September 2008 Archives

Getting Ready for the Debate

The McCain campaign aims to halt what it sees as a perceived decline in the crispness and precision of Gov. Palin's latest remarks...

Since I am guessing I will be talking about the big Twins-White Sox game tomorrow and Thursday, I wanted to put in an early plug for the big Palin-Biden debate this coming Thursday. The above quote is from a very eye-opening Wall Street Journal article about the debate prep work surrounding Sarah Palin. What I think is really interesting is all the staff work that is being invested in Palin and this debate. I’m sure that staff could be doing something else, like crafting a coherent McCain response to the economic crisis we are facing, but hey they have to put out the fire of the day I guess.

Now we’ve all seen the cringe-inducing Katie Couric interviews and the spot-on SNL spoof. And yesterday Grampa McCain had to chaperone Palin at another Couric interview, which didn’t exactly help inspire confidence. Interest is now sky-high for Thursday’s debate: Will Palin look like a dolt? Will Joe Biden be too aggressive? What’s the over/under on the number of stupid things Biden will say?

Expectations are so low for Palin that if she doesn’t get physically ill on stage, it will be considered a “good performance.? Personally I think she will do o.k. She’ll make her digs against Obama and the Dems, probably not make a major gaffe and survive the day. The media off course will overreact and think she’s turned a corner. In the end it won’t matter much, Sarah Palin is not going to bring a whole lot of independents to the ticket and it will be the economy that determines the outcome of the election, not how Sarah Palin performs in her debate against Joe Biden. But it will sure be fun to watch, like a NASCAR race, hoping to see a crash, not necessarily seeing who will win.

Weekend Review

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Twins. Saturday’s game was maddening! Even though they had a two run lead, you just knew the Twins were going to lose that game. Morneau’s struggles are worrisome. Nice game on Sunday but I expect Chicago to win out against the Tigers. Nick Blackburn at Chicago doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence but then again the White Sox are known chokers, so who knows what will happen. Nevertheless the Twin have had a nice season. Hopefully they are sending notes to Johan Santana asking him what’s it like in NYC. Not in the playoffs?!, oh that’s too bad.

Vikings. This is one loathsome boring team. What was your favorite Gus Frerotte moment? This offense is just plain vanilla. Especially if you watch other games and see what a real NFL offense looks like, then the Vikings offensive effort looks especially lame. This looks like a .500 team at best with Chilly given his walking papers by January 1st.

Gophers. O.k. so the Gophers are not one of the elite teams of the Big Ten. But right now I’m just looking for progress and not being embarrassed. Both were accomplished on Saturday. The game was never in doubt but at least the Gophers didn’t give up. That glimmer of hope is progress to long suffering fans. I can see this team still winning 3 maybe 4 Big Ten games. After 1-11 last year, with the promise of more progress next year, I’ll take it.

Debate. John McCain was grumpy (and what was up with that tie?) and Obama looked Presidential. Substance-wise McCain may have had the edge but that’s not what these debates are about. The debates are so the American public can get comfortable with who will be President over the next 4 years. That’s why Gore lost 8 years ago, in the debates he cleaned W’s clock, but game across as kinda jerk. McCain’s falling in that same conundrum.

Sarah Palin. Everyone’s seen the Katie Couric interview and the spot-on impersonation by SNL. For this week’s debate all she has to do is not fall off her chair and she will exceed expectations. So look for lots of spin saying she did pretty good. But so what? What exactly will happen at this week’s debate that will change the dynamic?

Baseball playoffs, Palin-Biden debate, Weezer on Friday at the X, Ted Hartwell Retrospective at MIA… looks like a fun week coming up.

Friday Random Top 10

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Wow, was that a fun game or what? Game of the year. Three more games against the sucky Royals, keep the pedal to the metal. Here's your random top 10:

1. Heavy Rotation -- Soul Asylum
2. Sharky's Dream -- Teenage Fanclub
3. I've Just Seen a Face -- The Beatles
4. Corrina, Corrina -- Bob Dylan
5. Free Radicals -- The Flaming Lips
6. Leavin' Town -- Jack Kerouac
7. All Shook Up -- Elvis Presley
8. 7&7 Is -- Hypstrz
9. Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth -- The Minutemen
10. Put the Bone In -- Soul Asylum

This week's list is a little different. Double shot of Soul Asylum and bunch of classic rockers, through in some Jack Kerouac and you have a random top 10. What's your top 10?

