Sunday, December 25, 2005

My Sunday Feeling-The Christmas Edition

     It is Christmas Day.  Earlier in the morning (and late last night) I was struck by how utterly silent the world around me seemed to be.  I live a couple of houses away from Van Buren Street which is one of Little Rock’s major arteries.  Or was back in the day.  Anyway, I got in last night around 9 or so.  I poured myself a glass of bourbon and went out to the porch swing where I listened to the wind chimes and looked at the lights on the houses here on my little street.
     You might have guessed.  We did not get any snow or ice this year.  Thank God.  It was probably in the forties when I was on the porch.  Much better.  Nothing that a golf windbreaker and a glass of Knob Creek straight up can’t defend against.  I thought about smoking a cigar an occasional vice in which I indulged up until they discovered that I have a mild case of asthma.  I refrained.  Still, one cigar a year won’t kill me.  Maybe I will have one tonight with my brothers.
     Christmas is different this year.  One reason is because for the first time in 3 years I have not injured myself in some major fashion.  Two years ago, I scratched my hand on my gate Christmas night.  This seemingly innocuous little injury turned into an infected hand which damn near resulted in my getting hospitalized.  After two rounds of penicillin and 3 months of physical therapy, I regained about 90 % of the full use of my right index finger.
     Last year, I slipped on the ice the night before Christmas Eve and wound up with bruised ribs.  Let me tell you.  If bruised ribs hurt like that, I cannot imagine how bad cracked ribs are.  The damn things still hurt when I play golf in cold weather.
     Dr. GG has opined that these incidents represent self-destructive gestures summoned forth by my complete disdain for the holidays.  Maybe so.  Maybe no.  But, so far so good this Christmas.  We are not completely out of the woods yet but I like my chances so far.
     This Christmas, more so than any other in my memory, has been darkened by sickness and death.  My friends and I are at that stage in life where our elderly loved ones are breaking down.  LS’s mother was found passed out on the floor last Wednesday.  Turns out she was in a diabetic coma which they were able to reverse after two days in the ICU.  JY’s father had a shoulder replacement the same day.  I’m not really sure if my brother Dave of the Ozarks will be here for Christmas dinner.  Just before Thanksgiving, his father-in-law was diagnosed with a pernicious form of leukemia.  Mr. Domeny was given a couple of months.  Which should be right about now.  So we shall see.  Mother is still hanging in there although it is no fun being the prisoner of a neuromuscular disease and depression.  She will feel like coming tonight or she will not.  So it goes.
     My cousin once said that this is the part of adult life nobody taught us how to do.  Truer words were never spoken.
     And even though this Christmas has been really different for me, and not just because-knock on wood- I haven’t hurt myself per usual it hasn’t been bad.  Loved ones from both near and far have been calling.  LS called to see if she could come by for some gin if she needed to get away.  Sure thing.  Sounds like she could use a break.  Marge called from Jackson.  Judy called from Wilmette where it is a relatively balmy 38 degrees.  I talked to Hugh’s daughters.  E-mails came in from Greenville, Seattle and Memphis.  A text message just rolled in from Pasadena.  After that, another one appeared from San Antonio.
     Last night I went to Mass with the Straessles.  Afterwards, I went to Phil and Karen’s for dinner.  Their young friends Matt and his wife (whose name I forget.  I think it is Amy.) were there.  We ate, drank, told lies and fooled around with their new Powerbook.  And after that I repaired to the swing.
     Speaking of Marge, she and I found it amusing that the non-denominational “megachurches” in both our towns were closed Christmas Sunday while her Episcopal church and my Methodist Church were open for business as usual.  
     “Look, Marge,” I said.  “They may be a bunch of Bible banging hypocrites who believe that human history started 5 years ago but bidness is bidness with those guys.  If they can’t get the “meat in the seats” they aren’t gonna be able to rake in a sufficient collection to justify heating and lighting their big-assed structures.”
     “ Well,” she said.  “I guess the Episcopalians and the Methodists will fling the door wide tomorrow anyway despite the fact that we may lose money on the deal.  I guess we got our perspectives all out-of-whack.”
     I guess so.  In any event, I got blessed by the Catholics last night. I took communion with the Methodists this morning.  And I put some extra money in the plate at both places.  I don’t want anybody losing money on account of my spiritual needs.
     Even as I write this, my little house is filled with the smells of the pies I baked last night and the racks of ribs that are cooking out on the deck in the big Holland grill.  I remember there was a time, back before he and Ann had four kids, Steve Straessle would practically materialize a la “Star Trek” when he smelled my Christmas ribs.  I still halfway expect see him out there on the deck when I go back out to check on them.  An NBA game is on the tube.  There are presents under the fichus tree that I have festooned with lights.  We will have Christmas at John’s around five.  The little boys will have plenty of presents including a sack of oranges Phil and Karen gave me to pass out to them.  There will be plenty to eat and drink.  I will probably smoke that cigar.  
     Everything will be just fine.
     It has been a hard year.  But, for the most part, my loved ones and I have survived the year intact.  We still have each other.
     Like I said, everything will be just fine.
     Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My Sunday Feeling

