for a long run, but the humidity was low and the sun was shining and the leaves were turning and those of us who didn't run enjoyed one of the last great weather days of the year without once claiming it was too hot.

--------------

Last night was the Blackhawks season opener at the United Center. The Stanley Cup won't be back until we win it again and they really mean it this time. The banner for the win was raised to the rafters. Everyone showed off their Stanley-Cup-victory ring including team ambassadors Bobby Hull and Phil Esposito. It is one garish piece of jewelry. It almost looks like something overblown you'd buy on late-night TV. It is so over the top you could probably wear it on the CTA and no one would bother you because it just doesn't look real. The Detroit Red Wings won the game but the season for hockey (and for basketball) goes on so long that there are many opportunities to make up for it. So many opportunities that I probably won't make mention of it for some time.

This year the Blackhawks brought great joy to Chicago and I am still enjoying thoughts of that high. I celebrate with this haiku:

Raised to the rafters!
A banner celebrates the
Stanley Cup success.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sacks-a-poppin' in the Meadowlands

Last night's bloodbath in the Meadowlands featured the New York Giants not so much outplaying the Bears as making Jay Cutler look like he outbid others in a charity auction for the chance to be the starting QB. As you may recall from earlier posts, I am sometimes watching other TV shows or sleeping instead of devotedly watching a game. Last night I watched the whole sad thing, even crying out, "Oh, come on!" when His Jayness was sacked for the fifth time. I wondered why Lovie didn't just yank him, out because if there was "stuff" in Jay, said "stuff" had gone to other parts of the Meadowlands, maybe looking for a good spot for birdwatching. On the ninth sack, a personal worst for Jay and probably anyone else ever (but maybe not for someone who won the job at a celebrity auction), the Giants defensive line knocked him so hard that he knocked his head. And thus ended the first half.

The second half featured Todd Collins, 16 years in the NFL but super-duper sackable, to be just like Jay. Once sacked and suffering a neck injury, Todd went away and was replaced by Caleb Hanie, who, in fact, managed to get sacked. Yay! Everyone participates!

Brian Urlacher seems be back on it and as one of the Olympic Gods, he should be on it. Julius Peppers is proving to be a driving force who is well worth the loot that was spent to get him. Robbie Gould scored our only 3 points with a 40-yard kick and is, as ever, my own personal favorite Bear. Otherwise I was gobsmacked, flabbergasted, shocked, and dismayed by what I saw which was QBs dropping like things that get hit hard and then fall down similarly hard.

Fingers crossed that Messrs. Cutler and Collins are okay but, seriously, we ditched Kyle Orton who appears to be having a great season and hasn't been sacked nine times in the first half of one game.

Head injury haiku
Sacks, sacks, and more sacks.
Concussed QBs leave the game.
WTF was that?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cheese curds for everyone

Our division rival has been sent home to the northern part of Wisconsin to think about what they did. What did they do? THEY LOST! Suck it, losers! I mean, oh, how unsportsmanlike of me. It was a good game (it was). But the Bears, shock of shocks, have become a real team with real players and real bitches (fine, wide receivers and whatever else catches a ball). Greg Olsen grabbed it on the run. Devin Hester took flight and when he landed, he was the royal Bear.

The ESPN announcers (the game was locally broadcast on WCIU, Channel 26 for those, like me, who are cable deficient) talked about Aaron Rodgers like he was something tasty they came upon at a breakfast buffet. Yeah, Rodgers is good but, yo, jerks, Jay Cutler WON. I wonder what goes through the heads of sports commentators. When they get home, do they shut up? When they sit at a table with friends or family, do they listen? Is it all just spouting and pontificating and opining? What do they do when they realize they are just a bunch of gasbags? Nothing, because they are too busy being full of themselves for having lives beyond the gridiron or beyond local TV. Are they even a little introspective?

