It's Time for Yet Another Installment of ...
YOUR SEARCH ENGINE QUERIES ANSWERED!
An occasional Rant feature
LOYAL RANT READERS know I am not much of a Halloween enthusiast, although I certainly enjoyed it as a child. In a world where science and reason have triumphed over the centuries-old stories of things that go bump in the night, I have succumbed and joined up with Bradbury's legions of joyless functionaries. Gone are the ghosts and terrors and the cold winds of a late autumn night; they are obsolete and have been filed away, replaced with account ledgers and news feeds and all the trappings of modern capitalism.
Still, there are things out there which fill me with fear, and worry, and dread. For instance, I don't know about you, but the spectre of a really nasty inflationary spiral causes me to break out into a cold sweat, as does the horrible multi-tentacled wraith of long-term fiscal instability. Oh, and let's not forget the hideous plague of wage and price controls -- just because they died back in the Seventies doesn't mean they won't return someday. Given the holiday, I won't poke fun at those folks who actually believe in vampirism or lycanthropy, nor will I chuckle mirthfully at people who spell magic with a 'k.' I'm just saying, I'm a hell of a lot more scared of gasoline rationing.
Fortunately, all these modern terrors are being held at bay. But one terror is very much front and center -- two entire months' worth of search-engine queries here at The Rant. Their stupidity and wretchedness are enough to make even the most hardened observer despair at the state of the world. For if people are really this stupid, can there be any hope for a better and brighter future, a future in which the virtues of work and thrift are rewarded and the vice of indolence scorned?
What's that, you say? Don't be so negative? Ha! Friends, I have seen these terrors up close -- and I have closed my eyes and hoped it was just imagination. But all the while, I've heard the creature creeping up behind -- and we're out of time. So let's get to it -- 'cause this is Thriller -- Thriller -- Night.
QUERY: headache nausea constipation or diarrhea falling heart rate and blood pressure fatigue drowsiness and insomnia irritability difficulty concentrating anxiety depression increased hunger and caloric intake increased pleasantness of the taste of sweets
ANSWER: Funny, that's exactly how I feel when I watch reality television. Oh, and since the entertainment-industrial complex is going to screw over the television writers in their contract talks, we'll get EVEN MORE reality television when the writers go on strike soon. Swell.
QUERY: madonna s indian phase
ANSWER: Well, that's kind of a natural after the faux-English accent phase, innit?
QUERY: wearing tinted glasses indoors
ANSWER: That, along with a mullet and a fondness for "American-style light pilsners," constitute the Three Key Warning Signs your date may have just gotten out of the hoosegow.
QUERY: where is tommy maddox
ANSWER: As long as he ain't on the Pittsburgh Steelers' roster, I -- don't -- care.
QUERY: what does the exclamation point mean on the dashboard of a mitsubishi endeavor?
ANSWER: Your tires are about to fall off and cause an auto accident so amazing it will go down in the annals of local history. Also, the company's president will be forced to apologize at a press conference and spend the rest of his days looking out of a window at the campus below.
QUERY: tenant landlord harrassment iowa
ANSWER: My God! They have apartments in Iowa!
QUERY: haunted houses texarkana
ANSWER: Look for the rusting 1981 Pontiac Ambassador up on the blocks.
QUERY: beating a calif ticket for not having a front license plate
ANSWER: You can't. The good news is that it will only cost you $10 or so to have a deputy inspect your car and give it an OK once you've replaced the tag. The bad news is that it will take you practically an entire day because California's courts are hopelessly clogged. And no, the policeman who pulled you over does NOT have murders to solve.
QUERY: effects of taco bell on mexican americans
ANSWER: The same as on any American -- which is to say, and I quote, "headache nausea constipation or diarrhea falling heart rate and blood pressure fatigue drowsiness and insomnia irritability difficulty concentrating anxiety depression increased hunger and caloric intake increased pleasantness of the taste of sweets."
QUERY: what happens if you don't pay child support in illlinois
ANSWER: Governor Rod! comes to your house and waves a big sign in front of all your neighbors proclaiming you're a deadbeat and a scoundrel. Now write the check.
QUERY: bad tasting kraft deluxe macaroni and cheese
ANSWER: And you're surprised why? I mean, come on, what do you expect for $1.99? Or $1.59? Or whatever macaroni and "cheese" goes for these days?
QUERY: age of brent musburger
QUERY: places to see in the southwestern plains of minnesota
ANSWER: Oh, I'm sure there's something, like the world's largest ball of twine. I know that whenever I get a chance to go on vacation, I always want to go to the southwestern plains of Minnesota, especially in winter.
QUERY: repeal daylight savings time
ANSWER: This is a fabulous and well-reasoned idea, and as such the chance of it actually happening is something very close to zero.
QUERY: man wearing skirt in kalamazoo
ANSWER: Well, as long as he wasn't yodeling on the street. If I recall correctly, singing to one's beloved is strictly forbidden in the Paper City.
QUERY: monster chiller horror theater
ANSWER: Heh heh heh. Count Floyd.
QUERY: anti religion car magnet
ANSWER: There are plenty of these out there; however, one should weigh important considerations when deciding to put one of these on one's car, such as: "Will my anti-religion car magnet actually make me look like a nasty, unpleasant louse of a human being whose presence at parties is about as welcome as the Ebola virus?"
QUERY: pinky is the american nickname for which part of the human body
ANSWER: The spleen.
QUERY: saskatchewan roughriders plaza dinner dress code
ANSWER: Wear your nice tuque!
QUERY: dogs eat in restaurant boston
ANSWER: God! What an idea! I can't for the life of me believe that any self-respecting restaurateur would allow dogs to eat in his establishment. For that matter, I can't for the life of me believe any self-respecting diner would bring along their
mangy, flea-ridden slobbering mutt priceless companion animal to a fancy restaurant. So I suppose it must be in vogue.
QUERY: is britney spears a good role model for teens
ANSWER: Well, I guess that depends on your aspirations for your teenager, doesn't it?
QUERY: the beast is the modern world that we live in. the material world. the physical world. the world of illusion that we think is real. we live for it. we re enslaved by it. and it will ultimately be our undoing. revelations
ANSWER: Perhaps. That said, I still want whatever John of Patmos was smoking, because he was clearly pretty high and far out.
QUERY: does sex help heal after pleurisy?
ANSWER: Well, it'll certainly take your mind off the rasping death-rattle emanating from your ruined lungs, won't it?
QUERY: stockbroker using math
ANSWER: Front load + recommendation = commission
QUERY: did madonna attend university of michigan
ANSWER: Yes -- but only for one year. Thus, any public pronouncement she makes on issues is automatically less important than similar pronouncements from Michigan graduates *cough* but far more important than pronouncements from graduates of Ohio State.
QUERY: how to put your (deleted) in a vacuum cleaner
ANSWER: GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! YOU SICK BASTARD!
QUERY: smart comebacks to confuse imbeciles
ANSWER: My three favorite comebacks are, as follows:
1. "I love you too." That will always confuse an imbecile.
2. "I don't care if you're Christ! I'm not (doing what was requested of you)." That will cause an imbecile to pause.
3. "I'm sorry; were you saying something?" That will give you enough time to grab something handy, like a broken beer bottle.
QUERY: golddiggers to avoid
ANSWER: All of them.
QUERY: does crohn's disease disqualify me from serving in the military?
ANSWER: I don't know. I bet it would increase the chances you'd get sent on "routine patrol" far away from your assigned unit.
QUERY: does net worth it have anything to do with wealth?
QUERY: americans how many have taken out insurance policies against turning into werewolves or vampires?
ANSWER: 37 million.
QUERY: anthony morelli sucks
ANSWER: You'll get no argument from me on THAT!
QUERY: blue pill red pill dating pick up line
ANSWER: Do you WANT to get arrested?
QUERY: help i need to make fun of the new england patriots
ANSWER: Welcome aboard, new Loyal Rant Reader!
QUERY: what does it mean when an arena football team releases a player?
ANSWER: Remember those NCAA commercials about how there are roughly 93 million NCAA student-athletes, and all of them will go on to do something other than sports? Well, that's kind of what's going to happen here. But the player will be fine as long as he didn't go to Florida State.
QUERY: carolina panthers team players not packers not tickets not cheerleaders not schedule not cheerleader scandall
ANSWER: Boy, and I thought the Browns fans had it bad.
QUERY: waorld price of silicon water is $1000 and japanese equilibrium price with no international trade is $2500 japan imposed tax $1000per water what would happen to the equilibrium price and quantity of solicon waters used in japan answer with graph
ANSWER: It'd go up to $3,500 because there's no international trade, so never mind the world price. Thus, demand would fall accordingly.
QUERY: can t afford a mcmansion
ANSWER: That's not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, why would you want one? You'd have this huge house and people would be snickering at you because you couldn't decorate it properly, and the taxes would be oppressive, and you'd be living in some soulless subdivision and reduced to talking about your children's schools and complaining about your homeowners' association.
QUERY: what world needs is love oh sweet love
ANSWER: Actually, what the world needs is a stable system of property rights in all countries.
QUERY: how often do guys disappear then reappear in dating
ANSWER: Well, you can bet he's reappearing for one thing.
QUERY: now you know knowing is half the battle show
ANSWER: That would be "Ellen."
QUERY: michigan speed limit change to 70 detroit
ANSWER: Yeah, but you still get to go like 90, especially if there's light traffic. You know the drill. It's Michigan. All the drivers have lead foots and the freeways are dragways.
QUERY: i need a similar sentence to this that has all the 26 alphabets example the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog this sentence has all the alphabets e.g a b c to z are there
ANSWER: You also need a life.
QUERY: how long does worcestershire sauce last
ANSWER: Approximately two decades.
QUERY: pain makes you strong
ANSWER: No, it doesn't. Pain sucks.
QUERY: nfl coors light commercial is not funny
ANSWER: They are what we thought they were!
QUERY: they are who you thought they were
ANSWER: They are what we thought they were!
QUERY: has the use of i-pods and/or mobile phones created impolite and antisocial teenagers
ANSWER: Teenagers have always been impolite and anti-social. However, mobile phones and other electronic gadgets simply add to the level of insufferableness one must put up with from them.
QUERY: man who does not want to buy engagement ring
ANSWER: He's a loser and you should be glad you have the chance to get out of the relationship NOW before you get hooked into a lifetime of misery and despair, to say nothing of not going out like you used to do.
QUERY: you re pretty high and far out. what kind of kick are you on son?
ANSWER: I'm high on LIFE! Really! Honest!
Well, that's it for this spooky and scary edition of "Your Search Engine Queries Answered!" Tune in next time, when we'll undoubtedly have plenty of stupid search-engine queries about deep-frying turkeys, auto racing, the latest "must-have" toys for children and brokerage houses who hold untold amounts of collateralized debt obligations. Now THAT's scary. Until then, have a good week and remember: there ain't no second chance against the thing with forty eyes. Which, as we all know, is an allegorical reference to the loss-prevention system at Wal-Mart.
THIS WEEKEND, the Trinity University Tigers, a Division III squad based in Texas, pulled off one of the most amazing plays I've ever seen in college football: a series of fifteen laterals all over the field resulting in an end-of-game touchdown to defeat the Millsaps College Majors. It's a play that has to be seen to be believed.
It's also great to see the squad get recognition from around the country for its heroics. Fifteen laterals! Also, the announcer's hysteria is priceless. Fortunately, the whole escapade was caught on video, as I think about 100 fans turned out for the game.
WELL, YOU CAN ADD ME to the list of people who are hoping beyond hope someone, anyone, will put a stop to the unstoppable New England Patriots juggernaut. You see, they're not only scary-good, they're also clearly -- well, jerks, as their conduct in their game against the Washington Redskins proved today. Well, if you could call it a game, considering the Patriots at one point were up FIFTY TWO TO NOTHING. I mean, my God. That's just wrong.
I am so annoyed with the Patriots today that I am officially moving them to the No. 1 spot on the List of Football Teams I Despise. Yes, that's right. They are officially supplanting the Baltimore Ravens as the team I detest the most in the NFL, which is saying something when you consider I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan.