Christmas Comes But Once Again. Thank God. - Yesterday’s game plan was to finish up Christmas shopping once and for all. Yesterday seemed to be the perfect opportunity for it since I only had a few more items and it was too cold to do anything useful. Like play golf.
As you may have deduced by now, Christmas is not exactly my favorite time of year. In fact, I pretty much hate it. The only reason I tolerate the damn thing is that I enjoy getting stuff for my nephews and my friends. And I enjoy going to church on Christmas Eve. But that’s about the extent of it.
Earlier this year, I had thought seriously about going to New Orleans by myself in order to ride the holidays out under a table at the Napoleon House. Maybe go play golf at Audubon Park. But Katrina changed all of that. Although I am reliably informed that the French Quarter is pretty much back to normal, the notion of spending Christmas surrounded by so much misery and devastation was crushingly depressing. Much more so than being here even. A friend of mine says about his marriage, “As long as they keep making whisky I can handle anything.” That’s the way I view Christmas.
One of the things I don’t understand is people who actually enjoy Christmas shopping. I know any of a number of folks-mostly women-who love to get out there and get shoulder to shoulder with their fellow man. Not me, I hate it. But while I realize that the easiest thing in the world would be do it all online, I feel this obligation to support local merchants as much as I can. I mean, I live here, not in Seattle where Amazon’s corporate headquarter is located. Which results in my getting out there and fighting the rest of the proletariat for parking places and stuff on shelves as bad as I hate it.
The phone rang as I was preparing to head out. It was my brother John. He was en route to Jonesboro to join his wife’s family for early Christmas. When he asked me what I was up to, I told him that I was going shopping and that, as per usual, I was looking forward to the day’s activities as much as I am looking forward to my colonoscopy later this month.
“Tell you what, “he said. “I’ll trade ya. I’ll go do your shopping. You go to Jonesboro.” Good point.
Which only proves once again that you don’t have to look too awful far to find someone whose troubles are worse than your own.
Anyway, he wanted me to find “a little red dump truck” for him to give to Max, our youngest nephew since I was free to move about on that day while he was sentenced to endure Craighead County. Hey, no prob. How hard could that be?
Famous last words.
I went first to a local toy store in the neighborhood. They had trucks, all right: Trucks and front-end loaders and earthmovers all made by some German toy company I had never heard of. Not a one of ‘em was priced below 50 bucks. This is a hell of a lot of money to spend on something a three year old will leave out in the rain.
So I headed west to Toys-R-Us. A buddy of mine in Los Angeles called while I was tooling down the Interstate. He said he once got asked to leave the Toys-R-Us over by him one Christmas. Seems the one he went to back when the girls were little stayed open all night. So he would go around one in the morning so as to avoid the crowd. The problem was that he would invariably go after consuming much Holiday cheer. Usually, this only resulted in him buying too much stuff. But what got him thrown out was the night he puckishly asked a clerk where he could find the sex toys at Toys-R-Us.
It is Yuletide memories such as these that will sustain us in our golden years. Unfortunately, I was sober yesterday and in no mood to be creating any such memories.
Once inside the goddamn place, and much to my pleasant surprise, I quickly found a miniature football that was on my list. I then went in search of a “little red truck.” Again, all that was offered there as well were reproductions of large earth moving type heavy equipment and all of them sporting hefty price tags. So, I thought I would just buy my little football and look for the “little red truck” elsewhere.
That was until I saw the check out line which snaked from the checkout stands all the way to the back of the store. No lie; there must have been 80-90 people in line to buy shit. This gave rise to another Christmas memory.
I had never darkened the door at Toys-R-Us until I got myself involved with the mother of two small children a couple of years ago. My job was to drop her off and to park the car. Next I would go inside, push the cart and reach the stuff on the top shelves. Then I would carry the stuff out. We would do this at least a couple of weekends each Christmas. I endured this not just out of love and devotion but because it made her happy and resulted in her bragging on me to her mother and to her girlfriends. That and she let me sleep with her.
But you know? She is no longer in the picture. And it occurred to me, as I stood there in that interminable queue of humanity, every other one of them yammering on a cell phone, that with her exodus also went any compelling justification for my putting up with this indignity just to buy little Max a football.
And so, I tossed the ball into a bin with a fey, offhand flick of my wrist and I blew Toys-R-Us, hopefully never to return.
Last night, I found a little red dump truck on Amazon for 15 bucks. It will arrive at John’s house, gift-wrapped and everything by next Wednesday.
I tried to shop locally. It’s just not worth it.
I betcha I could get sex toys on Amazon as well. But I haven’t looked.

