A Trip To Champaign

On Saturday Ohio State makes its first road trip of the season.

The Buckeyes travel to Champaign, Illinois and Memorial Stadium to take on the Fighting Illini and play once again for the Illibuck trophy.  Illinois is one of those teams that is a bit of a cipher in this early part of the season.  They’ve only played three games and come into the game with the Buckeyes at 2 and 1.  In their opening contest they lost to Missouri, 23-13, in a game where they led at halftime.  (Missouri, incidentally, hasn’t lost a game this season.)  In the last two games the Illini have spanked Southern Illinois and beaten Northern Illinois 28-22.

Mikel Leshoure

It’s tough to draw a lot of meaningful guidance from those games, but it is clear that Illinois prefers to run the ball.  They have a big, mobile running back, Mikel Leshoure, who is 6-1 and 230 pounds.  Leshoure has run for 100 yards in each of Illinois’ three games, has scored three touchdowns, and has broken some big runs.  The Illini quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, is a rangy freshman who is the second leading rusher on the team.  With Leshoure and Scheelhaase leading the way, Illinois ranks 18th in the FBS in rushing yards per game.  The passing attack, however, is a little less robust, averaging 130 yards per game to rank 112th in the FBS.  On the other side of the ball, Illinois’ defense seems to be improved over last year, when they gave up an average of 30 points a game.

How will it play out? Playing on the road in the Big Ten is tough, and Ohio State always draws a big, hostile crowd and a fired-up opponent looking to make a statement.  In such situations, senior leadership is crucial; fortunately, Ohio State has a number of upperclassmen who knows how to perform on the road.  I think the key for Ohio State will be avoiding turnovers and avoiding special teams mistakes.  Ohio State’s goal will be to get ahead early, force Illinois to abandon its running game, and make Illinois’ freshman quarterback carry the load.  If they can accomplish that they will put themselves in position to win the ballgame.

Beating Illinois on the road will be a challenge, but it is a challenge the Buckeyes have to overcome if they want to contend for the Big Ten championship.

Dirty Sports

Pro baseball has its steroid scandals, and pro football does too.  College football and basketball witness periodic allegations that teams have cheated in recruiting, in paying athletes, and in committing various violations of NCAA rules.  It seems like every sport struggles with some issues of cheating.

Is any sport more troubled in that regard than cycling?  From reading new reports you get the sense that cyclists are human pincushions who are willing to subject themselves to almost any kind of drug or other form of hare-brained treatment in hopes of gaining a slight advantage over competitors and then somehow avoiding detection by the sport’s regulators.

Cycling suffered another black eye today, when the winner of the Tour de France announced that he had tested positive for a small amount of a banned substance — a stimulant that increases breathing capacity and the flow of oxygen in the bloodstream. He says that he was the victim of food contamination, and the allegations will surely be carefully investigated by some supervisory panel.  Cycling enthusiasts, however, must be cringing once again at today’s headlines.

Summer Work

The Miscellany News, Vassar’s student newspaper, has posted on Flickr some photos of pieces displayed at the “Summer Work” show at the Palmer Gallery.  Although the slide show doesn’t identify which pieces are by which artist, I have a pretty good idea of which pictures show Russell’s work.  In any case, I think all of the pieces are good.

Boardwalk Empire

Kish and I have watched the first two episodes of Boardwalk Empire, the new HBO series.  It is fabulous, and we are already fully and blissfully hooked.

Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson

For those of you who haven’t seen the show, it is the story of Atlantic City in 1920, as Prohibition is just beginning.  The focal point of the show is Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, an elected public servant who just happens to be the head of the Atlantic City underground.  Nucky is brilliantly played by Steve Buscemi.  As with so many HBO series, however, there are many other intriguing characters and historical figures who have their own subplots, including Arnold Rothstein (the gambler who fixed the 1919 World Series), a doughboy returned home from World War I who sees a life of crime as a way to make his way up in the world, an emotionally stunted IRS prohibition agent, a well-read female Irish immigrant who has been brutalized by her drunken husband, and Al Capone, among many, many others. We will happily follow the serpentine twists and turns of the plots and subplots as the season progresses.

One of the things we enjoy most about HBO series is their ability to capture the mood and setting of long-gone places and times.  Deadwood, with its spot-on depiction of a brand-new, mud-spattered, lawless town founded on a gold boom, is a good example.  Boardwalk Empire is a worthy successor — and with Martin Scorsese directing, you would expect nothing less.  The sets, costumes, and scripts do a fantastic job of recreating the era, 90 years ago, when American tried to go dry and a boom in organized crime resulted.  It is one of those time periods that seems to have been lost in the shuffle, largely skipped over in American history class when the teacher went directly from World War I and the Treaty of Versailles to the stock market crash and the Great Depression, with perhaps only a brief mention of the Jazz Age and flappers.  I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about what that era was really like.