Now, the list of my most-hated NFL teams previously looked like this:
5. Philadelphia Eagles
4. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Washington Redskins
2. Dallas Cowboys
1. Baltimore Ravens
So as you can see, Philadelphia obviously drops off the list while everyone else moves back a spot to make room for the new No. 1 hated team, the New England Patriots.
Some readers may question why I actually have an entire list of teams in the NFL I despise. This is simple: it allows me to easily root for teams playing against them, making football even more fun. In fact, I have a mental list going for all 32 teams, allowing me to determine who I root for in any given game. At the top of the list -- those squads with Most Favored Team Status -- are the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions, in that order. I automatically root for these teams unless they're playing each other, in which case my loyalty to Pittsburgh triumphs.
Next on the list comes teams that I am naturally sympathetic towards, such as the Buffalo Bills, the New Orleans Saints, the Tennessee Titans, the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. Then comes teams I don't really have an opinion on, like the St. Louis Rams and the Arizona Cardinals. After that comes teams I respect but don't like, such as the Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants. Then comes teams I don't like at all, such as the Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars. Finally, one gets to the Most Hated Teams list.
So, why do the Patriots -- a team to which I was formerly somewhat sympathetic -- now find themselves on the outs with me? It's simple. The Patriots were up 38-0 today: 38-0. They were faced with a fourth and one on the Redskins' seven yard line. Not only was eerily good quarterback Tom Brady still in the game, they went for it -- and that led to a sixth touchdown for the squad a little later.
Now to me, that's sending the Redskins and the rest of the league a particular two-word message. My reaction to this is as one might expect: I love you too.
Simply put, the Patriots' behavior today was the type of gauche classlessness one expects from some sort of demonic combination of the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. As such, it has become impossible for me to root for them, even in situations when I normally would. And I'm angry about that -- I mean, I'm going to have to root for the Colts next week. The Colts! The Colts with Mr Sign My Melon Rocket Arm! And I hate Mr Sign My Melon Rocket Arm! Blech! Blech! Blech! I mean, I feel like I need to take a shower.
So damn you, New England! Damn you, Evil Genius Hobo Coach! You'll get what you deserve! Hopefully on Dec. 9, when you face the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers in battle at Foxboro. Yesssss. Oh, and while I'm at it, why don't you invest some money into a decent communications system for the other teams?
Speaking of Mr Sign My Melon Rocket Arm, the Colts' game against the Carolina Panthers today shows the Colts can be beat. Never mind the score -- the Panthers gave evil Peyton Manning hell today in the first quarter. Keep that up for an entire game, and victory will follow.
As for the Steelers -- look who's 5-2 with key wins over division rivals! Surely the AFC North title will be ours. Oh, yes. It will be ours.
Speaking of the AFC North, I would not have expected the Browns to be in second place -- but that's about where I like to see them. Oh, and good on the Browns for winning two games in a row for the first time in -- well, a really, really long time.
Finally, I think the Detroit Lions could win the NFC North this year. I really do. Anyone else think the dead might be rising from the grave soon?
IN HONOR OF TODAY'S big game between the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers and the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, The Rant would like to present the following informational videos:
Also, to a particular member of the clergy, The Rant would note that while yes, it CAN be hard to win out West, it can ALSO be hard to win at home, especially when a better team comes into your house.
AS I UNDERSTAND IT, it is apparently fashionable again to Not Like the Ivy League, at least based on a couple of articles and blog posts I've read recently. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently had a story which looked at a tongue-in-cheek debate on whether society ought dismantle the top Ivy League schools, and Meg McArdle took a look at the issue with a post about why it is so fun to hate Ivy Leaguers. (Ms McArdle herself, as she notes, is an Ivy alumna; she went to Penn).
Now, as strange as it may seem for someone who regularly insults institutions of higher education based on their football prowess, and who gleefully mocks and taunts their graduates accordingly, I do not hold any animus against Ivy graduates. This is because I went to Michigan, and as such I am supremely confident in the academic reputation of my school. Furthermore, were anyone so foolish as to disparage Michigan's academic reputation, I could point out this:
Yes, that's right. Space, dammit! Space! And if that doesn't do the trick, I can point out that Michigan is the only institution of higher learning with an alumni chapter -- and a flag -- on the moon. (Some people say the flag story is a myth, but I can assure you that stories to the contrary are all lies, spread by Communists, anarchists, and scoundrels of the highest order).
But I digress. I myself have never had a bad experience with a graduate of Harvard, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, Cornell or Pennsylvania, so I have no reason to dislike the Ivy League. Indeed, I have found graduates of these institutions to be smart, charming and likable people. Yale, on the other hand, is a different story. But I'm open to changing my mind about Yalies -- it's just the two I've met personally were disagreeable.
On a deeper level, though, I am surprised the Ivies as institutions have not taken more pains to publicly emphasize the value of attending their institutions. From a business perspective, they seem content to rest on their reputations, and while that does count for a lot, it doesn't seem like the most proactive strategy.
One can argue that education, as a service, has diminishing returns. If a student can spend $50,000 attending Public School A to get an education, compared to spending $200,000 for an Ivy League education, why would he willingly spend the extra $150,000 to receive an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school? In both cases, he'll have a quality degree.
While I fully admit going to a top school might improve one's chances of getting hired out of college, after that first job recruiters will care only about one's job performance -- not where one went to school. Furthermore, since graduates from lesser institutions can easily parlay their work or school experiences for admission into fine professional schools, it seems to me that low-cost schools really bring a lot of value to the table, while the Ivies are comparatively disadvantaged.
Besides, the lower-cost schools have better football programs, and there's something to be said for the joyous intangibles associated with watching one's alma mater play on Saturdays.
THE RANT WOULD like to give a tip of the hat to Mr Allan Sloan, a senior editor-at-large of Fortune magazine, for writing one of the best pieces yet on the collapse of the subprime mortgage market.
Simply put, if you want to understand why everything went to hell in the market, causing untold pain and woe to hedge-fund investors and foreigners and other folks who snapped up these miserable loans like hotcakes on Sunday morning, then you should read this article. Hell, read it anyway -- it's some of the best business reporting I've seen in a good long while. Besides, you'll learn what a "mezzanine tranche" is, and will sound smart at parties.
Anyway, Mr Sloan looks at the origination, sale and disposition of a loan bundle known as GSAMP Trust 2006-S3, a collection of $494 million worth of subprime mortage loans that Goldman Sachs packaged up together, and then sliced up for sale. He then looks at what happened to them, and it ain't pretty.
Mr Sloan writes:
In the spring of 2006, Goldman assembled 8,274 second-mortgage loans originated by Fremont Investment & Loan, Long Beach Mortgage Co., and assorted other players. More than a third of the loans were in California, then a hot market. It was a run-of-the-mill deal, one of the 916 residential mortgage-backed issues totaling $592 billion that were sold last year.
The average equity that the second-mortgage borrowers had in their homes was 0.71%. (No, that's not a misprint - the average loan-to-value of the issue's borrowers was 99.29%.)
It gets even hinkier. Some 58% of the loans were no-documentation or low-documentation. This means that although 98% of the borrowers said they were occupying the homes they were borrowing on - "owner-occupied" loans are considered less risky than loans to speculators - no one knows if that was true. And no one knows whether borrowers' incomes or assets bore any serious relationship to what they told the mortgage lenders.
You can see why borrowers lined up for the loans, even though they carried high interest rates. If you took out one of these second mortgages and a typical 80% first mortgage, you got to buy a house with essentially none of your own money at risk. If house prices rose, you'd have a profit. If house prices fell and you couldn't make your mortgage payments, you'd get to walk away with nothing (or almost nothing) out of pocket. It was go-go finance, very 21st century.
Goldman acquired these second-mortgage loans and put them together as GSAMP Trust 2006-S3. To transform them into securities it could sell to investors, it divided them into tranches - which is French for "slices," in case you're interested.
There are trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities in the world for the same reason that Tyson Foods offers you chicken pieces rather than insisting you buy an entire bird. Tyson can slice a chicken into breasts, legs, thighs, giblets - and Lord knows what else - and get more for the pieces than it gets for a whole chicken. Customers are happy, because they get only the pieces they want.
Similarly, Wall Street carves mortgages into tranches because it can get more for the pieces than it would get for whole mortgages. Mortgages have maturities that are unpredictable, and they require all that messy maintenance like collecting the monthly payments, making sure real estate taxes are paid, chasing slow-pay and no-pay borrowers, and sending out annual statements of interest and taxes paid. Securities are simpler to deal with and can be customized.
Someone wants a safe, relatively low-interest, short-term security? Fine, we'll give him a nice AAA-rated slice that gets repaid quickly and is very unlikely to default. Someone wants a risky piece with a potentially very rich yield, an indefinite maturity, and no credit rating at all? One unrated X tranche coming right up. Interested in legs, thighs, giblets, the heart? The butcher - excuse us, the investment banker - gives customers what they want.
READER: Hinkier? What the hell kind of word is hinkier?
"Hinkier" is a cognate of the word "Jinkies!" -- a made-up exclamation of surprise used in the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. This and other strange sayings -- such as "ZOINKS!" -- evolved because the writers couldn't use normal exclamations such as "Holy shit!' and "CHRIST JESUS!" back in the late Sixties.
Anyway, as we know, this all ended very badly and the investors who bought these loans were left uttering exclamations -- on par with "ZOINKS!" -- when they opened their hedge-fund statements, or tried to redeem their investments from the funds. It really went badly for the folks who held the riskier tranches of the debt. Basically, as Mr Sloan explains, they were the first ones to get wiped out. Mr Sloan's analysis, although boiled down, may still seem a bit dense, so let's boil things away.
Everyone, of course, got interest payments, no matter what tranche they bought into. The tranches dealt with the loans' principal as well. Basically, when the loans got divided up, people who bought into the safest pool were due to get their principal repaid first, while investors in the riskiest pools got repaid last. The safer tranches (A1, A2 and so on) had the lowest interest rates, which got higher as risk increased, up to an X (or unrated for credit purposes) tranche.
In theory, if all the loans had been paid off, the X tranche would have paid off like gangbusters, and it would have paid for years and years and years. The A1 tranche, in contrast, would have paid well, but for a shorter time -- until the share of the total principal associated with it was paid back. When the A1 tranche was paid off, the A2 tranche would start to get paid off, and so on down the line. They would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for those meddling homeowners.
But where does one begin in looking at all this? I mean, the greed and stupidity is just mind-boggling here.
When I talked with Mr Kepple tonight about this, he expressed amazement at the credit rating agencies' actions. Why the devil would bunches of second mortgages, written to people who had no equity in their homes and no proof they could actually pay back the money, earn a AAA-grade rating? I mean, come on. I don't have any sympathy for the investors who bought the debt, for there is such a thing as caveat emptor, but for the credit agencies to screw the pooch like this is unbelievable.
Of course, I also don't know what the buyers of the debt were thinking either. I don't understand why these very smart people, who can do things with money I can't even imagine, suddenly took leave of their senses and approached things so amateurishly. But there are lessons to be drawn from this, of course:
A) It pays to do your homework;
2) If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and:
C) Sometimes, Wall Street exists to take your money.
Oh, yeah. You see, as Mr Sloan revealed, this past quarter Goldman Sachs cleverly shorted an index of mortgage-backed securities, so it made a whole bunch of money in the meltdown even as its customers were getting their heads handed to them. If you read Mr Sloan's article, it's actually not nearly as cold-blooded as it sounds. Besides, the times change and Wall Street changes with them.
Still, it does bring to mind that old quip about customers' yachts.
MANY LOYAL RANT READERS know I am often quite appreciative of life's smaller joys. For instance, let's say the gang at work decides to order Chinese, and along with the Chinese food comes a free giant order of crab rangoons for the office. I am thrilled with this. But that's just one example of life's fun simple pleasures.
