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Archive for September, 2011

She Looks Harmless Enough

Who is the nice lady pictured here?   She is Olivia Cortes, who is a candidate for Russell Pearce’s seat in the Arizona State legislature.

Why then, is she testifying in court?   Well, the folks who circulated petitions to initiate a recall against Pearce think that she is running a sham campaign.   See, the other candidate in the race, Jerry Lewis (yes, that is his real name) is apparently a nice guy who has a good reputation in Mormontown–er-Mesa.  Lots of folks think his reputation is so good that he might be able to beat Pearce in the recall election.  So the folks who went to all the work to initiate the recall got just a bit suspicious when the name of one Olivia Cortes appeared on the ballot.   They got even more suspicious when they discovered that she has no campaign funds and no campaign manager.

The last straw was broken when signs bearing only her name began to appear in front yards all over Mormontown.   Signposters have to pay a fee to the city in order to be allowed to post signs, unless they are campaign signs.  And no such fee has been paid.   Nor does the name of any organization appear on the sign, which must happen if the signs are campaign signs.  So now the nice lady is testifying in court (you can read all about it at azcentral.com, the website of the Arizona Republic).

If you can call her words on the stand “testimony.”   She doesn’t know who filed her papers, who paid the necessary fees, who is managing her campaign, or who runs her website (hastily put up earlier this week).   The reporters who are covering the trial are all pretty sure that she is exactly what she seems to be–a nice but clueless lady who has been used cavalierly and terribly misled.

Odder still, the guy who she points to as the person who asked her to run says he doesn’t know the answers to any of these questions either.   Funny thing is, the guy has in the past been a vocal and active supporter of–guess who–Russell Pearce.

This stinks to high heaven.   Pearce obviously hopes that putting the name “Cortes” on the ballot will cause Hispanic voters to vote for her, thus taking votes away from Lewis.   The court case has rendered the ruse all but transparent, but so far nobody has admitted guilt of any kind.  Pearce must be hoping that people will forget about his blatant attempts to flout the will of the people when the election comes around in a month or so.   Just like Scott Walker and his pet leg in Wisconsin, and Rick Scott and his pet leg in Florida, and John Kasich in Ohio all hope that people in their states will forget their attempts to rig elections, deny people the right to vote, and steal money from poor people by the time elections roll around next year.

Have these people no decency?   At long last, have they no decency?

Nope.

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Go Big Black

No, that’s not Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on a game day.   It’s Camp Randall, home of the Wisconsin Badgers.   In case you haven’t heard (maybe you live on the side of a mountain?), Nebraska and Wisconsin play one another on Saturday night.

This game has already generated a lot of hoopla.  For one thing, Nebraska and Wisconsin are ranked eighth and seventh, respectively, in the polls.  For another, it’s Nebraska’s first football game in the Big Ten.  Nebraska has already competed in other Big Ten sports, of course.   The women’s volleyball team met and bested Penn State and Ohio State, for example.  But this is FootBall, the sport all the money is about and all the fans are crazy for, including your humble correspondent.

Nebraska fans are notorious for their willingness to travel to far-off places to see their team play.   Last week in Wyoming, for example, there were fully as many red shirts in the stands as there were yellow ones, and the university had to erect temporary stands in one end zone to hold all the Shucker fans who wanted to see the game.  I imagine Laramie’s bars were packed before, during, and after the game–and as you know, Trep, there are some great bars in Laramie.   Anyhow, NCAA rules say that a home team must only give the visitors 3000 tickets.  But some estimates say that nearly 20000 Nebraska fans will be present in the People’s Republic of Madison on Saturday.  Now there are other ways to get tickets (scalping is high on the list).   But there still won’t be enough tix for everyone who wants to see this game in person.  So the university of Wisconsin has cleared a cow pasture near the stadium, erected a huge tent, and installed several giant teevee screens on which fans of all stripes can watch the game being played just next door while they drink those wonderful Wisconsin beers and eat Wisconsin’s famous cheese.

Because Wisconsin’s colors are also red and white, Uncle Tom Osborne has asked the fans who can get into the game to wear black rather than red so the players can see they have support during the game.  There’s a reason for this:   Camp Randall is among the most raucous stadiums in the land.   Between the third and fourth quarters, for example, the band plays “Jump Around,” and the fans do that–literally.  According to sportscasters who have been there, the stadium literally rocks (which makes me think it might be safer to be in the tent).  Now if anyone but Tom Osborne had suggested this heresy, it might not fly.  But many fans already wear black shirts to support Nebraska’s defense, commonly known as the Blackshirts.  So it won’t be a great departure from tradition.  It does make me wonder, though, if those rumors about the black helmets . . . nah, can’t be.

