Friday, December 31, 2010

Bulls fend off Tigers, Holtz has successful first season.

The South Florida Bulls took an early lead, then withstood a fourth quarter rally by the favored Clemson Tigers to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl, 31-26. New coach Skip Holtz (photo from gousfbulls.com) claims an 8-5 record for his first season in Tampa. Nice work, Coach.

This was USF's first bowl win over a team from a BCS conference (they lost to Pac-10 team Oregon in the 2005 Sun Bowl, 51-26). They have now made six consecutive bowl appearances, with a record of 4-2. This was the fifth consecutive season in which they won at least eight games.

Three variations on "Hesitation Blues": Janis Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and the Holy Modal Rounders

Here's Janis Joplin's take on a hoary pop standard, accompanied by Jorma Kaukonen on guitar (he also did a version of the song as part of Hot Tuna) and someone on a mechanical typewriter. The audio recording is accompanied by photos of Janis.


One of the comments on the Janis Joplin clip notes that "Hesitation" is a Jelly Roll Morton song, but in the clip above he denies having written it. Wikipedia attributes it to the songwriting team of Billy Smythe, Scott Middleton, and Art Gillham who are said to have made it up during a trip from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 1914. They used a "traditional tune" (a spiritual, according to W.C. Handy) and made up lyrics as the trip progressed. Since nearly every version of the song ever recorded has different lyrics, except for the chorus, it can be argued that the song has as many "authors" as it has performers. (Thanks to cox1356 for the Jelly Roll Morton video.)

This was the first version of the song I knew, apart from that done by Murray Kinnell, as the Fagin-like Putty Nose, just before he's gunned down by James Cagney, as a youthful Tom Powers, in The Public Enemy (1931). The Holy Modal Rounders were once described as "the originators, and sole exponents, of the genre known as acid-folk." I love the Rounders' lyrics ("'D' for Dreadnought..."). (Thanks to alexeiboronine for the video.)

There are many other excellent renditions of this song, including a western swing version (see a video here) by Willie Nelson with Asleep at the Wheel.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Arcade Fire: "Born on a Train"

My daughter turned me on to this group, and this song, which was easy, considering my love of trains. Since Arcade Fire are Canadian, I thought of this shot I got of the nose of a Canadian Pacific loco as we passed a freight train while riding south on Amtrak's Adirondack a couple of years ago:


Now, note the General Electric logo on the lower part of the loco's nose. Somehow, The GE (as my wife, a Lynn, Massachusetts native, calls it) got my e-mail address (probably by searching for train buffs) and sent me a link to a nice corporate propaganda piece on how their products are helping to make railroads more efficient. To which I put on my shill hat and say, "Hooray! More trains, less fewer trucks", thereby offending both the Teamsters and residents of Chicago suburbs. Anyway, the GE piece had this video clip (staying with the Great Frozen North theme) on how they're helping Canadian Pacific save on fuel, and which also has some impressive views of massive motive power and other rolling stock:


GE also has this game that allows you to play rail baron through the history of railroad development. I haven't tried it yet; let me know how it goes for you.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Enrico Caruso, "Cantique de Noel" ("O Holy Night")


The legendary tenor sings my second most loved carol (for my favorite, see here). The quality of this 1916 recording amazes me.

Warmest wishes of the season to all. Thanks to tomfroekjaer for the clip.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

While we're on the subject of the moon: here's Billie Holiday


The future Lady in Satin at age twenty, as recorded in 1935, backed by Benny Goodman on clarinet, Roy Eldridge on trumpet, Ben Webster on tenor sax, John Truehart on guitar, John Kirby on bass and Cozy Cole (whose 1958 top 40 hit "Topsy Part II" I remember well) on drums. Thanks to erwigaudio for the Billie clip, and Arthur Boehm for the tip.

Lunar eclipse

A photo of last night's lunar eclipse by my Brooklyn Heights Blog colleague Marc Hermann.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thine alabaster cities gleam...

Seen from Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Empire State Building and others in midtown Manhattan are illuminated by brilliant sunlight. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Brilliance of the Seas: another cruise ship calamity.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

I've never sailed on a large cruise ship, and never will. I did cross the Atlantic four times by ship in my childhood, three times in pleasant summer weather, but the first, when I was but five, in a terrible winter storm that sank the freighter Flying Enterprise. I was violently ill and couldn't hold down food for several days as huge waves tossed the S.S. Washington around like a rubber duck in a bathtub with an energetic child. Despite this, I debarked at Southampton, England with a love for ships and the sea that I've never lost.

Today's cruise ships, though, are to me an abomination. I'll make some exceptions: older ships like Saga Ruby that are survivors of the days of liner service, and Queen Mary 2 because of her shipshape lines, including a rounded stern. Most, though, like Brilliance of the Sea, don't look like ships at all, but like landbound hotels set afloat. Computer controlled stabilizers enable naval architects to design ships with much higher centers of gravity than they once could. These stabilizers make passengers comfortable during most conditions, but they are no match for what the sea can do at its worst, as the passengers aboard Brilliance learned the hard way.

The sea's anger isn't the only source of cruise ship disaster, as the recent travails of Carnival Splendor show. Mechanical problems can wreak havoc. These huge ships, carrying thousands of passengers and crew in a confined space, are also giant petri dishes, where pathogens can run amok, as witness the norovirus outbreaks that have hit Queen Victoria and other cruise ships.

I do hope to go to sea again some day. I would do it on a passenger carrying freighter, or perhaps one of the smaller cruisers that go to interesting places like the Galapagos or around the edge of Antartctica. But I would never go to sea expecting it to be an unrelieved pleasure jaunt. To me, it brings to mind this Neko Case song:



Thanks to Vancouver's Qtv.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Goldilocks, red dwarfs, and arsenic: are we any closer to finding extraterrestrial life?

http://www.freshwallpapers.info
Three recent news stories have increased the buzz about the likelihood of there being extraterrestrial life. None of them concern actual evidence of such life, but all point to an increased probability that it exists. The first is the discovery of the "Goldilocks" (as in "not too hot, not too cold") planet Gliese 581g, described in this earlier post. As I argued there, the existence of a planet that could support life and that is located just twenty light years from us suggests that such planets could be fairly densely distributed throughout our galaxy. From that one may further infer that the probability of there being life on other planets in our galaxy is reasonably high.

David A. Aguilar (CfA)
The second is the evidence that elliptical galaxies (see artist's conception at left) contain many more stars, mostly of the red dwarf variety like Gliese 581, around which the Goldilocks planet orbits, than previously believed. Ellipticals are the largest galaxies, containing many more stars than spiral galaxies like our own. If estimates of the number of such additional stars are reasonably correct, there may be three times as many stars in the universe, most of them of a kind capable of having solar systems that include earth-like planets, than previously believed. This also raises the likelihood of there being life somewhere out there, but considering that the nearest elliptical galaxy is about 2.65 million light years away, the chances of our detecting life in any such galaxy are nil.

