Being the Ongoing Chronicle of the Anticks, Misadventures, and Odd Deeds of an Overalls-clad Wanderer.

Monday, October 30, 2006

I make better chili than Yo Yo Ma!

Kevin Drum has trouble deciphering this paragraph, from this review of a Yo Yo Ma concert:

Yo-Yo Ma is the world's most popular cellist. That is not to say that he is the world's finest cellist. The Finnish virtuoso Anssi Karttunen, for one, can more effectively make Elliott Carter's Cello Concerto sound like music than can Ma, although it was written for him. Others play bluegrass, tangos and Kyrgyz traditional music more authentically than he.


I'm not sure what to make of this, either. Is the author suggesting that Ma isn't the world's finest cellist because in every area of music that has inspired Ma to take up his bow, he isn't the best? Or is he somehow suggesting that Ma could only be the world's finest cellist if he was the best in every one of those genres?

And what of the Carter concerto? So what? Lots of great musicians are great at some music, and less so in others. You want to hear some great Wagner? Georg Solti's your conductor. You want to hear some great Berlioz? You're better off avoiding what little Berlioz Solti recorded, then.

I'm not arguing that Ma is the world's greatest cellist, or that he isn't. I find the idea kind of weird, anyway. Surely he'd be on the shortlist of the world's greatest cellists, anyway, so this graf is really pretty meaningless except as a way of giving the writer a way of demonstrating his musical street-cred. The whole review is pretty odd, actually; the critic seems to put a lot of stock in stage mannerisms, even going so far as to describe the way Ma walked onto the stage. Heavens, who cares?

Sentential Links #72

And in the end, all the links in all the world shall be clicked....

:: I am married. I love Dee. I am very happy. (And the selfish jerk used nothing but local merchants for all of his wedding needs! What a yutz! But congrats, anyway!)

:: Sorry, but I’m just not in the mood to write anything of meaning, so I think I’ll just see where the keyboard takes me. (I always love it when someone starts off a post with "I'm not in the mood to write", and then uncorks a long post!)

:: I've spent the last fifteen years waiting for another (I am referring to the last great Bond film, Living Daylights) Bond film to catch my eye, to make me hunger for the old Bond. (I pretty much agree, with the proviso that I think Licence to Kill is the most underrated film of the series, and that the Brosnan films weren't that bad, even if as a whole Brosnan's run was more problematic than any of the other Bonds.)

:: After spending time in a room full of new mothers and mothers-to-be this weekend, it is difficult not to think about well, babies. (What are you saying, Jen? Hmmmmmmm???)

(Oh, and by the way, can any Buffalo Blogger let me know why Jen14221 is coming up as password-protected? Did she go all-private, all the time?)

:: Religion gets its power from its early-adopted inconsistencies. A few very different ideas were merged, and the result is far richer than any single one of them could be alone. (Long and fascinating post.)

:: Three years of reading, thinking, and learning -- and writing about (or synthesizing) that reading, thinking, and learning. (And Huzzah! for all that. Catch up on the links that M-Mv provides to her favorite posts of the last year.

:: As a self-appointed court jester to the Right, Miller has found a bad comedian's dream---an audience that doesn't care if he's funny. (I used to think Dennis Miller was funny -- what the hell happened?)

And now the obligatory political ones:

:: One of the running gripes on this blog has been that pundits and commentators are deeply reluctant to acknowledge what is undeniably a central truth about American politics today: That the GOP, not the Democratic Party, is overwhelmingly to blame for the race-to-the-bottom partisanship and degradation of our political discourse that's dragging us all down.

:: Let's say you have a problem. You have the choice of two people to solve the problem --- the one who caused the problem, refuses to admit it even is a problem and won't change anything even as the problem grows worse --- or the other one. Which do you choose? (Stay the course! Stay it, damn you! STAY IT!)

:: As a result, the political party that, from top to bottom and with very few exceptions, was wrong about virtually everything with regard to Iraq still preens around as the serious national security party that can be trusted, while those who were right are still somehow depicted as the hapless, confused losers whose judgment can't be trusted to "protect" the country. (I edited out a parenthetical link.)

:: Let's just say that when one is accused of being unpatriotic because one opposes an Evangelical administration which favours torture, we are all the way through the Looking Glass.

All for this week.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Huh-WHUH?!

I was just noodling about the apartment a bit, waiting for The Amazing Race to come on, not paying a whole lot of attention to Andy Rooney on 60 Minutes, mainly because I find Rooney palatable in print but nigh-unbearable on the tee-vee. But I caught that he was talking about cities, for some reason, and he said something really bizarre: "I didn't know that Pittsburgh is on an island, just like New York City."

I have no idea what the hell Rooney was talking about, because Pittsburgh is not on an island. Sure, the three rivers there have some small islands, no doubt, but downtown Pittsburgh is not on an island to any degree that, say, Manhattan is.

I think Andy Rooney has officially lost it.

Fell deeds awake!

The SoundtrackNet website has a lengthy review of the forthcoming (one week from Tuesday) Complete Recordings edition of the score to Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. As if it were possible for my appetite to be any more whetted for this release!

I'll always miss it....

Keith Olbermann does a post-mortem on "Stay the Course", here.

What I've always found so maddening about "Stay the course" is the fact that the people end up changing their minds anyway, thus demonstrating that there was never any course to be stayed in the first place.

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

In comments to this Matthew Yglesias post, someone named Steve Sailer left one of the most bizarre arguments against gay marriage that I've ever seen:

Take gay marriage. It sounds like a great idea to you guys. Who could be against it? Nobody you know, right? But once it gets going and gays are getting married in big florid weddings each weekend, the upshot will be that the next generation of poor and working class young men will decide that getting married is ... gay, and the last thing they want is to be accused by their buddies of doing anything gay, so they'll do even less of it. And society will be worse off.


Huh?! If gays are allowed to marry, then young men will see marrying as something un-masculine? WTF?!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Sports Moments

Roger listed his ten favorite sports moments, and ever willing to swipe an idea, here are mine. I'll count them down, even though I'm not really sure why, since they're not in any particular order, really:

10. Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, September 26, 1992. I spent part of my 21st birthday taking this game in at the Metrodome. Twins won 9-2, Pedro Munoz doubled off the "Hefty Bag", Kirby Puckett made a running catch in center right in front of us. And I stayed sober, since I couldn't afford too many five-dollar beers.

9. Buffalo Bills 41, Houston Oilers 38 (OT), AFC Wildcard playoff, January 1993. Why do I not rank the greatest comeback in NFL history higher? Because I didn't see the whole thing. With the Bills down 28-3 at halftime, I went grocery shopping, and when I got back to the house we rented during college, the Bills were only down 35-31. Ouch.

8. Minnesota Twins 1, Atlanta Braves 0, 10 innings, Game Seven, 1991 World Series. God, what a series that was.

7. Joe Carter hits it out, Game Six, 1993 World Series. Carter became only the second player ever to end a World Series with a home run, a three-run shot that erased the Phillies' 6-5 lead and ended the game, 8-6.

6. The Houston Rockets' win of the 1994 NBA Championship. I've never forgotten how Hakeen Olajuwon just sat down on the sideline in the moments immediately following the game, quietly watching as his teammates celebrated their title.

5. Sarah Hughes, 2002 Winter Olympics. Yes, I love figure skating. Bite me. I've only seen one figure skating performance more electric than this one:

4. Brian Boitano, 1988 Winter Olympics. Yup, that's the one.

3. Dan Jansen, 1994 Winter Olympics. His long history of disaster befalling the constant heavy favorite ended here. Since the Games that year were in Norway, Jansen's skate happened early in the day, which meant that everyone already knew that he'd won the Gold by the time the actual event aired on CBS that evening. Didn't matter. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

2. The Buffalo Sabres' playoff run, 2006. My God, what an exciting period that was -- and believe me, folks, if the Sabres close out the 2006-2007 season by winning the Stanley Cup, this town is going to put on a championship celebration for the ages. It's going to make Boston's winning the World Series look like a bunch of kids going to Chuck E. Cheese.

1. Buffalo Bills 51, Los Angeles Raiders 3, AFC Championship Game, 1991. For one day the best football team on the planet played in Buffalo. Sigh....

Honorable Mentions: Tim Wakefield's two complete games in the 1992 NLCS, in which he made the Braves' lineup look like idiots. The game between the Bills and 49ers in 1992 (Bills 34, 49ers 31), which was the first game in NFL history in which neither team punted. (This feat happened again in a playoff game a couple of years ago between the Chiefs and Colts.) My high school football team's two trips to the championship game, played in Rich Stadium (they lost the first year, won the next). Syracuse winning the NCAA basketball title in 2003; we moved the next morning, so for about eight hours I lived in a town that had won it all. Going to see the "Field of Dreams" in Dyersville, Iowa with the Then-Girlfriend (now The Wife).

Bye, honey! I'm off to the office to do some comptrollin

I like that word, "comptroller". It's kind of a funny word. Look it up, and you'll find a definition along the lines of "One who supervises the money expenditures of a government or business", which makes me wonder: Is "comptroller" its own word, or is there an actual root word "comptrol"? My rigorous research into this matter, consisting of two or three online searches of dictionary sites, doesn't turn up a lot of information on the matter. One site doesn't even list "comptrol" as a word, while another simply cross-references the word to "control", so is "comptrol" a more antiquated word that's been replaced in almost all cases, except in our modern use of "comptroller"? And thus would it be false to say that a comptroller is one who comptrols?

