Sunday, November 30, 2008

Parade of Lights

A little blurry (or a lot blurry, if you prefer), but an action shot nonetheless - son #1 marching in the Elk Grove Parade of Lights, Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend.

Home Away From Home

For the next eight nights, I'll be staying at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego for the annual conference and leadership meetings of the Association for which I work.

Along with millions of other travelers, I braved the airport today, and arrived safely without a lot of fuss. Two of the views from my room are shown in these pictures.

And so the longest week begins.

The BCS Is Screwed...

...because no matter what happens, there is going to be a huge controversy.

And the thing is...this year, there really is no right answer. There's no way at this point to objectively determine whether Texas or Oklahoma is the better team, aside from having them go out on the field and play 4 quarters. Next week we'll find out whether Alabama or Florida is more worthy, but that won't answer the question of whether the winner of that game is any better than the winner of the SEC Championship. And of course, we all know that whoever "wins" the right to play in the Big 12 Championship may find themselves on the short end of the stick, if Missouri can bounce back from that incredible loss yesterday and give them a good game.

And then of course, there's USC. There's no doubt in my mind that the Trojans are capable of beating all of the aforementioned teams, which is not to say that they would. And by stinking up the joint on that Thursday evening in Oregon lo these many weeks ago, they gave up any right to have an argument. As did Penn State, when they jumped the shark against Iowa a few weeks ago. But they, no doubt, could also give someone a great game.

So prepare yourselves for the storm to come, and dream sweet dreams of what might have been this year if there was an 8-team playoff.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday Night Lights Redux

An odd fog descends onto the field at halftime of the Pleasant Grove-Nevada Union game.

In just their second year of fielding a full varsity team, Pleasant Grove has advanced to the city championship, with a thrilling 21-18 win over perennial power NU. Next week, they will face off against another Elk Grove team, Laguna Creek, for the city bragging rights.

Meanwhile, the Elk Grove Thundering Herd was reduced to having a few dozen ill-behaved punks attending last night's game, thinking it would be fun to root for Nevada Union. Stay home next week and study, kids. You might even get into the local community college if you do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

In Honor of the Day

"Black Friday," performed live in 2006. I don't think the song has anything to do with what people call Black Friday these days (and when did that start, anyway?), but then again I've been listening to the song for over 30 years now and I'm still not quite sure what it is about.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The holiday season is bracketed by two major parades, probably the most famous in the United States: the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena on New Year's Day. Maybe it's because it heralds the beginning of the season rather than its end, but the Thanksgiving Day parade has always been my favorite. Thanksgiving is the forgotten holiday, as Loudon Wainwright once sang, "just a buffet in between" Halloween and Christmas. Thanksgiving deserves better.

Monday, November 24, 2008

With All The Trimmings

It's a Thanksgiving annual posting of one of my favorite essays, "With All The Trimmings" by Garrison Keillor. It first appeared in TIME Magazine in 1995.

With All The Trimmings
by Garrison Keillor

It is a wicked world in which the power of any individual to cause suffering is so great and the power to do good is so slight; but here we are, the week of our beloved national feast, our annual homecoming, and signs of loving Providence are everywhere around us.

I am thankful to be alive. In Minnesota the lakes are freezing over in late November, and some men who envision a leadership role for themselves take their snowmobiles out onto the thin ice and fall through and drown in the cold water--their last thought in this life: "Boy, was this dumb or what?"--and so far I have not been one of them. Caution was bred into me: I never played with guns or made a hobby of pharmaceuticals or flung myself off a cliff while clinging to a kite. I read books instead. I read books in which men hearken to wild imperatives, and that is enough for me.

I am thankful for living in a place where winter gets good and cold and you need to build a fire in a stove and wrap a blanket around you. Cold draws people closer together. Crime drops. Acts of kindness proliferate between strangers. I have been in Los Angeles on a balmy day in January and seen the glum faces of people poking at their salads in outdoor restaurants, brooding over their unproduced screenplays. People in Minnesota are much cheerier, lurching across the ice, leaning into the wind as sheets of snow swirl up in their faces. Because they feel needed and because cold weather takes the place of personal guilt. Maybe you haven't been the shining star you should have been, but now is not the time to worry about it.

I am thankful for E-mail, which allows us to keep in touch with our children, and for the ubiquity of fresh coffee, the persistence of good newspapers, the bravery of artists, the small talk of sales clerks, the general competence and good humor I encounter every day. None of us is self-sufficient, despite what some politicians claim. Every good thing, every morsel of food comes directly from God, who expects us to pay attention and be joyful, a large task for people from the Midwest, where our idea of a compliment is, "It could have been worse."

I am thankful, of course, for Thanksgiving, a joyful and simple day that never suffered commercial exploitation and so is the same day as when I was a boy and we played touch football on the frozen turf and came to the table sweaty and in high spirits and kept our eyes open for flying food. My sister had good moves; you'd look away for an instant, and she'd flip her knife and park a pat of butter on your forehead. Nobody throws food at our table now, but in the giddiness of the festive moment, I have held a spoonful of cranberry for a moment and measured the distance to Uncle Earl, his gleaming head, like El Capitan, bent over the plate.

As I grew up, Thanksgiving evolved perfectly. It used to be that men had the hard work, which is to sit in the living room and make conversation about gas mileage and lower back pain, and women got the good job, which is cooking. Women owned the franchise, and men milled around the trough mooing, and if any man dared enter the kitchen, he was watched closely lest he touch something and damage it permanently. But I bided my time, and the aunts who ran the show grew old, and young, liberated lady relatives came along who were proud of their inability to cook, and one year I revolted and took over the kitchen--and now I am It. The Big Turkey. Mr. Masher. The Pie Man.

Except for gravy and pie crust, which take patience and practice, Thanksgiving dinner is as easy to make as it is to eat. You're a right-handed batter in a park that's 150 feet down the left-field line—it doesn't take a genius to poke it out.