In considering the likelihood of there being intelligent and technically proficient extraterrestrial life that we might be able to detect using the technical means available to us, it is important to understand the Drake Equation, explained by Carl Sagan in the video clip below:

Note that the numbers used by Sagan in his brief lecture relate to our galaxy alone. That's because the only extraterrestrial civilizations we could detect using the means available to us would be ones in our galaxy. So, the fact that there are billions, perhaps trillions, more stars in elliptical galaxies that might have solar systems including earth-like planets, while it does greatly increase the likelihood of there being extraterrestrial life, even extraterrestrial intelligent life, doesn't affect our chances of discovering such life. However, the discovery of Gliese 581g nearby in our galaxy does point toward a higher probability of our discovering extraterrestrial life.

The third story does affect the Drake Equation. This is the discovery, by NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe-Simon and her astrobiology team, of bacteria living in California's Mono Lake (photo at top of post) that have substituted arsenic for phosphorus in their chemical makeup. Until now all known living things have included compounds of the following elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Other elements, such as calcium and iron, are essential to some life forms, such as ourselves, but the preceding six have been common to all.

What this tells us is that "life" is a bit more flexible than we previously believed, and may arise or survive in environments we thought couldn't support it. Whether substitutions other than arsenic for phosphorus--for example, the often speculated-about silicon for carbon--are possible isn't known, but the fact that one works at least suggests that others might. This means we can assign a higher value to the "N" sub "e" (number of planets with environments suitable for life) term in the Drake Equation, and perhaps as well to the "f" sub "l" (fraction of such planets on which life evolves) term.

So, are we any closer to finding extraterrestrial life? No, but it seems our chances are better than we thought before.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Can Terry Collins turn the Mets around?

It's a tough call. He did manage a turn-around for the Angels in the late 1990s, taking them from a losing team to one that finished second in the Designated Hitter League in his first two years there. His third year was blighted by bad luck: injuries, and a player revolt that led to his resignation after the 1999 season. Nevertheless, what he did while their skipper had something to do with the Angels' having won the 2002 World Series. His only other major league manager's job was with the Astros, before his time with the Angels. Since 1999, his only managerial experience has been in Japan (see photo), where he evidently had the courage to take on Godzilla-sized umpires, and with the Chinese national team in the World Baseball Classic in 2009. He spent the past season as the Mets' minor league field coordinator, so he has some familiarity with the organization.

The adjective most used about him is "intense". Do the Mets need "intense" now? I think they do, though whether Collins' brand of intensity is what's needed is in dispute. Ron Hart thinks not. He gives a variety of reasons. One is the usual New York as media-driven pressure cooker, which, along with the problem of being in the same town as the Yankees, he thinks will wear poorly on Collins. Nevertheless, Collins' experience in Anaheim was in a high pressure media market, and the Dodgers had the same relationship to L.A. that the Yanks do to New York. Hart characterizes Collins as a failed manager, but he had winning records in both Houston and Anaheim, though a conflict with players clouded his last season with the Angels (according to Hart, conflict with players also cut short his managerial career in Japan). Perhaps Hart's most forceful argument against Collins is that he hasn't managed in the majors for over a decade, and "[t]he ballparks have changed, the umpires have changed and the nature of the sport itself has evolved in many ways" during those years.

I suspect that Sandy Alderson, the Mets' new General Manager, may see Collins as, at the least, a short-term solution to the Mets' problems: one who can quickly impose order and change the team's course, as he did with the Angels. At 62, Collins may see the Mets job as one last shot at glory before retirement. I hope he succeeds. If he doesn't incite a player revolt, takes the Mets to a World Series championship, and manages them into his seventies (the last like the Mets' first manager, the Old Perfessor), I'll be surprised and delighted.

Thinking about Casey Stengel got me to wondering about the history of Mets managers. A quick web search got me to this handy chart. In their 49 seasons to date, the Mets have had fifteen managers, not counting Collins or four interims. Of these, only five have had overall winning records for their terms as Mets managers: Gil Hodges (1968-1971, 339-309--a 52% winning percentage), Davey Johnson (1984-1990, 595-417--59%), Bud Harrelson (1990-1991, 145-129--53%), Bobby Valentine (1996-2002, 536-467--53%), and Willie Randolph (2005-2008, 302-253--54%). It's interesting how these managers' winning percentages cluster around 53%, except for Johnson, the one outlier at 59%.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bulls crush 'Canes in OT; Boise State unhorsed.

My alma mater has a way of pleasantly surprising me on the gridiron, as the South Florida Bulls did Saturday with their 23-20 overtime victory, at Miami, (the AP story includes the interesting factoid that the Bulls have never lost in overtime) over a demoralized Hurricane team whose coach was fired shortly after the game. Miami was 7-4 going into the game, and regarded well enough to have been ranked in the AP top 25 two times this season. Next Saturday, the Bulls have a home game against the Connecticut Huskies who, at 7-4, aren't ranked, but could still get a BCS bid by beating USF. The Bulls, also at 7-4, could likewise get a major bowl bid if they win.

In the other major intra-Florida game, Florida State beat Florida for the first time in seven tries. I had expected the Gators, who are having a miserable season, especially by their recent standards, to play spoiler, but they didn't.

I have friends on both sides of the Iron Bowl, so I had no favorite, but it proved to be a great game to watch.

I was pleased to see Boise State booted from the ranks of the unbeaten, if only because I can't forgive Idaho for giving us Sarah Palin. It was nice to see the job done by Nevada, a state that had the good sense not to send Sharron Angle to the Senate.

Texas Christian is joining the Big East, a move that's about as geographically logical as, say, Nebraska joining the SEC or Minnesota the Pac 10. Nowadays, though, it's all about getting that automatic BCS bid. I look forward to the first Bulls versus Horned Frogs game.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving is a contested holiday. Enjoy it anyway.

