Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Pop Quiz time!

Who said this?

"No one welcomes armed liberators."

Was it:

a. Thomas Jefferson, referring to the British attempts to quell the American Revolution;
b. Maximilien Robespierre, referring to France's wars against the rest of Europe;
c. Giuseppe Garibaldi, referring to some Italians' desire to unite the peninsula by force;
d. T. E. Lawrence, referring to the British policy in Palestine during and directly following World War I;
e. William Westmoreland, referring to the American invasion of North Vietnam;
f. George W. Bush, defending his father's unwillingness to invade Iraq in 1991 (oh, the irony!).

Even though nobody reads my blog, you can leave your guesses in the comments. The answer will arrive tomorrow!

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Top Ten Day: My favorite banned books

It's Banned Books Week, so I thought I would list my favorite banned books. These are not my favorite books to read, mind you, they are my favorites because of why (I presume) they were banned (or challenged, which doesn't mean they were banned). Some I haven't even read! Because I'm sure thousands of books are challenged each year, I checked out the list of the 100 most frequently challenged books and ran with it. Again, I only presume why these books were challenged. If anyone knows differently, feel free to let me know.

1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. This is challenged by uptight liberals who think it's horrible that Huck calls Jim a "nigger" and challenged by uptight conservatives who think it's horrible that Huck would rather go to hell than turn Jim in. It gets it from both sides! What a crock of shit. If my eight-year-old wanted to read this, I would buy it for her and read it with her. This is one of the greatest books ever written.

2. Any Harry Potter book by J. K. Rowling. I mentioned this to Krys not long ago - it's not as if these wizards and witches are doing things that could conceivably take place in the "real world" - there are witches out there, but they sit around talking about nature and getting henna tattoos because they think it's cool. How any kid could reject Christianity because Harry waves a magic wand at something is beyond me. If I were a hardcore Christian, I'd be more worried about a book that shows kids how witches actually act and all the rituals they go through. Because a kid might actually, you know, try that. If a kid points a branch at something and pretends to levitate it, how in the hell is that a problem?

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Hmmm, a girl and her genius brother try to rescue their father from a malevolent force that robs you of free will and makes you an automaton, and then the girl must rescue the brother by proving to him that she loves him. Of course we must challenge this! How dare we try to teach kids this! Jesus. Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are referred to as "witches," I believe, but do they really do anything that could be considered "Satanic"? Stupid parents.

4. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I haven't read this (Krys has, so I know the gist), but it seems to me that any book that features an oppressive patriarchal society that treats women as breeding stock SHOULD be banned. How dare those women get ideas!

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I ought to read this, oughtn't I? Another horribly anti-American tale, as a young girl learns that (the horror!) black people aren't necessarily evil. We gots to get the racism into them when they're young!

6. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein. I can't even begin to fathom why this is challenged or banned. Somebody must explain!

7. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Isn't this challenged because a young teenaged girl gets her period? Yeah, we certainly wouldn't want to teach young teenaged girls that there's nothing wrong with her monthly cycle. How will she learn THE SHAME?!?!?!?

8. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman. As usual, we must teach the children that if Heather is in a stable family environment with two parents who love her, it's still evil! I think that kids should have a female and male presence in their lives, but that's just me. I find it ridiculous that people would challenge a book that tries to show that lesbians are people too. I mean, we've already admitted that black people aren't monkeys - how tolerant do they expect us to be?????

9. The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. God forbid kids read the word "fuck," because they never hear it anywhere! I have never read this because I have no interest, but it seems to me a book that lets disaffected kids know that they're not unique and it is possible to overcome it isn't really such a bad thing. I'm crazy that way.

10. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. I suppose these are challenged because they might get kids to consider mentally challenged people as human beings, as well. Those retards - you gotta lock them away so's they don't upset the regular folk! I haven't read either of these, but I can't imagine what's objectionable about them. Don't both main characters kill someone? Is that enough to ban them?

A lot of the books deal with, unsurprisingly, sex. Now, I'm not entirely sure what a librarian is doing ordering copies of Sex by Madonna, but if you're going to have that in the library, you might as well have copies of Playboy too. I certainly don't think all books are appropriate for children, but I really hate people who try to ban books. If my kids bring home inappropriate material and I find it, we will talk to them rather than blaming the library and trying to ban the book. I don't care what your reasons are (the ALA web site says it's often because of the best of intentions, which of course paves the road to hell), banning books is so un-American I can't believe people who grew up here even contemplate it. I actually look forward to the days when the kids are in junior or senior high school and some "concerned" parent wants to ban a book. I'll be like Amy Madigan in Field of Dreams, man!

So there's the list of my favorite banned books. If anyone knows the specific reasons why they were challenged, chime on in. What are your favorite banned books?

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Fighting the wrong war

As many of you know, I try to avoid reading the newspaper, because it gets me way too mad. Yes, I know I'm missing out on being informed (which is why Krys reads the paper at night instead of going to bed when she's damned tired!), but that's why I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart!

This morning, however, Krys directed my attention to this story, in which Republican Len Munsil said he would tear down the 11 September memorial in the State Capitol Mall if elected governor this fall. Why would he do such a thing? Is he anti-American?

Well, if you read the story, you'll find out that he's so not anti-American, he's willing to tear down a memorial to the victims of terrorist attacks just to show how pro-American he really is! If you didn't read the story (how lazy are you?), he's peeved because some of the messages on the memorial are objectionable and can't be trusted.

Yes, Munsil is grumpy because the messages indict the U.S. government and mock the Bush administration. Like we need a memorial to do that. The most egregious one, apparently, is ... wait for it ... brace yourself for the mocking! ... "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles."

HOLY SHIT!!!! Oh, the savage mockery! Oh, the piercing wit! Oh, the horrible indictment of the U.S. government! Jesus. I may have to drive down to the Capitol to see if this is the worst slogan on there. If it is, I think Len Munsil needs to shut up. Even if it isn't, who the fuck is Len Munsil to claim it's mocking the Bush administration?

Munsil, who is genuinely concerned about this and not looking for a cheap campaign ploy or photo-op, made his statements while surrounded by family members of soldiers killed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The article finishes with a quote from a man whose son was killed in Iraq. "It's a disgrace. It's a slap in the face to every one of our sons who have sacrificed and to every one of the victims of 9/11." What this guy and Munsil are missing is that three Arizona families who lost members in the attacks decided what should go on the memorial. But who the fuck cares what they want, right? U! S! A!

Munsil says he's concerned that some of the statements are "inaccurate." Again, I ask for examples. The one I cited above is an opinion, not a fact, so it can't be inaccurate. You may disagree with it, but I'm getting more and more concerned about a country in which opinions that a) disagree with the president; and b) suggest that maybe peace is a nice thing are being silenced. Munsil needs to fuck right off.

The memorial cost $500,000 and was paid for with private funds. Munsil doesn't like that it's one state property, but I bet he would have no problem with using taxpayer money to erect a monument of the Ten Commandments. Why doesn't Munsil tell the voters how he will help Arizona instead of trying to divide us, like every other Bush lapdog is doing? Fuck him.

The comments in the article are fun, too. The chairman of the Arizona 9/11 Memorial Commission comes on board and points out that one of the quotes on the memorial is "Must bomb back." I'M OFFENDED BY THAT! HOW DARE THEY POLITICIZE THE MEMORIAL AND TURN IT INTO A PRO-BUSH STATEMENT!

In other marginally war-related news, the Arizona Cardinals sold the naming rights of their new stadium to the University of Phoenix. For 18 years the Cardinals bitched about playing in Sun Devil Stadium, which is a college football field, and now they're going to play in University of Phoenix Stadium. That's just another reason why the Cardinals don't win. Trust me, it makes sense. Anyway, this is marginally war-related because many people, apparently independently of each other (I was one of them, so I guess it was independent) said the Cardinals should name the stadium after Pat Tillman and not sell the rights. Talk about a public relations coup! The Cardinals would be all over the news and people would talk about how great the Bidwills are and what an honorable thing they did. But, as usual, the $500 billion dollars they have wasn't enough, and they sold the rights. The stadium was financed by taxpayer money - shouldn't they get a vote in what to call it? The Bidwills have owned the franchise since the 1930s, when it was in Chicago. It's no wonder they've won 1 playoff game in almost 60 years.

There was a lot of other news that made me angry today, but I'll stop. We have to realize that the more this war at home continues, the more the terrorists will have won. It's mind-boggling that more people can't understand that.

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What have we learned - Week 3

First off, I apologize for not posting more often. Demon Child #2 is actually taking up a lot of my time these days! Yes, I'm doing some actual parenting. Alert the media!

But she's sitting here right now moaning like she does, looking through her books for the ten-thousandth time, so I can begin. Yes, it's another sports post! But we must figure out what we learned from this week's NFL games! Don't we? This week: an added bonus!

The Eagles managed to hold on to a big lead this week, but it wasn't easy and if San Francisco had been, you know, better, the Beags might have been in trouble. They're so close to being 3-0, and I hope later in the year, when their schedule gets brutal, they don't look back on last week's collapse and regret it. Brian Westbrook had a 71-yard touchdown run, and if you didn't see it, his stiff-arm on the safety was awesome. How does a defensive player not knock him out of bounds? Unbelievable. It was a decent win, but they need to play better. Luckily they have Nancy-Boy Favre coming to town next week for another tune-up before the Cowboys show up.
Why the Eagles are a playoff-caliber team: they can score on anyone, at any time.
Why the 49ers are not a playoff-caliber team: in the third quarter, they ran six plays from the Eagles' 1-yard line. Four were stuffed, one was fumbled and returned for a touchdown. They finally scored on the sixth play. Good teams score on the first or second.