Years of selective breeding have produced turkeys that are nothing but cooking pouches with legs. You rub the bird's inside with lemon, stuff it with bread dressing seasoned with sage and tarragon and jazzed up withchunks of sausage and nuts and wild rice, shove it in a hot oven; meanwhile, you whomp up yams and spuds and bake your pies. The dirty little secret of the dinner is melted animal fats: in all the recipes, somewhere it says, "Melt a quarter-pound of butter."

Think of the fancy dishes you slaved over that became disasters, big dishes that were lost in the late innings. Here's roast turkey, which tastes great, and all you do is baste. You melt butter, you nip at the wine, and when the turkey is done, you seat everyone, carve the bird, sing the doxology and pass the food.

The candles are lit in the winter dusk, and we look at one another, the old faces and some new ones, and silently toast the Good Life, which is here before us. Enjoy the animal fats and to hell with apologies. No need to defend our opinions or pretend to be young and brilliant. We still have our faculties, and the food still tastes good to us.

Walt Whitman said, "I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God's name." Thanksgiving is one of those signed letters. Anyone can open it and see what it says.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Head Over To The Carnival!

Anthony McCune is celebrating the third anniversary of his blog with an old-fashioned Blog Carnival, and he was kind enough to link to one of my posts in the celebration.

Be sure to head on over - lots of interesting links. While you're there, check out Anthony's site (which is bookmarked here under "More Good Stuff") - in particular for his great photos of Frank Lloyd Wright properties.

And Finally...The Mass Exodus

Back In Its Rightful Hands

(San Francisco Chronicle photo)

Touchdown, Bears!

And on this play, the Bears have just scored their third touchdown of the quarter. We had a terrific view of all three, including the incredible hook-and-ladder play which Jahvid Best took into the end zone.

First and Goal, Bears

In the third quarter, the Bears exploded, scoring 3 touchdowns in about 7 minutes to take a commanding 30-3 lead. This is first and goal on the short drive (following an interception) which resulted in their first touchdown.

UPDATE: I screwed this one up...Stanford actually has the ball here, and I think it may have been this play where the first interception took place.

Halftime Show

From a higher angle, the Golden Bears marching band performs at halftime.

First Half Action

First half action, including the opening kickoff, and two Stanford drives down to our end of the field, one of which ended in a field goal. The Bears took a 10-3 lead into halftime, and it appeared the game was up for grabs.

UPDATE: Well, I screwed this one up too - clearly, the Bears have the ball in one of these pictures. It had to be the first quarter, because that's the direction they were heading.

The Bears Take The Field!

Stanfurd Band

When you go to the game with a Stanford season ticket holder, you sit in the Stanford rooting section. We were closer to the infamous band than we'd ever been before, but they behaved relatively well on this occasion.

The Student Section

A view of the Cal student section, with Cheapskate Hill visible in the background.

Great Seats!

Section O, Row 14, Seats 1 and 2. A difficult angle for the opposite end zone, but as it would turn out, some of the best seats in the entire stadium.

This is the pre-game show, with both bands out on the field.

Mass of Humanity

The crush gets a little serious when you get close to the stadium.

Heading Up To The Game

Winding our way up Bancroft, on the way to the stadium.

The Infamous Jacket

The infamous Stanford Indians jacket worn by my friend Steve, with whom I've attended 12 Big Games (Cal leads 6-5-1 in our personal series). Needless to say, Steve gets a lot of comments about this, and I usually make sure that I'm walking several steps behind him as we head up to the game.

Views From The Lot

Views from the public parking lot on Durant Avenue, where I felt lucky to get away with a $30 parking fee. I was prepared for $50.

Shakespeare & Co.

Shakespeare & Co., across the street from Moe's on Telegraph Avenue.

As is clear from the photos, it was a crystal clear, perfect day in Berkeley. Just right for football.

Big Game 2008

As mentioned below, the first stops in Berkeley are the used book stores on Telegraph Avenue: the legendary Moe's Books, and Shakespeare & Co. right across the street. My friend Steve collects books on cinema, sports, and the British monarchy, which strikes me as an unusual combination but maybe not to some readers.

This year at Moe's, I was able to find Greil Marcus' "Prophecy and the American Voice," which is one of the few books of his that I don't own. If I recall correctly, Steve left with a history of cinema, and a biography of Adlai Stevenson.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Master and His Padawan

Son #1, jamming after Wednesday night's concert, with his student paying close attention.

Big Game 1986 - Farewell, Joe

During the time I worked as a busboy and then waiter at Chuck's Steak House of Hawaii, I met a guy named Steve who would hang out in our bar on a lot of evenings. Steve was a huge sports fan, to the point of obsession. At the time, he would wear a Denver Broncos cap that looked like it was 50 years old, and sported a very sporty (if not necessarily stylish) pair of mutton-chop sideburns. Well before Chris Berman became a household name in the sporting world, Steve had developed clever nicknames for just about every figure in the sporting world, nicknames that were all the more amusing for their frequent ribaldry. In short, Steve was a character.

As it turned out over the course of numerous late night conversations, Steve was also a huge Stanford fan. He didn't go to Stanford, or have any relatives that went to Stanford, but had adopted them as his team. He had season tickets to football, and would also go to many of their basketball games. As it also turned out, Steve hated driving in Berkeley, after a couple of bad experiences, and was delighted to find out that I had gone there, and in fact might be willing to drive and accompany him to the Big Game on the years when it was at Cal. Our deal, which stands to this day, is that he gives me the ticket, and I drive and pay for the parking. In 1986, I was getting the better end of the deal. Today, I think it's a wash.