First off, let's talk turkey. Actually, let's discuss whether we should be eating turkey at all. Back in the early 1980s, Calvin Trillin wrote a piece titled "Spaghetti Carbonara Day", later anthologized in Third Helpings (1983) and in The Tummy Trilogy (1994). The gist of his argument is as follows:
In England, along time ago, there were people called Pilgrims who were very strict about making everyone observe the Sabbath and cooked food without any flavor and that sort of thing, and they decided to go to America, where they could enjoy Freedom to Nag. The other people in England said, "Glad to see the back of them." In America, the Pilgrims tried farming, but they couldn't get much done because they were always putting their best farmers in the stocks for crimes like Suspicion of Cheerfulness. The Indians took pity on the Pilgrims and helped them with their farming, even though the Indians thought that the Pilgrims were about as much fun as teenage circumcision. The Pilgrims were so grateful that at the end of their first year in America they invited the Indians over for a Thanksgiving meal. The Indians, having had some experience with Pilgrim cuisine during the year, took the precaution of taking along one dish of their own. They brought a dish that their ancestors had learned from none other than Christopher Columbus, who was known to the Indians as "the big Italian fellow." The dish was spaghetti carbonara--made with pancetta bacon and fontina and the best imported prosciutto. The Pilgrims hated it. They said it was "heretically tasty" and "the work of the devil" and "the sort of thing foreigners eat." The Indians were so disgusted that on the way back to their village after dinner one of them made a remark about the Pilgrims that was repeated down through the years and unfortunately caused confusion among historians about the first Thanksgiving meal. He said, "What a bunch of turkeys!"
But, were the Pilgrims (who weren't actually called that until some years after 1620) really such an unpleasant lot? David D. Hall, a professor at the Harvard Divinity School, in his op-ed piece "Peace, Love and Puritanism" in yesterday's New York Times, blames their bad rep in part on a novel written many years after they arrived:
Nathaniel Hawthorne, who came along a couple of centuries later, bears some of the blame for the most repeated of the answers: that Puritans were self-righteous and authoritarian, bent on making everyone conform to a rigid set of rules and ostracizing everyone who disagreed with them. The colonists Hawthorne depicted in “The Scarlet Letter” lacked the human sympathies or “heart” he valued so highly. Over the years, Americans have added to Hawthorne’s unfriendly portrait with references to witch-hunting and harsh treatment of Native Americans.
Hall then argues:
Contrary to Hawthorne’s assertions of self-righteousness, the colonists hungered to recreate the ethics of love and mutual obligation spelled out in the New Testament. Church members pledged to respect the common good and to care for one another. Celebrating the liberty they had gained by coming to the New World, they echoed St. Paul’s assertion that true liberty was inseparable from the obligation to serve others.
Ah, but here's another point of controversy: did this notion of an "obligation to serve others" manifest itself in a kind of pre-Marxian "socialism" that, as argued by some "conservative"* writers in recent years, led to indolence and crop failure which was alleviated by a decision to allow individuals or families to own and farm private property, thereby giving them the incentive to produce more and leading to the bumper crop that was the basis for the first Thanksgiving feast? The British historian Godfrey Hodgson observes of this argument, in his article "Thanksgiving and the Tea Party" in openDemocracy, that "there is a certain historical basis for it."
When the settlers had first arrived at Plymouth, all their slender property was held in common, and food distributed to each according to his need. In spring 1623, they decided to allow each family to grow its own food on its own plot. [Edward] Winslow [one of the settlers who arrived on the Mayflower] describes the motive thus: “considering that self-love, wherewith every man, in a measure more or less, loveth and preferreth his own good before his neighbour’s, and also the base disposition of some drones”.
Hodgson notes, contrary to Hall's suggestion of a religious motive for the holding of property in common, that
...[A]ll of them, godly or profane, were engaged in a capitalist enterprise. They had borrowed money for the expedition from financiers who would have to be repaid. Their agreement over sharing land and property was the internal arrangement of a company of adventurers, of whom there were many such in 16th and 17th century England; this one just happened to include men and women with religious convictions.
Kate Zernike in her November 20 Sunday Times article, "The Pilgrims Were...Socialists?", quotes New York University historian Karen Ordahl Kupperman concerning a similar common holding agreement among the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia: “It was a contracted company, and everybody worked for the company. I mean, is Halliburton a socialist scheme?”

There is also dispute over the timing and nature of the first Thanksgiving feast. Hodgson notes that there are two extant accounts of the earliest years of the Plymouth settlement written by original settlers. One of these, Good Newes from New England, by Winslow, was published in 1624, just four years after the Mayflower arrived; the other, Of Plimothe Plantation, by William Bradford, governor of the colony, was written and published a quarter of a century later. Both Winslow and Bradford, the latter perhaps relying on Winslow's earlier account, describe an event in the summer of 1623, which Hodgson summarizes thus:
A drought causes the crop planted by the settlers - corn and beans - to fail. They respond by humbling themselves before the Lord in prayer and fasting. “Oh, the mercy of our God”, Winslow writes, “the clouds gathered together on all sides, and the next morning distilled such soft, sweet and moderate showers of rain” that the corn and the beans revived. The settlers thank their God for His mercy.
This comports with the notion of the motive for the first Thanksgiving: gratitude to God for a good harvest. It also fits with the "Tea Party" account chronologically, since the "common course" of property holding was abolished by Bradford in the spring of 1623. Nevertheless, it doesn't support the notion that a newfound industriousness on the part of the settlers caused a bumper crop; instead, it was a change in the weather that the settlers ascribed to their pious supplications to God.

The other account, as found in Bradford's narrative, agrees more closely in its details to what has become the traditional Thanksgiving story, in that it takes place late in 1621 and involves Native American guests. Hodgson describes it as follows:
Bradford’s account [is] of a feast in 1621 - a sort of frontier diplomatic dinner - between the people Bradford later called “Pilgrims” and the local “Indian” tribe and their “king”, Massasoit. Bradford describes how the colonists sent four men out to hunt, who returned with a large quantity of “fowl” (not necessarily turkeys); and how the Indians contributed the carcasses of five deer. That event is widely remembered as the First Thanksgiving (see [Hodgson's] A Great and Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving [PublicAffairs, 2007]).
Randy Patrick, in "The Myth of the First Thanksgiving," relying on Hodgson's A Great and Godly Adventure, notes that the Native Americans were party crashers, not invited guests.
When about 100 Wampanoag warriors showed up uninvited at the Pilgrims’ festival with freshly killed deer as a gesture of goodwill, they were angling for a treaty with the Anglo-Saxon tribe.
Patrick also notes Hodgson's "convincing" argument that the 1621 feast was not one of "thanksgiving" to God, but rather (quoting from A Great and Godly Adventure):
...“a harvest-home celebration, of the kind familiar from centuries of observance in rural England, interrupted by a force of Indians …”

In the first place, Hodgson says, the Separatists (they weren’t called Pilgrims) showed their gratitude to God not by feasting, but by fasting.

Being radical Protestants, they didn’t celebrate holy days (i.e. holidays) such as Christmas and Easter, because they considered them superstitious relics of Catholicism.

