Kenny Smith | blog

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Lunch with Atticus today. His dad brought him to town for a grocery store run at Whole Foods, so The Yankee and I met him at the Newk's nearby.

Newk's is one of those trendy deli joints where you sit down among sparse decoration and three more tables than the room requires and think of yourself as hip and urbane. The food is good, this being my first visit I opted for the pizza, which was tasty. Atticus had a barbecue and vegetable plate from the grocery store. He's a big fan of veggies it seems.

Such a good kid, and smart too. He knows the alphabet and counts higher than some people you know. He's very well behaved and he likes me a lot. He lets me carry him, and always manages to draw himself near, even when more than enough time has passed for him to forget who I am. He likes my class ring. He does not like when I steal his chips.

After lunch we stood outside in the chill and chatted for as long as we could stand it. Justin and Atticus headed for home and we couldn't think of anything else to do. We'd considered watching Batman, but missed the start time. No matter; we saw it opening weekend.

And so I did not much instead. Watched a bit of television, prowled around the house and little more. For dinner was the third and final Thanksgiving meal of the season. Since the turkey with family is as chewy as dry Play Doh a properly cooked bird is required. The supporting cast requires many of the things my mother prepared that I stole on my way out the door on Friday. It was just the right amount: eating it all would do a little more than make you full, but not so much to make you miserable.

And now, cruising the web I see a local reporter has written this phrase: "As Birmingham braces itself for the first snowfall of the season." And they did it with a straight face.

This brings to mind the piece I shot (produced by Kelly) last year:

It will not snow here tomorrow. I will not have the opportunity to make another funny video. I'll let you know what we get, but in the meantime rest assured: We're braced.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Iron Bowl. The annual day of anticipation, nerves, angst and elation or sadness. Because of this day you can rule over your neighbors, or you must hide from your family, all depending on your allegiances and the outcome of a game played by young men, each of them who work to hard to ever lose a game that will forever be a part of their identity in this region.

If you need any more understanding of the cultural implications I direct you to this column, where I was quoted four times. I'll let you choose three of them. The most ridiculous comment was mine and it is sadly, unjustly true: "What's riding on this series? Your relative worth as an individual."

I said two weeks ago that Auburn might keep this game close and surprise people. Or they might get blown out by 30. Either option seemed viable. Sadly it was the latter that came true with a 36-0 drubbing.

So we'll speak of this game no more. Auburn has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years in this game and it is good, in a way, and painful to remember the anguish that comes with the other side of it. It will make everyone a bit more urgent about the larger task at hand: taking over the series.

We took a step back today, but still only six games from that joyous day when we finally take over.

So feel however you feel about this particular one -- if you care at all, that is -- I'll be over here daydreaming about the really big one.

War Eagle.

Friday, November 28, 2008

How can it be that this tree, some 120 miles or so north of my home, has all of its leaves but my trees are all bald?

I've got something up on the yard in that photograph, though. Mine is covered in oak leaves. Take that, grass! You, zero. My yard, plus 76,321,491 leaves!

Visited the other grandparents today, rounding out the north Alabama bunch. This would be the other curious aspect of the above tree question. My grandparents live probably 25 miles from one another but the second set is ankle deep in leaves. There is something curious taking place at the site of that photograph ...

Lunch was with the other grandparents. They live even further out in the middle of nowhere -- though all of that nowhere is beginning to grow in their direction. Their house is dark and quiet, with walls that have seen decades of joys and tears, just like every other old place.

There is a story in every trinket, and at least two in each photograph. It is one of those houses where some of those things are never cycled off the walls or shelves, but persist for their own reasons, which are known only to my grandmother.

We have lunch. Ham and vegetables, we sit around the kitchen table, the center of the house, and talk for a few hours. Later, at my grandfather's decision, we move into the living room which suddenly feels like an afterthought addition.

The old console television unit of my childhood memories has long since been replaced, but the replacement, and perhaps another heir, has shuffled off too. Now the television is small, and it makes the room seem bigger. We have a nice long quiet conversation in there and I notice the same baubles and knick knacks, many of them gifts from me and other family members, persisting on as small symbols of love.

One of the plastic faux-brass butterflies is flying upside down. It is in a squadron of three, but pointing toward the carpet. I wonder how long it has been like that. I wonder how long it will stay.

The ceiling is unchanged. Unchanged, at least, since they removed the wood stove and put in central heating. That's been in my lifetime. The carpet is the second one I've known in the house. The sofa is the second one too. That spans 30-plus years of care, maintenance and, finally, a change of decor.

But the place is tidy. My grandmother is the type that has everything just so, at all times and as she goes. The Christmases of our youth was probably as messy as it ever got, and then only briefly. But then I see items on shelves that caught my eye even as a child.

Someone brought them a novelty lighter shaped like a hand grenade. I used to play with it a little, even though I probably wasn't supposed to. There's a famous story of one guest who thought it real. I hear that story every so often. It is still funny, even though it has never been changed or embellished.

My grandfather has a dog that someone gave him just after he got sick. The dog is now 16, seems to be losing his sight and not quiet as energetic as he used to be. He's been a good companion for my grandfather, but the dog is 16. That floored me.

He drove trucks for a living. He had an oversized garden and was always tinkering with something. About the only time he'd sit still, that I recall, was to watch wrestling or baseball. Sometime soon after his medical troubles I was shocked by how soft his hands had become. I wrote it down in a journal. They'd always been a working man's hands, but they were suddenly so drastically changed.

I think of that every time I see him. He says hello, I give him a hug. He laughs and takes my hand. For half of my life his hands have been this soft. For half of my life my grandfather has been just as he is now.

Anyway. Sorry for the maudlin moment. There is good in all of that, I assure you. That's just the sort of thing that sneaks up on you.

Back at home now. Having arrived at dark-thirty, watched a little football and then a spontaneous Pie Day to see Super Waiter Ward. We were down, last week, to wondering if 2008 had any more Pie Days left in the calendar. This week we've proved that you can always make an excuse for a Pie Day.

Tidbits of note from the road: I saw gas at $1.67 which is the cheapest personally witnessed in a long, long time. And that wasn't even at one of those watered down gas stations either.

Tonight I'm watching a Thanksgiving episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Floyd is rehearsing a play in which he's portraying the town's founding father John Mayberry. It is, of course, an understated classic.

So there's that. I'm wondering what to do with my weekend -- still a bit staggered by this four days off concept -- and waiting for my accent to thin out after two days of exposure in a place where even the television anchors are sometimes unintelligible.

Maybe that's what I'll do tomorrow. Verbal exercises.

I hope you have a delightful Saturday planned. And I hope a return visit to the site is somewhere on your list. See you soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I'm sure that, by now, you've all gone around the room considering what your thankful for, who you are thankful for and why those other people are even allowed in the house. With that in mind, and since my targets of thanks which necessitate the requisite amount of gratitude aren't that different from yours I'll just generally say "Family, friends, people who give more of themselves than anyone should ever be asked."

I'm also thankful for lovely weather, dry turkey, a quiet life of peace and prosperity and you.

Finally, I'm thankful for a full four-day vacation. I took Thanksgiving off last year -- a full, indulgent, week -- and slept more than I had in a decade. It was great, but that week was a combination of seniority, working a lot of other holidays and taking vacation days.

This year, on the new academic career path, I get the whole spread. Christmas too. These are things for which I am also thankful, even as the two sides of my brain try to come to terms with the knowledge.

So. Thanksgiving. This was my first view of the day.

This is at my mother's lake house. She has this lifelong beach theme and it manifests itself in the extra bedroom here. If you can't have turkey, yams, cranberry and starfish then you, sir or madam, are missing out on the full holiday atmosphere.

While food was being prepared I spent the morning telling tales to whomever would listen, testing out the internet connection we built last night and taking pictures in the woods. Standard stuff.

At noon a relative stopped by to see how we were coming. We eat promptly, but for once we were the branch of the family that was behind. I was preparing the truck to load the food when the question was asked.

My mother, it should be noted, made her signature dressing, dumplings, a delicious sweet potato casserole a pie and perhaps some other item. She did much of this in an oven now in its 54th year of service.

I've written of this before, but it simply gets remarkable with every meal. This was the appliance that started in a great-aunt's kitchen when she began her family in the 1950s. It has passed through the family from stop to stop and was basically rescued from a dull, rusting fate to find its way into my mother's lake house kitchen. Still cooks very well, though Mom said she had to babysit the dressing a bit more in this oven.

At my grandparents' I walked in and, within 45 seconds -- I kid you, not -- I was in the middle of a transmission and engine rebuild story. It was as if I'd turned on the automotive channel. Fascinating talk, surely, but I can contribute nothing to it. So I walked into the kitchen for the speculative turkey bite.

This is key. This informs your entire meal selection. You find a small piece and judge, from that one moment, whether you go with turkey or pick an alternative meat. We had the usual ham as a secondary choice, which turned out to be the best choice. That one moment of one bite of turkey turned into a chewing chore -- my family is not afraid to overbake a bird.

I found out much later in the evening that someone had gotten up at 3:30 a.m. for the purpose of placing the fowl in the oven. Said person has to travel a bit to arrive at the family headquarters, but starting at 3:30 means overcooked.

As I told The Yankee, I was an adult before I knew that turkey could have moisture and taste. This is one of the common themes in my family, and though they can all make many delicious meals, treats and dishes, turkey simply isn't one of them.

The Yankee is here, incidentally, because her family is too far away for Thanksgiving and this is turning into a tradition. Sadly my family is pro-dry turkey and The Yankee is anti-ham. Might I suggest a vegetable plate?

Oh yes, Southern cooked vegetables still mystify her. She's the only person in America eating less today than her normal diet.

I did very well at lunch, having only one moderate plate, and no desert. For dinner I had only a slight bit more.

In between meals I took photos like this. Coco Claus has the look that all attention-starved pups will want this year. Complete in her velvet red with cotton-poly white trim this little number will have everyone looking under the tree after leaving out a few extra milk bones.

I did not dress the dog in this outfit. She endured it with good spirits.

And then the kids started playing with the costume.

Later he took Coco for a walk which lent itself to one of those pictures of timeless quality.

That's a -- let me carry the three and subtract the two -- a second cousin. He was the youngest person present and earned lots of attention. Good kid. His brother, only slightly older, is also a good guy. He has it in his head that he'll be a race car driver when he grows up because, after all of the philosophical ponderings that a nine-year-old can muster, he has a need for speed.

This was a valuable teaching moment for me. It was insightful in proving why it is good that I don't have children at this point in my life because I've no idea what you say to that. My best option was to offer a lecture on why it is good for him to never quote the movie Top Gun at great length. While that might have added to the greater good I don't think that would have served the moment.

The kids also learned about digital photography. With my camera. The younger one was adorable. He couldn't figure out this closing one eye and aiming at something business. If I'd thought of it at the time I would have video taped it. Mostly I was just concentrating on making sure a five-year-old was wearing an expensive camera's strap at all times.

Also the older boy lost a tooth tonight. No. I do not want to see your tooth. He pretty much willed it out because he feared the dentist doing the job. And the kid deserves this credit: He walked to the bathroom and returned two minutes later with the thing in his hand. When I was a child that was an all-night theatrical production.

That was pretty much the day: a lot of good food, a small amount of unfortunate food, family, laughter, board games, pretty weather. For the most part it has followed the pattern of every other Thanksgiving. That's another thing for which to be grateful.

If you're half as lucky as me you've got it made, but if you're twice again as fortunate I'd be even more pleased for you.

Come back tomorrow when I won't be shopping, but I will see more family!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Awake at 6:30 this morning, the earliest in a while, and into the car just after 7 a.m. Easy ride in on a damp and hazy morning. I made my way to the testing center, tucked against the side of Red Mountain. It is not far from one of the radio stations where I used to work.

That was a long time ago now, and it didn't really occur to me until later. This morning I was thinking of this test. I arrived in plenty of time, but wasn't sure what to expect.

This is a testing center, so the staff there are professional proctors for any number of tests. The people are remarkably casual, but the paperwork that must be filled out is stuffy and formal. You are warned of the dangers of things you can and can't take inside the testing area.

There's a paragraph you must copy from one section of the paperwork to another, word for word, so that you can understand the seriousness of acting serious. You are warned of the various torture techniques the hidden agents will employ should you try to cheat, or copy answers. Legal cases are cited for those thinking of sharing questions and answers with others.

After that silliness is completed the proctor fills out her paperwork. You sign something else, obtain a locker for your coat and cell phone and any food you'd previously considered taking inside. They escort you into the testing room, sit you at a computer and offer you two sets of headphones so you can't hear the noise of others also taking tests. They wish you luck and leave you alone.

For the next five minutes or so you're reading through a computer tutorial. "This is a mouse. These are buttons." It is all very rudimentary, like the software. If you wonder how someone could be considering this level of postgraduate education and not understand the nuances of the mouse and left-clicking no one would fault you. If you wonder what your $140 went toward and you actually come up with an answer I hope you'll let me know.

And then the test begins. The GRE has a writing component on which you're graded by humans. For the first portion you must choose one of two statements and argue to support it. In the second portion you must critique an argument you are given on its own merits. I'm contractually obligated to not repeat the questions or a group of ninjas will burst through the windows and overwhelm me, but the written questions weren't especially hard.