Oh, Arizona. Oh, dear. As I often write here, I am mystified by the Cardinals and their inability to win. Something always goes wrong. Always. They have two of the best receivers in the game, a very good third receiver, Edgerrin James had a good game, they have a very good kicker, a pretty good quarterback, a decent defense ... but something always goes wrong. It's baffling. This week, besides the fumble at the St. Louis 18-yard line with less than two minutes to go and the Rams out of timeouts and only needing a field goal to win, it was a couple of bad interceptions thrown by Kurt Warner, a few crucial drops, and a few bad defensive plays. Other teams have occasional breakdowns, bad interceptions, and stupid penalties, yet they win. Why can't the Cardinals? Someone needs to write a doctoral dissertation on Arizona, because it's getting spooky.
Why the Rams are not a playoff-caliber team: They were trying to run out the clock with less than three minutes left and they fumbled the snap at their own 30. Good teams don't fumble the snap. They might have to punt, but they don't fumble the snap.
Why the Cardinals are not a playoff-caliber team: They fumbled a snap with less than two minutes left while they were on the Rams' 18-yard line and needing only a field goal to win! Isn't that enough?
(A minor side note: the Rams punted on the last play of the game, and the Cardinals called for a fair catch. Under NFL rules, Arizona could have lined up for a free kick from the spot, and had it gone through, they would have won. It would have been a 75-yard field goal, but kickoffs occasionally go through the uprights, so it would have been fun to see. Unfortunately, a Cardinal was offsides, so the Rams took the penalty, got one more play, and simply knelt on the ball. That would have been cool. Stupid Cardinals even mess up a desperation play!)

The Bears are 3-0, and Rex Grossman made a nice throw near the end for the winning touchdown, but did everyone see the interception he threw that was returned for a touchdown? He was running backward in his own end zone and he just lofted it out in the flat. That's why I can't totally trust the Bears yet - you can't throw that ball! Grossman should have never run into the end zone in the first place, actually. Chicago should win the division relatively easily, but I foresee an early playoff exit.
Why the Bears are a playoff-caliber team: Man, that defense is good.
Why the Vikings are not a playoff-caliber team: Yes, they're 2-1, but does anyone trust Brad Johnson? Plus, letting Rex Grossman drive down the field for the winning touchdown in your own building is not a plus.

Green Bay and Detroit decided to play eight men on defense, apparently. Whenever I turned this game on (and, admittedly, it wasn't often), someone was making a big play. Sheesh, tackle someone, why don't you? Does anyone believe that Nancy-Boy Favre is playing for anything else beside the all-time touchdown passes record? He's 18 behind Marino. That's the only reason he came back, I think, yet no one is talking about that, because he's such a "team guy." Yeah, okay. He'll get the record, too, because the Packers will be so far behind in most games that he'll be throwing on every down.
Why the Packers are not a playoff-caliber team: Two words: Brett. Favre. Okay, their defense stinks, too.
Why the Lions are not a playoff-caliber team: Do you have a week? Because that's how long it would take to tell what's wrong with this team. Okay, two words: Jon. Kitna.

At least that game, between two stinky teams, was entertaining. The Titans-Dolphins "clash" was one of those games that sets football back fifty years. I should start doing a weekly feature on those games! Whenever I turned it on, someone was fumbling or punting or falling down even though no one touched them. Miami won by attrition, but I'm just wondering: this is the team that everyone thought would challenge the Patriots in the AFC East? Were all the pundits high?
Why the Titans are not a playoff-caliber team: Their starting quarterback was on his sofa three weeks ago (yes, he's a Penn Stater, but I call 'em like I see 'em). Their back-up quarterback is a bulked-up version of Michael Vick. And you know how I feel about Michael Vick!
Why the Dolphins are not a playoff-caliber team: It's a lot easier to play quarterback when you can just heave it as far as you can and Randy Moss is there to catch it, isn't it, Daunte?

The J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets were totally outplayed in Buffalo, so of course they won. A few mistakes cost the Bills, and Chad Pennington continued to play well. Again, I watched very little of this game (the early games I watched the most were Carolina-Tampa, Jacksonville-Indianapolis, and Cincinnati-Pittsburgh, so the others get short shrift), but if Pennington can stay healthy, New Jersey might sneak up on some teams. Well, as sneaky as a team in a major media outlet can be.
Why the Jets are a playoff-caliber team: Pennington, plus they play in a weak division.
Why the Bills are not a playoff-caliber team: They're close, but I'm not sold on Losman. They will scare a lot of teams and beat a few (like Miami last week), but probably finish somewhere around 8-8.

Mark Brunell completed the first 22 passes he threw. He ended up with 24-of-27 for 261 yards. That's not even 11 yards per completion. Whenever someone completes a lot of passes in a row, I always think, "He's just dumping it off and not taking any chances." I mean, it's nice statistically, but fortune favors the bold, and if Washington had been playing a good team instead of the Texans, I doubt if Brunell would have had those kinds of chances. Compare the first play of the Philadelphia game: flea-flicker, 50 yards to Reggie Brown. McNabb threw 15 incompletions, but had a much better day. I don't want quarterbacks to be reckless, but you have to challenge the defense occasionally. Washington doesn't, so they are mediocre.
Why Washington is a playoff-caliber team: That said, Brunell doesn't make mistakes, they have a good running game, and a solid defense. They might finish 9-7, but that might be enough to make the second season.
Why the Texans are not a playoff-caliber team: Because they're the Texans. They passed on Reggie Bush in the draft. What else do you need to know?

Are the Bengals the best team in the league? Did you ever think you'd hear anyone even mention that? Sure, Roethlisberger is still hurt, and they're not as good as last year, but it's still Pittsburgh, and they're still tough, but despite playing well, the Bengals just kept coming, and eventually the talent wins out. The OTHER Oregon State receiver on the roster had two touchdowns, and the defense stepped it out when it counted. Cincinnati looks like they have the means to take out the Colts.
Why the Bengals are a playoff-caliber team: Because you'd be an idiot not to think so.
Why the Steelers are a playoff-caliber team: They were outmatched talent-wise, but they kept fighting. They're a tough team, which is, interestingly enough, somewhat surprising in this league.

Jacksonville dominated Indianapolis except where it counts: the scoreboard. At one point they had held the ball about 20 out of 23 minutes, which is shocking. Even more shocking was that the game was tied, 7-7, thanks to a missed field goal on the Jags side and a punt return for a touchdown on the Colts side. Jacksonville should have beaten the Colts by two touchdowns, but their quarterback just isn't getting it done. On today, somebody said that the Jags don't trust Leftwich. Either way, they need to get better. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning has replaced Nancy-Boy Favre as the "quarterback every announcer wants to fellate." Sorry to be crude, but it's true. Manning can do no wrong, even though he played kind of lousy.
Why the Jaguars are a playoff-caliber team: Their defense is excellent, and their running game is tough. We'll see how Leftwich evolves.
Why the Colts are a playoff-caliber team: I don't really like Manning, but he's really freakin' good.

Carolina-Tampa was a pretty good game, but it's been overshadowed by the news that Chris Sims played most of the game with a ruptured spleen. Holy crap, that's impressive. Carolina should have dominated this game, but they kept turning the ball over. It's a good thing they have a great kicker. I suppose this is an impressive win for the Panthers, but once we learn that Sims was bleeding to death internally and they still couldn't stop him, I start to wonder about the Super Bowl aspirations of Carolina.
Why the Panthers are a playoff-caliber team: They got Steve Smith back.
Why the Buccaneers are not a playoff-caliber team: They have no quarterback, and their defense is old.

Boy, it must suck to be a Browns fan today. Cleveland played pretty well against that tough Baltimore defense and probably should have won, but Charlie Frye threw an insanely stupid pass into the end zone with three minutes left when a field goal puts you up by 5 and had it intercepted. Baltimore took it down the field and kicked the winning field goal with 20 seconds left. I'm depressed, because I hate the Ravens. Speaking of which, why are the Browns wearing patches with the number "60" on them? This Browns team began in 1999. It did not exist before then. Jim Brown never played for this team. Otto Graham never played for this team. The Ravens should be wearing the patches, because that franchise is the one that began in 1946 and dominated the All-American Football Conference. Deal with it, Cleveland!
Why the Ravens are a playoff-caliber team: Their defense is very good, and Steve McNair, while not what he used to be, is a lot better than the stiffs that have played there recently.
Why the Browns are not a playoff-caliber team: Charlie Frye threw an interception in the end zone with three minutes left when a field goal would have given them a five-point lead. 'Nuff said.

Who the hell does Jeremy Shockey think he is? What a tool. I suppose we can expect someone from the U (of Miami) to have no class. He questions the coaching (yes, he also questioned the playing) of his overrated Giants team, who should be 0-3, when he has never done anything - anything! - in his NFL career. He's not even the best tight end in his division - he's probably worse than the starting tight ends of Philly, Dallas, and Washington - yet he's always mouthing off. Shut the hell up, Shockey. The Seahawks took advantage of horrible plays to build a lead, but Shaun Alexander is still playing poorly. Seattle needs to figure out how to play better. Oh, and about the coaching - Tom Coughlin inexplicably benched Plaxico Burress after he fumbled. Greg Lewis fumbled in the Philadelphia game, and on the next series, they threw him the ball again for a first down. That's what you do when a guy fumbles, Coughlin - throw it to him again! You don't bench him!
Why the Giants are NOT a playoff-caliber team: You heard me! Their defense is porous, their receivers are pouty, and Eli still isn't an elite quarterback.
Why the Seahawks are a playoff-caliber team: They're playing badly, but they'll get better. And they play in a lousy division!

I didn't watch the game last night, but Denver apparently dominated. That's impressive. If Jake doesn't throw interceptions, the Broncos will be fine. The Patriots are suddenly mortal, and everyone is blaming the fact that they keep letting talent go because they love the "system." Well, maybe, but people get old too. So we'll see.
Why the Broncos are a playoff-caliber team: Jake just can't turn the ball over. If he does that, they're dead.
Why the Patriots are a playoff-caliber team: They're in a weak division, they have Belichick, and they have Tom Brady. But the clock is ticking on the dynasty.

