Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Rose Bowl Memories - 1975

The worst thing about this video is that you have to listen to "Conquest" all the way through it. But I admit, back in my formative years, I was a big USC fan, and especially when they were playing Ohio State.

This was the rubber match between the two schools in the early 1970s. In the 1973 game, a great USC team had clobbered the Buckeyes 42-17, and the following year a great Ohio State team had clobbered the Trojans 42-21.

In 1975, the teams were evenly matched - both had lost a game in the regular season, but both were ranked in the Top 5, with a shot at the national championship with a victory.

It was a classic, tense game which came right down to the end when John McKay did the manly thing and elected to go for two (no overtime in those days), and the Trojans completed the pass (Pat Haden to Shelton Diggs) to escape with a hard-earned 18-17 victory.

And that evening in the Orange Bowl, Notre Dame (which had been blown out by USC 55-24 in their season closer) did the Trojans a favor by upsetting undefeated Alabama in the Orange Bowl, giving USC the national championship.

And once again, Woody Hayes was sent home to stew in his beer.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Rose Bowl Memories - 1976

Lest my UCLA fan readership think that I forgot them, I wanted to add this to my collection of Rose Bowl memories. This was the last great Woody Hayes-coached Ohio State team, which had blown out the Bruins earlier in the season and was heavily favored to do the same on January 1. UCLA hung tough in the first half (the game was tied 3-3), and then made the OSU defense look like swiss cheese in the second half. John Sciarra threw two touchdown passes to Wally Henry, and the scoring was capped with this great Wendell Tyler run. The final score was 23-10, and once again the Buckeyes were sent home to cry in their beer.

Curt Gowdy again handles the play by play (he was starting to lose it by now, insisting throughout the game on pronouncing the UCLA QB's name "Shy-ra"), with Al DeRogatis on color commentary.

The Granddaddy of Them All

When it comes to college bowl games, I'm a traditionalist. Absent a true playoff, which I support, I'd rather be living under the "old" bowl system than the crazy BCS universe that we find ourselves in today.

When I was growing up, our household was definitely a Rose Bowl family. Sure, I would watch some (sometimes all) of what was then known as the "Big 4" - the Cotton, Sugar, Rose, and Orange Bowls. But New Year's Day was always organized around the Rose Bowl. And of course, we would always root for the Pac-10 (Pac-8 until 1976) team against their Big 10 foe.

From my perspective, 1969-1976 was the "Golden Age" of Rose Bowls. The games were always entertaining, always significant, and always offered a stark contrast between the modern offenses of the coast and the "three yards and a cloud of dust" running attacks of the Big 10 schools (in this period, that meant Ohio State or Michigan).

Finding this clip and thinking about it, I realized that this is the first college football game that I have a clear, conscious memory of watching. My dad and I went across the street to my aunts' house to watch it, because at the time they were the ones with the color TV.

I remember this run. And watching it now, it truly is a remarkable run. Setting aside the O.J. saga, he really was an incredible football player. There aren't many (any?) running backs who could make that mid-field cut that he makes here to leave the Buckeye defenders in the dust.

The commentary, by the way, is by Curt Gowdy (who sounds great here - this was before he began to lose it) and Kyle Rote. Rote's comment on the replay - "watch that block by the fullback" - is amusing, because the fullback totally misses his block. It's all Simpson.

This gave the Trojans a 10-0 lead, but it was all Ohio State after that. The Buckeyes won 27-16, and sealed the national championship.

Monday, December 29, 2008

That's A Wrap

The final regular season Sunday of the NFL always feels a bit strange. For one thing, it's the only time all year when I don't have to worry about fantasy scores - a long time ago, we decided that the final week was just too unpredictable, and we close out our season on Week 16. For another, you routinely see teams that are fighting for their playoff lives - teams you think would be motivated beyond belief to perform as well as they can - get their tails handed to them by teams with nothing to play for but pride. Overall, it makes for a very interesting brew.

Some random thoughts on this year's version:

Brett Favre. I really don't want to belabor the point, but the whole 2008 Favre saga was offensive. If you're a believer in karma, this was the perfect way for things to end, with failure all around: the Packers missing the playoffs after being so close to the Super Bowl in 2007, and the Jets collapsing in the final month of the season, in large part due to the poor play of Favre. And the sweetener, of course, was the resurrection of former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington in Miami, who pulled himself up off the floor to lead the Dolphins to the playoffs just one year after holding the distinction of being the worst team in the NFL.