Our routine - Steve, shall we say, is into routines - is the same every two years: I pick him up at 8 a.m. in front of his office in downtown Sacramento, we park on the top level of the public parking lot at Durant and Telegraph in downtown Berkeley, and then spend a couple of hours in the used book stores on Telegraph perusing the stacks. Steve is a collector, both of sports memorabilia and of books about old film stars. The book stores on Telegraph are a treasure trove of such stuff, and it's very easy to lose track of time wandering through the five stories of Moe's Books and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of Shakespeare's. After we're finished with that, we head back to the car, have our lunch and a beer, and walk up to Memorial Stadium for the game.

1986 was another one of those years (they were frequent back then) that Cal stunk to high heaven, and Stanford just needed one more win to make it to a bowl game. Heading into the Big Game, it was already known that the Joe Kapp experiment was coming to an end. Kapp, the legendary Cal quarterback who led the team to the Rose Bowl in the late 1950s and went on to a good pro career with the Minnesota Vikings (and who apparently, based on the SI cover shown above, was "the toughest Chicano"), had been hired to coach the Bears in 1982 despite never having coached a minute at any level of organized football. As became clear over the course of a five-year period, Kapp was a great guy and an absolutely wonderful cheerleader for the Cal football program, but was about as bad a coach as one can imagine. Despite having a lot of talent, the Bears underachieved each year under his tenure, although it must be said that Kapp was the coach for the single most exciting play in the history of college football (you know which one I'm talking about). He had little to do with it, but so be it. The Bears were 1-9, and the University had had enough. Joe had to go.

Back to Steve for a moment - another thing he is, is a pessimist. When he saw that Stanford was favored by 17 1/2 points, he decided right then and there that they were going to lose. All the way down to the game, he complained about the spread, and "how in the world those jerks could make any team a 17 point favorite in the Big Game!"

Well, as it turned out Steve was right. Cal played a great game, and basically outplayed the Cardinal until the very end, when it was too late. The first half was a defensive battle, but Cal crack through the end zone first to take a 7-0 lead. After Stanford closed it to 7-3, the Bears added a field goal in the third quarter, and then ran a beautiful, perfectly executed reverse with about 7 minutes to play to stretch their lead to 17-3. Stanford made things interesting with a late touchdown and two-point conversion, but for once in the Kapp era, the Bears held on when it counted, and prevailed 17-11. And once again, Stanford stayed home for the holidays.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Big Game Memories - 1980

The fall of 1980 was my first quarter at Cal, and along with my last quarter, probably the most fun I had in my two years there. There was something incredibly liberating about being away from home for the first time in my life, and sharing that experience with a dorm full of people experiencing exactly the same thing. It took me a while to find an appropriate balance between "fun" and school (that D+ on a midterm helped a lot in that regard), and it also took me a while to realize that I needed to start pacing myself in the spending department if I was going to make it through two years without taking out major student loans. Over the course of the quarter I got better at it, and still managed to partake in a lot of activities outside the classroom - including my first Bruce Springsteen concert, as well as an incredible show by Talking Heads and The English Beat - to this day, one of the five best concerts I've ever seen.

And of course there was football. Cal was actually expected to contend for the Rose Bowl that fall, but unfortunately I had been accepted so late in the process (due to a mixup with my community college transcripts) that it was too late for me to get a student football pass. I still managed to hit most of the games, using the pass of someone who couldn't go or just didn't care. As the season progressed, the latter reason prevailed most often, because the team underachieved to a spectacular degree, and really stunk up the joint after starting quarterback Rich Campbell went down for the season with an injury. His successor was a guy named J Torchio (that's right, just the letter J), who was around 5'11" and was obviously not a threat to go on to a professional career. His first three starts were all blowouts, and heading into the Big Game the team was a desultory 2-8.

I wasn't expecting to go to the game, but miraculously, on Friday evening one of my dorm-mates (in fact, a classmate from my high school) decided he didn't really care one way or another about the game, and gave me his ticket. Needless to say, that made the evening, and I remember calling home to let everyone know (and no, they didn't really care) that I was going to THE BIG GAME!

If I recall correctly, Stanford was 6-4, and only needing a victory "over lowly Cal" (we saw that a lot in the papers that week) to wrap up a bowl bid. This was before the days when 2/3 of Division I teams went to a bowl game, so a winning record was no guarantee of a postseason berth. They were favored by about two touchdowns, and their quarterback was this arrogant bratty sophomore by the name of John Elway. Of course, we had no chance.

But strange things happen in the Big Game, and this one was no exception. Cal took the opening kickoff and drove down the field as if the Stanford defense was made of cheese, and of course we all went batsh*t crazy. The group I went to the game with had gotten there two hours early, just so we could stake out perfect seats on the 50-yard line. The first keg had been tapped about 10 a.m., so you can imagine we were already having a good time.

Stanford came right back and scored, and we figured the rout was on, but to our surprise and glee, Cal dominated the rest of the first half, and went into halftime with a 21-7 lead. Back in those days, they still allowed Cal fans to throw oranges at the Stanford band while they were performing, and all of us tried to get our orange into the tuba, to no avail. The band dedicated their first song to "the losers of the world," and then spelled out "Theder," the name of Cal's coach. Naturally that infuriated everyone, and the orange throwing became a little more urgent (not to mention dangerous).

In the third quarter, Stanford scored two touchdowns while Cal did absolutely nothing, and we fully expected to be disappointed. But then, after a great punt which was downed on the Stanford 4-yard line, the Cardinal fumbled the snap on first down and the Bears recovered. Two plays later they scored to take a 28-21 lead, and somehow the defense held on to that lead, despite a barrage of deep Elway passes that had us holding our breath with each heave. When Cal took over on downs with less than a minute to go, deep in their own territory, they were able to wind down the clock, take a safety, and kick the ball out of danger - or so we thought. As people around the world would learn later, that Elway kid had a bit of a gun as an arm, and he managed to get one last Hail Mary pass 70 yards down the field into the end zone. But it was batted down, and the Bears escaped with a 28-23 upset victory. And Stanford stayed home for the holidays.

The rest of the day, I have to admit, is a bit of a blur. I know that beer was involved.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's Big Game Week!

