Where does the Stanford football team go from here?

October 22, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct.22, 2014

There’s no doubt about it: Saturday’s 26-10 loss at Arizona State was a demoralizing defeat for Stanford football. The team hadn’t lost a game by more than four points since a 53-30 blowout home loss to the Oregon Ducks on Nov. 12, 2011.

That matchup was a battle of top 10 teams — Oregon was ranked third, and Stanford, which was led by all-world quarterback Andrew Luck, was sixth. How far the Farm gridders have fallen since then. Entering the ASU game, Stanford was ranked 25th. After the loss in the desert, voters rightly dropped the Cardinal (now 4-3 overall, 2-2 in conference) out of the Top 25.

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Cardinal chronicle: ASU clobbers Stanford, 26-10, in demoralizing desert defeat

October 21, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 21, 2014

Let’s not mince words. The Stanford team’s 26-10 loss at Arizona State on Saturday night was a full-fledged disaster. Any sense of panic that Cardinal fans had after the demoralizing loss at Notre Dame is now running rampant.

There was, of course, a game sandwiched between those road losses — a 34-17 home victory over Washington State. But the pass-oriented Cougars boast one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12 conference, and everyone knew that Arizona State would pose a much stiffer test.

The game seemed to be going wrong from Stanford’s very first possession. Quarterback Kevin Hogan sandwiched two incomplete passes around a run for no gain by Remound Wright. The Cardinal punted without gaining a first down for the first of what would turn out to be four times.

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Ambushed by the past: A blog post about the glimpse of television that prompted my previous two blog posts

October 19, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 19, 2014

Sometimes, current events catch you by surprise. On Tuesday night, a part of my past popped up unexpectedly.

In between World Tavern Poker tournaments at the Big Easy, a restaurant in Cary, N.C., I sat in a high chair at the island that separates the bar area from the dining area. The Kansas City Royals were hosting Baltimore in what would turn out to be the fourth and final game of the American League Championship Series, and I wanted to keep an eye on the action.

But images on another screen, showing an old Major League Baseball event, caught my attention. The video was fuzzy, and the sound was off, and my view of the screen was obscured, but somehow, I recognized the event after seeing just a second or two of footage.

CNN was showing a documentary about the event that’s known to the world as the San Francisco earthquake. I murmured “1989 World Series” (or words to that effect) to myself. Suddenly, scattered memories of my experiences of the Loma Prieta temblor began flashing through my mind.

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The day after: Two memories of Oct. 18, 1989

October 17, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 17, 2014

I have two distinct memories — one good, one bad — of the events of Oct. 18, 1989.

That was the day after the infamous Loma Prieta temblor. Classes were canceled that day as the university — indeed, as everyone and everything in the San Francisco Bay Area — assessed the damage from the prior day’s event, which is better known to the rest of the universe as the San Francisco earthquake.

The earthquake was a profoundly startling event; one never expects stable elements such as building floors and walls, let alone the ground itself, to gyrate wildly. Relatively few people were killed in the incident, but still the disaster made me contemplate mortality.

A big part of college, of course, is finding one’s identity. And just a few weeks in, it had started to become apparent to me that my true identity was not that of the star student, able to put his nose to the books, concentrate on the text and emerge a few hours later with a strong understanding — let alone mastery — of the material.

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Journey into the past: Earthquake!!!

October 15, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 15, 2014

One of the most interesting days of my life occurred when I was a college freshman. I had no inkling of what was about to happen.

This was a long time ago, so there’s plenty I don’t remember about this day. But as I recall, I was lounging in my dorm room feeling sleepy. Dinner time was coming soon. My roommate, Robert was there.

Then the building started to vibrate.

It was 5:04 p.m. Pacific time on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 1989. Stanford University, and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, was about to get rocked.

Robert and I both made our way to the doorway. We stood there, trying to keep our balance, fending off the door as it swung back and forth.

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The bomb at the far end of the galaxy: Why is ‘Supernova’ so bad, and why can’t I stop liking it?

October 9, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 9, 2014

Oh, Supernova. You could have been so, so good. Instead, you were so completely awful.

Supernova, the 2000 science fiction/horror movie, is a famously bad film. Its credited director is Thomas Lee, the pseudonym chosen to replace Alan Smithee after the cover of that moniker was blown by 1997’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn. According to the Internet Movie Database, the actual main director of Supernova was Walter Hill, the writer-director of 48 Hrs. and a producer of Aliens and several lesser science-fiction movies. IMDB also says that Supernova had uncredited directorial and/or editing contributions from cinema immortal Francis Ford Coppola (yes, the man who filmed The Godfather and Apocalypse Now!) and B-movie director Jack Sholder (The Hidden, which I actually remember as being quite good).