I don't have much to say about college football, except that Penn State played much better than I thought they would, and I fucking hate Notre Dame. Stupid fucking Notre Dame.

So another week is in the book. Things are slowly sorting themselves out. It's always fun to judge after only a few games!

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Top Ten Day: My favorite sports moments

Today is the tenth anniversary of one of the most shocking upsets in college football history. Can you figure out what it is? If you live east of the Mississippi, probably not. And that's a shame. I'll reveal the answer in the post!

Because of the anniversary, it got me thinking of my next Top Ten post. I decided to do one on my favorite moments in sports. This is difficult, because I really like sports. I decided to limit it to events I had actually seen - that doesn't mean in person, as I rarely go to sporting events, especially ones that imprint on my memory. These are events I had watched on television (or witnessed in person, don't get me wrong, but I couldn't limit it to that), so the "Miracle on Ice" doesn't make it, because I didn't watch it (and if you did, you're a liar, because it wasn't shown live - I suppose you could have watched the tape-delayed showing, but you could have conceivably already known the results). Sorry, USA Olympic Hockey Team - you don't make the cut! Also, because I'm a homer, most of these will involve the Phillies, the Eagles, or Penn State. That's just the way it is! So, in no particular order:

1. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl. Penn State's last National Championship (because they were robbed in 1994). What a great game: 14-10 over the University of Miami Hurricanes. It's always good to see Miami get smacked around, and this might be one of the heights of Miami-getting-smacked-around-ness. The Hurricanes came in at #1 and wore army fatigues when they got off the plane, as opposed to the Lions' dark suits. Paterno had just been named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year for 1986, but no one thought his team stood a chance. Miami had Vinny Testaverde, the Heisman Trophy winner, at quarterback, Alonzo Highsmith at running back, and Michael Irvin at wide receiver. Penn State had a good defense but small defensive backs, and Irvin and his counterparts kept talking smack about how they were going to run right by them. Paterno responded by saying that the Miami receivers had never been hit by PSU's defensive backs. At a dinner for the two teams, one of the Miami players said, "Did the Japanese sit down with the Americans before they bombed Pearl Harbor?" and the entire team walked out, to which the Penn State punter - the punter! - got off the classic line, "Hey, didn't the Japanese lose that war?" The game was a slugfest from the beginning. Irvin and his crew got smacked a couple of times by Don Isom and the Penn State defense, and their arms got a lot shorter. Testaverde threw interception after interception. Late in the game Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan intercepted a pass and ran it back to the 5-yard line, from where D. J. Dozier scored the game-winning touchdown. Testaverde brought his team back with a furious drive, only to be intercepted - for the fifth time - by Pete Giftopolous on the goal line with 10 seconds left. Paterno had his second National Championship, and Jimmy Johnson and the Hurricanes learned a lesson about sportsmanship, which, for Johnson and Irvin, didn't carry over into the NFL. This game began my lifelong hatred of Michael Irvin, but it also showed what a great coach Paterno was. His team was very talented, but not as talented as the Hurricanes, and they beat them in every facet of the game. It also, interestingly enough, catapulted the Fiesta Bowl to national prominence, as these two teams were independent and didn't have prior bowl commitments, and the Fiesta Bowl stepped in. A great game, and still a wonderful thing to watch if you like hard-nosed football and Miami getting gobsmacked.

2. Game 6, 1980 World Series. I was only 9 when I watched this on television, so I don't remember too much about it, but I do remember two things: The popup that Bob Boone dropped and Pete Rose saved, and Tug McGraw's final strikeout to give the Phillies their first - and only - World Series win. Good times. What a great team the 1976-1981 Phillies were, yet they only won that one World Series. Stupid Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers, beating them in the playoffs for three straight years. Stupid players' strike in 1981, messing up their momentum. Yes, I'm bitter.

(This is the opening from Game 5, but what a neat old-school theme song!)

3. Villanova beats Georgetown 66-64 to win the 1985 NCAA Basketball Championship ... on April Fools' Day. I watched every second of this game, and loved every minute of it. Not unlike Miami, Georgetown was the bully of college basketball, and the Wildcats of 'Nova were given absolutely no chance whatsoever to beat them. And they had to play a perfect game to do it. Today, whenever a huge underdog hangs with a huge favorite, the commentators always say that the underdog has to play a perfect game ... and they rarely do. Something always happens, usually something small, and the huge favorite takes advantage and wins. Well, Villanova shot 13-of-18 from the floor in the first half ... and then promptly shot 9-of-10 in the second half. This probably couldn't happen today, because this game was played the year before the shot clock was introduced in college, so Villanova could hold the ball a long time. There was also no three-point shot, so Georgetown could never go on a fiery run and put the 'Cats away. What a beautiful display of defensive-minded basketball this is. HBO did a special on the two teams and the game not too long ago, and it's very interesting to watch. The drug problems of the 'Nova team diminishes this game not a bit. This is the last major championship of any Philadelphia team, college or pro. Very sad.

4. The NFC Championship game, January 1981. It's not just because the Eagles won and went to their first Super Bowl (about which we must not speak). It's because they played at home and defeated the Dallas Cowboys, a team Philly always wanted to be rivals with but were never good enough for the Cowboys to notice. And not only did they beat the Cowboys, they smacked them. Wilbert Montgomery ran 42 yards for a touchdown very early in the game, and the game was never in doubt. Montgomery piled up 196 yards rushing, which was a Championship Game record for years (I can't remember who broke it). The final score was 20-7, but it was much more a dominant performance than that indicates. It was a high point for the franchise, and the highest point for quite a while. Sad that a Super Bowl victory isn't one of my favorite moments.

5. Boston College 47, Miami 45. 23 November 1984.

I don't know why I watched this game, but I did. I didn't really care either way about it, but it was probably just the fact that it was the day after Thanksgiving and there was not much else going on. What a freaking game, though. It went back and forth, and I kept rooting for Doug Flutie and the BC Eagles, because I hated the U. Yes, I hated the U even before they played PSU in the Fiesta Bowl! And that Hail Mary that sealed the Heisman for Flutie was a fantastic play. It's one of those games that I can't believe I actually witnessed, because it's a game I had no interest in it. But I'm glad I did.

6. San Diego 41, Miami 38 in overtime, January 1982, AFC Divisional Playoff. Speaking of games I'm not sure why I watched, but I'm glad I did. For some reason, I wasn't doing anything better on a weekend in January 1982 (I was ten, so you would think I would have been out in the winter wonderland getting into all kinds of trouble), so I watched this game, and what a game it was. The Chargers jumped out to a 24-0 lead, and Don Strock came in for the Dolphins and almost brought them all the way back. This is the game with the only hook-and-ladder play I've ever seen work for a touchdown, right before the end of the half that made the score 24-17. The Dolphins actually took the lead in the second half, but they couldn't hold it. Kellen Winslow (the first one, not his selfish bastard spawn who plays for Cleveland now) caught 13 passes for 166 yards and blocked a field goal. He blocked a freakin' field goal! Finally, the Chargers kicked a field goal and won. Then they went to Cincinnati the next week and played in -175 degree temperature and lost. Poor Dan Fouts - that was the last time he got close to the Super Bowl.

7. June 20, 1983. Philadelphia Stars 12, Oakland Invaders 6. This is the only USFL game I ever went to, and although it was a lousy game, it's one of my favorite moments because it was such a fun experience. It rained all night, and the game was so dull that the people in the stands, dancing in the rain as they got drunker and drunker, became the entertainment for me and my dad. We had a ball - it was one of the few times that my dad and I did something together, and I remember it well. The Stars were the dominant team of the USFL, and they broke Philly's heart when they moved to Baltimore before the 1985 season. Of course, soon after that it wouldn't matter much. Jim More coached this team, and they had some great players. It's a shame.

8. Penn State 24, Notre Dame 21, 1990.

Everyone in State College was watching this game on television, and when Penn State upset the #1 ranked Irish with a late field goal, we all went out on the street and partied (the game was in South Bend). While we were jumping around and celebrating, someone near where I was (it wasn't me, I swear!) got the idea to storm the stadium and tear down the goalposts. We gathered people like one of those cartoon snowballs that gets bigger and bigger and ran up to the stadium (which was a good two or three miles away) only to find it locked. Yeah, we weren't that bright. I went home, but some people actually got into the stadium and tore down the goalposts, paraded them down the main drag in town, and deposited them on Paterno's lawn. This led to the smackdown of the following year, 34-13 at home, when we all rushed the field again (and began chanting it early in the fourth quarter when we knew the Lions would win). The university was ready for us, and had the cops there to stop us from tearing the goalposts down. It was the only time I have been maced in my life (or tear-gassed, whichever they used). It ain't pleasant. Still, it's a great sports moment.

9. The 1995 Rose Bowl, Penn State 38, Oregon 20. The Lions played their worst game of the season and still blew out the Ducks, but it wasn't enough to overtake Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers were voted the National Champions even though the two teams should have shared the honor. Stupid voters! Still, this capped Paterno's last unbeaten season (he's had four in which he didn't win a National Championship, by the way) with one of the best offensive teams in college football history. They leveled teams: they beat Minnesota 56-3, Iowa 61-21, Rutgers 55-27, Temple 48-21, Ohio State 63-14, Northwestern 45-17, and Michigan State 59-31. Their two greatest games were against Michigan, whom they beat 31-24 on the road, and against Illinois, against whom they drove down the field late in the game to defeat 35-31, also on the road. Many Penn State fans are still bitter about the lack of a National Championship (including this one). It all came down to a 35-29 win over Indiana, where the Hoosiers scored two meaningless touchdowns in the last two minutes against Paterno's scrubs. But the Rose Bowl was a glorious moment in a glorious season. It's a fine memory.