Anyway, here in New York State, we've got comptroller stuff on the brain, because our own comptroller, a fine public servant named Alan Hevesi, has turned out to be the victim of a vicious smear campaign, which is in turn based on the fact that Mr. Hevesi himself has turned out to be, shall we say, something of a crook. He was supposed to win his re-election bid without raising a sweat, but now it's looking like even if he does win he'll likely be forced from office either voluntarily (i.e., "I am resigning my office to spare my family the indignity of a long investigation"), or involuntarily (i.e., they're going to impeach his ass).

Oh well. I'm never one to want crooks to stick around just because they're from my party; as frustrating as the 1994 midterm elections were for me, I couldn't help but be happy that Dan Rostenkowski was gone. But anyway, I'm left scrambling for someone to vote for in ten days, someone whom I will trust to fulfill my comptrolling needs. Maybe the Republican is OK, but I frankly have no intention of voting for a Republican in the foreseeable future in any election. And there's a Libertarian, but for many reasons, I don't much take them seriously either.

So I guess I'll cast my first Green Party vote ever. Will wonders never cease!

(Yeah, I could vote for Hevesi, since I hopefully wouldn't be too uncomfortable with whatever Democrat ends up being appointed or whatever to the Comptroller's office once Hevesi is tossed overboard, but I'm not that wild about that particular process. I know that this situation is unusual, but surely the New York State Democratic Party knew that Hevesi's scandal was brewing, so maybe someone could have leaned on him to step aside. But then, this is a state where the state government's attitude toward voters is something like, "Oh, you've all been good, so you can go ahead and vote for something. Just as long as you don't start thinking that voting will influence public policy in this state!" Ugh.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"What Happened To the Huntsman?" (fiction)

I wrote this story a few years ago, and I've always liked it a lot. It's a riff on Snow White, obviously; once while The Daughter was watching the movie I suddenly wondered just whatever became of the Huntsman who let the young Princess escape into the forest, substituting a pig's heart for the girl's. The story probably works better the more familiar one is with the Disney film, but it probably works nicely without it, as well. I hope you enjoy it.

"What Happened to the Huntsman?"


"You are clear on what you are to do, then?" asked the Queen, as she leaned forward on her throne.

"Yes, Your Majesty," the Huntsman replied.

"Say it."

"The girl's heart," the Huntsman said. "In here." He held up the box in his hand.

"Good," said the Queen. "Then go." She rose and vanished through the doorway behind the throne. The Huntsman shuddered. Sometimes he had nightmares about where that door led.

He looked down at the box. Such a lovely thing -- red cherry wood, impeccably carved and fitted together, with polished brass hinges and a clasp in the shape of...a heart. Her Majesty had been keeping this little trinket for years.

One of the guards cleared his throat, and the Huntsman turned to leave. In the anteroom, he stopped to check his reflection in the mirror.

"She's going mad," the Huntsman said softly, so the other guards would not hear.

"'Tis true, I'm sad to say," the mirror replied, its ghostly face appearing in the center of the glass. "But she's our Queen, come what may."

"She is our Queen," the Huntsman agreed. "But killing girls and keeping their hearts? This is dark madness. Far worse than usual."

"On this matter you seem conflicted," the mirror observed. "With what doubts are you afflicted?"

The Huntsman considered the box again. He also considered the gold the Queen paid him for each item he brought her, usually for a deer or boar, though. Being the Queen's Huntsman was a good job, no question about that. It was certainly better than being one of the Prince's guards. What a bunch of dullards they were....

"None, really," said the Huntsman. "I'm sure the girl's blood runs as red as a stag's."

"Skin of white and blood of red," said the mirror. "No matter, though -- she'll soon be dead."

The Huntsman stared at the mirror. "Why in God's name are you speaking in rhymes?"

The mirror sighed, an odd sound for a mirror to make. "The Queen requires it. She thinks it makes me sound more mystical. But it's not easy, rhyming everything, so I was practicing. But to return to the subject, you should do what is right."

"Does not the Queen decide what is right?"

"Her power rises," the mirror said. "But the Fates are beyond her. Wickedness shall fail." Suddenly the mirror's face brightened. "Did you like that? It is called a haiku."

"It was wonderful," the Huntsman replied. The mirror is mad as well, he thought. And then: But I'm the one talking to a pane of polished glass. Who's mad here?

"Fare you well," said the mirror.

"Thank you," the Huntsman said, and he took his leave. On his way outside, he passed by a window overlooking the courtyard. The girl was down there, singing away. She was always singing, just like that fool Prince. But not for long, he thought as he glanced yet again at the box.

***


"Oh, look!" The girl beamed. "Those look like roses!" And just like that she bounded across the field to a bush beside a path that wound into the deep of the woods. The Huntsman knew that path well. There were beasts down there which would make short work of a girl.

"The day grows short," he said. "We should go back."

"Now, my good Huntsman, not without berries for the pie I want to bake. It will only take a moment!" She turned her attention to the blueberry bush. Six songbirds kept fluttering around her head. She was always surrounded by songbirds.

He glanced at his horse, tethered back at the tree. He thought of the wooden box in his saddlepouch. He really needed to be on with it.

"Do you like blueberries, Huntsman?" asked the girl, her back to him as she picked.

"Umm...yes," he said. In truth he hated them, but lying wasn't quite as bad a sin as the little duty he was about to perform for the Queen. Get on with it, he told himself. He drew his trusty hunting knife.

"Oh, they're so ripe!" The girl babbled on. "The pie will be so good. And I'll have so many berries...maybe I can make a cobbler too!"

The Huntsman moved forward, holding up the knife. The blade, freshly sharpened, gleamed in the late afternoon sun. He was very particular about his knife.

"And pancakes too, light and fluffy..."

He crept up behind her. Why are you being so quiet? It's not like she's a skittish doe who can outrun you if she takes your scent--

The songbirds, damn them, started shrieking.

Do it now! You're close enough! One stroke and it's done!

The girl, alerted by the songbirds, turned then. She saw the knife and screamed.

No matter! She'll be dead! Do it, you coward!

He lowered his arm and dropped the knife.

***


For a while, after she had run into the woods, the Huntsman sat on his horse, gazing at the box with the heart-shaped clasp. He wondered if he'd done the girl any favors, letting her escape into those woods. There were dark things down there, and if she got far enough she might wander into the mining country. If she got that far, she'd better pray she found nice miners to take her in, because the nasty ones were a lot worse, and there were a lot more of them. But that was all out of his hands. What to do about the Queen and her precious box?

He had no idea.

So he rode, taking the longest way home he could. Actually, he didn't even care if he got home that night. The Queen could wait until morning. He rode into the river valley; as long as he was out, he might as well get a deer...

A deer...

What were the chances that the Queen would know a deer's heart from a young maiden's? She was no Huntress; that's why she paid him. Surely she wouldn't know. He'd get her a heart, then. It just wouldn't be the girl's. He rubbed his hands together and wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. So it was that the Huntsman wandered through the woods, looking to execute his plan.

And so it was that he found…absolutely nothing.

No track, no spoor, no trace of a deer, anywhere. That was very strange; but it didn't bother him too much. Deer fed at night, after all, so if he found a decent tree he could wait in its limbs for a deer to come. Still easy, and he was still feeling quite confident as he tied his horse and went to hide in a nearby tree.

He was not feeling so confident when the hours went by and nary a deer came, the whole night -- until he fell asleep and woke up in the morning, still in the tree and with the stiffest neck and back of his life.

There were no deer. And what was more, there were no birds singing, no squirrels, no rabbits -- where were all the animals? The Huntsman swore as he climbed down, repeating every unpleasant word he knew, in the three languages he knew them in. (Huntsmen, it is little known, swear more than sailors. They merely do it alone and very quietly.) He got his horse and rode off, wondering where he'd get a heart now.

I wish that whelp Prince would stop wandering around like a damned troubadour and depose the old witch, he thought as he rubbed his throbbing back. The Huntsman was in a bad mood. He was hungry, he ached all over from sleeping in a tree, and he had no heart for that damned box. And his horse kept trying to turn in the direction of the woodlands and the Mine Country, as if the beast smelled or heard something that way. Maybe that was where all the animals had gone, but then, the Huntsman couldn't imagine why they'd all be down there. All the animals in the forest, in a single place? It didn't figure.

He rode half the day without seeing so much as a field mouse. Actually, he did see a field mouse, but there was no way the Queen was going to fall for the heart of a field mouse. The Huntsman despaired of ever find a heart for the box. He'd failed, and the Queen would send him to the gaoler. "The Huntsman has failed, it must be said," the mirror would tell her. "So vile is he, that you must take off his head!" The Huntsman shuddered--

And that is when he heard the squealing of a pig.

He spun about and saw a small farmstead in the distance, near the side of the wood. There were two fields, a tiny barn, and a tiny cottage. And near the barn was a pen, inside which stood a fat sow.

The Huntsman couldn't believe his good fortune. He guided his horse over to the fence of the pen, dismounted, and tied his horse. Then he climbed over the fence, into the pen. He stood there for a minute, studying the pig and trying to decide if its heart was the same size. Surely it would be...and the big, dumb sow just looked at him, staring. The Huntsman felt at least one pang of guilt as he drew his dagger. He always felt guilty when the animals made it easy.

It took a few minutes, but he worked as quickly as he could. A few minutes, and the pig's heart was in his hand. He took the slimy, wet, bloody muscle back to his horse and cursed then, because he realized he'd forgotten to get the box out beforehand. He had no choice but to get blood all over his saddle and pouches and the box itself while he dug it out, but finally he got the heart inside. He was putting the box away when he heard the scream.

The Widow who lived here had found her dead pig.

The Huntsman yanked out his dagger. "Stand back, in the name of the Queen!" he shouted.