Being English, however, they did celebrate the secular Medieval harvest festival, which involved eating, drinking beer and wine, and playing games.
However, Patrick disputes Hodgson's contention that turkey was not likely to have been on the menu because they were scarce in the vicinity of Plymouth. He cites Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower (2006), which quotes Bradford to the effect that wild turkeys were abundant in the area, and that the settlers hunted them in winter when they could track them in the snow.
One thing’s for sure: If the Pilgrims did encounter a turkey, they would know what it was because the Spanish had introduced the American species to Europe by way of the Ottoman Empire (thus the name “Turkey”) in the time of the conquistadors. By the 1620s, it was a familiar dish on the English table.

As for the pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce, Hodgson says, the English colonists didn’t have sugar until decades later.
So, what can we conclude from all this? Attempts to use history to prove gastronomic, political, or religious contentions must always be examined carefully. Meanwhile, enjoy your turkey with all the trimmings.

__________
* I've put "conservative" in quotes for the reasons given in the first footnote to this post. In particular, I think that advocates of largely unregulated "free markets" are anti-conservative, if "conservative" is understood to mean protective of a stable social order, as untrammeled markets are erosive of such stability.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

College football update: Harvard wins The Game, but not the Ivy; Sunshine State stays in top 25.

Once again, I missed The Game. Only effete Eastern liberal elitists like me call it The Game. (Wait a minute: I've usually thought of Florida/FSU as The Game.* Oh, well; please don't tell any of my friends in The New England Society in the City of Brooklyn.) I was tempted by an e-mailed invitation to watch it at the Harvard Club of New York City, and thought of going there, drinking beer, and live blogging it on my BlackBerry just as I did the Florida/Georgia game from the Tapper Pub in South-by-God Tampa last year. But this pleasant prospect was chilled by the vision of some broomstick-up-the-arse type coming to me and saying, "Excuse me, sir, but the use of personal communication devices on Club premises is prohibited."

Anyway, this year's version of The Game wasn't quite the cliffhanger last year's was. The first half was all Yale, but after the bands did their thing, ol' Mo (as the pundits love to say), perhaps having liked Harvard's halftime show better, went over to the Crimson side and stayed there until the final score was Harvard 28, Yale 21.

While this will leave Cantab fans happy with the season as a whole, Harvard failed to win the Ivy crown many pundits had predicted it would. Thomas Kaplan of the Times proved prescient in picking Penn.

Meanwhile, in the world of what most of you call real college football, Miami got thrashed by Virginia Tech, and was thereby banished from the AP top 25 for the second time this year. But Florida State's drubbing of Maryland put them back in the rankings at 22nd, thereby confirming my theory that it's become a fundamental law of nature, on par with f=ma, or Bristol Palin is a lousy dancer who nevertheless gets lots of votes, that at least one team from the State of Florida must be in the top 25 at all times.

My USF Bulls had their usual troubles with Pitt, and next week face the humiliated Hurricanes. I fear it won't be pretty; nevertheless, USF is assured of a winning season under new coach Skip Holtz.

Can anyone beat Boise State? I'm rooting for Nevada.
__________

*By Florida standards, this marks me as hopelessly nouveau. If I were really old school, Florida/Georgia would be The Game.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Free, "All Right Now"


Music that I hear while traveling often gets deeply engraved in my memory. In October of 1970, taking my first vacation from my first full-time job as an associate at a New York City law firm, I went to visit some law school friends in California. Heading west on a United Airlines DC-8 to Los Angeles, I listened to the "contemporary" track on the plane's sound system. I hadn't been listening to radio much over the preceding few months, so the songs I heard were mostly new to me. Among them were "I'll Be There" by the Jackson Five, "Lola" by the Kinks, "Green Eyed Lady" by Sugar Loaf, "Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple, and "All Right Now" by Free. The last, by a band I hadn't heard of before, impressed me with its pounding beat and compelling vocal. Free was a relatively short-lived but influential British band. Initially a blues group, their music evolved into the straight ahead hard rock style exemplified by "All Right Now", which became a big hit and made their album Fire and Water sell well. Despite their success, Free disbanded in 1971, largely because of the drug problems of lead guitarist Paul Kosoff, who would die on March 19, 1976 (my thirtieth birthday) while on a flight from L.A. to New York, the opposite direction from that in which I was going when I first heard "All Right Now". Free's lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke later became part of Bad Company.

The clip above is courtesy of frozenfish91, whose home page on YouTube features a clip of Paul Kosoff playing guitar on an instrumental piece called "Time Away", which he did with the group Back Street Crawler after leaving Free. It is accompanied by a series of still photos and short videos documenting Paul's life and career.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harvard grad leads Bills to first victory, and other football musings.

On Sunday there was an epic battle of the beatens, with the Buffalo Bills, winless in eight starts going into the game, hosting the 2-6 Detroit Lions, who hadn't won a road game in 24 tries. Both teams were playing with backup quarterbacks, having lost their starters to early season injuries. The game was played on a chilly, rainy western New York day, and culminated in a 14-12 Bills win.

The Bills' QB for this, and for six previous games, was Harvard alum Ryan Fitzpatrick. Despite the six losses, Fitzpatrick played well enough that, going into the Detroit game, Forbes magazine rated him the NFL's best QB for the buck. Who said Harvard grads can't be cost-effective?

Fitzpatrick's success got me thinking: how many Ivy League players had made it into the NFL in recent years, defined for me as since I was in college, i.e. since the mid to late 1960s? As luck would have it, a quick Google search got me to the blog of someone who has listed all the Ivy players drafted by NFL teams from 1967 through this year. They number 81; more than I had expected. The majority of these players were seventh or later round picks, and most, I'm sure, never made the team rosters. Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick by the Rams in 2005. He saw little action in two years in St. Louis, then went to Cincinnati, where he appeared in 13 games in the 2008-9 season, then to Buffalo, where he had ten appearances in 2009-10 and seven so far as a starter this season.

Over this period, only two Ivy players were first round picks. Calvin Hill, from Yale's great 1968 team, is the only Ivy grad to have achieved stardom of those drafted during these 43 years. He was the first Dallas Cowboy running back to gain over 1,000 yards in a season (1972), a feat he repeated in the following season. (One of Hill's predecessors as an Eli running back, Chuck "the Truck" Mercein, was drafted by the Giants in 1965 and had an undistinguished career except for his heroics as a Green Bay Packer in the 1967 "Ice Bowl" NFL championship game.) The other was Columbia QB Marty Domres, taken in the first round of the 1969 draft by the Chargers, but never a great success with them or, subsequently, with the Colts, 49ers or Jets.