One of the

Vote Yes On Issue 4

In addition to all of the federal and state races on the ballot in November, central Ohio voters will cast their ballots on Issue 4, a 2.8 mill property tax levy to support the Columbus Metropolitan Library system.  I strongly support Issue 4, and I hope Franklin County voters will, too.

The Columbus Metropolitan Library system is exceptional.  It has won national awards for excellence and is devoted to community service.  Its local branch libraries have become fundamental parts of many central Ohio communities.  That is certainly the case in New Albany, where the library branch is one of the cornerstones of the Market Street area and is a hub for meetings of local groups.  It also contributes greatly to the foot traffic that helps the nearby local stores.

Libraries are one of the institutions that help to bring communities together and makes them feel more like, well, communities.  A vote for Issue 4 is a vote for money well spent.

A Visit To Cleveland’s West Side Market Area

Cleveland's West Side Market

I was in Cleveland last night and took some associates from the firm out to dinner.  (Thanks very much for the company, ladies!)  They decided we should go to a restaurant across the street from the West Side Market at the corner of West 25th St. and Lorain Avenue in the Ohio City area of Cleveland.

The West Side market clock tower

The West Side Market, which opened in 1912, is one of the most beautiful buildings in Cleveland.  Made of yellow brick, with a sturdy yet gracefully curved facade and a stunning clock tower that features cross-hatched brickwork, the West Side Market is an architectural gem.  It still serves as a functioning market, although it was closed for the day by the time we arrived in the area.  It is one of those lovely buildings that makes older neighborhoods great.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood around the West Side Market seems to be struggling somewhat.  As we drove up, we saw a policeman handcuffing a suspect next to a patrol car in the entranceway of an apartment building, and on the opposite side of the street a titanically drunk man was weaving uncertainly back and forth as he made his way down the sidewalk.  These are the kinds of things that make you question whether the neighborhood is very safe.  Although our restaurant served good food and offered an excellent selection of beers, it was largely deserted during the early evening hours, and I found myself wondering if the security issues were affecting its patronage.

According to my dinner companions, the neighborhood and other supporters are working hard to preserve the West Side Market, and obviously that kind of campaign is important.  Our brief visit to the area, however, also indicated that physical structures are only part of the equation.  Urban neighborhoods will thrive only if residents feel safe in walking the streets and visitors feel secure as they drop by to shop, eat, or enjoy a fine Belgian ale.  It looks like the West Side Market area still has some work to do in that regard.

When Aliens Come Calling

With all of the problems in the world, it is noteworthy that the United Nations has decided to focus on the pressing topic of impending extraterrestrial visits and has appointed Mazlan Othman as the person aliens should contact if they come knocking at Earth’s door.

Who is Mazlan Othman, you may ask?  Why, she is a Malaysian astrophysicist who heads up the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, and therefore is the perfect person to deal with the issue of alien first contact.  She explains that, when aliens first communicate with Earth, “we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all sensitivities related to the subject,” and the UN “is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”  One can only imagine what kind of meaningless, politically correct drivel the slow-moving UN political processes would produce as Earth’s “coordinated” response to an alien contact.

Perhaps the clever plan is to baffle the alien ambassadors.  When they show up and say “take me to your leader,” we will escort them to some unknown, politically powerless head of an obscure UN organization who will read them some multicultural blathering and expect them to be satisfied with the UN’s coordinated balancing of various “sensitivities.”  And then, with any luck, the aliens will conclude that Earth is too weird to deal with and move on to Venus.

A Visit To The NACC Fire Pit

The New Albany Country Club fire pit

New Albany Country Club has it all.  27-hold golf course?  Check.  Fine dining and party room facilities?  Check.  Countless tennis courts?  Absolutely.  Workout facility, family pool, and adult pool?  Of course!  Its own beer and pale ale?  Sure, why not?  Fire pit?  Yes, indeed.

Wait a second — fire pit?

The lanterns light the way

It’s the newest addition to the country club offering of recreational activities, and Penny and I decided to make a visit on our walk today.

The fire pit is in the middle of a copse of trees between the ninth hole on the north course and the main clubhouse grounds.  You follow a winding path covered with wood chips to the center of the stand of trees.  The path is strung with electric lanterns.  At the end of the path is the fire pit, which is ringed with stones and then with picnic tables, benches and two very rustic (and frankly, uncomfortable looking) seats beveled out of tree trunks.  The area features a grill, an iron spit where you could roast a wild boar carcass or some other animal caught by a guy exploring his savage side, and some strategically placed fire extinguishers.