I get it that it's none of my business when Brett Favre decides he wants to keep playing. But I hope at some point that he sits down and reflects on how badly he screwed this whole thing up. Like it or not, he did a lot of damage to his image this year, and the sooner he decides what he wants to do next year, the better off we'll all be.

San Diego Chargers. On the final Sunday of November, I was in a hotel room in San Diego, unpacking for an 8-day business trip. I watched the final minutes of the Chargers' loss against the Atlanta Falcons, and then kept the TV on as the local post-game show came on. Listening that afternoon, there was no doubt in anyone on that show's mind that the season was over. All of the talk centered around the future of Norv Turner, "what happened to LT?," and how disappointing the season was, all around.

What has happened since then should serve as a lesson to every player at every level of football - never stop playing; never stop trying to win; always give your best. Because you never know what might happen. The Chargers hung in there, including a miraculous comeback in Kansas City when it really looked to be all over for their season, and stayed alive just long enough to take advantage of the Denver Broncos' December collapse. As a reward, they get a home playoff game, and right now they probably think that they can beat anyone. Unfortunately for them, the team they get to play, the Indianapolis Colts, hasn't lost since before Halloween, and Peyton Manning has probably never played better. Should be a great game, and I wouldn't be surprised (remember you read it here first!) if the Super Bowl winner is whichever team survives next Saturday night still standing.

Coaches. With the lack of patience demonstrated by most team owners, you really have to wonder when Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden are going to wear out their welcome in Denver and Tampa Bay. Sure, they both led their respective teams to Super Bowl championships, but that was a long time ago, and neither team has shown any ability to win a key game after Thanksgiving for a long time. I'm sure they're both safe for one more year, but absent deep playoff runs next year, you really have to wonder.

Dallas Cowboys. OK, I know it is probably a character flaw that I take such glee at the failures of the teams that I hate the most. With some teams, I'll accept the criticism. But with the Cowboys, no way. For decades now, the Dallas NFL franchise has exuded a remarkable combination of arrogance and hubris, and they deserve every little slice of agony that they're feeling right now. Right now, I'm really hoping that Jerry Jones keeps everyone around for another year. There's no doubt in my mind that Wade Phillips will never lead a team to the Super Bowl, and as long as T.O. is around, the chemistry will be so toxic that they'll never be able to overcome it.

So, that's a wrap. I'll probably think of more to write about later.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Leftovers

A couple of holiday leftovers for y’all, courtesy of old Gap commercials: Liz Phair doing her take on Supertramp, and Rufus Wainwright with a typically atypical performance on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

To Change Or Not To Change?

That is the question.

For a while now I've been toying with the idea of changing the blog's design, but frankly the Blogger templates are pretty limited and I'm not sure that any of them are a better alternative to the design I'm using now.

In the meantime, I've cleaned up my links, moving some blogs up to the Spotlight, deleting some that no longer exist or are updated on such a sporadic basis that it's hardly worth the effort, and adding a couple here and there from a list I've been keeping.

Today's addition, in the "Do You Like Good Music?" section, is Hypnopomp and Circumstance, by Brendan O'Malley. On this site, Brendan writes about his favorite albums, several of which fall into that category for me as well. And the writing is great.

Check it out!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward Cats

Resting up for Santa's big visit.

Barenaked Ladies - God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings

Not bad, gentlemen - not bad at all!

Sixpence None The Richer - "Silent Night"

And the annual Musical Advent Calendar begins to wind down.

The Night Before Christmas in the California Assembly

'TWAS the night before Christmas
when all through the chamber
The leaders were grim, they couldn't be lamer;
The Dems wanted revenue, to buck up the state,
The Reeps wanted tax cuts; "they will stimulate!"
The members were wishing they could be in their beds,
It was clear - no solutions were there in their heads;
Karen Bass with her taxes, Villines' spending cap;
Were wondering how it had all turned to crap.

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
The two sprang from the floor to see what was the matter.
Away from the chamber they flew like a flash,
In the hopes they would find a great bag of cash.
When what to their wandering minds would appear,
But eight former Speakers, fully tanked up on beer.
Willie Brown at the head, Jess Unruh at rear,
And Bass and Villines were filled with such fear.