I am alternately worried and sanguine about this game.  Long ago, when I first realized that life ain’t fair (I was fourteen at the time) I adopted a sort of mantra:   if something doesn’t work out, and you can’t change it through your own efforts, well, just move on.   No gnashing of teeth, no regrets.  The mantra worked very well for me throughout my working life, and so I’ll try to bring it into play on Saturday night.   I really want Nebraska to win this game, but, frankly, I don’t think they have a prayer in hell.  Wisconsin is very, very good, and this year’s Nebraska team is not one of their best (of course, Nebraska’s best is pretty damn good).   So I’ll settle for a good effort and sportsmanship, and all that other stuff we say about people who lose, in football or in life.

I was cheered to read a sentiment from Nebraska’s quarterback, Taylor Martinez.   When asked by a reporter if Big Ten foes were overlooking his team, Martinez said:  “I’m sure they are, but who really cares? We’re Nebraska. They gotta play against us.”

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Last night I watched Gus van Sant’s 1998 remake of the Hitchcock masterpiece Psycho.  Reading around the tubes today I see that most critics took a dim view of van Sant’s effort.  But I sort of liked the film.  Of course, the plot is familiar to anyone who saw the original back in early sixties, as I did, and so any remake inevitably loses the spectacular shock value of the ending.  I suppose van Sant was counting on the fact that contemporary young people might not have seen the original so they, too, might not realize what was coming.

Here’s a plot summary:   a secretary named Marion Crane (Janet Leigh, Anne Heche) is having an affair with a man named Sam Loomis (John Gavin, Viggo Mortenson).  She wants to marry Sam, but he is so bogged down with alimony payments that they have to put off getting married.   Later, at her place of work she is entrusted by her boss with a giant sum of money ($40,000 in the earlier version, $400,000 in the remake).   She decides to leave town with the money and begins a long drive on back roads.  We suspect she is headed toward her lover’s place.   During a serious rainstorm she stops at a motel out in the boonies–the infamous Bates motel.  There she meets Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins, Vince Vaughn), who tells her he lives just up the hill in a very spooky house with his invalid mother.  They talk (obviously Norman is lonely) and then she retires for the night.

Trep, I assume you have no interest in seeing either film, so I’ll give away the rest.  While our heroine showers, a figure enters the bathroom.  We see it only through the shower curtain.  Then the point of view returns to the figure–whoever it is–and the shower curtain is snatched aside.  Marion is stabbed repeatedly.  This leads to the famous scene wherein her blood slowly circles the drain of the tub, and then we get a closeup of her dead, staring eye.   Next, Norman rushes into the room and begins carefully to clean up.  He loads Marion’s body and all her stuff (including the stolen money, which she has wrapped in a newspaper) into the trunk of her car, and pushes the car into a pond.  The audience is led to believe that the murderer is Norman’s mother, whom Marion earlier heard yelling at Norman and calling him terrible names.

When Marion doesn’t show up for work her sister (Vera Miles, Julianne Moore) becomes concerned and hires a detective named Arbogast (Martin Balsam, William Macy).   Snooping around, the detective locates the Bates motel and is not satisfied with the answers given him by Norman, who seems uncertain and confused.   He decides to sneak up to the house, where he meets a bloody end.   Then the sister contacts Sam, and they conduct their own search of the place.  This was (almost) the scariest part of the original, as Sam keeps Norman occupied while the sister searches through the house where the audience knows that Arbogast met his end.  She hears Norman returning from the motel, and so she hides in the basement.  She comes upon what looks like a little old lady sitting in a chair with her back turned.  Thinking that this is Norman’s mother, she turns the chair around and we see–a mummy!

Turns out that Momma died some ten years prior to the setting of the film (probably killed, along with a lover, by her son).  Norman dug her up and kept her in her bed all that time.  He then began to assume her personality, which explains why Marion (and us) can hear a conversation between her and Norman as she listens at a window of the motel.   After Marion’s and Arbogast’s murders, there is a psychic break and Norman literally becomes his mother.