Of course, there were other things to attend to during the game. Like watching all of "How I Met Your Mother," the second half of "House," and "The Event." The latter has so many things that remind one (fine, me) of dearly departed "LOST," that one (yeah, yeah) realizes that giving it a skip is a very good idea. Or working on a romance novel instead. At the expense of watching my beloved Bears, I put my face to the Temple of TV and regarded other offerings. I could have been watching the game. I was seduced by other flickering images. I should have been watching the game.

Cheese curd haiku
Precious golden balls
purchased at a cheese castle,
so fresh that they squeak.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Can it be TRUE?

The Bears and Jay Cutler won big over the Dallas Cowboys in the Dallas Palace of Fine Football in Arlington, Texas, in the Cowboys home opener. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I may have been wrong in my condemnation of spending all that money for Cutler because the man was on top of it. It was offense and defense playing the game, and not just the defense trying to make the best of it. They beat the Cowboys on their home turf and I am delighted. Today, all the coaches are great. All the players are terrific. And I ate some very tasty Chinese food, leftover from last night's takeaway.

Haiku of pity
Safety Major Wright!
He breaks an index finger,
then pulls a hammy.

As I watched the game, two things were immediately apparent. Number one is that I truly don't know jackshit about football. Really, were I a cartoon character watching the game, there would be a whole lot of question-mark thought balloon floating above my head the whole time with the occasional exclamation point when I realized I understood something. Number two: Dallas Palace of Fine Football knocks me out. If I went anywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I would pay to take a tour of the place because the Dallas Palace of Fine Football is off the freaking hook.

Will I stop writing about sports and football in particular? Oh, hell. no. I still have opinions and I am going to share and, perhaps, my readership will grow beyond one well-drawn but supportive follower.

-----------------------

America's Got Talent, the guiltiest of guilty pleasures, is over and singer Michael Grimm gave a terrific performance to win. Prince Poppycock and Fighting Gravity will both end up with Las Vegas shows -- and they should because they are both unusual and talented acts. Michael Grimm, fingers crossed, will get a nice fat recording contract. Ten-year-old opera singer Jackie Evancho, if she takes the advice of her own idol, Sarah Brightman, will enjoy being a kid and not throw her voice away too early. (I paraphrase but it was good advice.) (Girlfriend hasn't had braces or been in love or entered junior high, even. She should continue to study voice and other things and she will have a great singing career ahead of her.)

A haiku of farewell
Many bad/good acts!
America's Got Talent:
See you next summer.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Luck for the Bears, stars in the park, and AGT - more haiku

For the Chicago Bears, it was a squeaker and a win, thanks to the bad fortune of Detroit Lions first string quarterback, Matthew Stafford, who was sacked by Julius Peppers, and Lions bitch (okay, wide receiver) Calvin Johnson. If Detroit hadn't lost their QB to a major shoulder injury at the end of the first half, and/or if Calvin Johnson of the Lions had completed the process of a touchdown play at the end of the fourth quarter, the Bears could very well have lost their season opener. There was also that shameful play at the one-yard line where the Bears still didn't get it across the line for a touchdown and they didn't turn to Robbie Gould to just give it a good kick either. THE ONE YARD LINE! THIRTY-SIX INCHES! The Lions defense is very good or the Bears offense is very stanky.

Someone needs to please remind me why Jay Cutler is allegedly worth so much money. I still don't understand. Still, as I watched the game, I realized I probably don't have what it takes to watch any sort of sporting match because it devastates me if they lose. As they say, a win is a win but my nerves like big fat rousing defeats of our opponents. The Tennessee Titans beat Oakland 38-13. That's the kind of bloodbath I like.

This week's haiku:

Poor Calvin Johnson!
Not completing the process
lets Chicago win.

Even Jay Cutler
mentioned Calvin's bad luck but
"A win is a win."

