Thursday, September 15, 2022

Up The Palace

 Had I been blogging as consistently as I did for the first seven years, largely during my time as an editor and forum moderator at TV.com, I would have reached the milestone of 700 posts about four years ago. Alas, I have my skewer in too many fires nowadays, and I fear that my attention span has dwindled as well. Regardless, for everyone who has been reading this at any point with any consistency since June 2005, I thank you. 

Speaking of long anticipated milestones, the Queen is dead. The reign of Britain's Elizabeth II, which lasted a record 70 years, began and ended during uncertain times in the kingdom's history. When her father Edward VI passed in 1952, the UK was still rebuilding in every sense from World War II. Her son, the awkward, entitled doofus now called Charles III, inherits an energy crisis, bad PR from his brother *and* daughter-in-law, and a teetering post-Brexit economy. On top of that, his Prime Minister had only been on the job two days when his mum passed. 

Charles III has always been the butt of jokes, so some Britons have taken solace in what will be a quick coronation and likely a short reign. (Well, relatively speaking.) Where Elizabeth was the embodiment of grace and consistency in her improbably long run, Charles is not known for either. Approaching his 74th birthday, England's first king since the early 1950s has a unique learning curve. He also inherits a kingdom that, over half a century removed from the death of imperialism, is slowly reckoning with its history of pillaging and enslavement. 

Will God save the king? Only time will tell.

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Thursday, September 8, 2022

32 Teams, 32 Haiku: My 2022 NFL Preview

 

I work best with deadlines, so naturally I tend to make sports predictions mere hours (in some cases, minutes) before the first game of the season starts. Even if my Bears aren't challenging anyone this year, there's always another storyline to latch on in the NFL. Without further ado, my annual football forecast:


AFC NORTH

1. Bengals (11-6) Overachievers/must claw past improved rivals/Burrow won’t (h)airball.

2. Ravens* (10-7) Rejuvenated/and maybe healthy; birds won’t/drop six straight again.

3. Steelers (8-9) Will Tomlin’s streak end?/QB play, most curious/No questions on D.

4. Browns (6-11) Deshaun suspension/casts a pall; run-first O will/settle for Brissett.


AFC EAST

1. Bills (13-4) Madcap playoff loss/motivates; Allen isn’t/joshing; too much depth.

2. Dolphins* (10-7) Tua must grow up/all the other pieces are/here for playoff run.

3. Patriots (9-8) O-line questions wracks/Mac’s apple; no OC or/DC? I’m confused.

4. Jets (5-12) Gang Green upswing; Zach/and strong draft class will excite/but not contend yet.


AFC SOUTH

1. Titans (10-7) Tannehill for now/but Malik is the future/to serve King Henry.

2. Colts (9-8) WIll Matty Ice melt/under pressure? Playoff dreams/must be Taylor-made.

3. Jaguars (4-13) Did Urban ruin/T-Law? Lush free agent adds/for bonus baby.

4. Texans (2-15) Lovie among the/ruins; inexperience/makes for rough viewing.


AFC WEST

1. Chiefs (12-5) Fresh faces and tough/schedule vex Mahomes; they/just need good Juju.

2. Chargers* (10-7) The record deceives/Herbert became elite quick/in deep division.

3. Broncos (8-9) No top tier QBs/drafted since Elway; Russ won’t/make much difference.

4. Raiders (8-9) Offense upgrades might/finally help Carr; Crosby/takes D to the Maxx.


NFC NORTH

1. Packers (12-5) Run-happy offense/result of hefty Rodgers/deal; title or bust.

2. Vikings* (10-7) Top tier O always/undercut; pass rush upgrade/might not be enough.

3. Bears (7-10) Give Roquan that cash/new stadium drama means/two rebuilds in town.

4. Lions (6-11) Optimist Campbell/wants this team to be mmm, mmm/good; cats make small gains.


NFC EAST

1. Eagles (11-6) Several good drafts/offer youth and upside, but/AJ Brown don’t clown.

2. Cowboys* (9-8) Tyron Smith’s bum knee/might unspool the whole D; Dak/*better* stay healthy.

3. Commanders (8-9) Wentz under center/finally gives McLaurin/potential breakout.

4. Giants (4-13) Judge, executed/rebuild back at zero, not/unlike “Groundhog Day.”


NFC SOUTH

1. Bucs (12-5) Tom Brady’s portrait/ages in an attic; new/coach Oscar Wilde?

2. Saints (8-9) Bayou oddity/Who Dat D will carry load/not chancy Jameis.

3. Panthers (7-10) Are Baker and Sam/good or awful QBs? My/best answer is yes. 

4. Falcons (3-14) Angelo and Pace/Chicago legends bring their/winning ways deep south.


NFC WEST

1. Rams (11-6) Status quo reigns, though/Matt is one year older; depth/is a concern, too.

2. Cardinals* (10-7) Kyler the bookworm/leads them through controversy/death, and bad PR.

3. Niners (8-9) Lance will be a lot/lack of free agent legroom/gives off win-now vibe.

4. Seahawks (6-11) Legion of Boom ends/with a fizzle; best QB/option is… Geno?


*denotes wild card


OTHER PICKS:

NFL MVP: Jonathan Taylor, Colts
Offensive ROY: Chris Olave, Saints
Defensive ROY: Aidan Hutchinson, Lions
First Head Coach Fired: Matt Rhule, Panthers
Super Bowl LVII: Bills 30, Rams 27


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Friday, August 26, 2022

Random Notes, August 2022

 Hot takes, sometimes reheated:

+ After a lengthy schnied, the Biden Administration has a modest winning streak going. After 18 months of COVID-distracted sputtering, culminating in Biden contracting the virus twice in two weeks, he's finally getting stuff done. The climate change bill might define his presidency so far, and college debt elimination was a modified campaign promise. Whether this saves him or the Democrats in '22 and '24 could either be just enough or too little, too late. 