Willie whistled, and shouted, and called some by name -
"Now, McCarthy! now, Ralph Brown! now, Moretti, now Peek!
On! Monagan, on! Unruh, on! Collins, don't be weak!
We must tell these amateurs what we truly feel,
They must get their heads out to work on a deal!

Brown was dressed in Boroni
From his head to his foot,
And his pockets were lined
With favors and loot;
A bundle of budgets
He had flung on his back,
He looked like a Speaker
One who, yes - had the knack!

He spoke not a word
But went straight to his work,
Sharing the budgets
That said "get to work, jerk!"

They heard him exclaim
As he drove out of sight,

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas From The Family - Jill Sobule

You really can't have too many versions of this song. Here's Jill Sobule's take on the classic Robert Earl Keene composition.

Christmas Music Posts!

As we get closer to the big day, I'm not the only one getting into the holiday music thang:

Undercover Black Man posted yesterday on cool Christmas music. I was happy to be able to point him to "Purple Snowflakes," the song in today's Musical Advent Calendar post.

Shyonelung has a post this morning called "A Sap's Guide to Christmas Music Part I," which includes links to versions of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" by Judy Garland and Etta James.

Happy Holidays!

Marvin Gaye - Purple Snowflakes

I heard this one for the first time last year, and this year I put it on the annual Christmas music collection I make for co-workers. A real treat.

Monday, December 22, 2008

And By The Way...

...What scheduling genius came up with the plan to have a Monday Night game in Chicago on the first full day of winter?

God, What An Idiot Tony Kornheiser Is

Well, it's nice to see that at least one person - Tony Kornheiser - is still worshiping at the altar of St. Favre. He's just completed several minutes of commentary on why the Packers would probably have been better off this year with Favre than with Aaron Rodgers. Thank God that Ron Jaworski was there to say, "well, it may be time for the Packers' defense to show up."

What Kornheiser conveniently overlooked is the fact that, for the past month, Favre has played like crap. Against a lousy Seahawks team yesterday, in Green Bay type weather no less, you would have thought that he was facing a defense made up of the Steel Curtain and the 1985 Bears.

So let's knock it off, can we? Favre's annual retirement ritual will be beginning soon, and the world should give Aaron Rodgers a break and let the Pack see what they can build around him. And like Jaworski said, perhaps it would be a good idea to get some help for the defense.

And Tony...the lump of coal for your stocking is on the way!

Jingle Bell Rock (Randy Travis )

My favorite version of "Jingle Bell Rock," probably one of the most overplayed holiday classics. And with the lyrics, you can sing along!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

It really is, you know...but you don't have to take my word for it.

Harry Connick, Jr. is on his way to becoming the Andy Williams of his generation, at least in terms of Christmas albums. This fall he released his third - I haven't bought it yet, but I know that it will join the collection eventually. Here he is on Letterman, just before Thanksgiving, previewing a song that Andy himself helped make famous back in the 1960s.

Elvis on Fire For Christmas

Jac gets into the holiday music act, posting Elvis' great performance of "Blue Christmas" from the '68 Comeback Special.

I wholly endorse Jac's comments about the special - everyone who loves rock music should own this slice of rock history.

All Hail the Pacers!

From the point of view of Sacramento sports fans, the feel-good moment of the year probably occurred last night, with the Grant Pacers' upset victory over Long Beach Poly to claim the state football championship, open division.

Along with the Cordova Lancers back in the 1970s and 1980s, the Pacers are the greatest high school dynasty to come out of the Sacramento area. Their victory over Poly - which has only been the most successful high school program in the country in placing players in the NFL - will finally silence the naysayers who scoffed all week at the choice of Grant to play in the big game. Hopefully this will put Sacramento high school sports on the map, and give the area programs at least some of the respect that they deserve.

Special kudos to Coach Mike Alberghini, whose picture is in the dictionary when you look up "good guy." Great coach, great person, great program.

Way to go Pacers!

(Sacramento Bee photo)

Brenda Lee Lassos Santa Claus

I still can't believe she was only 8 years old when she recorded this song. I think this is her best Christmas song, even better than the much better known "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Aftermath

Featuring the staple of every teenage nightover party - chocolate cake, and a case of Dr. Pepper.

Happy 18th Birthday!

At this moment 18 years ago today, I was sitting in my wife's hospital room waiting for the birth of Son #1. Random memories of the day:

- The night before, Debra had talked to our friend Lisa, who told me after talking to her that it was time to get ready - the baby was going to be born very soon.

