Monday, December 31, 2007

A Keeper?


Jail Protests by Militants Win Leverage Over Their Keepers - Thanks to protests and threats by supporters, jailed jihadists in some middle eastern prisons receive special privileges including private suites, fine cuisine, radio and TV and the finest robes - all perks the regular, non-terrorist prisoners resent. Best of all, for Ahmed Rafiki, the father of Moroccan jihadists, pictured above, are the conjugal visits from sweetheart Zira, pictured right.















Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is One Answer Only?

Mahmoud's a guy with a lot of answers, all wrong. However, as a guest blogger, he is the As Good As News Post of the Month pick for December 2007, so naturally he gets
57 Across - Star's marquee position: topbilling

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Perfection?


What was perfect yesterday? As Good As News was 2 for 2, predicting Penn State would cover and the Pats and Giants would play their starters until the game was decided.

The Pats finished a 16-0 regular season, but it took a nearly perfect game to beat the inspired Giants. The Pats had no fumbles, no interceptions, only 42 yards in penalties and punted just twice. Sounds like the line score on a route, but this was a game that wasn't over until a Giant onside kick failed with less than a minute left.

The Giant defense held the Brady Bunch to field goals most of the time for nearly three quarters and the G-men led with just over eleven minutes to go. Eli Manning played the best game of his life. His one interception came on an aggressive throw when the Giants trailed in the fourth quarter and needed to take some chances.

The biggest play of the game, and biggest mistake by the Giants, was not the interception. With about eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter Randy Moss ran a deep out to the right sideline, his defender fell after contact on the cut, and Moss was alone with a soft, floating pass from Brady headed towards him, but short. Instead of moving his body all the way back to the ball, Moss stopped short, reached out and pulled away toward the goal as soon as the ball touched his fingers. The result was an embarrassing drop on a ball the fourth grade punt, pass and kick winner would have handled. You could almost hear Moss pleading with Brady in the huddle after this fiasco, "Just get me the ball!" The defensive alignment gave Moss a cushion on the next play, despite the fact that bumping him on the line had been the only way to contain him all year, and Moss was off to the races, straight down the right sideline, past the last defender with little more than a head fake, deep strike from Brady, 65 yard touch down.

The Patriots bounced and grinned after the score like an eighth grade PAL team. It was actually fun to watch this team escape the grim hooded world of Bill Belichick for a moment and enjoy their success. No scripted celebration, just eleven little boy smiles at the emotional end of a big play and a big season.

It was also a very bad sign for the Giants. Despite the eleven minutes left on the scoreboard the tide had turned and the Giants knew it just as well as the smiling Pats. The next Giant offensive series featured a muffed snap, a time-out because the G-men couldn't get the right play called and a shift in focus from the assignment to the scoreboard. The Giants weren't giving up, but all of the sudden they were feeling the pressure and the Patriots looked .... perfect.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

One bet only - Joe Paterno's War

The Orphanage was released yesterday, reviewed here on November 20.

Charlie Wilson's War was not, and will not, be reviewed here since As Good As News did not see a preview and doesn't need to add another voice to the legions of reviews now available. It is highly recommended. Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are terrific and the movie, written by Aaron Sorkin, is even better than its generally good notices.

After a week of reading and watching item after item reporting the startling news that the Pats and Giants will both be trying to win tonight - I can't take anymore. Yes, both teams would like to build a lead, get the starters out early to rest, avoid injury and win with the second team playing the second half. This won't happen for the Giants, but Coach Coughlin will likely play his starters until the game is over or out of reach. The best thing that could happen to the Giants is the confidence boost they would get from a win, or even a very close loss, to the Pats. Bill Belichick may be reluctant to expose Tom Brady to the Giant's pass rush for four quarters, but he's not going to pull his starters, including Brady, if the game, and the Pat's undefeated season are on the line. Watch for me in Section 112, where I will be pulling for the G-men. Nothing personal against the Pats, but I don't think anyone should go undefeated unless they are from Pittsburgh.

Remember the 1972 Dolphins? They had one of the easiest regular season schedules in football history, but it looked like they would be underdogs to a tough Oakland Raiders squad in the AFC Final. The 1972 Steelers were playoff novices (this was before the great 1974 draft brought them Swan, Lambert, Stalworth, Webster and, as a free agent, Donnie Shell) but rookie Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception cleared the Raiders from the Dolphin's path.

Joe Paterno surprised no one with his conciliatory public reaction to an off-key attempt at humor by a Texas A&M yell leader, who suggested Paterno was ready for a coffin at an Aggie pep rally. Joe is old enough to know he doesn't want to sound ungracious or thin skinned. He doesn't need to make things any tougher for a college kid who had one bad moment. Joe is also an Italian who grew up in Brooklyn during the depression. He's wise enough to react graciously in public, but he is mad and he won't forget about this until long after game day. Penn State was already smarting from a season ending loss to Michigan State, now they are really angry. If you must bet on only one college bowl game, take Penn State to cover the 5.5 point spread.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Old Tigers Never Fade

Several years ago I had a close encounter with a retired tiger. We were spending a family weekend in Las Vegas after a week touring the Grand Canyon, Zion, Brice and Monument Valley. It was August and it was hot. If anyone tells you dry heat is bearable, their experience with dry heat consists solely of moving between air conditioned casinos in an air conditioned cab. We had tickets to tour Siegfried and Roy's Secret Garden. This looked like a short easy walk compared to our recent canyon hikes. We would stretch our legs and see the sights. Each casino on the strip has its own, very large block. A hike to a destination just four casinos away required two stops to refill our canteens, but we arrived -ready for a rest.

The Secret Garden was a cool, green oasis. We strolled with audio players that provided a self guided tour. After ten minutes I spotted an inviting bench, next to an exhausted looking Siberian White Tiger, with only a wire fence between us. This particular animal had a grey snout and pot belly. But for the sign, I would have thought the white coat was due to age, not breed. The inbred white tigers are known for a mean streak, but this cat looked like it was just barely able to stay awake.

I listened to the full audio lecture on the Siberian White Tigers, but I didn't feel like moving yet so I played one of the extra features - a short demonstration of the language Siegfried used to communicate with the Tigers. This was a series of clicking noises with a guttural background, something like a Kalahari bushman trying to get another round of Becks in a German beer hall. I looked at the sleepy old cat through the fence and thought - why not? Two seconds into my best imitation of Siegfried's secret calming noise, the aging feline snarled, then jumped against the fence before I had time to blink my eyes. The fence held as I jumped back, suddenly communicating in Anglo Saxon instead of Siegfried's secret tiger language.

The moral may be don't take lessons in Tiger language from a guy who speaks English with an accent after twenty years in Vegas. For anyone visiting a zoo that relies on natural barriers and the predictability of the tigers' behavior to protect the visitors, the odds are with you, but predicting the tiger may not be an exact science.