"You stand back, murderer and thief!" she flung back, her initial shock having given way almost instantly to rage. And where he had a hunting dagger, she had a giant scythe.

Ohhhhh nooooo, he thought. This woman was big and strong, large but not fat, older but not old. Her eyes were fiery, her sand-colored hair was long and tied back haphazardly, her ample bosom--

She's got a scythe, you idiot! Get out of here!

And that is what he did: he jumped onto his horse and rode away, off toward the castle. He rode through the castle gates just as the sun was setting, and was still thinking about that widow as he dismounted and only now realized that he had completely forgotten to stop at a stream to wash the pig's blood from his hands.

***


"A pig?" The mirror was indredulous. "You put a lot of thought into this, didn't you?"

"That was all I could find," the Huntsman replied. "Will she discover it?"

"Not as long as she doesn't ask me," the mirror said. "If she does, I have to tell her the truth. But until she does, she'll never know. She won't use it in any of her spells, that much I can promise. That heart is too important to her -- or, whose she thinks it is. But there are other ways."

"What do you mean?"

"Surely you've noticed the Queen's vanity," the mirror said. "She's always asking me to name 'the fairest of them all', 'the fairest in the land', and the like. It was when I reported to her that the girl had overtaken her own beauty that the Queen sent for you. Do you understand?"

The Huntsman did not. "The girl?" he mused. "With that complexion?"

"Eye of the beholder, you brute!" The mirror distorted the Huntsman's reflection, its way of showing exasperation. "And you're missing the important part. If she asks who is the 'fairest in the land', you may have a problem."

"I see," the Huntsman said. "As long as the girl remains beyond the borders, you can tell the Queen what she wants to hear."

"Yes. But there's more. The girl is now dwelling with seven miners -- don't worry, they are honorable, if a tad short -- whose home lies very near the border. So near, in fact, that the border actually intersects their potato patch."

The Huntsman winced. "So if she's picking potatoes at the exact moment that the Queen asks...."

"He understands!" The mirror flashed its edges, and the Huntsman scowled.

"Well, I will have to take my chances," he said. Then he leaned forward and studied his reflection. "Do you think my hair needs a trim?"

"Of course," the mirror replied. "And you could do with a bath. Why?"

"Oh, no reason," said the Huntsman.

***


He stopped on the crest of the hill and swallowed four times, forcing himself to face forward instead of turning back. Why am I so nervous? thought the Huntsman. I have faced wild bears with nothing more than a hunting knife to turn them aside. This, though, was far more terrifying. This was no angry bear. This was a woman.

And there she was, in her small field, working a plow behind an ox. He could hear her shouting at the animal from here; it kept trying to turn toward the forest, the same way his horse had all day. What on earth was in that forest, anyway?

The Huntsman looked at her, in the distance, and his heart sped up. He rode in closer, as slowly as he could without fully giving in to the impulse to turn away and forget it. Finally he arrived at the field and stopped at the very end of the row she was currently plowing. My God, she's beautiful, he thought as he watched her guiding that plow, head down. Finally she was close enough, and he spoke.

"Greetings," he said, and then he cleared his throat and said it again so that she might actually hear it.

The Widow looked up, recognized him at once, and dropped the plow. Then she drew the knife she wore at her waist. "Have you come for my ox's liver now? You'll have to fight me to get it! Off with you!"

The Huntsman gave the only reply that came to mind, that is, none at all. He could only stare at her, with her dirty britches and torn shirt and haphazard long hair and blazing eyes and sweating, freckled skin and…and then the clump of earth she'd thrown struck him in the forehead.

"Gahhh!" he cried out. "No, please!" And even as he threw up his hands to shield his head from the other clumps she was already lobbing in his direction, he winced at his complete lack of words.

"Begone!" she shouted. "You'll find no more hearts or stomachs or spleens or tongues here!"

"Please!" he shouted. "My Lady, please!"

That worked, if only because she was momentarily baffled by actually being addressed as "My Lady". She lowered her arm to a ready stance, still holding a rock. Good thing she stopped now, the Huntsman realized. With that aim and with that rock, she'd unhorse me. "I didn't come to hurt any more of your livestock." He held up one hand in a calming gesture, while with the other he calmed his horse.

"Then what do you want?" she demanded.

Her voice was deep for a woman's, deep and sultry…he cleared his throat again. "To make amends, My Lady," he said.

Her eyes narrowed. "Amends? How?"

The Huntsman reached into his pocket and drew out a small drawstring sack. "Gold, My Lady. Enough to buy three piglets when next you go to market. And...here is a gem, as well. A garnet set in a silver pendant, for your neck."

"And when would I have occasion for such a bauble?" she said. "I don't remember the last time I was invited to one of the Queen's masques."

"Well--" the Huntsman began, but stopped. He couldn't think of anything to say to that, except to point out that the Queen never hosted any masques, which he decided was not the right thing to say at all.

"Never mind," said the Widow. "I suppose your meaning is nice enough. And three piglets, for the heart of a sow seems fair. I would have asked for two. But I would also like to know just why you did it."

The Huntsman sighed. "That is a long story, My Lady," he said.

She chuckled. "Do I look like the Queen? Stop calling me that!"

Now he laughed. "No, you do not look like the Queen. In fact, the Queen is how I came to…do what I did. You see, I am her Huntsman -- or at least I was."

"You fell out of her favor?" The Widow whistled. "Now, that is a story I should like to hear. But now that I know you are a Huntsman, I can stop thinking of you as 'Murderer-of-Pigs'." She sighed. "And if you have lost her favor, then you are without home. You may stay in my barn, if I can trust you not to harvest my milch-cow for leather."

He winced.

"And if you would be kind enough to fetch water and pick some berries from the bushes down yonder, that would go a long way to helping me be less angry with you. The raspberries, mind you. I don't like blueberries."

She doesn't like blueberries either! "Yes, My…I'm sorry, but how should I call you?"

She told him her name, and it seemed to him that it was the loveliest name in the world. He reciprocated by giving his name, which seemed...less so, in his ears. As he rode away from her, he could hear her singing behind him: "Ho-heigh, ho-heigh, I'm plowing all the day...."

The Huntsman couldn't help smiling.

***


The Widow leaned back in her wooden chair and folded her hands around her stoneware mug of tea. "So, you use my pig's heart to fool the Queen into thinking that the Princess is dead?"

The Huntsman nodded. "I looked everywhere for some other beast to use, but they're all gone."

"I know," she replied. "My cow keeps trying to go to the woods. I've had to tie her. Very strange. Why does the Queen so hate the Princess?"

The Huntsman shrugged. "Queens always hate their Princesses. It's that way in all the stories."

"And when the Queen discovers this, she will be angry."

The Huntsman nodded. That, actually, was putting it quite mildly.

"And won't she be missing you? You are her Huntsman."

"I come and go from her castle as I please, bringing her bounty as I find it."

"That's a good arrangement."

"It was."

She stretched and yawned. "Well, I'd best be getting to sleep. Tomorrow's an early start, if I'm to get three good pigs at market. If I'm too late, all that will remain will be the runts."

The Huntsman bid the Widow good night, and then he headed off to the barn to bed down with the cow, which eyed him suspiciously as he smoothed out a sleeping-spot on a straw pallet. He thought of this beautiful, strong woman, living alone on her farm…and now in some danger, if the Queen were to find out what he'd done.

As he dropped off to sleep, he imagined he could hear the voice of a girl, singing, somewhere off in the distance...a song about her prince coming, someday....

***


Along the way to market the next day, the Widow told him of losing her husband two seasons before, and of her life alone on the tiny farmstead; and he told her of his life as a Huntsman: of tracking a deer in the forest, of finding its trail, of different kinds of tracks and how to tell which were fresh, and of wintering alone in a cabin deep in the heart of the wood. He enjoyed telling her of his life, and was surprised to find that he had so much to tell, but what he enjoyed more was listening to her telling him.

At the market, she traded with various vendors for provisions with a shrewd eye and a keen sense for barter. She also managed to get the three finest piglets from a litter, for a bit less than the price the man had insisted was his lowest offer. And while she was doing this, the Huntsman slipped away and perused the jewels and gold for sale. One pair of miners -- two dwarves, one who kept grinning like a fool and another who apparently was a fool -- had a particularly nice selection of rubies and emeralds. He would have to come back sometime with some fresh kill to barter a gem away from these two, something that would be lovely around the Widow's neck. He blushed with the thought.

They stayed for the Singing Contest that night, which was won by the Prince, who was a surprise entry and was still the biggest singing fool the Huntsman had ever seen. After that they rode home.

"The Prince has the finest voice I have ever heard," the Widow said. "His voice is the fairest in the land."

The Huntsman only nodded. The Fairest in the land, the Fairest one of all....

***


A month went by, and then two, with the Huntsman living in the Widow's barn and helping her run her farm. He occasionally desired to go to the woods and get a bear or elk, but mostly he was fascinated with the effort of coaxing a crop from the earth. Actually, he didn't like the work itself. But he was fascinated with her.

After one day of particularly hard work, he went down to the stream just inside the woods to wash before dinner. There was a deep, clear pool shielded by some rocks that was perfect for bathing, and with anticipation he leaned over the water, looked down, and saw reflected back a face that was not his own.

"There you are!" said the mirror. "I've been looking all over for you!"

"GAH!" the Huntsman eloquently replied, leaping back. Then, catching himself, he leaned forward again. "Don't do that! And what are you doing here? Since when can you appear in anything other than glass?"

"I can appear anywhere a reflection is available," the mirror replied. "But in a surface like this, I can't do it for long. Whatever you do, don't drop a rock in the water!"

"So why are you here now?"

"Do you remember what I told you about the miners and their potato patch?"