- With our neighbor Jolane, we shared a bottle of champagne that night. As Debra said, "at this point, I really don't think it's going to do us a lot of of harm."

- We left for the hospital around 2:30 in the morning, and damn it was cold. It was early Thursday morning, and that weekend would become one of the coldest in Sacramento history - with temperatures dipping down into the teens.

- I wore a short-sleeved shirt with pink polka dots. Hey, what can I say - you're not thinking too clearly at that moment.

- We were at the hospital long enough for all three of the doctors who had seen Debra during the course of her pregnancy to participate in the birth. One applied the epidural, one "broke the water," and one delivered the baby.

- Very quickly that morning, family began to arrive - my parents, Debra's mother, my sister-in-law to be (one of my brothers was taking a final that day, and the other was getting ready to fly up from southern California).

- Son #1 was born at 5:17 p.m.

- When the doctor went out into the hallway to make the announcement, he loudly declared, "ugliest baby I've ever seen!" Fortunately, my family has a sense of humor.

And so on this morning, son #1 and his friends are playing video games, after a sleepover. He's 18 years old.

Hard to believe.

Happy birthday!

The Corrs - O Holy Night

"O Holy Night" has always been my favorite religious-themed Christmas song. The melody is gorgeous - I think you could put just about any words to it, and it would sound beautiful.

The Corrs do justice to the song in this version, recorded a couple of years ago on "Good Morning America."

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Holiday Cat Blogging

Yo Yo Ma & Alison Krauss

If this song, which I believe is "The Wexford Carol," doesn't send chills up and down your spine, then you most definitely need to be visited by three spirits.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas, Baby

It's been covered by Elvis, it's been covered by Otis Redding, and it's been covered by Bruce Springsteen, along with what I'm sure are a host of others. But I doubt it's ever been performed as well as it was by Charles Brown.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Little Known Facts About My Daily Existence

When the HVAC system kicks on in my office, the resulting decibel level is roughly equivalent to that of a jet airliner taking off at Sacramento International Airport.

Or a hurricane. Take your pick.

Person of the Year

Even less surprising, if that is possible, than the selection of Michael Phelps as Sportsman of the Year.

And though it may be politically correct, I still hate that they now call it "Person of the Year."

Coldplay Gets Into the Holiday Spirit

Sort of..."Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" always comes across as such a melancholy song, and this version is no exception. The video isn't much to look at (it's not anything to look at, for that matter), but the performance is a good one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dame Caroline

Some very funny commentary on Caroline Kennedy's desire to become the junior Senator representing New York state.

Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby

It's been recorded by Madonna. It's been recorded by Kylie Minogue. It's been recorded by Mariah Carey. It's probably been recorded by nearly every ingenue/singer for the past half century. But no one, ever, has topped the Eartha Kitt version.

Monday, December 15, 2008

30 Years Ago

Thirty years ago today, Bruce Springsteen played a concert at Winterland in San Francisco. The concert was broadcast live on FM radio, and I remember listening to it in my room on that wintry Friday night (though stupidly, not taping it). It's one of a handful of Springsteen concerts that can rightly be called legendary, and in all likelihood one of the three of four greatest shows he has ever performed - which means it is one of the greatest rock concerts in the history of rock itself.

Thanks to the miracle of Wolfgang's Vault, the complete concert can be streamed and listened to on your computer. It's well worth your time - the amazing performance of "Prove It All Night" is worth the price of admission alone.

Steven Rubio, who has seen a lot more Bruce concerts than I have, writes about the show here. One thing to note - the embedding of Wolfgang's Vault songs is problematic when you're using Internet Explorer, so don't scratch your head if you see "The Traveler" embedded instead of the Bruce songs which Steven references. Move over to Firefox, and you'll see what was intended.

Frank Sinatra's Silent Night on 78

Shifting gears a bit (OK, a lot), this morning we have none other than the Voice himself, in a 1946 recording on 78 RPM. The great Frank Sinatra, singing "Silent Night, Holy Night."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh Well...

I just realized that in the span of a few days, I referred to two songs as "the greatest rock and roll Christmas song ever written."

Oh well - they're both worthy of the title, so go back and give them a listen.

The Drumline

The Band Plays On

The horn section.

Scenes From the Section Championship

The dream football season of the Pleasant Grove Eagles came to an end yesterday, following a 36-14 loss at the hands of the St. Mary's Rams. The Eagles put up a valiant effort, but in the end were overmatched against the larger, deeper St. Mary's squad.