Yippie-Yi-Oh-Kiyay Department- I don’t think that gay folks can seriously claim that they are underrepresented in the media given the recent glut of films featuring gay subject matter. There is “Capote” about which need I say more? There is “Family Stone, this year’s Christmas tearjerker that has a family member who, not only is gay, but is deaf to boot. As if this were not enough, the writers have him bringing home his black partner with whom he intends to adopt a child. There is a movie coming out-you should pardon the expression-about a man whose plans to become transgendered are momentarily put on hold when his long lost son reemerges just prior to surgery. No lie.
But the one generating the most buzz is the so called “gay cowboy” film “Brokeback Mountain.” While this film has received much critical acclaim as a work of cinematic art, I also wonder what Mel Brooks would have done with this material. I could see the likes of Nathan Lane in chaps yodeling to songs by Cher, Brooks would have him fussing neurotically over the placement of objects in the bunkhouse and referring to the ole Rio Grande as the Rio Fabulous . And so on.
I probably won’t see it. Not because I am a homophobe or anything. I just refuse to take seriously the premise of two rough hewn guys like the two in Brokeback Mountain who are tragically forced to accept their lot in life which happens to include being stuck with a couple of hot women.
I tell you a movie I will see though. I will go see “The Producers” which is the musical version of the old Mel Brooks movie that starred Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder. The new movie has Nathan Lane in it. Nathan Lane could make “Death of a Salesman” funny.
I may go see the movie about the transsexual though. That one sounds even more fucked up than the notion of gay cowboys.

The Mitch Mustain Watch- If boy wonder Mitch Mustain does decide to go somewhere other than the U of A-and even Wally (who touted him as a Heisman candidate last summer) is starting to sound like it’s a foregone conclusion at this point. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth and all that-then I have the following question: Who was the genius up there on the Hill that decided it was a good idea to fire the coach that recruited the kid?
And that’s all for this Sunday. I have to go to the Mall. Pray for me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


That last post looks like a train wreck. I wrote it on Word and then sent it to Blogger. Usually the code translates over very well. I don't know what happened.

At any rate, it is unfixable at this point in time. Well, the truth of the matter is that I just don't want to fix it tonight.


Random Thoughts While Downloading Courtney Love Off The Internet

  1. ALL THINGS MITCH MUSTAIN ALL OF THE DAMN TIME-  Boy, the chat rooms, bulletin boards and radio call-in shows are abuzz about the news that Springdale High quarterback Mitch Mustain has withdrawn his oral commitment to Arkansas in order to look at other schools.  Most of the callers I heard were high-pissed that this kid would even consider forsaking the good ole U of A for Tennessee or Notre Dame.

Even Wally Hall got into the act in this morning’s Democrat-Gazette.  Wally, whose finger is always gauging the breeze, came down squarely on both sides of the issue.  He conceded that the young man had every right in the world to look at other schools.  However, Wally took it upon himself to counsel Mustain against the two schools he is rumored to want to visit.  Notre Dame is a bad choice because it has too many freshmen quarterbacks coming in.  Tennessee would be an even worse choice, in Wally’s view, because Mustain would be booed unmercifully by Hog fans who would not soon forgive his treachery.

