Saturday, March 14, 2009

Free period

It is with great heartache that I report the end of my alma mater's undefeated run to the Texas Class 5A hoops title:

Poor shooting in the final minutes spelled doom for previously undefeated Strake Jesuit, as the Crusaders fell 48-44 to DeSoto on Friday at the Frank Erwin Center in front of a crowd of 11,914.

With the loss, Strake Jesuit's (37-1) bid to become the first Houston-area boys team since the 2004 Milby Buffaloes to finish undefeated comes to a close.

I'll get over the anguish soon enough. But in the meantime, I'd like to offer some much-deserved props for a group of kids that represented our school with equal parts class and character.

More links:

1. Even Tucker Carlson would have to agree: Stewart vs. Cramer was predictably lopsided. In some ways, I almost felt sorry for Cramer. I'm not quite sure how anyone could ever take him or his TV clown act seriously again. Glenn Greenwald follows up with an insightful piece about why Cramer represents a larger problem with celebrity journalism.

2. "Don't ask, don't tell" is unfathomably stupid. As a country, we should really call for an end to the nonsense. Are we not at war?

3. Speaking of stupid: Glenn Beck. He's so insane that he makes Bill O'Reilly seem reasonable.

4. Charles Barkley wants to punch "the hell out of" Rush Limbaugh and Karl Malone would like to slap some members of Congress. Neither of these guys will ever be confused with Bill Bradley.

5. Important sexting research. Kwame Kilpatrick was, indeed, a very busy man.

6. An interesting argument against the myth of SEC speed. Of course, it would be written by an Oklahoma fan.

7. Pac-Man Jones likes young, nude, willing women. And what's so wrong with that?

8. The secret to Mark McGwire's success: his self-made swing. Right.

9. In an effort to escalate his "beef" with Rick Ross, 50 Cent is set to release a sex tape with Ross' baby mama. Don't they know. Beef is when working folks can't find jobs. The silliness must stop.

10. Answer: Hero.

11. Paintings of all the President's Girls. Sally Hemmings is pictured above.

12. And now, in an effort to remember brighter days for the Crusaders, how about Penn State signee Tim Frazier?

More later.
Continue Reading »

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not fulfilling the dream

Travis Henry:

Former NFL running back Travis Henry recently fathered twin girls, but having children is nothing new to him. Henry has 11 children with 10 different women. His child support payments stand at $17,000 a month, and he is currently
in jail because he owes back child support.
Of course, you can't get there by being extremely virile and sexually reckless alone. Henry needed a monumental dose of idiocy along the way.

Henry argued that, within the context of richly paid athletes, he was not out of line. He contended that he owned no more than three vehicles at once and figured he had spent $250,000 on jewelry. “That ain’t a lot,” he said. Nevertheless, he was hoping to pawn some jewelry to pay off one of many debts and gain freedom.
Henry, of course, is moving into an elite level of company. He's ascending into rarefied air that includes such luminaries as Shawn Kemp, Evander Holyfield and the reigning champ, Calvin Murphy, allegedly the father of 14 children by nine women.

But all jokes aside, Henry is a particularly sad and pathetic case - he's also facing a federal cocaine trafficking charges. There's no chance that he'll support all of these kids into adulthood and, thus, like him, they're largely going to grow up without a father.

P.S. I can't resist passing along this joke: What do you get when you cross Travis Henry with Octo-Mom? China.
Continue Reading »

Rick Perry's war against the jobless

Predictably, Round 1 goes to Rick:

HOUSTON – Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Thursday rejected $555 million in federal stimulus money that would expand state unemployment benefits, saying the money would have required the state to keep funding the expanded benefits after the stimulus money ran out. Perry, an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill, did accept most of the roughly $17 billion slated for Texas in the plan.

But he said the requirements attached to the federal stimulus money would require a change in the state's definition of unemployment, expanding coverage to more people and placing more of the state's tax burden on employers.

... Perry's decision comes despite warnings from Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken that the state's unemployment compensation trust fund could be operating at a deficit by October. Pauken told lawmakers recently that insolvency might not be not far behind.

In a perfect world, Perry's insane grandstanding would come back to haunt him. He's intentionally inflicting misery upon thousands of unemployed Texans for mere political points - against the advice of the state's advisors and other elected - some Republican - officials.

But in my very-red home state, Governor Goodhair seems only slightly better than the alternative: President Chuck Norris.

"I may run for president of Texas," Norris wrote Monday in a column posted at WorldNetDaily. "That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state."

The actor claimed "thousands of cell groups will be united around the country in solidarity over the concerns for our nation" and said that if states decide to secede from the union, that Texas would lead the way.

"Anyone who has been around Texas for any length of time knows exactly what we'd do if the going got rough in America," Norris wrote.