That's right, folks! After two years of exile in the frozen wasteland of December, the annual Big Game between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal has returned to its rightful place, the Saturday before Thanksgiving. And because of that change, which by itself is reason enough to be thankful as we head into the holiday season, I'll be back in Berkeley on Saturday for my 13th Big Game seen in person.

For the next few days, you're going to see a lot on this site about Big Game memories. Most of you probably could not care less, but I hope there's enough football fans out there - particularly of the Blue & Gold and Red-shirt variety - to find the entries entertaining.

Of course, pictured here is the Stanford Axe, which is awarded annually to the winner of the game. Alas, it pains me to say that the Axe is currently in the hands of the Cardinal, which would make a victory this weekend that much sweeter.

Stay tuned, and in the meantime...Roll On You Bears!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Color Commentary

Given the increasing number of college football games that are on TV each weekend, with each passing year it becomes painfully clear that there aren't enough good announcers to go around. Last night, watching the Stanford-USC game, the color commentator (don't recall the name) said that one of the strengths of the USC defense was that they played "intelligently well." That got me to thinking - if USC's defense plays intelligently well, what are the alternatives?

- Intelligently poor
- Stupidly well
- Stupidly poor

When I figure out to which category the Cal defense belongs, I'll be sure to let you know.


At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I want to give my highest recommendation to Michele Catalano's new music blog, "This Is Not Pitchfork." In it, she has embarked on a quest to review every single album in her music collection. It's something I've thought of doing myself, but the task has always seemed too daunting - I can barely keep up with the albums I've bought this year, much less tackle more than 40 years of stuff.

My taste does not always converge with hers (of the first 42 reviewed albums, I only own 15), and my opinions don't always converge with hers, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that she's a great and entertaining writer, which is something you don't always see even in the most popular music magazines of the day.

Check it out. It's also linked on my Blogroll.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Hey...Those Are My Shirts!

Today is the Season

Today is when we find out for certain whether Cal's season is a "success" or a "disappointment." They're playing Oregon State on the road, a killer place to play in any circumstance (just ask USC) but one that should be particularly difficult today given that the Beavers have clawed their way (do Beavers claw?) back into the Top 25, and control their own destiny (imagine deep, Darth Vader-like voice solemnly intoning that phrase) in the Pac-10.

Last year, the Bears packed it in after a very good effort against USC. Last week, the Bears put up a very good effort against USC. So we'll see today whether more "packing it in" is in their future. Win out, 9-3, Holiday Bowl, good season.

Prediction? I'm going to show faith and go for the upset: Cal 38, Oregon State 28.

UPDATE: Well, that was that. 34-21, Beavers. And now the only thing left is to get the axe back from Stanford. And if the Cardinal beats USC (they're tied at halftime), we may be the underdogs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jeff's Jukebox: D-3

D-3: Mexican Radio, Wall of Voodoo

It's been a while since I've done one of these, but what the heck: the week is nearly over, the trial is over, and I'm in a Friday kind of mood.

So from 1982, featuring a twitchier-than-normal Stanard Ridgway, the Jukebox is proud to bring you "Mexican Radio." Maybe for lunch I'll go out and look for some barbecued iguana.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Warning: Rant Ahead

My entire professional career has been focused on public education, in one way or another. I come from a family where nearly everyone was involved in public education - teachers, administrators, classroom aides, even custodians. So it's fair to say that I believe deeply in our public school system, and sincerely believe that public schools can be - and should be -the foundation of our democratic society.

But every now and then, I get so angry at the public school system that every fiber of my being bristles. Now is one of those times. Because we have reached the point, in the never-ending quest for achievement and accountability, that kids in school can no longer afford to get sick. Son #2 has had a fever, sore throat and a nasty cold for several days now, but because of the homework backlog can no longer afford the luxury of staying home to nurse himself back to health. He's already fallen behind, and another day away from school will just exacerbate the problem.

This is insanity. It's shameful. And everyone in the system with good intentions who has laid a brick in this road to hell - and I don't excuse any small role I may have played - should take a deep, long look in the mirror and ask themselves whether it's really worth it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your Cy Young Award Winner

Hey, Giants fans will take what they can get these days. Way to go, Freak!

Veterans Day Parade 2008

TV On The Radio

A great performance of "Dancing Choose" from last Friday's Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I liked it well enough to go out and buy the album, to which listening makes me feel as if I've been transported back to Fall 1980. Great, fun stuff.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Jenny Lewis' Song of the Year Candidate

Jenny Lewis is on quite a roll; last year's Rilo Kiley album, "Under the Blacklight," was one of the year's best. This year, Lewis takes her talent in a bit of a different direction on the wildly entertaining "Acid Tongue," her best solo album. In addition to the title cut and "Carpetbaggers," the duet with Elvis Costello, the highlight of the new record is "The Next Messiah," which can best be described as a three-act play. What it all means I'm not certain, but from the Dick Dale fuzztone at the beginning through the end of the final chorus, you should just hold on for the ride and enjoy.

Lazy Sunday

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Touchdown USC - Game Over

Oh well. It was a great effort. Let's hope that, unlike last year, the Bears can keep their focus after a tough loss to USC and win some more games. I plan to be in Berkeley on November 22 to see the Big Game, and I want that Axe back where it belongs.


The Trojans are marching, and taking time off the clock. Absent a turnover, the game may be close to over.


The offense just can't get it done. Still 10-3, with less than 8 minutes left.

Fortunately, an awesome punt - 59 yards with no return. The Bears HAVE to get the ball back in good field position, and then hope for something that hasn't happened tonight - a sustained offensive drive.

12 minutes...

Man...this game is there FOR THE TAKING! The question is...can they take it?

Another sack of Riley says...No.


The offense just can't quite get it done tonight. By all rights, Cal should be winning this game right now.

They're not. Ball back over to USC.


