Thursday, February 4, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The buzz that lingers

If you were like me growing up (and, as I always say, you should have been), you remember electric football - the game with the vibrating plastic men who never went where you wanted them to, instead congregating on the sidelines against the board's edge - or, even worse, running the wrong way into the opponent's end zone.

The Tudor game pictured at left was the second electric football game I ever had, and the first one to have real teams, instead of the generic red and white teams.  This one had the Cardinals and the Bears, and included spare holes in the end zones so you could move the goal posts from the goal line (where the pros had them at the time) to the back of the end zone, for the college version.  (Although why you'd want to use college rules for NFL teams was always a mystery to me.)  For me, the real fascination with the game lie in the externals - the simulated cardboard stadium, the design of the field, the helmet logos on the side of the board, and the different teams you could buy.  I had my share of games over the years, each one of them with its unique characteristics, and although none of them played very well, I loved them all just the same.  The games have long since disappeared from the household, but they've also disappeared from the stores, a victim mostly of our continuing obsession with the latest technology.  When you can recreate games and leagues with a computer, why bother with a three-dimensional game that doesn't work very well?

My interest in them has always remained, though (as hours of trolling around eBay would attest), and so I found this article (h/t Uni Watch) of great interest, telling us of efforts to revive the electric football industry.  I know I'm not alone in my affection for the game, as this book and website show, and I really hope Doug Strohm's efforts to get the NFL merchandising license pan out.  The games have improved over the years, and besides, there's something so - social about it all.  It's not sitting in front of the screen for hours; it's something you do with other people.  It's something you can be part of in ways other than simply pressing buttons.  And I wish them all the luck in succeeding.

By the way, that game pictured on the Unforgettable Buzz website?  It was one of the great games ever made, a Tudor special edition for Super Bowl III, as the logo and the teams would indicate.  It was the first to be specially made with the Super Bowl logo and markings on the field, and it was the first game to feature an AFL team in white uniforms (previously, NFL teams came in both dark and white jerseys, but AFL teams were dark only).  I had this game, and although the Colts may have lost the real Super Bowl, in my version they beat the Jets every time.  Of course, I can't promise that I didn't help the players out a little from time to time...

Originally published April 26, 2013

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Opera Thursday: The bohemians

That's the literal translation (or at least close enough) of the title of Puccini's famed opera La bohème, which was first performed this week in 1896. The story, as is so often the case, is fairly idiotic, but Puccini's music, as is so often the case - well, if the story bothers you, you can always close your eyes and listen.

This rendition of selections from the opera looks to have been from a television broadcast of 1956, though I can't find a quick description. It features two of the greats of 20th Century opera, Renalta Tebaldi and Jussi Bjorling. Is anything else necessary?

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Great One

Wayne Gretzky is now 55, same age as me, and it just doesn't seem possible. When he first appeared in the NHL, as something unlike which we'd ever seen, I never thought of him as being the same age. He was young, unbelievably young; a superstar while still a teenager. And yet the age similarity didn't compute; John Updike once wrote famously of Ted Williams that Gods do not answer letters, and I suppose there's something of that in this: mortals do not compare their ages to Gods. I never got to see him play in person, but even though our television coverage of hockey was woefully inadequate for much of his time in the game*, everyone knew about him - even non-hockey fans.

*Not that there aren't plenty of highlight reels of him; it was only living in the Twin Cities that our television coverage suffered, thanks to our lack of cable for so long. On the other hand, it also means that whenever you search him on YouTube, he'll take your breath away.

Joe Posnanski wrote about Gretzky as the greatest, in a way that's undefinable in terms of statistics or records or grace - it's worth sharing because, ultimately, there is no other way to describe him, not even as Paulina's father.

He was a child prodigy who, like Mozart, defied the rules of gravity in his craft. He imagined a new way to play. Sure defenses are tougher now, and goaltenders are better now, and he might get roughed up a bit more. But so what? Gretzky always found a way. Geniuses are like that.

We'll just leave it at that, I think.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

STS-51-L: A thirty-year retrospective

When the Green Bay Packers made their appearance at the White House for the traditional presidential visit after their Super Bowl XXXI victory, backup quarterback Jim McMahon (who would retire after the game) drew controversy for wearing some Chicago Bears gear during his visit to the White House.  He explained it was a makeup visit for the 1985 Chicago Bears (which he was the starting quarterback) that won Super Bowl XX, as the team never made its obligatory White House visit, 11 years past.  It would be a full 25 years and 9 months before the 1985 Bears received their official White House visit, 12 years after the death of their star running back.