After that was the quantitative section, which is a bit harder. I'm a word guy, not a math guy. I haven't had a math class since spring term of my freshman year, so we're talking 12 years or so. That was pre-calculus and trig, and I wasn't especially good at it then.

So I struggle my way through that and then on to the verbal section. I feel a bit better here, if only because I finish it with more comfort and more time remaining. I was fighting in the clock in the quantitative section.

After the verbal was another quantitative. This means that one of these is a test process for the GRE people. I'm part of a social experiment, but don't know which portion will have my actual test score and which part is for their own purposes. Again I finish the final few questions in the final moments and the test is finally over.

Then the most curious screen comes up. I'm given an option to either see my score and report it to the schools of my choice or not see my score at all. No skin off their nose. They have my $140. Why you can't do both remains an open mystery. It isn't as if it costs them any more money to do the one than the other, but that's the joys of the GRE.

Since I didn't come here to spend a bunch of money and not find out the score or send it on to the school of my choice I get the numbers and learn ... I passed!

Outside I asked if there was any confirmation that I'd taken the test and I'd passed. I'm a bit paranoid about this since it is November and I'm trying to start classes in January, but there is no receipt possible.

That's no small oversight for my $140 processing fee, but what can you do? This is all just a part of becoming a student once again.

Returned to campus where I didn't see any students today -- they're all long since gone -- and ran into only two maintenance people and one member of campus safety throughout the afternoon.

After campus closed I made my way home to do a bit of laundry and pack a few clothes for Thanksgiving.

Now with the family, we've established a wireless internet connection from my uncle's home to my mother's lake house. They sit perhaps 75 yards apart, with one wooded lot between them. My mother brought a router to use through her brother's connection to the world. This is one of the last places where you can be disconnected, but we've fixed that tonight.

I'd considered just running a spool of cat-5 cable through that little stand of woods. We could dig a little slit trench and bury it, but it is a little chilly. Instead I spent part of the 40-degree night wondering around the family's properties with a laptop and a short sleeve shirt.

At the end of the night we have the internet, and here we are. Also, I passed the GRE. That's going to take a while to sink in.

Tomorrow: We all have a lot for which to be thankful. Among them I'm thankful that you take a little time out of your busy day to come visit me. Tomorrow I hope you'll have plenty of time to spend with family and friends. If you stop by here there will surely be pictures and stories and more.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quiet day on campus. Again. I've said this a lot in the last week. The students and faculty are all gearing down for Thanksgiving and you could make the mistake that we were already on a holiday.

But that starts tomorrow for students, though the campus will be open for business. There was also notice that the campus was closing at 2 p.m. for Thanksgiving. Academia = A terrific place of employment.

Spent part of the day writing on my syllabus again. This is the third version of the thing, so the refinements are getting pretty sharp. I took it to the boss today, hoping it didn't sound too much like I'm destroying paradigms and corrupting youth. He likes the concept of the class, so it is a go. Now I just have to finish the actual weekly schedule.

One student stopped by and was discussing an ongoing project. He's a history major and he needs primary sources for the era of Mobile's history when cotton became the primary piece of the economy. I called an historian from Mobile I know, she gave him two book titles and a local historian who's a specialist on the period.

Like I said, quiet day.

Elsewhere I discovered today that a high school classmate has turned his music into a fine jazz career. P.J. Spraggins has played with a long line of talented artists, released his own album and has heard it played on The Weather Channel.

Also found a site that let's you send a free card to servicemen and women overseas. Seems a good time to do that, so I sent several and you might consider it too.

This evening I stopped by the local speedy hair cut service where I met a nice lady who ended the night giving me her business card. I've never had that happen before. We had a nice chat as she cut my hair. She was counting the minutes to go home so she could start cooking. She's making a Thanksgiving feast for 45.

So we shouldn't complain about our families, noisy or otherwise.

She said she'd volunteered to do the cooking so that her grandmother didn't have to do it herself. The rest of the family let her volunteer and it became her task.

I said she should be careful because it could become her tradition.

"This is the second year."

But, she says, it is all worth it when one of her nephews comes up to her and compliments the dressing. I think this lady is too easy to please.

Thanksgiving for 45? If my whole family were to get together we'd have less than half that number and it would be plenty rowdy and crowded.

Tonight I'm listening to a podcast of rare blues music and taking my last practice GRE test. The real thing is scheduled for tomorrow morning, so when I get through with this little exercise I'll turn in for a good night's rest.

So come back tomorrow to find out how the test went -- it will only determine whether I go back to school myself in the spring semester -- a little bit of work and then the annual trip to the family homestead to begin the holiday season.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another nice Monday, but an odd one in the sense that the weekend felt longer than usual somehow. Perhaps because I did less with more, or more with less. Perhaps this is the upside to losing that hour of daylight a few weeks back. Whatever it is it worked in my favor here and -- living in the moment -- I'll take it.

At lunch in the Caf (a word which looks even sillier than it sounds when we say it) it felt as if I hadn't been there in weeks. Or about 72 hours. Hardly seemed that way though.

The most productive portion of the day was in the solidification of Christmas plans. This might not seem like a lot to you, but I have a big family made up of people who are generally casual about making such arrangements. I believe it is because most of them don't have to travel very far.

I, meanwhile, like plans and enjoy having a schedule in place so that I can least attempt equitable visiting. Someone always gets left out or short changed, and once upon a time I took this as a big failing on my part. Several years ago, though, I finally started telling myself that the only one charting out my time is me, and the rest of them are just happy to see me. And get presents.

So today, my entire December has been charted, which means I can get on with the more important things in life like the annual present lament "What do I get for these (lovely) people (who have accumulated most everything they could want)!?"

Sometimes the verbiage varies, but the theme is always the same.

With December accounted for -- might this be the earliest this has ever happened? -- I've only to figure out Thanksgiving.

Not to many students around today, which left me the chance to ponder my schedule. I also went through a third draft of my spring syllabus. And, finally, took part in an interview about the Iron Bowl for outsiders.

Here's what I wrote. You might find it illustrative if you're new to the game, or appropriately silly if you're a longtime participant. Either way I hope you enjoy:
For the uninitiated--what defines the Iron Bowl experience?

This series is founded in mythology and is the ethos and logos of an entire state (and various transplants.) It has to do with identity (and more, as you will see). It has to do with not only domination of sport, but also of ideals. And it has to do with the stigma like that of a step-child and the insecurity like that of one who is full of bluster but candidly unsure of themselves. These are the individuals, not the schools.

The cultural history winds through the generations -- perhaps the last time the two didn't have this strife was after the Civil War (Alabama was burned, what is now Auburn was never approached.) The two teams began playing football against one another late in the 19th Century, broke it off early in the 20th Century over some administrative and logistical issues and it took the state legislature to help get them playing one another again. Thereafter there was an actual burying of the hatchet ceremony. Lost in the lore is whom actually snuck back to the site, dug up the hatchet and bludgeoned the other.*

The Iron Bowl is a meeting where 87-to-91 thousand people get together to scream, cheer and toss invectives to 90 young men who will dictate the culture of the state for the next 365 days of the year. You just thought the 2008 presidential election was contentious.

People in some places don't understand the big deal. "If you brought an IU flag into northern Indiana you'd get pummeled by Purdue or Notre Dame people." Insert your teams and geography. Only there are no geographical borders here. And this is a place where football is our culture for three-quarters of the year (and growing awfully fast!) "They," being the other teams fans, are everywhere.

Politicians carefully avoid the question "Alabama or Auburn?" which often precedes "Republican or Democrat?" and almost always comes before their interpretation on the Second Amendment and taxes.

What's riding on this series? Your relative worth as an individual. It has, sadly, proven able to bring about the nastier aspects of humanity. Stabbings, shootings, vehicular violence and beatings have been known to happen because of football lust in this part of the world. No further comparative analysis of the relative rivalry of collegiate sport is needed.

Any anecdotes from past years you'd like to share? (Anonymity guaranteed, if necessary.)

Ever felt good about watching an attractive young woman cry? Half the state does, and it'll happen again this weekend as it has happened dozens of times before. Kick her puppy while you're there. Odds are she won't care; you've already kicked her beloved team and school.

What essential wisdom would you like to impart to first-time Iron Bowl attendees?

Avoid those with the crazed eyes. If you find yourself as a stranger in a strange land you can find good and decent folk. But choose wisely. Remember those scenes in Roadhouse where the brawl was just starting? If you're wearing the wrong colors every new group has this potential. On balance things will work out OK, but beware the crazed eyes.

Also, anyone that wears houndstooth in the 21st Century is probably not to be trusted with your money, liquor or next of kin. If, however, you find yourself wearing the proper colors -- even if you're posing -- you'll be a welcome brethren. If you pretend to be an Auburn fan, just hold up six fingers while yelling "War Eagle!" and making "Bahr's dead!" jokes. If you pretend to be an Alabama fan the proper inflection is "Row Tahd!"

Is there an Iron Bowl dress code? What will you be wearing on the red and white carpet?

The Greeks will dress for style, most others dress for comfort. The weather this year, as of this interview at least, looks promising. You might want to bring a raincoat though. No umbrellas allowed in the SEC. After the stabbing of 1932* they got serious about the use of blunt instruments as potential weapons.

*These things didn't happen, but no one would have been surprised if they did.
That seems pretty reasonable, even on a second read. We'll see what gets used in the final column.

Rained a lot today. The water is still standing on the roof on campus. My windows look out over a nice little hill, with handsome construction equipment in the foreground. In the foreground of the foreground, however, you'll see the roof of the floor beneath me. (The building has an interesting stagger.) That roof is flat and water puddles up there when it rains, oh, say a third of an inch like it did today.

There's several flat roofs on campus -- comes with the Colonial Georgian atmosphere one supposes -- and one of them was a dorm. Years ago it was converted into a "beach" for sunbathing, but earlier this semester they had to close the beach because of water damage. The beach had been there for at least a generation. One freshman's mother had used the beach when she was a student years before, but now that's all gone.

And I wonder about the pebbles outside of my office. Those are the same pebbles that are at the bottom of the blog right now, by the way. Symmetry! I love it.

The rain was pushed in and pushed out by a bit of a cold front. The rain kept people indoors, brought down most of the rest of the leaves and when it finally subsided we emerged into a damp chill. Get your flu shoots people. The illness is going around. Apparently the elm trees have it. One of them sneezed all over my car today. It was covered in leaves and small twigs and for the first three minutes of my drive home I was an arboreal redistribution manager.

So then, tonight. A little television to wrap up the night. Caught a bit of the Packers-Saints game. The guy I was playing this week had Drew Brees on his team and since he was the star of a video game tonight I'll be lucky to hold on for a victory. Or I could become the first guy in the history of fantasy sport to blow a 60-something point lead. We'll find out in the morning.

Caught, unfortunately, a bit of Dancing With the Stars. That elderly lady on earlier this season was adorable, and I managed to catch a few minutes each week even after she was voted off. Tonight was the finale, and I'll never watch this show again. You could take the walk off in Zoolander more seriously.

You could take the Lego spoof with a bit more credibility.

Speaking of silliness, there was the Thanksgiving special of Boston Legal tonight. I was so primed for a food fight, no one's done that for a while and they almost delivered. They had conflict and speeches. There was racism, sexism, politics, atheism and more. And they did it all at the Thanksgiving table. (Can you imagine?)

At the end there was a comically beautiful engagement of two people and mediated by a third party. Denny Crane proposed for Carl Sack and Shirley Schmidt said yes. They'll all live happily ever after. Or until they divorce in the spin off.

And off I'll go. Two more days on campus and then there's the holiday. Tomorrow I'm working on the syllabus one final time. Not to worry: you'll be riveted.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

So The Yankee discovers this series of books recently about the teen vampire and the girl that falls in love with him. Perhaps you've heard of it? She read the books in about 15 minutes and then bought -- in advance -- tickets to see the movie which came out this week.

She showed me the preview. I said I'd go figuring I probably owed her a movie and, if it is horrible, I could entertain the Twitterverse with constant reports. These are those reports:
At Twilight with The Yankee. I am the fifth oldest person here. That includes parents and grandparents.

Average age 16.4. Median age 14.

Number of dudes in the theater: 11. Number of women: approximately four dozen and growing.

Ads skew definitively teen and female. Except for the National Guard ad. The Walmart "Joy (to go 'round)" ad mentions Twitter.

This ethnography is a public service for when other guys must go. This can't be as bad as Chocalot or Ever After.

Now practicing my Transylvania accent for a few jokes I've prepared.

Five minutes in and the casting is U.N. approved.

This school, these people don't exist. What this movie needs is Tony Schalhoub.

There is nothing subtle about this movie. The soundtrack is moody and fun.

The way kids talk to one another has apparently changed since we were teens. Vampire lovin' happily seems the same.

Ol' Eddie here is wearing manscara.

Ok. I've figured it out. This town is populated by Asians, a black kid, American-Indians, two white people and vampires.

"Prom? I can't. I'll be a vampire by then." Had that used on me more than once.

Teen Vamp: We shouldn't be friends. Emogirl: You shoulda thought of that before using your superhuman powers to save me, GOSH!