White Sox Choking (Again)

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''It seems like they can't do anything wrong here,'' Buehrle said of the Twins, after admitting that the Sox do flinch a bit coming to the dome. ''Manager Ozzie Guillen calls them 'piranhas,' but I call them 'shitheads.' I would tell you what I really call them, but I know you couldn't print it. They get on base, bunt, steal, bloop singles -- it's fucking annoying.''

It’s a confirmed fact that the Twins have gotten in the White Sox heads over the past 6-8 years as it seems like when these two teams are neck and neck, the tighty whitey’s fold like a rolling cot in a flea bag motel. The last two nights were no different. After winning a laugher on Tuesday night, the Twins used bloop singles, situational hitting, and lousy Chicago defense to move runners into scoring position and then get them in. Couple that with a bullpen that seems to have showered off the gasoline and you have the White Sox reeling once again.

Tonight’s the big game because if the Twins lose, Chicago is back in the driver’s seat and the Twins must sweep the nothing-to-lose Royals. Let’s keep the tighty-whitey’s hands around their throats and wrap up this series tonight!

New Ballpark Ticket Prices

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As mentioned Friday, here’s a link to the Twins new ballpark where one can see the different pricing levels and by clicking on a seat, see the view from that seat. It is a very cool interactive site and anyone interested in this stuff should check it out. Twins Ballpark 2010 has a nice little analysis (as usual) and talks about how the seating may create “neighborhoods? within the ballpark.

The site also gives the average fan a look at the new ticket prices that they will be paying at Target Field. Surprise, surprise, tickets will be more expensive at the new ballpark, however not as bad as expected. First the Twins have been keeping up with the Jonses in raising ticket prices at the dome. The Home Run Porch are $20.00, it was only a few years ago that those tickets were $7.00. The dome upper deck outfield are only $7.00 but those truly are not the greatest seats based on distance from home plate. The worst thing about the Dome is that there are lots of seats that are lousy but expensive. These are the seats along the first and 3rd base line that look directly into the outfield but still cost $30.00

The nice thing about Target Field is that the prices seem to match the quality of the seat. There are 27 different price levels, including premium for front row seats. Sure there aren’t as many $10 seats as you can find at the dome, but there are a lot more quality $20 seats. Plus the way the seats hang, I think if you are in the first couple of rows in the upper deck, your seat will be about the same quality as those sitting below you, even though they will be paying a lot more for the privilege. The picture above is from a $20 seat along the first base line.

Unfortunately gone are the days when you could walk up to a ballpark and drop $5-10 for an outfield bleacher seat. But compared to other sporting events, baseball is still a bargain. The Twins seem to have realized that and are pricing their seats to match. Only 18 months to this thing opens and I hear that by this time next year, we will have turf on the ground. This place is going to be great and I am counting the days until I get to watch baseball outside.

Friday Random Top 10

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Want to see where you can sit in the new Target Field and how much it will cost you? Click here for a very cool interactive site that shows all the different pricing levels. More on this next week after I play with it for a little bit. Now here's your Friday Random Top 10:

1. Stretch Out and Wait -- The Smiths
2. Outdone -- Uncle Tupelo
3. Last Roundup -- The Feelies
4. On the Tundra -- Guided By Voices
5. Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon -- Neil Diamond
6. On the Battlefron -- The dB's
7. Clash City Rockers -- The Clash
8. You're Still On My Mind -- The Byrds
9. You Can't Do That -- The Beatles
10. Big Black Smoke -- The Kinks

Just think if you were stuck in traffic and this list was playing on the radio. It would make you happier wouldn't it? Also you wouldn't change the channel either. What's your top 10?

Favorite Coen Brothers Film

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Since the Coen Brothers have come out with a new movie and are currently filming their next movie in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, I thought it was a good time to discuss your favorite Coen Brother’s film. Below is my list ranked from favorite to least favorite. I’ll discuss below.

1. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2. Fargo
3. Raising Arizona
4. Blood Simple
5. The Hudsucker Proxy
6. The Big Lebowski
7. Burn After Reading
8. No Country for Old Men
9. Miller's Crossing
10. Barton Fink
11. The Man Who Wasn't There
12. Intolerable Cruelty
13. The Ladykillers

From the bottom, forget about 11-13. None of them are that good and if I could rank 25 Coen Brothers films, Ladykillers would come in at number 25th. I never thought Barton Fink was that great but I had friends who loved it. I saw Miller’s Crossing so long ago it might rank it higher if I saw it again. No Country for Old Men’s ending really dropped this film down. I thought it was over rated. Burn After Reading may go up in time.