I saw the original when I was sixteen, on a double date.   None of us had any idea what we were about to see–I suspect the boys just wanted to get us girls into a dark place.  I’ll never forget the scene when Vera Miles swirls the chair around.  I remember screaming out loud, as did others all around me.  We expected a live killer mom to spring up from the chair, brandishing a knife, I think.  Instead, Hitchcock focused in on Momma’s mummy.   Recall, if you will, that none of us had seen anything like that at the movies before–the worst any of us had experienced prior to Psycho were Lon Chaney’s werewolves and the creature from the black lagoon.  And those were clearly monsters, unlike Perkins’ Norman, whom he portrayed in the early part of the film as a shy beaten-down loner.

Van Sant’s version of the film is nearly a shot-by-shot remake, which gives the film a certain frisson for those of us who are familiar with the original.   Critics who don’t like it point to two problems:   that it’s in color, and the casting.   I disagree about the first point.  The film is set in Phoenix, the land of bad taste, after all, and van Sant uses color–particularly in Marion’s clothing, to remind us that she is something of an airhead.  And I’m not sure young contemporary audiences would even to go to see a film in black and white these days.  However, the critics do have a point with the casting.  Viggo is great, as usual, playing Sam as a big dumb cowboy who has trouble staying out of the way of his own feet (Gavin was more dashing and a bit too cosmopolitan for 1960s Phoenix IMO).   And William Macy may even surpass the original in his portrayal of the shabby detective who covers over his self-satisfied cleverness with a beaming smile.   But Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn were the wrong choices.   For one thing Vaughn is very tall–he towers over Viggo by at least half a foot–and so he is sort of scary all along, unlike Perkins’ shambling, stuttering, loner who can barely string a coherent sentence together.   Nobody I know who saw the original suspected for a second that Perkins’ Norman was capable of bloody murder.

And Heche is just dreadful.  To illustate, I juxtapose stills of Leigh and Heche during the long drive, where a voiceover shares her mulling over her theft–should she continue?  or should she turn around and go back to Phoenix and confess to her boss?

Who looks more skittish and undecided?   And as a result, who do you care about more?

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Go Big Red!

Last night I watched a real treat:   Nebraska vs. Penn State in Big Red’s first Big Ten volleyball competition.  Now these are not just any volleyball teams.  Between them Penn State and Nebraska own the last five national championships, most of them earned by Penn State.   I know something about the competitive nature of PSU volleyball, having been privileged to work with several players in my classes when I taught there, and attending games in the rickety old basketball court/drafty hall in which they played.

Watching last night, I was astonished by the number and intensity of the fans present at the game, which was played in Lincoln.  The Coliseum has been refurbished into a stellar venue for volleyball, although the building itself was on campus when I went to school there some forty-plus years ago.  It holds about 4500 people, and it was jammed to the rafters.  The crowd was rowdy and loud and well-informed about the game.   The governor of Nebraska was there (can we imagine Jan Brewer in attendance at an ASU womens’ game?  or any game for that matter?).  When interviewed the guv crowed about “the girls,” as he persisted in calling them.  The Huskers are not just about football, he opined (which was more or less validated, I guess, by a shot of Nebraska’s quarterback, Taylor Martinez, in the crowd.  My opinion of Martinez improved by about ten points when I spotted him–BMOC are not obligated to do much of anything but accept praise from the multitudes, and yet there he sat, wearing his red “N” and cheering like everyone else).

Now you might think that women’s volleyball is popular in Nebraska because of the old canard that there’s nothing else to do in the state.  Maybe so.  I found a recent interview, though, wherein a sportswriter met some older women who live in the far western reaches of the state (“out in the Sand Hills” is the operative phrase).  They remembered playing volleyball back in the fifties.   The reporter conveyed this fact to us as though he had discovered an important piece of archeological data.

But I digress.  Last night’s game was a hummer.  The Nittany Lions were ranked fifth going in, and the Huskers were ranked tenth.  Nebraska took the first two sets, and then Penn State came back to take the second two.   The last set was neck and neck for the most part, and then Nebraska pulled it out with the final points.  Wow!   Volleyball has come a long way since the ‘fifties.  All of the women on the court last night were well over six feet tall and all were superior athletes.   What a pleasure it was to watch as they saved hard serves, set the ball, and then made a monster kill over the net.  The teamwork on both sides was marvelous to watch.  No wonder people love this sport.  It isn’t violent, and it involves far more team cooperation and planning than does basketball.  I found myself holding my breath when there were three or four returns on a serve, while each team vied to return in such a way that their opponents couldn’t reach the ball.