The color drained from the Huntsman's face.

"I see you do," said the mirror. "The Queen asked, and the girl was picking potatoes. I cannot lie to the Queen."

"You can tell the truth in a way that misleads her," the Huntsman said. "Something she would take the wrong way--"

The mirror looked aghast. "You mean, deceive her intentionally?"

"That's what I've been doing all along, you miserable excuse for a looking glass!"

"No reason to get insulting," the mirror said. "I came to warn you, didn't I? She asked about the heart--"

But the Huntsman was already gone, running for the farmhouse.

On the way he passed an old crone, who was hobbling along the road carrying a basket of apples. "Good day to you, Huntsman!" the crone called out. He ignored her. He had to get home and he had to get the Widow out of there, to his old hunting lodge. She'd be safe there. The Queen didn't know where it was -- or at least, so he prayed.

"Dear!" he shouted as he burst in the front door. "Dear!"

She came up from the root cellar. "What is it?" she asked.

"We have to leave. The Queen knows."

She instantly knew what he was talking about, and sighed. "Let me get a few things," she said.

"Hurry. She will be looking for me."

"I know," she replied. "I will be with you. But we'll have food -- look at these beautiful apples! A peddler-woman was here just a while ago, selling these. They're the biggest, reddest apples I've ever seen. I bought one for each of us--"

The peddler-woman with the apples...the crone who had called out to him, "Good day to you, Huntsman?"

He'd been wearing no bow or hunting cloak, and his clothes were dirty from working in the field. How could she have known he was a Huntsman--

The Widow lifted an apple to her mouth.

"NNNOOOOOO!" The Huntsman sprang forward, reaching for her wrist, but she had already bitten the fruit.

***


The Huntsman was placing the last stones upon her barrow when the Herald came riding up.

"By Royal Decree of His Highness the Prince, I am bid tell you, the Queen is dead. From this day on, the Prince rules the land." Judging by his tone, this was at least the fiftieth time today he'd recited his spiel, and he turned to go before he even finished speaking. Doubtless he had a lot of other farmsteads to get to.

The Huntsman learned the details two days later when he went to town. Somehow the Queen had been engaging in some trickery with her appearance, but had been pursued up a mountain where she'd first fallen off, then been buried under fallen rocks, and then picked apart by buzzards. A fitting demise, at least, but the Huntsman took little pleasure in it.

And the Princess had turned up, living in the woods with seven miners, just as the Huntsman had known all along. But she was now dead as well, and had been placed in a coffin of glass, deep in the woods.

I let her go, and she is still as dead as if I had cut her heart out myself. The Huntsman tried drinking himself into a stupor at a tavern, but the taste of the ale no longer appealed to him, and he finally decided to go home. To the empty farmstead, whose mistress he had brought to ruin through his own attempts at deceit.

He remained there the rest of the season, bringing in the harvest as best he could even though he hated the work and knew little of its proper execution. Lifelessly, monotonously, he did her work, in the shadow of her barrow. Then, in autumn, he traded for provisions -- selling the three pigs and the milch-cow and the ox as well -- and moved to his hunting lodge in the forest for the winter. At least he had never brought her there; the memories would not be so strong.

But they were, all winter long.

***


The winter was long and cold, but the Huntsman survived it all right, as much out of habit as by design. His lodge was well-stocked, and to give up simply was not in his nature. But he found no pleasure in it at all, for the wound in his heart refused to heal in the smallest measure.

But winter finally gave way to spring, as it always did, and when the roads and passes were at last open the Huntsman rode to market with some of his fresh kill, hoping to trade for more provisions. He also had to decide whether he wanted to return to the farmstead, or remain a Huntsman. The choice weighed heavily on him, and for each moment when he was certain of what he wanted to do, there was another when he was equally certain that he wanted to do the other thing.

It all changed when he asked a simple question of the first trader he met: "What news?"

The Prince, it seemed, was to marry. And the girl was to be his bride. The one the Queen had killed. The Princess.

"What an amazing story!" said some old gaffer. "The Prince undid the Queen's witchery by kissing the girl!"

"Kissing?" someone asked.

"That's how he did it, mark my words. The Prince finally heard about the beautiful dead girl in her coffin of glass -- those miners knew what they were doing, surely enough -- and at length he came to her side and kissed her. And she returned to life then, and now she will marry him!"

"He kissed her?" the Huntsman said. Absurd. This wasn't one of the old stories.

"Yes."

"The Prince."

"Yes!"

"And she came back to life."

"Just so."

"So," put in the trader, "what happened to those miners? Seems to me they should get a reward."

"Oh, indeed," said the gaffer. "They were given joint ownership of the mine, and...."

The Huntsman ignored everything said after that. His mind was too busy evolving a plan to listen to further gossip. He took the coins in his pocket from the trading he'd already done and, instead of buying new provisions, went to the silversmith to buy a mirror. This he took into a secluded alley.

"Mirror, mirror in my hand," he said, "your presence here is my demand!"

Almost immediately, his own face in the mirror was replaced by that other, stranger one which looked vaguely disheveled.

"I come as com--" The mirror peered at the Huntsman. "You! How do you know those words of summoning?"

"I'm not just some brute who shows up every few weeks with a dead deer on my shoulders," the Huntsman replied. "I see things."

"Quite," said the mirror. "Well, I must say, things are much better since the Queen took that spill of the cliff. No more required rhyming! I've been able to study other forms of poesy. Did you know there is a thing called 'blank verse'? Apparently a playwright in England is doing a lot of fine things with it, and--"

"Mirror!" the Huntsman cut in. "I summoned you for a reason."

The mirror sighed. "Yes, I figured so. What do you desire?"

"I need to know if the Prince ever leaves the Castle."

"Well, of course the Prince leaves the Castle! What kind of question is that? Why, later this month…just what do you have in mind?"

"Never mind that," the Huntsman snapped. "What about later this month?"

***


He should have known. It was a singing contest.

The Prince was not to compete, but he still planned on attending, presiding, judging, even performing -- in general he was to add an air of royalty to the proceedings. It was to be the grandest of singing contests, with the rivalry of two of the greatest singers in the land to be at last decided and one of them to assume the position of head of the Singing Guild, or some such nonsense. The Huntsman cared about none of that. He only wanted the Prince.

The contest took place in the greatest City in the Kingdom, a day's ride from the Castle. (The Huntsman had often wondered why the City and the Castle should not be in the same place, but even the mirror could offer nothing on this point.) The Huntsman arrived at the City a week before the contest, after making the necessary preparations at the farmstead, and managed to bribe his way onto the City Guard. He would be able to get fairly close to the Prince, then, without looking out of place. All he had to do was wait. Of course, the City was so alive with song that the Huntsman soon wanted to drive his knife through his own ears, but there was nothing to do about that.

On the third full day of the festival, the Prince arrived in the City and came to the Keep, where a full ceremony was held. The Huntsman took his place in the phalanx of guards who would escort him inside -- and he nearly choked when he saw that the Prince had brought the Princess with him.

I almost killed her! She'll recognize me! He looked around for a way out, but there was none. He had no choice but to stand there and do his duty, while the Prince and Princess greeted the courtiers. Here she came, garbed in much nicer finery than the last time he'd seen her, but otherwise looking much the same: innocent and ridiculously pale. "Fairest in the land?" he muttered as she came near…and then passed by. She hadn't recognized him after all. He realized that he looked quite different now than he had back then. He'd shaved and trimmed his hair.

Then the Prince came by, and the Huntsman easily slipped the folded sheet of parchment into the Prince's pocket. It was an invitation to the Secret Festival of Song, where only the greatest musicians could gather in a sort of "elite of the elite". The Huntsman knew that the Prince wouldn't be able to turn such a thing down. He also knew that it was false, because he'd made it up. But the Prince would believe it, and that was what mattered.

***


"Where is he now?" the Huntsman asked the mirror. They were in the garden, near the oak-and-iron door in the wall that led outside the grounds.

"How would I know?" the mirror said. "I'm not all-knowing."

"You're not all-helpful, either."

"I could return to the castle, if I'm not wanted," the mirror sulked.

"I'm sorry," the Huntsman said. Apologizing to a mirror, kidnapping a Prince....

A pebble landed nearby, giving the Huntsman a start. But then there was another, and one more. Of course: his letter had instructed the Prince to signal his coming by throwing three pebbles, and then...

"Diddly-heigh, diddly-ho! I am not a drunkard, no, no, no!"

...singing that.

"You are a cruel man," said the mirror.

"Shhhh."

The Prince came around the corner. He was dressed, as instructed, for riding. The Huntsman shook his head. I hope he surrounds himself with good advisers.

"You're one of the guards!" said the Prince.

"More than that, actually," the Huntsman said.

"I must confess," said the Prince, "that I am a bit confused by this 'secret Guild'. How can I not have heard of it, when I have done more for song in this realm than anyone?"

"Yes, well, that's complicated," said the Huntsman. "I will explain it on the way there."

The Prince folded his arms. "You will explain it now, Huntsman."

The Huntsman winced. Maybe he had underestimated this man, all these years…

"Yes, I recognized you," said the Prince. "My wife did not, but I did. She told me about what you did for her, so I owe you some gratitude; but now, I would know why you are trying to trick me into coming with you to the meeting of a secret Guild that does not exist."

"Ummmm...." The Huntsman's mind raced. He had not considered this possibility, not for one moment. "You did come alone, didn't you?"

"Of course not!" snapped the Prince. "If people take me for a singing fool, it is because I wish them too. My personal guards are watching even now, and I have told them who you are. Now, I ask one last time before I call them forward and have them throw you in the dungeon: why am I here?"