It is suddenly so obvious that Michael Gross should be in this series.

The 90 seconds I just spent watching them shop for prom dresses was 90 seconds too long. Eddie's a good driver, as vampires go ...

... Vampires aren't especially good at J-turns ...

My fear is that this movie sends us down a path of emovampboy teens.

Teen Vamp: I'm designed to kill. I want to kill you. Emogirl: I am so turned on right now.

Turns out the 1918 flu epidemic was good for vamps. Eddie, here, is a vegetarian. Meaning he only eats animals and not humans.

"Velcome to my crib." Paganini and windows. You'd expect something more ... gothic.

Shouldn't she have a problem with the idea that she's about to make out with someone older than her great-grandfather?

Frightening thought: 10 years ago the vampire would have been played by Leo DiCaprio.

Only the men in the room laughed at the safe sex joke.

Vampire baseball, I must admit, is pretty cool.

"I'm getting broken up with by a vampire!? What?"

Phew. She went to the prom with the vampire after all.

My senior prom had a Clapton theme. Her's a thirsty bloodsucker theme. I win out, but only barely. (Also my date was prettier.)

Movie over, sequel teased. It's unhorrible, but uses the dreaded sledgehammer of plot a lot and has stilted dialog in places.
If I watched it again I'd hate it. The adolescent stuff is beyond Lucas-poor for exposition. The dramatic meeting of the other vampires wasn't bad. The resolution seemed rushed. But this is a movie for 14 year-old-girls and he's so ZOMG dreamy!

Or something.

Back here in reality, though, the next stop after the theater was to pick up two new suits from the tailor. The guy who brought them out looked like the misunderstood artist from Wedding Crashers. Had the hair and the posture and everything. This guy, however, was more understood.

Mexican for dinner, in a mostly empty restaurant where the tacos were distributed precisely 39 seconds after ordering them. The glasses were never less than 80 percent full and we at for 15 bucks.

Tonight was the return of 24, if only in an ineffective teaser movie. It was set in a fictional sepia-toned African nation that serves as a loose Rwandan metaphor with allusions to the exodus at Saigon. The storytelling was secondary to the whispered urgency and the mindless violence and shows us Jack Bauer a few years after his last television appearance.

Jack Bauer is hiding from his past, his government and searching for peace in Africa when the world thrusts him into a situation that only he can overcome.

That is to say he kills one man with the inside of his knee, blows another up with a dynamite stick to the crotch and many more with small arms fire. (Sadly, none of the creatively named Jack Bauer body count sites have updated their numbers as of this writing.)

That paragraph makes me long for the series' return more than this little movie did.

Tomorrow: A sleepy, short week on campus begins. And other tales of calm contentment and quiet bliss.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

As is so often the case in the football my Saturday centers around football. Auburn was off this weekend and with no travel for me that means plenty of games on television. Hence this will be brief. And, as always, you're welcome.

I watched the first part of the Louisville-West Virginia ruckus and the Ohio State-Michigan affair at the gym. I was running on one treadmill and watching my screen and the screen in front of me. That's working out. A few miles in and it was obvious that the gym was not ready for me. Nor I ready for the gym.

So we called it a draw and, at home, I recovered by watching the drudging little game that Tennessee and Vanderbilt played in Nashville. Next week is Phil Fulmer's last week with the Vols, and that's a shame. It looks like he's coming to terms with it. On the sideline an official took a picture of him with his little digital camera and Fulmer didn't flinch. I'm trying to imagine some of the more angry, growling types of coaches that would have torn the man's arms from his person and added a javelin component to the football game.

Somehow I found myself watching a bit of the droll Penn State - Michigan State game. I blame the snow that was on the ground. As a television viewer snow games are fascinating, even if they have zero impact as in this blowout.

With that game in hand I returned to the SEC to watch Mississippi embarrass LSU. The nightcap was the rather embarrassing embarrassment of Texas Tech at the hands of Oklahoma. This game was so out of hand that at one point I ventured down to the basement for a simple, quick chore and emerged to find the Red Raiders down by 14 more points.

Samford, meanwhile, earned themselves a winning season with a 30-7 over Chattanooga. The Bulldogs finish 6-5 (and 4-4 in conference) to claim their first winning season since 2003. Not bad for a team entering the high powered Southern Conference where Samford was predicted to win two games the whole year.

Also done today: You might have noticed this page is different. Bigger. More stretched out. And the menu returned. Since it was broken beyond repair I just sighed, gritted and did it the old fashioned way. At least my IE friends can see the links now. And you're welcome IE friends. And thanks a lot, IE.

Someone will soon realize that hand-coded menus are a renaissance art form and I'll be ahead of the curve for once. Until then I'll be delightfully outmoded.

If you only click one more link today this is the one link you must click: One of the former news guys in town showed his daughters a little zombie film and they decided they would make their own. So check out the Rise of the Zombie Princesses. It is adorable.

Speaking of movies ... you'll have to come back tomorrow. I plan on Twittering my way through a movie in a most snarky fashion and will save the posts here for the sake of good record keeping. Given the subject matter -- and how out of place I'll be -- you won't want to miss it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nice, quiet day on campus. The last paper of the semester was published Wednesday, most of the students are heading out for the weekend. They've been making mental plans for Thanksgiving for days.

Trying to catch the attention of one I noticed a little glimpse of turkey and gravy in her eye. She'd already traveled back to wherever she's from and was ready to set the table. Just six more days, child. Six more days.

Two dollar lunch today with The Yankee and several members of the department. The journalism chair, my boss, will soon sit on The Yankee's dissertation committee. It is good to keep them in touch with one another.

The other topic of conversation -- my current run of bad luck in fantasy sports. I went from being tied for second in my boss' NFL league to having one of the lowest scoring weeks in the history of fantasy football and am on the edge of missing the playoffs. I did that in two weeks.

In the college pick'em, The Yankee's league, I'm also trailing badly.

At least I only lose to the important people. Which, this year, is everyone.

On the subject of football ... they may need some new hobbies in parts of Ohio. I'm just aaying you could feed a lot of people delicious pumpkin pie with this gourd. Or you could drop it from a crane, crushing cars painted hated colors, to demonstrate some of the more mundane aspects of physics.

If you'd like something that'll tickle the brain a bit more than the eyes, here is what might possibly be the first essay on LOLcats. This means the format is dead and trendy internet hipsters can longer spend their time looking at the kiddies. Not to worry, there are plenty of spinoffs. In fact you'll find a few from tonight in the photo gallery.

Deep breath. This afternoon I officially applied for graduate school. My letters of recommendation are on file or en route. I'll take the GRE in the coming days. The application has been submitted.

It hardly seems possible that I could be a doctoral student in the spring.

Better to distract oneself. It is the time of year for Iron Bowl revelry, so distraction is easy. Have you ever considered how it looks from an outsider? A really outside outsider?

British television's Stephen Fry was at the 2007 game and he put together a little package on the spectacle. It is a great view from a different perspective (even if his music doesn't fit). "It's simultaneously preposterous. Incredibly laughable. Impressive, charming, ridiculous. Expensive, overpopulated. Wonderful. American."

And rather perfect.

They show a bit of God Bless America and there's this British guy standing on the field moved to tears by the scene.

And then the fighters roared overhead, something for which he was obviously not prepared.

One of the pilots is my step-father's co-pilot.

Matt Caddell a kid I'd known since he was in kindergarten, was in this game. He's on a practice squad in the NFL now.

Auburn sent him home with a lose that night, a great night. Interesting in the piece they didn't even touch the game. And no one thought to walk Fry up to Toomer's -- what would he think of us there?

It is a great piece, though. I'd like that job when I grow up one day, please.

And this year's Iron Bowl might not be as fun as last year's, but it might be. It just might be. That'd be perfect too.

Pie Day was another smashing success. And one of the last ones of the year, I'm sad to say. We all realized tonight that the many divergent holiday schedules have snuck up on us and it may be January before we convene again in a group larger than three. We hope you'll join us when that happy day arrives. (One of our stated goals is to overwhelm and shut down the joint because of our own entourage.)

This is very sad, so we drowned our sorrows in cheese biscuits. (That's the theme of the LOLpics in the photo gallery tonight.

Have we discussed legible writing here before? This is Ward's. How this works remains a mystery. My theory is that he memorizes the order and just writes it for show. There's probably a rule that the server's hands have to be visible at all times or something.

Finally, since I was still awake at 4 a.m. doing the Daily Show coding this is going to be an early night. I leave you in the larger, fulfilling hands of the internet, and trust you'll find your way back tomorrow and Sunday.

You'll have riveting tales of football, the movies, picking up my new suits and more!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yet another sign of the good life that I am now fortunate enough to lead: Woke up this morning to find the power was out. I was up a bitter later than I'd anticipated, but no matter. There were no pressing morning obligations and I have the flexibility to work into the evening now. And so I did.

Another passing sign of the good lie that I am now fortunate enough to lead: I'm now three months and two days into the new profession and regularly find silly little things like that.

It is exactly what a former colleague and I discussed when we bumped into one another a few weeks back, this return to a normal life. Or, as my friend and fellow recovering broadcast journalist notes "Ike Pigott is a veteran communicator who got out of television news and back into life."

This learning how the other half live business? Nice.

I also get to work from home from time to time. I feel so very spoiled right now. The Yankee and I are writing doing research on the agenda setting theory as it relates to news talk shows and Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Tonight my share of the research has focused on Daily Show.

Which is still great and wickedly funny, but does have the ability to gets formulaic. You could probably say this of any show when watching for than a few hours at a time.

This project is going to keep me until late into the night, though, so I should dispense with this and move back to that. So, here come the links.

Louis CK has been doing a bit of navel gazing. And he's right. "Everything is amazing right now, and nobody's happy." You'll have to click it to find out why.

Did you see the International Space Station tonight? Just after dusk it creased the sky over the southeastern United States, celebrating its 10th anniversary with a flight brighter than anything else in the sky, even brighter than Jupiter.

Here was my view. Obviously it is a little shaky there at first. I only had a long lens and a monopod for stability into a dark sky. However, after the magic of Photoshop you might catch a better glimpse ...

(Sadly I've been waiting to do that joke all day.)

It was just a streak of light -- an incredibly fast moving one, streaking across the full night sky in just over two minutes -- but it is a fascinating thought. We're up there. We live up there.

You don't get to see it often, but every time that little piece of tangible proof is a fascinating thrill.

Two car notes: I spent the evening drive updating the stereo presets to reflect the unsettling Sirius-XM merger, of which I'm still less than pleased.

Fortunately changing the presets is easy. I have them saved sequentially so, working backward, the update is mindless and doesn't distract from driving. Something I'm found of doing in my car.

Second, on the way home tonight I noted $1.93 gas, which you all probably reached three weeks ago, proving that this is the most expensive fuel island in the nation. Stay away! We will take the corporate profit margin, provide substantial taxes -- because the county is at financial ruin itself don't you know -- and make yours cost several coins more than the same gas-pumping experience just across town.

Geography is an interesting thing. Pipelines and distribution and prices and all. There are logistics and reasons here beyond my mere, carbon burning brain to comprehend. How the price has $.30 more than a friend less than 30 miles away escapes explanation. Our local prices have only recently been falling -- and for that we are grateful. We're also capable of noting the descent is never as expeditious as the ascent.

Tonight's Life on Mars offered a nice plot featuring our hero's father. I guess wrong on the outcome twice -- they seemed so obvious and yet they steered away from them.

The Kaiser Soze moment was underdone, but let's be honest and say that's never going to work as effectively as it did the first time you saw it.

I'd been tiring of the surrounding cast giving the lead all these crucial hints that further his story arc, but I should amend that. Now that we're clearly asked to believe he's in a coma this little device is obviously his sub-sub-conscience telling his subconscience what to do. I can deal with that.

In this episode, for instance, his father had a key line that told him where to look for something. His new 1973 lady friend had another cryptic phrase. But them together and it leads him to his next step.

That search leads him to a quiet rural house. No one is home. He goes inside. The phone rings. He answers it. A representative of heaven or hell is on the other end and asks him to go into the basement. Cue the music that makes you queasy and fade into the mid-season break.

I hate mid-season breaks.

Where they go next should be interesting. Even if he's doing all of his 1973 business in his mind the voice on the other end of the phone said he needed him to do another job for him. If one part of your brain ever calls another part of your brain and uses a spooky voice to get across its point, you might need a bit of help. Even if you're in a coma.

So maybe he isn't in a coma. The mystery continues. And there was less Harvey Keitel in this episode, but it didn't hurt anything, which must mean the series is growing on me.

The headline says the show's numbers aren't that grand, but they are moving it behind Lost, which makes as much programming sense as anything. Hopefully, when they do pull the plug (It is funny because he's a fictional character in a coma.) they'll have a resolution episode.

Hear that ABC? I started watching this just to see how the character got out of the predicament. Don't leave that part out.

And, now, in an effort to make sure I leave nothing out, I will work late into the night watching Daily Show and taking notes. Someone call and wake me up in the morning.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Samford Crimson is on stands now. Another solid edition, including breaking news -- like many campus weeklies it trends toward features -- on a suspicious substance found in one building.