Look, this is ridiculous.  The kid has a right to go where he feels he will be happiest.  If that’s Tennessee,great.  If it’s ND, cool.   I’ll bet that at least a third of the idiots calling for Mustain’s treasonous head never even friggin’ went to college.   This is football, people.  If one freshman player can make or break your squad of 45 guys (or whatever it is) then your team’s problems are worse than what that one guy is gonna be able to fix.

I remember when Keith Jackson outraged Hog fans all over the state when he chose Oklahoma over Kenny Hatfield’s 3 yards and a cloud of dust Razorbacks.  He is the color commentator for the Razorback games.  Houston Nutt himself transferred to Oklahoma State when it was clear to him that he couldn’t run Lou Holtz’s option game.  He’s now the Head Coach for God’s sake!

Everybody is going to live.  Get lives.  Chill.  Leave the kid and his Mother alone.

Act like adults.  Jesus.

  1. ANOTHER REASON TO HATE THE HOLIDAYS- Nowadays you are seeing lots of ads from some of the little towns in our fair state, urging you to come do your Christmas shopping there.  This morning I noticed that Camden now has one such ad.  The ad showed antique stores, cafes, gift shops etc.  But my favorite business that was proudly displayed was a pawn shop in downtown Camden that offered free gift wrapping.  I don’t know about you.  But nothing says Christmas for me like free gift wrapping for that second hand Glock 9mm.

  1. HUH?-  The Demzette ran a story last Sunday about the new illustrated version of the venerable old “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.  What the hell.  Maybe somebody will get around to setting the Oxford English Dictionary to music.

  1. HERE’S THE REAL REASON MITCH MUSTAIN SHOULDN’T GO TO TENNESSEE- Phil Fulmer screws with the quarterbacks too much.  And David Cutcliffe, the new Offensive Coordinator, has a bad ticker that he undoubtedly acquired while at Ole Miss.  Not a good combination.  Forget Wally.  This is why he shouldn’t go to Tennessee.  

  1. PAX TOOKIE-  The State of California executed Stanley “Tookie” Williams last night after about 20 years on Death Row.  Tookie, whom we all can agree had a really pussy nickname for a major criminal, was the founder of the Crips.  If that were not a sufficient feather in his cap, he was convicted of shooting four people to death.  I did not know this until today but back when Tookie was awaiting trial, the authorities learned of a plot to bust him out pendente lite, steal a prison bus and to shoot the cops guarding said bus. Suffice it to say, Governor Schwarzenegger viewed this plan as inconsistent with his historic claims of innocence and denied clemency.

Look, I am opposed to the death penalty.  While I believe that this is a punishment that society can mete out, I believe that it is unfairly done so.  I mean, is there any reason the Menendez brothers are pulling sentences while Tookie is no longer with us?  Further, punishment should be meted out swiftly.  I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago.  Neither was Tookie Williams.  

Having said that, and despite being opposed to the death penalty, I have always maintained if they are going to have capital punishment that some guys “got it comin.’  Stanley Williams had it coming.

I don’t care what Joan Baez says.

Finally, I want to take this opportunity to say good bye to a friend.  Well, not to a friend but to a friend’s blog.  Joy Ritchey has announced that she is pulling down the Arkansasmedia blog.  Joy’s blog was funny, smart and occasionally offensive.  It was one of the best ones around and I will miss it.  She said that it was taking too much of her time.  I don’t doubt that.  She worked hard and felt an obligation to her readers to put out a good product.  

She’s young and energetic.  Here’s hoping she recharges her batteries and comes back out here.

And that’s all for now.  I’m off to Camden to buy some pawn shop golf clubs so I can take advantage of the free gift wrapping.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

My Sunday Feeling

It is likely that Saturday brought mixed emotions to the Razorback faithful. For years now, the radio talk shows and the Internet have dumped a ton of withering criticism down upon the head of Houston Nutt for his refusal to hire an Offensive Coordinator.  Well, Nutt finally hired one, all right.  But in hiring Springdale High School’s Gus Malzahn, Nutt is turning the keys over to a high school guy who has never coached at the collegiate level, much less in a cut-throat environment like the SEC.  It is a pretty risky move for a guy like Nutt who is generally thought to be risk averse.  But Malzahn is not without his qualifications.