The Huntsman swallowed. "Well, Your Highness, it's like this." He stepped forward, and lowered his voice. "I don't want everyone to hear this, but I have a problem that only you can help me with. You see--" and here his fist flashed out, striking the Prince on the chin and sending him into unconsciousness. I may have misjudged your wits, Prince, but not your jaw.

"Are you mad?" the mirror yelled from inside the Huntsman's pocket.

"Shut up," the Huntsman growled as he dragged the Prince to the door. He opened it -- as a City Guardsman, he'd been given the key -- and then closed it behind him, after he'd dragged the Prince into the alleyway beyond. Already he could hear shouts from inside, but he had time to drop the bar (strange that the door could be barred from the outside, but the Huntsman didn't question such things), and, for good measure, shove a stick into the keyhole to jam the lock.

"Well, now what?" the mirror asked. The door was rattling behind them.

"I'm thinking," the Huntsman said.

"You might have given that a try before now," the mirror said. "Thinking tends to produce better results the sooner one does it."

"Glass breaks, you know," the Huntsman growled. All the ruckus behind him -- they'd break that door down soon -- and the revelry of the singing festival in the town square, which was just down the alley….

Then he had it. The Huntsman tore off the Prince's jacket and every badge of office he could find on the Prince's person. Then he grabbed some dirt from the ground and rubbed it over the Prince's clothes, and he was lucky enough to have a rain puddle nearby, so he splashed some of that on the Prince, too: the dirtier, the better. He mussed up the Prince's royal hair and tossed his fine cap aside.

"Someone will recognize him!" the mirror yelped.

"Will you shut up!"

The guards inside were banging against the door with something big and metallic, and the hinges were straining. The Huntsman inverted his City Guard cloak, and then he heaved the unconscious Prince up and slung the man over his shoulders, as he had many a dead deer. Then he tossed the inverted cloak over the Prince and made his way toward all that revelry.

For once, luck was with him. He was taken for just another reveler carrying home a friend who had taken too much wine, ale and song. By the time the guards had the door down and were searching the square, the Huntsman had made it to the livery where he'd stabled his horse. And by the time the City Guard shut the city gates, the Huntsman was already through them and riding for the farmstead.

***


"I'll have your head!" the Prince yelled when he awoke. Nevertheless he took the cold cloth the Huntsman offered and pressed it to his swollen jaw. "How dare you kidnap me! You'll not blackmail me into attacking Guilder--"

"I'm not holding you," the Huntsman said. "You'll be free to go quite soon, actually. I'm sorry I had to hurt you. I didn't think you'd come if I asked."

The Prince blinked. "I'm free to go? What is this?"

"You're almost free," the Huntsman said. "I'll even give you a horse to get back on. There is one thing I'd like you to do, though, before you go, however."

"Of course," the Prince said. "You're an agent of Guilder, then, and you want me to sign that treaty. As I've told your King--"

"I am not interested in Guilder!" the Huntsman cut in. "I'm not interested in any of that. Only one small thing interests me, and it will only take you a moment. Come."

He rose, and escorted the Prince outside. They went past the barn, past the fields, to the edge of the woods where the Huntsman had smoothed out a small clearing for a special purpose. The Prince gasped when he saw what that purpose was.

"I bought it from those miners," the Huntsman said, almost whispering.

There, in the clearing, stood the glass coffin, and inside it lay the Widow. She might have only been sleeping -- except she was not.

The Prince swallowed. "You...you mean for me to...."

"I heard your tale," the Huntsman said. "All I ask, before you take your leave of me, is for you to work once more whatever magic resides in those princely lips of yours."

"The Queen was here, too? Then this was her punishment for you, to take that which you loved." The Prince sighed. "Vile woman! I will try."

And try he did. But it did not work. The Widow did not stir, even when kissed by the handsome Prince.

"I am sorry," the Prince said.

"Go," the Huntsman said, his voice as dead as she. "The way back to town is clear, and the horse is in the barn. I will be here, when your men come to arrest me."

"Arrest you?"

"I struck the Prince a blow."

"Ah," said the Prince. "Quite so." He stood there a minute more, but finding nothing else to say, he left. At least he didn't sing as he went.

***


For a week the Huntsman tended the farm. He trimmed the flowers by the coffin, and he repaired the fences as best he could. He couldn't think of anything else to do while he waited for the soldiers to come for him, which they finally did on the seventh day.

There were four of them, all wearing the nicest finery: uniforms of white with blue and gold trim, Florian leather boots, and feathered caps. The Huntsman thought it strange that the Prince would send so nice-looking a troop to take him into custody, but there it was. He rose to surrender.

"Hail, Huntsman!" the man in front said. "I am ordered thusly by His Highness the Prince of this Kingdom!" Here he produced a parchment and unfolded it. The Huntsman sighed. Formal charges, of course. "Deliver unto the Huntsman the message below, and then escort them back to the castle for reception. The message is this: 'You heard the tale incompletely. The magic is in love's first kiss.'" The man wrinkled his nose. "Now what can that mean? Ah well, no matter. Prepare to leave, please. You may bring whatever you need--"

But the Huntsman had already risen and was running to the clearing where she lay. For the Prince had not brought the Princess back by virtue of being the Prince. He had done so by virtue of being her love.

The Huntsman wasn't aware of anything. He wasn't aware of running through the fields. He wasn't aware of when he stumbled and fell, nor was he aware of when he picked himself up. All of it was a blur. The only thing he was aware of, as he came to the side of the glass coffin, was the pounding of his own heart. He lifted the lid as soon as he could reach it, bent over her, and whispered "My love" before pressing his lips to hers.

And after the longest moment he could ever remember -- she drew breath. Finally her eyes opened, and he took her into his arms.

"Where am I?" she asked, and her voice was suddenly the most beautiful thing he had ever heard. But all the Huntsman could say was, "Oh my love." He just held her there, trembling, until those soldiers arrived and their stuffed-shirt leader cleared his throat.

"Excuse me, sir...my orders, you know...."

And the Huntsman broke into laughter. "Escort them back", the man had said when he'd read his orders aloud. Escort them back. The Prince had known.

No singing fool, he.

***


"This collar is ridiculous," the Huntsman said as he tugged at the dress collar of the uniform he'd been given.

"Well, get used to it," the mirror said from its familiar perch on the wall in the throne room's antechamber. "Your old clothes have been burned, and good riddance to them."

The Huntsman sighed. He was waiting for his Wife -- now a Widow no more -- to arrive, when they would then be escorted to audience before the Prince and the Princess. They were to be officially made a Lord and Lady and granted the requisite lands. Of course, the tale of the Huntsman who had defied the Queen and spared the Princess was already sweeping the land in the form of a song. And not a bad one either, the Huntsman had to concede.

At last she came, with two attendants with her. He caught his breath to behold her, so wondrous was her gown and so beautiful was she in it; but no matter what gown she wore or what gems from the mines it was decorated with, she would never appear more beautiful to him than she had on that first day, when her hands and face had been dirty and his had been drenched in the blood of a pig.

"Are you nervous, my love?" he asked.

"No," she said. "Not as long as you stand beside me."

"I'll always be beside you," he replied.

She smiled. "A husband for a pig," she mused. "What a strange price to pay!"

They kissed, and then the doors were opened, revealing the throne room beyond, with the throngs of nobles filling it and the Prince and Princess on the far dais. Their names were called by the Herald, and they stepped forward. But then the Huntsman stopped. "Just a moment," he said as he ducked back into the anteroom, leaving his bride on the threshold.

"Mirror, mirror, on the wall," he said, "who is the fairest one of all?"

"This I can say is true," the mirror replied. "The fairest stands before you."

The Huntsman glanced through the door. Through the portal he could see both his love and, in the distance, the Princess. He laughed.

"I've been practicing your advice," the mirror said.

"So you have," the Huntsman said. "So you have."

And he went forward to take his love's hand in his, walking toward the "ever after" that is, in the end, not reserved exclusively for Princes and Princesses.

---finis---

Monday, October 23, 2006

We break it down into nice forty-second chunks

[Film Music Geekery Here]

I was looking around an old haunt the other day, the FilmScoreMonthly message boards, to see what buzz might be going on regarding the soon-to-be-released Complete Recordings edition of Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (preorder yours here!), seeing as how very few film music releases of this quality are seen these days. Predictably enough, I found almost nothing said about the release at all, except for this thread, where I read a fairly jaw-dropping comment by James Southall:

If I want to listen to an album, I want to listen to all of it. Just look at the running time for TTT - over three hours! Who has that kind of time?! Do people who own and love the FOTR set ever listen to it in one go, or is it always in manageable chunks?


Does Southall find it a mystery how so many opera lovers find time to listen to complete recordings of La Traviata or Tannhauser, too? Geez. And the guy ought to know better than to ask so goofy a question, seeing as how he's the longtime proprietor of one of the oldest film music review sites on the Web.

Of course, a lot of the people who seem to have trouble wrapping their minds around the idea of a three-hour release of LOTR music are the same people who would stampede the White House lawn if it were announced that ten copies and ten copies only of a Jerry Goldsmith score were to be handed out at that locale on some December morning.

OK, geeky rant finished. Let's continue!

Not speaking in iambic pentameter would help....

So here I've been griping about Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip every week, and still tuning in every week, for who knows why...until my friends in Toronto aired the newest episode last night (airing tonight in the US). Titled "The Wrap Party", this episode is the episode of Studio 60 I've been waiting for. To keep the Sorkinesque baseball metaphors going, I don't know if this episode represents Sorkin finally emerging from a long slump or just a single bit of good hitting amidst a generally lousy season, but this was a very good episode.