No wonder the governor of Nebraska likes volleyball.  Who doesn’t?

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In Case You Were Wondering . . .

As one Nebraska blogger captioned this pic:   “I love you too, but you still can’t have the ball.”

Just so you won’t be Trepidacious about our weekly phone call, Nebraska beat the U of Washington yesterday 51-38.   It was a wild game, as you can see by the score.   There is good news:   the offensive line looked sharp for the first time all season;   the quarterback has finally learned to slide at the end of a run so he doesn’t get all banged up;  and Nebraska’s running backs were able to run, and run, and run, hence gaining enough yardage for easy pass touchdowns and to eat up considerable clock time.   However the defense did not look good.   This is very hard for Nebraska fans to take because defense is the signature of Nebraska teams.  Of all 30 or so Huskers in the NFL, for example, only eight play on offense, and six of those are linemen (the exceptions are RBs Roy Helu and Brandon Jackson).  Nebraska really misses all those great players in the defensive secondary who went off to the NFL last year and are now sitting on the rookies’ bench in Washington DC and New Yawk City.   And the one remaining all-star cornerback, Alphonse Dennard, hasn’t played yet because of injury.  One hopes the defense will wake up by the time they play Wisconsin on October 1.

Now Washington is not a powerhouse team but they are respectable.  And because UW is from the PAC-12 Nebraska finally got some national coverage.  I’m convinced that ESPN has a pact whereby they never talk about or show highlights from any Big 10 teams unless they have to, because the Big Ten has its own teevee network.   Oh yes, they talk about Michigan once in awhile because Michigan sort of epitomizes college football, and they talk about Ohio State because its coach and players got into bad trouble with the NCAA last summer.   But Wisconsin is one of the best teams in the country, IMHO, and I had to look long and hard through my 700+ teevee channels yesterday to find even a mention of who they played or what the outcome was (they won big, of course).  There are other good Big 10 teams–Michigan State, Iowa, even Illinois this year (Illinois beat ASU handily yesterday, hee hee, thus knocking the Sun Devils out of the top 25 and confirming my hunch that they were overrated just because they have sexy new uniforms).

And speaking of uniforms, a deadly rumor is circulating on the Nebraska blogs:   the Huskers might wear black helmets for the Wisconsin game!   Wisconsin’s colors are also red and white, and so the black helmets with a red “N” might serve a useful purpose in that game.  But I hope the rumor isn’t true.   As I said in my post about uniforms, us old folks would be very sad, perhaps even occasionally confused, if the the Shuckers wear anything but the traditional red and white.

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The Reaming

Well, I survived.  Yesterday I underwent my first colonoscopy, and I fervently hope it is the last.  The eyeball results were all good–the docs and techs who looked at my insides all said they could see nothing wrong.  The gastroenterologist took a biopsy, which is standard, so I’m still awaiting the results of that.

Now this is not exactly a diverting topic, so, dear reader, you are forgiven should you wish to proceed no further.

Everyone I know who has undergone a colonoscopy says the prep is worse than the procedure.  The prep is indeed awful.   For one thing, there are a lot of things you can’t eat in the days prior to the procedure, including fresh vegetables, salads, fruits, nuts and seeds.  I can see the logic behind this list, but eliminating that stuff from one’s diet, especially if one is trying to cut back on fat and cholesterol, really reduces one’s options.   Then the patient is asked to fast for one whole day prior to the procedure.  I did okay with that, except at lunchtime, when my body reminded me of my cat:  “when’s lunch?  hunh?  hunh?”  All to the accompaniment of gargling sounds.   Later in the day, although the hunger pangs had dulled, I realized that my brain had slowed down–reading required much concentration, as did driving and talking on the phone.

At 5 pm, as ordered, I started drinking the electrolyte concoction the doc gave me.  I was expected to consume three liters of the stuff, which tasted like Alka-Seltzer used to, before the company got smart and flavored their product with lemon.   The taste wasn’t as bad, though, as the quantity I was expected to consume.   After two liters I sloshed when I walked.  By seven pm the stuff started to work, and after awhile I just took my book into the bathroom and remained there, rather than running to get to the john before disaster struck every ten minutes or so.

