Saturday, November 29, 2008

FSU-UF preview which may look stupid in a few hours 

Update: Sparkling handicapping on my part. UF blowing out FSU as we speak... Congrats to the Gator Nation.

Florida State has a good chance to upset the Florida Gators this afternoon. No, I'm not on mescaline.

The Noles are expected to lose their fifth straight to the Gators, and lose it big (16+ points), but I think they have about a 40 percent chance of winning. Most of the experts rate their chances at slim to very slim.

(Full disclosure: I've been a big FSU football fan since about 1981, a year when unranked FSU played four straight road games against highly ranked teams. In that stretch, they lost to #9 Nebraska, beat #12 Ohio State, won at #11 Notre Dame, and lost to #2 Pitt. Then the next week they played a fifth consecutive road game at unranked LSU, and beat the Tigers 38-14.)

Now before I list why I think the Noles' chances aren't so bad, let me acknowledge several things. The Seminoles are an incredibly young and flawed team. They'll be good next year, but this season they've faltered, stumbled, fumbled and bumbled throughout nearly every game. They've had, to put it kindly, some "off the field" troubles. Compared to FSU's dynasty years during the late 80's throughout the 90's, this outfit looks like a high school team. Their 12-3 loss at home to Wake Forest was the most pathetic public exhibition this side of New Method.

Beyond the "on any given Saturday" cliche, and the observation that a football is shaped funny, there are some solid reasons to believe FSU can pull off the upset.

FSU has an occasionally inspired defense, a decent running game, and an excellent kicker. These are good things to have in a game expected to be played in the rain. FSU is playing its best football of the year right now (which, admittedly, isn't saying all that much).

This is a blood rivalry game. At home. That's big. UF has beaten the tar out of the Noles the past few years, by large margins. Losing a rivalry game is a special sort of sting-- it stays with you and eats at you for an entire year-- players, coaches and fans alike. This painful "sting" has only intensified over the past 4 years. I expect that coaches Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher and the FSU staff will throw the kitchen sink at UF: new schemes, trick plays, 4th down trickeration... etc. This is the biggest game of the season for the Noles, conference championship scenarios be damned. But the reverse is not true for the Gators. While I don't think UF will get caught "looking ahead" to the Alabama game, per se, I do think that the Seminoles will be more motivated and prepared.

Perhaps FSU will get a few breaks. Perhaps Rhodes Scholar[!] and 2nd team Academic All American Myron Rolle will pick off a pass from 1st team[?] Academic All American Tim Tebow.

The way these situations normally pan out is that the home underdog gets down early, maybe closes to within 10 in the 2nd quarter, and then gets blown out. Or the home underdog plays heroically for two and a half quarters, but runs out of steam or makes a crucial turnover and then the superior team takes over and wins by a comfortable margin.

I'm going to go out on a limb, though, and say that FSU not only hangs tough, but actually prevails over the Gators in a thriller, 32-28.


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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Katrina Kids are the sickest children in the U.S., study finds 

Facing South has the story.

Will the "Katrina Kids" be singing in praise of Bush, FEMA and Congress again? Perhaps at the White House X-mas party? Or are they too afflicted?

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T-P: Nagin's lack of transparency is threatening the recovery 

The key paragraph in yesterday's front page T-P story was actually a summary of recent history between City Hall and the City Council:

Friction among city officials over access to information has been building for many months. Since the spring of 2006, the Nagin administration has resisted efforts by the City Council and, in many cases, the media, to obtain documents relating to the city's planning contracts, professional service contracts, garbage collection, 311 telephone line, crime cameras and house-gutting work overseen by the New Orleans Affordable Housing Corp.

Boom. That's a long list of mayoral "resistance" on a lot of different issues. But please note the phrase "since the spring of 2006".

I was pleased and surprised to see the T-P follow up in today's opinion page (rather than bury it in the Saturday issue after Thanksgiving). The editorial is titled "Stop Stonewalling", and it asserts that "Our Mayor's" opaque, oppositional administration is hurting the city's recovery
Stonewalling the New Orleans City Council, the media and the public is the wrong way to run city government, but withholding public information has been the modus operandi of Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

That has to stop. New Orleans City Council members should be able to question spending -- on everything from the city's garbage contract to the 311 telephone line and crime cameras. But on those issues, as well as others, the administration has resisted providing public documents.

The information struggle is the subtext to the drama that played out at a budget hearing earlier this month when Councilwoman Stacy Head and Sanitation Director Veronica White engaged in bitter verbal jousting.
If Mayor Nagin and his department heads continue to frustrate the council's efforts to get information, the two branches are going to continue to clash. That is the root of the problem, and it must be addressed, not just because eruptions at meetings are unseemly -- and they are -- but because the public has a right to a transparent government.
The administration's hostility toward watchdogs, whether it's the press, the public or members of the City Council, is unwarranted and disturbing. The administration should be able to justify its decisions, not avoid challenges by cutting off information.

