Let It Snow, or Maybe Not

Atlanta went through one of its annual wintertime rites of passage last night.  A cold front came through the region on the heels of a weather system which had been bringing us rain for the past several days.
Hmm?  Cold air mixing with moisture in the air!  Wait just a minute.  Somehow this all sounds strangely familiar.  Didn’t Miss Crabtree go over something about this during one of our 3rd grade science lessons all those years ago?

Aren’t these conditions perfect for generating a crippling white out?  Maybe some snow flurries?  Or at least a little freezing rain!

This sort of frenzy grips Atlanta’s meteorologically challenged at least once a year; sometimes twice.  In the old days, these conditions would cause knees to begin spasmodically jerking within the newsrooms of the local television stations which would then rush crews out to the nearest grocery store to do a live remote broadcast featuring stalwart citizens buying up all of the bread and milk they could carry in preparation for the wintery blast headed their way!
remote news
Lately, most of the stations are content with simply sending their most junior news reporter up into the wild and minuscule mountains of north Georgia in the faint hope of capturing at least one snow flake on camera or better yet showing the viewing public a patch of “Black Ice” on a road waiting to victimize an unwary motorist.

Move over Jim Cantori!

Unfortunately, dampening everyone’s hope for a memorable climatic onslaught, the rain moved out of the area quicker than expected and the cold front wasn’t quite as frigid as the prognosticators had projected.  Atlanta awoke this morning to mostly dry, non-icy road conditions.

But that didn’t forestall at least one local school system from canceling its classes.  “By God, we built snow days into our school calendar and we’re sure as hell going to use them!

I wonder how many days it is until that groundhog does his thing?


Seeking Forgiveness, Celebrity Style

I just read that Lance Armstrong, seven time winner of the Tour de France, is considering apologizing for the use of performance enhancing drugs, an act which he has spent the last few years vehemently denying.

I don’t know if it’s the case, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that a bevy of high-powered public relations specialists are holed up somewhere working feverishly at developing a strategy by which Armstrong, or perhaps more importantly his reputation, can be rehabilitated.
It worked for Tiger Woods. Why shouldn’t it work for Lance?

After cheating on his wife with a list of bimbos rivaling the length of the Yellow Pages, all Tiger did was recite a well scripted “apology” to an empty room, lay low for a few months, and then come back to the cheers and adulation to which he had grown so accustomed.

I keep hearing that it’s in the nature of the American people, sports fans in particular, to be very forgiving. Of course the reality is that most of those pronouncements are made by the same PR gurus who are earning their very lucrative livings rehabilitating the characters of one tarnished athlete after another corrupt politician, not to mentioned the occasional befouled celebrity. I’m not sure that’s the type of resource I would select to reliably assess anyone’s true nature.
Anyway, back to Lance. He seems to be following the trail first blazed years ago by Pete Rose. That is – lie, dissemble, deny, and fabricate until the cows come home and then be prepared to apologize as if you’d never contradicted the truth in the first place.

I’m not sure Pete has been completely satisfied with the results he achieved and I don’t expect that Lance’s experience will be any more satisfactory if he chooses to pursue that route.
Maybe the best thing to try would be a “Forgive Lance” campaign complete with a distinctively colored lapel ribbon, or perhaps a wrist band.

Now that’s idea whose time had come!

Which Way Will the Pigskin Bounce?

Whether or not you consider yourself a football fan, and without a doubt you should be, there is at least one very compelling playoff game that should be well worth viewing this coming Sunday afternoon.
Twelve months ago, the Seattle Seahawks were finishing up a disappointing 7-9 season, while the Washington Redskins ended 2011 with a, dare I say it, dismal 5-11 record.  With seasons like those, it came as no surprise that neither team qualified for the 2011 post-season playoffs.  And at the time, not many expected that to change any time soon.

What a difference a year makes; not to mention having an early pick in the NFL draft!   Fast forward to 2012 and we find that Seattle will be bringing it’s 11-5 record to FedEx Field in the nation’s capitol for their Wildcard Weekend clash with the NFC East champion Redskins who finished 2012 at 10-6.  Kick off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. EST.  Make a note of that and put it on your refrigerator door.