And why? Well, without delving too deeply into spoiler territory, it's because in this episode it's not "All Matt-and-Harriet, all the time". Yes, there is some of that here, but it takes a nice back seat to some other stuff, and we get some welcome insight into the DL Hughley, Timothy Busfield, and Nate Corddry characters. There's a subplot that's classic Sorkin in the way it starts out being kind of funny and goofy, but turns out in the fourth act to be a wonderful bit of storytelling, and this particular storyline also serves to put Studio 60 into the context of television's long history, which is also something I've been wanting to see.

And best of all, Sorkin allows his stories to express what it is he has to say, instead of giving all of his characters soliloquies and monologues that bring the show to a grinding halt. Maybe someone reminded him of the old adage, "If you want to send a message, use Western Union." Anyway, this episode was a very welcome change. I hope it augurs well for episodes to come.

Sentential Links #71 (Buffalo Storm edition)

And so we come once again to that time again! Most of these are my neighbors in the Buffalo Prefecture of Blogistan. Click for context:

:: Val: Hey, isn't' that the heat coming on?
Kevin: (After a 5-second silent pause) Hey, the lights on the coffee maker are flashing.


:: Ahhh...sweet, sweet electricity.

:: So, I start a new job in a few weeks - I'll be working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia - which is going to be a crazy-ass commute. (So help me Mother of God, if this is a precursor to a family leaving WNY! I'm putting you on warning, Jan14221!)

:: The neighborhood is a hive of activity today, resonant with the sound of chainsaws. (This is a newly-launched Buffalo blog, although it's a second life for a former Buffalo blog that had fallen silent. Welcome back to the fight!)

:: There’s nothing wrong with critiquing how your government officials do their job - I do it all the time on this blog and as part of my 40-hour a week gig as the editor of a weekly community newspaper - but for today I just wanted to say thanks to the folks who had to make the tough decisions and I’m glad they did so.

:: This is no Katrina, but it is still a jolt—like stepping off a curb just as a car speeds by, maybe. Or having your kitchen catch fire, but be extinguished before the house burns down. This—whatever it will be called— has the feel of a warning. Be careful. Be aware of how quickly things can change. Know how lucky you have been, how lucky you still are.

And now a few non-snowstorm links:

:: Never provide a dungeon without treasure. (If you've ever played AD&D or a similar role-playing game in your life, please check out Shamus's DM of the Rings series. You can get to all of the posts here. He's fashioning a comic strip, using images taken from the Lord of the Rings movies, but writing the dialogue as if the images are actually those of an AD&D campaign. All he needs to capture the feel of the campaign I was in during my college years is a psychopathic elf fighter whose alignment is Chaotic Neutral.)

:: The irony is that the ability of Katie to appear to millions of people (well, fewer every day according to her ratings — oh, snap!) is due to the space program. (sent in by Paul)

Enough for now. Back next week!

Thank God for the bye week....

Next Sunday I don't have to watch the cowering-at-the-line-of-scrimmage that is the 2006 Buffalo Bills, because they have the week off. Thank God.

The New England Stupid Patriots came into town and walked away with the usual result, a dominant win. Score? 28-6. JP Losman threw one interception and lost two fumbles, and although I don't really blame him for the fumbles, the INT was pure Losman as he took the snap and stared at his receiver the entire way so that if any astronauts were on the International Space Station at the time of the game and the station was passing over Ralph Wilson Stadium at the time of the play, those astronauts would have been able to see where the ball was going. This is Losman's worst habit by far, and it's been such a damned stubborn habit that now I'm starting to wonder why the hell the coaches haven't managed to cure him of it just a wee bit. Losman's mistakes don't bother me nearly so much as the fact that the coaches seem to have absolutely no idea how to fix them, and Losman himself seems unaware that the problems exist. You've got to have more than an arm to play QB in the NFL, and if Losman's ever going to show that he's got a head as well, he's got to start doing it now.

(The fumbles were, respectively, another example of an O-line guy -- Chris Villarial in this case -- completely whiffing on a block so a blitzing linebacker had an unimpeded route to Losman's blind side, and a freak thing where Losman was trying to run the ball himself late in the fourth quarter when the game's outcome was no longer in doubt, and suddenly the damn umpire got in his way. In the course of trying to avoid the official -- who, true to NFL form, was a fat old guy -- Losman had to try to change hands with the ball, which ended up on the ground. I suppose I could be churlish and goat him for that second fumble, but what's the point?)

Other coaching decisions leave me scratching my head on offense. I wonder why the Bills don't make more use of very quick drop-and-throw patterns, that might only move the ball a handful of yards but still would serve the purpose of slowing down the opposing pass-rush a bit. The StuPats do this kind of thing all the time, and it seems to serve their nefarious purposes nicely. And fairly late in the game, there was a maddening moment when Bills TE Robert Royal made a very nice catch and run for a first down, the exact kind of thing I'd almost kill to see more of from the Bills tight ends, and then on the very next play Royal was on the sidelines. What the hell was that about?

No StuPat points came off the turnovers, but that's not a consolation. The INT was a backbreaker, killing a drive that had been going very nicely, and once again, the O-line failed to consistently pass or run block. Willis McGahee had a few decent plays and even a couple of excellent ones, but it was too little too late; as for the defense, it sucked. One New England's opening drive, they barely put up a fight; on a later NE drive, they had Tom Brady sacked and on the ground when Chris Kelsay came from somewhere else and put the hit on Brady anyway. Unnecessary roughness call, half the distance to the goal, automatic first down, Corey Dillon walking untouched into the end zone on the next play. The fact that Aaron Schobel always sacks Tom Brady multiple times when the Bills play the StuPats is of little consolation when the StuPats manage to win by commanding margins all the time.

So I'm forced to repeat myself: JP Losman, while playing in a way that can be most charitably described as "uninspiring", is still the least of the team's problems. If Marv Levy doesn't spend the coming offseason seriously addressing the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, then 2007 is another doomed season no matter who the Bills start at QB next year. Even if they decide to end the JP Losman era this offseason, I'd almost be willing to see the Bills use their likely high draft pick at the line of scrimmage, rather than on one of the two or three big-name QBs in the 2007 draft, whoever those may end up being. Sign another journeyman QB -- Kurt Warner comes to Buffalo! -- but start fixing this team's ability to fight in the trenches. Please oh please.

(And since there's been a lot of Matt Leinart handwringing going on this week, with the Bills in freefall and Leinart now starting for the Cardinals, it's worth pointing out that today Leinart got humiliated by the Oakland Raiders, who just may be the NFL's worst team. Yeah, it's only his third NFL start, but it's a reminder that there are no slam-dunks in the NFL. The StuPats, after all, have forged a dynasty around a sixth-rounder who only got the starting nod when the guy ahead of him, a former first pick overall, got injured.)

BTW, seeing as how it's StuPat time, once again I see that they do absolutely nothing spellbinding on either offense or defense. They simply manage to minimize completely the making of stupid mistakes, and what's more, they seem to have this almost Beelzebub-like ability to (a) identify what mistakes their opponents are likely to make, and (b) just sit back and wait for those very mistakes.

Say, does anybody know how the average StuPat player scored on the Wonderlic test? I suspect that would mean something....

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Karma

Brief Note: I won't spoil it, but I'm watching The Amazing Race right now and I can't believe what the Godwin Brothers just did. Wow. You don't often see that on reality-TV competitions.

(It may get spoiled in Comments, so beware!)

Sunday Burst of Weirdness

From that great categorizer of All Things Tentacled, PZ Myers, I see a truly nifty toy: Frogmen versus Radioactive Octopus! Zap! Pow!

(I actually got to sample a bit of octopus the other night, at our local Chinese buffet that had an octopus dish out. The octopus was a fairly rubbery thing, and it had pretty much taken on the flavor of whatever Chinese seasonings were in the dish, but no, it wasn't horrible. Plus, it freaked out some kid at the buffet line when I took one of the little buggers onto my plate. Served him right. He was at a Chinese buffet and filling his plate with pizza and french fries.)

The family that wears overalls together stays together!


At the Lake
Originally uploaded by sarah smile = ).

I found this lovely photo the other day, quite by accident. There's a clan that's got the right idea!

Denim workwear aside, can any photography experts out there tell me what that "fading to black around the edges" effect is called? I might like to try it on my own photo editing software. I don't use Photoshop, though; I use ArcSoft's PhotoStudio 2000, which came for free either with the computer when I bought it five years ago or with some other piece of equipment along the way. Don't know what I'll use on the next computer, but I doubt I'll spring for Photoshop anyway. How is Google's photo software? I'm also buying a new camera sometime in the next couple of months.

A-1, Vic-20, Heinz 57, Studio 60

I didn't blog last week's episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip because I just started to feel like Comic Book Guy* a little bit, endlessly snarking on Aaron Sorkin for executing a show that I am increasingly feeling to be an exercise in self-indulgence. But last night I was thumbing through my copy of the Seasons Three and Four book of The West Wing: Shooting Scripts, and I quite by accident uncovered yet another example of Sorkin apparently using Studio 60 as a dumping ground for stuff from his own personal life.

The major subplot thus far in Studio 60's run is the romance between genius comedy writer Matt (Matthew Perry) and genius comedy actress Harriet (Sarah Paulson). This romance has led to all manner of preachy nonsense in the show, since Matt's a staunch liberal and Harriet's a Red-State baptist. They're a metaphor for the Red States and the Blue States coming together once a week, for ninety minutes, to laugh together. And the healing power of laughter and so on. (I'm not making this up. The script for last week's episode spelled all this out, via a visiting reporter played by Christine Lahti.)