Chanukah Song Rerun for One Answer Only

Dance the Holiday Eclectic with Chanukah Song Update, featuring an obit related update, Adam Sandler, Rikers Island, strippers, torture and of course,
53 Across - Some licensed practitioners: membersofthebar

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Zeke Not the One Answer Only, neither is Fuji

The Knicks have settled a sexual harassment claim by one of their half-time dancers to avoid another fiasco. It's not preventing anything on the basketball court, Knicks Blown Out as Crowd Calls for Rx Specs and Moi? is practically a recurring headline. At this point the only thing GM and Coach Isiah Thomas hears is catcalls from the boobirds, nothing like: 3 Down - Coos and hoots: birdcalls

In the biggest surprise since Claude Rains rounded up the usual suspects, Fuji claimed he didn't know anything about his own death squads. There is actually a slight possibility this is true as Fujimori allowed spy chief Vlad Montesinos free reign to run the country.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Yes Virginia, There is a Bakunin


Anarchists in the Aisles? Stores Provide a Stage - This front page feature on shopdropping has everything you could want in a Christmas story - and more. Shopdropping is the reverse of shoplifting, the shopdropper plants an item on the store shelf and leaves. The unsuspecting shopper discovers the dropped item, which can be a fake T-shirt, toy, propaganda tract, business card or anything else. What makes this the perfect Christmas story?

For starters it's got hip holiday hucksterism, the garage band version of xmas commercialism. Indie rockers Death of Jason Brody slip sample CD singles into department stores with stickers claiming they have arrived compliments of the store or designer label, for example:


“Bloomingdale’s and 7 for All Mankind present the Death of Jason Brody, our pick for New York band to watch in 2008,” read a sticker on one of the CDs placed near a register at Bloomingdales. “As thanks for trying us on, we’re giving you this special holiday gift.”
As Good As News would fall for this, hook, line and sinker - but shopdropping is more than just neo-P.T. Barnum - it's got that staple of every holiday feature, religious warfare. The skirmishes are more fun than fighting about the creche on the lawn at city hall. At Powell's books in Portland, Oregon religious groups plant fliers featuring Christian cartoons in the "Science" section. Their foes move stacks of bibles from "Religion" to "SciFi and Fantasy". As Good As News Helpful Hint - it would be a lot easier to move the section signs than the books, convert the entire "Religion" section to "Fantasy" and vice versa in the blink of an eye.

As with most religious warfare there are elements of anarchy and terrorism. Artists plant fake canned good labels, T-shirts and action figures, using the familiarity of the shopping scene as an opportunity to send an unexpected message. The canned goods are relabeled with travel photos in a benign effort add a moment of wonder to life. The action figures include an anarchist complete with gas mask and Molotov cocktails planted by Packard Jennings of Oakland, California, who records prospective buyers on video and seems to enjoy spreading confusion among the proletariat of the cash register with his message that even radical ideology gets commercialized. Oakland's Center for Tactical Magic pursues a similar theme with T-Shirts picturing Karl Marx, Che Guevara and Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin under the slogan "Peace on Earth. After We Overthrow Capitalism."

As Good As News has not forgotten the Tylenol tampering deaths of the 1980s and would not like to explain an Al Qaeda action figure to a six year old, so you will find no endorsement of shopdropping here. As a purely theoretical exercise we have to note that this trend is just scratching the surface. It's hard to believe Mr. Jennings hasn't already planted a suicide bomber Barbie that will be discovered this morning. PETA is busy substituting liberated white lab mice for plastic sheep in mangers at a department store near you to remind you of your Christian duty to respect all life. Chinese manufacturers ship cases of plastic candy canes that look good enough to eat thanks to their shiny lead paint - oops - never mind.

Merry Christmas. Remember, that coal in your stocking is a diamond waiting to happen and to those lucky lawyers working today on contracts that need to be closed by year end, don't forget, an elf is just a subordinate Claus.

freakonomics xmas @ one answer only

Ladies sing the blues at the holidays because they are doing all the work while the men are watching new, even bigger TVs? Hey, anyone can be
17 Across - One who's always up for a good time: party animal , just let Economics Rules The World show the way.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bumps for Boomers

As Good As News always starts the weekday with the crossword and then a brief One Answer Only post. The picture above, from the Time's review of the movie "Steep" - Talk About Slippery Slopes, appears on the page facing the crossword, so we quickly knew where to start today's main post.

"Steep" is panned for showing too much proselytizing on behalf of the risk and zen (aka "mysterious mumbo jumbo") of big mountain skiing. Most ski films are short. Any attempt at plot is a cornball excuse to tie the ski clips together and introduce the stars. Despite this, the films are fun because the skiing is exhilarating, especially the scenes of the young experts free skiing down mountains that are nearly cliffs. Even some of the gags work. One of my favorite ski scenes, from "There's Something about McConkey", opens on a gaggle of regular skiers pausing at the edge of a steep section to pick their lines. As the group ponders, Shane McConkey zooms down and through them, does a 180 near the rim, then flies into the air, launching into a midair backflip as the gaggle gasps. McConkey, who sometimes skis over cliffs then pulls the ripcord on a parachute, appears in Steep. It's very possible that an overly serious and preachy approach ruined some great ski scenes in Steep, but based on the photo above I'm still willing to see for myself . Too bad, if the review is right, there's a movie still waiting to be made here, maybe not a documentary, but one that combines the ski thrills with a deeper look at the skiers.

Soothing Bumps for Boomers - Starts by noting that 80% of the skiers generally use 20% of the mountain, the groomed intermediate trails, because the baby boomers are afraid of getting hurt in the moguls and glades. Ouch. After working my way up to groomed double blacks over the past few years, I'm getting slammed as a scaredy cat because I haven't taught myself how to ski moguls. Fortunately, the story offers a cure, a three day clinic at Aspen with Joe Nevin, who teaches the "Jerry Seinfeld approach to moguls - do nothing". For only $840 plus airfare and lodging at pricey Aspen, I can overcome my cowardice. Even more fortunately, for next to nothing I can drive to Plattekill and try Mr. Nevin's tips: start with mini-skis, don't edge, keep the flat of your skis on the ground to go slower; don't be afraid to skid; turn on the top of the moguls. So this season, armed with Mr. Nevin's advice, As Good As News will be skiing moguls. If I strike out, I can always look for a late season special at Aspen.

Time Saver & One Answer Only

Rushing out to get behind the wheel and join the rush hour traffic? If you don't have time to read the paper just go on a headline crawl 3. If you're really stuck, enjoy
16 Across - Novel that nobody reads: audiobook , but be careful, you may keep driving until you get to the ending.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Darth's Office?


Fire Breaks Out on White House Grounds - Fire damaged the Vice President's Ceremonial Offices in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building Across the street from the West Wing. W was effusive in his praise of firefighters, who arrived in time to save the office from fire damage, although smoke and water may have taken some toll. The office contains a desk first used by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 and signed by every user since. W, who uses the ceremonial VP office on the many days when Darth Cheney chooses to work in the Oval Office, has already signed the desk, after noting proudly that he was fixing to leave at least one mark on Washington.
Florida State Investigation Threatens Bowden's Mark - Florida State announced the retirement of Bobby Bowden, effective immediately and the NCAA vacated twenty wins the Seminole's had recorded over the last three season in games won with the contributions of players who didn't do their own homework. Bowden did not speak at the press conference held by FSU, but a voice sounding oddly like Alan Iverson's famed "Practice" chant was heard in the background, repeating the word "homework" in despairing tones. In an unrelated story Joe Paterno resigned from Penn State as holder of the record for most career wins, taking an 18 win lead over Bowden thanks to the NCAA action. Joe Pa had no comment on developments at FSU, in fact he said only "Free At Last" before cancelling a recruiting trip and heading for Florida.

party animals and one answer only

I'm a Trapper Not An Exterminator is the story of a family of party animals sharing our home. 36 Down - Shindig of sorts: soiree is ok, but not every night at Two AM inside your wall.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MIT Prof. Lewin to save Texans?