Both teams have experienced a significant resurgence in their pigskin fortunes this season.  One of the more popular explanations for the turn around which both organizations have enjoyed begins and ends with their team’s brand new rookie quarterbacks; the Seahawks’ sometimes diminutive, sometimes gigantic Russell Wilson and Washington’s Robert Griffin III, aka RGIII.
It’s true that it’s virtually impossible for a team to excel in the NFL without quality talent at the quarterback position, but I would like to think that in its frenzy to cover Wilson and Griffin, the media will attempt to find some time to focus a little attention on the contributions made by those often overlooked guys who play in the other 21 positions; and I’m not even including the kickers!  As glamorous as a quarterback can be, it’s extremely difficult for him to win that many games without those other guys showing up and playing their positions well.

In any event, I’ll be intently watching game on Sunday to see which of these two teams will progress to Week 2 of the playoffs and a showdown with my hometown Atlanta Falcons.  Did I mention that the Falcons have the best record in the NFL at 13-3?
Falcons fan
The really big question in my mind is which Falcon team will be showing up for that game.  The championship quality team which earlier this season shut out the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants, or that bunch of bumbling, no-tackling, smack-talkers who lost to both the hapless Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?  If the Falcons fail to win and don’t progress to the NFC Championship game, the media backlash against Atlanta’s sports reputation will rival the coverage given the December 21st Mayan Apocalypse. None of us want to see that repeated.

I dare not say more for fear of provoking the football gods and drawing their attention any more than necessary.

Dodging the Bullet on Black Friday

It’s an absolutely miserable day outside. It’s one of those days when everything is wet, but it’s not really raining.  In fact there’s not even a good drizzle coming down at the moment.  Maybe it’s raining intermittently, but as yet, I haven’t witnessed any actual rainfall all day.

Did I mention that it’s also cold?

One might expect that a gloomy day like we’re experiencing today could easily put one’s overall mood into a tailspin, but not so for me today.

Earlier this morning, I read a report originating with the crack news hounds over at CNN.  They contend that somewhere around 247 million adults actively shopped over the “Black Friday” weekend.

According to the latest U.S. Census, that would mean that every citizen over the age of 14 years old went shopping at some point between late Thursday and Sunday evening.

That’s why, on a dreary day like today, I find myself uncharacteristically buoyant.

If CNN can be believed, I was the only adult male in the entire nation who didn’t unwittingly find himself in a shopping center, mall, or specialty shop over the weekend just concluded.

On the contrary, I occupied myself by watching football while lounging in my recliner as I quaffed brown ale and consumed turkey sandwiches.

What could be better than that! My cup runneth over!  I, for one, am quite content to count my blessings.

Bring on the rain!

A Few Random Observations on a Friday Afternoon

I’m still trying to absorb all of the ramifications of Tuesday’s elections, but I believe a significant new political reality is slowly beginning to be acknowledged across the United States.  It’s one with which some people will have great difficulty agreeing.

The event which has put this new reality into very clear focus was the outcome of Tuesday’s presidential contest.

I grew up in an America which was predominantly “center-right” in its political orientation.  I’ve heard this assessment made frequently by political pundits over the years, right up through the election cycle we just completed.

If you’ve been around as long as I have, I’m sure you’ve also heard that because of this prevailing “center-right” political orientation, “liberal politicians have to run toward the center in order to be elected at which point they can begin to govern from the left!

I believe that Tuesday’s presidential election results have driven a stake through the heart of that particular political adage.  Say what you will about President Obama, neither he nor the media, presented himself as a “centrist” during the campaign.

If my reading of the political climate in this country is correct, I think it’s safe to say that our nation’s political orientation has clearly moved to “center-left“.  Some might argue that just a simple “left” would be a more accurate description, but I’m not ready to go quite that far as yet.