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Quinn Kelsey, 2007

Every year, usually the Saturday after Labor Day, the Lyric Opera of Chicago offers a free night of opera in the park called "Stars of the Lyric Opera in Millennium Park," featuring major opera stars and advanced students from the Ryan Opera Center. Long story short, it is a wonderful evening. This year's final selection of the evening was "O soave fanciulla" from La Boheme. Ana Maria Martinez and Leopardo Capaldo sang a thrilling duet. I've thought about it so many times over the past two days and I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and go to the opera next year - in the park and free. It might turn out to be your new favorite thing and trying it out won't cost you anything but a couple of hours of your time (get there early if you want a good seat).


Wonderful free songs
carry out onto the crowd
that sends back applause.



-------------------------------------

America's Got Talent winds up on Wednesday night. For a red hot change, I could stand it if any of the acts win. I suspect America will pick Jackie Evancho, the 10-year-old operatic soprano from Pennsylvania. The other three acts, Fighting Gravity, Prince Poppycock, and, to a lesser degree, Michael Grimm would more easily be turned in a Las Vegas act but ubertalented Jackie -- adorable, sweet, polite, and amazingly poised -- might walk away with the million bucks. I'd rather plunk down loot to see an over-the-top show from the likes of Prince Poppycock or Fighting Gravity. Season two's winner, ventriloquist Terry Fator, got a multi-million-dollar deal on the Vegas Strip. Why? Not a singer and his act can be modified and changed up. Wanna see a singer in Vegas? Plenty to choose from now. Think of the biggest shows in Vegas with a singer that wasn't ridiculously famous when they got to Vegas. Isn't one, is there? Since magician Michael Grasso got tossed, I would cough it up to see what Prince Poppycock or Fighting Gravity do. Hmm, apparently I think more strongly about this than I did at the beginning of this paragraph.

Heaven help me, please!
This guilty pleasure compels
me to see who wins.

And neither of these things -- not AGT, not Stars of the Lyric Opera in Millennium Park -- makes me want to snatch myself bald like the Bears do. I'm just sayin'.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

WTF and I mean it

A Haiku of WTF?

Team for season set!
The tiny brains cut the gold.
Bye, Dan LeFevour.

-----------------------

The Bears stank up another stadium, this time in Ohio. I forgot this last exhibition game was being played and, instead, watched an episode of "Community" and then went swimming. When I got home I still forgot it was on and looked at icanhascheezburger.com and knocked off at about 10:15. The next morning I saw the highlights on WGN and realized I am to comprehensive football blogging what a former governor of Alaska was to commitment to her electorate. So I did what came next (in my mind) to get information, i.e. I exchanged IMs with Lady Football. She advised that she too went to bed early but that Lord Football, who loves, loves, loves the Bears had watched the whole game. When he got into bed, she asked if they won and Lord Football, he who loves loves loves the Bears, said, "Of course not."

"Of course not."

WTF are the coaches and front officers thinking? Jay Cutler is clearly a waste of those millions. Dan LeFevour showed he has the football stuff during the pre-season Cardinals game and so, of course, they released him. The Bengals have snapped him up and, mark the words of someone who cares but mostly blows hot air, he will have a very exciting and winning career and the Bears will be kicking themselves and each other all around the Colonnade at Solider Field whenever they think about it. Kyle Orton, whom those knuckleheads traded for J. Cutler, is having a fine, winning time of it in Denver. Now they've unloaded the rookie QB who could possibly lead them from the crapper -- really, check out his college stats -- so they can fully concentrate on Losey Loserson and Offensive Offenders. I would love to have a tape of the conversation that determined who was getting cut. "Dan LeFevour has a good future -- cut him loose!" Are there marbles, bells, whistles, and pictures of Angela Merkel where their brains once were? Why do the pictures have to be of Angela Merkel?

I have used the "Gods on Olympus" metaphor way too much but I am glad I have. These Bears are the gods from Mt. Olympus. They have kidnapped the real Bears and have placed themselves on the team, longing all these years to play them some pro ball. Naturally they suck at it; all they knows is being all powerful at their own specialty. This is as good an explanation as any and so I make an appeal to them -- please return to your mountain, let our own Bears go, and allow us to not let down people like Lord Football who loves, loves, loves him some Chicago Bears, and people like me, who don't know what they are talking about but deserve better. I won't worship you but I won't talk smack about you either.