There's also a look at the school's history in race relations. There's a great quote in this story about a play being performed on campus. "Don't take it too seriously. It's just the work of the greatest dramatist of English literature."

A big comedy hit in London, "The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)" features all 37 Shakespearian plays in 92 minutes.

Helped a student today who's looking for a spring semester internship. We found four leads.

After that the building got fairly quiet. It tends to do that late in the week, but even more so now that we're late into the semester. Gives you plenty of time to catch up on things, but I still feel a bit behind, somehow.

Two of those internship leads came via Twitter, which should probably be incorporated into my spring class. Another mystery that will soon need resolving.

And now I'll make value judgments on something which I pay for, and value.

I'd long thought that the Sirius-XM merger would be a good thing for listeners -- so long as they don't jack up their prices. I've been listening and I'm more than a little disappointed.

The Sirius jocks talk too much, and the putting callers on the air gimmick should have stayed with terrestrial radio. These are among the reasons I have satellite radio to begin with, but now we've added them to my paid experience.

I'm paying for a signal with no static -- it was easy to forget how annoying that was, something of which I've recently been reminded -- and quality programming that I sadly can't find on the AM/FM bands.

Which brings us to the most important point: 71 percent of "my" stations have been changed. The Exclusives station seems to have disappeared. None of this is for the better.

I say all of that as a former radio guy. I understand the supposed function of jocks and the image of callers. I don't care.

Wouldn't you rather have a la carte programming anyway? If you gave me that much flexibility I wouldn't mind paying another dollar or two. For what they're offering now, though, the price shouldn't move.

Hey, the black and white photos section is back. I've spent a bit of time this evening separating pictures from musty old scrapbook paper. If you've forgotten what the purpose of this is all about it is a simple premise: We're saving personal histories. Some of this pictures are a history lesson, others are an exercise in creative writing.

Since these are all strangers to me there is one question that is never answered. How do people get rid of these memories? Some of them come from estate sales or antique stores or E-bay. How did they get to that point? Why aren't they in a shoe box on a closet shelf? They might be pulled out every few years to look at the ghosts of ancestors, but at least they'd be where they belong.

Now, though, they are on the internet for anyone to see. The link above is the beginning of the section. You'll find the four newest pictures here. New is a poor adjective, most of these are from the 1920s.

That's enough for today. Tomorrow will feature agenda setting research, the International Space Station, updating my stereo presets (thanks XM) and beefing up the RSS reader.

If this post doesn't get an odd string of search hits on the basis of that sentence I'll be sorely disappointed. If you'd return to read about it I'd be very pleased.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The new Star Trek trailer is out. What else do you want to talk about? Go watch it and we'll have a little chat about it.

Next May every person who's ever looked at their television with the same wonder they look at the stars will go see this movie. And now a word about authenticity: I fear longstanding fans will be disappointed when they leave the theater. I don't want them to be, but there is an uneasy feeling. Having watched the trailer three times now it has only grown a bit.

Now, these are my opinions formed only from the two trailers. I don't read the movie news or spend a lot of time looking up online publicity campaigns or interviews with cast and crew.

First, these are just explosions in space, and the characters don't really stand out very much so far. Kirk and Spock fight? That's a tough sale. And, after a lifetime of the beloved James Doohan offering up his Scottish accent hearing a guy actually from the United Kingdom actually playing Scotty somehow seems over-the-top.

Surely the action will be good, but the traditional fan will emerge disappointed because it won't be Trek. This universe was the prototype for character credibility and that hasn't diminished over the years. There's a need for credibility here, but this movie is being called a reboot, whatever that means. There's such a depth and breadth to the creation that that seems a foolhardy tactic. The people behind the movie have promised a film that will bring in non-Star Trek fans. But why? After four decades everyone has figured out how they feel about the thing.

Audience tastes have changed. The best of Trek has always been character development stories. This movie looks more like an action film, which is fine, but that was never the purpose of Gene Rodenberry's universe.

Which leads me to a sad conclusion: the Star Trek franchise has outlived its usefulness.

Even still, I'll be there next May.

Talked with some of the newspaper staff this afternoon about the spring semester of the paper. We're going to launch a new site. We'll look to add more multimedia. We'll start talking about the web as something more than an afterthought.

No one blinked. I expected questions or fear or thunderous cheers. Instead everyone is already mentally enjoying their Thanksgiving.

They've also been putting together a paper for tomorrow. While they've been doing that I've sent transcript requests to Auburn and UAB.

I'd expected Auburn would charge and UAB would be free, but confusing. Auburn's was free -- though I had to fax them a form. (Interesting note: A faxed transcript is not considered official, but a faxed transcript request is A-OK.) UAB, meanwhile, was surprisingly straightforward and done online. They charge, but not for the University of Alabama. So that's two free transcripts.

What isn't free is the GRE test, which I also scheduled tonight.

It costs $140 dollars. I'll take the test in a few days and hope I get my money's worth.

That's pretty much it for the day. Have you seen this month's photo gallery lately? There's a new pic or two for you there.

Tomorrow: a new paper, pictures and more uninformed opinions than you can shake a stick at.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hear about the Motrin Moms yet? This has been building to a slow buzz this weekend and today took on something of a polite roar. It seems that the Motrin people created an ad campaign centered on those baby holsters.

Here's one of them.

Essentially it is an "You carry your baby, and it is great, but painful. We feel your pain" ad. I don't get the angst, but I'm allowed this ignorance on the basis of my chromosomes. Many mothers are very upset.

So here's one of the many answer ads, incorporating photos of babies, mothers and many of the irritated Twitter entries. I say all of this to ask the one question that goes beyond mothers and Motrin and a guy's not understanding the disrespect involved. Why use Danny Boy as the music for the video?

I've never been so depressed looking at photographs of happy mothers and their precious children. Now I'll have to lighten the moment with The Leprechaun Brothers.

If you click here you'll see the beginnings of the consumer rebellion. Certainly it is a headache for Motrin. (Har har.) There are several important aspects to the story. One, it is a certain overreaction. Two, the Motrin people responded quickly -- by the end of the day they'd announced they're pulling the campaign across all media.

Third, and most important and interesting, is that this will be a case study in being heard and in listening. Leprechaun Brothers aside this is a powerful example of newly emerged communication channels and I have to figure out a way to incorporate it into the classroom.

Seriously, there's a long slow moment in Danny Boy when you'll think of anything to get your mind off what is happening in the lyrics.

Today we finished up the journalism award nominations. We only had to decide our own staff. I feel for the guy who has to decide winners. I talked to him briefly today. He seemed ready to have the project completed as well.

In all I think we've spent eight or nine hours figuring all this out and getting it neatly organized. I'm keeping my notes. There's another contest in March and some of the same items might get nominated for those as well.

Random link: Germans at war. World War I in color. There's an interesting education there on the evolution of color photography, and as is often the case, people can't resist interpreting the photographer's efforts. This one, for example, notes that destruction "is viewed with nonchalant objectivity, often disregarded in the background of frames."

And yet you see it everywhere in each photograph. Had Hans Hildenbrand understood that we'd be looking at his photographs 90 years later he might have gotten a little tighter on the faces, but the destruction is easily apparent.

Mostly it is just shocking to see, in color, a time we think of in the black and white of sped up newsreels.

Tonight, on Boston Legal Alan Shore took on bloggers. He made that grimacing, smirking face of someone realizing the fish wasn't a good lunch choice. We've made primetime! And we're beyond the point of celebrating it. They missed on that one.

Elsewhere the show focused on the death penalty -- a guard killed a death row inmate who, in his view, was having an inhumane experience on death row. He said it was a mercy killing, the prosecutor disagreed. Denny Crane so ably cast the entire concept into the judicial wok that "America love the death penalty."

Living room opinions probably varied on that point, but the argument they left out was a simple one: No one should be able to decide whether a man lives or dies. But the state did. You're either afraid of vigilante justice -- i.e. cutting in on the state's action -- or you dislike the death penalty altogether.

Now that slice of America that loves the death penalty -- the Denny Crane Republicans, let's say (He's crazy, ya know!) -- will argue that the state was doing their job just fine. It wasn't eye for an eye, they might say, but it got the job done.

There was also a wrongful termination suit where a guy fired his employee because she was stupid (She was a crazy Republican, ya know!) but that is a tired little argument that cuts both ways. We'd love it if all of America, of course, was an informed electorate. Cherry picking or not you often get this on both sides.

So the show is going out with a bang. A few episodes left in the can and they can cross abortion and the death penalty off their list.

Me? I'm starting to cross a few things off a list. I've found myself recently in the need to make one. Tonight, another GRE practice test taken, another encouraging score. If I pull the same numbers on the real thing we'll be in business.

But now I'm in the business of shutting down for the day.

Tomorrow: the last paper of the semester. Doesn't seem likely that could already be the case. Stop back by for that, a few pictures and more!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Late last week I decided to go suit shopping. Time to upgrade the wardrobe. Never hurts to add to the color scheme. Black is a great look, but how about charcoal gray? As wild and crazy as that might be, it seemed the time to look.

So I went to Men's Wearhouse today. The Yankee tagged along, since this was after our Sunday afternoon lunch in the sun (and chilly November breeze).

I think, had she known how involved suit shopping can be she would have visited the bookstore instead, but there we stood, trying to wrap our minds and my wallet around a buy-one-get-one sale.

Gregory was a very nice guy. The salesman wasn't pushy at all, he was very friendly, a big cutup and -- aside from the maroon color he pulled -- has a good eye for quiet taste. He didn't pull the white suit for consideration, but at one point we did have seven or eight to choose from.

We got it down to three on the basis of the color schemes and the cut of the jacket and then went back to the Hall of Mirrors. There two suits were ultimately selected. One a blue and the other a shocking black number, of which I'll no doubt look out of place.

It could be that I'm getting boldly adventurous here. One pair of pants has pleats, the other does not. Shocking! Gregory then commenced to educate me on suspenders for the pleatless pants. I could take offense, but he was just being thorough. How many people my age understand that suspender straps are completely adjustable.

This seemed to amaze Gregory, as he went over it several times. Mentally I was trying to recall the location of my own suspenders.

After the fitting and the many designs about sleeve length and cuff cut we moved to the stylish table, the best part of the exercise. Here he's showing me shirts and ties and various clips and shoes and belts and socks. He really wants me to buy them, but I'm just watching the color schemes float by, making note of which of my ties will go with which of my shirts on the basis of some stranger's opinion.

He offered to sell me as many accessories as I wanted, but he didn't press the issue. I wanted none and he was happy to have the suits sold. Business, he said, had been pretty brisk during this particular sale, but it seemed a quiet Sunday afternoon at the olde suit shoppe.

Here's why I love and shop at Men's Wearhouse: I've mentioned this here long ago, but they are the store that continues with an excellent service in a time of diminished expectations.

For example, in my first job the boss there had this theory that a happy customer would tell one friend, but a dissatisfied customer would tell 10. Over the years we've grown so used to poor shopping experiences we seldom even take note of it anymore.

Several years ago, though, I bought a rushed suit order from a Men's Wearhouse and the clerk there that day bumped my alterations to the head of the line. He had them done that night, at closing time, free, because I needed the thing unexpectedly. He didn't have to, but I've been forever grateful and, all these years later, I'll still tell you all about that experience.

Today Gregory asked me when I needed the alterations finished. They're typically on a one-to-two week wait, he said, but ...

No need sir. But thank you for asking.

Suits, The Yankee also discovered, are a bit pricey.

After that was groceries, and the joys of dinners and produce and sauces and cans and "Can I carry this to the car for you?"

The first time in the new Publix the offer was extended by a very kind elderly gentleman. The second time I lost this argument to a teenaged girl. Today was an adult woman, but I am a healthy adult guy and am fully capable of pushing my cart the 25 yards to the car.

"But it is a courtesy."

I know, and I do appreciate it, but please extend it to that lady.

The next time this happens I'm challenging the courteous grocery store clerk to an arm wrestling match. Winner takes out the groceries.

Hear that Publix? You better start working out!

Oh, took another GRE practice test tonight. The scores are leveling off nicely right in the area needed for grad school. But that's a tale for another time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today there was football. A great deal of it, meaning your time here will be short because either: a.) you don't care or b.) I don't have much else to talk about as my eyes were glued to the television all day.

Auburn was at home hosting sometimes loved, sometimes despised cross-border brother Georgia. The season ticket package I bought this year did not include Georgia because, I rationalized, they've pummeled the Tigers so badly the last two years I can watch the same happen from the comfort of my home.

That was the rationale before Auburn revealed itself to be a team overcome by injuries, struggling for an identity and a general lethargy among the coaching staff.

Despite all of those problems Auburn actually played pretty well in this game. Georgia's defense couldn't hold anything on the ground with an assist from gravity, but Auburn actually moved the ball a bit. Georgia's high powered offense roared early but Auburn ultimately held the bad guys in check.

And so it was that the fourth quarter came. Auburn, trailing, had begun moving the ball at will in the mid-third of the field. The scoring struggles continued. In total for the day there were four opportunities when the Tigers got close but could not score.

The play calling grew into an even more baffling selection of poor choices. The new star running back of the week, Mario Fannin, who was responsible for both scores in this game, was on the bench. Brad Lester, the star senior running back, in his last home game, was nowhere to be found on the field.