So where is this shift in our collective political point of view going to take us?

I wish I knew.  My crystal ball is not working that well at the moment.  But I hope that we will be wise enough to avoid repeating well documented mistakes that have already been made by other “center-left” governments around the world. Some might say that’s a little bit like asking a leopard to remove his own spots.  But in truth, only time will tell.  I’ll just have to be patient in the meantime.

More than anything else, I also hope for a significant increase in the level of civility and bi-partisanship demonstrated by our political leaders; particularly from those in Washington, DC.

Certainly I can wish for that, but quite frankly, I won’t hold my breath waiting to see it fulfilled.

Are You Ready For Some Futbol?

This past Sunday afternoon, I was watching the early NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals on Fox Sports.  I must say that I was quite pleased with the outcome.  The Packers easily took care of the Cards, handing them a 31-17 loss at Lambeau Field.

As that game was winding down, I clicked the “Guide” button on my remote to find out which teams were going to be playing in the second game.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that the 4:00 p.m. match-up on Fox Sports would be pitting Newcastle United against Liverpool!

Say what!?

What could be more unheard of than the live broadcast of an EPL (English Premier League) game in a Sunday afternoon time slot which has been a home to the NFL since time in memoriam!

Lions are going to be laying down with lambs any day now!

Given the steady decline in the quality of programming available, my TV generally is not turned on unless I’m watching sports; or unless there’s a new episode of Ancient Aliens airing on H2!

In recent years, as I’ve scanned through the TV listings in search of a good sports event to watch, I have been aware of a slow but steady increase in the number of soccer games being broadcast here in the states.  And I’m not talking about U.S. based MLS (Major League Soccer) games or Mexican league games on Telemundo.

Case in point, Sunday’s English Premier League game was followed up with the live broadcast of another EPL game, Southampton at West Bromwich Albion, on Monday afternoon.  Then on Tuesday and Wednesday, two Champions League games were broadcast live; Arsenal (Eng.) at Schalke (Ger.) and Barcelona (Spa.) at Celtic (Scot.) respectively.

By the way, Celtic put a big-time thumping on Barca in that one! Go Hoops!

Ten years ago, one could not have imagined watching live English football on U.S. television, much less four live European matches in a single week.

I have a closely kept secret to reveal.  For years, I’ve been a closet soccer fan.  I played the game in my youth, long before the arrival of organized youth leagues.  And I’ve been watching games between European teams on the internet for some time.  I even have the Barclay’s English Premier League app on my iPhone so that I can keep up with scores and league standings.  Such is my fervor for the “beautiful game“.

As far as I’m concerned, being able to watch more EPL and Champions League coverage is a positive trend, and one which I hope to see continue.

At this rate, how long will it be before the names Messi, Gerrard, and Rooney are as recognizable in the U.S. as Manning, Romo, and Vick?

I’d Cry Too, But Nobody Really Cares

I have to admit that over the past few days, I’ve come to feel a very real kinship with Abigael Evans, the little girl to whom NPR recently apologized.

For like young Abigael, I too feel a pang of discomfort every time another negative political ad appears on my television screen, or I hear another self-important pundit pontificating on the implications of yet another totally inconsistent and perhaps meaningless poll, or I read another report belaboring the criticality of “this last weekend of Election 2012.”

This entire election cycle has been excessively wearying, as no other in my recollection has ever been.

Please!  Let this thing be over!

How many debates did we endure over the past year?  I’m not only referring to the three between Obama and Romney or that embarrassing vaudeville sketch inflicted on us by Biden and Ryan.  Don’t you remember the interminable procession of debates between the Republican candidates who were grasping for their party’s presidential nomination?

Honestly, I completely loss count on those.

There was a time in our nation’s history when it was considered unseemly for presidential candidates to campaign for themselves.   The candidates role was to stay at home, doing little more than sitting on their front porches drinking tea and acting “presidential” while their surrogates fanned out across the countryside like a swarm of locusts giving speeches, attending rallies, and drumming up the vote for their candidate.