Post script, Labor Day, 06 September 2010: I heard an interview with Rod Marinelli, Bears 2010 Defensive Coordinator, this evening. Live on the radio. I paraphrase that he said this was a great coaching team, the best he's ever worked with. Rod Marinelli is clearly deluded. Delusion aside, what is the guy supposed to say? "We know that we blow?" Still, too much enthusiasm for too marginal a product.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

When nothing else will do, a pair of haiku

It's hard to admit
Jay Cutler was sacked four times
He's not worth the dough

------------------------------

Rookie quarterback
Last year he played college ball
Can he save the Bears?

******************************

They bit, they chewed, they swallowed and seemed to like it. To paraphrase the song, disappointment is my closest friend when it comes to the Bears. Not much else to say.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cubs and Bears

There are a pair of notable departures this week that I wish to touch on.

Best wishes to Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee, who accepted the trade to the Braves. As with most entertainers, I often wish athletes would not say very much. At all. Smile and wave, says I. The very well spoken Derrek Lee is an exception to this rule. My fingers are crossed that he gets the chance to play beyond the regular season. If he has to go, then I am glad he gets to go big with Atlanta, who are in first place. I look forward to hearing him speak about how things are going. Kudos to the fans for giving him a standing ovation when he returned in a Braves uniform days later -- a great show of thanks for seven years of solid ball.

Lou Piniella was going to retire as head coach of the Chicago Cubs at the end of this season but announced today that today would be it, wanting to spend time with this ailing 90-year-old mom. Lou devoted his entire adult life to the sport of baseball and baseball loved him back. Cubs fans are rabidly devoted and showed their love by giving the coach a standing ovation as he bid them farewell. Mr. Piniella was a great addition to the landscape that is Chicago baseball.

Last night in Soldier Field against the Oakland Raiders, the Bears played something that actually resembled professional football. Matt Forte ran for 89 yards, points were scored, and, even though they lost pretty thoroughly, they looked like an NFL team that could win a game sometime, maybe even this year. Next week, the Arizona Cardinals take the trip up Mount Olympus to have at the gods, followed by the gods twirling off to Cleveland for the final pre-season game on August 28. I suggest they keep their momentum but I mean the momentum of improvement. Perhaps Arizona will be bedazzled by our lakefront vistas and be thinking about the views and the interesting stadium (which looks like an alligator in a kangaroo's pouch from several angles). The weather on Mt. Olympus is especially nice in late summer. Maybe these distractions will be enough to produce a win or an anti-loss.

I didn't feel as disappointed as I did last week. Perhaps it was because I spent most of the day with my dearest friend and her family and we talked some politics and watched some White Sox and ate some dip that had guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and shredded cheese and then was topped with all sorts of olives -- black, green, green with pimento -- and is eaten with round, thin Tostitos and had to come from the snack kitchen in the bowels of hell because there is nothing really good for you in it but dang, that is some tasty, tasty dip that makes ones feel satisfied and like life can offer surprises after all. I still wasn't disappointed as I spent the second and third quarters driving home, listening to the Bears on the radio. It actually seemed like they were thinking about playing hard unlike the week before. What they need to remember is that they are there to play a good game and also win and that they are not gods but men. I am belaboring that metaphor but I like it so very much. Perhaps it will go away at the end of the season. (Do not hold your breath.)