But Chuck Norris probably won't bother playing president. Playing is for children. And Rick Perry. Continue Reading »

Deep Thought

I'd much rather watch Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable on my tee-vee than Bill Cosby.
Continue Reading »

No, no, no, no, yes?

Methinks MTV Brazil has apparently taken some liberties with the sexual histories of these major stars to promote the usage of condoms:

Tupac and Madonna? Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera? Ok ... sure. I'm willing to consider anything when it comes to the sexual habits of celebrities. I've always thought Hollywood was a sprawling, VIP, five-star brothel.

But the ad also implies that Beyonce has engaged in the, um, adult arts with Bobby Brown and Eminem. That just seems wrong.

I'm almost certain I've never heard or read about that before. Is this a hoax or could it be that I need to start reading Bossip or Media Takeout more often?

h/t Gawker.

Continue Reading »

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free period (First Lady edition)

In what I'd like to believe is a good omen of sorts, the First Lady's alma mater won its first state championship in basketball last weekend. This hopefully bodes well for my alma mater, Strake Jesuit of Houston, as it makes an unprecedented run to a title in Austin tomorrow.

But for more than the obvious reasons, Pass Christian's (Miss.) Class 3A state championship victory last Friday was wonderful news. It might be a sign that, after all the devastation wrought there by Hurricane Katrina, there's hope for a brighter future.

It's hard to put into words the level of destruction Katrina inflicted on Pass Christian and other towns nestled along Mississippi's Gulf Coast. When we swung through town for a visit a couple years ago, the First Lady could hardly recognize the place. Her old home, her high school, her church, the town's few landmarks ... they were all washed away. Here's a few photos for some needed context.

So, even if it was for a moment (or really, 32 minutes), even if it happened on a hardwood floor in Jackson, even if there's so much more recovery ahead, The Pass was in desperate need of something to cheer about. Glad the Pirates could deliver.

More links:

1. Having been stopped by a state trooper only once out of many swings through tiny Tenaha in East Texas, I can say that it seems that I got off lucky in comparison to dozens of others.

2. My best guess is that Michael Steele won't make it through the spring.

3. And they said it wouldn't last. Well, they were right.

4. Sen. David Vitter: comedy gold. And now TSA is all in his mix.

5. To echo Steve Benen, good question: Anyone seen any recent calls for Social Security private accounts?

6. Not to be lost in all the angst about this egregious miscarriage of justice in Ohio is the fact that the real killer of the 5-year-old girl still remains on the loose.

7. The silliness about earmarks really needs to stop.

8. Ten major newspapers expected to fold or go strictly online in the next year. Just terrible. I really can't imagine major U.S. cities like Miami, San Francisco or Cleveland without a major daily newspaper. I just can't.

9. More fodder for my argument against home ownership.

10. Matt Y makes the case against comparing apples to oranges in the debate about school vouchers, particularly the program in Washington, D.C.

11. Pondering an All-American team without Psycho T. I'm all for it. Between Blake Griffin and DeJuan Blair, there's really no room for him in the frontcourt.

12. I've seen all the other thugs that you've been with. Come and be my baby tonight.

More later. Continue Reading »

Random Acts of YouTube

Floodin' your city with the Blackink flow:

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Operation Tomahawk

Via the good-natured and Gator-backing folks at EDSBS:
TALLAHASSEE, AP – Bobby Bowden appealed to the NCAA to include wins from his past before. He may have to do it again.

Florida State will appeal the NCAA ruling in an academic fraud case including the vacating of 14 wins, but should the University lose the appeal Bowden will likely try a new tack. Rather than refuse to honor the NCAA, Florida State will instead lobby for the inclusion of several victories he participated in as a major in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

“Bowden wants that record badly enough to go that far,” said one administration source close to the situation who spoke to the AP anonymously. According to the source, Bowden is compiling documentation to back up claims of a share in at least 22 Confederate military victories, including the engagements of Bull Run (referred to as Manassas in FSU documents,) Fredericksburg, and Fort Sumter.

I can't imagine that Charlie Ward, Derrick Brooks or Peter Warrick were involved in any of those contests. And it'd probably be the one of the few times that I actually rooted against a team coached by Bobby Bowden.
Continue Reading »

A Jazz Thing

If forced to choose, I would probably spend every morning of my life listening to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”

I was reminded of this over the weekend, when the First Lady and I watched Spike Lee’s ode to jazz, “Mo’ Better Blues.” Music from the composition is infused through the entire film, giving the movie the feel of a jazz documentary. A documentary about trumpeter Bleek Gilliam, if you will. And “A Love Supreme” was the narrative.