Jim McMahon's reasoning would sound unusual and hateful for many younger fans, since most did not understand the reason the 1985 Bears never made the White House visit.  Their official visit was scrubbed as a result of the days following the 46-10 victory over New England, and would not take place until October 2011.  That leads to the memory of this day, and the time, we mourn thirty years ago.


The cultural impact of that time stamp thirty years ago has the same as another generation would have in 2001 with 16:41 (February 18) and 8:46 (September 11).  We remember that day.   McAuliffe.  Jarvis.  Resnik.  Scobee.  McNair.  Smith.  Onizuka.

Coming up on the 30-second point in our countdown...T-Minus 30 seconds and we've had a go for auto-sequence start...

The solid rocket booster hydraulic power units have started...T-Minus 21 seconds...and the solid rocket booster engine gimbal now underway...

T-Minute Fifteen Seconds. T-Minus ten, nine, eight, seven, six, we have main engine start, four, three, two, one, and liftoff! Liftoff of the 25th Space Shuttle Mission (51-L) and it has cleared the tower.

Good roll program confirmed . . . Challenger now heading downrange . . .

Steve Nesbitt, NASA public affairs officer:  Engines beginning throttling down now at 94 percent. Normal throttle for most of the flight is 104 percent, we'll throttle down to 65 percent shortly. Engines at 65 percent . . . three engines running normally . . . three good fuel cells . . . three good APU's . . . Velocity 2,257 feet per second, altitude 4.3 nautical miles, downrange distance three nautical miles. Engines throttling up . . three engines now at 104 percent.

Mission Control: Challenger, go at throttle up.

Commander Scobee: Roger, go at throttle up.

Nesbitt:  One minute, Fifteen seconds . . . Velocity 2,900 feet per second . . . altitude nine nautical miles . . . Downrange distance seven nautical miles.

Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation . . . Obviously a major malfunction . . . We have no downlink.

We have a report from the Flight Dynamics Officer that the vehicle has exploded. Flight Director confirms that. We are looking at checking with the recovery forces to see what can be done at this point.

After homework and dinner, along with a continuous pipe of WDIX radio (now defunct) to catch updates on the disaster, it dawned on me that it was a disaster like no other I knew. After homework and dinner, the television was on the disaster for the whole evening. It was the first time I had witnessed a national tragedy of this proportion. And it was devastating to a nation in a fight against the Soviets.

Contingency procedures are in effect.

We will report more as we have information available. Again, to repeat, we have a report relayed through the flight dynamics officer that the vehicle has exploded. We are now looking at all the contingency operations and awaiting word from any recovery forces in the downrange field.

This is Mission Control Houston. We have no additional word at this time. Reports from the flight dynamics officer indicate that the vehicle apparently exploded and that impact in the water at a point approximately 28.64 degrees north, 80.28 degrees west. We are awaiting verification from . . . as to the location of the recovery forces in the field to see what may be possible at this point, and we will keep you advised as further information becomes available. This is Mission Control.

This is Mission Control Houston. We are coordinating with recovery forces in the field – range safety equipment, recovery vehicles intended for the recovery of the (solid rocket boosters) in the general area. Those parachutes are believed to be paramedics going into that area. To repeat, we had an apparently normal ascent with the data coming to all positions being normal.

Up through approximately the time of main engine throttle back up to 104%, at approximately a minute or so into the flight there was an apparent explosion, the Flight Dynamics Officer reported. Tracking reported that the vehicle had exploded and impacted the water in an area approximately located at 28.64 degrees north, 82.8 degrees west. Recovery forces are proceeding to the area, including ships and a C-130 aircraft. Flight controllers reviewing their data here in Mission Control. We will provide you with more information as it becomes available. This is Mission Control Houston.

Additional Resources:
Press Kit
Audio Files
NASA Transcript

Monday, January 25, 2016

Posted: NFL regulations for Super Bowl L themed show

CBS posted recently the attire regulations for an upcoming Super Bowl L themed episode of The Price Is Right to air the Friday before the game.  The NFL and Nike have assured only current era logos are permitted, and only current era Nike jerseys are permitted.  No visible logos from adidas (which had the NFL uniform contract until 2013) are permitted -- only official NFL gear is permitted, and the only logos allowed are Nike.  Here is the show's official statement:


Looks like the NFL and CBS (which has used Price for many NFL promotions) is tightening the regulations to ensure for NFL official gear.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Wish I'd written that: Rod Serling's suggestion we'd do well to emulate

I'm delighted. Let them write anything they want. I don't think we're in trouble in this country if we let people say, talk, think, comment. This isn't our problem. It's when we start to abridge that."