I think about this on occasion: We got Jay Cutler; Denver got Kyle Orton. Did we really get the better of that deal? Then I think about something else, like birthday cake or what color I would paint the living and dining rooms, were I in a decorating mood.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bears play games; swimming the distance

On Saturday night, the Chicago Bears played their first exhibition game of the new NFL season against the San Diego Chargers. The Chicago Bears, gods from Mt. Olympus sent via airplane to play at Qualcomm Stadium, had my interest for all of about 5 minutes and then I started twirling around the TV dial, devoted to network television channel surfing. I came back to see injuries, plague, pestilence or maybe you call them injuries, penalties, and sacks. All three QBs got sacked but the money god, Jay Cutler, was taken out way early so they'd still be able to pluck him from Olympus for the opening game. I hope the injuries were neither career- nor season-ending (some of those guys were rookies). The bigger question is, why did it lose my attention?

A few years ago I realized I can't go to baseball games because if they lose, I take it personally. During the winning game of Stanley Cup finals, I was very, very, very nervous because if the Hawks lost I was going to just be so very upset. I don't bet money so I've really nothing to lose, but I have emotions vested in each game I watch and I don't like a let down.

Yup, I don't like a let down and those Bears are cruising to break my heart and they pretty much bit. Last night, as I fell asleep, the TV still on, I swear I heard a commentator say, "It was a great game but I can't say I'm not disappointed." Our Bears were lightly spread on toast points and then were ingested by what seemed to be a real football team, the final score being 25-10. Disappointment is a reserved term for it because, dang, they really stank up the field.

Maybe I am being too nervous too early in the season or maybe I just think Chicago deserves a team that kicks ass, breaks through lines, takes names, and lets the game be more evenly played by offense and defense. The defensive line has to be exhausted and fans who actually know something must be, too. The Bears have been saved time after time by its kicker. This time Robbie Gould, he of the golden leg, the Can-Can god, knocked one of the Chargers out of bounds when no one else could catch that Charger (who was, let's agree, charging). Gould looked delighted that he pushed the guy out of bounds! I suggest each Bear team member look hard at Mr. Gould and wonder how he is so good and they are so not-as-good. I don't cry myself to sleep every night because I know Robbie Gould knows how to play football as part of a team.

In totally-other sports news, later this month, right about the time she turns 61, Diane Nyad, the great long-distance swimmer, is set to make another attempt at swimming from Cuba to Key West, a distance of 103 miles. When she made the attempt in 1978, she was pulled out of the ocean after 42 hours. In 2010 I hope she walks out onto the shore at Key West, triumphant as the only person to ever swim this particular stretch of open sea.

Monday, August 9, 2010

A few best of 2010 thus far

Friday evening I went to dinner at a local hamburger joint with family members, most of whom are appalled by my admitted interest in sports, and one who seems to think it is what it is (because it is). While we dined, several soundless television sets were on, each showing a different program. One had a sports-themed show and I glanced at it only once but its topic gave me considerable pause. It was a top-ten-thus-far-or-maybe-it-was-top-ten-for-2009-but-it-was-nevertheless-a-top-ten list of things in sports.

I enjoy some talking about sports but as my headline says, I know nothing of sports. I have given some thought to this, however, and have "Southwest Corner's Top Few for 2010 thus far that I can recall."

The Stanley Cup on its way to the rally
1. The Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. Then they took the Stanley Cup everywhere -- bars, restaurants, the Crosstown Classic between the Cubs and Sox, Gay Pride Parade, to name just a few. The Hawks brought such magic with them that I willingly went with my supervisor to stand on the street and smile and wave when they went from the United Center to the rally at Wacker and Michigan. Thinking about the whole thing still makes me smile.

2. LeBron James switches teams. This is a classic tale of defection, disappointment, greed, and conceit. I am glad the Bulls didn't get him. There isn't enough room in Illinois for his ego and that of Rod Blagojevich, former governor, even if Rod goes to prison. No offense to Miami fans, but I hope the Heat get knocked to the curb. I hope the Cavs kick major booty but that the Bulls ultimately beat everyone.

3. Tiger Woods gets some. The man believed he was the greatest and that he could betray his wife and family and fans and act like a jerk and stick it wherever it could be stuck and that there would be no consequences. You really can't, sir, because it will suck the mojo out of your game, you lose focus, and people will think you are nothing but a megadouche with little regard for anyone other than yourself and that personal porno you were starring in between your ears. It also turns you into entertainment news, which is not news at all.