Now, I generally find the Matt-Harriet romance irritating, because (a) I can't stand the whole "You guys stand for half this country hating the other half!" stuff, and (b) I don't think that these two leads have one iota of chemistry between them. Maybe we're just supposed to buy into it because Sorkin's telling us to, or maybe he's got something more sophisticated up his sleeve and they're one of those couples that everybody knows shouldn't be together but them. (I frankly doubt the latter, but we'll see.) But anyway, one interaction between Matt and Harriet that got a lot of screentime was Harriet's gift to Matt of a baseball bat signed by "Darren Wells" of the Dodgers. That bat's been all over the show ever since, never leaving Matt's desk despite some shenanigans revolving around Darren Wells having written his phone number on the bat. OK? OK.

So now last night I'm reading the TWW script book, and in an introductory passage at the beginning, Sorkin writes of a time when someone proposed doing a Halloween-themed episode of The West Wing:

And he'd [Kevin Falls, an executive producer] wanted to do a Halloween show ever since SportsNight. I wasn't wild about the idea -- paper cutouts of ghosts and goblins at Margaret's desk? -- but lacking any ideas of my own, I turned to Kevin and the staff and said what I usually say when I have nothing at all, "Okay, that's it for a while," and went back to my office to play with my Darren Dreifort baseball bat. [Emphasis added.]


Now, he doesn't tell us who gave him the Darren Dreifort bat in real life, but it clearly made its way into Studio 60, where all he did was change the last name of the player! Darren Dreifort, of course, was a pitcher for the Dodgers (now apparently retired after lots of injuries), as is Darren Wells on the show. And you might wonder why a pitcher is giving out a bat, a point which Sorkin made in the script.

Now, obviously very few people are going to notice stuff like this, but even if we can't put our finger on it so directly, this is a big way in which the air of falsity that I'm detecting all through Studio 60 creeps into the show. I have no problem with Sorkin using his life experiences in television to tell stories -- it's part of that whole "Write what you know" thing, and roman a clef tales have a long lineage. But every detail like this that crops up makes it feel more and more like Studio 60 is one giant wish-fulfillment fantasy for Aaron Sorkin. It's like he's trying to achieve through writing what he's not allowed to achieve through mushrooms anymore, and I find that sad because the guy is a gifted writer. A Few Good Men is a really good movie (and its lead character also was a guy who did his best thinking whilst toting a baseball bat!), The American President is one of my favorite movies, and the first two seasons of The West Wing are obviously great, with the third and fourth being less good but still having frequent moments of greatness. I hope he finds that stroke again, if not with Studio 60, then maybe with something else.

(John likes Harriet and Matt just fine, for what it's worth. Also, for those who think that Sorkin's trend towards preachiness is a new development, check out the script to The American President, which contains some very preachy material that thankfully didn't make it into the final cut of the movie.)

* Did you know that Comic Book Guy's real name was revealed at some point? I didn't! Click through that link above to find out. The things you learn!

Thanks, Lurkers!

My first-ever "Delurking Week" is just about over, so I just want to thank all you fine non-commenting readers for continuing to stop by, and especially all you lurkers who took the time to comment before disappearing hippopotamus-like beneath the bubbles*. I'm allowing that post to recede into the misty archives of BlogMemory now, but you're all still more than welcome to delurk if you so desire.

* Ten points to the first person who can identify the source of this metaphor!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lurkers, cast off your chains!

[I will be keeping this post at the top of the blog until Saturday morning. Newer material will appear beneath it. So delurk, Lurkers!]

I remember a while back that a bunch of blogs had something called "Delurking week", in which lurkers were encourage to either leave comments or e-mail the bloggers so as to, well, delurk a bit. I missed the boat on that particular week, but here at Byzantium's Shores, I make my own calendar!

So, without further ado, I pronounce this week Delurking Week at Byzantium's Shores.

Come forth then, lurkers, and either leave a comment or send an e-mail. No names are required this time; if you just want to tell me that you're from Kalamazoo, that's fine, and if you actually have a comment that you've been withholding, feel free to e-mail it to me. I'm just curious to see who's out there that I don't already know about!

UPDATE 10-17-06: Pretty good response thus far. Nice to "meet" you all! And if you don't want to delurk in Comments, feel free to do it in e-mail. I won't publish messages if you do not wish them to run publicly.

UPDATE 10-19-06: Wow! Lots of good response. Anyone else want to delurk? Not asking for anyone to become a regular commenter, or even give a name, if you don't want to.

Loss Man

In the Buffalo sports world, a strange inversion has taken place: it's the NHL Sabres who have the region going crazy (probably because they're going to win that Cup thing everybody talks about!), while the NFL Bills are what we talk about when the Sabres aren't playing for a few days. Strange days...but here's a thread on BfloBlog about the Bills and their problems. Wow, we're more down on the Bills than I thought!

Here's a comment I left there, in response to something Geek said:

[Geek]Let me ask you this; If JP finishes the season with a 55% completion rate, 15TDs and 16INTs for 2400 yards, where do we go from there? Do we stick with him for another year and hope he improves or do we find a better option?[/Geek]

Interesting numbers, because they’re almost identical with those posted by Steve McNair in his first full year as an NFL starter (52% comp, 2665 yds, 14TD, 13INT), Rich Gannon’s (52% comp, 2278 yds, 16TD, 16INT), Matt Hasselbeck’s (54.8%, 2023 yds, 7TD, 8INT), and not too far off Carson Palmer’s (60.9%, 2897 yds, 18TD, 18INT). Those guys turned out fairly well. McNair and Gannon aren’t likely Hall of Famers, but both had long and productive careers.

Maybe Losman will be like them, or maybe he’ll flame out. We don’t know yet. His faults are undeniable, but they are also correctable, and while he still can be maddening to watch, it seems to be equally undeniable that he’s playing better now than he did a year ago. And it also seems undeniable to me that this team has far more grave and structural reasons for not being terribly good: the Bills are downright bad at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, to the point where if you had Steve Young in his prime going under center, I don’t think this team is better than 3-3 right now.

And the Marv Levy bashing is kind of disheartening, I must say. The guy is picking up the pieces left by years of bad coaching, poor talent scouting, and bad drafting. And it goes back farther than Tom Donahoe: John Butler’s last few years here weren’t anything to write home about, and that 2000 draft was an unmitigated disaster. Gregg Easterbrook pointed out in a recent column that you can’t whiff an entire draft without entering a prolonged period of decline as a franchise, and that’s exactly what the Bills did in 2000. Levy’s had one draft, one off-season signing period, and six games so far. How realistic is it to expect that the Donahoe/Butler aftertaste would have left our mouths already?

Summing up: Losman is showing signs of improvement to me, but it’s slow improvement and he needs to step it up. But JP Losman is nowhere near to being this team’s biggest problem.


SO sayeth I.

(I mention John Butler's 2000 Bills draft above; the BfloBlog guys summed up that draft here. That draft was an utter disaster for the Bills. If that had been a good draft, at least two or three of those guys would still be starting here. Ugh.)

Commence the Stoning

This probably isn't the wisest thing to admit to by fellow denizens of Buffalo Prefecture of Blogistan (such as Geek and Alan), but: throughout the entire ordeal following the snowstorm that hit our region, my apartment never lost power.

Please don't throw rocks. They hurt!

The name is Barry. John Barry.

Sean e-mailed me a link to this blog post, in which we are presented the opportunity to hear the theme songs of every James Bond movie. Well, almost, anyway: "We Have All the Time in the World" is not the "theme song" to On Her Majesty's Secret Service; that would be the instrumental theme of the same name, written by John Barry. The Louis Armstrong song is a love theme that is heard over a romance montage depicting James Bond's courtship of Tracy Vicenzo, about thirty minutes into the film.

Also, I realize it's all a matter of opinion, but the poster claims that the best Bond theme is Madonna's song for Die Another Day? I like Madonna plenty, but that song was, quite simply, teh suck. But I actually have a hard time picking an actual favorite; I love just about all of those songs, excepting the ones for the Pierce Brosnan films. The World is Not Enough was an OK song, and Tomorrow Never Dies actually had two decent songs, the better of which (k.d. lang's) was relegated to the end credits so that the inferior one (Sheryl Crow's) could be on the opening credits. The songs I love best tend to have lyrics that make no sense -- what the hell does it mean to "strike like Thunderball", anyway?

You can also hear the song for the forthcoming Casino Royale there. I haven't listened to it all yet, but it's got a pretty muscular opening, and it's sung by a man, which is fairly uncommon for the Bond series.

Of course, the Bond theme songs quickly settled into a format that calls for big arrangements and big vocals, but it's a style that has many times through the years come in for rich parody. My favorite Bond-song parody comes, of course, from The Simpsons: Max Power! "He's the man with the name you'd love to touch...." (from SimpsonCrazy.com).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Get her a shrubbery!

Lynn Sislo finally addresses the biggest hole in her cultural life.

Ni!

Paraphrasing Obi Wan Kenobi

"Who is the more foolish, the fool or the fool who elects him?"

Can't like him for hating him

I'm not sure if there's a more maddening writer out there than Gregg Easterbrook, who often manages to be so colossally wrong and utterly right in the same column. It's weird. One minute I'm saying, "How can this guy be this full of crap now, since he was so on the money four paragraphs ago?" And then I'm saying, "How can he be so on the money now, since he was just so full of crap?" (The topic of evolution brings out the absolute worst in him.)