10. Finally, today is the tenth anniversary of Arizona State's 19-0 victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were the two-time defending National Champions (even though, as noted, one of them should have been shared) and riding a long, long winning streak. Krys and I went to a Mexican restaurant with my friend Mike and were eating dinner while the game was on. We watched, riveted, as the Sun Devils dominated the Cornhuskers. I have hated Nebraska longer than I've hated Miami (and that's saying something!), so this was completely unexpected. Jake Plummer was cool under pressure, ASU got three (!) safeties, and they completely shut down the Huskers' vaunted running attack. We enjoyed our dinner a lot, let me tell you. This is one of the most stunning games in college football history, but it gets no love from the East Coast media elite. Stupid East Coast media elite! ASU used it to springboard to a PAC-10 title and within a minute of the National Championship. A great game, and a fond memory (even though I wasn't an ASU fan).

There are a lot of sports memories that didn't make the cut: the Sixers 1983 playoff run; the 1983 Sugar Bowl that gave Penn State their first National Championship; the Eagles 2005 NFC Championship Game victory; Games 4 and 5 of the 1993 World Series (the Phillies blew Game 4 and lost 15-14, but it was still a memorable game, and Curt Shilling pitched a complete game shutout in Game 5 to save them for one more day and Joe Carter's heroics); too many Penn State bowl victories to count. What are some of your favorite sports memories? Remember, you had to have witnessed them personally!

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Some good reasons why I don't want to go back into education

You know, I enjoy being a stay-at-home dad. It's neat. But sometimes I think I should go back into the job market and start teaching again. The world thirsts for my knowledge and what I can bring to them!!!! And then I read shit like this:

Embraced by PE programs sport stacking combines concentration, dexterity. That's "sport stacking" as in stacking cups. Very quickly.

I'm not going to linger on this story very long, because once cup stacking becomes a "sport," can thumb twiddling be far behind? Read the article. I saw a few kids stacking cups on ESPN a few months ago. Yes, they're fast. Yes, it might improve dexterity. But why don't these PE teachers teach the kids how to tie their shoelaces? I used to teach plenty of kids who didn't know how to tell time, and the day is coming - mock at your peril! - when high school kids won't know how to tie their shoelaces. Mia's speech therapist told me she hated PE, because she was lousy at it and the teacher - the teacher! - would laugh at her. Instead of making the kids who are lousy at sports stack cups, wouldn't it be better if PE teachers taught them some, you know, physical activity? How is cup stacking going to solve the obesity problem in our country? I'm just asking.

Anyway, that's a minor annoyance compared to this story. Schools in Arizona are beginning to offer a teaching model used around the world that "pushes students to become proficient in two languages, think critically instead of regurgitating memorized answers and learn from a global perspective by studying other cultures." So far, there are 11 such schools in Arizona. Beyond this, elementary students are awarded for picking up litter at a school near the Grand Canyon, community service is required for older students, teachers receive extensive training from the International Baccalaureate organization, from which the program is devised, with common planning periods. The IB organization, which is based in Geneva, started in 1968 for the children of diplomats, and they built a curriculum that would be accepted by universities worldwide.

Sounds groovy, doesn't it? Children should learn more than their native language, and they shouldn't have to simply memorize things by rote. When I taught World History, I told the students that I wouldn't make them memorize dates, because you can always look dates up. I wanted them to understand the forces that shape history and why groups act like they do. I did want them to have a general understanding of when things happened, but if they knew that the Hundred Years' War was fought in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, did I really care if they knew that the Battle of Agincourt was in 1415? I did not. As for other languages, that's just common sense. Spanish is the most obvious important one for people here in the Southwest, but any number of European languages are important, as is Arabic, as is Chinese. So it's all good, right?

Well, shit, of course not. Can anyone guess why someone would be opposed to this kind of teaching? If you said "isolationist, xenophobic bullshit," step to the head of the line! Parents and lawmakers are apparently troubled that a Swiss organization is influencing good old-fashioned American education. In the Upper St. Clair School District in Pennsylvania, the board voted to remove the program from schools, which prompted a backlash from parents and students. Students! Gee, who knew students could be passionate about learning when they weren't just sitting around listening to boring lectures? One board member reportedly said the program went against "Judeo-Christian values." WTF? Since when are schools where we learn Judeo-Christian values? Isn't that what church is for? Jesus Christ, I hate being an American sometimes. In Texas, the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative group organized by Phyllis Schlafly (yes, it's a Phyllis Schlafly mention!) warned legislators that the program has an international focus and philosophy.

Jesus Christ again. It's shit like this that make me glad I'm not in education currently. If my daughter came home and told me that they were stacking cups in PE, I'd go to school and tell them I would much rather she do something that, you know, raises her heart rate. If my daughter came home and told me that they were stopping her language program and going back to memorizing a long list of U.S. presidents instead of, you know, learning anything about those presidents, I'd be pretty pissed. I do like how American education is in the toilet, but anything that might get it out that has a hint of "internationalism" has to be strangled at birth. Why won't these mouth-breathers die off and let someone else try something? If you want your child to be Bible-thumping, narrow-minded, English-only-speaking, foreigner-hating, jingoistic Bush-lovers, then just home school them. Pump into them whatever ideology you want and leave the rest of us alone. Jesus.

Sorry, I get a little bitter when I think about the state of education in this country. And then I think that the only ones I have to care about now are Mia and Norah. So that makes it a little better.

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What have we learned - Week 2

Ugh. We learned that when the Eagles choke away a game, Greg doesn't want to watch any more football! But I will muddle through.

There were a few things that upset me more than anything in the Eagles loss (I refuse to call it a Giants win, because the Eagles LOST IT). First, this is the National Football League, and dominating a team for three quarters doesn't mean much if you can't score more. Philly had opportunities to score more, and they didn't seize all of them. You must score when you have the chance. Second, the game came down to two fumbles, an idiotic penalty, and a stupid blitz. The first fumble was oh so close to being recovered by Michael Lewis at the 5-yard line, and while the Giants may have still come back, it would have been much tougher. It becomes easier to come back when Lewis couldn't fall on the ball, it goes into the end zone, and the Giants recover for a gift touchdown. The second fumble was Brian Westbrook's inside his own 40. The Eagles probably would have had to punt, but at least the ball would have been far away. Then, with 10 seconds left, Trent Cole kicked a Giants player, drawing a 15-yard penalty. WTF? The field goal would have been about 50 yards instead of 35, and the way Jay Feeley kicked it (barely inside the upright), I would have felt good about a 50-yarder drifting left. Cole has had a very good early season, but if I'm Andy Reid, I fine him for that. What the hell are you doing, Trent? Finally, on the last play of the game, the Eagles blitzed. On 3rd and 11, with the ball at the 31. I can't believe the Giants were going to do anything except set up a field goal, and the way the Feeley was kicking, a 48-yarder is no gimme. Why would you blitz, especially because you have a third-string cornerback on one side and a 9-foot tall receiver on the other? Jimmy Johnson had called a great game, getting good pressure on Manning with only four or five rushers, and on the most important play of the game, he blitzed with seven or eight. Burress, who is 9 feet tall, was one-on-one. Even a poor throw by Manning (and it wasn't the greatest) is going to have a chance, because Burress is so tall. Sheesh. The Giants still have lots of problems (too many penalties, 8 sacks given up, Manning can't move in the pocket to save his life) and a tough schedule, while the Eagles get to play San Francisco (no gimme, especially on the road, but a very winnable game) and Green Bay at home before Dallas, so they're in a decent position, but this is the kind of game you need to win if you want to win the division. Damn it. [Update: Jevon Kearse out for the season! Yay! God, what a shitty injury. Please don't spiral downward like last year, Eagles.]

Meanwhile, the Cardinals showed why they always lose 10 games. You have to win a few games on the road, Arizona! Of course, Seattle is looking pretty unimpressive, even though they're 2-0. They got two quick touchdowns and then shut it down. What's up with that?

Terrell Owens broke his finger. Skip Bayless on ESPN thinks he did it much later than he claims, because then he has an excuse for his poor performance. Plus, according to Bayless, now he can make a "miraculous recovery" for the Philadelphia game in three weeks. That sounds a bit far-fetched, but in the self-promotion department, I'd believe almost anything about Owens. Unfortunately, I think the Cowboys are better without him, plus they have a week off and then another week off (against Tennessee), so I don't think it will have an impact.

Hey, I thought the Dolphins were supposed to challenge the Patriots for the division? They're 0-2. Good call picking up Culpepper without Randy Moss, Miami!

At one point Jon Kitna was 20-23 for 230 yards, with a quarterback rating of 102. His team was losing 24-7. I love stats when they mean nothing. Boy, the Bears got a little offense and they look really good. Whenever I turned that game on their defense was pounding somebody.

Early on, I turned on the Houston-Indianapolis game a few times. The first time I turned it on, it was 7-0 Colts. Five minutes later, I turned it on, and it was 14-0. Five minutes later, I turned it on and it was 17-0. It looks like another good regular season for Indy. And another big loss in the playoffs! I want every Houston fan to bring signs to the next home game reading "Where's Reggie Bush?" That would be awesome.

I hope everyone gets to see the highlights of the Panthers-Vikings game, because John Fox, the Carolina coach, should voluntarily pay a fine to the fans if he made the call that lost them the game. Here's the scenario: fourth quarter, not a lot of time left, Minnesota punting from their end zone, Carolina winning 13-6. The punt comes down at about the Carolina 45. The Panthers have a good defense and a decent running game. Drive it down for a while, kick the field goal, play some "D," get the win, right? Ha! The guy who caught the punt ran around for a second, then threw a lateral across the field. It was a poorly thrown ball, bouncing in front of the intended target, who tried to jump on it but succeeded only in kicking it backward toward his goal line, before the Vikings jumped on it at about the 20. To prove the point about Carolina's defense, they held them to a field goal try, even after that debacle. Minnesota faked the field goal (Krys loves fake field goals, and was sad that she missed it) and scored a touchdown. They won the game in overtime. I really hope that John Fox didn't call that play, because he might deserve to be fired. If the receiver came up with it, they should cut him. What an idiot. That might have been a worse loss than the Eagles'.