No matter what happens tonight, the Bears' defense has done an incredible job of stifling the Trojans' attack. Now can the offense rise to the occasion?

For Luck!

Hope Quashed

A couple of tantalizing passes headed towards the end zone, but nothing for the Bears on that series. Ball back to the Trojans. You just have to think that a 60-yard run is coming up, any time now.

Quite the optimist, aren't I?

Bears Get It Back!

A GREAT defensive series for the Bears. See, now I'm starting to hope. Bad sign. Very bad sign.

I will say this - notwithstanding the pre-season hype, this does not look like a great USC team. The hallmark of Pete Carroll teams has been their invincibility in November. This team does not look invincible. But is there a team in the Pac-10 (other than Oregon State, of course) that can beat them? We're the only ones left.

Bears Back In the Red Zone

After having a touchdown called back after yet another questionable call by the Pac-10 officials, the Bears are back down to the 11-yard line. 2nd and 5 at the 11.

&%$#! Interception in the end zone. Returned to the 3-yard line.

2nd Half

Kevin Riley starting at QB to start the 2nd half.

Dinner Calls...

And thanks to another wonderful call by the Pac-10 officials, the Bears are now trailing 10-3. But in fairness, the Cal defense showed no signs of threatening to stop USC on that last drive.

The Bears are getting some yardage, but I can't help but think we're heading for yet another moral victory. We shall see.

Red Zone

Whoa - another Trojan penalty (pass interference) nullifies another Longshore interception. First down at the 12 yard line!

Jeez...false start. First down at the 17 yard line!

Double jeez...holding. First down at the 27 yard line!

5 penalties in the last 6 plays.

Whoa...another playing of "Conquest."

Sean McDonough after a loss on a screen play: "California is in reverse."

3rd and 26. A short pass for position.

Field goal attempt: Not pretty, but good.


Early 2nd Quarter

Gotta love those Pac-10 officials. The Bears benefit from a pretty shaky roughing the passer call, which negates a Nate Longshore interception. The red zone is actually in sight.

Late First Quarter

Well, the Bears are hanging in there, and the defense just got a rare sack of Mark Sanchez, forcing a punt. And now, just as the game is getting interesting, the coverage goes black. Great timing, ABC.

OK, they're back...Bears will have the ball, trailing 3-0. 2 minutes to play in the first quarter.

Cal-USC First Quarter

The exchange of first drives doesn't fill me with hope. The Bears go 3-and-out after an ill-conceived "wildcat" play on third down, and the Trojans march right down the field. Fortunately, the Bears tighten up near the goal line and hold them to a field goal.

The Bears just got their first first down, and the USC band just played the first of 569 renditions of "Conquest."


Friday, November 07, 2008

Blue Ridge Mountains

Now that I'm worked up, let's see if Fleet Foxes still does the trick. From Letterman earlier this year, a great performance of my favorite song on the album.

Would You Like Wingnuts With That?

I'll be getting off the national political stuff soon, because my sanity demands it. But in the meantime, a couple of good pieces from today.

Over at Patterico's Pontifications, Patterico has been having an interesting dialogue with his readers over his contention that, policy differences aside, Barack Obama is fundamentally a good and decent man. As one can see from the comments, many readers disagree, and on numerous occasions in somewhat horrifying terms. I rarely find myself agreeing with Patterico, but I read him on a regular basis, because his work is focused on issues. I can strongly disagree with his characterization of Obama's policies as horrible, but at the same time I want to know why he thinks they are horrible, both to test my own assumptions and to try and develop better arguments in favor of my own notions. But the comments as a whole are somewhat horrifying. "Evil" is a term thrown around a lot in them. Overall, they don't bode well for a rational conversation about the future of this country.

And I've been linking to her a lot lately, but Michele Catalano has another good piece today. The focus is on wingnuts, both of the left and right variety. The comments in reaction to Michele's post are also interesting, with some suggesting in effect that "their" (the left's) wingnuttery was much, much worse than ours, which is deep and thoughtful.

Yeah, right. Head over to Patterico and read those comments, and tell me those are deep and thoughtful. They're hateful, plain and simple. And the point is not to hold some ridiculous debate over whose fools are more foolish. The point is to marginalize these people to the degree where they no longer have any standing in this debate.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Now Who's the Celebrity?

Juror #4

That's right folks, I've been assigned to my first trial as a juror. More I cannot say, but all my loyal readers can look forward to some tasty nuggets about the judicial process once my service is over.

"All Hail the Mushy Middle"

What he said.

If You Only Knew the Power of the Dark Side...

This photo reminds me of nothing more than the scene in The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader looks down at Luke, and solemnly intones, "if you KNEW the POWER of the dark side..."

The article accompanying the photo was in this morning's New York Times, about how the Democrats are planning to pursue "an agressive agenda."

Oh joy. We all remember the last time that happened - remember the 1994 backlash?

President Obama is going to have quite a bit on his hands next spring, no doubt about it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Treatment of President Bush Disgraceful?

Jeffrey Scott Shapiro has a piece in today's Wall Street Journal titled "The Treatment of Bush Has Been a Disgrace." It's worth reading, the but the key argument is summed up here:

The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Sorry, but I don't buy it - not at all. Sure, you can make a reasonable argument that some of the attacks - perhaps many of the attacks - went way beyond the bounds of propriety. But President Bush brought this on himself through a lack of leadership, not by "trying his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time." For all intents and purposes, the President abdicated the bully pulpit a long time ago. That, coupled with the simple but sad fact that he has often been spectacularly inarticulate when the occasion demanded eloquence, created a vacuum - a void, if you will - where he might as well have been wearing a big bull's eye on his back.

So don't hand me this sob song about how cruelly the President has been treated. And don't even get me started on the Harry S. Truman comparisons. What happened yesterday is, at least indirectly, attributable to what has happened during the past eight years. There was a void in leadership, and in my view the Bush Administration deserved to be repudiated.