Down by four and armed with an atrocious kicking game Auburn sent out the field goal team (and the backup kicker) on fourth-and-short. The coaches thought better of it and -- instead of trying to collect two yards for the first down -- decided to vainly throw the ball in the end zone.

Mystifying as that call was it, like a missed field goal and a botched PAT earlier in the game, would come back to haunt the beleaguered Tigers. Another big defensive stop gave the boys in blue the ball late. On a 4th-and-1 they chose to throw the ball into the end zone. With plenty of time on the clock the play selection was a fade pattern that our young, but improving, quarterback has yet to complete.

Defensive adjustments aside this is another game where Auburn was very possibly just outcoached once again -- particularly in play selection.

You have to feel for those guys -- and by extension any team that's every coped with such problems -- to put such work and effort into something and come up just short has to be heartbreaking.

There were some signs of progress, but we're talking margins of improvement in a game of moral victories here. Winning on the margins the last several years has been one thing. Losing by them will give you indigestion. If this is the downside of a dark mythological deal many of our lawyer alumni would like to examine that contract.

Oh, and the team's leading receiver nuked his knee, removing another weapon from the quiver. So, after losing to Georgia 17-13 and falling to 5-6 on the season Auburn has a week off to look forward to top-ranked Alabama.

Later in the afternoon Florida decimated South Carolina. That is a ridiculous, ridiculous team. They are bumping along the ceiling of "overwhelming success earns the attention of the NCAA." Hopefully that's not the case, but they are talented, loaded and deep across the board and it is fun to watch them play.

And no matter what happens in the Iron Bowl in two weeks there is a certainty about what will happen in three weeks in the SEC Championship game. Florida will destroy Alabama.

Now the Tide had neighboring Mississippi State at home on a cold and miserable night. Alabama had to avenge a two-game losing streak against a team they've dominated since the advent of the sport. But, for a brief while, it looked like Mississippi State might stun them again. The Starkville bunch took a bad jab early, but later countered with a straight right before stepping into Alabama's knockout blow.

So here's the thing for Alabama: They play to the level of their competition. Auburn, in two weeks, can play them closely on defense. Keep the thing interesting into the last few minutes and I'll take Auburn's chances.

Or they could get blown out by 30. Who knows?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Foggy this morning with a chance of fog. That was followed by fog and then a forecast that called for the low-lying cloud cover to vamoose at 9 a.m.

I was on the road at 9 a.m. and can clearly say you couldn't see clearly. Within the hour, however, much of the poor visibility had been replaced by better visibility, with a side of sun and the possibility of a great deal of darkness falling early in the evening.

I spent my morning fussing with my spring syllabus. I almost like it now. At lunch I received a basic approval of the basic premise. Next week we'll discuss it in a bit more detail.

I also received my third letter of recommendation for going back to school. Now to pester all of those people and make sure they get mailed ...

My afternoon was spent getting fingerprinted and reading through a calendar year's worth of newsprint.

Monday is the deadline for nominating student-journalists for Best of the South awards and the paper's editor and I have done the bulk of the brain-work today. On Monday we'll select one more nominee and then set out to satisfy all the particular rules of such contests.

"Do not tear the papers. Do not cut, smudge, breathe on or bend the papers. Send the full page. Circle the selected author's work in red or blue ink. Do not use black because it blends. Avoid purple because it offends.

"Put each nomination in a separate folder. Put names, dates and awards on the folder tab. Bind them all individually in rubber bands and then preserve them in a carbon frieze. Ship by overnight mail, or African Swallows, with Monday's postmark."

Some of those are actually true.

So that was the afternoon, and by 5:30, having nominated a dozen or so journalists, with two more categories to go we called it a day. And this only after I'd triple checked the three cross-referenced lists of candidates so I could rest without the fear that I'd left someone out.

And so as to not leave out the links of the day, we'll put them here. You might recall the inmate who escaped from a bathroom while he was on his way to face three counts for failure to appear on attempted murder. He's been captured a few days and a few towns a way.

He asked to stop at a rest area on the trip back to the jail have circulated. Reports that he was told to "Hold it." are at, this time unfounded.

Heard about the extensive, thorough, cautious and overly large application the Obama administration is circulating for prospective employees? Here's one writer's take on whether Sen. Hillary Clinton will apply.

Also, this is now an officially seriously scary economy. As I've joked in several private conversations -- usually about fuel -- you'll know it is bad when NASCAR cuts back. Now, though, I think this will just lead to fans thinking "Whooooooooooo! More wrecks!"

Student opinions is the regular Friday feature where we sit, back relax and unwind with the fury and reason of hardworking and thoughtful student journalists.

Ben Hankins of The Samford Crimson argues for a return to conservatism:
The bailout plan is only one example of Republicans fleeing from their conservative principles. GOP politicians have spent recklessly under a Republican president who has stood for open borders and increased entitlement spending. In the spirit of "nation building," a Republican president has also stretched our military to its outer limits and planned poorly for America's future national security.

A new day has risen for conservative politics, and the GOP is bound to reshuffle after taking its losses. The new Republican Party would be best suited to veer away from the center, starting with its next presidential nominee. There are many solid conservatives within the party. They should be the new faces of the GOP.

After all, conservatism has worked many times before. It just has to be pure.
Meanwhile Danny Harrell at The Flor-Ala wonders, WWOD?:
Barack Obama is the president-elect, and many people are wondering how long it will take him to bring "change" to the U.S.

What people need to realize is that if Obama tries to make changes and accomplish all of the things that he has promised he is going to do, then he will fail and join George W. Bush as one of the worst presidents of all time.

What Obama is going to have to do is start slow. He needs to choose a few things, maybe three or so, and try to accomplish them. The problem is going to be that when he starts getting things done, many of the things that he has promised to do will affect other things that he says that he will do.
And, finally, Devi Sampat of The Vanguard wants everyone to calm down with the political talk:
It's that Nov. 5 syndrome once again.

Every election, irate citizens (including a small percentage that choose not to vote) express revulsion and make acrid remarks toward the newly-elected president. While dissent during these times is expected, a general consensus is that each is entitled to his or her own opinion. In special regard to this election, reactions were strong, tempers were high, yet qualified, intellectual arguments and criticisms were scarce.

This editorial is not about the election outcome; it is not an attempt to promote one political party over another, and it is certainly not an attempt to bash anyone's views. If anything, the plethora of views, particularly from an increasingly younger and more passionate population, should be welcomed. But the reaction of these younger constituents is another story.
And now, after Pie Day, I'm enjoying a nice quiet end to the week.

There were five at a table for eight. We somehow managed to score free nachos. The food came in an appropriate amount of time, the pie followed soon thereafter. It was very generously proportioned.

Four of the people at the table are on Twitter -- the fifth is in kindergarten, but will soon outshine us all -- and I think we all typed something snarky into the many cosmic folds of the internet somewhere during our meal.

Our normal lingering chat and goodbye was abbreviated by the chill of the air. The outdoor conversations will likely be brief until March it seems. But that doesn't mean you can't join us for the indoor fun!

Tomorrow: Football.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I started writing the second draft of my syllabus for the spring today. After much collated, copying, pasting and staring at the screen I decided that this second draft wasn't doing much.

So I moved immediately to the third draft. It seemed less intimidating because it all centered around a single word for each assignment. Somehow that seemed more manageable. With the thinnest of boundaries thus in place I've been adding a bit of information to those assignments.

And I've also started writing the class' overarching premise. This has take most of my day -- proof I've never done this before -- and I'm a bit concerned about the practicality of it all. So I've spent a fair amount of time talking with journalists and multimedia types and educator types and come to the conclusion that it is, in fact, a pretty fair plan.

Thereafter I had a thought that is destined to keep me up nights. The final project! It is so very important, but I'm not sure how to orchestrate it.

Best sleep on it then. Surely the answer will come to me sooner or later. If not there are plenty of people I can pester for ideas and help.

The basic idea of the class, though, will be to incorporate all the many tools now available to the journalist for their online storytelling needs. They'll each have something they'll cover all semester and then they'll blog, shoot photos, record audio, do slideshows and video. Ultimately their bag of tricks will have a finished product that should be a nice addition to their portfolio.

I'm calling it the McAdams-Murley-Jarvis model. If you take a bit from each of those very smart folks you'll find that the overlap covers everything.

And so that has been my today, and very probably part of my tomorrow.

Tonight there is ER, where Mark Green returns. (Skip the next three paragraphs if you're behind.)

He's the ghost we wish we could have back the most, ya dig? I've decided this is either a cynical and desperate ratings ploy or vital to the character development of the lady introduced in this, the final season of the show.

After watching the episode I'll choose the latter answer. That's episode is probably all you could hope for, and it also brought back Jerry, Weaver and Romano.

Now if the ghost of Mark Green were haunting the hallways of the hospital -- and The Yankee had this to say about the end of the show: "In the last scene they should have had the boy and Mark Green walking hand-in-hand across the meadow." -- then we would have a reason to see what really develops. Instead it is his second goodbye to the series and suitable for trivia in a decade or so.

Also there was Life on Mars tonight where the cop stuck in 1973 took on an even greater sense of urgency. (Skip six more paragraphs if you're trying to avoid a spoiler here.)

Our wacky stranger in a strange land hero is suddenly convinced (by way of a one-sided conversation from his future-Mom via a disconnected phone) that they're pulling the plug on his body in 2008. Simultaneously there is a hostage situation in 1973. Once again he figures that to solve the one saves himself.

Harvey Keitel didn't do anything for me in this episode, which is a shame. After that we're left with 1973, of which I'm not such a big fan, and the jokes stemming from his man out of time scenario. The one redeeming piece of the episode, to me, was the spookiness connecting the "now" and the "then."

His future girlfriend, ably played by Lisa Bonet, dumped him. "We never talk anymore. You just lie there. In a coma. It has been months. I've given you a chance and you do nothing. I don't even think you want to be here any more. You're probably off in some other decade for all I know. Good luck coming out of this. And, if you do, have fun in rehab."

Despite the overwhelming realization that the women in the 21st Century are apparently heartless women who need you to be, you know, AWAKE, he moves on, all within the span of a city block.

Now he's eyeing the 1973 eye candy, which means he's going to be here for a while.

Next week he meets his dad. He'll once again hope that solving the crime sends him home. That or that he meets Sam Beckett. Because now he's really got a few things he'd like to say to Lisa Bonet's character.

And that's the day. Tomorrow? More syllabus -- including running it by the boss -- nominating reporters for journalism awards and Pie Day.

Sounds like a great day already.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I've officially thrown my hands up. They have been both in the air and in despair at the navigation for this page. I'm going to scrap it. Scrap it I say, because IE is a thunderdolt of inefficiency and the page from which I was legally borrowing the code has the pesky habit of offering code that works on that site but not, for whatever reason, on my site.

And you may be assured that the whatever reason here described is his fault and most definitively not mine.

And that's the worst part of my day. Nay, my week. If I ever say anything that is even possibly suggests a negative tone I beg of you: re-read it and apply sarcasm. It is there most certainly.

And, having said that I'll return to the complaints of Tuesday -- thin and specious though they were -- to display a little productivity that stemmed from one of my many technological failings. So, behold a new blog, intended for the students writing on the campus paper. The words are journalistic and full of social media ideas and concepts guaranteed to amuse, astound or bore you. Depending on where you are on the curve you might find this useful as information or as a sleep aide. You're welcome either way. I'm always pleased to add a small degree of service to your day.

At any rate the new paper came out today. You can see all the stories here.

There is your standard student on the campaign trail story. His is a pretty good tale, as so many this election cycle have been. These stories, regular as the elections themselves, always leave me hoping the person who sacrificed four months and delayed his education for the campaign, are ultimately satisfied with how everything turns out. It would be a shame to do all of that and end up resenting your guy.

There is this review of a nearby barbecue restaurant. The section editor said the joint was good. How could it not be? It has "regionally famous" items on the menu. That's a sort of boastful humility unusual for a barbecue place in this part of the world.

There are ongoing negotiations with pit cooks and NASA about who will be the first astronaut on Mars, and who makes his favorite 'cue. They've been itching to put "Famous throughout the solar system" on their signs since the moon.

The reviewer, incidentally, has a judgment you should value. He writes of ordering the potato, but does not support the chives. Any man that orders the potato but things chives are one vegetable too many is serious about barbecue.

Also, if you'd like to get to the breathtaking TRUTH behind the Miss Samford contest you should read this. And by truth I mean pretty pictures and the mysteries of their heroes revealed. Truth, in the headline, was a bit misleading.

As for the paper itself we had a serious of small, but regrettable problems crop up. We've learned to take the small problems any time. If our biggest grief falls under "hasty design flaws" that is something that can easily be corrected the next time out.

In the scheme of things these are small concerns. Unlike the (third of the year?) escaped inmate from one of the local courthouses. Apparently the word has gotten around: Tell the bailiff you need to use the facilities and then escape out the back, either by overpowering your guard or sneaking out of the bathroom.

You'd think a guy facing three charges of failure to appear on attempted murder charges would merit a little more attention. You'd think that, but you'd be mistaken.