I didn't see any of the Oakland-Baltimore game, because, let's face it, it was the Oakland-Baltimore game. But it was quite the beatdown. I'm glad Andrew Walter got into the game, because he's an ASU guy and I like ASU guys (I live here, after all), but he got hammered. It's not pretty in Oakland, and it's not going to get better any time soon.

I'm sure everyone will talk about how great it is that Jim Mora has turned Michael Vick loose and now the Falcons will dominate because their running game is so good, and sure, it's fun to watch Vick zip around and pile up yardage. The question becomes: what do the Falcons want? If they want to win regular season games and fill the stadium, what Vick is doing is fine, because it's exciting. If they want to win a Super Bowl, what he's doing is not going to help. Until he proves that he can win this way in January and February against a good defense, this is all flash and little substance. It's fun to watch, though.

If the Packers' defense doesn't get any better, the coach may have to bench Nancy-Boy Favre. They got shredded yesterday, and even though it gives St. Brett a lot of chances to throw and pass Dan Marino's touchdown record, at some point, the rookie head coach (which is what the experts always say: "No way a rookie head coach benches Favre") will have a choice: does he bench Nancy-Boy and look toward his own future, or does he keep Favre and maybe get fired because the team sucks so bad? Tough choice!

Apparently the Browns popped Chad Johnson late in the game and bloodied him up. Good job, Cleveland! I was watching a little of this game, and I turned it on late to see a Brown player running an interception back. I checked the score: Cincinnati 34, Cleveland 10. Why was Cincinnati still throwing the ball? Sure, this is pro football, and I think pros should be able to deal with getting beat up bad, but that's why I don't mind Johnson getting roughed up a bit. Cincinnati looks like one of the top teams in the AFC, but they better watch out, because Cleveland, despite being a lousy team, is kind of tough, and the Bengals have to play them again, in Cleveland. What's up with your boys, Woody? Shouldn't they win a playoff game before they start getting uppity?

I saw none of the late games, because I was too depressed. St. Louis lost in San Francisco, which is why I worry about next week's Eagles game. The 49ers are lousy, but they play hard, and the game is in Frisco. Please, Philadelphia, don't take them lightly!

Did everyone see the touchdown catch by Jerricho Cotchery of the Jets? His team was down 24-0 and he scored on a 71-yard pass, and the Patriots are lucky that didn't inspire the Jets to a win, because he should have been tackled when he caught the ball. Whoever hit him on New England went for the big "highlight reel" play instead of simply wrapping their arms around him, he almost went down, but managed to regain his balance and went the remaining 40 yards or so. Too many defenders hit guys with their shoulder pads instead of trying to get their arms around them. And that's what leads to long touchdowns.

Denver 9, Kansas City 6 ... in overtime. Jesus, did that set the game back 50 years?

One thought about college football: this morning Colin Cowherd called Troy Smith of Ohio State the best quarterback in the country. You might not think this is strange, until you remember that Cowherd is the biggest Notre Dame dick-sucker in the country, going so far as to call Charlie Weis one of the three smartest men ... in human history. Earlier this year he was all over the Brady Quinn bandwagon. Yeah, how's that going for you, Colin? This is why I love homers, because they're consistent. I don't blame Green Bay fans for still loving Nancy-Boy Favre - he's their guy. I blame the coaching staff and the management for not being able to move on, but I don't blame the fans. I love Donovan McNabb. It helps that he's one of the best five quarterbacks in the NFL, but I still love him. These "experts" on television and radio are always proclaiming someone the greatest, and then changing their minds the next week. It's annoying. What happens, Colin, if Penn State goes in an beats Ohio State? Yes, I know it's not going to happen - I'll be happy if the Lions lose by less than three touchdowns - but stranger things have happened! Who will be the next "best" quarterback in the country next week? Make up your mind!

Anyway, most impressive win: I don't really want to say the Giants, since the Eagles gave the game away. I guess the Bears, since Detroit looked decent on defense last week. Or Buffalo, going on the road to Miami and winning.
Least impressive win: Denver. Good God, get more than three field goals against that defense!
Most impressive loss: Tough one. The Jets showed a lot of spirit trying to come back.
Least impressive loss: Lots of contenders. Tampa, Detroit, Oakland, Tennessee all played awful on offense and defense. That means blowouts. But it might be Carolina for just sheer stupidity.

Next week: I will probably be hurting from another Penn State spanking. Yikes, I don't look forward to that game.

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What I've been reading

The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck. 151 pages, 1957, Bantam Books.
I must admit something to you, good readers. I majored in English at a prestigious Eastern university. I was, until the little darlings came into my life and robbed me of my will to live, quite a voracious reader. And yet, through all that, I have never read a John Steinbeck book. Not The Grapes of Wrath. Not Of Mice and Men. Not East of Eden. Oh, the shame!

Then my friend Barbara, who was in graduate school the same time I was and shares my love of medieval history (my focus was on Merovingian France, while hers was on Angevin England, but still), sent me this book as a present. Oh, it's beaten up. It's probably a first edition from the late 1950s. It still bears, proudly, the advertising slogan "Look for the Bantam rooster - your assurance of quality!" It will never be mistaken for a classic. But, good readers, at least I can say I have read a Steinbeck book. As long as no one asks which one, I should be fine.

This is actually a fun, breezy satire. It's certainly not a great book, but it is fun, and shows a humorous side of Steinbeck that, if I understand correctly, we don't get in stories about dustbowls and oil tycoons. The French government, paralyzed by scandal and instability, decides to restore the monarchy. So that no group will have a bigger sway over the monarch than any other, they choose a lineal descendant of Charlemagne, who happens to live in Paris and is a quiet, retiring, amateur astronomer who earns a pension off a small tract of land in the Loire valley. His wife is typically domineering, while his daughter, 20, is a world-famous novelist/Communist/budding film star. Pippin Arnulf Héristal (the names are important in a historical sense, but one doesn't need to know why) just wants to live his life looking at the stars, but once the various factions in the government get into their head that they need a king, they force the crown upon him. He reluctantly agrees.

They want a figurehead, and for a while, Pippin goes along. He tries to sneak out into the streets in disguise, but he soon realizes all he needs to do is wander off dressed as a commoner and nobody recognizes him. He talks to his "subjects" and tries to learn about France. Meanwhile, his daughter takes up with Tod Johnson, an American whose father is the Egg King of Petaluma, California. Johnson attempts to convince the king that he needs to run the country like his father runs a business, but Pippin is a woefully bad student. Meanwhile, his wife, who has no one to talk to, brings into Versailles an old friend, Sister Hyacinthe, who was once a dancer in the Folies but is now a nun, and complains to her that the king refuses to even name an official mistress. Eventually, Pippin himself goes to Sister Hyacinthe for advice, as she is far more worldly than most of the people surrounding him. When Pippin does finally make a stand and realizes that to give up being king he has to act like one, the government factions unite against him and depose him. He decides not to flee, but instead simply returns to his life as an astronomer, with no one the wiser.

It's a gentle tale when it comes to how Steinbeck treats Pippin and Marie, his wife, who could have easily become targets of wrath. Marie, particularly, could have been ridiculed far more, but Steinbeck doesn't want to focus his anger on her. Instead, he wants to satirize government, and he does, pretty savagely. He makes the point (pages 22-23) that the French Communists supported the restoration of the monarchy because their party's natural function was revolution, and as French politics was in a state of anarchy, it is difficult to revolt against that. So the Communists could take advantage of the restoration of the monarchy, because then they could rebel against it. He gives similarly funny and cynical reasons for the wide array of political parties (including the Christian Atheists) to support the king. The best passage in the book comes on pages 89-91, when Tod Johnson discusses American politics with the king:

"I never understood America," said the king.

"Neither do we, sir. You might say we have two governments, kind of overlapping. First we have the elected government. It's Democratic or Republican, doesn't make much difference, and then there's corporation government."

"They get along together, these governments?"

"Sometimes," said Tod. "I don't understand it myself. You see, the elected government pretends to be democratic, and actually it is autocratic. The corporation governments pretend to be autocratic and they're all the time accusing others of socialism. They hate socialism."

"So I have heard," said Pippin.

"Well, here's the funny thing, sir. You take a big corporation in America, say like General Motors or Du Pont or US Steel. The thing they're most afraid of is socialism, and at the same time they themselves are socialist states."

Tod goes on to explain health care and pensions in business, and how if the U.S. government tried to do even a little of what GM does, the businesses would revolt. It's a very concise summation of our system, something that is true even today.

This is a quick, fun read that will make you smile and offers some nice insight into human nature, but it's nothing that is going to change your life. If you see it at a used book sale for a few dollars, it's certainly worth checking out. Who knew Steinbeck had a sense of humor?

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Top Ten Day: My favorite albums

After the runaway success of "Top Ten Week," I had planned on doing a Top Ten Day each week, because I have plenty of things I can make lists out of! Things got in the way, however, and although I started this post a month ago, I haven't had a chance to finish it. It's tough making a list of your favorite albums! So I hope I will be able to do a Top Ten Day every week, either on Thursday or Friday, because lists are p-h-u-n! Let's get started!