Dodging A Bullet

I got called to my first jury panel this morning, and came close to being assigned to a 4-week trial. That would have been inconvenient but OK, were it not for the fact that the week after Thanksgiving is Annual Conference week for the Association I work for, and I'm scheduled to be in San Diego for 8 days beginning November 30.

I wasn't confident about my prospects, but I raised my hand when the judge asked about undue hardships, and he accepted my explanation without even asking me a single question.

So now I'm back in the pool, and my stomach is grumbling.

More From the Jury Room

A first this morning - a visit from a judge to welcome us, one who was actually quite eloquent on the events of last night and the importance of jury duty to our republic. That's never happened in any of my previous visits to the jury room, and it was a nice touch.

Live Blogging from the Jury Room!

What better way to celebrate a presidential election than doing one's civic duty by serving on jury duty!

Well, I can think of better ways to celebrate, but here I am nonetheless. And now that I've managed to find what appears to be the single electrical outlet in the entire room, I'm in business - at least until and unless I get called for a jury.

One thing you can say about jury duty is that it really is one of the best examples around of the classic melting pot. All kinds of people, no doubt about it.

Taking Pride In Obama

Michele Catalano writes about taking pride in Obama's election, whether you voted for him or not.

And the commenters prove, at least to me, that many people who did not vote for Obama are going to have a very difficult time coming to grips with his victory. Some really appalling comments, but not surprising given the poisonous atmosphere to which I've refered in previous posts.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Random Notes

- The performance of the California Secretary of State's Web site tonight is just shameful. Nice job, Debra Bowen. You now have the distinction of having an election site that is less useful than any previous Secretary's site, going back to 1994. Just pathetic. You owe an apology to the people of California.

- Mike Leary, the most horrendous member of the Elk Grove City Council, is at long last going down to a well-deserved defeat. More than any other single person, Leary personifies the failures of Elk Grove as a city since its 2000 incorporation. The fact that he's getting annihilated makes the loss even sweeter. Unfortunately, Sophia Scherman, who runs second to Leary in the awful City Council member contest, is somehow hanging on to win a third term, proving yet again that the Peter Principle is still in effect. Nice person. Terrible City Council member. Winning with less than 40% of the vote. Shame on Elk Grove.

"The Love of My Life"

History IV

My Close Encounter With Greatness

In March 2007, the Association that I work for made its annual trip to Washington, D.C. to lobby representatives of the federal government for changes in education policy that we support. During the trip, one of the meetings we had was with Senator Barbara Boxer. We didn't really expect to meet with the Senator herself, but to our surprise, she had asked her staff person to bring our group over to the "President's Room" next to the Senate Chambers for a brief conversation and photo opportunity.

To get from the Senate offices to the Senate chambers, you take a nifty underground train system. On our way back from the chambers to the office building, stepping back from the train doors as they opened, Senator Barack Obama stepped out, less than three feet from me. Did I have the presence of mind to ask for a photo? Did I have the presence of mind to shake his hand?

Of course not. I stood there, frozen, allowing my brush to walk off, into the distance, to a place where I would not likely see him again.

Oh well. It was still pretty cool.

A Gracious John McCain

A very nice concession speech from John McCain. Unfortunately, one coupled with distressingly boorish behavior from his crowd.

History III

History II


A Change Is Gonna Come

CNN Projects Obama at 7:57 California Time

Just as the chimes of our Grandfather clock strike eight, Wolf Blitzer announces that Barack Obama is the President-Elect of the United States.


Virginia just called for Obama.

Turn out the lights, the party's over.

Bill Bennett Will Be Leaving at 11 p.m.

Must be time for milk, cookies, and bedtime.


Back to CNN, where is being interviewed on the set via hologram.

"If he could turned, he would be a powerful ally."

"Yes. Yes. Can you be sure?"

"He will join us, or die, master."

Sorry. That was from "The Empire Strikes Back."

OK, Let's Check Out ABC

Holy cow, has Diane Sawyer been drinking?

Charlie Gibson...white bread...Charlie Gibson...white bread...Charlie...

You get the idea.

WHOA! ABC projects that the Democrats will maintain control over the House of Representatives!!

Let me amend my previous post - "Masters of the Obvious, starring Bob Scheiffer and Charlie Gibson."


I just saw the new "No on Prop 8" commercial featuring the evil white guys invading the home of the married women to take away their rings and rip up their marriage license.

Harsh, but effective. But's 24 minutes until the polls close! Oh to convince those remaining 235 voters.

Dang, It's So Quiet...

...on CBS News without any theme music. Gosh, it feels so...old school.

Idea For A New Superhero Program

"Masters of the Obvious," starring Bob Schieffer.

Jeff Greenfield Works for CBS?

Who knew? I guess it's been a long time since I've watched CBS News.

Truth be told, I miss Dan Rather.

Bill Bennett...

...looks like he has a live animal stuck in his shorts.

Projection Theme Music!

CNN doesn't want you to lose attention - before every projection, you get a nifty little theme, heavy on the drums.

David Gergen just said that tonight represents "the passing of an old order." If that's really true, I think David Gergen is out of a job.

Election Night Live Blog!

Election night live-blogging was really made for the East coast, where you can comment on all the state polls as they're closing. Here I am, just getting home from work, having changed out of my work suit ("professional dress," in the parlance of my Association), having poured myself a drink (starting tonight with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, planning to work up to something a little more celebratory a little later), and having fired up the computer.

So on CNN, the race currently stands at 199 Obama, 78 McCain. CNN (and apparently, all of the other networks) has just called Ohio for Obama, which means that the night is pretty much over, before it has begun. Absent a sinkhole or a tsunami that takes out the West Coast over the next three hours, the road to a McCain presidency is one that...well, I don't think it exists.

My voting experience this morning was unprecedented. I got to the polls just before 7 a.m., and usually when that happens I am in the "top five" (and have been the first voter on a number of occasions, which comes with the important duty of inspecting the voting machine. Well, today I was #44, which bodes well for a huge turnout.