He is widely described as a brilliant offensive tactician. He has even written a book about the spread offense (a fact that has not escaped the attention of noted bibliophile Wally Hall) and is said to give lectures on the subject to coach’s conventions and the like.  His teams at Shiloh Christian and Springdale High School resembled the wehrmacht in their ruthless efficiency.  Indeed, Springdale not only went undefeated this year, but the mercy rule (in which the contest is ended whenever a team leads by 35 in the 4th quarter) was invoked in every game they played but one.  And the only reason it wasn’t invoked in that game was because the team was from Louisiana where they do not have such a rule.  If they are not the best high school team ever produced by this state I don’t know who else it could possibly be.

And let’s be honest here.  Coaching football ain’t exactly brain surgery.  I mean, you wouldn’t know it from all the hyperventilating going on out there about the admittedly sorry state of affairs out there in Razorbackland, but it is just a game.  How hard could this be? Besides now is a pretty good time to give something as crazy as this a whirl.  The defense ended the year pretty much as good as anybody in the SEC.  They finally found a competent quarterback in Casey Dick.  They play most of their games at home next year.  If you are going to think outside the helmet, now is as good a time as any.

Still, it is hard to view this recent hire as anything other than Houston Nutt punching the panic button especially in light of the recent news that his star recruit, Springdale quarterback Mitch Mustain has rescinded the oral commitment he made to Arkansas back in August.  I say that because while it is not unusual for a recruit to hijack an entire program in basketball, it is virtually unheard of in football where one guy can rarely make or break a team.  It is for that reason that I would be inclined to tell Mustain to buzz off if he thinks he wants to go elsewhere.  Either this kid is as good as they say (Wally started touting him for the Heisman last summer.  He ain’t that good.) or there is a serious case of brownout underwear up there on the hill.

Unfortunately, if recent history is any indicator, this decision to hire from the high school ranks may not improve the anxiety level up there.  Maryland hired Bob Wade from the high school level upon firing Lefty Driesell after the Len Bias disaster.  Wade lasted a couple of years before getting into hot water himself with the NCAA.  But the most famous example was Notre Dame’s hire of Gerry Faust from Moeller High School in Cincinnatti where he was almost unbeatable.  He had one good season before the Irish completely fell apart his final 2 years.  The excitable Faust just couldn’t relate to older players.  Or as one insider said of those years “Rah-rah don’t block and rah-rah don’t tackle.”

You can get by with a lot more “rah-rah” with high school kids then you can with jaded college guys.   But what the hell.  This may work out just fine whether Mustain shows up for work or not.

But the potential for an absolute disaster cannot be discounted.  Suffice it to say, the 2006 edition of the Arkansas Razorbacks will be really interesting.  

Merry Christmas Katie Hnida

Katie Hnida is an exceptional young woman by any objective criteria. Hnida was a soccer player who also loved football. And if you consider place-kicking playing football, she was pretty damn good at it. She was 27-28 in PATs and 3-3 on field goals her senior year in high school. She was invited to walk on at the University of Colorado by Rick Neuhisal who occupied the Chair of Football there in those days. In 1999, she was the second female to ever suit up for a Division I football game. Later that same year, she was the first woman to dress out for a bowl game. In 2002, she was the first woman to ever actually compete in a Division I game. By that time she had transferred to the University of New Mexico.

Gary Barnett inherited Hnida from Neuhisal when he took the Colorado job after Neuhisal left Boulder for the University of Washington. There was a difference of opinion as to why she wanted to transfer to New Mexico. Barnett at the time thought that it was nothing more serious than her not getting any playing time. Or as he rather infamously put it some time afterwards, “Not only was she terrible, she was a girl.” Katie had other reasons.

She said she had been raped by a teammate. She said she had been harassed. She became depressed. She felt she had to leave.