Another simple pleasure I enjoy in life is knowing that no matter how the college football season turns out, there's always a pleasant constant: that Michigan State, the second-rate agricultural university in East Lansing, Mich., will fold like a napkin whenever the season gets a bit tough. Consider: the Spartans are now 5-4, and a pathetic 1-4 in the Big Ten. That's because they lost to Iowa -- Iowa, for God's sake -- today, blowing a 17 point lead and just barely getting back to force things into overtime, which they lost after two periods.
Oops. I swear, if I was a Spartans fan, I think I'd throw up.
Along these lines, it's worth noting this column from Detroit Free Press writer Drew Sharp, in which he notes the Spartans should take the invite to the Motor City Bowl -- should they get it. With three tough weeks ahead of them, they could well go 6-6 and get stuck with the game. They've got to eke out one more win to even get that, though, and they still have to play Michigan, Purdue and Penn State. Key quote: "But if they lose to the Hawkeyes, there's likely no need to worry about whether they'll stay home for the holidays with a 6-6 record. When you're 5-7, there are no options."
Heh heh heh. Oh, and speaking of heh heh heh -- Oregon beat USC! Go Oregon, with your bad futuristic uniforms straight out of '78! After all, the better this team does, the less bad it is that they crushed Michigan earlier this year. Speaking of crushing, Michigan is now in the process of ripping apart Minnesota limb from limb as we fight to keep the Brown Jug in Ann Arbor, where it belongs. Michigan is now up 27-10 -- even more impressive when you consider we're playing our second string. Go Blue!
And go Georgia, which is -- for the moment, anyway -- beating Florida. Anyway, that's it for now, as I've got to watch the rest of this game. I'd love to watch Florida drop a second loss. Oh, and a shout out to Simon From Jersey, who is watching Michigan charge to victory from the second row in the endzone.
A SHORT TIME AGO I sent my good friend Chris a note about something he had sent me, with the post-script: "Uh, what's up with fire season this year?" I tend not to read the news much on my weekends, so the news I heard Monday night about the massive wildfires in Southern California caught me by surprise. Had I known they were THIS bad, though, I would have been less flippant.
Especially since they're, you know, tearing through my old stomping grounds. Son-of-a-gun! This might well affect me at work tomorrow but I've been up for the last hour or so just reading about the fires. It's actually a little alarming, although I think this is due to the peculiar geographic bearings I have as a former resident of Southern California.
For instance, my good friend Chris and his family are roughly 17 miles away from the Ranch Fire, which has burned at least 29,000 acres around the town of Piru. (The fire was apparently starting to surround Piru and in the immediate area I understand it is an extremely acute situation.) Now, 17 miles is a long way -- it is roughly the distance between Manchester and Nashua, New Hampshire's two largest cities -- but I'm not thinking about the distance. I'm thinking, "Uh, that's only two towns away," and, "Wait a minute. Didn't I drive through Piru when I was back in California the last time? Yeah, I did. Jesus Christ!"
Just as worrisome to me was news of a small fire between Thousand Oaks and Moorpark, a bit to the south. Fortunately, it only burned 35 acres and didn't cause much damage. But I had an ex-girlfriend whose home was in Thousand Oaks and for several minutes I was frantically searching on Yahoo Maps trying to find out where this fire was, and racking my brains trying to remember what street my ex-girlfriend lived on, and where it was in relation to this fire. I may not have talked to her in years but that doesn't mean you're not concerned, you know? The good news, though, was that the fire was again several miles distant.
The number of fires and the devastation they have wrought have amazed me. The worst of it, of course, has been around San Diego but even around Los Angeles I recognize places I've been and roads I've traveled that are being consumed by the blazes.
Given the strength of the Santa Ana winds, and the unpredictable nature of how the fires are starting and spreading, I would urge people near fire-affected areas to take basic steps to prepare for evacuation if need be: get your papers in order, pack a suitcase, that kind of basic stuff that doesn't take a lot of time but could really come in handy if you have to move quickly.
Also, I am stunned at reports coming out that firefighters aren't able to fight fires because they're stuck rescuing people who defied evacuation orders. It is understandable people don't want to leave their homes -- but for the love of God, the fire crews aren't kidding around here. When they tell you to go, for the love of God, GO. GET THE HELL OUT. There's a reason they're telling you to do this: it's because bad things will happen otherwise. Trust me on this one.
That said, I hope all my readers in the Southland are OK and that these fires aren't affecting you. Take care and be careful out there.
BOY, I'M STILL in a sour mood from yesterday's unfortunate happenstance in the Sunday night NFL game between the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers and the evil Denver Broncos. Somehow -- wait for it -- Pittsburgh lost and now the Broncos are 3-3. Even more upsetting, Pittsburgh is now 4-2. Normally, this would be cause for celebration and much rejoicing, except for the fact we're in a conference with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, both teams that are -- *grumble* -- temporarily better than we are. There's nothing more annoying than being the No. 3 team in a conference and KNOWING that you're No. 3. Oh, and making it clear to everyone on national-bloody-television that you're No. 3.
Like all Steelers fans, however, I can only hope Pittsburgh will get on one of its patented Late-Season Tears and run roughshod over their opponents in the latter weeks of the season. Because if we don't start getting better, we're going to get knocked out in the second round of the playoffs -- by either Indianapolis or New England. I think all can agree this would result in Maximum Suckage for Pittsburgh fans.
READER: Well, yeah, that wasn't a great -- uh, are you listening to Toccata and Fugue in D Minor right now?
Why, yes. Yes, I am. Truly, Bach's masterwork is the only music that properly conveys my feelings right now: the frustration, the dyspepsia, the nausea, the agony. Truly, this weekend started out tasting sweet as honey in my mouth, but has become bitter in my stomach. Blech! Blech! Blech!
READER: Does a football game really rise to the level where one ought quote from The Revelation to John?
YES. For behold, men marveled at the Patriots, saying, "Who is like the Patriots, and who can fight against them?" And the Patriots were given a fan base, some of whom uttered haughty and blasphemous words, and they were allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; they opened their mouths to utter blasphemies against other teams, blaspheming their names and their dwellings, that is, those who dwell outside of New England. Also they were allowed to run amok in their cruelty and deface the screen-savers and desktop backgrounds belonging to fans of other teams who dwelt in their midst. But the Patriots were cruel and caused all, both small and great, both rich and upper-middle-class, both season-ticket and individual game-ticket holders, to have their tickets marked, so that no one can buy or sell unless he uses the Patriots' authorized ticket exchange, which does not allow ticket-holders to profit on their good fortune. Yet the people loved them anyway, even though the Patriots' ticket exchange somehow profits Ticketmaster, the seventh head of the ten-headed dragon.
Not that I am bitter.
READER: I take it you're expecting a photo of Jason Elam to appear on your desktop tomorrow morning.
Damn right. However, I am confident I shall soon take my revenge, for surely the Steelers will defeat -- somehow -- the Patriots when they play in Foxboro on Dec. 9. (We may re-sign Kimo Van Oelhoffen). Oh, how I cannot wait for that glorious day.
You see, I know some people elsewhere are upset with New England sports fans. This anger is perhaps best noted in Kissing Suzy Kolber's Guide to Being an Insufferable (Expletive) (Expletive) (Expletive) Fan of Boston-Area Sports Teams. I should caution readers the Guide in question is amazingly vulgar and profane, to the point where it even impressed me. Thus, people who are easily-offended, thin-skinned or die-hard New England sports fans should probably give it a pass.
However, I do not share this anger. This is because I take the long-term view of the football situation. Also, I'm arrogant. After all, New England might have three Super Bowl titles and may well win a fourth this year, but I root for a team with five. So there. Also, my team has been in Pittsburgh for 75 years, unlike a certain other franchise which left its home town in the dead of night for a third-rate metropolis surrounded by a vast expanse of nothing. So there. Again. I've got your rocket arm right here, pal.
Besides, if Pittsburgh DOES knock off New England -- either in the playoffs or the regular season -- I get to gloat for, like, an entire week at work. Hell yeah. So I say to Patriots fans: bring it on. For Pittsburgh's overall superiority cannot be questioned. Your run will end eventually and Pittsburgh will again be triumphant, and all will be right with the world. Yeah.
Also, in the unlikely but possible event that Pittsburgh makes it again to the Super Bowl and wins this year, please do not respond with friendly congratulations and pleasant support like you did the last time. That took part of the fun out of it. Please be miserable and angry and frustrated that Pittsburgh somehow managed to grab victory from the jaws of defeat and now has "one for the other thumb." Thanks in advance!
AH, THE JOY OF VICTORY. How wonderful was it to see the Michigan Wolverines throw down the Fighting Zooks of Illinois? Rather wonderful -- even if one considers Michigan's 27-17 victory over the Illini was as much a function of Illinois blowing it as much as Michigan winning it. Illinois could have stayed in this game until the end if it hadn't been for some truly stupid penalties and a blown punt return that gave Michigan the ball deep in enemy territory. So thanks, Illinois! Hey, maybe Michigan will move up to No. 23 or No. 24 in the BCS standings!
This now marks the Wolverines' sixth victory in a row this season and makes us bowl eligible. Maybe we'll even get to the Rose Bowl this year, but I'd settle for the
Citrus Capital One Bowl or, the way this year is going, the Outback Bowl. What? Hey, now look -- I've already had my hopes and dreams dashed this year, so it makes sense to ratchet down my expectations accordingly. By the way, if you ever wondered how the bowl games for the Big Ten conference get arranged, here's how.
The football this weekend was pretty good and in some cases downright amazing. Greg Schiano, Rutgers' coach, is some kind of playcalling genius. I was sorry to see Rutgers knock off No. 2 South Florida but couldn't believe the moxie of Rutgers' squad, especially the punter-throwing-for-the-touchdown play. Holy Mary.
Also, who would've thought Vanderbilt -- Vandy, for God's sake -- would have knocked off No. 6 South Carolina? Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of this game because I am stuck in New Hampshire, but crikey. The Auburn-LSU game, of which I saw most of the second half, was also downright incredible. I felt bad for Auburn because I hate them less than I do LSU, but my God, what -- a -- game. I can't believe LSU went for a last-second touchdown when they could have kicked a game-winning field goal -- they were down by one point, after all -- but they did and it put the knife in Auburn's hopes.
OK, now for the NFL. Loyal Rant Readers have deduced that I am, again, not at Billy's Sports Bar watching the Pittsburgh Steelers. This is because Pittsburgh is playing at 8 p.m. and I can watch it here at home. Besides, if I did go to Billy's today, I'd get treated to watching the Patriots blow out the Miami Dolphins, which I can also do at home. It's fair to say the game, which is going on right now, is downright ridiculous. I mean, come on. It's 42-21 in the fourth quarter and that's only because the Patriots are being nice and pulled out all their good guys at halftime.
The 4 p.m. game available here isn't any good either: Minnesota v. Dallas. Oh, boy. That's swell. But here are a few observations I'd make of the NFL season so far:
* New England is an amazing football team but I think there's a good chance they'll get whacked when they play the Colts and/or the Steelers, their main competition in the AFC. The fact Dallas was able to hang with them for most of that matchup shows the team is beatable. That said, NOW it's 49-21 in Miami. Christ.
* The Rant would like to thank the Buffalo Bills for knocking off the evil Baltimore Ravens today, 19-14. This makes the Ravens 4-3 and two games behind the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers (4-1). Sweet.
* The Detroit Lions are 4-2. Would anyone have expected this at the start of the season? I mean, they have done all right for themselves this time around. Maybe they'll get a shot at the playoffs this year. It's certainly possible at this point. The last time I actually remember Detroit being in the playoffs was 1983, although I think they've been in the post-season since then.
* I'll admit I am rooting for the Jets to beat the Bengals this week, just because I can. So far on this first drive, it looks like the Jets are in command of the situation.
* I think the Cleveland Browns could actually go 8-8 this season. No, really. 8-8.
* I am pretty confident Pittsburgh will crush the evil Denver Broncos tonight; Denver has proved to be a pretty weak team thus far this year and the Steelers, save in one game, have played excellently. I think that will continue.
Anyway, that's it for now, but hope everyone out there is having a good weekend.