At 71, Physics Professor Is a Web Star - MIT Professor Walter H.G. Lewin is a monster hit on the MIT open course web site. Learners of all ages from all places click on his carefully prepared physics lectures including dramatic, sometimes wacky demos. Lewin sounds like the Science Guy, with a college level explanation accompanying the demo. This guy is so good he's improving relations with Iraq. Where was Prof. Lewin when I took 8.01 from a guy in plaid pants who put me to sleep at 9AM every morning? The open course site includes 1800 classes, but based on a cursory review none seems to be a cross disciplinary introduction to evolution - maybe Prof. Lewin would be willing to take the project on as a service to the students of Texas who will be learning creationist "science" in class. Hint to Texas, it is certainly possible that a divine being set evolution in motion or intervened in evolutionary processes, but it's not science if your conclusions are dictated by the Bible before your inquiry starts.

Not stiff skiers, One Answer Only +

Not people walking stiffly after skiing Gore, Hunter or Windham; Not people living on James Street, Fenimore Drive or Cooper Road; No, the only answer to 52 Down -Belonging to a Hudson Valley Tribe?: lastofthemohicans. We know because it's in the book.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your On - Just Don't Say Anything Funny

Amid Strike, 2 NBC Hosts Will Return to the Air - Conan and Leno promise to return to the air on January 2, without writers if need be. Leaders of the striking writers union acknowledge that it is possible to air an interview show without writers, but warn both hosts that writers are responsible for comedy. Conan and Leno will be shunned as scabs the first time they say anything funny. This may be a problem for Conan. Letterman is trying to sign an interim contract to get his show back on the air with working writers. Both studios and writers will be queasy about a gap in their united fronts - this deal would not normally happen in a bitter strike, but the writer's union may prefer a one-off interim deal with Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company (which also produces Craig Ferguson's show) to the scab alternative offered by Leno and Conan.

Yoo Quiz and One Answer Only

By now As Good As News Readers know John Yoo, law professor at Berkeley and former Justice Department Lawyer who sidestepped his boss and went straight to Darth Chaney with legal opinions green lighting torture and warrant less surveillance.

As Good As News will adopt a single nickname for John Yoo, either "Dr. Yes" or "Anything Goes". Please express your preference by comment. Alternate suggestions will be published, not necessarily accepted.

45 Down - Armed conflict: hotwar and every hot war needs a Counterattack.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oops on missed Mormon issue, but Oprah v Chuck is the real battle

Latter Day Republicans vs The Church of Oprah - Frank Rich makes at least one point that forces As Good As News to reconsider. Recent posts here decried evangelicals who questioned Romney's credentials because Mormons are not sufficiently Christian. In reacting to this, As Good As News overstated Mitt's case. The LDS did officially discriminate against Black people and did so until well after Mitt became an adult. His failure to disagree publicly with this position is a legitimate concern. A younger Mormon, one who grew up after the LDS changed its doctrine on this point, would not raise the same concerns, but Mitt was old enough to question his own church's former doctrine and his opponents can raise the issue without crossing any boundaries on freedom of religion. Of course this was not the issue that concerned Idaho's evangelicals, but it may emerge now, or in the general election if Mitt gets that far.

I also agree with Mr. Rich's observation that Romney's speech was disappointing - targeting tactically on conservative Republicans, Mitt missed a chance to make a broad statement tying his own values to real religious freedom. He may have persuaded a few Republican primary voters that Mormons are not suspect characters, but he failed to ignite any enthusiasm beyond the pundit classes.

It will be interesting to see if Oprah, as an extraordinarily trusted celebrity endorser, can bring something unique to Barack Obama's campaign. Much hoopla has surrounded the battle of the stars between Bill Clinton and Oprah, but As Good As News awaits steel cage death match between Oprah and Chuck Norris. Chuck's endorsement was a real factor in getting Huckabee some attention as he began to move from very dark horse to contender. Now that he has everyone's attention, why did Huckabee accept what was essentially a salary supplement from the tobacco lobby while working as Arkansas Lieutenant Governor?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mitchell Report Redeems Bonds

The Mitchell report unwittingly takes some of the tarnish off Barry Bond's record by establishing the pitchers he hit against were just as juiced as Barry.

Roger Clemens has his attorney deny vehemently that Roger used steroids. Roger is an unpleasant bully. How this guy managed to stay a hero as Bonds became anathema everywhere outside of San Francisco remains a mystery. However, Roger is not an idiot when it comes to preserving his own skin (or making an extra buck - consider how many extra $$$ this character walked off with as the result of his "retirement" from the Yankees, including both retirement gifts and the ability to become a free agent every year thereafter). Roger sees Bonds on trial for perjury, it will be interesting to see if Roger speaks for himself in any further denials and if he is willing to make any statement under oath.

The Mitchell report includes some names based on scanty evidence, but Clemens name appears based on the sworn testimony of Brian McNamee, a Yankee trainer. McNamee received immunity from prosecution, but for truthful testimony only. He has no known reason to lie about Clemens, unless he was just confused. Maybe that was somebody else's buttocks Brian was injecting?

There is nothing to stop Clemens and his lawyer from bringing a defamation claim. How about it Roger, would you care to start a lawsuit? This will certainly give you the opportunity to make a sworn statement when you are deposed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

moonstruck + one answer only

Thanks to the writer's strike I saw Steve Martin interviewed by Charlie Rose and remembered SNL in the 1970s. Steve Martin was not just funny, he was doing something new. He could present 3 stooges level farce, an arrow through his head _ yeah OK_ , and sell it as irony. Hip irony was already old news, even in 1972, but the farce worked on both levels and ......he was a wild and crazy guy.

Also thanks to the writer's stike, I saw the Suns - Jazz game. Play team defense, make the extra pass, hit the open man instead of the popcorn machine on the give and go, I got a basketball jones oh baby ooh ooh ooh. Fire Zeke and bring the NBA back to NYC.

40 Down - Hoops bloopers: airballs

Zeke and Mr. Dolan are very lucky - that answer could easily have been nyknicks

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jack Bauer and Fuji Watch Day 8


CIA Destroyed Two Tapes Showing Interrogations -Jack Bauer needs a critical piece of information - right now- to prevent terrorists from exploding a dirty bomb in Los Angeles. Without regard for the consequences (Jack's not worried about going to jail or getting sued), Jack kneecaps the terrorist, gets the information, saves LA and ends the season in a blaze of glory, just like the real CIA except for, well, everything. The real CIA has time to shop and shop for a legal opinion until they find John "Anything Goes" Yoo at the Justice Department who tells them torture is OK. The real CIA has time to tape its interrogations. Nobody knows if the CIA learned anything useful or did anything with whatever they learned. Then the real CIA realizes it has a problem, oops, what do I do with the tapes?