One of the all-natural seats at the fire pit

I don’t know whether the fire pit has been heavily used so far.  It’s probably not a top choice for a wedding reception or book club get-together, but it would be perfect for a Boy Scout troop meeting, a drum circle, a Lord of the Flies meeting, or one of those “get in touch with your inner alpha male” retreats.  Toss a few logs in the pit, slowly roast a haunch of beef, knock back a New Albany Pale Ale or two, and then walk a few hundred feet back to the New Albany Country Club grounds, where your wife is waiting to pick you up in the Cadillac Escalade.

Let The Big Ten Begin

The Ohio State Buckeyes did what they had to do yesterday.  On a beautiful fall day, they pounded the Eastern Michigan University Eagles, 73-20, to complete an undefeated September.  Now the Big Ten season begins, and the Buckeyes will be required to leave the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium.  The first test will come next Saturday, when Ohio State will play at Illinois.

A few random thoughts from the EMU game:

Obviously, the Buckeyes played well offensively.  You know your team has had a good day when it racks up 73 points, 30 first downs, and more than 600 yards in total offense.  Eastern Michigan looked totally overmatched, physically, against the Ohio State offense, but players still have to execute.  Quarterbacks have to throw the ball with accuracy, receivers have to catch, and so forth.  Even against an outgunned opponent like EMU, putting 73 points on the board is a notable accomplishment.  Regardless of the quality of the opponent, Terrelle Pryor will always remember this game, where he threw for four touchdowns, ran for another, and caught a pass for yet another.  Dane Sanzenbacher, who caught four touchdown passes, isn’t going to squawk that they all came against the EMU Eagles, either.

I like the Buckeyes’ use of a hurry-up offense.  I think Ohio State has lots of offensive weapons, and playing at a quick tempo when you have the other team on their heels is just good strategy.  It also makes it easier to run trick plays, like the Jordan Hall pass to Terrelle Pryor.  Finally, it causes the offense to play with special aggressiveness and is good preparation for games where the Buckeyes will need to run the two-minute drill.

My only concern about the offense was the lack, again, of a consistent ground game by the OSU running backs.  Although the Buckeyes had more than 340 yards rushing, they still struggled to get consistent push against EMU when the first team was on the field, and much of the yardage that was gained was on Terrelle Pryor scrambles.  As the weather gets colder, Ohio State will want Boom Herron, Brandon Saine, Jordan Hall, and Jaamal Berry to shoulder more of the load and show that they can get the tough yards when the game is on the line.

Defensively, Ohio State stopped the run and was able to get consistent pressure on the passer.  However, EMU exposed some weaknesses in the OSU secondary, where a number of players are banged up.  The Eagles’ quarterback, Alex Gillett, played a fine game and made some unbelievably good throws under pressure.  He also gashed the middle of the Buckeye defense with big throws to the tight end.  I’m glad some of these issues were exposed in this contest, when the outcome was not in doubt, rather than later in the season during the closing minutes of a big game.  My guess is that the Ohio State coaches will work on the linebacker drops and hope that the dinged-up members of the secondary get healthy.

Finally, there were no special teams mishaps and no significant injuries.  The latter point may be the most important point of all.

Finding EMU

Ohio State plays the Eastern Michigan University Eagles today.  The Eagles play in the MAC, and they aren’t very good.  In fact, they’ve lost 15 games in a row.  As a result, Ohio State is a prohibitive favorite to prevail in the match-up.

Today’s contest will be one of those games where Ohio State really can’t win.  You’re expected to pulverize your opponent.  If you don’t, questions get asked.  If you do, pundits criticize you for playing a patsy and give you no credit for the victory.  So, about the best you can hope for is that you notch a win, escape without an injury, and get some game experience for your back-ups.

Although the EMU team name is the Eagles, I can’t help but associate them with another species of bird — the emu, a large, earthbound bird that is native to Australia.  Let’s hope the Buckeyes keep EMU from taking flight today and can put another one in the win column without ruffling too many feathers.

Lessons From The Blockbuster Bankruptcy

On Thursday, Blockbuster Inc. filed for bankruptcy.  The retail video rental chain, which employs about 25,000 people, is close to $1 billion in debt and is getting hammered by Netflix and other companies that offer different approaches to delivery of movies and entertainment options to consumers.

I haven’t been to a Blockbuster store in years, but I pass one on my commute to work every day, and there has been a noticeable decline in traffic at that store.  Consumers obviously prefer the mail order/on-line alternatives to driving to the nearest Blockbuster store, rummaging through the shelves in hopes of finding a worthwhile video to watch that night, and then paying late fees when they forget to return the movie in timely fashion.