Last week, the University of Colorado fired Gary Barnett after about 8 years. The Katie Hnida mess-and the investigation it spawned, an investigation that uncovered the fact that recruits were being entertained by hookers during their official visits, among other hair-raising inducements- was not what got him canned. They never could prove that Barnett had any direct knowledge of any of the semi-criminal activities that were going on under his watch. This he somehow viewed as vindication of sorts. This is despite the fact that the President of the University, the Chancellor and the Athletic Director all resigned after these sordid activities were unearthed.

What got Barnett canned is what I refer to as the “Nolan Theory” which posits that you can be a high maintenance pain in the ass as long as you are winning and they don’t catch you with “ a dead woman or a live boy” in the immortal words of Edwin Edwards. No, they didn’t catch Barnett with anything but the Buffaloes did manage to get clocked in their last 3 games including a 70-3 shellacking by Texas. And this gave the Board of Regents the opportunity they needed to get rid of him.

It is funny now in hindsight. Barnett actually came to Boulder with a reputation as a reformer. It is true that he had done what many people had regarded as the miraculous in that his Northwestern Wildcats went to the Rose Bowl in 1997. But prior to turning around the Mildcats he had served as an assistant to the old Promise Keeper Bill McCartney Chair of Football when the Colorado Buffaloes were as well known for their off their off the field incidents as they were for their prowess on the field. Hell, McCartney’s daughter got herself knocked up by the quarterback. Talk about a metaphor!
Anyway, Barnett was there in those days and recruited some of those thugs. As Mike Lupica says, these guys don’t hire themselves. Whose idea was it to bring him back?

The Gary Barnetts of this world never learn. They never have to. He walked away from Colorado with 3 million in his pocket. He was not caught with a dead woman or a live boy. He will get another job in D-I because college athletics is a dirty business.

Katie Hnida went on to get her degree at New Mexico. She is a beautiful young woman who puts out that healthy glow God bestows on all healthy young people. It is my understanding that she gives talks on the issue of sexual violence. It would seem that she has pulled her life together. Good for her. As a man, I cannot imagine what she has gone through.

I hope that she lives a long and happy life. I hope she becomes a Mother and that she has sons. A young boy can learn a lot from a woman like her.

Merry Christmas, Katie Hnida. You are a better man than Gary Barnett.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Friendly Beasts

This is a picture of my 4 year old nephew Clarke. This was taken at the Christmas pageant at St. James United Methodist Church here in Little Rock. His father was stuck in California on business. So, Uncle tmfw and his camera got pressed into service. From the look on his face, Clarke had evidently just figured out who was behind the howitzer sized zoom lens that was around 20 yards away from him.

Clarke portrayed one of the “friendly beasts” that legend tells us that attended the infant Jesus at Bethlehem. He was a friendly beast of great dignity and wonder if I do say so myself. It must be noted that the costume designer for the production took a decidedly minimalist view of the characters as they wore these Mutant Ninja headbands along with their typical Christmas stuff. At least the bovine friendly beasts were so attired. I really couldn’t figure out what the rest of them were actually wearing but I am not terribly imaginative about these things.

I had not been to one of these productions in awhile. I had forgotten how little kids will make their entrances all the while looking for their parents in the audience. I had forgotten how kids, even though they are little Arkansans, still articulate diphthongs when they sing. I pronounce “mild” as “mahld.” They sang it as “my-yulled.”

I had also forgotten how rude people can be. They were having a bake sale in the narthex to raise money for the school. There were signs up in every entrance to the Sanctuary that said, “No Food or Drinks in the Sanctuary.” And yet, there were any of a number of people noshing down on stuff they had bought as if they were at a doubleheader at Ray Winder. Before the show, the Headmaster got up and made some announcements. First of all, she requested that all video recording devices be turned off as they had hired a professional videographer to shoot the pageant. I saw any of a number of people recording this speech for posterity on their camcorders.

But the most egregious example of what I am talking about occurred about halfway through the show when a guy showed up late, and came in a door behind me, about halfway through the show. He comes over to where I am standing, shoulders me out of the way, saying “Excuse me. I need to take some pictures.”