+ What to make of the midterms? At the moment, the House of Representatives is a toss-up, but I think the Democrats will retain the U.S. Senate and then some. The GOP simply has too many vulnerable incumbents (Ron Johnson, Marco Rubio) and peculiar first-time candidates (Dr. Oz, Herschel Walker). That's not to say any of the above will get blown out, but polls are not tipping in their favor. 

+ I often tell friends that radio was my great unrequited love. Hosting and producing barprov shows is a distant second. In 2 1/2 years of COVID, Flower Shop Bangers has produced exactly one in-person show. The fact of the matter is, barprov in Chicago is more or less dead. An entire thriving scene in 2012 steadily whittled down to nothing; a lot of local pubs simply don't make money on the shows. As I write this, Dan and I are re-strategizing. Stay tuned. 

Next time: my annual NFL preview.

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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Dispatches from Arm's Length, Part 21

Around the time the school year ended in late May, I had a bad cold. I tested twice for COVID, both times negative. Even though I recovered, I noticed a very slight, on and off tickle in my throat, and it took awhile to subside. I've also been more sluggish than usual, though I attribute that to inconsistent sleeping habits. There was also a rash of cases in my improv ensemble, though that was after Independence Day. Our group ranges in age from 27 to 62, and the older members took longer to recover than the young'ens.

I guess the experts were right-- at some point, all Americans will get COVID. Whether it becomes a seasonal occurrence like the flu, I'm not as sure about. My protection has been wavering; I'm growing even more inconsistent about mask use. This morning I drove to meet someone for brunch, and in transit I realized I left my mask at home. I ordered new masks to replace a homemade one that was gradually falling apart; they allegedly arrived in late June, but never arrived. I'm blaming my erratic local postal service, not the eBay seller. 

At some point I'll get my second booster, I just don't know when. As I have for 2 1/2 years now, I'll keep sleeping with one eye open. 

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

A Season of Bloodshed

If the USA in 2022 is a Chuck E. Cheese Whack-A-Mole machine of crises, then gun control is the latest plastic rodent to be hit with a cushioned mallet. A bipartisan bill has been signed but isn't in effect just yet. Regardless, this is already shaping up to be one of the bloodiest summers in recent memory, with mass shootings in Buffalo, NY, Uvalde, TX, and most recently Highland Park, IL. Those are just the most notable shootings; there has been a smattering of massacres all across the continental US.

I said this several years ago, and my stance hasn't wavered much: if you keep a .45 in the house, fine. You own a hunting rifle or two? Cool. If you own an AR-15 assault rifle... why? I'm personally not interested in guns, but I respect the constitutional right to own one. At the same time, there is a time and place for military grade weaponry, and that's if you're in the military, in the heat of combat. The rest is just paranoia and politics. That the Highland Park shooting happened at an Independence Day parade, the most patriotic of holidays, a day to celebrate democracy and freedom, is cognitive dissonance. 

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Bad Decisions

 We've taken a remarkable step backwards. 

In a head-spinning 28 hour stretch this past Thursday and Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court (in ascending order of concern) struck down the strictest concealed-carry law in the country, protected police officers from lawsuits if they forget to read the Miranda rights, and overturned Roe v. Wade. While this doesn't completely outlaw abortion in the US, it will allow 26 states to ban any form of pregnancy termination, while possibly overwhelming clinics in the other 24 states. 

This is a rallying point for Christian and social conservatives, a dwindling but obnoxiously vocal minority. Otherwise, this is the most unpopular SCOTUS decision in recent memory. This is the culmination of a brick by brick Republican takeover of SCOTUS, one that began in early 2016, when then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said it too close to a presidential election for President Obama to appoint Merrick Garland to succeed Antonin Scalia. That lead to three straight Trump appointees, stacking SCOTUS to the right by a 2:1 margin for the first time since the Reagan era. 

A short history lesson: even though there were over a dozen consecutive Republican SCOTUS appointees between 1969 and 1993 (Carter had zero) justices like John Paul Stevens and Sandra Day O'Connor proved more moderate or pragmatic than the average tighty righty. That time period included Roe v. Wade in 1973, where a court with five Republican appointees voted 7-2 to legalize abortion as a right to privacy under due process. No one expected Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, or Amy Coney Barrett to make a surprise flip. This ulterior motive was nakedly obvious. 

As a cisgender white male, I can't personally articulate the pain and anguish that I've seen from friends and acquaintances on social media over the last few days. I'm distraught, but I'm letting those directly affected speak first. There are no viable solutions in the short term, which is disheartening. All I can personally do is protest, show allyship, and wish that maybe 15-20 years down the road, a SCOTUS that tilts left can strike down Dobbs v. Jackson.

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