White House and Justice Department lawyers say it's not advisable to destroy the tapes. This seems to be what every lawyer will always say when asked whether a specific, potentially controversial record should be destroyed. It's always a problem to destroy evidence of a crime. Records that are relevant in a civil suit can't be destroyed once a claim is made. Destruction before a claim is made may be technically legal in some situations, but gaps in the evidence can do more harm than the record itself at trial, so the cautious lawyer always answers that destruction of problematic records is not advisable, the only safe destruction is routine file clearance as part of a regular records maintenance program.

This is not what the CIA wants to hear. They know they look like criminals on some of the tapes and they know the advice from John Yoo is too good to be true. The head of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr. finds an unlucky internal CIA lawyer and ask the same question every day, "what is this not advisable crap, why can't we get rid of these tapes?" Eventually the unlucky CIA lawyer cracks. It's possible there was some waterboarding involved in the conversations Mr. Rodriguez had with this unlucky lawyer, but it wasn't caught on tape. After two years of constant badgering, the unfortunate CIA lawyer grudgingly concedes that there is no pending proceeding in which the torture tapes would be evidence and mumbles that there is probably no absolutely clear legal prohibition on destroying the tapes, provided they are not evidence of a crime. Mr. Rodriguez destroys the tapes before the CIA lawyer can blink, reminding everyone, as the fumes of the burning tapes fill the room, that they can't be evidence of a crime because John Woo told us everything was legal. The CIA lawyer didn't expect anything to happen so fast, but it's done.

When CIA torture eventually does become the focus of Congressional and judicial proceedings, everyone seems to be running away from claiming any involvement with the destruction of the tapes. In the absence of the tapes people will assume the worst. If individual CIA operatives eventually face criminal charges or civil suits they may actually wish they had saved the tapes.

Peru's Ex-President Gets 6 Years for Illicit Search Fuji gets 6 years in prison for ordering an illegal search of the home of Mrs. Montesinos, the wife of Peru's corrupt spy chief. This is an extraordinarily harsh punishment for illegal search in Peru, more than the prosecutor requested. Fuji ordered the search in a crisis, as the extent of Montesino's corruption became publicly known and Fuji's government was in peril. Fuji should have been searching Montesinos' house every day for twelve years, the problem is not that he finally did it, it's that he waited too long. He wasn't worried about Montesinos' corruption, only about retrieving the evidence of his own complicity. If the harsh sentence reflects judicial recognition of Fuji's corrupt, self-protective motives in ordering the search, kudos. If the harsh sentence is to take the heat off conviction and sentencing in the other, more serious, charges Fuji faces - then the Peruvian judicial system is playing politics as usual. The illegal search was a discrete charge involving a very limited number of people. Other charges against Fuji will implicate individuals who are still active leaders in the Peruvian government, military and business communities. Watch out, the court may be using the illegal search case as the first step in a plan to give the major charges short shrift and keep some of Peru's current leading lights out of the trial headlines.

One Answer Only +

Everyone gets busy around the holidays, but if it gets on the As Good As News To-do List (To Do List? This Was Supposed To Be Political Humor) it gets done.

60 Across - What 17-, 25-, 36-, or 50-Across is: a gooddeal of things on today's list including finding agooddeal on some gifts.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Blog Mahmoud

From Iran's Fiery Leader, A Slightly Tamer Blog -Mahmoud Ahmadinejad writes today for As Good As News:

- Putin Backs A Young Loyalist As His Choice To Follow Him - So, the Impaler has picked his puppet - Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Deputy Prime Minister who cleaned up Gasprom, a little bit. Vlad thinks he will be pulling the strings because Dmitri has no KGB background and no following of his own. Dmitri baby, welcome to the club. I come off looking like a kook because I have to spout the party line for Supreme Leader Khamenei. You're lucky you're not in a theocracy.

GOP Not Touching Voters - Americans, always with the touching, the whole country has been a moral wasteland since they started MTV. Headline is greatly surprising since I thought Republican Larry Craig was touching too many voters. In Iran we never touch voters, of course we have no voters. In theocracy, Allah is the only voter. We never touch anyone, unless you count the lashes.

Harvard to Aid Students in High Middle Class - Ivy League College is false idol of the infidel yankee dogs. Harvard sets tuition at 10% of income for all but the well to do.. Yuppie victims of moral decay won't consider tithing for church, but tuition tithe is bargain better than two for one sale on fine Iranian carpets.

Qaddafi Arrives, Tent and All, in Paris -I've got to hire this guy's PR firm. His government plans the bombing of two civilian aircraft, murdering hundreds, and he's hailed as a good citizen when, years later, he offers to pay damages. He takes a couple of baby steps towards building a "peaceful nuclear reactor" then gets massive kudos for stopping. He orchestrates the legalized kidnapping of Bulgarian nurses by the Libyan "judicial system" then takes humanitarian credit for negotiating the ransom. Instead of arresting this guy, the French are letting him pitch his tent next to the Champs Elysee. Unbelievable, I personally held an embassy hostage and started a serious nuclear program but all people remember about me is that "no gays in Iran" comment. It's time to call in Norah Lawlor.

Thank you Mahmoud. As Good As News will cover the mysterious CIA legal opinion on destruction of torture tapes when our regular staff returns. In the meantime, Parisians, let's make Qaddafi's stay as uncomfortable as possible.

.

One Answer Only +

AJ Soprano may be operating on Ruggles Street today, but he was once a whining teen spouting lines like 53 Across - Teen's response to a parent's "no": icantdoanything

Meadow was goal oriented, but it didn't keep her completely out of trouble when she sought a second career.

Ruggles St. Drug Bust?

Right now there are 7 state troopers and two dogs inspecting a car right outside my apartment. It doesn't look like they found anything. Here are some pictures:





I'll post more information when I get it

Monday, December 10, 2007

Fuji Watch Day 7 and More


Humans Flying Like Squirrels, Hoping to Land With No Chute - Skydiving with no parachute, just a Rocky the Flying Squirrel costume. Now there's an idea. The Rocky flight suit - perfect Christmas gift for that daredevil you never really liked. Apparently it's relatively easy to be Rocky in the air, but so far would-be fliers are still worried they will turn into Bullwinkle on the landing. A high tech race is on to develop the first suit/technique capable of gliding to a landing with no parachute. The fliers are working in their labs, but not talking. Apparently Boris and Natasha are ever watchful in this race to be first in flight.
After Setback, Chavez Makes The Clocks Fall Behind - Hugo Chavez moves Venezuelan time back one-half hour, joining Afghanistan, India, Iran and Myanmar. First, ouch -worst headline ever. Setback in Constitutional vote and set clocks back? Headline unworthy of Post. Second, If India would just rejoin the world, the half-hour time club would become a hit list of places no sane traveler would visit. This could be the first step in the direction of the world becoming a sci-fi like duality of two dimensions, coexisting in space with no awareness of one another, the "out of phase" parallel universe.
Ex-President Stands Trial in Edgy Peru - Fuji claims he didn't know about the death squads organized by his intelligence chief Montesinos, despite testimony to the contrary. Fuji's claim is doubtful, but even if it were true, what kind of leader allows an aide to become a dictator, running the military and the judiciary, and then claims he didn't know what was going on? By the way "Edgy"? - Very bad day for headline writers. This is not about a performance artist in Williamsburg, we are talking about a country that was badly damaged under years of rule by a leftist military junta. Now Peru embarks on a judicial proceeding that may, in effect, put its military leaders on trial with its former President.