Big surprise for Big Lebowski at number 6. While I can appreciate it, it’s randomness left me a little off, some great scenes and characters but over all not as good as the top 5. Also a big surprise for Hudsucker Proxy but I loved that movie, acknowledging that many didn’t. Blood Simple was a great little thriller, that bathroom scene is just awful (in a good way). Raising Arizona is hilarious and of course Fargo is a cultural touchstone in these parts.

That means O’ Brother is my favorite. First the music is great but I just loved how they intertwined some real life happenings such as Governor Pappy and Robert Johnson into the film. Throw in an homage to the Wizard of Oz, and a great payoff when the Soggy Mountain Boys are finally discovered and you have a great, fun film.

What’s your favorite Coen Brothers film(s)?

Thoughts from the Weekend

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Twins – Stick a fork in them. I think the Twins season is done. They made a valiant effort but, youth, inconsistency, and a bullpen swimming in gasoline was their undoing. They will have a better season than expected but we also thought the Indians and Tigers would win 90 plus games, neither will win 80. Hopefully this experience will help the team in the next few years and the front office stays away from aging, washed up veterans in the off-season.

Target Field – So we now know what the name of the Twins new ballpark will be. Target Field doesn’t necessarily roll off the tongue. At $100 million over 25 years, $4.0 million a year doesn’t even pay for a lousy veteran infielder these days. In 2030, it will probably pay for the balls they use during a game. This one’s going to take a while to get used to.

Vikings. No Viking fan, casual or die-hard were under any illusions that Indianapolis would come back after the Vikes kicked that 5th field goal for a 15-0 lead. That’s they way the Vikings play. Always have always will. Childress and Bevel’s 3rd down play calling was atrocious, although I think part of was due to lack of confidence in T-Jack. Things could get ugly here real soon with 0-5 not out of the realm of possibility.

Brewers Fired Ned Yost. Yikes! Best Brewers season in 26 years and the manager’s gone with 12 games left? It’s a high risk move that’s for sure. Regardless of what happens over these last 12 games look for the Brewers to implode over the off-season.

Gophers 3-0. O.k. It’s against the cream puffs but we’re suppose to be 3-0 against the cream puffs. This team has a long way to go, I’m glad that at least it’s heading in the right direction. Just think in less than 1 year their new stadium will be open. I already have my place on University Avenue staked out for the parade.

Burn After Reading. Funny movie with a couple of surprises. Everyone’s a bumbler, everyone’s confused, and nothing is what is seems or everything is what it seems but people don’t get it. Fun movie.

Friday Random Top 10

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The White Sox are practically giving the Central Division to the Twins but they refuse to take it. Another long road trip, hopefully this one is more successful. As a send off gift to the Twins, here’s a weekly top 10:

Berkeley Mews – The Kinks
Footsteps – Paul Westerberg
Norwegian Wood – The Beatles
Roamin’ Around – The Super Suckers
Blister in the Sun – The Violent Femmes
Pinball Wizard – The Who
Behind Blue Eyes – The Who
Evonce – Thelonious Monk
Like I Do – Guided By Voices
It’s Not Over Yet – Klaxons

Nice little mix with half the songs 40 years old or so. None are a particular favorite nor do I dislike any of them. Pretty benign basically. What’s your top 10?

Mission Trip to Haiti

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An important but misunderstood tenet of Catholicism is the concept of social justice. In fact many Catholics (and non-Catholics) do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. Dignity of the Human Person, Peace and Disarmament, Sustainability, and Economic Justice are all major themes of the Church’s Social Justice teachings. (If you are interested in learning more about these teachings, click here).

I think all Catholics should at some point be a missionary in order to fulfill their Christian obligation of social justice. Now this doesn’t mean one has sell all their worldly possessions and move to a Abbey in Peru. Volunteering at Feed My Starving Children or Bridging can also be considered “mission work.? Me, I am taking a middle route, serving as a missionary for a week this upcoming January in Haiti.

My local parish church has been active in Haiti for many years and we sponsor a school in Leogane. For a few years now parishioners have been going to Haiti to help out at the school, tend to the sick at a local convent, and assist the poor in mountainous villages. Surely Haiti needs it. By far the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti has been wracked by deforestation (for more on the environmental degradation of Haiti check out Jared Diamond’s book Collapse), Aids, political instability, and extreme poverty. Couple that with recent riots over lack of food and being pummeled by three hurricanes in the course of a month, Haiti is a country in dire need of economic assistance, technical expertise and spiritual support.