During the drive home this windy evening I saw the first hint of holiday traffic. Also the new steakhouse is open near the house. My powers of observation continue: it is dark far too early. A bit of research proves that the breeze here was a bit more potent than the one in Chicago this fine evening.

A taunt in Twitter prompted that research. Meanwhile, I've also decided that Twitter will be a powerful source of amusement during holiday shopping this year. Assuming I were going to shop in any stores; I plan to be online for 84.6 percent of my gifts this year. Even still, I'll have to follow people twitting about the "Festival of Lights and Thrown Elbows" from the big mall nearby.

And now I'm kicking myself for having discovered this so late in the football season. Wednesday night football is more entertaining than watching Sunday night local news over a holiday weekend. Central Michigan and Northern Illinois are playing in a game of some significance for both. What looked to be a blowout turned dramatic late, but that's not where your fun will be found, dear viewer.

There is a ton of fog and, late in the game, the crew has abandoned their overhead camera in favor of the low angle shots. That, coupled with the announcing, makes this a broadcast par excellence.

Of note: In Dekalb, Ill. the Barb Wire Museum is of such importance that it needs to be displayed twice around the riveting football action.

On one key play the color commentator, former football star and all around nice guy Shaun King, called for a play action pass into the end zone. The quarterback took the snap, faked the handoff and then scored on a designed keeper. "Play action run, then," he said.

Oh you're hooked now.

Granted it was foggy, but the announcers lost track of where the ball was placed on two-point conversions. And then there was this exquisite gem: "He generally rises up and raises his level of play."

And then there was overtime, which meant more announcing fun. King took advantage of the opportunity to add to the mental fog of the physical game by dropping a phrase or two of Spanish on the audience.

If you're not watching their game next week you're missing out on three hours of unintentional comedy -- and possibly some decent mid-major football as well.

Also took another sample GRE tonight. My verbal went down, my quantitative went up. I seem to be in the grove. Now I have to schedule an actual test.

Me, worry? Not at all.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy Veteran's Day. Have you heard someone tell their tale today? Take the time if you have the chance.

I've been dutifully clicking the links that have cropped up today of fathers and grandfathers in wartime and peacetime service. They all seem so young, don't they?

My great-grandfather served in World War II, as has been discussed here before. On the other side of my family there is a proud line of service, including a great-uncle who lost a leg in Vietnam and some in my generation who were deployed in Iraq.

I don't have pictures of any of this, which is my own shortcoming, but I'll try to make up for it by offering period photographs. Soldiers in Rheims who were ready for home. This is V-E Day in St. Dizier, France. Here is a guy named Scotty, who may well have been involved in the final months of the Great War, though he was still safely in the U.S. on Independence Day.

The Black and White section, by the way, will soon be returning to the site. Those are always a bit of fun or educational. I'll of course let you know when they're back.

I had the chance to sleep in to the criminally late hour of 8:30 this morning. I lingered through a bit of the morning, had an early lunch and then made it onto campus where I've spent my complete day happily toiling on projects that just refuse to work.

It is a technological Monday. My Email has been unstable, none of the coding tricks I'd dreamed up the day before did as I'd hoped. I set up a Wordpress blog to use as a sandbox only to find, when I could finally access it, that Wordpress doesn't let you bring your own theme.

And so I tried to partition off a part of this site, but that hasn't done exactly what I'd hoped for either.

Meanwhile students are coming and going and starting to work on the paper. There is the occasional problem here and success there and moments of laughter and long periods of quiet as they work.

I stepped out for dinner, had a bite and then took part in a survey for my friend Rise Lara, who should be getting close to finishing her PhD any day now. Her research is on relationships and fidelity and the survey was entirely painless and over the phone. Drop her a line if you'd like to help her out.

Now I'm scanning files and talking contracts. I've discussed commas and rewrites and PhotoShop. It is a fun evening.

I'm also writing a new blog. If I created a Wordpress account but can't use it for the original purpose I may as well make something out of it. So I'm now running a social media/journalism blog for our students. We'll see where that goes.

We should also see about getting the menu on this page fixed. It hasn't fixed itself and pleading, tweaking and muttering doesn't seem to be doing the trick either.

Like I said, a technological Monday. Everything else has been just great, trending toward excellent. If you've got that in the middle of the week then you're a step ahead my friends, and I hope you are.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Two campuses today, just to see if I could get used to the idea. I spent the normal day at Samford, enjoyed the quiet and enjoyed even more the occasional opportunity to answer a question or be otherwise helpful.

Mondays move quickly here. Tuesdays take forever, because they do. Wednesday and Thursday have a spring in their step. Friday is a nice quiet stroll into the weekend. Today had a nice brisk step.

Or that was just my office which was freezing cold. I'm just off the newsroom, which has two thermostats. One of them, supposedly, works. The other is more or less a Fisher Price button and brings no harm or consequence with its manipulation.

Some time early in the semester the very diligent and helpful people from the department of air diligence and heating help came up and fixed the curious problem of the frozen newsroom. The journalists were pleased.

The downside was that my office will occasionally take irrational bouts of tundra. Today was one such day.

But it was a great day, that notwithstanding. I tinkered here and there, creeping up on progress on a few projects that will soon merit more attention. I remain vexed by a menu problem, but the solution will be answered in time.

At the end of the day there was none of the usual lingering or exploring picture-taking. The car was smartly pointed home and, ultimately, to Tuscaloosa for a brief evening visit at the Alabama campus.

The Yankee was conducting surveys of a large class and I played the role of dutiful research assistant, handing out copies, answering questions and collecting them again from a group of students who wanted to be anywhere buy a classroom at 7 p.m. on a Monday.

We met our friend Andrew for Dreamland in Northport. He chose that location because he wanted chicken, which they do not serve at the original. He ordered a sausage.

No matter, it showed us, by tungsten light and squinted eye, the gleaming metropolis of Northport and their Dreamland restaurant, which is another off of my list. (Only two more to go!)

Not sure why, but I was hoping this would be another sassy little joint in homage to the nearby original, but it was clearly a nice franchise restaurant. It was large, bright and clean, pretty much the antithesis of a barbecue joint. Even the signs were the same as the other locations.

The waitress (with the nosering) didn't much care for our presence, which clearly ruined her night as there was one whole other table being used in the place. The ribs were pretty good, if a bit skimpy, but times are tough everywhere one supposes.

After dinner we wound up shooting pool. We played until a respectable amount of time passed and we'd all decided it was late enough for us to want to go home and not look like lightweights. Also we ran out of quarters.

Beyond that, an easy ride home and almost time for bed. Two campuses in one day wasn't so bad ...

Come back tomorrow for Veteran's Day, putting the paper to bed, I take a survey myself and more!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another beautiful day today, the sun was nice and inviting, the shade offered a little chill. I sat in each during lunch at Panera, but leaned away from the building toward the warm sunlight.

Moths, plants, people, we're all the same. We're fascinated by the sun and a little bit saddened by its departure. Why else do you think television's prime time viewing is during the night? It was only meant to serve as a distraction from the obvious outdoors.

I wonder about early times, before science so neatly explained away the rotation of the earth. They were probably betrayed by the sun's departure and had to invent a story to cope. When it returned in the morning, victorious and brilliant, there was another story stemming from that. Sacrifices were made, crops sewn and everyone went about their business. And then, sometime in the mid-afternoon some wisenheimer noticed that that great big fiery ball was cozying up to the far horizon.

No one paid him any attention at first -- the guy should really be working, anyway, with so many crops to sew and sacrifices to be made. And then, suddenly, the sky turned orange and everyone panicked. They'd done it wrong again. There would have to be more sacrifices tomorrow.

Just imagine how they must have felt when solar flares ruined their cell phone coverage.

Visited the bookstore this afternoon. Two, actually. The one at Patton Creek, which I noted in May was a fairly morose place. All of the books then were very cynical and jaded things written by people who could see no right in our country or culture. The music was fling-yourself-from-the-building emo, but only after you pay for that, please.

And here we are a few months later and there's a slightly less angst among the prominently displayed book titles and Paul Simon -- who doesn't love Paul Simon -- tinkling down from the speakers. A change is coming, yes we might and all of that.

Onto another bookstore, then, this time at The Summit. The place has always seemed excessively named, no matter the economy. Here everyone is wearing red or a fashionable suit for reasons that are unknown these are the only acceptable styles of the day. I note the success of the local economy as the coffee shop in the corner is filled to the rim with people sipping high priced bean tar. The Moleskin stand has been seriously depleted as well.

Sure, they are great notebooks, but you're getting by just fine if you'll plunk down 10 bucks for college ruled paper in a bound format of any type. Unless you're buying Harry Potter Moleskin that keeps adding blank pages at the back of the book while you're filling up the first pages with adolescent incantations then you are paying too much.

This bookstore was playing Bob Dylan -- and a bit of it from the more unfortunate end of the Dylan spectrum -- proving that Sunday is folk singer day in bookstores across the land.

And that'll be $6.25 for you coffee.

At home I tweaked this page. If you noticed you're paying far too much attention to the background.

I also updated the photo gallery to show yesterday's festivities. And I have two videos from the day as well.

This is Thom Gossom Jr. He played football at Auburn during the 1970s. He was the second black player on the team and the first to graduate. He's just released Walk On a book that is one part memoir and one part cultural history of the period.

I met him yesterday at the journalism tailgate. I know a bit about him as my friend Jeremy Henderson helped research his book and that was how I introduced myself, by dropping a name.

We also got him to tell a great story, albeit in abbreviated fashion. Gossom is an actor now, you see, and when he was auditioning for a part on Boston Legal he had this conversation about the Auburn-Alabama rivalry.

I also got to tour the new office of The Auburn Plainsman yesterday, which is nice and spacious and still has that clean and new feeling. Same deal with the radio station, where our old on-air board now lives in a production studio. The new on-air board is like something out of Star Trek. And not just any Star Trek ship, but one from their future, so it looks even more fantastical.

And then there was the game, which you saw mentioned here yesterday. And the halftime. Here's the Auburn University Marching Band and the alumni band.

And with the photos uploaded and the video edited I could delay it no further.

I took a sample GRE test.

Here's the skinny: the GRE tests you on verbal and quantitative skills. I have always been a fairly solid test-taker, but haven't had one since my graduate school entrance exam. Prior to that I was in undergrad. I haven't had a math class since freshman year, so we're talking more than a decade.

(Which is another level of upsetting ...)

My sample test gave me a score that might be accepted into the doctoral program. I did OK on the verbal side of the test, but my quantitative will get a little extra attention this week.

You'll excuse me if I fixate on that for a while.

Two videos, a photo gallery, and a pre-historic man cell phone joke. That's a pretty fair amount of material for a Sunday. With obligations here satisfied I'll go read more colonial history.

This is one of those "history is told to us incorrectly" books, and I'm eager for it to be completed as I wear out on this particular style about two-thirds of the way through. The explanations for our incomplete school history always seem to fit in two themes: they don't fit the happy narrative or it was meant to oppress someone. If they'd just also offer up a third and fourth explanation there would be more variety.

I'm all for historical accuracy -- and dread the far off future day when I have to correct a teacher about textbooks and homework -- but sometimes the narrative is written as such for obvious reasons. So I add my own: The story would just become far too complex for already bored third graders; it is unfortunate when we lose their interest, we shouldn't confuse the issue further. Textbooks aren't really a format that invites moral equivalence. And one more: That apocryphal cherry tree story has a secondary moralistic issue elementary school children need.

There, I feel better now. How about you? Good weekend? Great weekend? Even better week coming up? Here's to hoping.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Finally off the losing streak.

Auburn hosted look-alike Tennessee-Martin for homecoming and struggled out to a 37-20 victory. Auburn returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and then a handful of plays later let the Skyhawks tie the game. They threatened to tie it again late into the third quarter when, finally, Auburn's conditioning and depth won out.

Kodi Burns (18) had a nice day, running for 158 yards and two long touchdowns and passing for another 130. The Tigers gathered 452 yards of total offense while winning 37-20 to improve to 5-5 on the season.

Auburn played with a lot of backups, particularly on defense, which kept the game too close for far too long. Perhaps the worst of it was a leisurely moving game that allowed fans to contemplate just how things have gotten so bad.

Up next, Amen Corner.

Come back tomorrow for more pictures and an awesome video.

Friday, November 7, 2008

This seemed like a day that would never get on its feet. Rained in the morning, dreary through the mid-day. Finally the sun appeared around 2:30.

Wasn't that about when President-elect Obama held his first post-election press conference? Probably just a coincidence.

It got cloudy again, for a bit, and then the foreboding skies were cleaned up and replaced by a little chill.

I took a few photographs on the way toward my car this evening. They're in the November gallery, but I'll show you some here too. I've actually shot several on campus this week, but neglected to mention them here, so today is that day.

There are a lot of autumn pictures. If you're from around this part of the world you know that fall just caught up to us. Transplants turn up their nose at the late arrival of the season, but it is beautiful while it lasts. All agree we could have more of it. That's the University Center in the background of that picture. My office is in there somewhere.

Here's why we'd like a nice, stately stroll through fall. Just look at Shades Mountain. Who wouldn't want about six weeks of that? We'll get a few more days and then it'll all be sticks and twigs and long sighs until spring.