The lesson of the Blockbuster bankruptcy is that the tastes and practices of American consumers are ever-changing and often influenced by new technology — which is why so many people are skeptical when the federal government tries to pick winners and losers, subsidizes particular industries or lines of business, or otherwise attempts to influence consumer choices or the direction of the American economy.  Blockbuster was once a mighty company, with busy stores in every shopping mall.  People who looked at the company in its heyday probably thought that, of course, Blockbuster would be profitable indefinitely.   When something better came along, however, Americans left the Blockbuster model behind without a second thought.

At least no one is suggesting that we should bail Blockbuster out.

Not Funny

Today Stephen Colbert testified, in character, before a congressional subcommittee on immigration.  He said things like “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican” and the answer to needing illegal immigrants to pick our fruits and vegetables is to stop eating fruits and vegetables.

I’m sure Colbert thought it was a great opportunity to enhance his “brand.”  He got to take his act to Capitol Hill and get some free publicity “testifying” before an honest-to-God congressional panel.  I’m sure the Democratic Representative who is the chair of the subcommittee, Zoe Lofgren, thought it was a great way to get her subcommittee some air time.  Others, however, didn’t think it was very funny.

I fall into the latter camp.  What is the point of having a comedian testify, in character, about a serious issue like immigration?  I think it just makes Congress and congressional processes seem like even more of a joke, and it certainly suggests that Congress thinks that immigration isn’t worth much serious attention.  In an era when public respect for Congress is scraping the bottom of the barrel, why would Representative Lofgren think such a stunt was a good idea?

Taxpayer-Subsidized Political Contributions

General Motors recently filed documents with the Federal Election Commission disclosing that GM contributed some $90,000 to political candidates.  The GM spokesman quoted in the linked article seemed irked that anyone would think there was a problem with this, saying that GM isn’t going to “sit on the sidelines” while other companies shovel cash at political candidates in an attempt to influence policy.  So, GM will make contributions to candidates who support “a strong auto industry.”

The problem, of course, is that the federal government (that is, U.S. taxpayers) own 61 percent of GM and are subsidizing its operations.  While that is the case, GM shouldn’t spend one penny toward political contributions of any kind.  Any money GM earns should be devoted to paying off its debt to taxpayers and making the company more attractive to investors when GM tries to make a public offering in the near future.

It also is problematic that GM is, in effect, using taxpayer money to pick and choose candidates to support, with the inevitable acid test being whether they support “a strong auto industry” — meaning, of course, candidates who supported the GM bailout and continue to think we should do whatever is necessary to prop up the sagging, poorly managed, uncompetitive domestic auto industry.  In short, even though public opinion polls show that Americans now strongly oppose the bailout culture, our tax dollars are perversely being spent by GM to encourage the continuation of that culture.  It’s just another reason to make a change in how things are being done in Washington, D.C., and in Detroit.

How To Deal With A Nutjob

I’ve often been critical of the Obama Administration in the postings on this blog, but here is an action that I can wholeheartedly support:  today’s decision by the United States to walk out on the delusional ravings — some might call it a speech — by Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The U.S. delegation exited after Ahmadinejad talked about how some have theorized that the 9/11 attacks on the United States were in reality part of a United States conspiracy to protect Israel.

There is no point in sitting politely and diplomatically through the rantings of a paranoid madman and thereby giving them credence, so I applaud the walkout of the United States and many other countries.  Because our nation is the host country for the United Nations we have to allow Ahmadinejad and other foreign leaders on our soil, but that doesn’t mean we have to listen to his lunatic diatribes.

People who believe that peace can be achieved by reasoning with other countries should read Ahmadinejad’s remarks and reflect carefully and soberly on the fact that Iran is on the verge of being a nuclear nation.

Classiness On Display (Cont.)

Today I got another email from Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern about his use of a crass obscenity in a recent speech.  Amazingly, he doesn’t apologize, or even act embarrassed about his blunder.  Instead, he tries to convert it into a fundraising opportunity!  He says that he has received an outpouring of support for his “forceful” speech and asks people to make a contribution to his “Swear Jar” because it will send a message to the “Tea Party” — that is, the people he used the f-bomb to describe in the first place.

Doesn’t this incident aptly capsulize what is wrong with our modern political process?  The head of the Ohio Democratic Party says something that should be the source of personal humiliation and deep regret.  Instead, it is touted as a reason to contribute to the cause of the Democratic Party.  Haven’t we reached a new low when the head of a major political party attempts to capitalize on using the Queen Mother of Curses in a political speech?  And doesn’t the quick development of the “Swear Jar” fundraising effort indicate that this resort to brainless vulgarity was an intentional, “hey look at me” gimmick?

The Ohio Democratic Party must be desperate for attention if it must resort to curse words to get its message across.   Redfern should be embarrassed, and so should anyone who contributes to his “Swear Jar.”