One second round pick, Cornell RB Ed Marinaro, taken by the Vikings in the 1972 draft, achieved at least minor stardom in the world of film and TV after six lackluster seasons in the NFL. You can see him as Coach Marty Daniels on Blue Mountain State.

On other football matters, this must be the first time in I don't know how long that Florida has not been in the AP college football top 25. The Gators dropped off thanks to a loss to former coach Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks. The Central Florida Knights were knocked out of their brief first appearance in the rankings by a loss to Southern Mississippi, which led me to think this would be the first time in God knows how long that no team from the State of Florida was in the top 25. However, the Miami Hurricanes snuck back in at 24th on the wings of a 35-10 thrashing of Georgia Tech. My South Florida Bulls, 6-3 under their new coach, Skip Holtz, get a shot at the 'Canes on the 27th, but first must face the always-tough Pitt Panthers.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Client 9, the downfall of Eliot Spitzer.


Eliot Spitzer's self-inflicted political undoing seemed puzzling to me, as to many. I've also commented about his neckwear. So, I'm looking forward to seeing Client 9, Alex Gibney's new documentary about his rise and fall (see trailer above). Gibney has produced the documentaries Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Taxi to the Dark Side; Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson; Casino Jack and the United States of Money; and Freakonomics. Disclosure: my charming next-door neighbor is Gibney's mother-in-law.

For those of you in New York City, Client 9 is playing at Angelika Film Center New York, City Cinemas East 86th Street, and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Update: Keifus sez: "You can also rent it at home if you subscribe to IFC's on demand thingie."

Ted Leo & the Pharmacists, "Even Heroes Have to Die"


"Many are the beauties of the fall."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Comments on the election? How about a cute doggie video?


Actually, this is kind of like me for the past 24 hours or so, chasing after scraps of good news. Here in New York, it has been mostly good, with Andrew Cuomo trouncing the noxious Carl Paladino for Governor, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand easily re-elected to the Senate, and Eric Schneiderman, whom I met and supported enthusiastically, succeeding Cuomo as our Attorney General. The one Republican for whom I voted, Harry Wilson, lost the race for Comptroller by a small margin. I was also disappointed, but not surprised, by New York City voters' overwhelming approval of a referendum proposal to return term limits for city officials to two terms. I'm not a fan of term limits, which take power away from the electorate.

Good news came early from Connecticut, with Dick Blumenthal's knock-down of wham-bam Linda McMahon, and, though expected, from Delaware, with Christopher Coons' capture of the Golden Snitch before hapless Christine O'Donnell. These early bits of cheer were tempered by the news of Rand Paul's triumph in Kentucky; unfortunately, his opponent ran a very bad campaign. After this came a drumbeat of bad news: Rubio's win in Florida, Toomey's in Pennsylvania, Boozman's in Arkansas. Just before I went to bed, my spirits were lifted by Barbara Boxer's victory in California, but promptly deflated by the news of the loss of one of my favorite senators, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin.

I woke up to WQXR giving me the sad but expected news that the GOP had captured the House. This was offset by hearing of Jerry Brown's re-election, after a long hiatus, as Governor of California, and of Harry Reid's having survived the challenge of Sharron Angle. Later, I was bouyed by learning that Lisa Murkowski appears to be leading the pack for the open Alaska senate seat and that Deval Patrick was re-elected Governor of Massachusetts, but disappointed by Mark Kirk's victory in the Illinois senate race. My final bit of good news was that Michael Bennet had prevailed for the Senate in Colorado.

I was thinking of going on and writing a "What's it all mean and where do we go from here?" analysis, but I'm just too tired right now. I've read some of the many published so far, and may digest them and try to put my own gloss on things later, perhaps during the weekend.

Video courtesy of my friend and neighbor WellingtonsMummy.

Update: Patty Murray is declared the winner in the Washington senate race. Justice is served on errant robocallers.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Why I wanted the Giants to win the World Series

(By the time I finish this, it may be a done deal--the last I looked the giants had a 3-1 lead going into the eighth.) The last time the Giants won the Series was 1954, when I was in third grade at Eglin Air Force Base Elementary School, in northwest Florida. We were allowed out of class in the afternoon (all World Series games were played during the day then) to watch the games on a TV set on the stage in the "cafetorium". Although I was eight years old at the time, I knew nothing of baseball, having spent the previous three years in England, where my father had been stationed, and having begun my formal education in an English school, where I learned the rudiments of cricket and "footy" (soccer).

The '54 Series featured the then New York Giants against the Cleveland Indians. I didn't have any rooting interest that I can recall, and my one clear memory of the Series is of Willie Mays making the great catch shown in the clip above (courtesy of chawk720) in game one, on Wednesday, September 29. I'd like for Willie to see his old team win again.

Update: And he does!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mussorgsky-Chernov, "Night on Bald Mountain"


Boris Berezovsky (the pianist, not to be confused with the exiled oligarch) does a breathtaking rendition of Chernov's piano transcription of Mussorgsky's macabre classic. Thanks to medpiano for the clip.

Happy Halloween!

S. Neil Fujita, 1921-2010

A year ago last May, I did a post here with the title "Jazz and the Visual Arts", which included an image of the cover of Charles Mingus' album Mingus Ah Um. The painting reproduced on the cover was by an artist unfamiliar to me, S. Neil Fujita. I soon noticed, from my Site Meter, that this post was attracting lots of hits off web searches, many of them for generic topics like "album cover art" or "jazz album covers", but also many for Fujita. This piqued my curiosity, and I thought I should do a web search for him, but other matters seemed more urgent. A few days ago, I noticed a spike in visits to S-A B, and, checking the details, saw that many were off searches for Fujita. I did my own search and learned that he died last Saturday at the age of 89.

Fujita was born and raised in Hawaii, the son of Japanese immigrant parents. The initial "S" is for Sadamitsu, his given name at birth; the name Neil was assigned to him when he went to a boarding school in Honolulu. He went to art school in California, but his studies were interrupted after Pearl Harbor when he, like thousands of other Americans of Japanese origin or parentage, was sent to an internment camp. He left the camp by volunteering for the U.S. Army, and served with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit consisting almost entirely of Japanese Americans, which won many honors for bravery in combat in Italy and France. After the war, he completed his art studies and went to work for an advertising firm, where he produced award winning graphic designs. His success led to a job at Columbia Records designing album covers, including Mingus Ah Um and Dave Brubeck's Time Out (shown above), both of which featured his paintings, and 'Round About Midnight by Miles Davis.

Fujita later formed his own firm, and his commissions included many book jacket designs, the best known of which are probably Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and Mario Puzo's The Godfather. Fujita discusses his career in detail in his 2007 interview with Steven Heller. He has also written an autobiography, Mouth of Reddish Water. Late in life, Fujita returned to his original passion, painting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I just got a robocall telling me to vote for Dino Rossi.