AH, OCTOBER. The leaves are falling from the trees, the college football is fast and furious, and it's time again for the Seasonal Stock-Up here at Casa Ben. Even more amazing, I managed to get a weekend's worth of errands done by 9:30 a.m. today, and that's really nice.
As Loyal Rant Readers know, I am a big fan of buying things in bulk. That's not only because of the cost savings associated with buying in volume, but also the Lack of Aggravation down the pike. Now that I have a nine-month supply of kitchen trash bags and toilet paper, a six month supply of paper towels and a month's worth of soda stored in the Back Bedroom I Never Use, I've pretty much made certain that I'll limit my trips through the cold and muck this winter carrying large and unsteady bundles of stuff.
Also, I got new tires for the car today. They're slick -- Michelin Hydroedge tires, and they should last for years. Buying tires can always prove a bit tricky but with a relatively newer car, the expensive tires should prove cost-effective in the long run. Apparently, these have a 90,000 mile tread warranty, which is pretty bloody impressive.
LOYAL RANT READERS in the state of New Hampshire -- and anywhere else that receives the signal of WMUR-TV, Manchester's ABC affiliate popularly known as Channel 9 -- will be able to see me on television Sunday morning. I'll be appearing as part of my Day Job on the station's "New Hampshire's Business" segment. The segment is due to air at 7:15 a.m., following the weather report. As always, my blog is an independently run operation that in no way, shape or form has anything to do with my work at the Day Job.
I'll advise when the on-line version of the story appears. Of course, there's always the possibility the segment will get pre-empted due to some massive emergency, but at the moment, we're looking good. So keep an eye out to see me on Channel 9 tomorrow morning. What's that? It appears we have an audience question.
READER: Are you wearing a suit again?
Yes! I'm also wearing my standard Good Red Tie. Contrast is important.
READER: Do you stumble over your words and have a bunch of ahs and ums?
I only felt like I momentarily stumbled over one question, although that should appear on the on-line and not the on-air portion of the interview. I was stunned I was able to get through the eight-minute interview on one take -- and pretty pleased with myself, to be honest. I thought the interview really went well and I put my best foot forward with it.
I would be remiss, of course, if I didn't thank producer and host Fred Kocher for having me on the show; he is an old hand at this and really helped to put me at ease. It's not the first time I've been on television but it is nerve-wracking every time I do it, and it gives me a real appreciation for what the broadcast folks do.
READER: I heard you got to sit in the same chair as then-Govs. Clinton and Bush.
Yes! It ruled. Actually, I was amazed at how high-tech the studio was -- it was sleek and ultra-modern. It was the first time I'd actually been inside the station, so it was neat to see how that all worked. The weather set-up they have was also really impressive.
Anyway, if you're up early tomorrow, watch me on WMUR-TV, Channel 9. The initial air time is 7:15 a.m., and I think the segment may be repeated through the station's Sunday morning news broadcast until 9 a.m.
WELL, IT'S ABOUT BLOODY TIME. The nation's largest fortune cookie company has apparently told its writers to turn out new slogans. Being writers, they've apparently produced a whole line of depressing, soul-crushing fortunes that have diners shaking their heads and looking at each other in alarm.
Good. There are few things more annoying in life than getting Chinese food and then discovering the fortune in the fortune cookie is stupid. (One of these things is getting Chinese food and finding out the chefs used MSG, but that's a whole other story entirely). The worst of it comes when you crack open a fortune cookie and discover some aggravating message such as, "You are wise and harmonious." Of course I am, dammit; give me a fortune. The last thing I need from a fortune cookie is silly self-help balderdash or useless platitudes telling me to better serve my fellow man. What am I, some kind of Communist? Give me a fortune. Is the market going to go up? Is the price of pork bellies going to crash on Thursday? That's the type of stuff I want and need to know.
Along those lines, if the fortune cookie tells me I'm about to get hit by a bus, or my portfolio is going to crash, that's good stuff. I may not want to hear these things, but at least it's a fortune and not some damnfool nonsense about my surprising optimism. If the writing team can't figure this out, I would ask the good people at Wonton Food Inc. to actually go out and hire a fortune teller, who should be adept at offering actual fortunes -- no matter how silly or ridiculous -- for $5 a shot. For the people have spoken, and we demand real fortunes.
They can keep the cookie recipe the same, though. I don't think anyone actually eats the fortune cookies. They're kind of like those shrimp chip things -- you know they're edible, but even still, you don't really want to go there, if you know what I'm saying.
A COUPLE of new reports on the state of the housing industry piqued my interest today. The first article looked at homebuilders' expectations about market conditions for the next six months, as well as data about new home sales. The second article is a more positive look -- for builders, anyway -- at the dynamic between those building new homes and potential buyers.
The first article, from the Associated Press, reports homebuilders' confidence is at an all-time low, at least since the index tracking it started up in 1985. The National Association of Home Builders said its confidence index, on which 50 is a neutral indicator, fell to 18 in October, which I suppose is somewhere between "despondent malaise" and "Biblical lamentations." Along with that news comes word that home sales in Southern California have dropped to their lowest level in two decades, which only adds to the gloom.
With all this grim news, a corresponding article from Forbes seems a bit oddly upbeat. Here's the gist of the story:
“Builders in the field are reporting that, while their sales incentives are attracting interest among consumers, many potential buyers are either holding out for even better deals or hesitating due to concerns about negative and confusing media reports on home values,” said NAHB President Brian Catalde.
Consumers are still trying to get the best deals they can, said NAHB Chief Economist David Seiders, and many may have unrealistic expectations as to prices for new homes as well as what they can get for their existing homes.
The good news Seiders said is that builders expect sales conditions to remain stable in the next six months instead of decline further. NAHB’s housing forecast indicates the second half of the year will show significant improvement.
Now that's an interesting assessment. Mr Seiders seems to suggest that buyers are overly optimistic about what they can get for their own homes, while overly optimistic about how much cash they can squeeze out of the homebuilders looking to dispose of inventory. Well, if that ain't human nature, I don't know what is.
Of course, I realize much may change over the next several months -- few people want to buy homes in winter, after all -- and spring may dawn with a renewed confidence in the markets and the economy, and God may smile upon the land, and the people may march forward into the future with renewed optimism and hope. That would certainly boost the housing market.
Still, I'll believe it when I see it. One reason I have not actively pursued buying a home is because I don't want to catch a falling knife, and buy an asset that keeps dropping in value. If I must buy property, I would much rather buy on the upside. (Of course, there's also that no wife-no kids thing, which is the overriding thing at this point).
But another big reason is my own uncertainty about the future. Will I meet a girl and get married? Will my job still exist in the same fashion five years from now? Will the dynamics of the market change? Will my own circumstances change? Will I find myself here in Manchester in five years' time, or in Memphis or Ann Arbor or Rochester or Tucson? Those are a lot of things to keep in mind. They change that home-buying dynamic from a matter of watching a teakettle slowly move to a boil to a matter of watching several pots on a range, and hoping one of them doesn't spill over its top. If a lot of other people feel the same way I do, then one can expect continued turbulence in the market ahead.
That's a big if, I suppose, and only a fool would rule out completely the idea of the housing market suddenly roaring again in six months' time. As the proverb goes, brag about next year and the devil laughs. Still, at this point, I think I'm better off staying put until 2008 or 2009 or even 2010 -- or about the time I buy a ring, whichever comes first.
SO THE BCS STANDINGS have been revealed for the first time and lo! the South Florida Bulls are ranked No. 2, putting them in position to potentially play in the national championship game early next year. The Eagles of Boston College, meanwhile, have found themselves ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. South Florida, interestingly, is also ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, while it ranks No. 3 in both the Harris and coaches' poll -- its No. 2 BCS place is due to its No. 1 computer ranking.
I have to think this is all a result of Boston College leaving the Big East and joining the ACC -- a move for which they were roundly criticized at the time, and for which they are now receiving their just punishment. Over the past few years, the Big East has quickly become the nation's No. 3 football conference -- and this year, is tougher than the ACC, the Big Ten and many other storied conferences of old. Looking at the BCS standings, we can see the following:
* There are seven (!) SEC schools in the BCS standings: LSU (No. 4), South Carolina (No. 6), Kentucky (No. 7), Florida (No. 15), Auburn (No. 17), Georgia (No. 20) and Tennessee (No. 21).
* There are five schools from the Big 12 conference: Oklahoma (No. 5), Kansas (No. 13), Missouri (No. 16), Texas (No. 22), and Texas Tech (No. 24).
* There are four schools from the PAC-10 in the standings: Ariz. State (No. 8), Oregon (No. 10), California (No. 12), and USC (No. 14).
* There are three schools from the Big East: South Florida (No. 2), W. Virginia (No. 9) and Cincinnati (No. 23).
* There are three schools from the ACC: Boston College (No. 3), Virginia Tech (No. 11) and Virginia (No. 19).
* There are two schools from the Big Ten: Ohio State (No. 1) and Michigan (HAIL to the No. 25 Victors!)
* Oh, and Hawaii, of the pathetic WAC (No. 18).
Now, the Big East and the ACC are pretty similar here -- except for the fact that the Big East only has eight teams, compared to the ACC's 12. Thus, one can say the competition in the Big East is considerably tougher, especially when one considers the Big East has teams like Louisville and a surprisingly improved Connecticut squad. The ACC, meanwhile, has crappy teams like Duke. So it is understandable why the computer, free of emotional attachments, would give South Florida the nod over Boston College.
Besides, the only people who like Boston College are its alumni and people living in Boston. Everyone else is properly appalled at the idea Boston College would get a shot at the national championship. The only reason to root for Boston College, in my mind, is their glorious placekicker, Steve Aponavicius, who rules and is a testament to the virtues that made this country great.
In related news, I have to say I'm impressed with how the north division of the Big 12 conference has played this year and if things continue, the whole conference should probably be considered the third best in college football this season, behind the surprisingly strong Pac-10 and the SEC, whose dominance even I can't deny. As for the Big Ten, its subpar performance this year is most annoying, although I am hopeful next year will be different. I can dream, anyway.
MY SUNDAY ROUTINE is a bit shaken up today. Normally, right about now I would be getting ready to go see the Pittsburgh Steelers defeat whomever their hapless opponent happened to be at Billy's Sports Bar here in Manchester. But the Steelers have a "bye" week this week, and since they're not playing, that leaves me out of luck in terms of watching football.
Admittedly, with the injuries the Steelers have suffered, having a week off is a good thing for the team. The trouble for me is that, with no incentive to go to my local sports bar, I have to rely on my local broadcasters to provide me with quality football, a prospect which fills me with fear and nausea. As it turns out, though, I think I lucked out: I'll get to watch the Tennessee-Tampa Bay game (go Tennessee!) and the New England-Dallas game (go ... uh, Pats, I guess). Both of these are on CBS, which is great, because it means I'll be free of the horrible cancer upon sportscasting that is Joe Buck. Slam-a-lama-ding-dong! The coverage maps, by the way, can be found here. Dig it.
Oh, which reminds me: what's up with CBS not showing all its games in high-definition? I ask because the Kepple family will undoubtedly gather around their new high-definition television back home in the greater Cleveland area and find, much to their annoyance, that the game isn't being broadcast in high-definition. Yet all the other early games are, including Houston at Jacksonville. Someone at the NFL needs to politely ask the CBS people to get working on this.
I have to admit I have mixed emotions about rooting for the Patriots today. For one thing, if they lost, it would help Pittsburgh in its quest to secure homefield advantage in the playoffs. For another, it might cause Patriots fans to consider the possibility -- as remote as it might seem to them now -- that they'll face a team OTHER than Indianapolis in the AFC Championship game. I mean, my God. More than one Patriots fan has said to me, knowing full well my affiliation, that there aren't any teams in the league the caliber of the Pats or the Colts.
I mean, come on. Hello? Pittsburgh's 4-1, and in winning the four games, crushed its opponents. I mean, it's not like we're Buffalo here. On the other hand, though, the idea of having the league's No. 3 team stay softly in the shadows kind of appeals to me, because that means our opponents won't be expecting it when we strike. It's eight weeks until the Steelers and Pats meeet in Foxboro.
