Archive for December, 2012

Know Your Foe: Badger facts for the 99th Rose Bowl

December 31, 2012

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I’m in Los Angeles for the 99th edition of the Rose Bowl, pitting my alma mater against the Big 10 champion. To celebrate the occasion, here is the first of two posts featuring facts on the two squads. Wisconsin is in the spotlight today; I’ll have a shorter roundup of Stanford football facts on New Year’s Day.

Speaking of which: Happy New Year — and thank you, as always, for reading this blog! Now, on to the football!

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Wisconsin parallels Stanford in that both had problems finding consistent quarterback play.

Moreover, both teams are appearing in their third consecutive BCS bowl game, tied for second after Oregon, which is making its fourth straight appearance. Wisconsin has played in the previous two Rose Bowls. The Cardinal finished its last two seasons in the Orange and Fiesta bowls.

The Cardinal is 42-10 (.808) since the start of the 2009 season, the sixth-best mark in the FBS. Wisconsin checks in at 40-13 (.755), or 11th-best.

Adequate QB play and a strong rushing game could be enough to power Wisconsin to victory. Wisconsin has not had 300 yards passing in any game this year, relying instead on its ground attack. With 277.8 yards per game, the Badgers’ rushing attack is the 12th most potent in the nation.

Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: Ammunition counts

December 28, 2012

This one wondrous sentence suggests just how disparate the experiences of two nations with two very different gun control regimes can be.

As many as 100 bullets were fired in Newtown; last year, a total of 85 were fired at people by the police in all of Germany and 49 of them were warning shots.

Source: Michael Winship, “Just a Few Miles From Newtown,” BillMoyers.com, Dec. 16, 2012.

In ‘The Given Day,’ Lehane breathes immediacy, vitality into the Boston of 1919

December 27, 2012

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Dec. 27, 2012

Before I was given a copy of The Given Day, along with what was effectively a command to read the book in short order, I’d never laid eyes on a Dennis Lehane tale before.

Which isn’t to say that I did not know of or respect this American novelist. I saw and greatly admired Mystic River, the movie based on a 2001 Lehane work, when it was released to significant acclaim in 2003. Still, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I even cracked the spine of one of his novels.

The bulk of The Given Day transpires in Boston between mid-1918 and late 1919. It is largely the story of two men. One is Danny Coughlin, a massive, strong-willed 27-year-old policeman whose father is an Irish immigrant who has risen to prominence and a captaincy in the Boston police department. The other is Luther Laurence, a slim, fleet-of-foot handyman, also strong-willed, whose father abandoned his son and wife to poverty.

Although most of this 2008 novel is told from Coughlin’s and Laurence’s perspectives, a number of interstices present the viewpoint of one George Herman Ruth, the baseball immortal better known to fans as the Babe. A handful of relatively short passages put us inside the minds of other key characters, notably Coughlin’s father as well as Danny’s slightly older and much younger brothers, Connor and Joe, respectively; and Laurence’s wife.

Ruth meets Connor Coughlin and Danny Coughlin separately, but these encounters are essentially incidental to the plot. The ball player has two run-ins with Laurence, also mostly incidental to the main plot. However, the first of these meetings takes place as part of an episode that presents a gripping metaphor for race relations in America for much of this nation’s history. (Race relations seems too weak a phrase for a segregated system in which rights and wealth were largely reserved for Caucasians; please feel free to suggest more aptly worded sentences in the comment section below.)

The majority of The Given Day documents the personal and societal forces that led up to the evidently disastrous Boston police strike of 1919. (I believe this event took place in September of that year.) Lehane’s sympathies are clearly with not just the police labor union but with other unions, yet he rarely reduces issues to black and white.

In his telling, the policemen — and they were all men then, of course — were essentially forced to take radical steps because of the parsimony of Boston’s leadership. Police officers were required to work extended hours and to spend three nights a week on call, sleeping in precinct houses that were filthy and ridden with vermin. They never received compensation for working overtime. The force went for years without raises, despite promises of fair treatment by Boston officials. Officers who put their lives on the line found themselves unable to provide for their families even as other personnel, such as trolley car operators, made more, worked less and had been awarded raises more recently.

One of the book’s few out-and-out villains is a petty, vengeful police commissioner who sees compromise with his aggrieved work force as a black mark on his personal honor. The commissioner’s adding insult to injury at a key moment helps convince 1,400 officers to walk off the job. Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: On naming the right names

December 27, 2012

This one wondrous sentence urges reporters and their audiences to celebrate the heroes, not the villains, of tragedies such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter.

Right now, everyone knows the name of the Connecticut shooter — but we should know everything about Sandy Hook principal Dawn Hochsprung and Mary Sherlach, who bravely chased down the shooter and tried to tackle him before being fatally shot.

Source: Sally Kohn, “Celebrate the heroes, not the shooter,” Salon, Dec. 17, 2012.

Feather-light entertainment is all that animated ‘Heavy Metal’ can offer

December 26, 2012

The bizarre animated anthology Heavy Metal is something of a cult classic. Unfortunately, my recently viewing of the 1981 picture (my first time watching it) clearly showed that the film has not aged well.