4. Vuvuzelas and FIFA Soccer. Which of Satan's demons came up with the vuvuzela? Toots aside, I learned a lot about soccer during the games, mostly from an online friend who answers all my questions with great patience. I've decided why soccer isn't as popular here: the networks and cable channels will have none of that not-breaking-for-commericals stuff. Soccer goes without stopping. No commercial breaks means not as much sponsor dough. It also made me wonder if the American attention span is that long. Maybe not, but it could be trained.

5. Southwest Corner's Toughness Rating. Soccer players race up and down the field -- hundreds of yards -- nonstop for 45 minutes, then another 45, then some overtime. Hockey players race up and down on skates wearing pads and helmets and are constantly getting slammed into the wall and/or head first onto the ice and then they get up and do it some more. Football players hold lines and maybe run a bit. So here is my toughness rating: Soccer (for cardiovascular superiority) and hockey (for cardivascular toughness and strength) tie for first and football is after that because compared to soccer and hockey, football is a tickle party. There are other sports but those are powerpuff rallies featuring pillow fights. Okay, boxing. Fine. Very, very, very tough. Not a tickle party. Promise you won't hit me. I rerate: 1. BOXING. 2. SOCCER and HOCKEY. 3. FOOTBALL. 4. Most everything else.

6. Tom Izzo stays at Michigan State. Go right through for MSU. Go green; go white. I tangentially know about this as an MSU alum. In four years of college and another two of living in the East Lansing area, I attended zero basketball games and two football games. I attended a bunch of hockey games as my roommates had season tickets. We were so into it we drove to Ann Arbor to see U of M play MSU. On that occasion, U of M won (results are not typical). So when I say tangentially, that's pretty true. See? Here? I twirled off on a tangent.

This concludes my few for 2010. I swear on a stack of MSU hockey game programs that I will pay better attention for the remainder of the year. Or not.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Thing Who Wouldn't Leave

The Thing Who Wouldn't Leave is a short book by Edward Gorey about a quarterback who enjoyed a long and successful career then retired but came back for another season then retired again and then, oh, came back for another super successful season even considering his age and who now alleges he may play another season unless he retires. No, wait. That's Brett Favre. (The Gorey tale is about an unwanted house guest.)

Brett Favre is still about, y'all, and I really want to put my ugly mug in his and ask, "How can we miss you if you won't go away?" However, if what Brett really wants is to complete 20 seasons in the NFL, then I say good, great goal. go for it. He might also nut up and say, "I have been thinking about it long and hard and if it's in me, I want to do another season. I like this job too much to leave it just yet." He might also stop toying with his fans, his frenemies, his opponents, and me. He's a fine specimen of quarterbackihood but I am tired of hearing about it.

Regardless of what this season brings, after Super Bowl next year (roman numeral something-or-other), the next time I hear about you, Brett, I want it to be when you're inducted into the Hall of Fame. Not until. Stay cool. Keep quiet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The NFL is back

Greetings, fans of football and other people who are probably sane. American football season is upon us.

Over the past few years I have become enamoured of the brand of professional football played in these United States, in particular the Chicago Bears. I've no clue why it happened. It certainly embarrasses my family members. Only friends who live in far-flung suburbs watch it or care that I pay attention to it. I am not so proud of it but it is what it is.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to drive over 130 miles round trip to experience the Bears Training Camp in Bourbonnnais, IL. I am not a fan of most solo car trips. My dearest friend lives 50 miles from me but I see her perhaps three times a year because, dear god in heaven, it is one hour in a car. My personal limit is 45 minutes. My friend, as great as she is and as nice as her family might be, doesn't offer potential gridiron excitement so I ignored my rule and drove to a village near a lot of corn fields in order to experience the birth of another season of Bears. Plus we'd get to sit on metal bleachers in unbearable heat as the sun beat down while also looking into the sun, thereby messing up any chance to get a picture.