Still, though, I have to root for the Pats. That's because it would be absolutely awful if the Cowboys actually managed to win today's game. Gad, I can just imagine it -- we'd be subjected to weeks of talk about the glories of Dallas and Texas football, and weeks of stories about Terrell Owens, and weeks of stories about how Tony Romo may not only be the best quarterback in football but also the second coming of Christ Himself. Please, God, spare us from these horrible possibilities, to say nothing of the insufferable smugness from Dallas fans we'd all have to deal with.
As it happens, though, there is some other football-related news we can discuss today. For one thing, the bowl schedule has been published and boy-oh-boy did I luck out. Not only do I have a three day weekend during bowl week, I'll get to watch like two straight days of great college football. Here's hoping Michigan makes the Rose Bowl.
Oh, and also, it looks like Spring Football is a Go. Yes, that's right. The schedules for the All-American Football League have been set and will run from April 12 to June 14. About the only downside is that the games are on Saturdays -- dammit, that's when I work -- but the good news is that I'll probably be able to figure out how to go see a game during my spring vacation. Go Presently Unnamed Michigan Franchise! Oh, and please broadcast the games at night, or at least after 4 p.m., so I can at least catch the second halves.
AS A BIG TEN PARTISAN, I know I've been accused of overhyping the performance of its teams. Still, even I am shocked at the idea of Ohio State University's football team being ranked No. 1 in the nation, as they almost certainly will be when the BCS standings are soon released. It was amazing enough when the (now former) No. 1 LSU Tigers went down to defeat today, but to have No. 2 California collapse just a few hours later was unbelievable -- especially because Cal lost the game due to an unthinking mental error on the part of its backup quarterback.
So what does Ohio State's almost-certain ascendancy to the top of the BCS standings mean? Well, for this Michigan Wolverines fan, it means one thing and one thing only: we've got the bastards right where we want them. As Michigan plays its best football when it can ruin the hopes and dreams of other squads, it accordingly increases the chances Michigan will defeat Ohio State and its Evil Genius Sweater Vest-Clad Coach on Nov. 17.
Speaking of Michigan, now that we've won five games in a row, it would be nice if we received a ranking in the Top 25 polls this coming week. Since No. 18 Illinois lost to pathetic Iowa (that's gotta hurt), No. 19 Wisconsin lost to Penn State (I did not see that coming), and No. 21 Florida State lost to Wake Forest (go Wake!) one would think there would be room for the Wolverines somewhere down near the bottom of the list. Besides, since we utterly destroyed Purdue today in a 48-21 rout, we are clearly accelerating our comeback and hopes of winning the Big Ten championship. Of course, I ought not get ahead of myself here -- we must play the Fighting Zooks of Illinois next week and that will undoubtedly be a tough game. Still, I do think we're deserving of a ranking.
This whole week in college football has been outstanding, if you ask me. The games during the week, which are often blowouts and thus not all that interesting, proved to be fantastic. Navy beat Pitt in two overtimes, Wake beat Florida State in a close game and the Hawaii-San Jose State matchup also went to overtime. Today's matchups were also hard-fought, close games. I didn't get to see Louisville beat No. 15 Cincinnati, but that sounded like a good game, and No. 10 USC almost lost again in their game against Arizona. That would have really been nice, but one can't have everything for which one wishes.
For that matter, this whole season has been outstanding, despite certain circumstances I really wish would not have happened. Generally speaking, I am a fan of parity in football and it has been great to see teams that would get crushed out of hand in a typical year fight their way to victory. The upheaval has also put unexpected names at the top of the rankings. I mean, who would've thought at the start of the year that Boston College would be a likely No. 2, or South Florida a likely No. 3? My guess is no one.
I know lots of people would like to see a Division I-A playoff system put in place, but I have to admit I like all the fuss over the rankings -- even though, as a Michigan fan, I've been burned by this in the past (see our "shared" 1997 national championship). There's nothing like having lots of stuff to argue about to make things interesting -- and things are definitely far more interesting now than they've been in years.
WE LEARN TODAY from CNN that a grave crisis is sweeping America. It hasn't anything to do with the war, or national security, or what not. Rather, scandalous and evil ticket brokers have snapped up the great majority of the tickets to teen starlet Miley Cyrus' concert tour, and accordingly have caused the price of the tickets to skyrocket accordingly.
CNN's report makes it pretty clear -- at least from their point of view -- these clever souls are Ruining Things for America's Children. As such, there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth from parents and children and attorneys general, proclaiming the practice is odious and wretched. While even I would admit the situation is not an ideal one, I don't see why people -- even professionals -- should be forbidden from buying tickets and then re-selling them.
I feel this way because, as a semi-clever college student, I routinely sold my tickets to Michigan football games to shady scalpers who hung out around the student union building. I say semi-clever because, although I profited from these sales, I could have made a lot more money if I had just invested more time into the selling process. Instead, I ended up selling my tickets to some overcoat-wearing hustler who put up ready cash in the hopes he could sell the tickets prior to game time. With some games, such as the annual Ohio State matchup, he was certain of making a killing. With other games, such as the annual Minnesota matchup, he was taking more of a risk. However, in retrospect, I have a feeling those scalpers did all right for themselves even on days when we played the Eastern Michigans of this world.
However, this was ten years ago. It was an era without eBay and StubHub and craigslist and all the other faboo sites that promote on-line commerce. If you wanted to sell your tickets, you had two choices. You could go to the scalpers, or you could put up a flyer and hope to sell them that way. The proceeds, of course, were used for things like pizza and beer and various other carbohydrate-heavy foods that made watching the game at home far more fun. I loved going to Michigan's games, but having to stand for three hours straight in the student section would soon cause anyone to consider selling their tickets.
But I digress. It's difficult to argue the principles of voluntary exchange involved in ticket scalping are somehow contrary to natural law: the buyer gets what he wants and the seller gets what he wants, and the market decides the price accordingly. It seems to me the real problem has to do with the way tickets are sold. I don't see why concert promoters couldn't devise a way to sell the tickets via on-line auction, or set aside a certain number that could only be purchased in person, or carry out one of a dozen other tactics to frustrate the ticket brokers and get the tickets in the hands of "real" fans -- if that is indeed their aim.
In the meantime, I have to say I feel really old -- for two reasons. First, I'm alarmed to think that Billy Ray Cyrus -- he of "Achy Breaky Heart" fame -- has a teenaged daughter, because I remember when he was popular. Second, I was out at breakfast this morning when I was listening to a bad televised performance of a song that sounded familiar, but that I couldn't immediately place. Suddenly, I realized what it was, and announced loudly that Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" should not have been remade, particularly not this badly. The cute waitress -- the one I unsuccessfully asked out a while back -- agreed the performance was awful, but was unaware the song was a remake. Ouch. I mean, I remember that song from the Eighties. It wasn't THAT long ago, was it?
I DARESAY George Monbiot, the loathesome and wretched columnist for The Guardian, stands as prima facie evidence of Britain and Europe's continuing slide into irrelevance. Here is a man, given a grand stage on which to deliver his wisdom, and he consistently spouts theories and ideas that make less sense than the utterings of a mad street preacher. His latest gem is a pitiful screed in which he argues -- wait for it -- that Governments ought work to halt economic growth because it could promote climate change and cause an ecological collapse.
This is, of course, a breathtakingly stupid argument. Apparently the ecological destruction wrought under certain economically unfree regimes over the past half-century has slipped Mr Monbiot's mind. Apparently, Mr Monbiot has also not realized economic growth is a catalyst for environmental improvements, as one can see here in the United States and in most places in the developed world. Lastly, Mr Monbiot has apparently forgotten that economic stagnation -- or sharp economic declines -- can lead to unpleasant struggles over land, resources and other property. Struggles, one might add, that often involve trampling underfoot the ecology he so adores.
But let's look at Mr Monbiot's argument in depth, because only that can expose the man's intellectual ineptitude. Mr Monbiot writes:
If you are of a sensitive disposition, I advise you to turn the page now. I am about to break the last of the universal taboos. I hope that the recession now being forecast by some economists materialises.
Actually, I can think of many universal taboos that still remain alive and well, including ---
NOTICE: The following three paragraphs have been censored in accordance with site policy for their highly offensive, gross and degenerate nature. Why exactly Mr Kepple thought to write them is beyond us, as he is well aware of the rules and regulations laid out in Style Memorandum No. 56, "On Sensitive and Inflammatory Topics." We apologize for any distress caused as a result.
Benjamin Kepple's Daily Rant Inc.
"Your Hometown Nostalgia Source"
-- and especially when you use whipped cream. But I digress. It is generally poor form to root for a downtown in the economy, even if you've got your portfolio entirely short. Most people, who maintain at least some sense of class and decorum, know to keep such thoughts private. Mr Monbiot has never shown much of either.
Mr Monbiot continues:
I recognise that recession causes hardship. Like everyone I am aware that it would cause some people to lose their jobs and homes. I do not dismiss these impacts or the harm they inflict, though I would argue that they are the avoidable results of an economy designed to maximise growth rather than welfare. What I would like you to recognise is something much less discussed: that, beyond a certain point, hardship is also caused by economic growth.
Mr Monbiot, of course, does dismiss these. He does so through not volunteering to be the first one made redundant at The Guardian when the economic downturn he so desires actually comes through. Of course, at the rate things are going in Britain and Europe, he may well get his wish yet. As the American dollar continues to fall and the Asian nations continue to artificially keep their currencies undervalued, a downturn on the other side of the Atlantic can't be ruled out.
Still, the idea that economic growth causes hardship just doesn't make any sense. Economic growth unequivocally improves lives, raises standards of living and creates a better world. After all, the world of today is far better than it was back in 1900, 1950 or even 1980. As such, it stands to reason that with continued growth, the world of 2020, 2050 or 2100 will be better still.
This conclusion, however, has escaped Mr Monbiot completely. He has forgotten that a lot of growth does not result from building factories or polluting rivers, but through entire economic sectors that are based on intellectual and technological advancements. The pursuit of growth has already led to the development of hybrid automobiles; who is to say that super-clean hydrogen cars won't be far behind? What is to say the drive for cheaper energy won't lead to the development of cleaner power plants?
Mr Monbiot continues by decrying what he sees as runaway consumption, not only among the hoi polloi but among the upper classes, who spend an alarming amount of money on expensive frippery and useless knick-knacks and related goods. Why he didn't devote his column to the reasonable argument that reducing consumption is not only clever, but a social good, is beyond me. That itself, aside from being sound, would provide many of the benefits he supposedly hopes to derive through less economic growth.
Yet as Mr Monbiot is rooted in the peculiar world view of Europe -- and its idea that Government, in all its forms, can and must solve every problem under the sun -- it is unsurprising he would look to the State to solve the supposed ills he identifies. It is fortunate, as Mr Monbiot ruefully notes, that the Governments he would like to act will take no action on his ideas. That may be because, unlike Monbiot, these Governments are back on planet Earth.
THE COMMENTS are working again! The comments are working again! Even more amazing, I managed to do this myself. I don't know how exactly I did this, because the IT situation here at The Rant is somewhat similar to this IBM commercial, except without the happy ending:
Still, again -- the comments are working.
It will take time for comments to appear on entries, as they are moderated and that's a process I must do manually. Thus, comments will be posted twice a day or so: once in the morning before I go to work, and then later in the evening when I get home from work. Also, I reserve the right to not post comments, particularly those that are off-topic or highly offensive. Hmmm ... I think that's about it. But anyway. The comments are back. Enjoy.
By FERNANDO HERRADURA
El Diario Rant
SAN MIGUEL de ALLENDE, Mexico -- RELATIONS BETWEEN the United States and Mexico have fallen to a new low after Yum Brands Inc., the Kentucky-based owner of the Taco Bell fast-food chain, said it was expanding into the country after a 15-year hiatus in operations.