More to come...time for dinner.

Monday, November 03, 2008

How Fleet Foxes Saved Me From the Presidential Campaign

When the presidential election season began in earnest with the first caucuses and primaries in January, I was filled with an enthusiasm that I hadn’t felt for years. I kept telling my kids, “pay close attention, because a presidential election is never going to get more interesting than the one playing itself out in 2008.” You had contested and interesting races in both parties, you had memorable candidates, you had historic candidates, and you had the prospect of an exciting campaign that would go right down to the wire.

Well, here we are just one day before the election, and I’m so sick of the whole thing that, more than anything else, I just want it to be over. Na├»ve though my hope may have been, I nonetheless hoped that this year we might be able to witness some real civil discourse and debate about the issues. That was not to be; instead, we got treated to a never-ending game of “gotcha” that had little or nothing to do with substance. And even when substantial issues were the subject, the tone of the attacks – the tone of the discussion – was so vicious and out of proportion to anything resembling reality that it just made my blood boil.

Now that most signs point to an Obama victory, the vitriol is really coming to the fore from the conservative side. Before I go any further, I should say that I have equal distaste for the vitriol coming from a substantial portion of the far left about this election. But this is what I’ve been reading today, and what has me angry enough to stick my head through a wall. And I think what bothers me most is the assumption underlying the thoughts of these authors is that they represent the mainstream of America’s thinking. Some samples:

“I understand that larger and larger swaths of America are turning purple if not blue as affluence coupled with tertiary education and cultural relativism transform more and more people into latte-drinking, NPR-listening, global-warming hysterics who regard Karl Rove as an evil genius and Sarah Palin as an anencephaltic breeding machine on skis.” • Roger Kimball, Pajamas Media

There truly are no gray areas in a mind like Roger Kimball’s. What really bugs me is the certainty with which Kimball writes of these “larger and larger swaths” of America. He clearly knows what is going on in the minds of every single Obama voter. He knows of their lives, their educations, their values, simply by the fact that they’re voting for Obama.

"...If he were telling the truth, I’d applaud him — and the Left would condemn him as a jack-booted racist.

But he’s lying — and all his cultists knows it.

In 2006, Obama marched shoulder-to-shoulder with illegal alien shamnesty activists in Chicago. He supports driver’s licenses for illegal aliens..."

• Michelle Malkin, from a column on her blog about Obama and his aunt.

I'm not going to link to this, but Malkin is easy enough to find if you want to read the entire column. This snippet is just one example of the hatred and the certainty that drive her world, one in which Obama supporters become “cultists.” Frankly, her work sickens me.

And then, over at Dr. Helen’s blog, which is one that I do link to (you can find it under “More Good Stuff” on the left), you have an entire recent discussion about how people should “pull a John Galt” and begin to withdraw from society, and withdraw from the economy to demonstrate their displeasure over Obama’s economic policies, should he be elected President. When I hear stuff like this, I think “what the hell is wrong with you people?” That kind of thinking strikes me as inherently more dangerous – and frankly more elitist – than anything that is coming from the center or the left.

Which is why Michele Catalano’s post from last week, “The Politics of Friendship,” came as such a breath of fresh air. Because this Michele gets it – she understands that there is more to a person than just their most deeply held political beliefs. You can be close friends with someone with whom you have widely disparate political views. But for whatever reason, in the current poisonous atmosphere – to which both left and right have contributed – the possibility of such a rational friendship and discussion is becoming less and less likely.

For me, this was the key portion of Catalano’s piece:

"...It saddens me that the political discourse in this country has become so volatile, so divisive that people are afraid to say who they are voting for. It saddens me that there are an awful lot of stories like mine out there, too many people who have felt a loss over politics. It happens with friends, at work, within families and it saddens me to know that there are way too many people out there who believe that anyone who doesn’t think exactly like they do are idiots. There are no shades of gray with these people. There is no room for differences. There is just this line they draw and if you cross over it, you must be a complete idiot with no redeeming qualities whatsoever..."

That just about says it all. There really is no gray area for these people, and they really are adding nothing to the discourse. They’re just making it harder to find real solutions to some very real problems.

So what, you may ask, does any of this have to do with Fleet Foxes? Well, more than any other single piece of music I’ve listened to in the past month, Fleet Foxes has provided an avenue for escape from the insanity of this campaign. Based in Seattle, the band is probably about to hit it big, because if Rolling Stone writes a feature on you, that usually means something. The band describes its music as “baroque harmonic pop jams,” and that description is as apt as anything that I could come up with. From the first strains of “Sun It Rises,” which sound like something straight out of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, to the end of “Oliver James,” the album is a perfectly realized piece of music, from a band that sounds as if it has been recording for twenty years, rather than just the few that it has been together.

In the Rolling Stone article, band leader Robin Pecknold makes reference to The Beach Boys and Pet Sounds, and you can hear some of that influence on Fleet Foxes, particularly in the harmonies and the falsetto singing. On some songs, particularly “White Winter Hymnal” and “He Doesn’t Know Why,” the only way to do the vocals justice is to call them breathtakingly beautiful. Interestingly, although the band is American, the record makes me think of some British artists of long (and even longer) ago: Aztec Camera, Big Country, and even Nick Drake.

The musicianship is also extraordinary, although it may be too laid back for some – think of a tight as a drum Grateful Dead, and you get the idea. There is nary a note out of place, and that might be off-putting for some. But when you’re looking to escape a poisonous atmosphere like the one surrounding the presidential campaign, I can’t think of a better alternative. The middle section of the album – “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” through “He Doesn’t Know Why” – is probably its strongest, though right now my favorite song would have to be “Blue Ridge Mountains.”