One Answer Only + Announcements

Ski season has started and As Good As News can and will disappear sporadically without warning. As Good As News won't be in Austria, probably not even in Stowe, Vermont, where the Von Trapp's started a ski resort, but we will be in snow somewhere. If you miss As Good As News on a snowy day, just play the ski clip in From Routine to Extreme or revisit the whining of Mad River Glen - Ski It While You Can.

No movie review tomorrow. Fall semester is over. Reviews of previews will resume in early February.

40 Down - Home of the Von Trapp family: austria

Awful Anouncing

While Papa Bear was out of market and got to watch those impressive 2-25 Jets, I listened to the Steelers game. Steelers didn't look terrible (especially Parker and the O-Line) despite the blow out.

Three points on yesterdays game the announcers missed:

1)After getting burned on a couple of bombs, you'd think they would mention the Steelers all-pro safety was injured.

2)Hines Ward, after an amazing game last Monday, didn't have a meaningful catch. No mention of the NE secondary.

3)They mentioned 30 times how the Patriots were finally well rested because they weren't playing a night game (I'm suspicious of it being a factor in the first place), but no mention that the Steelers had also played two night games in a row.

From Routine to Extreme

On my study breaks I've been hitting up YouTube for interesting videos on two of my hobbies: fixed gear biking and skiing.

On Friday night I met a girl who had just finished converting her fixed gear and proudly told me she had learned to "skid stop". Despite a few long trips under my belt, I'm still a biking novice and had no idea what a "skid stop" or "track stand" was. I was intrigued, it sounded fun, useful and most of all dangerous.

Off to Interwebs to find more information:

Colby Elrick and Colin Arlen shot a movie in San Francisco on bikes without brakes (I've been told they have a few hills there). To slow themselves down they lean forward to take the weight of the back tire and lock their legs up to stop the tire (remember the tires are fixed to the pedals, when one moves so does the other) and it skids. Also mastered is the skid turn (same thing as the skid stop but turning) and going backwards (also only possible on a fixed gear).




It's cool seeing these bikes normally used for commuters turning into tricks.

I'm also getting ready for the ski season. Here is a cool clip of a guy using free heel skis (normally used to climb mountains) to do some tight turns and tricks. Again, it takes a lot of energy to turn without leaning forward. Also he's also not using the lighter twin tip park skis.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dear Ilvis


A New Bush Tack on North Korea - W writes directly to North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-Il, urging him to disclose all nuclear work in North Korea.

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Sorry I didn't write sooner, Mr. C, hope you won't mind if I call you Kim Jong-Ilvis, or maybe even just Ilvis. That's a little nickname we use for you around the White House. Don't be insulted, it's what I do with all my pards, like Dick Cheney is Darth. Karl Rove started calling me the Decider when were alone together and I tagged him back with the Divider. I even call Vlad Putin the Impaler, he pretends to be mad but I know he really likes it. Anyway, I love Elvis too, and I really like what you've done with your hair, so please don't take offense, Ilvis.

How goes it in the Axis of Evil - Eastern outpost? It's beginning to seem a lot like Christmas here in Washington, D.C. I guess things are a little different in those steamy jungles in Korea (or is that Viet Nam, I could never visit because of my important duties in the Air National Guard and now I'm always getting them confused?)? Now that I think about it, Christmas may not mean much since you've got that whole godless Communist thing going on so you're probably not really into the whole Christian thing. Well Merry Hanukkah and a happy Tet. By the way, I'm enclosing a pair of cowboy boots as a little holiday gift. These are Justins, customized with rhinestones just like the one's Elvis wore - and Ilvis, I had-em made up special with extra high heels and lifts, I'm really, really, really sorry I called you a pygmy.

One thing I have to say for you, Ilvis, you really know how to handle the media. Even the Impaler can't hold a candle to you. Hardly a day goes by that I don't wish I could send some snot nosed reporter to a Stalinist labor camp. By the way, that whole "spoiled child at a dinner table thing", ---totally out of context. Ilvis, you just would not believe what I'm up against with the media here.

Anyway, hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely,
George W. Bush

ps - Ilvis, I almost forgot, now that we're pards and all, it would be really nice if you could tell us a little more about your nucular program. Thanks, W.

Havens: Galena, Ill. - A River Town That Grant Once Called Home - Major up arrow for this Mississippi river town between Chicago and St. Louis. Now Harrison Ford's vacation escape, it's only previous fame came as part of U.S. Grant's nickname, the Butcher of Galena.

One Answer Only +

34 Down - 1976 Hall & Oates hit: shesgone
In the late 1970s, when Hall & Oates were still producing new hits, I was looking ahead with Survivor Prequel - Life On An Island.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Well, is it?





Work With Me, Baby - The Time's revisits "but is it art" in the context of fashion photography. The model posed and poised to deliver a kick is the work of fashion photographer Max Vadukul in a photo appearing with today's story. The pistol shooter is a Spanish Civil War trainee photographed by Gerda Taro, who was featured in a recent exhibit at the International Center of Photography. The Zuni Governor is from Edward S. Curtis, whose expeditions across the American West were the product of an anthropological impulse to preserve at least the memory of the vanishing Native American cultures.

Which speaks to you and why? Fashion photography, photojournalism and commercial photography (think "Got Milk" or Absolute) are what you decide they are. As an investment they sometimes pose problems because the number of prints may be unlimited, but so what. You can enjoy them for the price of a magazine. This is the third As Good As News appearance for the Gerda Taro shot and I have the good fortune to see The Zuni Governor every day.

Greece and Macedonia to Restart Talks on Name - Greece is giving the new Republic of Macedonia (once part of the Soviet Union) a hard time because Greece fears the Republic of Macedonia will be confused with the Greek province of Macedonia. Relax Greece. The United States hasn't had any problems with another former Soviet republic, Georgia.

Crucial Test for Romney in Speech on His Religion - Relax, we will not do a third major post on this topic in a single week. Just spend a minute on this quote: “Most people don’t have a clear understanding of the faith,” said Tamara Scott, executive director of the Iowa chapter of Concerned Women for America, a Christian conservative group. “Really what they would like is maybe a little more explanation.” Most people can take a course in comparative religion if they want to understand the Church of the LDS. Most people are willing to vote for a Jew, Hindu or any other non-Christian without regard to religion when they are otherwise the best candidate. Most people don't need or want an advanced seminar in whether Mormons are really Christians before they can vote, since most people don't take a "Christians Only" approach to voting. Explaining and defending Mormon theology, particularly the question of whether Mormons are Christians, is exactly what Mitt should not have to do, and will not do.