We have William Jennings Bryan to thank for coming up with the creation of what he referred to as the “stumping tour“.   During the 1896 presidential campaign he took his political fate into his own hands, toured the nation personally giving some 500 speeches and losing the election in the process.  Perhaps history was trying to teach us a lesson through Bryan’s experience.  But we didn’t learn anything from it and the art of political campaigning has been on a downhill cascade ever since.

Two more days to go in Election 2012.  I’m cautiously optimistic that I may have just enough patience and wherewithal to make it through to the end.  

Yet I quickly come to the realization that by Wednesday morning, the pundits will be back with their unrelenting, unending dissection and analysis of voting trends and demographics to explain to the poor, unenlightened masses why one guy will be our next President and the other guy won’t.
                                                  And on and on it goes, the Circle will be Unbroken.

All the News That’s Fit to Read, Local Style

I’ve always been a reader of newspapers.  In recent years however, my preference has shifted away from reading daily newspapers to perusing the local weekly.

Somehow the weekly paper finds its way into my driveway each Wednesday afternoon, with no subscription necessary.  Flipping through its 40 or so pages has become one of the simple pleasures that I find myself appreciating more and more as I continue to “mature”.

A while back, we canceled our subscription to the large, somewhat self-important daily rag that we’d received for years.  A significant percentage of its content had become nothing more than sales flyers from establishments I’d never frequent.  The typical Sunday edition alone must have weighed in at five pounds or more.

Of more concern to me was the fact that the daily paper’s staff had moved down the slippery slope of believing that their jobs were to create, rather than report the news; while at the same time educating their readers on the preferred and proper way to think about the issues of the day.

The local weekly paper, on the other hand, focuses on simple unbiased reporting of local events in an “as it happened” manner, without attempting to spin the facts in one direction or another.  And the news is presented in a manner which recognizes and respects my ability to form and hold my own opinions.

At one time, there were three weekly newspapers serving my local community.  Now that number has been reduced to one.  The large daily has also experienced significant changes, one might say decline, in recent years.  Its staff and circulation have been reduced significantly and the paper has been forced to move out of its large downtown office building in favor of smaller, less impressive digs out in the suburbs.

But more to the point, not only can the local paper be relied upon to keep me up to date on events close to home, it almost always contains an article or two which causes the eyebrows to rise and the lips to curl into a smile and a chuckle.

The latest edition contains the story of local man who was arrested for “allegedly” driving his car, while under the influence of alcohol, into the pond located in front of a large manufacturing plant.  I recognize the need to protect the accused man’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty, but to be honest, I don’t think that there’s much doubt in this case.

Shortly before the submersion of the automobile, the police had received a call from a young man informing them that his roommate had just driven away from their apartment and that it was “possible” that he might be inebriated.  Moments later another call reported that a car had been seen floating in the pond.  Responding to the scene, police found the car, but the driver was missing.  Eventually, he too was located; enjoying a late evening stroll on a nearby road attired in nothing but his boxer shorts.

To paraphrase the famous closing line from a ’60s television police drama, ‘There are many stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.

Based On A True Story . . . . Yeah Right

I was channel surfing Saturday afternoon in between watching college football games when I came across the last 30 minutes of the 1962 movie “The Birdman of Alcatraz” starring Burt Lancaster in the title role.

If you’re not familiar with this flick, it’s the story of Robert Stroud, a real-life convicted murderer who spent 54 years of his life serving time in the McNeil Island, Leavenworth, and Alcatraz Federal prisons.

While serving his life sentence, Stroud found a nest of sparrows in the prison yard, which he took into his cell, where he succeeded in raising the birds to adulthood.  To make a long story short, he continued to raise birds during his time in prison and, based on the experience he gained, wrote and published two books on ornithology.

Lancaster portrayed Stroud as if the convict’s years behind bars had rehabilitated him into a saintly philosopher-humanitarian.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Stroud was one of the most violent and unrepentant criminals in America. While serving his initial sentence after being convicted of manslaughter, Stroud assaulted another inmate with knife and eventually killed a prison guard in a separate knife attack.