Where the album will stand in my top ten at year’s end is difficult to say, but it will definitely fall in there somewhere. But more than anything else, I thank the band for helping me survive this political season.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Election Night Memories: Part II

The second part of my Election Memories post:

1988. This was another desultory campaign season. Of course, everyone remembers how ridiculous Dukakis looked riding around in a tank, but the thing I remember most is his appearance on "Nightline" less than a week before the election, and how dull and uninspired his answers were. It was painfully clear right then and there that it was over. On election night, we had my parents over for a small election night dinner and viewing party, but the returns were so predictable that we ended up watching a special showing of "The Godfather" instead. Now there was some leadership.

1992. At long last - VICTORY! I admit to being skeptical about Bill Clinton at the beginning, but warming to him over the course of the campaign. I remember the debates as being the most entertaining of my lifetime, with Clinton mopping up the floor with President Bush (who, for some reason, kept looking at his watch as if he had somewhere more important to be), and the surreal interjections of Ross Perot. Election night was a quiet affair, now that we had a baby in the house, but I remember the memorable appearance of Clinton and Gore before a huge crowd in Arkansas shortly after the election was called for them.

1996. The Internet revolutionized election night partying - and this was the first election where California's Secretary of State's office finally got its act together and presented a workable election night returns site. Since the presidential race was a foregone conclusion, the action was in the California Legislature, where the Democrats were attempting to take back the State Assembly after having been swept away by the Republican Tidal Wave of 1994. I watched the returns come in on computer and TV at my office, joined by my other main men Scott and Stephen. I remember how surprised the cleaning crew was to find us eating pizza and drinking beer in our office around 11 p.m., and I remember that moment when it became clear that the Dems were going to take back the Assembly and end the short GOP reign at the top. Of course, with the terrible reapportionment plan of 2000, such excitement is no longer possible in California, which is one reason why I'm supporting Proposition 11.

2000. This was the biggie, of course. Scott and Stephen had made their merry ways out of CSU by then, but our Webmaster extraordinaire Dustin and I had a grand old time, outfitting the conference room with 6 laptops, all connected to the Internet. We followed the California races, we followed various state races, and around 1 a.m. we hooked up to the Secretary of State's office in Florida, to try and figure out what the hell was going on there. And of course, we watched the surreal performance of Dan Rather that night, he pulled enough odd phrases out of his hat to start or end a career, depending on your point of view.

2004. Another quiet night, and another disappointing one, as Kerry (a candidate for whom I had little enthusiasm) slowly sank into oblivion.

Which brings us to this year, and depending on how things pan out, I'm hoping to do a live blog. We shall see!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Election Night Memories - Part I

It was a close race, but I think that politics was my first obsession, just beating out baseball. I have clear memories of election night for each of the presidential election years since 1968, which probably says more about the way my mind works than anything else.

1968. I was 8 years old, oldest son in a family that prided itself on its hatred of Richard Nixon, going way back to the "Pink Lady" accusations of his first Congressional race. I suspect that the famous 1962 "You won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more" press conference was one of the highlights of my family's political lives. So in 1968 there was no doubt that we were a Hubert Humphrey family. I remember that we got our first cat on Election Day 1968, and of course we named him "Hubert." I remember that my parents let me stay up way past my bedtime, and that when I went to bed - it must have been around 11 p.m. - Humphrey was actually clinging to a slight lead. It probably seems amazing to young people today that California was once a solid "red" state (at least in presidential elections), and Nixon's victory in California was what put him over the top. It would send a shiver down my spine, except for the fact that ultimately, the story had a happy ending.

1972. Several memories of this election year. The Democratic nomination was still up for grabs when the candidates came to California for the June Primary Election, and it was around that time that my family began to gravitate towards George McGovern. I remember a Friday afternoon cocktail party (a staple of those days) where everyone agreed that McGovern was the man. I also remember getting a hard time from some of my sixth grade classmates when I proudly announced that "we" were for McGovern.

That summer was one of the hottest on record in Sacramento. When you look in The Sacramento Bee's daily weather records for mid-July, to this day the highs of mid-July 1972 stand as the highest ever. As it turned out, that week we were up at my grandmother's house in Sutter, which differed from Sacramento in that it never cooled down at night, because the fabled Delta Breezes didn't make their way that far up North. The low temp the night that George McGovern delivered his acceptance speech was 93, and it was quite unpleasant in the house, since my grandma did not have central air conditioning.

That fall, my middle school (known at the time as an "intermediate school") held a mock election, and that was around the time I met Craig, who remains to this day my longest and closest friend. We had the temerity to hold up a hand-made "McGovern for President" sign at the election rally, for which we were roundly booed. Nixon won the election by several hundred votes, but of course we had the last laugh. That election night was a desultory affair in our house, as the scope of the landslide became clear. What I remember about that night is that my mom was sick, so I accompanied my dad to their Tuesday night bowling league, where I was allowed to bowl in her place. That was definitely the highlight of the evening.

1976. After the debacle of 1972, we had vowed that we were going to get really involved in the 1976 election, but those plans were set aside because of our lack of enthusiasm for Jimmy Carter. My parents voted for him and I was "rooting" for him on Election Night, but there was really not much of an emotional connection. I do remember staying up late with my mom until the race was called, and it was really late - had to be after midnight.

1980. I was now at UC Berkeley, and I remember getting into a heated dorm discussion a few weeks before the election on the topic of whether a vote for John Anderson was a wasted vote. As a loyal Democrat I was planning to vote for Carter, which made me unique among the group holding the discussion - they were either for Anderson, or for Reagan. I remember the night of the lone presidential debate being the night that I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert, and I remember on Election Night joining a impromptu "protest" march against Ronald Reagan. And finally, I remember the next day, when my Comparative Politics professor, Dr. Leslie Lipson, delivered an eloquent, off-the-cuff lecture on why he felt a Reagan presidency was going to be a disaster.

1984. Another desultory Election Night, as the outcome had been clear since...oh, about April. I probably remember less about this night than any of the others.