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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Strange Things from the Really Surprising Things File

My wife is entirely unimpressed by my ability to sing “Every Which Way but Loose” while dealing out serious head-shot carnage in Fallout New Vegas.

Which is really surprising to me.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Test

The Broncos played well enough to win today. Almost.

The Broncos, though, were betrayed by a lot of little plays that, in themselves, wouldn’t lose you a game. Taken together, they killed an opportunity at a big, home-game win that might have helped the Broncos in a week where the rest of the AFC West lost their games. Instead, they lost. Here’s why:

Bad snaps. A bad snap early in the game killed off the chance at a short field goal. A bad snap on the last offensive play of the day for the Broncos got away from Kyle Orton and ended up in a turnover.

Dropped passes. There were a handful of potentially game-breaking passes dropped by the receivers. Drive extending passes that would have left less time for the Jets to mount their comeback in the end. Not a lot of them, but enough that it would have made a difference.

Bad passes. Orton was chased all day and some of the resulting passes were ugly. He threw into heavy coverage, he threw nowhere near open receivers, and at least once he didn’t deliver the ball quickly enough to take advantage of an open receiver.

Offensive line play. This young offensive line is struggling mightily. They didn’t do much to help the running game, they didn’t do much to help Kyle Orton, and they aren’t quite getting the job done. This remains the Broncos biggest problem area.

Missed field goal. After making a 59 yard field goal, Prater missed a 49 yard field goal. Those three points would have made a huge difference at the end. Instead of needing the touchdown, the Broncos would have been playing a very different game.

Wasting turnovers. The Broncos had three take-aways and only managed three points. When the defense gives you those kinds of gifts, the offense has to do its part. Today--and for much of the season--the offense didn’t come up with enough.

Bad turnovers. The Broncos’ first lost fumble came when the Broncos had just moved themselves into scoring position. Like the field goal, another three or seven points would changed the tenor of the game. The second lost fumble was the play that ended the Broncos’ day (see number 1 above).

The running game is still broken. They were better today, but it wasn’t enough. Too many strong first down rushes were followed by weak second down attempts leaving the Broncos in third and long. The Broncos running game needs to be better.

It was fun to see Tim Tebow contributing and I hope they keep finding ways to work him into the mix. Especially given the Broncos’ rushing problems, having a QB on the field who can help with the running game isn’t something that should be wasted. His rushing touchdown was a nice run and a great coaching call.

It was also good to see that the Broncos defense (playing a good portion of the day in 4-3 instead of 3-4) didn’t fall apart with all of the injury problems. Young players really stepped up and Martindale had them well-prepared. There were a few ugly bits (the final pass interference penalty, for one, and Tomlinson’s two touchdowns both looked too easy), but, on the whole, they played well and should be commended for the effort. The bigger problems were on the other side of the ball today.

The Broncos aren’t really a completely hopeless team. There is talent on the team in all phases of the game and some of the players look like they have great futures ahead of them. Still, looking promising and having talent don’t much compare to winning games. The Broncos need to start putting together better efforts in all phases of the game and carry the effort from opening whistle to the last play of the game. Too many lapses, too many missed, little plays, and too many bad decisions are sinking this season.

When Burqas Attack

From the Daily Mail:

(Jeanne) Ruby, who is accused of aggravated violence, is said to have ‘lost control’ when she saw Ms al-Suwaidi choosing furniture in a department store.

‘I knew I would crack one day,’ said Ruby. ‘This whole saga of the burka was really getting to me.’

Speaking in English to her victim, the retired teacher, who taught in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, said: ‘I told her to take off the veil she had on her face. I grabbed and pulled it.

‘To me wearing a full veil is an attack on being a woman. As a woman, I felt attacked.’

I would suggest that Ruby is a little confused on the subject of the definition of “attacked.” She might have, dumbly, felt attacked, but she sure as hell wasn’t the one who was attacked.