I suppose saying "albums" is anachronistic, as I don't own any actual albums anymore (well, I suppose my parents probably still have a few - I used to have Cargo by Men At Work on vinyl, as well as Buckner and Garcia's Pac-Man Fever - the entire album!), but I don't know what else to call them. I also understand that even CDs are becoming passe, as iPods take over and make it easier and easier to customize anything you listen to and skip the songs you don't like. Well, I don't own an iPod, and I love entire albums! So here are my ten favorite. As usual, I don't claim that these are the best albums out there - I probably own several that are more technically proficient and lyrically stronger than these. But these are the ones that I know practically every lyric to, the ones I might be able to sing completely through by heart, the ones I spontaneously sing occasionally when I'm not thinking. In other words, my favorites. If you've ever read any of my greatest songs lists, you should know that you should tremble in fear! So, in no particular order (except the first one, my favorite album EVER):

1. Marillion, Misplaced Childhood, 1985. I know people who read this blog regularly are sick of my love of Marillion, but I don't care. Ironically, I was introduced to them in 1985 when my sister, of all people, came back from Germany with two of their albums on tape, including this one (I say "ironically" because, according to me, my sister has horrendous taste in everything). I liked the album enough to get it for myself. It's a concept album, but most of the songs stand on their own. The music is beautiful and haunting, and Fish's lyrics, which occasionally drift into the completely oblique (as happened on their previous release, Fugazi), stay grounded in the story of lost love and innocence. Some of the songs are classics - the album begins with the trifecta of "Pseudo Silk Kimono," "Kayleigh" (one of the best love songs ever, in my humble opinion), and "Lavender," and ends with "Childhoods End?" and "White Feather," in which Fish brings his journey through life and dealing with celebrity and disappointment with politics back to the theme of the album, which is how we lose a certain kind of innocence when we grow up but that we need to remain idealistic, if not innocent, in order to become truly happy. It's ultimately an uplifting album, and pulls together everything I love about Marillion. I still listen to it often, and know every single word and nuance.

2. Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, 1971. Krys laughs at me whenever I listen to this (I taped the original cast album from the 1970s, although I want to get a CD of one of the newer versions) because I cannot be interrupted the instant the singing starts: "My mind is clearer now ..." says Judas, and from there we're off. I could do a one-man show of this musical, I think. Not only is it good early 1970s-acid rock, it has a very nice love song ("I Don't Know How to Love Him"), the creepy premonitions of Pilate (the sad "Pilate's Dream"), Jesus and his doubts (the powerfully angry and ultimately tragic "Gethsemane"), the two songs between Jesus and Pilate ("Pilate and Christ" and "Trial Before Pilate" - to me, the two best songs on the album), and Judas' angry contemplation of why Jesus did what he did ("Superstar"). The movie added "Could We Start Again Please," which is a nice song about the doubts of Peter and Mary, and included the astonishing imagery of various artistic interpretations of Christ on the cross during "Gethsemane," but for the most part, the album's music and words stand on its own. This remains my favorite musical.

3. The Horse Flies, Gravity Dance, 1991. I have talked briefly about my love for this album before, and it remains one of my favorites. I don't know why I bought it back in 1991 - it was during the time when I would go into record stores and simply buy tapes and CDs by bands I had never heard of but thought sounded neat. Occasionally I would get a clunker, but I did find some great bands that way, and this is one of them. It includes the wildly fun tune "Roadkill," which is about, yes, eating things off the side of the road, and "I Need a Plastic Bag (to Keep My Brains In)," but it also includes the unbelievably beautiful "Two Candles" and a touching tribute to resisting oppressive governments, "Time is Burning." The Horse Flies are a weird pseudo-folk band with lots of other influences - some calypso rhythms, some zydeco - but they blend these things well and come up with brilliant off-the-wall lyrics. They never released another "real" album - they did a couple of soundtracks and a live album - but apparently they're out there somewhere kicking up some fun shit.

4. Mother Love Bone, Apple, 1990. You could call this grunge, I suppose, but MLB's only album (before lead singer Andrew Wood overdosed on heroin and a couple of the members formed Pearl Jam) is a brilliant piece of late 1980s hair metal with all the pretention drained out of it. The guys looked like they should be in Slaugter, but Wood's psychedelic lyrics and Stone Gossard's Led Zeppelin-esque guitars meant they were so much more than just metal. From the grind of "This is Shangrila" to the rocking goofiness of "Holy Roller" (with Wood intoning "The boys from Mother Love Bone are like ... soup ... they're like ... nothing bad ..."), to the transcendent majesty of "Stargazer" and pained yearning of "Crown of Thorns," Apple never fails to shine. It's out of print, but it's available as a compilation with their EP from 1989, Shine, which is pretty good too. As much as I like Pearl Jam, I always wonder what would have happened if Wood could have stayed off the junk.

5. Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique, 1989. A while ago someone mentioned that he liked Licensed to Ill more than this. That's his opinion, but he can't say it's a better album than Paul's Boutique, and I still like this one more. Licensed to Ill is frat-boy rap, and it's perfectly fine, but I hear something new whenever I listen to this, and that's even when I can recite almost the entire album by memory. Not only is this album magnificent lyrically ("Excuse me young lady I don't mean to trouble ya but you're lookin' mighty fine inside your BMW"; "Like Sam the butcher bringing Alice the meat, like Fred Flintstone driving around with bald feet"; "Long distance from my girl and I'm talking on the cellular, she said that she was sorry and I said yeah the hell you were"), but somehow the Boys and the Dust Brothers cram in the most samples you could ever hope to hear, seamlessly. It's astonishing to hear all the little things they stuff in and keep the flow going so smoothly. I absolutely love this album. It's far too much fun for its own good.

6. Pearl Jam, Ten, 1991. I suppose that Vs. and Vitalogy are "better" albums in that they are musically more interesting and the boys are more daring on it, but for sheer kick-assery, you really can't go wrong with Pearl Jam's first album. From "Once," the first song, when Eddie screeches, "Once upon a time I could control myself ..." to the powerful beauty of "Black," with the plaintive cry, "I know you'll be a star in somebody else's sky, but why, why, why can't it be, can't it be mine ..." to the astonishing build up of "Release" and its final primal scream, this is a true gut shot of rock and roll, with more coherence from Eddie than we've seen on later albums and the raw emotion that makes music so good. When I saw Pearl Jam at Penn State in 1991, before they really went huge (they played with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Smashing Pumpkins - now that was a show!), they played every song on this album ... except "Black," which was and still is my favorite Pearl Jam song. Stupid Pearl Jam!

7. Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti, 1975. I could have thrown a dart at the wall with any of Zep's first six albums on it and gotten a winner, but the more I thought about it, the more Physical Graffiti came through. To me, this is the apotheosis of the Zep form - it comes after they had honed their skills on blues stuff that was fantastic but derivative, and before they went a little nutty. Here they strike a perfect balance between just jamming ("Custard Pie," "Trampled Under Foot," "Black Country Woman,") and that ethereal stuff that makes you think Plant was reading way too much Tolkien while he got high ("Kashmir," "In The Light"). All of the songs show off the band's chops, with Page the obvious hero but Bonham making a strong case for greatest rock drummer of all time on "In My Time of Dying." Fans of Keith Moon should listen to that song and suck on it! It's a great album because it shows how brilliant Zep could be even as they sung about love and sex and little else of consequence. A double album that earns it, which is a difficult thing to do.

8. Prince, Purple Rain, 1984. Unlike a lot of people, I know that Prince did not visit a South Pacific island between 1992 and 2004 - he kept making music, and some of it (The Gold Experience) is excellent. However, of his many peaks, Purple Rain stands above them all. He really put it all together on this album, from the opening blast of "Let's Go Crazy" to the majestic title track at the end. "The Beautiful Ones" is as piercing an indictment of spurned love as you'll ever hear (and one of the brilliant scenes in the movie), "When Doves Cry" is a nasty stab in the heart, "Darling Nikki" earns the scorn of Tipper Gore and her fascist buddies, even 22 years later, and "I Would Die 4 U" and "Baby I'm A Star" are joyous celebrations of love and celebrity and music. Part of the reason why this album is so good is that Prince resists adding one of those treacly love ballads which often break up his otherwise excellent work, and here, the tightness of the tracks and the blending of the screeching guitar with the rest of the band is brilliant. Too bad he went all ego on everyone, because he's done very good work since then, but never as joyful.

9. Genesis, Duke, 1980. My favorite band used to be Genesis, and this remains my favorite album. I thought about which album by Genesis was my favorite, and rejected the Peter Gabriel stuff because, although there are many great songs on the early stuff, too often there were some dogs, too. For every "Supper's Ready" on Foxtrot there's a "Can-Utility And The Coastliners." We get "The Musical Box" on Nursery Cryme but then we get "The Return Of The Giant Hogweed." So I thought about the post-Gabriel stuff, and Duke straddles the line between the weird, prog-rock of the 1970s (which produced some very good Phil Collins-as-lead-singer albums) and the stadium rock of the 1980s (which produced Invisible Touch, and the less said about that the better). Duke begins with "Behind The Lines," which contains a long musical segment, and then Phil comes in with a sweet tale of love that segues into "Duchess," a bitter song about a singer losing her looks but remaining strong. The pop singles of the album ("Misunderstanding" and "Turn It On Again") are complex musically and wistful lyrically, and I have recently mentioned how much I like "Heathaze." The album ends with a bit of a reprise of the musical themes of the first three songs, and a triumphant (as opposed to sad) restating of the lyrics in "Guide Vocal." A very nicely done album that shows how good AND accessible Genesis could be.

10. Jane's Addiction, Nothing's Shocking, 1988. Jane's had a very brief career (and their comeback album, Strays, doesn't count), but they had a HUGE influence on the rock landscape. This album, their second, is not as ambitious as their "last," Ritual de lo Habitual, but for sheer rock, this album kicks a great deal of ass. "Ocean Size" is a scream of defiance from a battered soul, "Had A Dad" is a snarl at God, "Ted, Just Admit It ..." is a savage attack on the cult of sex and violence that the news peddles, and "Pigs In Zen" rips the upper crust a new one. Even with all this anger, Perry Farrell still gives us "Jane Says," a tragic tale of a girl with no direction, and "Summertime Rolls," a beautiful love song about a more innocent time. It's a wonderful album for the lyrics and Dave Navarro's truly brilliant guitar playing, and Stephen Perkins on drums keeps the tempo zipping when Farrell wants to drawl, while Eric Avery's rumbling bass provides the perfect slightly funky foundation for the hard rock going on above. Excellent stuff.