- Rod Serling, regarding the frequent hate mail he'd receive after writing various controversial episodes of The Twilight Zone. (H/T Vote For Bob Crane)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Talking the ball and going home?

Rand Paul, as unhappy as he is of not making the top seven in the two polls that determined the lineup for last night's Fox Business press conference - essentially an Eliminator Seven round - decided instead that he would not participate in the dinnertime press conference at the Casa del Ray.

This forced me to consider the question:  Is he reminding me of a golfer who is 2-3 strokes behind the cut line early in his second round decide to take the clubs and go home, and withdraw instead of attempting to improve his game and attempt to go on a roll from the outside looking in to where by the time his 36th hole is finished, he is on the positive side of the cut line, potentially even looking at making a run for the lead by moving day or in the final round?

If he went in the dinner time press conference and scores huge, he could easily make a return to the main stage for the next crucial press conference.  But no, he prefers to take his ball and go home, not trying to work his way back to the premiership.  Is this the type of leader we can afford?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Throwback Thursday: The power to move the world

Lately, I've been spending a good amount of time in the year 1968. Several of the TV Guides I've written about in the last few weeks have been from the 1967-68 period, and I've been studying some media coverage of the news events of that year, in particular the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

I've never been a fan of the Kennedys politically, but I have often admired their style if not their substance. John was in a class by himself, and Ted had a long life, which means that Robert has been caught somewhere in the middle. To be honest, I'd never given a great deal of thought to his impact on history, despite the fact I have clearer (if still limited) memories of his death than I do of John's.

Quite by accident, I happened to stumble onto a website that proved a treasure trove of radio coverage about RFK's assassination and funeral, which I wrote about over at the TV blog. In listening to the broadcasts, and investing some money in the accompanying television broadcasts, I came to a bit more of an appreciation of Bobby Kennedy's style, and some of the convulsive reaction to his death. There is much that is hyperbole about his life and death; for example, I don't think he would have won the Democratic nomination, much less been elected president; Hubert Humphrey was already quite close to the number of delegates needed to win, and RFK's victory over Gene McCarthy in the California primary (which Kennedy had been celebrating when he was shot) was in fact much narrower than it should have been. Many of Kennedy's most astute advisors (Lawrence O'Brien, for example) felt that he never really had a chance of winning. At most, he might have assumed the position that wound up residing with George McGovern, and in that light one can contemplate whether or not Kennedy would have given Richard Nixon a run for his money in 1972.

Kennedy speaking at the University of Cape Town, 1966
But I digress. One of the benefits of being plunged into the Kennedy phenomenon is that it's given me exposure to some quite remarkable things. Whereas Jack's gift was his charming demeanor, and Ted's was his debauchery, Bobby's appears to have been his eloquence in the written word. In 1964, introducing the JFK memorial film at the Democratic convention, he quoted Shakespeare, which was perhaps the last time anyone spoke that literately at any political convention. I excerpted one of his most famous speeches last week, one that he'd given in South Africa in 1966, and I'm going to present another, longer excerpt here in a moment. I've recordings of Kennedy giving this speech, and I'll admit it comes across with a bit more power on paper than in his delivery, which at the time was more halting, more self-conscious than it would be later on. This portion of his speech was read by Ted at Bobby's funeral, and for all the grief I've given Ted Kennedy over the years for his bloviating style, in this particular case he nailed it. The words themselves, and the phrases, carry such power that Ted's flat, emotionless delivery stays out of the way and allows one to ponder their true force. If you want to hear either Bobby or Ted delivering it, you can easily find clips on YouTube; I prefer to look at them on the page. Some comments will follow.

"There is," said an Italian philosopher, "nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things." Yet this is the measure of the task of your generation and the road is strewn with many dangers.

[M]any of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and 32-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal. "Give me a place to stand," said Archimedes, "and I will move the world." These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history; but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and in the total of all these acts will be written the history of this generation.

[…] It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these that the belief that human history is thus shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. […]

Few men are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change the world which yields most painfully to change. […] I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the world.