I shot this one last night on my way home. This is A. Hamilton Reid Chapel and, now in its third or fourth appearance on the site it is easy to say that this is my favorite campus building.

Also on campus, from this evening, this is F. Page Seibert Hall. It houses athletics, the fitness center and other such activities. It doesn't look like it in this picture, but the sun had been down for some time. The sky was reluctant to change into a darker color.

Student columnist time, where we highlight the work of hardworking student-journalists because their columns are entertaining, informative and fun. First, a modern day scourge, as noted by The Crimson White's Liz Lane:
Counterfeit designer bags may be cheap and stylish, but they carry a lot of baggage worldwide.

For example, The FBI's joint terrorism task force found evidence that the sale of counterfeit goods financed the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing.

Still think your fake Chanel is worth it?
Well ... When you put it that way ... No?

Moving on, there's a nice think piece on an issue of statewide consideration just now. The Vanguard's Jennifer Harris discusses felon voting rights:
How criminal does your action have to be before you lose your vote even after you are deemed fit to rejoin society? But Riley is heading in the wrong direction. Rather than expanding this list we should focus on cutting it to the bare minimum.

If we begin excluding it to the bare minimum. If we begin excluding people who have committed petty crimes and misdemeanors, the system loses its original intent: to allow everyone to have a voice.
From the headline, and the byline, I knew this would be a good one in The Samford Crimson where Stephen Moss takes on trend, groupthink and complacency:
we should not be afraid to take our concerns to the administration or to speak out against what is not right or simply doesn't make sense. And if we don't do that ourselves, we certainly should not frown upon those who do have the courage to do so.

Let's do the responsible thing as members of the Samford community and, when necessary and appropriate, challenge what needs to be challenged in order to make our community a better place. After all, Samford, just like the Church, should be semper reformanda, always reforming.
Lot of good, young writers out there, that's why I put them here.

Pie Day was a blast. We sat at table two, which is slightly quieter than table one, because it is four feet further away from the kitchen. Nothing was broken back there tonight, but a piece of track lighting did explode.

The nice thing about Pie Day and Ward, the Super Psychic Waiter, is that by the time the hostess brought us back to our table he had all of our drinks spread out before us. Tea here, water there, Sprite there. It is all very impressive.

Also impressive, and a little bit disturbing, is seeing such a drinking problem in one so young. Taylor was definitely two-fisting it tonight. And she looks so much older, even than two weeks ago. Her proud parents, boasting of her reading and math skills presently residing far beyond her years, blame the older kids she hangs out with in school.

Even the facial expressions seemed different.

We all still enjoy the pie, though, and a lovely time was had by all. At the end of the night Ward got Taylor a balloon, and they posed together when it was time to go.

Between those drinks and that balloon we all talked about everything. It seems there is much to catch up on. And we'll do it again tomorrow. Brian is joining The Yankee and me for another football Saturday. Good company and football? Can't go wrong. Now only if we'd win a few more ...

Tomorrow's homecoming, and a struggling Auburn should send the alumni home happy despite the current four game losing streak. This is the hope at least. We'll find out tomorrow. Follow along on Twitter, the new Twitter page from and, of course, right here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

There is a beautiful old maple on the eastern edge of the property. It protects the bedrooms from the wind and helps knock down any over ambitious early morning rays from sneaking around the corner and waking me up.

Last night it shuddered, sneezed and went bald. I walked around the house this morning for some reason and noted an ankle deep pile of leaves that hadn't been there the day before.

It'd make you sad, but if you park within sight of the thing it'll make sure to send you home with a leafy souvenir or three.

And so, today, I can sum up my autumn's lament: While I love the season I dislike the inevitability, previously known as barren trees, now understood as "What am I supposed to do with all these ridiculous leaves!?"

Being surrounded by hardwoods has the one drawback. Most of the time it is worth it; the day you try to answer that question is not that day.

Talked with my grandparents today. My grandfather turned 66 today and so we chatted about this and that. I learned that he worked on his birthday, during his semi-retirement. He has a big anniversary coming up and he says he recently looked up what he had to buy. He's working all the extra hours he can find.

He and my grandmother are doing well. It was a nice little chat and so I called my other grandparents as well. I told a marvelous joke to my grandmother about her granddaughter. She laughed and cackled with delight. My grandfather, as always, asked when I would come to see him. We're counting the days until Thanksgiving. My grandmother got back on the phone and caught me up on the family news, good and bad, as is her way. At times she sounded old and small. At other times she sounded so full of life and strength.

She told a joke on me, bragged on her great-grandchildren and told me about her day and I realized I'd be lucky to be half as strong as she is. We talked most of my way home tonight, covering it seems like everything -- they think of me as the clever, funny one and I'll try to entertain with stories and humor for fear of boring them -- but surely not covering enough.

Thanksgiving, then. We'll have vegetables and warmed ham and see baby pictures and hear about aging relatives and watch a western. Maybe I'll pester them for family stories. It'll be like every other holiday. It'll be perfect.

I've been tinkering with this blog design for days now. If you've asked, or if I've wondered aloud, what has been happening with me the answer is explained in futility, confusion and the poor disposition of Internet Explorer toward CSS.

Firefox's marketshare has been growing for years for obvious reasons, but there is a ceiling. That number, whatever it becomes, is defined by whatever number of the people who say "IE does everything I need it to do, thank you. And who ever heard of surfing with a fox anyway?"

So it came to my attention earlier this week that the snazzy menu bar at the bottom of the page -- which I like for its clean look and simplicity, but dislike for its inability to be reproduced at the top of the page -- does not work in IE. It just sits there blankly and dumbly.

It works in Firefox and Safari and therefor is perfect to me. But there's that marketshare issue again. As of this writing 41 percent of my visitors are using IE. Something must be done! And it must be done now!

So I break the broken page. And then I realize the broken parts aren't responding to any changes in CSS, javascript, or the D(x)HTML. Then I started working on a side research project that was brainstormed over dinner and initiated through the evening hours.

Which left me, until the wee hours of the morning, doing that most perverse of things: Fixing the broken page back to its original broken format because your fixes fixed nothing and only served to muck things up worse and, what is this anyway, a government operation!?

So the page is fixed, back to the original brokeness of Monday and Tuesday. It was 2 a.m. this morning when I could say that. And now I must find a solution that actually works. But not today.

Today I must tell you that I've taken the evening away from the computer. Instead I watched Life on Mars which, as I've said several times, I don't want to enjoy, but Harvey Keitel makes me watch. I disdain the period -- and the jokes are getting tiresome -- and am waiting for an excuse to abandon the series.

My initial plan was to give it two bad episodes, but hadn't seen one so far. Tonight was the least among the show's early performances. Whoopi Goldberg's presence, surprisingly, didn't help the cause. The big dramatic scene near the end was obvious and had a hole or two in it. The moralistic-fable-in-the-box needs a new delivery too. And, despite a clever Vanilla Ice bit, I thought I'd found the first episode that would let me leave the show.

And then the last three minutes in the church were especially spooky and curious. They've got me hooked for another week.

Hope you're hooked here for another day. Come back tomorrow for Pie Day and more!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Funny. I woke up, the sun shined down, the world continued turning and everyone pretty much moved on with their lives, the concept of a new leader-type notwithstanding.

A few wry political scientists have taken to note that elections meet with great upheaval in Washington D.C. -- new jobs, lost jobs, government to think tank and back away, changing houses, new exits off the metro and so on -- but general disinterest out in the rest of the world.

That's not the case at all. Lincoln had it right all those many years ago, comparing elections to a great boil. Tedious, uncomfortable, unseemly and, when removed, we all feel healthier again.

Already the yard signs, ignored these many months, seem long overdue for removal. And for all those down ballot votes on people who you did no recognize you can tell if they won or not by the duration of their signs on the roadside. The loser's sign will always outlive the winner's. It is the last big NYAH! that sometimes lives into December.

The Crimson was published today. You can find all the stories online. There are a few fine examples of deadline reporting there centering on election coverage.

There is also a nice feature on a lady retiring after two decades in campus safety. There is coverage of the thrilling first round tournament win of the women's soccer team and, my favorite story of the week profiling one of the hardworking facilities people on campus:
She arrives in Burns Hall at 4 a.m. before any student or professor can even dream of waking and leaves campus at noon every day.

Before the sun even rises, she is cleaning the restrooms, tending to the trash and making sure every classroom and office is spotless.


"I love to sing," Dubose said. "Every single morning when I finish cleaning the second floor, I sing my favorite song, 'Lord, I Thank You For This Day' because today wasn't promised to me, so I thank God every day for it. And I know He put me here at Samford for a purpose."


"Ms. Mary is one of the most uplifting and encouraging people I've ever met," Heckman said.
The place seems filled to overflowing with people like that, it creates a nice atmosphere.

Started a new book, though I never told you about the finish of the old book. Over the weekend -- or Before Obama, if you prefer -- I finished Rick Atkinson's The Day of Battle which covers the Allied offensive in World War II Italy. The first installment in his trilogy detailed Africa and the Mediterranean.

The third volume, on western Europe, hasn't been published yet. Just as well. The series is a well-written and thoroughly researched one, but I've had enough war reading for a while.

On to something a little lighter, easier, breezier and a bit more petty. Family squabbles!

Sarah Payne Stuart's My First Cousin Once Removed is a memoir about her family, seen here hinged around Pulitzer poet Robert Lowell, her famous cousin.

Apparently all of the family is famous in New England. They are of the original sort, hoping off the Mayflower, settling in, growing to aristocracy, losing their wealth, clinging to the family names when they still meant something and even thereafter.

My family hoped off the Mayflower as well. The boat was small enough, and Stuart's ancestor important enough, that the two men certainly knew one another.

The book is well-written and reads quickly, so that part of memoir fears aren't necessary here. The stories she has can be fascinating, they can also be droll, but that's family life of course. There are plenty of photographs, and we're almost treated to great glimpses of Boston and New York in the earlier part of the 20th Century, but the view is forever out of focus, fuzzing out just beyond the family.

The writing is down with a great clarity and might make you want to reach for your own genealogy. My interest has never gone much beyond the people I've known or met, however briefly, but this is the sort of book that can change that.

She's witty and deprecating, only seldom does she threaten to take it too far. It is a brave and foolish thing to write with negativity about one's family, she toes the line with reasonable agility here. Stuart's seems to be a family obsessed with the telling of their tale. She speaks of many volumes written and unread on her great family names. Therein you'll see hints of the other charm of her book. Any family -- Pulitzer prize winning, manic depressives, socialites, drunkards or not -- has a few interesting stories to tell. The players might not all be the creme of high society, but they all have valuable stories.

Here's what I know of mine: My great-grandmother researched and believed that she could trace the family back a non-Puritan on the Mayflower. I read that while leafing through her memoir. It is past time I read the entire work.

I'm told one small town is named after one branch of my family. Two orphaned boys crossed the state line and then had a big argument over how their family name should be spelled. The two parted ways and a town sprang from that.

My great-grandfather was also orphaned -- though of a different generation I believe -- and was adopted by members of Jesse James' family. Or something equally outlandish.

Both sets of my grandparents live in the same county and a few years back there was a reader-driven volume published about the county's history. As far as I know the two families have lived in those same communities forever, or at least four and five generations. One side of my family is far more well-represented in that book than the other for reasons I don't understand.

There is, in one cemetery, an old relative who has a wife on either side of him. Last spring my grandfather and I joked about that while we were out visiting family plots. That poor man can't even have any peace in the hereafter.

That same day I learned of a family name that I'd never heard before.

That's it. I'm pestering older family members for good stories over the holidays. This stuff is addicting. Also I'm going to read a family memoir.

I wonder if there is a formula for anecdotes to storytellers in families. There's a wealth of tall tales in any holiday gathering -- and that is our casual family tradition, telling tales on the living and the lost, we are never so equal or rapt or entertained by anything else -- but I know of only the one memoirist.

This day, with so much waxing on my part has waned and I haven't done everything I'd hoped for. That, though, is what tomorrow is for. And yours? What is your tomorrow for?

Don't answer that yet. Watch this first. Maybe it will change your choice. These filmmakers are asking 50 people one simple question. There is a big thought, an innocent giggle and then the answers, which seldom surprise.

The best part is the end, and how the people walk away from the brief interview. You can see it in New York, as in the link above, or in New Orleans. Both are filled with a certain simple and intimate sidewalk ethnography. Both are uniquely moving.

So, now, what's your tomorrow for?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

As races go this marathon turned into a sprint at the end, didn't it?

The race analogy is a bit of a reach here as the first contestants were the candidates. But they were shouldered aside in the mid-evening for the new contestants, the networks. After Pennsylvania toppled the race was on to see who would called Ohio and tip Sen. McCain's king.

By 8:30 it was perfunctory and down to the ceremony. This made our students happy as they could go about the business of putting their paper to bed. They ran a graphic and three election stories in the issue and learned the joys of election night coverage in the process.

It is here that I'll take a stroll down memory lane, recall I've covered campaigns in one capacity or another for a dozen years and bring us back to that hazy moment of my first campaign.

The democrats had their watch part at one of the newer hotels in Auburn. Not the really ostentatious place, but one that still signified a bit of work and money. I've always liked to think that it was carefully tested and focus grouped to show the proper populist roots, but the truth is probably that the mayor's brother-in-law was the festivities organizer and gave the party a good deal.