Already at loggerheads over issues ranging from immigration to trade, the company's move has infuritated partisans on both sides of the border. But its effects have been most strongly decried in Mexico, where culinary tradition is paramount and citizens often resent what they see as American interference in their lives. Still, the company -- in announcing its move -- did not flinch from criticism.
"We believe the people of Mexico deserve access to the spicy, grilled, melty, crunchy taste of Taco Bell, whether they like it or not," said Chad Finnster, a Yum brands spokesman. "We're sure they'll come to find value in our product offerings -- particularly at 2 a.m., when other restaurants are closed and the people, suffering from a lack of grilled and melty offerings, find they have the munchies. We're confident our strategy, based around ecumenical concepts such as "Fourthmeal" and the quasi-creative use of industrially-produced foodstuffs, will prove as successful in Mexico as it has in America."
Despite the company's optimism, though, the move was met with derision not only in Mexico, but also from marketing experts.
"Oh, sure, Taco Bells in Mexico. That's a real winner right there," said New York-based marketer Floyd Pantaleon. "I mean, I can see it possibly working if the value meals were, you know, values in a country where the minimum wage is roughly $4.25 a day. But based on reports I've seen, Taco Bell's tacos are selling for $1 and burritos are selling for as much as $5.70. Those prices are high enough in America, much less Mexico."
"I mean, why would you pay 11 pesos or so for a Taco Bell taco when you could pay 11 pesos for two or three yummy carnitas tacos, lovingly prepared, from some roadside vendor who has been making tacos, and making tacos well, for thirty years?" Pantaleon said. "Besides, when you're buying from a roadside vendor, you know what you're getting into. With Taco Bell, not so much. I mean, my God. I don't know about you, but last time I checked, overloading a burrito with an alarming amount of American cheese wasn't a hallmark of Mexican cuisine."
"And don't get me started on those faux taquito thingies either," Pantaleon added. "Holy Mary."
"I thought this was some kind of sick joke until I walked down Calle Insurgentes and saw teenagers hanging outside one of those hideous outlets," said Hector Armando Calderon, a political scientist in Mexico City. "Yet it was not a sick joke. Once again a hideous nightmare from El Norte has descended upon the Mexican people. For the love of God, haven't we suffered enough?"
"And this 'fourthmeal' you speak of," Armando said. "What's up with that? One-sixth of our country is living in extreme poverty and the pinche gringos speak of a fourth meal? Scandalous!"
Surprisingly, the establishment of Taco Bells in Mexico has not been met with much resistance from local politicians, many of whom are welcoming the eateries.
"What's that? Taco Bell? Oh, yes. I went down there for a bite and was very pleased. I'm confident they will provide their customers with regular, uninterrupted service and have no problems whatsoever," said local health inspector and sacadolar Nestor Wojciechkowski Cabron. "By the way, what is this "melty taste" they talk about? I don't understand."
But perhaps the loudest opposition to Taco Bell's expansion has come from American expatriates now living in Mexico, who complain "they did not move to Mexico" just so "the corporate Yankee culture" could follow them and "pollute all (they) held dear."
"This is an outrage!" said Marvin Welker, a transplant from New Jersey now living in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. "I mean, Taco Bell? In Mexico? I may throw up."
"How dare this American company march in with its adulterated faux-Mexican food and pitch itself as a value-oriented establishment?" asked Welker, who despite the region's poverty has spent the last three years agitating against the construction of a large supermarket on the outskirts of town. "This is as bad as that time a gas station wanted to set up shop three blocks from my house. Soon, people will want all the conveniences of life right at their fingertips, and God knows where that could lead."
"There's clearly only one thing to do," Welker said, as he turned on his computer. "I must write immediately to the editor of San Miguel's tiny newspaper for expatriates. That'll put a stop to this."
HEY, FOLKS -- I think I somehow managed to fix my comments. I don't know HOW but I did. They're moderated so it will take time for them all to appear, but again, I think it may have worked. Drop in a comment and help me test this.
WHEN I CHECKED my e-mail this morning, I was delighted to find a long letter from my good friend Simon From Jersey on a matter near and dear to Rant readers' hearts: namely, college football. Despite the nickname with which I've saddled my best friend, Simon originally hails from the South, and his letter dealt with the glories of Southern football and my continued refusal to acknowledge them. It was such a good letter that I feel compelled to respond here on The Rant.
It's not merely because I like a challenge, either, or because intellectual integrity requires one responds to one's critics (the put up or shut up principle). You see, for more than two decades now, Simon and I have always enjoyed a good back-and-forth on myriad issues, and this letter is no exception to that strong tradition. When he makes an argument -- even though I often don't agree with it -- it is always well-thought out and reasoned. Thus, his arguments are something I always take seriously, and when he calls me out on something, I give it a heck of a lot of attention. Here, then, is the text of Mr Einspahr's letter, which he wrote Sunday night:
Hey Ben, go Blue and all that. And hey, Steelers 4-1 and Lions 3-2 at the bye…not bad!
I have noticed you seem to have a rather inflated opinion of the Big Ten on your blog. The PAC-10 has always been a great conference, they just play on the West Coast so we don’t get to see them; the average strength of schedule has been highest in the SEC and PAC 10 for 4 of the last 5 years. I mean, the Big Ten sucks. It has for 3 years now. We get our butt kicked in bowl games. And the middle and lower tiers of our conference gets beaten repeatedly and sucks.
Meanwhile, whatever your obvious prejudice, the SEC is hands down the best conference in college football, and has been for years and usually will continue to be. If you decided to watch it, you’d see some football that beats a lot of NFL games. Now it is a shame that a small percentage of players have some issues, but most of them are just kids like any other conference including the Big Ten, and I do find the tone of some of your posts regarding southern schools and by proxy the south a bit offensive. Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, are all Top 50 to second tier schools with many smart kids, good programs, and accomplishments. Vanderbilt is a great great thinking man’s school. Certainly, in the same league as Mich State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, etc etc. Florida is a fantastic public school, with excellent undergrad and grad programs.
While I realize much of your posts are in jest, the underlying, assumptions about the South are quite stereotypical and mostly unfounded. Mostly, it’s a shame because the quality of football, tradition, and everything we love about college football is top notch and easy to root for guilt free. While it may not have the media in its pocket like the NorthEast and old school Big Ten, Auburn Alabama is the best rivalry in perhaps all of sports. And a lot of the Big Ten schools, including our alma mater, have many of the same problems and issues that the SEC gets continually thrown under the bus for.
My two cents. Discuss.
THERE'S A LOT THERE, so I have to admit I don't know entirely where to begin. But I think I'll start with the schools in the SEC themselves and their academic reputations.
I went back and checked over my football posts from the past year, and for the most part, I refrained from smearing the academic reputations of the universities in the SEC and ACC. It is true that on Jan. 8, I referred to the University of Florida as a "wretched, godawful, miserable uncivilized excuse for a university." However, this was because Florida had just taken Ohio State to the woodshed and I was slightly upset at watching the Big Ten get humiliated again on the national stage. So that was more of an embittered insult rather than an actual condemnation of Florida's academic prowess.
I think when one looks at the record, I haven't played the "academics card" and gone after Southern schools for their supposed lack of academic accomplishments. In fact, I believe the only schools I have unfairly criticized for a seeming lack of academic prowess are the University of Nebraska, Michigan State University, and Florida State University. But these schools are "low-hanging fruit" when it comes to that type of charge, and I have -- to my credit, I think -- not levied similar charges against other schools in the South. On this topic, at any rate, I have not aimed too high and accordingly missed.
That said, I am more than willing to admit there are many strong schools, academics-wise, in the SEC and ACC, and I gladly root for the strongest of these. For instance, I like Vanderbilt -- a great school -- and will almost always root for them, and I will almost always root for Kentucky. Also, I have a soft spot for Georgia and Georgia Tech, which are more likable than other squads in the SEC. In the ACC, I will always -- always -- root for Wake Forest, an excellent academic institution, and I have recently discovered the joys of Clemson football. Conversely, I would note that I don't like Boston College despite its northern roots and strong academics.
Now, as for the SEC -- is it the best conference in college football? Of course it is. Even I have to admit that, and I have done so on the blog, when I conjure up the SEC Partisan Foil and knock him with a frying pan to shut him up. Saturday's matchup between LSU and Florida was outstanding -- outstanding -- football, and either of these two squads could easily defeat Michigan and probably knock off Ohio State. The Thursday night matchup between South Carolina and Kentucky also proved to be great football.
I will also admit, as hard as it is for me to do so, that the PAC-10 has gotten considerably better over the years. California and Oregon have become hard teams to beat, and they play excellent football. Arizona State is also ranked in the Top 25. USC, of course, is a perennial powerhouse in that division. I think Ohio State could beat any team in the PAC-10 but I must admit the other Big Ten teams would have trouble with Cal, Oregon and USC, and perhaps even Arizona State. Heck, Oregon just rolled Michigan, and that's a pretty strong statement.
Now, as much as I hate to say it, the Big Ten has been having performance issues over the past few years. Not only is the SEC better, the PAC-10 and Big East (!) are better, although I do think we're about even with the ACC at this point.
I do think that on any given Saturday, the top tier of the Big Ten could compete against the top tiers of any other conference in the nation. (Notice I did not say win; I said compete). I also think the middle tier of the conference would prove competitive against similarly-placed schools in other conferences. However, there's no denying that out of the 11 Big Ten schools, five or six stink to high heaven. The result of this year's bowl season -- please God, let us win -- will shed further light on this subject.
That said, I'm a Big Ten partisan. I'm going to look at these schools with rose-colored glasses -- academically, athletically, spiritually -- you name it, that's my bias. Which leads to the OTHER bias question: do I have an issue with Southern schools because I have issues with the South?
I don't think I do. When I went to the South on vacation earlier this year, I found the people there friendly, pleasant and courteous. Not one of them took issue with my Yankee-ness, no one brought up the war, and there was no Catholic-bashing either. (Not that I expected them to do that, of course; I note this simply to dispel three of the big stereotypes). Simply put, the South was a nice place, and I received a warmer welcome there than I have other places in America. Plus, the food is outstanding. So, given that, what's the issue I have with Southern schools and their football?
I suppose it all started back in the late 1990s, during the Heisman Trophy race in 1997. Michigan's Charles Woodson, who was one of the best to play the college game, had won the Heisman Trophy, yet there was a whole bunch of complaining from backers of then-Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning. (As Loyal Rant Readers know, I hate Peyton Manning, and this incident is what started all that).
Over the years, I suppose I developed a general dislike of football programs I saw as generally unclassy: whose players I thought were undisciplined and whose coaches I saw as more focused on winning than building good men: the Florida States and Miamis of this world, and to a lesser extent Florida. Combined with a growing and now strong sense of conference loyalty -- even though I'll gladly beat up on Michigan State for these same infractions -- it manifested itself into the hardened, dystopian world view I have today. (And getting taken to the woodshed by these same teams didn't help matters, either!)
Still, despite all that, I would reassure Simon -- and my Loyal Rant Readers -- that this dislike is a mile wide but only an inch deep. When all is said and done, I'm writing to needle and not to wound. Furthermore, when I needle other teams and their fans, I do so in jest -- I may fire with both barrels, but the shotgun only has rock salt in it.
Also, although I'll gladly dish it out again and again, I'm also man enough to take it. That's what being a sports fan is all about. You get to enjoy the wins, but you have to deal with the losses accordingly. And even though I know I set myself up for a heaping platter of crow from rival fans with my bombastic screeds, in my heart I love it nonetheless. The rivalries and the traditions and competition make it all worth it. That said, please let Michigan win the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl, because otherwise I'll never hear the end of it.
YOU KNOW, THERE are Sundays when it seems like everything goes your way. With the glorious Pittsburgh Steelers' 21-0 rout of the Seattle Seahawks, yesterday was one of those days. Consider me impressed with the power and the glory of yesterday's victory, which was even more impressive considering the following:
* Two of our best defensive players (Troy Polamalu and Casey Hampton) were sidelined due to injury.
* Our No. 1 and No. 2 receivers (Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes) were sidelined due to injury.
* Despite these things, our running game was spectacular.