"Patty Murray is a Washington, D.C. insider", the authoritative male voice said. "She's on Harry Reid's side." Rossi, I was assured, would stand up to Reid and the rest of the inside-the-Beltway establishment. He'll do what's in the best interests of the people of Washington. Washington state, that is.

Only problem (besides the fact that I wouldn't vote for Rossi even if I could) is that I'm in New York, a continent away. If this is how the Republicans handle targeting their robocalls, maybe they need some lessons from the NRA.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is there a pot of gold in Park Slope, Brooklyn?

Photo taken by my wife from an office on Garfield Place, Brooklyn, yesterday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The CalTex Series


With both the Phillies and Rays eliminated, I lost both teams I could have a strong reason (Tampa is my old home town; Pennsylvania my native state) to support in this year's World Series. With the Yankees out, I also lost the one team I loathe (actually, in the interest of boosting the local economy, I was rooting for the Yanks to win the AL championship, then lose the Series in seven games to either the Giants or Phils). So, I'm left to decide between the Giants and the Rangers, or simply to sit back and watch without taking sides. 


Reasons for supporting the Giants: (1) they are the representative of the Real Baseball League, as opposed to the Designated Hitter League; (2) my maternal grandfather was born and raised in California, so I'm one of those odd people who can claim roots there without ever having been a resdient; (3) my earliest baseball memory is of Willie Mays making a spectacular catch in the 1954 Series (New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians); and (4) I love San Francisco.


Reasons for supporting the Rangers: (1) they're scrappy, low-salary underdogs; and (2) I love Texas (really; scroll down to the addendum to the linked post).

By a score of 4-2, the Giants win my loyalty.



Update: So far, so good. Giants dodge one Cliff Lee bullet.

Second update: Giants "Cain" rangers, 9-0 to take 2-0 Series lead.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Video of bike ride across the Brooklyn Bridge


I've posted several times before about my almost daily walks over the Brooklyn Bridge and back, including documenting one such, on a chilly January morning, on video. There is little pedestrian traffic on this winter day, but a fairly steady stream of bikes, mostly headed in the same direction I'm going, from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Given the hour (roughly 8:30-9:00 a.m.) this video was shot, the bike riders are likely commuting from homes in Brooklyn to workplaces in Manhattan.

Now, thanks to The Phantom of Bay Ridge Blog, I've found the clip above, which shows a complete crossing of the Bridge from a biker's point of view, from the beginning of the bike path at Tillary and Adams streets in Brooklyn to its end across from the Municipal Building in Manhattan (the action is speeded to keep the video reasonably short, and there's some nice background music). Judging by the state of construction of Frank Ghery's Beekman Tower (scroll to the bottom of the linked post), I'd say this video was made in the late summer of 2009. It being a clear summer day, there are lots of pedestrians on the Bridge, many of them tourists busy lining up photo shots. There's a bold white line dividing the pedestrian and bike lanes of the pathway, which is mostly respected on both sides, though in the video you can see some near misses, usually caused by pedestrians abruptly crossing into the bike path.

Bikes have been part of New York City life since their invention, but in the recent past, in my experience, most of them were used by messengers or restaurant delivery people. Over the last decade or so, the number of people using them to commute to and from work, or for recreation, has increased greatly. This has led to tensions between bikers and auto drivers and parkers (note: the "victory" for bikers claimed in the linked post was later partly undone in a "compromise" brokered by a local politician, allowing parking in the bike lane on Sundays during church services), as well as pedestrians. I don't own a bike--indeed, I never learned to ride one--and so might well be found on the anti-bike side of these issues. There have been times during my trans-Bridge peregrinations when I've shaken my fist and cursed under my breath at bikers who've come flying around the corners that abut the towers of the Bridge, heedless of the fact that tourists often gather there to take photos, or who've bellowed at me for having the temerity to transgress slightly onto the bike path while I'm passing groups of fellow pedestrians walking three abreast. The pathway really is too narrow, given the traffic it gets on pleasant days, to allow for strict separation of bikes and pedestrians, unlike the nearby Manhattan Bridge, which has separate bike and pedestrian paths. In general, I've found both bikers and pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge to be courteous to each other, but there are exceptions. I hope one of these exceptions doesn't eventuate in a serious injury.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Classic Dylan, for the first time.

Five days from now, on October 19, Columbia Records will release a "Bootleg Series" two CD set of early Bob Dylan recordings, The Witmark Demos 1962-1964. The set's title comes from these having been "demo" recordings Dylan made during the first two years of his recording career, mostly for the publisher Witmark Music, but a few of the earliest for another house. These recordings were not made for publication, but rather for the publisher to play for other recording artists who migiht be interested in covering them. Consequently, Dylan's approach to them is relaxed. Most of these songs were also recorded by Dylan for publication, and included on his early albums, from Bob Dylan (1962; follow the link and scroll down for some interesting commentary that appeared on the liner of this, Dylan's first album, then scroll down further for videos of earlier performances of some of the songs he covered on this album) through Bringing It All Back Home (1965), and a few on later albums. Some were never included in official Dylan albums, but only on bootlegs, and some others were never released by Dylan. As Michael Simmons noted in MOJO:
In addition to the obvious classics, there are renditions of little-known Bobtunes that in hindsight stand with his best from this time (15 of the songs here have never been officially released by Bob in any form). Long Time Gone is a powerful refutation of any attempt to tame the drifting protagonist. It includes the line "But I know I ain't no prophet / An' I ain't no prophet's son" - that predates the spokesman-for-a-generation furore (he may be more prophetic than he knows). With a sprightly rhythm, engaging melody and offbeat chord changes for the folk idiom, Guess I'm Doing Fine is another anthem of determination.
You can listen to 22 of the 47 tracks in this collection on the NPR website. The demo of "Blowin' in the Wind" struck me as better than the version released on The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, but this may just have been a "shock of the new" reaction. "Long Ago, Far Away", which I previously knew only from the Brothers Four Sing of Our Times album (you can play a sample here), seems badly recorded; Dylan's voice on "far away" sounding very screechy. The anthemic "When the Ship Comes In"--my favorite version has long been that of The Hillmen, Chris Hillman's pre-Byrds bluegrass group (listen here)--is here done by Dylan accompanying himself on piano, and done splendidly. Other songs I'd never heard, like the aforementioned "I'm Doing Fine", were especially pleasant surprises.