This was a hard list, because a lot of albums I love missed the cut. You'll note that there are no ABBA albums on this list, even though I love ABBA. Well, ABBA albums, for the most part, are not very well constructed. They have lots of great songs on them, but I think of ABBA as a singles band more, so I concentrate on the songs. If I had to choose, I would probably say Arrival is my favorite, but I don't have to choose!

Any thoughts? What are your own favorite albums? That's what we're all about here -sharing!

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Something to ponder when you're pondering the imponderable Part Three!

If this supernova had occurred in the Milky Way galaxy, life on Earth would have ended on 18 February of this year. Read more about it at Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Yes, it's about football, but if you're only interested in the science stuff, scroll down until you see the picture of the galaxy. Spooky!

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Something to ponder when you're pondering the imponderable Part Two!

Is Richardson the true puppet master in "Deadwood"? Discuss.

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Something to ponder when you're pondering the imponderable Part One!

There were more episodes of "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" without John Ritter than with him. I find that strange.

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What have we learned - Week 1

It's September 11th, and I'm sure other people can discuss it much more eloquently than I can. I didn't know anyone who died in the attacks, and I don't have any kind of connection to New York, so beyond the fact that our country was attacked and people died, it doesn't have that much resonance with me. I mean, you should know by now how I feel about relatively arbitrary constructs like "nation-states," and people are dying right now in Darfur and other places around the world in a lot more horrific circumstances than the events of September 11th, so that's that. I will say that this attack simply reminds me how people in power use that power to kill more than they use it to help. So fuck you, Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, whoever the hell is running Iran, Kim Jong Il, but also George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and even Bill Clinton and his bunch. You all suck. Here's a comic strip from three years ago that sums up my feelings, as well as a lot of others', I suspect. Sorry if it's too small to read, but that's the way it is, I guess.


Moving on, pro football started this weekend, and that means I get to rant about it on Mondays for the next five months or so. If you don't like football, well, I can't do anything about that, so you'll just have to come back another day. Sorry!

I don't want to ramble on about college football too much, but I want to say a few things about Penn State's debacle at South Bend. I still think Penn State would have lost the game, but it could have been a LOT closer than it was. Here are things that bugged me:

1. Penn State won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. This is the trendy thing to do in college, but why did they do that? Notre Dame's strength is its offense. I would expect you want to keep that offense off the field as long as possible. If you take the ball first, you might move it right down the field (as the Lions did the first time they got the ball) and score (which they didn't do, but that was because of a bad snap on a field goal). That puts the pressure on the Notre Dame offense, and everyone in the country (with the possible exception of the Penn State coaching staff) saw how Notre Dame handles pressure against Georgia Tech. Yet JoePa and his staff decided to give Brady Quinn and the very good Notre Dame offense the ball first. First decision of the game, and already I was worried.

2. Speaking of pressure, Georgia Tech showed how to beat Notre Dame: put pressure on Quinn. Any quarterback is going to look ordinary if you put pressure on them, and Tech showed that Quinn, although he's being touted as a Heisman Trophy winner and first pick in the draft next year, gets rattled easily. So what does Tom Bradley have his defense do? Rush three guys for most of the first half and drop eight into coverage. They barely laid a hand on Quinn, and he had plenty of time to pick the secondary apart. Yes, you have eight people in coverage, but if the QB has ten seconds to throw, someone is bound to get open. Even when they rushed four players they put some pressure on Quinn, and early in the second half, when the game was lost, they rushed more and sacked him a few times and rattled him the other times. Where was that in the first half? Inexplicable. Quinn showed last year that he is good at finding receivers when he has time. Penn State played right into that. It's not even as if they blitzed him early and he burned them. From the beginning of the game they put no pressure on him. Idiotic.

3. Penn State botched a field goal try and fumbled, killing two scoring opportunities, but toward the end of the half, they were losing only 13-0 and were driving. On a second down, they had a perfect screen pass to Tony Hunt that got them 27 yards down to the Notre Dame 20. They hadn't committed a penalty yet, but the Pope must have called the ref and told him he was going to hell if he didn't start screwing the heretics from PA over, because on that play, the officials called a phantom clipping call. They showed the play, and the Penn State player did not appear to even touch the Notre Dame player, and if he did, it was just barely. The Notre Dame player didn't even fall down. Even the announcers, who have to be pro-Notre Dame (NBC is the Notre Dame network, after all), were skeptical. Instead of first down at the 20, it was second-and-long on the Penn State side of the field, and they had to punt. Notre Dame took the ball down the field and scored a touchdown, making it 20-0 at the half. Now, Penn State should have played better defense, of course, but that one call really changed the game. It would have probably been 13-7, possibly 13-3, and the Lions would have been in the game, but instead it was 20-0 and they were pretty much out of it.

4. Finally, the first drive of the second half. It's 20-0, but the Penn State offense had moved it in the first half. A good drive and a touchdown to begin the half gets them right back into it. On third-and-two, instead of running Tony Hunt right up the middle, where he gained 8 yards on first down and had been successful all day, Penn State runs an option. With Anthony Morelli, who doesn't appear that mobile a quarterback. WTF? He fumbled as he was hit and tried to pitch it, the Notre Dame guy picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown. Game over. What kind of stupid call was that?

So Penn State lost, as I expected. But it wasn't as bad as the score, and Notre Dame really didn't impress me all that much. On Saturday night Lee Corso said that he doesn't see Notre Dame losing a game until they go to Southern Cal in November. Did he watch the same game I did? I can see Michigan beating Notre Dame this week - they're more experienced than Penn State, they have a better defense, and they won't have stupid turnovers. Watch out, Fighting Irish! As for Penn State, they have three games on their schedule that are important: at Notre Dame, at Ohio State, and home for Michigan. I said before this game that they had to win one, and it looks like the home game against Michigan is the best chance, because OSU is going to kill them, if their win at Texas is any indication.

But enough of that. Let's get to those who pay for play!

Philadelphia looked very good after the Texans' opening drive, on which they scored a touchdown. Of course, playing the Texans is the pro football equivalent of playing a Division 1-AA team in college, so we'll see how the Eagles play this coming week against the Giants, but McNabb looks healthy, Donte' Stallworth was open all the time, and Andy Reid actually ran the ball quite a bit. Good to see. The defense played pretty well, too. Again, I don't want to put too much stock in this, but whenever you go on the road and win in the NFL, it's a good thing.

Meanwhile, in a stunning turn of developments, the Arizona Cardinals were shown on local television. For a home game. To appreciate the magnitude of that statement, consider that in 18 years in the desert, the Cardinals have sold out and therefore had no blackout 12 times (the newspaper had the number this past week, and I could be off by a few, but I think it was 12). Twelve times! One of those times was the first week of games after September 11th, when the NFL lifted the blackout, and 7 times were when the Cardinals played the Cowboys, who have a lot of fans in the area and would go to the game. So the new stadium is already paying off, and the game was pretty entertaining. The Cardinals certainly have talent, but their defense looked poor at times - Alex Smith might be a good quarterback in the near future, but he and Frank Gore shredded the Arizona defense. Dennis Green said he would run the ball more, and there is consternation around here that Edgerrin James only gained 73 yards, but the point is - he ran it 26 times. I've said it before - yards are nice, but attempts are better. The Cardinals had a 10-minute edge in time of possession, and that helped win them the game. If James gets 25 or so carries every game, the Cardinals might actually finish over .500.

I didn't watch a down of the Seahawks-Lions game. I suppose I didn't miss much. I will say that a lot of people are picking the Seahawks to either return to the Super Bowl or challenge Carolina (we'll get to them) for it. You won't do either if you can't score more than three field goals against the Lions. I don't care if it was in Detroit, that's just sad.

The Jets are walking a tightrope with Chad Pennington, because they need him desperately to play the way he did yesterday. Who's running the ball for them? If Chad gets hurt, they're done. Meanwhile, their kicker missed a PAT and two pretty easy field goals. Can no one kick in the NFL anymore? Tennessee will be awful. Can we write a team off after one game? I say yes.

My friend Mike has a man-crush on Marc Bulger, so he always watches St. Louis, but he was angry yesterday, because apparently the new coach has decided that touchdowns are bad. It's nice to win and get field goals, and their defense played well, but that's not going to get it done a lot. Just ask the Cardinals, who last year didn't score a touchdown in the first quarter, which is hard to believe. Jake Plummer is reverting to form without an established running game, and I wonder how long he will last before Jay Cutler takes over.

Buffalo shot itself in the foot once again. The game was the fourth in NFL history in which the winning points were scored on a safety. My question is: how stupid is J. P. Losman? The safety came on third down, and the ball was snapped at about the seven- or eight-yard line. So he ran all the way back into the end zone, took his sweet time, and then panicked and ran sideways instead of forward. Jesus. If that's the indication of the quarterback play in Buffalo, it will be a long year for the Bills. Tom Brady, meanwhile, looked very mortal. Who knew Deion Branch was so important to that team?

Everyone is talking about how badly the Panthers stunk up the joint, and they did, but a couple of things leap out at me from the game. First, is Carolina that dependent on Steve Smith? He's a wide receiver, for crying out loud? Second, yes, the Falcons won the game, and good for them, but they won it with defense. Michael Vick was 10 for 22 for 140 yards. I'm sure Logan is happy this morning, but that's an ugly line. Vick is just not getting better. It's bizarre.

I'm not terribly surprised that the Bengals went into Kansas City and beat the Chiefs, but I am surprised by how easy it was. Whenever I turned the game on (these early games were on while the Eagles were, so I missed a lot of them), the Bengals were doing whatever they wanted on offense and stuffing the Chiefs on defense. Pretty impressive. I first thought the hit on Trent Green was cheap, but it does look like the guy got pushed by a Chief, so maybe not. It's a shame for KC, because Damon Huard is the backup. Yeah, that doesn't fill anyone with confidence. Woody is already talking smack about the win (oh, I'm kidding - he's just happy).