“Mo’ Better Blues,” in fact, was my first real brush with jazz. I saw the film in 1991, not long after it was released on home video and when I was on the cusp of turning 13. Up until that point, I had always thought jazz was music for old people who liked to smoke and hated hip hop.

I was young, which often walks hand-in-hand with ignorance.

Now, maybe some folks might take issue with my parents allowing me to watch a very R-rated film (it was one of the few times that I remember Denzel really getting into it with his female co-stars) at such an impressionable age. I can understand that. But I think that would be missing the point.

My exposure to profanity, sex and violence was rarely, if ever, gratuitous or without some acknowledgment that something was amiss. But that same exposure, of course, introduced me to John Coltrane and a number of things that challenged and informed my own ideas and beliefs.

My parents never worried that Spike Lee or Keenan Ivory Wayans or Warren Moon would have more influence on me than them. But they were prepared if that ever came to pass, for they realized it might happen anyway, at school, around the block or when I finally went off to college. And it did. And that has manifested itself in lots of ways, most of them good.

Which brings me back to “A Love Supreme” and “Mo’ Better Blues.” Since I first watched the Spike Lee joint as a teenager, I have found myself trying desperately to expand my catalogue of jazz. I have bought some Davis, Brubeck, Ellington, a little Marsalis, both Branford and Wynton (though I find his opinions about hip hop to be loony).

In many ways, I feel as if I’ll never have the time to catch up.

But it didn’t take a genius to know that John Coltrane was a genius. Even a kid could figure that one out.

And for that, I thank my parents.

P.S. From the knowledgeable robots at wikipedia, I recently learned that Spike Lee wanted to name the film “A Love Supreme” but Coltrane’s widow denied the request because of all the profanity in the film. Too bad.

Continue Reading »

No mo' Ovaltine

While thinking about the Tupelo Twosome and A.T.'s reference to Rastus in a previous post, I realized breakfast has now become a "half-a-meal" that I consume in my car en route to work or in my first few minutes on the clock.

Which is soooo unlike me or my upbringing.

Until about the eighth grade, my mother and father made sure I had something with some steam to eat before I took off for school in the morning. My childhood breakfast wasn't always pancakes, eggs and bacon, but it was rarely a bowl of Cheerios or a cup of yogurt either.

Well, things done changed. Almost every workday morning, I grab a bag of almonds or a fruit bar or a protein shake or nothing at all and call it a breakfast.

I probably should get up earlier. Or maybe I should prepare my breakfast the night before. But somehow I doubt it'll happen.

Anyway, here's a short list of the breakfast goodies that I don't eat "no mo":

- Biscuits: I probably haven't had a really good biscuit since I lived at my mom's house a dozen years ago. And none of that gravy stuff, folks. I only put preserves, jelly, jam or honey on mine.

- Malt-O-Meal: Oatmeal and Cream-O-Wheat were the morning staples. But Malt-O-Meal only seemed to be served on special occasions. Now, the First Lady is knocking out a bowl or two per week. I probably should get a taste myself.

- Bacon/sausage: When I went through my Nation of Islam phase in the early '90s, I gave up pork. For whatever reason, that's stuck though I make allowances for bacon bits (don't argue this with me; bacon bits ain't pork).

- Apple coddlins: I think my pops found the recipe for this morning treat in an old Highlights magazine (remember Highlights?). I'm not sure how it all came together, but I think he skinned some apples, put them in a skillet, cooked them for a bit and then added some cinnamon and brown sugar. I've never seen anyone else make them. Anyone else ever heard of it?

- Ovaltine: It was like chocolate milk for breakfast. And since I wasn't allowed to have really sweet drinks - soda pop mostly - until the afternoon, this was a huge deal to me. Uh, sometimes I actually had chocolate milk, too.

Hey, it goes without saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I'm going to try to do better. Starting tomorrow. Or next week. Here's some NSFW motivation:

Continue Reading »

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Of monsters and their morality

In reference to the previous post, I should mention that some people left behind a whole lot of online ugliness in similar cases:

""This is a case of pure evil negligence of the worse kind . . . He deserves the death sentence."

"I wonder if this was his way of telling his wife that he didn't really want a kid."

"He was too busy chasing after real estate commissions. This shows how morally corrupt people in real estate-related professions are."

These were readers' online comments to The Washington Post news article of July 10, 2008, reporting the circumstances of the death of Miles Harrison's son. These comments were typical of many others, and they are typical of what happens again and again, year after year in community after community, when these cases arise. A substantial proportion of the public reacts not merely with anger, but with frothing vitriol. (...)

After Lyn Balfour's acquittal, this comment appeared on the Charlottesville News Web site:

"If she had too many things on her mind then she should have kept her legs closed and not had any kids. They should lock her in a car during a hot day and see what happens."