Members of our Church have established a non-profit organization called Mission Haiti that sponsors mission trips like the one I am going on and to educate Americans about Haiti’s plight. The trip in January will have about 8 to 10 missionaries. Some of them have been to Haiti many times, some (like me) will be going for the first time. Our mission work will last 8 days and a number of folks are staying for a second week. Besides assisting at the school and tending to the sick, we will be bringing as many school supplies, clothing, and medicine our luggage can carry.

Unfortunately sending Missionaries to Haiti is not cheap and the Mission Haiti organization and the individual missionaries must raise the money themselves to pay for this important work. This is where you can help. Check out the Mission Haiti website and feel free to contribute something to their effort. If you would like to help sponsor my individual mission expenses (around $2,000) leave a comment or send me an e-mail privately (freealonzo@comcast.net) and I will contact you on how we can make that happen.

Over the course of the next few months I plan to do a couple of posts about Haiti and the situation in that country. Don’t worry, this blog won’t become a Jerry Lewis telethon or anything of that sort, but maybe a monthly respite from the usual ravings that populate this site.

Vikings-Packers

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Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had so much time in the pocket against the Vikings pass rush, he found it difficult not to take a little snooze during the game.

Book Review - The Omnivore's Dilemma

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Since we, as humans, can eat just about anything we want to eat (within reason of course), our main concern with feeding is “what do we eat.? Just think if you were a Koala. Are those Eucalyptus Leaves? Yes. Let’s eat. No they're not? I’ll pass. Humans have the ability to choose between many types of meat, fruits, vegetables, fungi, and grain. All of which are pleasing to the palate, nutritious, and digestible. This question of what to eat is explored at great depth by Michael Pollan in his engaging book The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Pollan traces the food that we eat every day right down to the farm. He visits a large farm in Iowa and describes how corn has become the king of all crops. Farmers have become so productive in growing corn that food processors had to come up with new ways use it. That is why our Cokes are sweetened with corn syrup and not cane sugar and corn is the main feed for cows even though their stomachs are made for digesting grass. In addition, Pollan buys a cow that is being bred for slaughter and is able to follow its life right up the point it enters the slaughter house. This monoculture farming means that farmers have to consistently spray their fields with fertilizer to maintain the health of the soil. Animals are given a whole slew of antibiotics because their bodies were never meant to consume that much corn. The farmers have it easy. The Iowa corn farmer barely needs to tend to his fields except to plant, spray and harvest, but at what cost? At the end of this section, Pollan and his family buy a meal at McDonald’s for less than $15.00 and consume it while riding down the highway going 65 miles per hour. Unfortunately the real cost of that meal is passed on to the general population through environmental degradation and increased dependency on fossil fuels.

In addition, Pollan examines the growth of the organic farming industry in this country. From its roots as way for hippies to get back to nature even though they didn’t know how to farm organically (thus organic’s original reputation as bad tasting and expensive) to today as a multi-billion dollar industry that is basically dominated by two large, industrial organic farming operations (one owned by General Mills). Those “free range? chickens you are buying at Whole Foods? Sorry to say they are raised primarily in large hen houses and only get a few days of sunshine at the end of their life. They are so used to the chicken coop, that they don’t want to go outside and after being physically forced to go outside, don’t know what to do once out there.

Pollan also visits a small organic farm that raises beef, pork, chickens, and vegetables. Nothing is wasted on this farm as the waste from the animals fertilizes the plants, cows eat the grasses, chickens root through the cow pies for grubs, etc. It’s time intensive but no pesticides and herbicides are used. Animals don’t need a lot of antibiotics because they are eating what they are suppose to be eating. The farmer sure works a lot harder than the Iowa corn farmer or the South Dakota rancher. But the food he produces is a lot closer to the food that nature intended to provide.

Finally Pollan decides to hunt and gather for a meal, including hunting and shooting a wild boar. There’s a lengthy section on the ethics of killing animals for food but Pollan provides ample examination to both sides of the issue. Pollan does feel a little guilty about shooting the boar but decides that in the end it is best to honor the animal (now dead) by serving it in a scrumptious meal.

Pollan is an engaging writer and puts his heart and soul into his story and the book affected me profoundly. This isn’t a polemic like Fast Food Nation but it is powerful nonetheless. Clearly it is healthier for ourselves and the planet if we can eat more food that is produced locally using sustainable farming practices and eat only foods that are in season (understanding this is difficult in a place like Minnesota). It’s not easy but not impossible either. Being surrounded by a largely agricultural area there are numerous local farmer’s markets from which one in Minneapolis-St. Paul can select locally grown produce that is farmed in a sustainable manner (alas very little fruit). Just this weekend I was able to purchase a number of cuts of meat from local farms, for a price that was not much more than one finds at the supermarket. This includes a chicken that was quite tasty (and juicy) after grilling.