I’m no fan of the burqa. What it symbolizes is repulsive and the treatment of women in some Islamic nations is horrendous. That doesn’t make it in any way okay to attack a woman for wearing the thing--physically assaulting a woman isn’t such a great corrective to what many consider to be a symbol of women’s subjegation and abuse. In fact, it left the victim feeling terrified, humiliated, and abused.

After allegedly slapping Ms al-Suwaidi, Ruby bit her hand before successfully removing the veil, shouting: ‘Now I can see your face.’

Security guards had to separate the women, with one describing the fight as being motivated by ‘pure burka rage’.

Ms al-Suwaidi suffered cuts and bruises and had to take two days off work. She was so upset that she has now left France and returned to the Emirates, and will not attend today’s court case.

Lovely work, that.

Read the rest.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mugabe Ending Unity Deal?

Anyone who knows Mugabe’s political history won’t be surprised by this at all. He has a history of making political alliances for convenience and discarding allies at whim.

Zimbabwe’s president has said a power-sharing deal which expires in four months’ time should not be extended.

Robert Mugabe said the country should hold a referendum on a new constitution early in 2011 and then elections.

He said he was reluctant to renegotiate the unity deal as some events happening in the coalition were “foolish”.

Mr Mugabe has been sharing power with rival Morgan Tsvangirai since last year, under a deal worked out after disputed 2008 elections.

No, There should be no surprise at all.

Read the rest.

Moscow on the Hudson through Fresh Eyes

It has been a long time since I saw Moscow on the Hudson--probably since I was in high school--but I remember liking the movie. Netflix, one of my new bestest friends, streamed the movie into my home tonight and looking at it is a little like looking back into a time capsule. In some ways, it is also like looking at a better version of America.

For those who don’t remember, the movie is about a Russian musician (Robin Williams) who defects in a Bloomingdales in New York City. It follows him from Moscow, through his defection, and through learning to live in America. It isn’t a completely easy journey for him and it shows both him and his adopted country with warts and foibles and a bit of complexity.

With all the references to the old USSR, KGB, and the Reagan presidency, it is a look at a world that doesn’t exist any longer--it excites some of the same nostalgia bursts as Red Dawn without the campy overtones. But if you look past that little, gentle nostalgia, there are also some wonderful moments in watching the immigrants’ journey that put me in mind of an America that lives mostly in my hopes and may never have been entirely real. It glorifies hard work and opportunity over government handouts, it despises hyphenated allegiances at the cost of an American identity, and, in the end, it praises, if you’ll pardon me, the spiritual necessity of liberty over the state-controlled and, theoretically, perfectible society.

Two scenes really stand out to me. First, early in the movie, the immigrant watches a room full of new citizens taking the oath of citizenship. It is very quietly affecting as the judge gives her statement before administering the oath: “Today you will become citizens of the United States of America. No longer are you an Englishman, Italian, a Pole or whatever, neither will you be a hyphenated American. From this day you are no longer a subject of a governement, but an intergal part of the government, a free man.”

Then, nearer the end, when William’s character has suffered an assault and he is questioning the value of freedom when liberty is put to particularly dark purpose, he is reminded by a diner populated mostly by immigrants (a Cuban, another Russian, a Chinese man, and the American server) of the words of the Declaration of Independence. And while, as a scene in a movie it feels almost glib and you would be forgiven for wondering how such a moment might have calmed the anger Williams was showing, I can’t help but enjoy watching these folks extolling the virtues of freedom.

It’s no great movie. The character’s transition, for all the difficulties, still comes too easy. Too scripted. It also makes the emotional choices a little too simple for Williams giving a relatively tidy ending where some of the reality is bound to be messier. Still, I enjoyed it and have to say that a few of the performances are remarkably good. Williams, himself, is wonderful. He’s a good deal better than the script and he gives the whole thing more gravity than it might deserve.