Thankfully the rain held off for one more day, but the game was definitely a brisk affair. As long as the sun was out things were fine, but every time it ducked behind a cloud, it was time to get out the stocking cap.

Considering this was just the second year that PGHS has fielded a full varsity squad, 11-3 is nothing to sneeze out. Heck, in my four years at Del Campo (this was back in the 70s, but still) the team won a total of 15 games in four years.

This shot shows first quarter action from the game, played at Amos Alonzo Stagg Stadium on the campus of the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

The Ronettes Take A Sleigh Ride

Another cut from the legendary Phil Spector Christmas album, released in 1963 as "A Christmas Gift From Phil Spector." Of course, that was back in the day when Phil was still known as an eccentric genius.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

Just the greatest rock and roll Christmas song of all time, courtesy of Darlene Love (vocal) and Phil Spector (producer).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Chris Isaak Gets In The Holiday Spirit

With a soulful rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas." All I want to know is where to find me one of them jackets!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Holiday Cat Blogging

Governor Unveils His Budget Negotiation Strategy

Stern looks and sandwich boards, from the looks of it.

One of the complicating factors in the inability of the Legislature to discuss, much less address, California's fiscal crisis has been that the governor has absolutely no influence with the members of his own party.

The latest proposal to come down the pike is to lock the members into a session during Christmas week, and let them out only when they have reached a solution. I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.

Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians

I love this video - the juxtaposition of the Christmas lights, the nativity scene, and the old fashioned record player creates an indelible vision of Christmas, American style. And for me, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bela Fleck Christmas Medley

I bought my second Christmas CD of the season yesterday, "Jingle All The Way" by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. It's great, with some wildly unusual renditions of timeless classics. In this video, Bela does a Christmas medley on solo banjo - something you also don't hear too often.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Villines Goes All In

Well, after bashing him a few hours ago, I have to hand it to Mike Villines, if nothing else for having the stones to pull off such an incredible ploy.

Basically, it all adds up to "You will give me everything I want, and even then I may give you nothing." Michael Corleone himself could not have done better.

If the response of Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass is anything but "take a hike," then they deserve the scorn that I will heap upon them. I mean, come on - you've got near super-majorities in both houses, in the bluest of blue states, and you would let the Republican leader push you around as if he were the reincarnation of Everett Dirksen?

It's enough to piss off the good humor man.

Pride and Prejudice, Facebook Style

If you have a Facebook page and are a fan of "Pride and Prejudice," you will find this highly amusing.

Hat tip: Girl Detective

Fiddling While Rome Burns

Despite a rare joint session of the California Legislature yesterday, where members heard how bad things are in California from State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, State Controller John Chiang, State Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor, and State Finance Director Mike Genest, the California Legislature seems bound and determined to run the state into the ground, and count on something like divine intervention to turn things around.

It's hard to know at this point which party is most to blame, and which party is most ill-equipped to develop solutions to the myriad problems facing California. But since I shot some barbs Darrell Steinberg's way last week, today I'm going to send some the way of Assembly Republican leaders Dave Cogdill and Mike Villines. With no due respect, at this juncture they both have their heads so far up their arses that it's hard to fathom how they will ever again see the light of day.

Of course, they will tell you that their intransigience is all in "defense of the taxpayer." Well, gentlemen - that's all well and good, and probably very appealing to the dwindling base that still supports the Republican party in this state. But, last time I checked, people of all political backgrounds, colors and creeds were looking for solutions - for leaders who know the art of compromise, who know how to fashion a plan that can appeal to the broadest coalition possible while still turning the state in the right direction.

Villines in particular has been a profound disappointment. In the early 1990s, when he was a resident of Elk Grove, I served with Mike on the Franklin-Laguna Area Planning Advisory Council. At the time, he was a dedicated, open-minded public servant, one who strove to hear all points of view before reaching a decision. I'm not sure what happened between now and then, but his view has become so narrow that there is barely room in it for one point of view, much less any others.

All in all, the whole thing is a sad and degrading spectacle, and all 120 of them will deserve a lump of coal in their stockings if they can't get moving on something soon.