Mayor Nagin campaigned on making city government more accountable and transparent when he first ran for office. But the opposite impulse seems to be driving his administration now, and that's the real threat to recovery.

In that last sentence the T-P says that the Mayor's "impulse" against accountability and transparency is the "real threat" to our city's recovery. YRHT applauds this strong statement. Yet, the T-P also throws in the word "now", which is strange. Haven't the various "watchdogs" been "stonewalled" to varying degrees since "the spring of 2006"? The T-P has finally called the mayor out in strong, clear language... now.

Where have they been since the "information struggle" began in the spring of '06?

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Casualties of ersta 

Dillyberto and Mr. Clio missed this story that Scout flagged, so I thought I'd reprint it for all those enthusiasts of bicycles and bivalves.

Cycling News:

Cofidis rider Sylvain Chavanel has injured himself while trying to open an oyster. A knife the French rider was using to open the oyster slipped and cut one of his fingers down to the bone, a wound which required 13 stitches to close it.

Originally, I thought Chavanel injured himself shucking an oyster while he was riding a bike, which is quite an image. In fact, I'm just going to remember it that way.

Before sporting the cheese mustache below his eye at the Saints game last night, Mr. Clio sipped a cocktail of scotch and water with a spicy bean in it. (Grodie.)

Among the many Saints highlights last night, I thought Drew Brees' touchdown pass to Marques Colston (3:15 mark here) was very pretty.

If the Saints win next week, it's a whole new season.

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Late night a cappella punk rock 

Nomeansno doing the DK's "Forward to death"


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Monday, November 24, 2008

Sometimes reality is like a weird movie. 

Last night, I was having a drink at the hotel where the Saints players stay before home games, passing some time before seeing Synecdoche, New York. Next to me, at the bar, there was a guy in his sixties wearing a leather coat and talking to an attractive blond who was half his age. While I was chatting with the bartender about something, the old guy interrupts us to place his drink order. Then he looks at me and announces to everyone at the bar that I look a "helluva lot" like Stephen King.

I say, "But he's kinda creepy, don't you think?" and the man shrugs his shoulders like he's just reporting the facts. "I call'em like I see'em" he says.

Dead ringers?

Asshole. For the next minute or so I stew, and debate the merits of telling this intoxicated old fart in the leather jacket that he looks like an older Wilfred Brimley. But instead I just ordered another beer and resolved to blog about it.

So, the movie was weird, as expected, and I think Mike Scott's review in the T-P captures it pretty accurately. "Synecdoche" is often brilliant, funny, and trippy. But it's long, and the end didn't do it for me. Not an easy movie to summarize. I liked it, though.

However, the real weirdness began when I was leaving the Canal Place parking garage after the movie let out-- Damn I had to urinate!-- and, for the first time ever, the gal in the booth who takes my validated parking ticket goes beyond the mere pleasantries, and gets all Chatty Cathy.

"So, what movie did you see?" she asks.

"Signadouche New York" I accidentally misprounounced.

"What?" she asks, as the gate lifts, and umpteen cars are lining up behind me.

"Synecdoche, New York" I correct.

"What's it about?" she asks, smacking her gum.

Startled, I reply "Umm, let's see. It's about twenty minutes too long. Heh." I smile and nod and look ahead with an "alrighty den, time to drive away" expression.

But she stares at me very seriously, chewing with suspicion, and obviously expecting more than a joke for an answer.

"Okaaay," I begin again. The BMW 540M behind me revs its engines. "It's about death, mainly. The man thinks he's sick all the time and then his wife leaves him and his daughter dies. But it's funny. There's a lot of theater stuff in it, too." Then I realize how awkward that sounded, and said "I'm sorry. I have to go." Which was true.

As I drove away, the radio was tuned to WRNO 99.5fm Rush Radio. "In tough times, it pays to be right", is their new tag line. And... guess what was on? No, not a replay of Rush or Hannity. Instead... it was the last two minutes of The Jesus Christ Show, hosted by Jesus Christ. I'm not kidding! Jesus does a radio show. Hallelujah!

A female caller asked the host a question: "Jesus, should I fear hell?" Jesus replied by saying that he didn't have much time[!], so he would have to keep his answer short. (The short answer was "Yes", but it was said with infinite love.) There's a distinctly addictive quality about the Jesus Christ show. It's very soothing. I could see myself listening to it on a regular basis.

Again, I'm not kidding.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Role Models 

Last night, Lovely and her friend got busted bringing some healthy home-popped popcorn into the movies.

Slow. Motion. Lame.

She needs some lessons in smuggling more portable foodstuffs.

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