And then they threw a party. And it was a good deal.

I was 19 and surrounded by very happy people -- and you've not lived until you've been hit on by a middle-aged woman of considerable local influence. The local candidate lost his race. He was, and remains, a state senator, but Ted Little was running for congress. He's a good man, but he was running against the eventual governor and had a third-party candidate who siphoned off a few votes.

For whatever reason I chose to spend most of the evening at that watch party, sneaking out when the fun gave way and driving over to the county's republican headquarters, which was one of those more humble buildings surrounded by old, but prosperous businesses. Someone got Bob Riley on the phone for me and he was kind enough to do an interview with a college sophomore. I had the good sense to congratulate him and we chatted about his historic victory -- the seat had been democratic since Reconstruction.

Later in the night I spoke on the phone with people in Jeff Sessions' campaign. He'd just been elected, by a wide margin, to succeed Howell Heflin in the U.S. Senate. No republican had ever held that seat.

Riley served three terms in congress and then ran for governor. That particular congressional set has remained a GOP seat each time since. Sessions is still in the senate, he and his counterpart Richard Shelby are the only two republicans to have ever served in that capacity for Alabama.

Sessions' people said I asked too many questions -- I would later learn this was my first compliment as a journalist. I was far beyond my deadline that night and the editors weren't happy, but we had a decent story for the next day's paper. I believe both of my stories made the front page.

So I've covered every election since then at one place or another, this is the first one where I've been more of an observer than a reporter. And I've followed everything on the internet, which has been a bit more leisurely and enjoyable than television.

We just finished watching the live stream of John McCain's concession speech, and later, President-elect Barack Obama's address. How quickly we've adjusted to the technology: live streaming video into the computer is commonplace, CNN's holograms are the new thing to be wooed by.

Both were stirring speeches, as I'm sure you saw. Both were gracious men. Had the tone and tenor of the campaign been more like this we would have all been the better. As Obama took the stage I mumbled something about remembering this moment to the students writing content and editing copy. We seldom have the appreciation of history at the right moment, but everyone stopped to hear what both men had to say, it was a nice moment.

Soon after Obama was off the stage they'd sent out an Email blast, had a photo, a graphic, seven paragraphs and three quotes on the site to localize the story. Not bad hustle for their first breaking news story on the site.

I suppose I could talk more here about my easy morning at the polls. I could gush about the long lines -- that's an amazing video, I know the neighborhood and some of the people and it is fascinating to see the cross-section of the community.

We could discuss all of those things, but you already are and your experience was more important than mine. Two things are far more telling than my in-and-out vote and even videos presaging hours of waiting in line. People stood from long civic slumbers in record numbers for this election. Together they stood in lines short and long and moved by the millions to signify the next government.

That'll get you in the history every time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Here's the new look to the blog. Like it? Very spare. Very minimal. Very in-progress.

I'd like to bring a menu bar to the top of the page -- there's one down at the bottom -- but I'm having some problems with the coding. On the other hand, who wants to leave?

The page has only changed in look, really. This is still more or less a daily enterprise. The date signifying a new entry below. The pound symbol distinguishing the inevitable conclusion. Links are blue now, a bit more subdued, but you'll see them.

The menu items haven't changed much either. There's home, the last three items from the Twitter feed, links to the blogs I read, the now cumbersome archives, a few links to local student media and a new search function, should you need to consult how I felt about Roosevelt, Teddy or Franklin, three years ago.

There are pictures at the top and the bottom of the page. Like everything else they will change on an irregular basis. No decision has been made on whether a theme will emerge there.

Basically it was time for a new look. The most recent one had been here, with only minor style changes, for about four years. If this looks old-fashioned that is deliberate. If it loads faster and looks clean, I've met my goals.

So there's that. And there's a new photo on the front page too. Took that one this afternoon. Caught the light and the leaves and walked up to the parking deck on the back of campus to catch that glimpse of the Reid Chapel and Shades Mountain. I love that view. It wouldn't be bad for a post card either.

Also on the site today are the first pictures from November. You'll see a lot of leafy photographs in the early going as autumn has suddenly arrived as far as the trees are concerned. I document the change, lament that a photograph never suffices and that they'll soon be barren for months.

Ordinarily I'd make a plea to hibernate too, but we've got at least a week of beautiful weather headed this way. If that'll hold out through mid-December I'd be a happy guy. That would keep a winter of denial to a tolerable amount. This is all relative, of course. One of the many small blessings of living in the Deep South are seasons that yet yield only begrudgingly and in subtle increments.

On the way home I was driving toward a deep dark orange horizon with a big bruise-blue ceiling overhead. The trees were in silhouette. Three minutes before I'd walked to the car and noted the perfect weather. Little Martha dripped out of the stereo and the only things missing were crickets and a steamy night.

Since I mentioned it yesterday it is worth a follow up. My fantasy football team was trailing going into tonight's game, but I had a defense and a running back playing tonight and I've won the week handily. This 12-team league is clearly flawed; there is a five-way tie for first place. My college picks have been suffering, but that's not a game that lends itself to coming from behind, so I'm just taking up space there.

On Boston Legal tonight the characters were all worked up about a vote of some sort. Apparently there's political change in the air. Given the huff and puff of it all you'd wonder if they were ending the show on the assumption they'd have nothing to complain about with the Bush administration out of office.

William Shatner's Denny Crane has always been the outlandish Republican on the show, and in the end he voted for Barack Obama. People with homes in other states traveled their to vote since "Massachusetts is in the bag." The last sequence was everyone at various polling places, doing their duty. It was all very patriotic and orderly and New England and vanilla.

On the balcony Denny Crane and Alan Shore dreamed that tomorrow they might even wake up in a new America. It is an idyllic thought; all of the things that you disprove of will be whisked away and replaced with a kinder, gentler, more understanding and better understood version of ourselves. Our one little vote could make us all the better. Guilt and triumph and hate and glee and greed and generous spirits would wrestle it out during our dreams and we'd be the people of our vision.

In this, perhaps, we are again living in an age of innocents. How it would be lovely if it could only stay that way, for our children, and our children's children and all of our posterity. Wouldn't it be lovely?

Tomorrow we'll talk of the wonders of democracy. Tonight this is a meditation on the wonders of the human spirit -- that forgetful, indomitable, wishful heart. It is a powerful thing.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I spent a bit of Friday night, a bit of Saturday afternoon and a tiny bit of today tinkering with some code for a new blog design. All of that leaves me with basically the same code I started with on Friday night. A navigation bar that I've been experimenting with simply refuses to work.

But. The background hue has changed 2.8 degrees. The body has increased in width by 15 percent. The margins are now six pixels more narrow.

Today I took a few photographs for the design and officially suspended search operations on the menu fix. Tomorrow I'll unleash it on the world to a mild round of "ahhs" and critiques about minimalism and a return to old standards.

Well? What's wrong with old standards? So long as you have the flaming, blinking, spinning, twirling words and gaudy horizontal rules you've built a handsome web page my friend.

The new page won't look much like that.

But you'll see it tomorrow most likely.

Elsewhere today the NFL droned on in the background. I've paid more attention to the league this year than the last four or five seasons, which is to say I know that a few players are hurt, a few teams are aging and the Titans are undefeated.

I know all of this because I'm in a fantasy football league. I'm presently leading my boss in the league standings and this week am playing the hard luck team of the group. I believe I could sit two or three guys and might possibly eek out a win.

In other news I've emptied the various garbage cans, dealt with a big stack of imposing laundry and made headway toward my "Everything Clean in 2014" goal. Everything will be cleaned and stowed well before 2014, of course -- several times over if at all possible -- but it rhymed, you see.

I also noted once again precisely how many clocks I own. At least four of them have pulled a Cher themselves. My computer, and its software from the olden days, dropped back an hour a week or two ago. The mysterious and magical TiVos adjusted themselves as well. The cell phone, despite its age, responded to the change as well. The remaining chronometers are waiting on me to turn back time. That leaves six or possibly seven which will need personal attention.

Especially perplexing will be the alarm clock, which must be set back an hour, but adjusted for the half hour ahead where it normally resides. The only thing that might make this a more complex last-thought-of-the-day exercise would be if the power had gone out. It did not.

The contingency plan for such a catastrophic event is to consult The Weather Channel and hope that they remembered to fall back an hour. If the cable was down the local time and temperature phone line would be brought into service.

Does that line even exist any more? I flipped through the front of the book expecting to find it in a bold font full of purpose and vigor. Instead it was tucked quietly in the white pages.


Suddenly of more interest: The two listings above it were for "The Time Machine." Perhaps we could hitch a ride, go back in time and pay that bill and get the Time of Day line back in working order.

Picked up The Yankee at the airport and had dinner downtown. Our waiter looked exactly like Morris Day. I'd hoped he would break out in song, but it was not to be.

Morris Day was just in town last weekend. And maybe he lives here now. Maybe he moonlights at the restaurant. Maybe that odd blend of Asian and Eurotechno they play in that place is where his funk comes together.

He's probably listening in to snippets of conversation hoping to get new hooks for his songs. We would not make it on his next album, unless he was singing about Halloween costumes and airports and communication theory. If those make it into the studio, though, the possibilities are endless.

But the night is not. And after two consecutive late evenings tonight should be one that ends at a respectable time. As soon as I finish the math on the clock changes.

Hope your weekend was lovely, and that the coming week looks even more promising!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy November. Ready for the run into winter? Ready for the sprint into holidays? All of the candy wrappers haven't even been cleaned up and there's already been the first parody of Carol of the Bells.

My favorite Christmas commercial ever has been in circulation for a few weeks. The woman looks to her husband in the yard and announces her Christmas shopping plans. Because he is a man, and therefore stupid in the eyes of commercial America, he asks "Didn't we just carve the pumpkins?"

And then the lady heads, happily to KMart. We are now making fun of the fact that Christmas goes on too long, signs that both the creative juices have run dry in that advertising firm and no one cares about that or acknowledging it.

The advertisement is directed and reminding KMart shoppers about their layaway plan, which is an even better idea in most shoppers personal economies at this point.

So the holidays are here. Old news if you've been in a Cracker Barrel the last three months. Retail experts say weaker economies mean Christmas gets here earlier, meaning Christmas fatigue arrives earlier. So Merry October, and welcome to November.

At the risk of earning more hate mail for football comments -- I did receive one this week by someone who's reading comprehension failed them for a time -- I should just skip the Auburn game altogether.

It was fairly ugly and unenthusiastic. Some things were slight improvements, but most things seem to be standing still. As I said (and was misinterpreted) last week, I hate for the players that the season has devolved thusly.

Nine weeks in, a four game losing streak, bowl hopes fading and still with far more questions than answers, it is not a pretty scene for Auburn. One way or another it promises to be an even more tumultuous offseason. Time will tell if the administration gets it right. If the Board of Trustees still has their heavy hand involved the result will be a foregone conclusion.

In happier news we saw how Florida would avenge last year's celebration demonstration against Georgia. People could talk of little else when that game came up in conversation. The answer was simple: Florida would beat Georgia in embarrassing fashion.

UAB was manhandled on the road at Southern Miss in another bad day in a hardluck season. Alabama quietly won their homecoming. Samford campaign from behind to score with under two minutes left, but Furman blocked the extra point to preserve a one-point victory.

Texas and Texas Tech had the game of the weekend tonight. The Red Raiders dominated the first half in shocking fashion and played well in the second half. Texas, though, clawed their way back into the game to take the lead with 1:28 left on the clock. They should have left 1:27 instead.

The Tech fans, in their fervor and lack of clock reading skills, rushed the field twice in celebration before the game reached its conclusion. Texas, who've played four top 10 teams in a row, finally had one escape their grasp. Alabama will be number one in the morning.

So I've been watching a lot of football today, and tinkering with new page design. Now I'm writing this, waiting on sleepiness to catch up to me, and watching a dreadful Wesley Snipes movie, The Marksman:
Don't watch this. Don't don't don't don't don't don't don't don't. Don't.
This one must have been direct to video. And Snipes is clearly in the "Did the check clear?" stage of his career. This might also have been an effort to boost some central European economy with a dash of movie money. Central Europe, where the motto must be "Come for the history, stay for the overcast conditions."

At least the exterior shot of the Pentagon was legitimate, if cribbed from another film. Everything else was done on the cheap. The font was gently ripped off from Blade Runner.

Wesley Snipes, you see, is a military specialist with a deep and brooding past. There was a flashback with lots of explosions -- "He had the wrong target!" but we saw a lot of bad guys, militarily speaking, combust in the dream sequence, so we're never sure about his grief.

He's the star of your movie, and yet Snipes doesn't say a word for the first 22 minutes of the film. You never hear his name; finally he's called by his role in life, his mission of conflicting complexity. He is "Painter." They were going to use that as the title of the film, but a Yugoslavian hit from the 1970s got there first.

Remember the dramatic music from the 8-bit and 16-bit adventure video games? That's the score to this epic project which should be avoided at all costs. Here's the preview, which includes his first line in the movie. The woman's answer to that question will give you an insight to the depth of the writing involved.

I've been watching this so you don't have to. You're welcome.