That’s not entirely the fault of director Gerald Potterton and the film’s writers, led by Dan Goldberg and Len Blum, who scripted the frame story as well as two of the segments. Since Heavy Metal appeared, special effects have advanced far beyond the state of the art in 1981. (Which this film likely does not reflect, with its estimated budget of $9.3 million, per the Internet Movie Database. Compare with The Fox and the Hound, an animated picture released one month earlier, which IMDb says costs $12 million.)

Moreover, since this film’s debut, popular entertainment’s restrictions on showing nudity, sexuality and graphic violence have loosened significantly. As a result of these changes, Heavy Metal offers views of material that, far from being forbidden, now qualifies as rather routine. The film’s decidedly juvenile mentality isn’t helpful, either.

The movie loosely revolves around an intelligent glowing green orb possessed of a malignant magic and a megalomaniacal mentality. In the wordless opening sequence, a space shuttle deploys a 1960 Corvette convertible manned by a spacesuited figure, which enters the Earth’s atmosphere, drives across a desert landscape, navigates a twisting road and parks in front of a hilltop mansion. Inside, the astronaut is joyously greeted by a roughly 14-year-old girl, presumably his daughter, who asks what he’s brought. “You’ll see,” the grey-haired man says with a playful wink.

Indeed. When he places his case on the table and opens it, the green orb inside reduces him to bones and goo and corners the girl. This is the Loc-Nar, a floating, talking sphere, and it demands that the girl look into its depths. The bulk of the anthology plays out as stories that the orb shows its terrified prey.  Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: A conservative maxim for downsizing Washington

December 26, 2012

This one wondrous sentence by conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg suggests a fundamental — and familiar — principle that should guide Republicans going forward.

In principle, Republicans should look at the monumental clutter in Washington like a boat with too much ballast to stay afloat: When in doubt, throw it overboard.

Source: Jonah Goldberg, “Return to Federalism,” National Review, Dec. 14, 2012.

Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 4

December 25, 2012

Last week, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

Much of the post was based on a report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, that spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As previously noted, the Centers for Disease Control has sliced and diced the data in multiple ways.

Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, this is the fourth and likely final post in a series presenting excerpts from these Centers for Disease Control publications. (The first two entries appeared on Thursday and Friday of last week; the third, on Monday of this week.)

Please enjoy these data on 2009 American deaths:

• There were 5,005 deaths listed as having unspecified intent, meaning authorities could not determine whether the fatalities were intentional or accidental. Of those, 232 involved gunfire.

• Of 25,562 falling deaths, 18 were homicides and 67 had undetermined intent.

• There were 4,211 drownings, most accidental. Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: Valueless families?

December 25, 2012

This one wondrous sentence, from a television editorial by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, discusses what’s gone wrong with American family values.

We scoff at the need for mothers and fathers to make it their priority to train their children to be strong in spirit and soul and responsible for right and wrong and exalt instead the virtue of having things and providing expensive toys, games, and electronics that substitute for parenting and then don’t understand why our kids would rather have ear buds dangling from their ears, fingers attaching to a smart phone, and face attached to a computer screen than to have an extended conversation with their family at dinner.

Source: Mike Huckabee, monologue, The Mike Huckabee Show, Dec. 16, 2012.

Facts and figures from the 2009 almanac of American death, part 3

December 24, 2012

Last week, I wrote about different ways that Americans die, with a focus on what role guns play compared to other causes of death.

Much of the post was based on a report, Deaths: Final Data for 2009, that spans 119 pages and is supplemented by 11 pages of additional tables. As previously noted, the Centers for Disease Control has sliced and diced the data in multiple ways.

I found a number of fascinating facts and figures in this almanac of American death. Because this information can be difficult for readers to digest in bulk, this is the third post in a series presenting excerpts from the report. (Here are links to Thursday’s and Friday’s fatality fact roundups.) I’ll probably put up one final fact-filled entry on Tuesday.

Without further delay, we now present the following 2009 death data:

• Murder claimed 5.5 lives per 100,000 Americans. The three highest rates are for these age brackets: 15 to 24 (11.3 deaths per 100,000), 25 to 34 (10.2) and, astonishingly, those younger than 1 (7.4). Those aged 5 to 14 were least vulnerable (0.8).

• The District of Columbia had the nation’s highest homicide rate, with 135 killings translating to 22.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national rate of 5.5 was less than a fourth of the district’s tally.

• D.C.’s 111 gun deaths, including suicides, homicides and accidents, also made for the nation’s highest rate, with 18.5 deaths per 100,000 residents. The national rate was 10.2. Read the rest of this entry »

One Wondrous Sentence: Justice Antonin Scalia and sodomy

December 24, 2012

This one wondrous sentence reflects the opinions — some might say antediluvian opinions — of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on homosexuality and the supposed ills associated with it.

A practiced cultural warrior himself, Scalia wrote that laws “called into question” by the court striking down the sodomy ban were “laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity.”

Source: Dana Milbank, “Scalia blocks the aisle against gay marriage,” The Washington Post, Dec. 11, 2012.

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