[There is] the temptation to follow the easy and familiar path of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who have the privilege of an education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. There is a Chinese curse which says "May he live in interesting times." Like it or not, we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also the most creative of any time in the history of mankind. And everyone here will ultimately be judged -- will ultimately judge himself -- on the effort he has contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which his ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

These are timeless words, more stunning because of how applicable they are to our times. For as we've experienced the collapse of confidence in government, the contempt (most of it justified) in which politics is seen, the decay of institutions formerly held in esteem, we realize that much that is important in life has been reduced to a bare essential.

There are many ways to, as Kennedy put it, "enter the conflict." It is not necessary for us to do everything, but imperative that we do something. For one man to stand up and fight the machine, whatever that machine happens to be, may seem a futile act; it is when others see and follow that man that change becomes a possibility. But, as Kennedy says, it takes the courage to stand up - despite threats, despite ridicule, despite the loneliness and isolation that often comes from being the first one to stand up.

And the change that will happen, the change that must happen, cannot come from institutions, but must come from people acting together. When I retired from competitive politics I remarked on the single most important lesson I'd learned: you can't change the world by passing a law; you can only change it by converting hearts and minds. And it isn't done in Washington, or in some state capital; it comes in your interactions with your family, your friends and loved ones, your neighbors, your co-workers, those in your wider community. It comes in the church you attend, the organizations to which you belong, the places you spend your spare time. And all the money, all the power, all the prestige in the world doesn't mean a damn otherwise.  You can't let the standards of the world determine your definition of success, of happiness, of making a difference.

There is much lamenting within the conservative movement that the culture war is lost, that Hollywood and the media have combined to freeze out the conservative voice. There are those on all sides who decry the corruption of Big Business, of the multimillionaires that often worship at no higher altar than the bottom line; and of Big Government, and those politicians who seek only to preserve their own power and line their own pockets. And here we must exhibit the courage of which Kennedy speaks, to turn away from the wealth and power which the modern world offers, in order to take the road less traveled, one which may contain hardship and heartache but ultimately emerges triumphant.

As I said, this is a remarkable speech, and whether or not RFK was responsible in toto for writing the words, he undoubtedly believed in what they meant. One of Kennedy's contemporaries, Ronald Reagan, was even more gifted at it - unparalleled, in my opinion.  Is there anyone today who uses such words to appeal to man's higher nature with an essentially optimistic message? And if not, why not? And what does that say about us?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


I quoted from this song once, when I was running for the state legislature so many years ago. There was something noble about it, the idea that it wasn't old-fashioned to dream of big things and grand deeds, to think that such things were possible for ordinary individuals.

It's perhaps the quintessential Bowie song, the one that so many have come back to in the days since his death, and I think it's because it strikes something in the hearts of people, the possibility of striving for something, even if it's just for one day, even if you wind up failing in the end. And there is something noble about that, particularly in the "why bother" world we seem to have lapsed into too often.

There's no sense in adding to the millions of words written, not when one has nothing new to offer. A couple of very good posts from people I follow in unlikely places, ones you might not ordinarily read: F1 journalist Joe Saward here, and Catholic blogger Steve Skojec here. Check them out when you get the chance.

And here's perhaps the quintessential performance of the quintessential song, at least given the context: Bowie singing Heroes at Live Aid in 1985.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The stupidity of the Powerball jackpot

The jackpot for the "SuperQaeda" known as Powerball, a government expansion ring that teaches false hope and has never delivered in education, but has paid more to jackpots and gambling service providers with state endorsement as the bookie, is likely to reach over two thirds of a billion dollars for the drawing set Saturday night while Carrie hates herself for loving you.

The disgrace of this government expansion has been an issue that I have fought because of the false hope it teaches, and this entitlement generation is more likely to believe they can make more money out of a numbers racket than they can with hard work because of advertising, and the entitled generation from "free" education paid with this racket has proven themselves to be absurd, as the Occupiers, the voters that have shifted the country hard left on government as a deity, those that adore the Socialist and Communist candidates for President, and Protesters of College Now were raised on this type of freebies.  All of their actions are being paid by "scholarships" from gambling that has raised the cost of school for everybody else.  If you make things free, everyone else has to pay, and we are seeing that now.

Dave Ramsey, whose radio talk show airs in the afternoon here, and has inspired how I even purchased my car and other savings ideas, has this to say from 2012 about the numbers racket that is the sweetheart of the country based on the false hope of that two thirds of a billion dollar racket.

And radio host Clark Howard once posted the odds of those huge jackpots.  I would be much better off with the perfect lady around my arm than to win this jackpot!

And our own Throwback on gambling.

Remember:  This mega-ball "jackpot" will lead to doom and failure.  You will never win this racket!