As Michael Simmons sums it up:
I'm betting a lot of young people of the 21st century will find comfort listening to this young man of the 20th as he begins his odyssey. All eras set challenges for young minds - and Lord knows everyone gets the blues. True artists make their own mistakes and learn their own lessons, but it never hurts to know where giants have trod before embarking on a journey of your own.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Amygdaloids, "Brainstorm", with Lenny Kaye and Steve Wynn


I've posted before about the Amygdaloids, a band consisting of New York University science professors and graduate students whose repertoire is made up of songs about the wonders of the human brain. The clip above shows them doing "Brainstorm" at the CD launch party for their new release, Theory of My Mind, at Don Hill's in New York City on October 8. Joining them for this song are guitarists Lenny Kaye, of the Patti Smith Group, and Steve Wynn, of The Dream Syndicate, Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3, and The Baseball Project.

Fearing | The Amygdaloids from Couple 3 Films on Vimeo.

Another song done by the group at Don Hill's (and also on the new CD) is "Fearing". The music video above, featuring lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joseph LeDoux and drummer Danielle Schiller, was directed by Noah Hutton.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rays are gone.

It appears I really did manage to curse both the Twins and the Rays by supporting them in their respective division series. At least I'm now relieved of having to support a Designated Hitter League team for the championship.

Braves are out, and I'm sort of sad.

Yes, I know: not quite a month and a half ago I wrote here that a Yankees-Braves series would leave me with the vain hope that both could lose. To me, the Braves have seemed, despite their struggles in the postseason, the National League's version of the Yanks: swaggering, beloved of the pundits, and, most importantly, frequent nemesis of the Mets. How I came to hate the tomahawk chant they stole from Florida State! As with the Yanks, my dislike of the team did not extend to individual players (with the fortunately brief exception of the noxious John Rocker); in particular, I've admired the two unrelated Joneses, Andruw and Chipper, and am glad to see that the latter hasn't played his last game. As I've said, I'm now committed to the Rays (a commitment that may be extinguished tomorrow), but I'd have liked to see Bobby Cox, a rare genius of the game, at least get a league pennant in his final year.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Va fa Napoli, hipster.

"Va Fa Napoli, Hipster" from Blue Barn Pictures, Inc. on Vimeo.

I've posted before about culture war in Brooklyn, focusing on the fight between middle income car drivers who live in the outer parts of the borough and mostly affluent Park Slope bike riders. David Castillo, of Blue Barn Pictures, directed the photography for the video above; a clever take on the clash between older Brooklynites and recently arrived hipsters. Note that this also involves bikes.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Sahr Ngaujah and company do songs from Fela! at St. Ann's Warehouse, Brooklyn


This Monday evening, Sahr Ngaujah and the band from the Broadway show Fela!, a tribute to the Nigerian musician and political activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, considered "the father of Afro-beat" (there's a good short biography here), performed music from the show at St. Ann's Warehouse, a theater venue in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. The show was meant to be performed outdoors, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, but was moved indoors because of rain. My friend and neighbor Karl Junkersfeld was on hand to make the video above. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

MLB playoffs begin: a salute to the Minnesota Twins



I'm not a Twins fan, and my only significant contacts with Minnesota are: (1) having married my first wife there; and (2) as a fifth year law firm associate with very little litigation experience, being tapped on a day's notice to fly out there and take two depositions in a fiercely contested private antitrust suit, in one of which the deponent was implacably hostile. Nevertheless, once again picking up a cue from Eliot Wagner, I feel compelled to post the above video of The Baseball Project doing the Twins anthem "Please Don't Call Them Twinkies", featuring a lead vocal by Twins fan Craig Finn of the Hold Steady. Last Wednesday evening, again through the good offices of Eliot, I had the pleasure of meeting TBP co-founder Steve Wynn and drummer (and Twins fan) Linda Pitmon, at the Amygdaloids concert at Don Hill's (about which more in a later post).

I was hoping also to find a video of an earlier Twins song, dating from the run-up to their first World Series victory in 1987, "My Baby Waves the Homer Hanky", obviously based on the 1966 Tommy James and the Shondells hit "Hanky Panky". Unfortunately, no such video exists, but I did find this clip of hanky-waving when the Twins won the tie breaker for the American League Central title last year:



Tomorrow the Twins, once again AL Central champs and having the league's best record, will face the wild card, and defending world champion, Yanks at the Twins' new stadium, Target Field. I hope to see lots of hankies waving in this series.

As for longer-term loyalties for these playoffs, the Mets having fallen short yet again, I'm pinning my hopes on my old home town's team, the Rays.

Update: Based on the results of the first two games, it seems I've managed to curse both the Twins and the Rays. (Think of the '04 Red Sox...the '04 Red Sox....)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Gliese 581g, the "Goldilocks" planet.

By now you've likely read the news that an Earth-like planet has been found in the solar system of a nearby star, Gliese 581. According to the Washington Post story:

The planet, called Gliese 581g, is quite close at 20 light years from Earth's solar system. It is considered to be in the habitable zone because of its distance from its sun and its size.

Together, those two measurements tell scientists that any water on the planet will be in liquid form, and that the planet is large enough to have the gravitational pull to hold an atmosphere around it.
We don't know yet if there is any water, or any atmosphere. Gliese 581g differs from Earth in one important way. Like our moon, and like Mercury, the time it takes to rotate on its axis is synchronous with its orbital period, which means that it keeps one side facing its sun (or, in the case of the moon, Earth) at all times, while the other side stays in darkness. The side permanently facing the sun would be too hot to support life, while the dark side would be too cold. Nevertheless, there would be a band between the bright and dark sides--a "twilight zone", if you will--where temperatures could be moderate enough to accommodate life. It strikes my layman's mind, however, that if Gliese 581g had an earth-like atmosphere, such a tremendous temperature difference would result in a huge difference in atmospheric pressure, which in turn would give rise to some ferocious weather, perhaps severe enough to preclude life, at least on the surface.

What's really exciting to me about this discovery, apart from its being the first of a planet similar in important respects to earth, is that it's so close to us. Since, so far as I know, there's no reason to believe that our immediate galactic neighborhood is more likely than any other (except, perhaps, near the galactic center) to include solar systems that have earth-like planets, the fact that there are two separated by only twenty light years suggests that such systems are fairly common.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Maine, again.

We made our annual summer visit to Maine a bit late this year. As usual, we stayed with friends in Cape Elizabeth, near Portland, and I took my customary morning walk over the Casco Bay Bridge (for some views from that bridge a couple of summers ago, see here) instead of the Brooklyn Bridge. This year, we made a side trip to Boothbay Harbor.

The afternoon of our arrival, we visited Fort Williams Park and Portland Head Light, the most photographed lighthouse in America (for my views of it from visits four and three years ago, see here and here). While there, I made the shot of a schooner passing between Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge Light, above.