One Answer Only +

52 Across - Some theater: offoffbroadway

See Firestorm, Brainstorm, Shitstorm covering a bit of theater staged by FEMA during the California wild fires this year that was even farther off Broadway.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What's A Mormon To Do?


Mitt Romney Is No Jack Kennedy - Kenneth L. Woodward opines, actually complains, that Mitt's plan to publicly address his Mormon faith is not Kennedyesque because, unlike Kennedy: Mitt hasn't been nominated; he doesn't face organized religions who are officially endorsing bigotry; and, he will be addressing a Republican only audience. Yes, Mr. Woodward, the situation is not identical to 1960, but so what. Like Jack Kennedy, Mitt Romney is making the same basic decision to address questions about his faith in response to intolerance and doing so in the only way that makes sense given the circumstances in 2007. More importantly, we can move from the dark ages of the 1960s, when Marilyn Monroe and others hid under Jack's bed, to an enlightened administration with two or more first ladies (well maybe ladies 1A, 1B and 1C) representing us around the globe.

Polls show Romney is losing votes to Huckabee because of voters' concern that Mormons are not true Christians. What is Mitt supposed to do? Ignore this until after the nomination is decided in the hope that he can then make a more Kennedyesque speech? Great idea, unless Mitt loses the nomination because of the "Mormon Issue", as the Time's likes to call it. The Democrats had already nominated Al Smith, another Roman Catholic, in 1928. Kennedy made a tactical decision. He would get the nomination first, and address religion when it would get the most votes, and when the bigots had made themselves most vulnerable by their own actions. Mitt seems to have noticed that the Republican's haven't nominated a Mormon for President yet and he's in a tight race for the nomination - different circumstances call for different tactics. It might be more like Jack for Mitt to wait for the general election to raise the issue, it would also create some basic confusion about Mitt's real religion -would he be a Mormon or a moron.

Should Mitt ignore the problem just because it results from individual bigotry, rather than official intolerance on the part of organized religion? The votes lost to religious bigotry are just as real for Romney as they were for Kennedy. Sure, most voters aren't up on the details of Mormon theology. To me, and possibly to Mr. Woodward, the question of whether Mormons are Christians or not seems arcane, and irrelevant to Romney's Presidential qualifications. The point is, it seems to matter to Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. The fact that it may be a relatively smaller percentage of bigots than Kennedy addressed in 1960, the fact that Christian officials no longer speak for these bigots, doesn't change the only fact that matters - people are voting against Romney because he is a Mormon even though this seems to have nothing to do with his ability or willingness to perform the duties of the office of President.

Finally, Mr. Woodward whines that Romney will address an audience of Republicans, not hostile members of the opposition party in a mixed audience like Kennedy did in 1960. Wake Up. Mitt is still running for the nomination. McCain, Huckabee, Giuliani, et al, are the opposition. There will be plenty of Republicans in the crowd who want to see Mitt lose. There will be Republicans in the crowd who won't vote for a Mormon because he's a Mormon. These are the hostile doubter Mitt is facing down on this issue, not Democrats who will vote against Mitt without regard to his religion.

Mr. Woodward's entire editorial seems nearly as pointless as the question of whether or not a Mormon is a Christian. As Good As News has not endorsed Romney, or anyone else, for President, but we predicted long ago that Huckabee would gain as the primaries drew nigh and that Romney would land the nomination with a moving speech that explained how his faith shaped his vision and why that faith would only help, not hinder, his work as President. We wish him well, not necessarily in his quest for the Presidency, but in his quest to remove intolerance from the race.

One Answer Only +

26 Down - Court anonym: johndoe

As Good As News recalls another anonym, Harobed, used by that noted sock puppeteer, John Mackey and featured in It's In The Bag.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Juno - Queen of the Blogs

Juno - Bloggers rejoice. Diablo Cody, proprietress of The Pussy Ranch blog, has spun the ultimate post - the screenplay of Juno, an extraordinarily funny movie that takes a thoughtful and interesting look at teen pregnancy and related phenomena. Juno, both the movie and the character played by Ellen Page, take off before the opening credits and never stop. Juno chugs a half gallon of Sunny D, strolls through a rampaging cross country team into an entertaining animated credit sequence, emerges and remorphs to human form, enters the Quickie Mart and buys a pregnancy test kit. This transaction is utterly and completely over the counter, as clerk Rainn Wilson sells "Fertile Myrtle" Juno her third test kit and explains the result isn't going to change, a prophecy she confirms immediately in the Quickie Mart bathroom.

Juno quickly navigates some pregnancy ABCs, cracking wise all the while. She tells the baby's father, Bleeker (Micheael Cera), enlists sympathy and assistance from her best friend Leah (Olivia Thrilby), crosses a one girl pro-life picket line at a local abortion clinic, switches her goal from abortion to adoption, finds prospective adoptive parents through the local pennysaver and tells her own father and step-mother. The pace finally slows, a little, as Juno interviews the would be adoptive parents. The husband, Mark Loring (Jason Bateman) is cool. The wife, Vanessa (Jennifer Garner) is a little desperate, but it seems like a nice home and Juno closes the deal on an "Old School" closed adoption.

Life as a pregnant high school student is no picnic, but Juno still has her best friend Leah, taking things a little too calmly, but always on her side. Juno doesn't know quite what to do with Bleeker, and Bleeker is listening to everything Juno says but hearing nothing she means. Mark Loring is a musician who seems to be getting along too well with Juno and not well enough with his wife. When he announces he's moving out to a loft in the city, Juno faces a new round of choices. What will happen to the baby, to Juno, to Juno and Bleeker?

Diablo Cody was "discovered" as a blogger and submitted the Juno script as a demo to establish credibility so she could pitch herself as screenwriter for a different movie - one based on her book Candy Girl, a humorous look at her year as a stripper. Juno has a lot in common with Judd Apatow's recent successes (Knocked Up comes to mind for some odd reason), but Cody is a feminist Apatow on speed. Like Knocked Up, the story has a warm hearted core and much of the dialog is the kind of buddy banter that Apatow has mastered, but with Juno it's not just buddies who banter it's everyone, everywhere, led by Ellen Page. It's not just banter either, a few of the funniest lines are completely ordinary statements, placed and timed to get yet more laughs. The dialog has everything you wish you had said when you are thinking about a conversation the next day, and more. Even if it's too smart to be true at times, you will be laughing too often to notice.

If Juno were just a comedy it would be well worth seeing, but Director Justin Reitman and Cody take on teen pregnancy with originality and warmth as they present fresh characters that are fully developed despite the fast pace of the story. Cera is awkward and believable as a very young man who loves Juno and wants to do the right thing, if she will only tell him what that is. Juno's Dad and Step mom, JK Simmons and Allison Janney, create likeable, memorable characters in limited screen time. Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner also establish their characters quickly, as Bateman's charming cool slides credibly into a flawed indifference while Garner's desperation ultimately makes her seem like a real mom. The real character is Juno, and only a feminist could write the world through Juno's eyes as well as it's done here, a feminist who respects her character's choices. Juno starts out talking a blue streak, a very sophisticated and funny blue streak, when she's scared and clueless. She winds up making decisions that work for everyone. Juno knows very well that she's named after the queen of the gods, Jupiter's one and only wife. The cross country team circles constantly, a presence somewhere between a Greek chorus and Erronius from "Forum", but the thundering herd of male runners never fails to part smoothly for Juno.