I strongly encourage you to read this book, even if you don’t ever plan to “go organic? or start up your own slow-food chapter. As is pointed out in the book, it is amazing how little time we Americans actually spend thinking about what kind of food we buy and eat, even though grocery purchases make up a large part of a family's budget and has a huge impact on everyone's health and well-being. This book will help you think more about what you put in your grocery cart whether you shop at Cub, Whole Foods, or the local farmer’s market.


Friday Random Top 10

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We survived the RNC and Hurricane Palin! Over 800 people arrested, a police force that would make any dictatorship smile, and some cool music were some of things that happened here but were not really reported nationally. Click here and here for some fun reviews. I wish I had gone to that Mad Ripple Hootenany. It was only a couple of miles from my home. Here’s your Friday Top 10:

1. Train Train – Billy Bragg
2. Paper Tiger – Beck
3. Mansion on the Hill – Bruce Springsteen
4. Rock Hard – Alex Chilton
5. Dust Pneumonia Blues – Woody Guthrie
6. She Ain’t Got the Beat – The Blasters
7. I’ll Never Leave Home Again – Tom Jones
8. Pyramid – Wolfmother
9. Look What You’ve Done for Me – Al Green
10. Leap Frog – Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie

Wow, 7 of the songs are from solo artists and that Bird and Diz song is one of my shortest at 15 seconds. What’s your top 10.

McCain puts McCain first

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Governor Sarah Palin has belonged to a political party that has part of its platform Alaska’s secession from the United States. When she was mayor of a town of 9,000 people, she increased the City’s debt from zero to $22 million dollars. She was an earmark queen, hiring a Washington lobbyist to bring in more federal tax $$$ to her City. In most cases this would disqualify her from major political office in the Republican Party. But tonight she will be lauded and bestowed with love from the Party’s faithful. Why?

Because she is a conservative. Besides the views described above, Palin is anti-abortion, including when the life of the mother is in danger. She wanted to ban books from her town’s library. She’s a global warming denier and wants to open up her state to more drilling for oil. She believes that our troops in Iraq were on a mission from God. In short she is Karl Rove’s wet dream: a conservative women, relatively young, and reasonably attractive. Who cares if she has no experience and is literally a John McCain heart attack away from the Oval Office? She’s a conservative that’s all that matters.

The Sarah Palin selection once again demonstrates that Republicans care more about ideology than governing. It’s funny that the theme of the convention is “Country First.? It’s a recognition that for the last 8 years those in power have put the interests of the Republican Party above the Country. Now McCain once again has put his own re-election first. Who cares if we could be electing a 72-year old man with a history of multiple bouts of cancer. His vice presidential candidate, who garnered nearly 700 votes in her first mayoral election, will see us through. Did you know she once fished Salmon?

Welcome to the Republican National Convention!

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I think the picture above is an apt metaphor what Republicanism has meant to this country. Eight years of George W. Bush (and 5 years of Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota) has meant that the basic infrastructure holding our country together has collapsed. I just don’t mean our bridges and highways either.

Under Republican rule we have seen a 500 billion (that’s a B folks) be converted to a $300 billion deficit. We have made no progress in global warming, we have fought a war that created more terrorists in Iraq, while the guys who actually attacked us are still alive causing havoc in Afghanistan. Gas at $4.00 an hour and heating bills promising to be the highest ever. While George Bush was partying with John McCain, a city drowned and then the Bush administration and his sympathizers in Congress tried to push the blame for the poor response onto the citizens and public officials of Louisiana.

I could go on but we all know the drill. Republicans care more about ideology and having the “right? views than governing competently. John McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin is just one more example of a person’s views being more important than their ability. This same song has played out time and time again under Republican rule whether it was Republican interns being shipped off to Iraq to “rebuild? the country or a horse lobbyist being hired as the head of FEMA (heckuva job!).

So in the end it does come down to our bridges and highways. The Republican mantra of no new taxes means we don’t take care of what we have. Ideology trumps governance. In Minnesota it meant the collapse of a major interstate highway and 13 deaths. It also means 4 other major bridges (Winona, Hastings, St. Cloud, Duluth) being closed or severely curtailed because the state was unwilling to fix them in a timely and prudent manner. Unfortunately what it has meant for this country is more than the inconvenience of commuters finding a new route home.

So welcome to the Republican National Convention. Thanks for screwing up the country. We just can’t wait to hear what else you have in store for us.

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