As usual, Hilzoy nails it:

But I still ask myself: who are these people who, having read about a complete stranger whose character is unknown to them, feel compelled to write comments like these?

After all, it's not as though there was some reason why they had to pronounce on Mr. Harrison's character. No: they were just reading the paper, and for some reason they felt that they just had to write these things. And they didn't just stick to the facts; they leapt to conclusions about who he was and why he did what he did. If I felt like emulating them, I might think: these are the sorts of people who lie awake at night nursing grievances, running over and over various slights in their mind, thinking of all the things they could have said to really put X in his or her place.

... This is interesting to me as an ethicist, because almost all the comments reprinted here criticize people on moral grounds. But the person with whose moral character we should be most directly concerned is our own. On almost any account, if morality requires anything at all, it requires that we take other people seriously as people, with their own independent existence, rather than using them as screens onto which we project our own psychological needs at will. So I would think that anyone who was genuinely concerned to do the right thing would recognize this sort of freefloating hostility, and the lack of concern for others that lets it emerge, as vices dressing themselves up as virtues.

I see it over and over again, every hour, every day, on all sorts of Web sites and blogs and occasionally in my own e-mail account at work. I'm talking of people who will mock the death of another person, place blame before the facts can even be sorted out at the scene, cast aspersions on someone completely unknown to them if not for the headline. This sort of person can't stop spewing long enough to think or reason or feel.

Something about them makes them unable to employ empathy and imagination. Who are these people who find grotesque catharsis in articulating their condemnation?

This sort of person is bankrupt. Or not even a person, but a monster. Continue Reading »

Words fail

There's just no resolution for this sort of horror:

The charge in the courtroom was manslaughter, brought by the Commonwealth of Virginia. No significant facts were in dispute. Miles Harrison, 49, was an amiable person, a diligent businessman and a doting, conscientious father until the day last summer -- beset by problems at work, making call after call on his cellphone -- he forgot to drop his son, Chase, at day care. The toddler slowly sweltered to death, strapped into a car seat for nearly nine hours in an office parking lot in Herndon in the blistering heat of July.

It was an inexplicable, inexcusable mistake, but was it a crime? That was the question for a judge to decide.

Once, at one of my old jobs, we were loudly debating this very issue in the newsroom. A woman in Texas had absent-mindedly left her toddler in the car on a hot afternoon, went about her business, and the worst thing that can happen happened.

More than anything, I remember my former co-workers arguing that this simply could not happen to them. Not at all.

I just remember thinking - mostly sarcastically - "Really?"

What kind of person forgets a baby?

The wealthy do, it turns out. And the poor, and the middle class. Parents of all ages and ethnicities do it. Mothers are just as likely to do it as fathers. It happens to the chronically absent-minded and to the fanatically organized, to the college-educated and to the marginally literate. ...

... There may be no act of human failing that more fundamentally challenges our society's views about crime, punishment, justice and mercy. According to statistics compiled by a national childs' safety advocacy group, in about 40 percent of cases authorities examine the evidence, determine that the child's death was a terrible accident -- a mistake of memory that delivers a lifelong sentence of guilt far greater than any a judge or jury could mete out -- and file no charges. In the other 60 percent of the cases, parsing essentially identical facts and applying them to essentially identical laws, authorities decide that the negligence was so great and the injury so grievous that it must be called a felony, and it must be aggressively pursued.

My heart aches for these people and their families. I can not even begin to understand their pain. Continue Reading »

Monday, March 9, 2009

Free period

Sorry that I've been missing in action for the past couple of days.

I had a busy weekend - caught a state championship basketball game, a local strawberry festival, a Kool & the Gang concert and then spent Sunday bouncing around on a couple of assignments.

But a few things:

1. It's easy to forget how influential Kool & the Gang was during their heyday. They've done a little of everything, from funk to jazz to R&B to disco. "Get Down on It," "Joanna," and "Jungle Boogie," are only part of the story. They are a perfect performance band in that way. And judging from the sizable and lively crowd Saturday night, they can still make people move. Not surprisingly, they closed with "Celebration."

2. John McCain seems to be, in the words of Matt Y, substiting mockery for understanding. Which is a problem since people have a disturbing habit of taking him seriously. But why?

3. Honestly, I'm already tired of stories about Michelle Obama's arms. Enough already. She has the right to bare arms.

4. Strake Jesuit, undefeated champions of Region III-5A. Now on to Austin for the Final Four. Wish I could be there.

5. And I'm sure this video has already gone viral but I'm posting it anyway.

Just a few questions first: 1. People really eat sugar and rice? 2. I hope there's fluoride in Heaven. 3. And why is there no breakfast in Heaven? I've always imagined God's spread looked a lot like the Bellagio champagne brunch in Las Vegas.

Continue Reading »