This will be the last pre release film review posted here until February. Top picks from this Fall are Juno and Outsourced. Others well worth seeing, are Ira & Abby, Look and The Cake Eaters. Love In The Time of Cholera features a timeless character. Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Grace is Gone, Amexicano, Canvas and Orphanage are all films that As Good As News recommends, but not on a night when you seek something light.

Today's One Answer Only

21. Across - Grouch: grump

Grouchy grump, like today, up too late last night writing the Juno review, and like the day As Good As News posted Lost Plan Dynosaur Rant.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fish fry, Nate flies, Hugo's down, Doc Martens are out


Steeler Hangover - Sorry Dolphins. If the Fish finish without a win, they won't be the first, but they will suffer the worst. Does any one remember the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs, or any of several other win less NFL teams? Not really. But three factors will combine to make the Dolphins torture something special. The first is the Dolphin's own history, the undefeated 1972 squad featuring the No Name Defense that went 14-0 then won three postseason games, including the Superbowl. The second is the unlucky coincidence that New England remains undefeated and a good bet to go all the way, besting the 1972 Dolphins with a 16-0 record. Third is the media's love of irony. Not a single story on the Pats will resist the opportunity to mention they broke the record just as the Dolphins dove to new depths. The Miami coach and players will face interview after interview beginning, "In a year when the Pats surpassed the Dolphins record for wins in an undefeated season, you reached a new low, how...".

No one will ever forget the Fish if they lose out while the Pats go all the way, and no one should have to take this. Dolphins, As Good As News is pulling for you to get a win. The Bengals may be demoralized by the time you see them in the season's last game, not to mention the fact that half the Cincinnati team could be in police custody at any given moment. In the meantime, join Steeler fans in pulling for a Patriot loss this Sunday. The Steeler offense has been lost for three weeks, they are due.

Nathan Jones of Scotch Plains, NJ gets 15 minutes of fame for knocking Bret Favre out of Thursday night's Cowboys v. Packers game. Root for Favre to start against Oakland this Sunday. Jones took Favre out on a clean hit - he deserves better than to be known as the guy who ended Favre's record streak for consecutive starts. How about, Bret starts this Sunday and Nate returns an interception to pull out a play-off win for the Cowboys in January.

Venezuelan Ballot:

Vote for one choice only

1. Chavez as President for Life, Totalitarianism, gradual economic decline, chaos and despair;

2. Democracy

Stunningly, Mr. Chavez announces the proposed constitutional amendment has failed in a close vote and he cannot make the changes he would like, "for now". This choice was so clear even Hugo couldn't stuff enough ballot boxes to pull out victory.

Leno to Pay Salaries of Staff Members - NBC lays off the staff as the writer's strike shuts down production, but Leno will join Conan O'Brien in continuing salary payments to non-writers. A gracious decision by Conan and a belated "me too" by Leno.

An Anti Fashion Classic Returns - Dr. Martens pulls ad campaign featuring dead rockers wearing Doc Marten's in heaven with apologies and launches new campaign featuring live models wearing their Docs with grunge and bored expressions, more styles and Internet marketing. Wow, new campaign sounds fresh and original, assuming we can consider 1992 retro, and backing down on the original campaign should do wonders for anti-establishment cred. With a kiss of death story headlined, "They're Baaaack", Us Weekly heralds the new Dr. Martens, thus confirming the new campaign is drek that will kill the brand once a flash of mass market popularity fades. Spurred on by praise from Us Weekly, the hip will clean Dr. Marten's from their closets as soon as they stop gagging. Is there any way to short the stock of Air Wair International - the company that sells Dr. Martens?

One Answer Only +

20 Across - Profanity, e.g. - stronglanguage
Which reminds us of some advice to W in one of the first posts on As Good As News, The Fatwa - At Home and Abroad.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The UnHamptons


Housing Crisis? Try Mobile McMansions - Today's business section leads with this piece on the annual convention of the RV Industry Association in Louisville, Ky and related RV lore. RV sales are a leading indicator for the economy, the customized behemoths cost over a million.
As Good As News interviewed Max Camper, who was attending the conference for the tenth straight year. Mr. Camper just traded up to an Allure 470 Crane Praire, pictured above.
Q. -Why a camper, Max?
A. - We thought about an inert second home, but the camper only cost me $1.2 Million, a place the same size in the Hamptons would have been triple that. Plus, if you're going to be caught in traffic, this baby is the only place you want to be. With the autopilot it's an all-hands party 24/7.


Q. - What do your neighbors think once you weigh anchor, I mean park?
A. - That depends. They love me at the Penn State games, but some of those people take the whole happy valley thing a little too far, it's bad enough when they sneak into the guest bathroom but I'm really getting fed up with kicking them out the master bedroom. When I get to my favorite spot in Bridgehampton I have to keep my head down until I can get the artificial landscaping out and cover the wheels. Whenever I visit my son in Boston he tells me every three minutes to watch out for the truck eating overpasses on Storrow and Memorial Drives.


Q. - Do you take much heat for guzzling gas, Max?
A.- All the time. I think it's a sick joke. Suppose I had bought that second home in the Hamptons. Heat all winter to keep the pipes from freezing when I'm not there, cool a little all summer to keep the humidity down and beat the fungi, heat the pool, mow the lawn, appliances drawing power constantly. You should be comparing this rig to an estate, not a Honda Civic. When you consider the real alternatives, well, paint this baby green.

Q. - What's your most exotic destination so far?
A. - Hawaii............., just kidding, that's a little camper humor. We took in everything from Denali to Key West in my old rig. I've already mapped out an A to Z tour as a maiden voyage for my new one. That's Acadia to Zoo - San Diego Zoo, via Boston, Cleveland, Denver - you get the idea. Yellowstone is the last stop before the zoo, but we're still looking for fun destinations for Q and X if you have any ideas.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Mad River Glen - Ski It While You Can

Pictured - From the Sunday, Ski Edition Travel Section -"Old Faithful", the single chairlift at Mad River Glen, a mountain known for its devotion to tradition and its ubiquitous bumper sticker, "Ski It If You Can".

I rode the single chair last Winter, rode it to a decision that may end up defining my skiing apex. I skied not as a youth. My family didn't ski, so I didn't start young. I passed up opportunities to learn in college for no good reason, despite enjoying my one attempt during a half day visit to a small hill in Connecticut. I moved to New York, then its suburbs, forgetting all about skiing until my children were about six years old and we visited friends in their second home along the Hudson River, not far from the Windham ski area. Our friends offered to help us get started. We knew that if our kids were ever going to really enjoy skiing, their best chance was to start young, so we became skiers.

The kids learned quickly, even though they were only skiing 10 or 12 days a year. I was 40 years old and a slow learner. I needed more than a day of group lessons on the bunny hill, but eventually I made it to the chairlift and took my first trip down a real slope, an easy green (beginner's hill), but I was excited and ready to do it again. Skiing was a lot more fun than waiting in the lodge for the kids. Ski lodges look great in pictures, but if you are skiing on weekends and school holidays within a three hour drive from New York City, they are crowded, noisy and hot. Staying out of the lodge was a no brainer and for several years I would ski on my own in the morning, then join the kids when lessons ended.