More than anything, though, it was like a visit with an old friend. Not challenging, not new, but warm and comfortable.

Moving from there to Every Which Way but Loose, is particularly strange, though. Time has done precisely nothing to make Sandra Locke’s singing any easier to stomach…

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Observations from the Sidelines

Post racial America still seems to be awfully focused on race.

Just sayin’.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Denver Broncos Beat the Titans

It is becoming really hard to escape the feeling that the Denver Broncos could be a good team if they could find a running game and return to the kind of offensive line performance that the Broncos were known for during the Shanahan era. Instead, the line was harrassed and bullied for most of the day and I don’t remember the last time the Broncos’ running attack was quite this bad. When you rush for only 20 yards on 19 carries, you don’t exactly deserve the win. If that sounds bad to you (and it should), then consider that the leading rusher for the Broncos was Kyle Orton with his three rushes for 11 yards--more than double the totals of either Laurence Maroney or Correll Buckhalter.

Neither Maroney nor Buckhalter managed to average more than half a yard per carry. The running backs deserve some of the blame for this, but most of it has to go to an offensive line that just isn’t doing its job.

And that failure extends beyond the running game, too. Orton was harried by an aggressive Titans team most of the day. Sacked six times, rushed on almost every drop, he still managed to throw for 341 yards and a couple touchdowns. His interception--the Broncos’ lone turnover of the day--was a bad decision. Still, when the running game is so completely useless, the Broncos have needed to take some chances in passing downfield to move the sticks.

What had to be most hopeful for Broncos fans, though, was the way the team played in most of the other phases of the game. Orton threw well and racked up yards, continuing to prove that not only is he a better QB than most people expected, but that this receiving corps is tremendously talented. In fact, a few dropped, very catchable balls would have padded those stats significantly.

On defense, the Broncos are playing far better than I expected. Martindale’s unit only gave up a few big plays, but held Chris Johnson to just 53 yards, less than three yards per carry, and no plays longer than eight yards. They also managed to keep Vince Young to just 173 yards, although his numbers would have looked significantly better if it weren’t for a handful of drops toward the end of the game. When he most needed help, his receivers left him hanging.

The special teams were mostly solid with good kickoffs, punts, and placekicking, but return coverage remains a concern. Marc Mariani’s 98 yard return was beautiful, and, boy, does that kid have some speed in those legs; but the coverage team was beat big by the blockers on the return. They can and should do better.

Still, there are reasons to feel some hope for this team. There is a deep pool of talent at some of the skill positions and the defense is showing some toughness. Kyle Orton is earning his contract extension and the passing attack is tremendous. Unless they can figure out the running game and start getting a better performance from the offensive line, they don’t have much of a shot at a return to the playoffs.

Brave prediction of the day: the Peyton Hillis trade will haunt McD for a long time. Not only has Hillis been playing really well, but his 322 yards rushing is more than the Broncos have as a team on the year. In a week where Maroney dropped a few catchable balls, at least one of which should have gone for a huge, drive-extending game, it’s also worth noting that Hillis has sixteen catches for 94 yards on the season. 

Friday, October 01, 2010

The Not So Bright Life of Zomby

I’m listening to a song that hasn’t been on regular rotation in my iPod for years. Maria McKee’s “If Love is a Red Dress (Hang Me in Rags)”, which I absolutely love. Great stuff.

However.

However, it plays to the worst of my own personal mental defects. It plays to the bits of me that movies, music, and literature to adore the idea of suffering instead of savoring the happiness that life has handed me. When she sings, “If love is shelter, I’m gonna walk in the rain,” I’ll be damned if I don’t want to fall out of love so that I can taste a little misery.

I’ve often said that happiness is overrated--and I am pretty happy--but I meant it in what I thought was an entirely different context. I’m coming to the conclusion that I might just be emotionally allergic to happiness.

And, boy, is that stupid.

Watch it here on YouTube if the embed isn’t working for you.

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