I was stunned as the Baltimore-Tampa score kept showing up. I knew the Ravens would be better and the Buccaneers worse, but the highlights showed just how good the Ravens were and how bad the Bucs were. Holy crap. I hate Ray "Just Call Me Murderer" Lewis, but he looks like he did six years ago. I'm wondering how much of it is just a shot of adrenalin from having a quarterback who can actually, you know, play. I'm not sold on the Ravens yet, because Steve McNair has been pretty fragile the past few years, and if he gets hurt, it's back to 6-3 losses for Baltimore.

Reggie Bush not only ran for 61 yards (wow!), had 58 yards receiving (impressive!), and 22 yards in punt returns (astonishing!), but he also cured cancer at halftime and restored Lindsay Lohan's virginity and cleansed Paris Hilton of diseases just by a wave of his hand during a fourth quarter break. He's that super-fantastic! Yes, he had a nice game, but come on, sports commentators - it was Cleveland (sorry, Disintegrating Clone, but it's true). Kellen Winslow Jr. decided to show up and catch a touchdown pass, so I'm sure we'll hear more about how he's the best tight end in the business. Both these teams will probably play tough the whole year ... and still end up 5-11.

You know, I hate to dogpile on Nancy-Boy Favre when he's down, but that game yesterday was just sweet. SWEEEEEEEET! Favre, who was overhyped when he was good, is now seeing the other side of the media, and I can't believe the Packers would stick with him through the whole year. They will, but it's a bad move. Did you see some of the passes he threw yesterday? They weren't even in the same zip code as the receivers. I love the fact that he's playing, because he might throw 30 interceptions this year, but the Packers should face reality - it's time to bench him, because they have to see if Aaron Rodgers can play. If he can't, they can draft a quarterback next year. So, because of one Super Bowl win a decade ago, last season was lost, this season will be lost, and next season probably will be lost too. Fair trade-off? I suppose you'd have to ask Packers fans.

Another sweet game was the Cowboys-Jaguars game, because you could just sense the announcers (I want to say it was the Fox A team, which means it was Joe Buck and Troy Aikman) were just ready to start praising Dallas and talking about how they're going to the Super Bowl and how Terrell Owens is such a great addition ... and then it all fell apart. Owens caught a touchdown pass, yes, but he was wide open a few times and Bledsoe missed him, and Bledsoe in general looked awful. Meanwhile, after warming up, the Jags moved easily against the Dallas D. I will always hate the Cowboys, but it's been kind of hard recently to hate them with such vitriol, because they've been kind of bland. Owens makes it easy, as does the praise heaped upon them. I'm just waiting for the situation to explode, because I will laugh.

The game last night was strange. On the one hand, it was entertaining, but also, paradoxically, kind of boring. Both teams looked sharp but neither team could score very well. The Giants got hosed with the phantom interference call toward the end of the game, but they had a lot of opportunities that they blew. The Colts couldn't run the ball at all, but for some reason that didn't affect Peyton's play action. Why were the Giants falling for it? Anyway, it was two good teams beating each other up, which is always good to see, and the Giants look like they might be tough in that division (pending how Washington looks tonight). An early season showdown in Philly next week should be interesting.

Oh, and Thursday's game inspires only one comment: who taught Nick Saban how to throw?

Well, that's it. Let's break it down just a bit more:
Most impressive win: Baltimore, I guess, although Atlanta and Chicago get some love. It's hard to shut out a team, and the Ravens did it on the road against a playoff team.
Least impressive win: Seattle. God, that game looked boring. Better step up, Seahawks, or watch as Arizona steals the division from you!
Most impressive loss: Probably the Giants. They played the Colts toe-to-toe, and only a few mistakes and a horrible call kept them from winning. Yes, they were at home, but Peyton is just better than Eli right now.
Least impressive loss: Carolina. Not a good way for a Super Bowl team to come out. A lot of teams stunk up the joints, but the Panthers are supposed to be the class of the conference.

Next week: Tampa at Atlanta, Giants at Eagles, KC at Denver, Washington at Dallas, Pittsburgh at Jacksonville, and the Cardinals go to Seattle to take control of the division! Whoo-hoo!

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Great songs, according to me (Part 24)

Man, I went the entire month of August without doing one of these lists. How did you survive? As usual, here's the archive:

Parts 1-15 archived.
Part 16.
Part 17.
Part 18.
Part 19.
Part 20.
Part 21.
Part 22.
Part 23.

Okay, let's get to the next ten! I know you can't wait!

231. Hell's Ditch (by The Pogues on the album Hell's Ditch, 1990): Any song that includes the line "If it ain't a fist it isn't love" has to be great, right? "Hell's Ditch" is a great song beyond that, however, as Shane MacGowan growls his way through a nice misanthropic tune that builds and builds to that excellent line and the final, hate-filled sputter, "Naked howling freedom - Hell's Ditch." Ah, fine, fine stuff.

232. Helpless (by Faith No More on the album Album Of The Year, 1997): The last Faith No More album isn't the greatest thing in the world, but it's a solid bunch of songs, with a few that rise above. "Helpless" is a tragic, quiet song that builds to a painfully beautiful refrain - "You found a way to make me say, help me please someone." On the later Faith No More albums, Mike Patton really brought a disturbing drawl to the slower songs, and this helps make his lyric "I never felt better now" even more ironic. It's kind of a creepy song, but it gets under your skin and grows inside you, like all great songs.

233. Hey, Hey Helen (by ABBA on the album ABBA, 1975): I may have an inordinate love for ABBA, and that's fine, but I don't love every ABBA song, only most of them. And "Hey, Hey Helen," although a minor tune in the pantheon of greatness that is ABBA, is still fine enough to rank as a great one. Why? Well, it's about a woman who has left her husband and is striking out on her own, and is uncertain about her future. It's a quick song that sounds a lot breezier than it is, but even though it's charming, it's still serious. And that's what makes it great.

234. Hey Hey What Can I Do (by Led Zeppelin on the Led Zeppelin box set, 1990): Roger always picks on me when I include a Zep song, because he's always pointing out from whom they ripped it off. Well, here's another one, Roger! This song always pissed me off, because it's so freakin' good but it's not on any album - it's a B side. Stupid Zeppers! What a cool song this is. Nice guitar, fun Plant lyrics about an unfaithful woman (in the Zep Universe, is there really any other kind?), and a lazy kind of drawl that makes the whole thing work. Of course, because it's a Zep song, we get that nice caterwauling at the end, and voila! a great song. The 1990 box set is a billion times better simply because this song is on it.

235. Hey, Johnny Park! (by Foo Fighters on the album The Colour And The Shape, 1997): Tom thinks this is the greatest album of the past decade, and although I can't go that far, this is FF's best, and this song is one reason. It's short but powerful, and Dave's screaming, especially at the end, is sublime. But it's very neat how melodic the relatively quiet parts of the song are - the Foo are very good at harmonizing, rather surprisingly. And when the boys cut loose, as they do, it's great. This song is part of the first seven songs on the album, which are seven brilliant tunes. It's rare to get such greatness in such a nice row.

236. Hey Ladies (by the Beastie Boys on the album Paul's Boutique, 1989): It's difficult selecting one song from Paul's Boutique, which is one of the best hip hop albums ever (and will appear on my upcoming Top Ten Favorite Albums List, coming soon!), but "Hey Ladies" shows up because it can actually be separated from the rest of the album and it's got the freakin' cowbell! As usual with this brilliant album, the lyrics rule: our Jewish Buddhists reference the all-time home run leader, Chuck Woolery, Gabe Kaplan, Scott Baio, Van Gogh, and they fit that brilliant sample from "Ballroom Blitz" in at the end. Holy crap, what a fun tune. COWBELLS!!!!

237. Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway (by Shane McGowan and the Popes on the album The Snake, 1995): The wonderfully toothless drunk Shane MacGowan has a second song on this list of ten, after he left the Pogues and went off on his own. It's a simple song which is perfectly described by the title - and to tell you the truth, if my daughter was dating MacGowan, he'd sing this song about me. Shane gives it his full Irish conviction, and spits out the last line "Her father was a right cunt anyway" with such glorious vitriol that you just have to smile, even though I don't like that word. Fun stuff.

238. Hoof (by Mary's Danish on the album Circa, 1991): I love bands that are so old and obscure that they don't even have a web site. Mary's Danish is such a band, but I still love them. This song is wonderful, and the kind of song I absolutely love, in that it starts small and slowly builds. It's a nice enough song, but it has a killer short guitar solo that infuses it with just enough majesty to raise the song up from its grimy country roots (and that's not an insult, by the way). Julie and/or Gretchen (I never know who's singing) bring that great twang tinged with a hint of sadness, and it's superb. I miss Mary's Danish.

239. Hope Alone (by the Indigo Girls on the album Become You, 2002): Yes, it's another typically haunting Indigo Girls song, but I don't care - even if many of them sound the same, they always come up with a different way to make great music. This song has such a beautiful chorus ("You were looking for your distance, and sensing my resistance, you had to do your will/I had to learn the hard way, we were just an empty dream too big for hope alone to fill") and Emily sings it with such power even through the sadness that it just takes you along. She's very good at this kind of thing, and it makes you recall any sad moment in any relationship you've had, but in a good way.

240. The Hounds of Winter (by Sting on the album Mercury Falling, 1996): I'm not the biggest Sting fan, but Krys likes him, so I get to hear some of his music, and this song, the first off his 1996 album, is a beautiful piece of work. Sting's wonderful baritone is strong and contemplative, as it is on his best songs, and the lyrics speak of the remembrance of lost love among despair, always a good theme in a tune. When we reach the end and Sting sings, urgently, "It's easy to remember, remember my love that way" and then finishes with "the hounds of winter, they harry me down" and we slowly fade out, it's sad but still powerful, and the song lingers throughout the album and makes it, frankly, better than it actually is. Now that's the mark of a great song!

As we wrap up another ten songs and move ever so slowly toward our ultimate goal, I'd dare you to denigrate my musical taste, but for two things: you can't because it's so awesome, and nobody reads this anyway! I can expound on great songs according to me with impunity! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

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