With an occasional group lesson I improved cautiously for a few years, reaching the point where I could ski most blue (intermediate) slopes. But fate and age were working against me. A herniated disk ended my jogging, but, cruelly, had no effect whatsoever on my appetite. I suddenly went from a fit 40 to a fat 45. Unexpected events at the office sent me to Tokyo and Lima on weekends that I might otherwise have spent in upstate New York or Vermont. I was still skiing once in a while, but I wasn't improving. The kids found a little extra ski time through school trips, scouting expeditions and invitations from friends. Now if I tried to join them, I was trying their patience.

Despite my deterioration, I found one hill at Windham that, although marked as a black (most difficult), was within my ability if conditions were good. The fact that my son could now taunt me as he passed me while skiing backwards did not deter me, the steeper hill was exciting and I was having fun. One day I tried a pair of shorter skis and found I could handle the other blacks at Windham comfortably. This deluded me into thinking that I was becoming a better skier -a fantasy created by perfect conditions and the demo equipment, but one that motivated me to aspire to the double black, expert only hills.

I spent another two years skiing the occasional black, but gaining no ground on the elusive double black. My ski time was limited. Although still fat, I was reasonably fit otherwise, but I just wasn't getting anywhere. Then we spent a week with friends during February, 2005 at Heavenly, a large resort straddling the California-Nevada border at the Southern end of Lake Tahoe. My skiing was unimproved, but my enthusiasm was reignited. Heavenly had deep, deep, deep snow and spectacular views. I still remember skiing a ridge, with the sparkling, pure blue of Lake Tahoe on one side and a series of icy peaks emerging from a sea of fog on the other. Heavenly was so exciting that I squeezed in some extra days skiing at Plattekill when we got home.

This extra skiing in 2005 paid off in 2006. I started with a few days of warm-up skiing on my own, including my first lesson in years. Then a weekend trip to Gore and Lake Placid with my son, now a college student, produced my best skiing ever, including one scary adrenaline rush down "Lies", a double black and by far the steepest hill I have skied. My son was actually skiing with me for most of the trip, detouring into the woods when my cautious pace got too boring. Then we spent a great weekend at Okemo with my sister's family, including my young nephews who were just learning to ski and a special guest appearance by my daughter. There was a future for me as an old skier. I could keep up with my nephews for a while and maybe even see a little more of my own disappearing kids.

I was completely psyched for the Winter of 2006/2007. I had just retired from the practice of law. Comedy has surprisingly flexible hours. I could, and did, get into better condition, my best in the last decade. I read a Time's story on baby boomers aspiring to become expert skiers, including a group paying a fortune for a special clinic with the goal of skiing Wolverine, one of Windham's double blacks. "I can do this", I thought and started the season with new skis and two weekday visits to Windham. Weekday skiing was a new experience -no lines, ever, for anything. Group lessons became a group of one. At times the expert slopes were so isolated I wondered if anyone would ever find me following a bad fall. I quickly reached the point where I was comfortable on both of the open double blacks, Wolverine and Wedel. I was even looking for short stretches of bumps, like the Wall, trying to develop my previously non-existent mogul skills. When my son suggested a visit to Mad River Glen, I thought I was ready.

When we reached Mad River Glen the single chairlift already had a modest line. My son and I headed for other lifts, hoping the line would dissipate while we warmed up. After a few hours on some very nice runs, including a few small bumps and some short sections marked as expert, my son could wait no longer. We headed for the line, which had lengthened, and our first trip on Old Faithful.

Bumper sticker notwithstanding, there's an easy way down from the single chairlift; Upper Antelope, a winding intermediate trail. When you exit the chair, you can jump right onto a narrow black trail through the trees, or start on Upper Antelope and switch to a black later. We started on Upper Antelope. Conditions were reasonably good thanks to recent snow, but the base was not deep. Mad River Glen does not bother to mark any trail as a double black, but its blacks are mostly narrow paths cut through glades. The shallow base meant the paths were at their narrowest, confined by roots and rocks that might be buried in a snowier year. My son turned off at the second marked black trail, I peered after him at a trail that looked like it had been created by a small herd of inebriated deer and said "no thanks". Lower Antelope was my last chance to veer onto a black and it looked almost manageable. "Almost" is the operative word in that last sentence. I passed it by, thinking I would ask my son to scout it for me, and go back later if he thought I could handle it. We met at the bottom and had lunch. My son said the run he had just descended was too tough for me. I asked him to scout for something easier as he headed back to the single chair and I returned to the other side of the mountain.

When we met again it was late in the day, he hadn't spotted an "easy" black run off the single chair and I was too tired to try one anyway. I'll find one tomorrow, I thought, as I purchased two "ski it if you can" t-shirts. But my son had skied most of Mad River Glen, he decided he was ready to move on to neighboring Sugarbush the next day. My opportunity was gone, at least for that Winter. Mad River Glen was haunting me, even as I enjoyed visits to Okemo and West Mountain with the extended family.

There's always next year? Maybe. Next year is this year. I've gained back some of the weight I lost in the Fall of 2006, partly because my ancient and aching left knee is telling me it has a torn meniscus and it wants the same arthroscopic surgery I gave my right knee twenty years ago. With rest I can probably get through this ski season without surgery, maybe postpone surgery indefinitely. Unfortunately, rest means limited training and probably skiing even more cautiously than usual. Who knows what will happen after this Winter. Mad River Glen - Ski It While You Can.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Conduct This

The Kids Got Energy, Now Watch Him Conduct - Conduct? Clockwise from top left -1. Swish, three points at the buzzer; 2. Local Youth Takes Fourth Place in Air Guitar Competition; 3. Well Done Class, Now the Plie; 4. My Afro Always Flies When I'm Groovin To The Temps.

Venezuelan prodigy Gustavo Dudamel makes his debut with the New York Philharmonic this week. What does a conductor really do anyway? Of course he leads the orchestra in rehearsal, including pauses for specific instruction -where the 26 year old Dudamel's "comments focused largely on color and character". I'm sure the venerable stars of the NY Philharmonic appreciate this - "give me green, no bluer, bluer, that's it almost aqua - now mean, meaner, downright nasty - that's it, fantastico." Maybe it's not that easy to get to fantastico, “Do you want higher, lower, what?” a percussionist asked with a slight tone of exasperation. “Something different,” Mr. Dudamel said, “but not keys.” (Laughter.) Something different - thanks a lot kid, I'd like you to hear something different, bend down so your head is right next to this gong.

And then, of course, there's game day. The conductor cues the orchestra so they start in unison. By game time the orchestra pretty much knows the score, but the conductor might coax a little emphasis here, tweak the timing there. In the case of the NY Philharmonic, I suspect they will be on their own once Mr. Dudamel strikes up the band. Most of these players have been at the top of their game since before Dudamel was born. If they look to his energetic gyration for direction while in concert, they risk bursting out in either laughter or tears.