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January 25, 2010

Vikings Update

Five turnovers and one costly penalty made sure that the Vikings didn't advance to their first Super Bowl in over 30 years. Still, no one ran the wrong way after an interception or punted on third down (both real events at Viking Super Bowls from the 1970s). Favre got us close, but in the end he became just another victim of his own mistakes and fellow teammates. The Vikings curse remains. About the only way to lift it is to let Zygi Wilf sell the team to Los Angeles. Hell, they already have the Los Angeles Kings.

Painful as it is let's face facts. The Vikings are never going to win a Super Bowl. The team name itself is based on a illiterate Swedish farmer who forged a runestone and convinced the gullible that Viking explorers were in West Central Minnesota. It's time to wake up and choose reality over illusion. Maybe we can eventually get an NFL expansion team. My vote would be for either the Minnesota Blizzard or Minnesota Skitters. At least we'd be honest with ourselves.

January 24, 2010

Gilliam's Unlikely Masterpiece

I'm a Terry Gilliam fan. My favorite movie is The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The director's new movie The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has much in common with it, including the same writers. Both are visually imaginative and feature an old man, a forgotten weaver of stories, as the main character. Doctor Parnassus takes it a step further, though. Unlike the Baron the good Doctor (played by Christopher Plummer) doesn't have adventures. Instead, other people have them by stepping into his vast imagination by way of a magic mirror.

The plot, that which there is in any Gilliam flick, involves the Devil (played by Tom Waits) come to collect on a bargain he made with Parnassus years ago. In exchange for immortality Doctor Parnassus agreed to give Mr. Nick his daughter Valentina (played by Lily Cole) when she turns 16. That day is fast approaching now. Always one to wager, the Devil agrees to a new bet; the first one to five souls wins. Helping Parnassus is a mysterious stranger named Tony (played by Heath Ledger, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell) as well as his small traveling troupe.

Shot around London the movie boasts some familiar sites such as Blackfriars bridge, but it really takes flight each time we enter the Imaginarium. Once inside, each individual must make a choice, good or evil, dreaming or simply settling. Although sometimes short on logic or explanation, the scenes on the other side of the mirror are a spectacle, and a glorious return to form for Gilliam. One can quibble over this and that, but the fact that the movie exists at all is a small miracle. After losing its star Heath Ledger to a prescription drug overdose only halfway through filming, Gilliam and Co. scrambled and produced not only a fitting tribute to Heath, but a beautiful film as well. I've only seen it once, and it will take repeated viewings to fully appreciate what the former Monty Python animator has created. Here's hoping Gilliam's imagination continues to soar for years to come.


Health of Our Country

I have a new New Year's resolution: I will no longer vote for democrats or republicans. Given a good choice I plan on casting my ballot for third party candidates. Why? You might reasonably ask. I don't enjoy throwing my vote away. Yet that it exactly the result with our current two-party system of intransigence and political maneuvering. It's all about control. Who has it? Whose going to get it back. Long gone is a spirit of compromise to get the job done. Any job. Ted Kennedy, despite his fiery rhetoric, worked across the aisle. That kind of perspective died with him as did his dream of health care reform. The victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts was a set-back not only for Obama's legislative goals, and much-needed health care reform, but is an indication of how dysfunctional we are as a nation.

Someone please tell me how affordable health care, one where the insurance companies don't run the show, is a bad thing. Do Republicans like the idea of an individual being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition? Even with limits on abortion access and the dropping of a public option Republicans still wouldn't vote for it? It certainly wasn't a perfect bill, but governance isn't about perfection. It's about fixing problems and making life better for citizens. The Republicans aren't interested in health care reform just like the Democrats aren't interested in giving tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans. They would rather prey on people's fears and cater to special interests.

Still, the Democrats are no saints, and are just as guilty of stubbornness and unreasonableness. Despite their speeches and promises every politician just wants to get reelected and so the endless cycle of campaigning, elections and money and 24-hour news analysis continues. The party out of power has become the equivalent of a spoiler, existing only to criticize and bide its time until it can return to prominence. My guy won. Your gal lost. Has it really become that childish? So that's why I'll be voting for a third-party candidate. Someone who isn't beholden to politics as usual. And most importantly, someone who the other two major parties will have to negotiate with to pass legislation. It's time we start demanding our politicians actually do something beyond simply getting reelected. Let's set some term limits. That way if they don't do anything while in office they won't have the luxury of doing nothing forever. Fresh blood and fresh thinking.

Vikes

As I type this my beloved Minnesota Vikings are playing the New Orleans Saints in the AFC Championship game. They are currently behind by a touchdown with a little under 8 minutes to play. It is a good thing I am not watching the game on television. Instead, due to a Sunday work shift at the reference desk I am forced to check online for score updates. This helps by blood pressure immensely.

When I was a boy of 11 I watched the Vikings lose a Super Bowl for the fourth time. They have not been back since although fans will remember how close we came in 1998. Through the intervening years I have followed the team (and football in general) with less and less interest. Surely a string of losing seasons had something to do with it, but I've also enjoyed my Sundays more, freed from the roller coaster ride that is professional sports.

All that changed when Brett Favre came to Minnesota this past August, with a 39-year-old arm and a Super Bowl dream that wouldn't quite die. That would also be a good way to describe my own feelings as a long-suffering Minnesota Vikings fan. I still have a boyhood dream of that one elusive victory. I see a mass of purple celebrating as over 40 years of heartbeat disappear in a single moment. Will it happen this year? The next? Never? I wish I could say with certainty that I believe it will happen in 2010. I can almost say that, but not quite. I am a Vikings fan after all.