Santa Claus is Back in Town

Quite likely the greatest rock and roll Christmas song ever written, courtesy of Lieber and Stoller. Of course, the King turns in a magnificent performance, which he was prone to do in those days.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Farewell Shots From San Diego

It's a crazy week, it's a busy week...there's fun, there's camaraderie, there can be moments of despair, there can be moments of frustration. And then at the end, when the packing is done and the mind and body are spent, there's a bit of an emptiness - just no emotions left.

Can't wait to get home.


Flag flying above the U.S.S. Arizona memorial. Photo taken by son #1, July 2006.

The Beatles!

I bet you never knew the Beatles did a Christmas record. Well they did, and this is it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a classic, but hey - it is the Beatles.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lou Rawls Gets Into The Holiday Spirit

With "Christmas Is," a smooth, jazzy tune from the 1960s. Lou and the band are both in fine form on this one.

Eagles Win!

I wasn't able to see it in person because of my trip to San Diego, but a fellow fan was kind enough to keep me up-to-date last night by texting me all the major developments in the Pleasant Grove-Laguna Creek city championship game. In just their second year with a full varsity team, the Eagles triumphed 26-7, which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment.

This Sacramento Bee photo shows one of the team's stars, Michael Madkins, scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Star of Wonder

"Star of Wonder" by The Roches, from their great Christmas album We Three Kings (which I wrote about here).

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Roy Wood As Father Christmas

We now head back to that odd time known as the Seventies, with Roy Wood's Wizzard looking rather odd but singing a very catchy holiday pop tune, "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hey Guys! It's Christmas Time!

Sufjan Stevens, from his remarkable 5-disc collection "Songs for Christmas." It's not all perfect, and some of it is pretty rough, but Stevens proved that it is possible to create a modern-day Christmas album that feels original and vital - and doesn't rely entirely on the classics.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Least Surprising Decision Of The Year

I guess Plaxico Burress blew his shot when he almost blew his leg off the other night. Oh well.

B.O. From B.K. With A Holiday Ditty

Buck Owens from Bakersfield, California sings "Santa Looks A Lot Like Daddy," which is certainly a welcome alternative (at least to these ears) to the overplayed "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

Monday, December 01, 2008

An Open Letter to Darrell Steinberg

This isn't going to make sense to any reader outside of California, but so be it...

Dear Senator Steinberg:

Congratulations on your ascension to the position of President pro Tem of the California State Senate. Your career of public service is one of which you can be justifiably proud. I believe you are uniquely suited to lead the State Senate in this time of fiscal crisis - as well as serve as a leader for the entire membership of the Legislature.

As you know well, the stakes have never been higher, and your moment arrives at a time when the public's confidence in the Legislature has never been lower. Put frankly, the performance of the California Legislature has been an embarrassment for some time now, but never more so than in the past year. There is no other word for what transpired in the Capitol this past year than failure. And while it is fair for the governor to share in the blame for that failure, it is also time for the Legislature to step up to the plate and assume responsibility for its own role in that failure.

But more than that, it is time for the Democratic Party to prove that it stands for something. As a lifelong Democrat, I am ashamed to associate myself with the party that has proven to be so impotent in the seat of power. It is all well and good to blame the governor and the minority party for their respective shortcomings in developing long-term solutions to the current economic situation which the state now faces. But the Democrats hold the cards, and have for some time. It is nothing less than shameful that the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy has proven to be nothing more than a paper tiger in this budget debate. It is hard for any objective observer to escape the conclusion that the party really stands for nothing more than holding power.

Fair or not, the burden now lies on your shoulders. It is time to turn things around. It is time to craft solutions that will appeal, not only to your Democratic brethren, but also to the elected leaders who sit across the aisle. No more blame. No more failure. The people demand answers. Democrats and Republicans alike demand answers.

And if the answer once again is failure, then you will have one less Democrat to worry about pleasing, because I'll be leaving the party to become an Independent.

Good luck, and Godspeed.

Get Well, Dr. Z

Sad news from Peter King this morning - Paul Zimmerman, the erstwhile "Dr. Z" who has been writing about football for Sports Illustrated for more than 30 years, suffered two strokes a week ago. He appears to be on the road to recovery, but at least for the time being there will be no Dr. Z to relish each week in the magazine and on SI.Com.

Get well soon. We miss you already.

Musical Advent Calendar 2008

Year 2 of the musical advent calendar kicks off with this classic version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," courtesy of John Denver and Rowlf. That's right, Rowlf! Scoff you may, but this is one of the most convincing (and best) versions of the song ever recorded.