(Spoilers ahead.)

The movie’s setup is fairly straightforward. As ambulance vessel Nightingale patrols remote areas of deep space, its crew slowly adjusts to its newest member — pilot Nick Vanzant (James Spader), a former military man who recently finished rehabilitation for his addiction to a futuristic drug named hazen. The crew finds Vanzant to be cool and distant; he finds them to be gruff and unorthodox.

Captain A.J. Marley (Robert Forster) is working on his doctorate in anthropology, a pursuit that requires him to watch (and comment disparagingly about) violent 20th century cartoons. Benj Sotomejor (Wilson Cruz), who is either the ship’s navigator or its information technology guy — it’s never made clear — has reprogrammed and is becoming emotionally intimate with the Nightingale’s computer, Sweetie (voiced by Vanessa Marshall). Paramedics Danika Lund (Robin Tunney) and Yerzy Penalosa (Lou Diamond Phillips) are rutting like rabbits and considering whether to have a child together. (He’s gung-ho; she’s reluctant.) Dr. Kaela Evers (Angela Bassett), who had a hurtful relationship years ago with a hazen addict, seems to spend most of her time glowering and lecturing Vanzant.

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‘Church Signs Across America’ delivers just what its title promises

October 8, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 8, 2014

A number of summers ago, retirees Steve and Pam Paulson were driving around when they hit on an idea for what would become their first book: A volume of photographs of churches and their signs, which variously bear reverent and witty messages.

I picked up Church Signs Across America a few years ago on the strength of its cover photograph: A picture of the sign outside a Lutheran church that reads, “Free trip to heaven — details inside.” (This is a message from Ascension Lutheran Church, the sign from which appears on the cover and title page, although the church’s location does not seem to be stated anywhere in the book.)

This 2006 book loitered around my house for many many months, but I didn’t get around to flipping through it until I was seized by an impulse to declutter last week. I found it to be surprisingly tepid.

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Stanford setback: Golden domers crush Cardinal hopes in the Indiana rain

October 7, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 7, 2014

It’s hard to lose in more agonizing fashion than the Stanford football team did on Saturday.

The Cardinal traveled to South Bend, Ind., with a great deal at stake. If Stanford’s team was to make the inaugural college football playoffs, it would essentially need to win out its schedule. The squad also had a chance to avenge the 20-13 overtime loss that it suffered in its last trip to Notre Dame, in 2012 — a controversial affair in which Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor appeared to score what would have been the game-tying touchdown on a play that was whistled dead by the officials.

Stanford’s 2014 edition has had a bifurcated identity. The defense is the Cardinal’s Dr. Jekyll: Entering the weekend, it led the nation in scoring defense (6.5 points per game), total defense (198 yards per game) and passing defense (74 ypg). The team had permitted just four plays of 20 yards or longer this season, second fewest in the land.

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Injured again! My random encounter with a vine

October 6, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 6, 2014

I was moping around the house Thursday afternoon when I decided to clean out my ears.

As is so often the case, this had the opposite effect from what I’d intended: The wax was compacted in my right ear, thereby occluding my hearing. I’ve previously described what this is like:

[S]ounds are fuzzier and softer and just harder to make out… [I]t leaves me with the sensation of being trapped in my own head. It also makes me feel slightly dizzy and fatigued.

I’ve been walking around like this for a few days now. There has, however, been a twist: On Friday, without my doing anything, my left ear canal closed up.

My right ear isn’t great, but it’s better than my left ear now. Except sometimes when they switch. It’s all very confusing.

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Dream diary: The hallway to nowhere

October 5, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Oct. 5, 2014

This morning, I dreamed that my parent, my sibling and I were making our way south through an urban environment that resembled, but surely was not, Manhattan. We were trying to escape from someone, possibly a family member. The situation changed, I think, at some point in the dream, so that we were later trying to find or reconnect with someone — possibly the same person whom we had earlier been trying to evade.

To this end, we stopped in a building that reminded me of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. We wanted to contact the authorities and pass on some kind of message — possibly including information about how the other person could find us — to be broadcast or passed along to that missing individual.

We were walking through the building, with myself in the lead. We passed through a door and found ourselves in a downward-sloping corridor, rather like a gangway leading to an airplane. There was a right angle in the corridor, and then the passage came to a doorway.

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