Now, I happened to be standing there armed with a Nikon D-70 with a zoom lens and elevated light bar. What the hell was I doing? Playing the harp? I started to stand my ground and to tell him-well, you can imagine what I was going to tell him-but what few gentler angels of my nature still inhabit me encouraged me to count to five. I was in church. It did not matter. His being an idiot was his problem (actually it was his wife’s problem). So I let it pass. I just moved over and resumed taking pictures while my tardy friend went to work with-you guessed it-a camcorder.

By the way, the phrase “gentler angels of my nature” is original. Can I write or what?

I pretty much have no use for Christmas. As I have said before it is venal and mercenary. And there is a lot of bad music. But “The Friendly Beasts” is not in that number. In fact, it is one of my favorite children’s hymns for the season. The first line-which is all the Friendly Beasts at St. James graced us with-goes:

“Jesus, our brother, kind and good,
Was humbly born in a stable rude.
And the friendly beasts around Him stood,
Jesus, our brother, kind and good.”

And here is the hymn tune if you still can’t place it. I apologize for the dreadful midi: The Friendly Beasts

I don’t know why I like this little hymn so much. Maybe it’s because the hymn describes Christ as our brother, kind and good. Or maybe it is because His place of birth is referred to as humble and rude. Maybe I just like it because it is stately enough to have been turned into an Episcopalian hymn by Ralph Vaughn Williams and yet it can be sung by babies.
Even babies wearing headbands with cow markings. Sir Ralph would not have approved, I’m sure.

But events like these are about the only reason to put up with the damn holiday. Rude parents or no.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Season's Greetings

As if I needed another reason to hate this time of year, it has recently been reported that evangelical Christians have been threatening local governments and commercial businesses with lawsuits if they persist in putting up “Holiday Trees” instead of Christmas trees or if they require their employees to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” instead of “ Merry Christmas.” Evidently, the dour yahoos who have the red-ass about this non-issue have retained an armada of lawyers to sue if this heinous practice is continued.

It would seem that there is some strain of thought out there in those places where I don’t hang out that there is a conspiracy afoot (and it’s always a conspiracy, right?) to sanitize the religious aspect of the holidays out of our public discourse. Or conversely, it is contended that this allegedly subtle form of secularizing the holidays commercializes it even further. As if that is even possible.
Or so I thought. There was an interesting article about this whole minor league brouhaha in yesterday’s New York Times. It was written by a guy named Adam Cohen which I commend to your attention by directing you here: This Season's War Cry: Commercialize Christmas, or Else - New York Times . Anyway, Cohen traces the history of Christmas in the United States and comes down to the conclusion that trying to force businesses to adopt the rituals and iconography of Christianity-and this here is what is referred to as a perverse result and as is the case with most perverse results it is exceedingly delicious-the yahoos in charge of this ersatz civil rights movement actually run the risk of commercializing it further.
Look, I don’t much care one way or the other although I will concede that it is just plain stupid to call a Christmas tree anything other than a Christmas tree regardless of whether it is in the courthouse square or erected up by the baptistery. But do we really need to clog up the courts by litigating this non-issue?
I mean, Jerry Falwell and Donald Wildmon and their ilk have every right in the world to go to the courthouse and give it a run. And I bet they don’t even much care if they lose. The Religious Right is the only organization in the history of fundraising that views getting clobbered in court as some sort of Pyrrhic victory. Which happens to them with something approaching frequency.

But I don’t get it. It’s not enough that they are trying to blow up science curriculums all over the country? They are not content to seek the intrusion of the state into the personal lives of men and women? Particularly women? Not to mention all the other dumb crap involving the public schools from prayer to banning books.

Isn’t this enough spurious litigation already for one little old fringy belief system? After being trounced by Tinky-Winky of the Teletubbies they are now going to take on Samuel Clements Moore? Are they not sufficiently pre-occupied?

Lord. I am so tired.

Anyway, read Cohen’s piece. I know what some of you are thinking. “A guy named Cohen writing for the New York Times. Let me guess how this article turns out.” Well, don’t be so hasty. I happen to know a guy named Cohen. He practices law in Ft. Smith. He’s a Baptist. You could look it up. Things aren’t always as they seem.

Oh. Happy Winter Solstice. See ya in court!