Anyway, I'm swiping a couple of items from his current Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:

Perhaps the most tedious aspect of politics is wrangling over credit or blame. First, since government usually can only influence events, not control them, rare is the case where Democrats or Republicans are clearly to blame or deserve full credit for anything. Second, all that matters to citizens is whether things go well, not who signed which piece of paper on what day. Here are three examples. It is absurd for Republicans to keep saying Bill Clinton is to blame for not killing Osama bin Laden in 1998. Republicans were in control of the White House from January to September 2001, and they didn't do anything decisive about bin Laden either. It was absurd for Sen. John McCain last week to say that Clinton's 1994 agreement with North Korea is the reason that nation (perhaps) developed an atomic weapon. Republicans have now held the White House for as long as Clinton administered his North Korea deal, and Republicans did not stop North Korea either. And last week when new low-polluting "reformulated" diesel fuel hit the market, it was absurd that Democrats claimed George W. Bush deserves no credit because the initial rule mandating the advance was signed by Clinton a few days before he left office.

On the diesel fuel advance, which will cut air pollution, Bush could have stopped the rule but instead supported it -- over the howls of the petroleum industry, which refines diesel. Anti-pollution regulations typically allow industry five to seven years to design and manufacture the technology needed to reduce emissions. Owing to this lag it is common for one president to put into practice a regulation first proposed by his predecessor; Bush's father signed the 1991 legislation mandating a reduction in acid rain, then Clinton actually carried out that reform. All that matters is whether the public benefits, and the new low-polluting diesel fuel, for which Clinton and George W. Bush ought to share credit, will lead to a big reduction in smog, plus a reduction in asthma incidence. Note that the country's most important news organization, the New York Times, buried the arrival of polluting-reducing diesel fuel on page A22, since it is inconveniently positive news.

Clinton addendum: The recent fictionalized TV docudrama about the buildup to Sept. 11 ominously suggests Clinton's State Department sabotaged the 1998 missile strike against al-Qaida in Afghanistan by warning Pakistan that our missiles were about to cross its airspace on their way somewhere else. Bin Laden fled his Afghan camp while the missiles were in the air, and it's likely bad people in the Pak government tipped him off. But the revisionism skips why we warned Islamabad missiles were coming. Weeks before the strike, Pakistan had tested its first atomic bomb; Pakistan and India were on the verge of history's first atomic war. If unknown missiles approaching Pakistan had triggered an atomic exchange, this would have been a moral horror. The Clinton Administration absolutely had to warn Pakistan, risking a tip-off: Any other course would have been immoral. The real question about the 1998 strike was why missiles were fired across Pakistan (from a submarine in the Arabian Sea) in the first place. Missiles could have been fired from the Persian Gulf across Iran into Afghanistan. Cruise missiles are hard to detect; Iran in 1998 was not on high alert as Pakistan was; and Shia Iran doesn't much like Sunni al-Qaida. Thus flight across Iran might have avoided the tip-off.

Revisionism addendum: Suppose Clinton had, in 1998, ordered an invasion of Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaida and Taliban forces there, as the docudrama suggested Clinton should have. Surely the president would have been bitterly denounced by Republicans, and since Sept. 11 would never have happened, today the 1998 invasion of Afghanistan would be spoken of as a pointless fiasco of the highest order. Something to chew on when you think about the Iraq war.


And this is just plain funny:

he buildup continues for TMQ's annual Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania versus California of Pennsylvania at Hepner-Bailey Field at Adamson Stadium in California, Pa. on Nov. 11. California of Pennsylvania University offers courses online, so you don't actually have to be in either California or Pennsylvania.


Credit where due. But I'm sure Easterbrook will get back to pissing me off in next week's TMQ.

O for a public teat, that I might suckle at it forevermore....

A little background: a couple of years back, it turned out that the budget of Erie County (in which Buffalo and its suburbs reside) was about to implode. The reasons are too long to enumerate, but mostly they boil down to a stubbornly sluggish local economy combined with a dwindling tax base and some questionable fiscal decisions made a few years before that, when things were less dire. The Head of our County Government, County Executive Joel Giambra, did a lot of things wrong in addressing this ongoing budget problem, but the biggest symbolic thing was when it was revealed that Giambra's personal driver, a personal friend of his who was paid for his driving services out of County budget funds (meaning, out of local tax revenues), was drawing a salary of over $80,000 a year.

Let that figure sink in a moment: a guy was being paid one-fifth of the salary of the President of the United States to drive around the County Executive of a cash-strapped Upstate NY county.

Well, that guy was let go for obvious reasons, and many wondered what on Earth Joel Giambra needed a driver for, anyway. He's not a Senator, a Congressman, or a Governor -- why couldn't he drive himself around? Was his time that valuable? (And if so, why haven't his results been less sucky?)

Which brings me to today: apparently Giambra was involved in a minor traffic accident due to a light being out at an intersection:

Erie County Executive Joel Giambra was not hurt when another car collided with his on Tuesday afternoon in Williamsville. His driver was taken to ECMC but is expected to be ok. (Emphasis added)


So the County Exec still has his own driver. I wonder how much this driver is making. Somehow I suspect that it's just a bit more than what I make.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sunday Burst of Weirdness (Monday Edition)

Oops. Sorry, folks, I just completely forgot to do the Sunday Burst yesterday. And judging by the outcry, I can tell it was missed.

Yup. Quite the outcry.

Uh-huh.

Anyhow, even if I had that kind of money, I don't think I'd spend over $1,000 for an outfit. Or if I absolutely had to spend that kind of money on an outfit, I'd make it a very fine tux, with white tie and tails. If I were a performing classical musician, maybe, or perhaps a Head of State of a mildly prosperous nation. But there's no way I'd spend over $1,000 on a pair of jeans and a polo shirt.

For one thing, I don't like polo shirts.

Sentential Links #70

Click these links. Click them. CLICK THEM!

:: Is New York really the only city in the land where audiences can handle this gorgeous work by Japan's greatest twentieth-century composer? (I just happen to be listening to this piece right now, as I write this. I love Takemitsu.)

:: The world is full of so-called writers who are eunuchs and old women—flaccid, dithering, lifeless nothings.

:: I think maybe it's time I paid more attention to Hawkman. Clearly I have been missing out. (Via. I'm rather speechless.)

:: Spap Oop! BWAAAhahahaha! (It'll make sense when you click through. Trust me.)

:: If it makes you think, that's okay but it shouldn't depress you and it seems to me that Battlestar Galactica is going out of its way to be depressing. (Well, there's always ER....)

:: The theme of The Enemy at Home, as in so many conservative tracts, is that whatever goes wrong, liberals and liberalism are always the ones at fault.

:: Sunday evenings are the worst time of the week.

:: Finally, I'd rather carry one grateful passenger than 300 pissed-off ones. (New blog, by Jayne's husband. Found it when I saw that Jayne has shamelessly pilfered my Sentential Links series for a series of her own! Betrayer most foul!)

:: Nebraska is not exactly a style paradise, but the one thing you learn if you’re born there is that overalls are almost always sexy. (While I myself am an effective counterexample to this hypothesis, I certainly agree with the sentiment where the womenfolk are concerned.)

All for this week. Tune in next week to hear....

Maybe Jim Leyland was coaching the Lions?

Oy. The Buffalo Bills, fresh off getting clobbered by the best team in the NFL, promptly went out and posted a lackluster 20-17 loss to the Detroit Lions, allowing the Lions to break into the win column for the first time this season. Ugh.

There's not a whole lot of positive to be taken from this game -- in fact, there's even less positive to be taken from this game than last week's game. Seeing your young team get rolled by the Bears is one thing, but seeing your team play poorly against the winless Lions? Ugh!

For obvious reasons, much of the focus after each Bills game this season is on how JP Losman played. Personally, I didn't think he did too badly yesterday. He completed a majority of his passes, he threw for two touchdowns, and had respectable yardage numbers. However, he threw one very bad interception, fumbled, and got knocked on his ass all day. The interception came because he locked onto his primary receiver from the second the ball was snapped, and everybody watching the game could see it. I don't really blame Losman for the fumble, since it came on one of those sacks from his blindside that QBs never see coming. Every QB in the NFL has fumbled like that before, so I don't begrudge Losman that one. But I would like to see some more actual leadership from JP. Any Bills fan knows what Jim Kelly would have done if one single offensive lineman had given up 3.5 sacks to the NFL's worst pass-rush. Everybody thought Kelly was a jerk when he called out Howard Ballard publicly after Ballard had a bad game in 1989, but right after that Ballard suddenly became one of the anchors of the O-line that carried Buffalo to four Super Bowls.

And besides all that, what I saw in yesterday's game indicates that even if Losman's just not a good QB, his play is far from being the Bills' biggest problem. The Bills still are not a physical presence at the line of scrimmage. They just aren't. JP Losman didn't give up 120 rushing yards to the Lions yesterday. JP Losman didn't let Roy Williams grab ten catches for 160 yards. JP Losman didn't fail to block for Willis McGahee. And there's a point: I hear a lot of people talk in Buffalo about how McGahee doesn't seem to have the burst that he had in college, and when is he gonna bust it out, and so on. But aside from when McGahee plays the Jets (and the Bills always run well against the Jets; Thurman Thomas owned them, too), when's the last time anyone saw a running play on which McGahee was even able to hit the hole at full speed?

And frankly, I'm more and more inclined to believe that designating Nate Clements as the franchise player was a mistake. The Bills could get play like that from a rookie CB, for a lot less money. It was telling that on the defense's biggest play yesterday, the fourth quarter interception of a long John Kitna pass, it was rookie safety Ko Simpson who came over and made the pick right in front of Clements.

No, JP Losman didn't play terribly well yesterday, but he wasn't a disaster either, and the Buffalo Bills have a lot of bigger problems than JP Losman.

Next up: the New England Stupid Patriots come to town. They're coming off a bye week. Oy.