After Fort Williams, we went to Jordan's Farm in Cape Elizabeth to get fresh vegetables for dinner.

The next morning, on my walk to the Casco Bay Bridge, I passed a park in South Portland with this colorful floral display.

The small trawler Daryl Anne was docked at a pier below the Casco Bay Bridge.

Three McAllister tugs were docked at the Portland International Marine Terminal. The city of Portland lies beyond.

A basket of flowers decorates a doorway in South Portland.

A view of Boothbay Harbor.

Skiff, dock, and pigeon, Boothbay Harbor.

Dinner, part one: steamed cherrystone clams.

Dinner, part two: lobster.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Marshall Chapman video: "Going Away Party", and a plug for her new book.

Marshall Chapman is a favorite of mine, so it's always a pleasure to find a new video of her in performance that I can share with you. The clip above shows her doing a slower, bluesy-er number than usual, and I think she does it very well.

Marshall's first book, the autobiography Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller, was published in 2003. Her second, They Came to Nashville, has just been published. She talks about it in the clip below, and does some impromptu singing as well:


Her new album, Big Lonesome, will be released next month.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

College football begins, and a belated farewell to Vic Ziegel.


The Harvard Crimson are the consensus favorites to win the Ivy crown this year, though the New York Times' Thomas Kaplan likes Penn's prospects. Do I care? Last year I mused about the fine points of Ivy football, as opposed to we-need-new-machines-for-the-training-room-so-let's-fire-the-philosophy-department football. But for which Ivy team would I root? For the reason given in the post to which I linked above, Harvard is out of the question. Penn is a possibility; after all, I'm a Keystone State native. If I chose based on my present location, it would be Columbia. I believe the Lions actually had a winning season five or six years ago. Backing them would be in character with my sports masochism: see under Mets, New York.

Anyway, I have my undergraduate alma mater, South Florida, to root for now. When I was a student (1964-67), President John Allen's policy was to allow only "participant-oriented athletics", which, I suppose, meant anything not likely to draw a crowd. It was huge when, in 1971 (after Allen's retirement), they got into basketball. Football didn't happen until 1997, initially as an independent in what was then called the NCAA's Division 1AA. The Bulls are now a BCS team, playing in the Big East Conference. They have a fairly impressive record, with only two losing seasons (1997 and 2004) and one break-even (2005), and bowl appearances every year since joining the Big East (their bowl record is 3-2; last year, they beat Northern Illinois 27-3 at the International Bowl, in Toronto). This year, they have a new coach, Skip Holz, who had a creditable record at East Carolina, and has impeccable coaching DNA. For the first time in several years, the Bulls didn't figure in the pre-season rankings (though they were among the "others receiving votes" in the USA Today coaches' poll, no doubt reflecting admiration for the Holz brand). They opened with a 59-14 trouncing of the Stony Brook Seawolves. It was news to me that Stony Brook, a unit of the State University of New York system located about forty miles from my home, has a football team. I was doubly surprised to learn that they play in the Big South Conference, along with teams like Charleston Southern, Coastal Carolina, and VMI. (Then, again, the University of Richmond used to be part of something called the Yankee Conference, which must have had Robert E. Lee spinning in his grave.)

This coming Saturday, South Florida has its first ever game against the Florida Gators, currently ranked fourth in the AP and third in the USA Today poll. The Bulls have a history of pulling off big upsets: in 2007, they beat Auburn and West Virginia when both were ranked in the AP top 25, and last year they unhorsed the Florida State Seminoles. Florida's season got off to a slow start Saturday as they defeated Miami University of Ohio by the closer than expected score of 34-12, in a game characterized by sloppy offensive play. I see this as bad news for the Bulls, as Gator coach Urban Meyer will crack the whip and the players will be motivated to make up for a poor showing in their opener. I used to be good at predicting the Gators' fortunes from game to game, but lately I've lost my touch. Last year, I thought they would lose to arch-rival Georgia, and was happy to see that prediction come a cropper. Nevertheless, I'll go out on the limb again and predict Florida 45, South Florida 17.

I'll end this piece on a sad note, with a farewell to yet another of my Lion's Head companions of yore, the sportswriter Vic Ziegel. I enjoyed many a chat with Vic at the Head's bar, mostly about baseball back in the days when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn and the Giants inhabited Coogan's Bluff. College football wasn't Vic's game. When I mentioned it to him once, he shrugged and said, "Well, you've got Notre Dame, Michigan, Southern Cal...what else?" Another time, I remarked on the fact that every profile of a quarterback I had read in recent memory somewhere included the words, "his profound Christian faith". This led me to ask Vic if the great Chicago Bears quarterback of the 1940s, Sid Luckman, was Jewish. "Yes, he is" Vic answered, "I just saw him last week. Looks great." He also told me that Luckman was a Brooklyn native and played college ball at Columbia.

Goodbye, Vic. I'll miss you.

Update: Unfortunately, my prognostication for Florida/USF was pretty accurate.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The worst baseball season ever?

We're up against stiff competition: strike-blighted 1994, scandal-scarred 1919. OK: I'm seeing this as a Mets fan and Yankee hater, and particularly looking at tonight's results which, for me, are bad all the way. The Mets lose to the Braves, 9-2, after having lost to them 9-3 yesterday. The Yanks win, and the Rays lose, putting the Yanks back in sole possession of first place in the AL East. The Red Sox also lose.

The outline of something dreadful is taking shape on the horizon: a Braves-Yanks World Series, in which I will be relegated to the vain hope that they both lose.

Happy 65th, Van Morrison.


In the immortal words of Paul Schiffman, "Live forever, kid!"

Monday, August 30, 2010

S-A B is five today!

Somehow, I've managed to keep cranking out the posts for half a decade. Thanks to all my regular readers (I'm not sure how big an "all" that is, but I know there are a few of you). A fifth anniversary seems deserving of some sort of hoopla, but I can't think of much to write now beyond what I did a year ago. At that time, I promised to do what I could to merit your continued attention, and invited your comments and suggestions. I repeat that promise, and that invitation.

(Image courtesy of Camden Chat.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Eli "Paperboy" Reed at Le Poisson Rouge, August 11, 2010

Three weeks ago, I posted about Eli "Paperboy" Reed and his band, the True Loves, noting that they were to play at Le Poisson Rouge, in Greenwich Village, on August 11, and promising "a full report". I was there, and made the video above of Eli and the True Loves doing "Help". Eli and his excellent band put on an energetic and gut-wrenching show; I now think I know what it was like to be in Cincinnati in the 1960s, catching a show by James Brown and an early version of the Famous Flames.