Sunday, December 04, 2005


     I just noticed this.  The headline that graces the picture of the triumphant Jermain Taylor in today’s Sports page reads “Undisputable.”
     Is that even a word?  After Jermain won the fight, the ring announcer described him as “still the undisputed middleweight champion of the world.”  This would make his status as champ either indisputable or undisputed.
     “Undisputable” is not in my dictionary.
     That just kind of jumped out at me as I glanced at the paper a minute ago.

My Sunday Feeling

I really don’t have much to allow today. It was a fairly uneventful week-Thank God- and nothing much transpired of any great import. Most people with nothing to say will keep their mouth shut. I am not one of those people.

Jermain Taylor Retains His Belt- Local product Jermain Taylor remains the undisputed middleweight champion of the world after outpointing Bernard Hopkins in a unanimous decision in Las Vegas last night. I did not see the fight-I can’t stay up that late anymore-but from the accounts in the paper and on, it was pretty much a repeat of last year’s bout with Taylor being the aggressor early on and with Hopkins finishing strong. From what I can deduce, Taylor did a better job of keeping busy in the final rounds in this fight than he did in the last. He also did a better job of not getting gashed up unlike the last fight. I guess it is easier to keep your legs under you when you are not bleeding from an open head wound.

While I am happy for the kid, I am even happier that we will be spared any further overwrought writing about the differences between the two fighters from Taylor’s unofficial publicist; Wally “Homer” Hall who I guess needed to fill the void in his life after Smarty Jones was put out to pasture. To hear Wally tell it, Bernard Hopkins is Satan incarnate. Indeed, the headline for Wally’s column today reads, “In good vs. bad rematch, Taylor just too good.”

Good vs. bad? Who wrote the hell wrote that?

Yes, Bernard Hopkins is an ex-con, a fact that was repeated without surcease by Wally all week. And yes, he is a menacing guy with a big mouth who said some incredibly stupid things in the weeks preceding last night’s fight.

But we have to bear something in mind here, folks. This is boxing. College and AAU basketball may be a cesspool but the integrity of the games themselves-a few infamous historic episodes notwithstanding- is not questioned. Fights are fixed all of the time in boxing. Boxing makes thoroughbred racing look straight-up. That is because boxing is full of hoods, con artists and assorted mob types. Twas ever thus. Just look at the audience ringside at most heavyweight bouts. It usually resembles an open casting call for “Boys in the Hood” meet “The Sopranos.”

Bernard Hopkins has been a model citizen since his release. He speaks openly and truthfully about his past. And despite his considerable reputation as a tightwad, itself unusual for your average profligate boxer, he gives generously to charities, many of them involving prison ministries and the like.

By the standards of the fight game, admittedly low as they are, Bernard Hopkins ain’t that bad. As mentioned above, he said some stupid things before the fight. But Bernard Hopkins is Noel Coward next to Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather Jr. And let’s not forget, he was the soul of sportsmanship and respect after the first fight until he perceived that he had gotten jobbed by the refs. Besides, I ask you: Who is a bigger jerk? Bernard Hopkins or Terrell Owens? TO by a knockout.

So, no. This was hardly a fight between “good vs. evil.” Or “good vs. bad” even. It was a match up between an aging veteran desperate to regain his belt and a nice local kid who has made good. Quite frankly, my hat’s off to both of them.

2) Football- Last weekend was a big one for college football. Texas annihilated Colorado while Southern Cal clobbered a very good UCLA thereby paving the way for the two undefeated teams to meet for the National Championship. Most people were hoping that the Men in Pastel from cross-town would give the Trojans a game but they meekly succumbed to the tune of 66-19.

Closer to home, LSU got whacked by Georgia in the SEC title game 34-14. Here’s how complete was the shellacking administered by the Bulldogs. I was able to persuade J, who is Bulldogus Fanus Maximus, to leave with me to go get something to eat before the game was over. This is basically unheard of in my brief experience with her.

If you want some cheap entertainment, get on any of the LSU bulletin boards after reading this. You think Razorback fans are crazy? Lack a sense of proportion? Basically have no life? A cursory look at the LSU boards will cause you to realize that the average LSU fan is a shrieking psychopath in comparison to his Hoghatted counterpart.

Oh, there is no joy in Tigertown. Which is pretty much ok by me.

And that’s about all I have to allow on this cold Sunday morning. As Tony Kornheiser says at the close of every “PTI”, we’ll try to do better next time.