The next morning I rose at four to drink the final liter.   I had to start early because I was also having an endoscopy, and one risks aspirating anything that is taken by mouth less than three hours prior to that procedure.   Then I rinsed and repeated, as I had done the night before, until it was time to go to the hospital.

The canard about prep vs. procedure would be true, I assume, were the procedure to go well.   I had been told it would take forty minutes.  I was concerned because Desert Democrat was kind enough to drive me to the hospital, and I didn’t want her to be trapped in a hospital waiting room for many hours on a day when she can work from home.   So I was jazzed (and very hungry) when we turned into the hospital parking lot at 7:30 am, believing that the worst was over.  In a short while, the procedure would be finished, I’d be awake, and Desert and I would go out and eat a hearty breakfast.  Right?

Not.  As it turned out we spent a good part of the day there–I was finally released at 3 pm.  The last thing I remember before the procedure started is the tiny gastro doc smiling at me and assuring me things would be fine.  Next thing I knew, somebody was punching me in the stomach and somebody else was holding my arms and somebody else was sticking a telephone pole up my rectum.  I heard tiny doc saying “You must not fight!”  I may or may not have said “Fuck you.”

Out again.  I wake up in the prep room, Desert’s anxious face just a few feet from my own.   She tells me that they may have to do another procedure.  What?   Then tiny doctor arrives, smiling (how do they manage that?), to tell me that they hit a snag–literally–sort of like Mark Twain navigating the Mississippi.  Apparently there’s a funny turn in my colon at the point where the transverse meets the ascending.  The turn is so sharp that she can’t get the camera past it.   So they want to do a digital exam.  “Why didn’t you suggest that in the first place?” I want to ask, but at this point my mouth doesn’t seem to be taking direction from my brain.  I snooze a little, and wake again to see Desert trying to remain calm.  Seems that the digital machine is busy, but they can give me a barium enema that will do the trick.  The doc smiles her way back into the room, pats my foot with her tiny hand, and says this procedure will give her pix of the last five centimeters of my colon, which seem all of a sudden have become the most important five centimeters of organic material in my universe.  But we can’t get on the barium enema schedule until 1 pm.  She smiles and points out that now is the time to do this, my having completed the prep and all, and that we “don’t really want to go through all that again, do we?”

No we don’t.  So I grudgingly nod and fall asleep again.  When I wake I’m being wheeled into a very cold room with lots of very large machines.  I’m efficiently transferred to the X-ray table, IV hose and all, and then I’m told that this procedure involves yet another telephone pole, this one full of barium and air.  I ask “Will it hurt?”  and the tech just smiles.  (Where do they learn to do that?)   For the next hour or so, I am asked to lay on my side, my back, to turn over.  At the last command I do a spin move worthy of Reggie Bush on a good day–all with a telephone pole hooked to a cord hanging out of my nether region and a saline drip poked into my arm.  There are more cables and hoses on that table than there are in my Prius.

But we finally get the thirty or so pictures tiny doc wants, and I am allowed to hobble over to the bathroom, minus the pole but still trailing the IV.  They offer to wheel me back to the prep room but I spy my clothes neatly packed up under the bed and I snatch them, put them on in the john, and limp out of there as fast as I can.  The tech chases me down and insists I get in a wheelchair (why do they do that?).  When he wheels me into the lobby, Desert is at the desk, a worried look on her face.  Apparently this all took twice as long as she was told it would.

We got the hell out of there and I directed Desert to my favorite restaurant.  Turns out it closes at 2:30.  What a day!   So we made do with takeout vermicelli, sitting on a bench while it was being made ready, with me surreptitiously eyeing Desert’s right arm, wondering how it might taste.   We finally got home to eat around 5 pm and boy did that vermicelli taste fine.

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Thanks, Trep, for the wonderful colorful pix of the annual auto show.  I marvel at your confidence that fall is approaching.  Down here in the Valley of the Morlocks it has cooled off about ten degrees, to be sure.  So we’re in double digits again, which all us Morlocks take as a sign we can hike, play tennis, and go for walks again–if we do so before sunrise.

You should be glad you don’t have teevee, Trep.  Hence you don’t actually have to watch the seven Republican dwarfs fall all over themselves trying to behave like human beings.  Nor do you get to see the trolls and grognods in their in-studio audiences cheering on the deaths of uninsured sick people and death-row inmates.   Alan Grayson had it just right on Keith Olbermann’s show last night:   these people are not pro-life;   they are all about death.  Somebody else’s death.

Thank goddess for football.

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