We entered the training camp as the Bears left the locker room and walked toward the practice field. No, I correct myself -- as the gods descended from Olympus to grace the mortal world with their unearthly presence. No waving at the fans; no happy anticipation of the workout to follow as viewed by the fans; no acknowledgment the fans were there. We allow a smidge of slack here because it was 2pm and they were going to be working for about three hours and that kind of stress is terrible on anyone, I say with lots of sarcasm.

Not likely to be sacked today
Two friends in attendance were Lord and Lady Football who had driven 250 miles roundtrip and were pleased to be there. Good Lord Football really knows everything there is to know about the sport and about the Bears. The gods ran scrimmages and plays. Horns blew. Adjunct gods held up pieces of paper. Men wore shirts with numbers but not names and the quarterbacks all wore orange. I did not get to ask a lot of questions because Lord Football -- who is very generous with his knowledge, explaining things simply and concisely -- was sitting on the metal bleachers while I retreated from the sun's rays to a nearby tent and quaffed water in the shade, thereby surrendering my acquisition of knowledge for the day. When I ventured out again, I got a seat right at the edge of the field but I mostly didn't know what the heck was going on. I was next to three young men who addressed every issue possible (how great a bubble bath feels, who cares what people think if you want a bubble bath, Cubs scores, Sox scores, how tall that one Bear is, how hot it was in the sun, etc.) but appeared to know nothing about football. The gods pressed on wearing full pads but the significance of said pads was lost on me. My own take is solely that the quarterback throws the ball to his bitch (fine, wide receiver) and he seems to be auditioning new bitches (fine, wide receivers) this year. And that one bitch (fine, except this bitch is a tight end) really looks like he bleaches his hair.

Then it was over! The gods strode toward the locker room and the supreme gods rode in a golf cart to avoid making direct eye contact with mortals. Some of the gods signed their names and numbers on pieces of paper, hats, shirts, signs, posters, and pennants mostly for men. How long each signed seemed governed by caprice. Who came to which part of the field seemed similarly governed but I assertively thrust my paper at two players for their signatures (thanks, 26 and 35). I rolled away (literally, as I got my lazy ass on a golf cart) just in time to miss Lovie Smith, the Wrangler of the Gods of Olympus (fine, Head Coach). Good Lady Football (the Footballs are a lovely match) advised that Mr. Smith was humble and great and signed and signed and signed his name. "Hey, you missed Lovie Smith. He came right when you left." Of course he did, said I.

I believe when the gods ascended Mt. Olympus that night, they ate very rare steak and mashed potatoes and no veggies at all because they don't have normal innards and don't concern themselves with evacuating their colons or simply having a poo while reading maybe a travel magazine or the sports section from the Sunday paper. I believe these gods discussed how eating fruit of any sort is for loser mortals.

Was this experience worth it? Yes, because I'd never done it before and I wanted to see it first hand. Also, no, because the Bears don't seem to realize that they dwell not on Mt. Olympus but in Illinois; that they are as mortal as me or you; that they should get on their hands and knees and thank the fans for putting them on pedestals/shrines/altars and worshipping them; that it could all be over for each of them in the flick of a wrist; that the money they make constitutes obscene wealth and perpetuates the myth among young men of marginal talent that they should only exercise their bodies and not their minds.

But yes, because I got to share the excitement of Lord and Lady Football, and all the other lords and ladies in attendance, all thrilled to be there to support their favorite team in its earliest seasonal form. And yes, because I never have to do it again.

The final yes is because, as I left Bears Training Camp, I realized the one thing that would make me truly satisfied with my trip to Bourbonnais would be coming across a car wash. Yes, I found one. It was huge, automatic, and had serious dancing fringe and hot blowers. Afterward I drove through the corn field toward the freeway and home, pensive about my almost total lack of comprehension of football and how that really is what it is.