* Despite these things, we completely stuffed the Seahawks' offense
* Our cornerbacks performed fantastic.
The day wasn't perfect, of course; San Francisco inexplicably failed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens, meaning the evil franchise from the Free State remains just one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North. While their schedule has a few tough games in it (New England, Indianapolis) there are enough easier games to require that Pittsburgh keep its foot on the gas throughout the season. This also makes defeating the evil Ravens even more important to our divisional and playoff hopes.
But we can deal with that later. Right now, we can savor our victory over Seattle.
SO THERE I am watching the LSU-Florida game -- because Purdue's defense, as it turned out, couldn't stop a Pop Warner team from advancing the ball, much less Ohio State -- and lo and behold, word comes that the mighty USC Trojans lost to ... Stanford. What? No, I'm not kidding.
USC LOST TO STANFORD AT HOME.
I swear, this is REALLY turning into a crazy college football season and we're not even halfway through it. After last week, when so many great teams dropped like flies against unexpectedly strong opposition, one would have expected a bit of normality. Yet this week alone, Wisconsin lost and Michigan State lost and Kentucky lost and Georgia lost, all things that -- at least to some extent -- could be described as cuts against the grain.
But to have USC lose is unbelievable. Consider: USC scored 23 points. This is 18 points less than the total by which they were favored to beat the Stanford Cardinal. Put another way, Stanford's 24 point total meant they covered the total by 42 points -- nearly the total of all the points that were scored in the game. I mean, Stanford sucked. Last week, they lost 45-14 to UCLA, which this week became the first team to lose to Notre Dame. That's how bad Stanford was. And now they knock off USC? USC, of the 35-game winning streak at home?
Admittedly, I am very happy at this turn of events. I like it when USC loses, because USC has a way of beating Michigan in bowl games. Plus, USC plays in the PAC-10, which formerly served up bunches of weak opponents, although this year the conference seems a bit tougher. I approve of the PAC-10 being tougher, because it heightens the chance of USC losing and -- almost as good -- not appearing in a bowl game where they might play Michigan.
And what an LSU-Florida game last night! I was hoping Florida would manage to eke out a victory but alas, LSU won the game through sheer force of will and really savvy coaching. But any game that comes down to the final play is a good one, regardless of whether the team one is rooting for wins.
GEE, THIS COLLEGE FOOTBALL Saturday is going all right. Not only did the Fighting Zooks of Illinois knock off overrated Wisconsin, the lowly Northwestern Wildcats engaged in a shootout with the Michigan State Spartans and won in overtime at East Lansing, 48-41. This puts the miserable Spartans, who won their first four games, at 0-2 in the Big Ten Conference. Heh. Double heh. HAHAHAHAHAHA!
One of these years -- 2031, maybe, or 2047 -- Michigan State is finally going to get over the hump and have a decent season. Not this year, though. Their loss to Northwestern has made it perfectly clear that even with a spiffy new coach, the Spartans are still the Spartans, and are well on their way to having another miserable season. They're known for folding like a cheap suit once the going gets tough, and it seems pretty clear they're still mired in that losing mentality. This is good, because it almost ensures glorious Michigan, which is better than Michigan State in every possible way, will crush Michigan State's undisciplined squad later this year.
As for Michigan, we defeated Eastern Michigan today, although this was not without the typical screwups one is unfortunately starting to expect whenever Michigan plays an easy game. But a win is a win, and I'll take it, especially since Michigan State did not win, and now finds itself in a considerable hole in terms of winning the Big Ten Championship.
Also: as I should have guessed, Georgia is in fact getting crushed at Tennessee, and I am not watching the Red River Shootout *grumble*, which has naturally been a great game so far. The good news, though, is that Penn State-Iowa is on ESPN 2, and that beats the alternative.
TO: The ABC/ESPN/ESPN on ABC/ESPABCN College Football Scheduling People
FR: Benjamin Kepple
RE: Not so fast, my friends.
Dear ABC/ESPN/ESPN on ABC/ESPABCN College Football Scheduling People:
ON FRIDAY NIGHT, I was talking with my Dad about today's upcoming college football schedule and the games we both were planning to watch on the weekend. With the early game -- although I can't really watch it -- I was planning to keep an eye on Wisconsin and Illinois, and root for the Fighting Zooks to beat the Stinkin' Badgers. For the late game, I was definitely looking forward to the Ohio State-Purdue matchup. As for the afternoon game, most of which I would get to watch live, I mentioned just how much I was looking forward to the Red River Shootout between Texas and Oklahoma.
Then I went to Every Day Should Be Saturday, which had the coverage maps up for the game, and I noticed that up here in my market, the North Carolina State v. Florida State game had been penciled in.
Surely, I thought to myself, this was some kind of mistake; an inadvertent error that a junior staffer at the network had accidentally made. After all, no one outside North Carolina or Florida would be interested in such a matchup; it would be like airing the Minnesota v. Indiana game in Columbus. North Carolina State is at the bottom of the Atlantic Division, and FSU is stuck right in the middle. As such, the game is inevitably inconsequential, even to Boston College fans, who sit atop the ACC Atlantic.
But after viewing the coverage maps -- and where DOES one find those on-line, anyway? -- I went to check my cable listings, and sure enough, the NCSU-FSU game is being aired NOT ONLY on Boston's ABC affiliate, but Manchester, N.H.'s ABC affiliate as well!
So I must ask: what the hell is wrong with you people?
Why in the name of God would you subject EVERYONE in the greater Boston area to this miserable, wretched, awful, putrid, disgusting game? Jesus Christ, practically everyone else in the country gets to watch the Red River Shootout, and I'm going to be stuck watching godrotting Florida State and godrotting Bobby Bowden and that godrotting tomahawk chop. And that's just if I keep the sound off so I don't go insane from that godrotting war chant the moronic Florida State fans chant ALL THROUGH THE GAME. Even worse, I bet you've somehow figured out a way to get Paul-fricking-Maguire in the broadcast booth for the contest, you rotten scoundrels. I may throw up.
I mean, now I'm going to have to watch -- ugh -- the SEC game on CBS. And I hate the SEC. But it's Tennessee v. Georgia, and I hate Tennessee, so I'm going to have to watch and root for Georgia and its yappy little mascot dog. Knowing my luck, Georgia will get blown out during the first half and I'll really end up in a foul mood and then get to listen to Brent Musburger during the night game. Thanks, ABC! Thanks a lot!
What really burns me up about this whole situation is we have TWO ABC AFFILIATES in the greater Boston area, and BOTH of them are showing this rotten Florida State v. North Carolina State game. Why not mix it up a bit so fans can have a choice? Put the game you have to show on the Boston station and then put the better, national game on the New Hampshire affiliate. This isn't rocket science. For that matter, this isn't high school chemistry. I could only hope ABC's scheduling people would be history for not figuring this out, but we're clearly not dealing with the brightest bulbs in the lamp store here.
Ugh. I am so disgusted right now. I suppose I ought just be happy that I get to watch Ohio State-Purdue during the late game, as I was almost certain I'd end up having to watch Notre Dame-UCLA. Maybe being forced to watch Notre Dame-UCLA would be a good punishment for incompetent schedulers. You think?
SO I WAS WATCHING the Utah-Louisville game tonight when I noticed the score in the Yankees-Indians game was tied at one run apiece in the top of the 9th inning. I am not much of a baseball fan, but even I am a sucker for a tied playoff game. I turned on the game and noticed, much to my surprise, that Jacobs Field in Cleveland was simply swarming with mayflies. The players were swatting at them. The pitchers were covered with them. They were readily apparent to the eye -- and it was a sight, I am assured, that was even more amazing in high-definition.
This was even more incredible than watching the Utah Utes light up the scoreboard in Louisville every time I checked back there. Apparently, I didn't see the worst of it, either. The mayflies were reportedly so bad in the 8th inning that one of the Yankees pitchers got hugely distracted as a result, eventually allowing Cleveland to tie the game -- which they then won in the 11th inning, putting the Indians up 2-0 in the series.
The reason for the invasion was apparently due to the warm weather, which tricked the nasty little bugs into waking up and climbing out of Lake Erie long before they were supposed to do so. If global warming is responsible, then I think it's important to note that global warming meant the Yankees lost, and as such can't be all that bad.
That aside, though, I have to say the baseball was a lot more interesting with the attacking hordes of mayflies. One of the glorious things about football, of course, is that it is played in pretty much every type of weather -- and bad weather is actually welcomed, as it will make the game more interesting and will heighten the excitement of the fans. I don't see why baseball can't do the same thing. Teams don't necessarily have to play amidst a swarm of locusts, of course, but some sort of additional elements out of the teams' control would really make things interesting. Especially because the games ... just ... drag ... on ... regardless of whether they actually go into extra innings or not. We saw how that happened in the Yankees-Indians game tonight. I swear, it took a good five or six minutes just to get through one at-bat.
TO: The Big Ten Network
FR: Benjamin Kepple
I note with displeasure reports that suggest key Big Ten football matchups, such as the upcoming game between Michigan and Michigan State, may be broadcast on the Big Ten Network (BTN) while millions of Big Ten alumni in the Midwest and elsewhere cannot get the channel through major cable systems. I would have thought by now you would have seen reason and figured out a way to correct this market inefficiency. Amazingly, however, you have not yet done so.
I trust you will correct this state of affairs in short order through coming to an equitable agreement with the major cable carriers. Of course, I realize that actually doing so would require a modicum of competence in the business arena, something I have not yet seen from you. In fact, your decisions thus far make me wonder whether you folks are simply staggeringly incompetent at what you do for a living, or whether you are the embodiment of some ancient evil whose capacity to inflict mayhem and suffering nears that of Lucifer himself. I mean, come on. You're dealing with Comcast and Time Warner, for Pete's sake. How in the name of God could you manage to end up being the bad guy here? Yet through your wretched stubbornness, you have. Jesus.
Now look. There's nothing wrong with your idea the BTN should be on expanded cable. However, you are deluding yourselves if you think the cable systems will pay $1.10 per Midwestern subscriber per month on a basic tier. I haven't heard whether you've expressed willingness to budge on this, but why you even thought you could get away with this suggests you were higher than a Michigan freshman on the first Saturday in April when you came up with that.
I also note you want the BTN carried outside the Midwest and want to charge $0.10 per subscriber for it. I admit I don't know if this is extravagant or not. However, with so many channels available I think people wouldn't mind paying a dollar or so for all the proposed collegiate networks combined, so maybe that would work. Besides, if it's an issue, I am sure you could convince the cable networks to drop some annoying networks, or put THEM on a special tier. (As Ryan Masse of the Badger Herald put it, "I would love to jettison Lifetime, Oxygen, etc. to a special women’s tier and not have to pay for them anymore. You could do the same with a men’s tier of Spike TV, Vs., etc.") And if the BTN just absolutely has to go on a special tier outside the Midwest, given in to the cable networks' demands and go for it. I'm willing to pay extra for it. And at this point, you're probably bleeding red ink because you're running a network nobody can see.
So, fix this, please -- and soon, because you're not operating from a position of strength. The games everyone wants to see, after all, are going to pass quickly -- and after that you'll be left with basketball and ice hockey, which aren't as popular as college football. If you go into summer with the situation as it is now, you're really going to be in trouble. So make a deal while you still can, or the BTN will end up dead on arrival. Although I have to admit, at this point, I don't think I'd be shedding any tears were that to happen.
AS A FAN of small weddings, I must admit I am sympathetic to a recent argument which writer Jeffrey Strain put forward, in which he asserted the typical wedding -- which now reportedly costs some $35,000 -- not only ends up putting a strain on couples' finances, but also represents a potential long-term forbearance of at least $1 million. Mr Strain notes that three-quarters of all couples either don't set a wedding budget or fail to stick to the plan they had originally set out.
This, I am sure, is not welcome news to the romantics among us, who like to believe that love conquers all and is the most powerful force in the universe. While I myself do have a romantic streak -- it now resides, supressed, in the deeper recesses of my cold heart -- I also know that love is not the most powerful force in the universe. Oh, no. The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest. And Einstein said that, not me, so clearly this sentiment is correct and true.