During a particularly memorable parole hearing, he actually told the parole board that he hoped to be released from prison because he still had a lot of other people who he wanted to kill.

By the way, while serving time at Alcatraz, Stroud was not allowed to have birds in his cell.  No pets of any type were permitted on the Rock.  All of his work with birds had occurred while he was in Leavenworth.

Wouldn’t that make him the “Birdman of Leavenworth“?

All of this causes me to question that phrase which Hollywood often tacks on to it’s productions: “Based on a True Story“.

In the case of Robert Stroud, he was a prisoner, he did serve time at Alcatraz, and he did work with birds while in prison; but very little else of the story presented on film has anything at all to do with truth.

A few months ago, Hollywood released another movie, “Lawless” starring Shia LeBeouf, which was heavily promoted with television commercials purporting the film to the based on, you guessed it, a “true story“.

One evening after viewing yet another commercial advertising “Lawless“, I decided to do a little research and find out just what specific truth this movie was based upon.

It turns out that the movie is the adaptation of a novel.  A novel?  Unless the world of literature has redefined some of its basic terminology, a novel is a work of fiction.

I continued my search for the “truth” behind the movie and learned that the author of the novel had based his work on often told family stories concerning his grandfather and two uncles who had been bootleggers during the Depression.

Once again, I guess you could make an argument that the movie was “based on a true story”.

I’m willing to accept that the author did have a grandfather and it’s not beyond question that he could have also had two uncles as well.  But the rest of the story?  Well, your guess is as good as mine.

All of this makes me wonder why “King Kong” wasn’t billed as being based on a true story.

After all, we all know that gorillas are real.

True Lies: Presidential Style

If I was asked to choose one word which I believe reflects the tenor of the 2012 Presidential Election campaign, I think that I would have to select “Liar“.

I’ve witnessed quite a few presidential elections. I distinctly remember watching the televised Kennedy – Nixon debate in 1960, but I can’t recall any election cycle in which the honesty and veracity of the presidential candidates was so frequently and publicly called into question, as in the current campaign.

Hardly a day goes by in which I fail to stumble upon a news article, a blog post, a television commentator, or an ordinary person in the local grocery store vehemently accusing one, or the other, presidential candidate of lying. This appears to be one of those rare examples of a truly bipartisan effort.

The accusations are not that the candidate in question used carefully worded phrases to sidestep an issue or to paint a particular situation in a better light. You know, the type of wordplay which politicians have been practicing since Hammurabi first ran for office.

No, these accusations are made with such fervor as to strongly imply that the candidate, in a loathsome and calculated manner, set out to intentionally deceive the public; while being fully aware of the impact of his actions.

If true, these allegations reveal a startling level of deceitful behavior on the part of the man who will be our next president; regardless of which candidate wins election.

In the last few years, political fact checking has turned into a cottage industry. It doesn’t take very long for an inquiring mind to discover which of these accusations are true, half true, false, and every shading of legitimacy in between.

What I find most troubling is that, in some cases, even after a particular accusation of lying has been thoroughly researched and found to be false, that same accusation continues to be repeated. It’s “Damn the fact checkers, full speed ahead!

When this occurs, it appears that the accuser isn’t interested in pursuing the truth as much as in engaging in the act of making an accusation or in blindly promulgating half-truths in support of a particular political doctrine. I find either alternative very troubling.

I wonder if this environment of finger pointing is some sort of delayed, knee-jerk reaction to Congressman Joe Wilson’s calling out of President Obama with, “You lie!” during the 2011 State of the Union address.

Or is it just a natural by-product of the highly polarized state of politics in the U.S.? Whatever its origins, I hope it’s something that we can correct, and quickly.

During the remaining three weeks of this campaign season, I’d like to suggest that everyone in the business of pointing accusing fingers would do well to heed the Biblical admonition to ‘remove the plank from your own eye before pointing out the speck in the eye of your brother‘.