That said, I must say I know few couples -- actually, no couples -- who have actually had a truly ostentatious wedding. In fact, all my married friends have had relatively simple weddings, with relatively small to medium-sized guest lists, perfectly acceptable but not over-the-top banquets and receptions afterwards, and clever money-saving ideas folded into the mix. For instance, one couple I know had their post-wedding reception at the home of the bride's mother; another couple had a pleasant lunch reception following the grand affair; and a third arranged cut-price hotel rooms for their guests. As amazing as it might seem, all these weddings worked out perfectly and the marriages have been strong as granite. So the idea a couple must spend oodles of money to have a great wedding seems a bit much to this observer.
Of course, as a man, I realize my opinions count for little in this arena. After all, weddings are not about men, whose idea of a good wedding typically involves plenty of liquor, a love-den for the honeymoon night and a ceremony that does not conflict with major sporting events. This helps explain why if one picks up a magazine or book devoted to weddings, one will be hard-pressed to find any pictoral evidence that a groom is even necessary for a good wedding. This also helps explain why men, no matter how modern and beta-male they may be, will find themselves pushed to the limits of their sanity and well-being should they "help out" with the wedding plans. These things, in an ideal world, would be left to the bride, the bride's family, and the bride's female friends, for whom weddings are of the utmost importance.
That said, I do think it important for a man and woman to be cognizant of the financial implications of their wedding. For instance, a man should -- wait for it -- save for the engagement ring, allowing him to ask for his lady's hand without putting himself in hock for the next several years. A man should also make a point of saving for other wedding-related expenses, like a honeymoon. Starting and regularly funding a separate account for these expenses, I think, could prove to be a real life-saver down the line. Even if the contributions started out small, it would grow over time, and if the man found he didn't get married, he could then invest the money for his retirement. Or, he could blow it all on several truly amazing descents into debauchery of classical proportions; either way, it's a win-win.
Things are a bit murkier for women, I suppose, and I realize much depends on whether a bride's family can cover most or all of the expense of a wedding. Of course, even if the family's resources are limited, I don't see why that should take away from the ceremony itself. There's nothing wrong with a simple ceremony. Conversely, a lavish ceremony is great for a day but can clearly have deleterious effects down the line -- I recall one couple whose lavish wedding was profiled on television a while back, but despite spending an alarming amount of money, they had nothing left over for a honeymoon! Truly this was an unfortunate circumstance, and one which even the most devoted wedding planner would have to admit would not be a desirable thing.
IN 1969, ONE OF the Steelerettes -- the Pittsburgh Steelers' cheerleading squad -- approached Mr Rooney, the team's owner, and requested the squad be allowed to wear more revealing clothing. The cheerleader pointed out that street fashion was more liberal than the outfits the squad was wearing, and suggested the squad change its look accordingly.
After Mr Rooney heard out the cheerleader's request, he called in the team's business manager for a private talk. The title to this post is reportedly Mr Rooney's reaction to the cheerleader's idea, as recounted in this excellent column by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Chuck Finder detailing the history of the Steelerettes, the NFL's first cheerleading squad. Mr Rooney was a bit old-fashioned, you see.
Of course, the fact Pittsburgh doesn't have cheerleaders is a point of pride for Steelers fans. As a perennial football powerhouse for more than three decades, we do not need cheerleaders to distract the fans from the action on the field. Furthermore, not having cheerleaders shows we're all about bare-knuckle, physical football, which given our history is how we should be.
On a related note, it is worth noting that Pittsburgh fans are up in arms because -- wait for it -- we now have a mascot. I am among this group. A mascot would have been OK if he did cool things, like stomp on an effigy of Peyton Manning or beat up Pat Patriot in an Oregon Duck-style slapfest. But our new mascot has not done any of these things. In fact, it's hard to tell why we have the mascot in the first place. Also, the mascot's name of "Steely McBeam" is particularly unfortunate.
But in further proof America is the greatest nation on God's green earth, clever Steelers fans have come up with money-making ways to share their displeasure: namely, through creating merchandise. Perhaps my favorite site selling such products is Steely McStupid, which advises that Steelers fans don't need no stinkin' mascot. This site, meanwhile, features apparel with the legend "McBeam McSucks" on it. Alarmingly, this line of apparel also includes thong underwear with the slogan. As I think all readers can agree that might lead to some, uh, interesting circumstances down the line, I would suggest readers stick with the sweatshirts.
AS I NOTED in this space back on July 10, football is eminently superior to baseball -- and the proof could be seen in each sport's respective choice of post-season pitchman. I was certainly not the only one to realize this, and tonight I found another good example. Ross Douthat, writing for The Atlantic back in September, also noted this unfortunate circumstance and provided video evidence showing why football rules.
On a related note, one of these aggravating baseball commercials out now features baseball's pitchman -- the alleged comedian Dane Cook, who's kind of like that guy who plays Bergwood in the Allstate commercials but isn't nearly as funny -- going on about the opening American League series. These will feature Boston v. Los Angeles, and New York v. Cleveland, and in a nails-on-chalkboard voice Mr Cook informs us these are matchups one can't miss.
To Mr Cook, I would say: watch me, schmuck.
Again, I would ask: what the hell was Major League Baseball thinking when they decided to anoint this scoundrel their post-season pitchman?
SO TONIGHT I GOT A NICE IM from my good friend Matt (REDACTED), who politely asked me to, in his words, "FIX YOUR GODDAMN COMMENTS." I responded as one might have expected: "Your message is important to us! I'm sorry, but all representatives are busy assisting other readers." Then, I learned that Mr (REDACTED) had issued an Open Letter to this effect, complaining that important issues of the day (e.g., that brain-eating amoeba thingy) were being left uncommented upon, etc. etc.
Anyway, as Mr (REDACTED)* and I discussed, Mr (REDACTED) will take a shot at fixing the comments, and if he succeeds, he will receive my everlasting thanks. Well, actually, I have to buy him an appetizer of his choice the next time we go out to eat. An appetizer I can't share. This seemed fair, though, and I went along with it, particularly since he was initially demanding dinner. However, rest assured I do plan to ensure we won't dine at any place where the appetizers include Sevruga or anything like that.
If it DOESN'T work, of course, it's entirely feasible the site could blow up. So we're waiting on this until I can back up the files accordingly.
* Mr (REDACTED) has politely asked me not to mention his last name, because doing so apparently sends Google's all-seeing eye gazing in his direction. As Mr (REDACTED) is an attorney, this fills him with fear and dread. Not enough fear and dread for Captain Anonymous to not video blog, but enough fear and dread to ask that his friends acquiesce to his demand for semi-anonymity.
SO REMEMBER THAT impassioned post I wrote a while back about how my glorious alma mater, The University of Michigan, called me and asked me for an absurd amount of money, and I said No! because I was angry about the football program? Well, that and the fact I'm a notorious cheapskate? Well, dig this: the University of Michigan sent me an athletic-themed fundraising package this past week.
Not only did this pleasant missive include a keepsake photo of Michigan Stadium -- although, for reasons I don't entirely understand, a photo in which the Big House is empty -- it also included plenty of information about how joining the University's alumni association would save me Big Money on athletic tickets and all sorts of other athletic-themed stuff. I can join the alumni group for just $59 per year -- and a single life membership can be mine for just $950! I'm still not sending them any money, of course, but you have to give them credit for their tenacity, the scoundrels.
Actually, I have to admit that for a moment, I was tempted to go for it, but a few seconds later my reason kicked back in and I realized that encouraging alumni to reminisce about big football games and other athletic joys was simply a trick the school uses to suck in unwary donors. I just wonder how my fellow alumni -- particularly those facing a crushing burden of student debt -- take these fundraising calls and letters.
I mean, I'm serious -- my school is shameless. For instance, a while back they sent along a nice notepad -- I use it for writing down notes here at the computer -- that is personalized with my information. Naturally, I used the thing -- and discovered that halfway through, they had slipped in a solicitation form asking for donations! Truly nothing is off-limits for these folks.
SO LAST WEEK I got a call at work from a nice lady who, after some pleasant opening chit-chat, asked if I had remembered speaking with her about a year or so ago. Thinking it was a professional contact, I admitted I had not; this is not unusual, though, given the hundreds of people with which I speak. But then the conversation took a different and admittedly somewhat alarming tone. How, she asked, was my mortgage working out? Oh, well -- eh? What did you just say?
Well, Ben, the 2/28 mortgage you signed up for last year.
"I don't have a mortgage."
Oh! So you paid off the property?
The property you -- wait, is this Ben so-and-so?
"No, this is Ben Kepple."
As you've deduced, our caller had somehow been directed to me, Benjamin Kepple, and not another guy in the building named Ben. I guess she was a mortgage broker and trying to find folks with adjustable mortgages wishing to refinance their loans. After clearing up all the confusion, and me agreeing to transfer her to the correct Ben, she asked ME if I wanted a mortgage! I mumbled something to the effect of a) No and b) the market's crazy. I swear, I sometimes wonder if this whole housing mess is still going to get worse before it gets any better.
SPEAKING OF ODD SOLICITATIONS, I got a very nice e-mail this week from the Grand Rapids Rampage, the Arena Football League squad based in Michigan's second city. I had attended a game there on my vacation and enjoyed it very much. Oddly, though, this somehow got me on the "Maybe You'd Like Season Tickets!" e-mail list. My question is this: since the Rampage folks probably had my physical address as well as my e-mail address -- if I recall right, I had to submit both when buying the ticket on-line -- why wouldn't they notice that I lived, oh, roughly 884 miles away from the arena?
That said, I have to say Grand Rapids' e-mail was great -- very polite, informative, and interesting. Also, I would have definitely sprung for a season ticket if only I lived within one hour, and not 13 1/2 hours, of the venue. Michigan residents who DO live within an hour or so's drive of Van Andel Arena -- that would be YOU, residents of Kalamazoo, Holland, Muskegon, Big Rapids, and places in between -- should buy season tickets. Trust me: it is good football and fun to watch. Plus, the prices are insanely cheap. $202 gets you a lower-bowl season ticket to all eight home games AND a first-round playoff ticket.
Of course, that's assuming the Rampage make the playoffs, something they haven't done since 2003. But they do have a new coach, and they did win the whole enchilada back in 2001, so there's hope. I know things are tough in our home state right now, and that lots of folks don't have an extra $202 (or more) for season tickets. But upper bowl tickets are just $135 for the whole season. Speaking as a Midwesterner, we all know how important football is, and so I would encourage you to support this worthy local franchise. At least give it a try and go for one game. You'll have fun! (Also, parking is super easy, the arena is very nice and Grand Rapids has REALLY turned itself around).
RANT READERS may have noticed the NFL's big push this month to market the glorious sport to Hispanics. The league has run commercials proclaiming Hispanic Heritage Month and some funny spots showing a marriage-counseling session in which a wife breaks down in tears upon learning her husband likes American football. On one Sunday Night Football broadcast, NBC went so far as to refer to the Vaqueros de Dallas v. Osos de Chicago matchup, and mentioned the Spanish feed viewers could pick up.
This is all well and good, but if the NFL really wants to generate popularity for the sport, put a team in Mexico City. I mean, come on, wasn't the one game held there last year a smashing success? Didn't it sell out Estadio Azteca? Didn't the stadium hold like 90,000 people for the game? I mean, come on -- let's do this and get a team in Mexico City, where one belongs. Put the team in the NFC South (because that will spur some great rivalries) and go for it. Having a 33rd team in the league shouldn't cause too many scheduling issues, television deals could easily be worked out with Televisa, and the league would tap into a huge new market. Let's strike while the iron is hot. And if you need to balance things out, give Los Angeles a team -- they've been a football desert for years.
Anyway, speaking of football, the Cincinnati-New England game's about to start, so I must dash. But to recap: football is good, especially in spring and in Mexico City, but isn't enough of a motivator for me to give money to my old school. And go ... Patriots ... Bengals ... Patriots ... Bengals ... oh, at least put up a fight tonight, Cinci. Gawd.