Tebow, Schmeebow

Tonight Tim Tebow leads the Denver Broncos in an NFL playoff game against the New England Patriots.  I won’t be watching.

Even though the Drudge Report seems to feature him daily, and others appear to be watching his every move, I really don’t care much one way or the other about Tim Tebow.  I rooted against him when he was part of the Florida team that spanked Ohio State in the national championship game years ago, but now I’m just ambivalent.  I’m not swept up in Tebow Mania, I haven’t “Tebowed,” and I don’t plan to do so.

Tim Tebow isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL, and the Broncos aren’t the best team.  The only reason Tim Tebow is the subject of so much attention is that he is open and demonstrative about his religious faith.  I don’t begrudge him his beliefs, and I don’t doubt that they are heartfelt — but I don’t think they make him a major culture figure.  The fact that Tim Tebow is a devout Christian is about as relevant to evaluating him as an NFL quarterback as a minister’s ability to throw a tight spiral is to determining whether he is a good leader of his flock.

I don’t care whether Denver or New England wins tonight, and I doubt that any higher power does, either.

Submarine, Casket, And Time Capsule

The American Civil War was a time of great advances in warfare and technology — sometimes both at the same time.  Most people know that the first “ironclads,” the Union’s Monitor and the Confederacy’s Merrimac, appeared during the Civil War, fought to a draw, and foretold the end of the era of wooden warships.  Fewer are aware that the War also witnessed the first successful combat submarine — the H.L. HunleyNow the Hunley can be seen, in full, for the first time in 150 years.

The Hunley was supposed to be one of the Confederacy’s secret weapons, and a way to break the strangling blockade Union warships placed around Confederate ports.  It was a 42-foot-long, cast iron cylinder that was powered by a hand-cranked propeller.  Built in Mobile, Alabama in 1863, it was transported to Charleston, South Carolina, where it was supposed to move underwater and attach explosive torpedos to the hulls of Union ships.

The submarine turned out to be a death trap.  It sank twice in sea trials, killing 13 sailors, but was raised by the Confederacy both times.  In 1864, the Hunley and a new 8-member crew left port, traveled four miles out to sea, and successfully attached a torpedo to the Union ship Housatonic, which burned and sank.  The Hunley never made it back to port, however, and sank with all hands.

In 2000 the Hunley was raised from the briny deep and deposited in a fresh water tank to leach salt from its iron hull.  Since then, scientists have worked on the sub.  Inside they found, and then carefully removed, 10 tons of sediment, the remains of the Hunley‘s last crew, and the crew’s belongings, including a gold coin kept by the captain as a good luck piece.  Now tourists will be able to see the ship in full, kept in a water tank to prevent rusting.

Although the humble Hunley had a short career, it pointed the way to the modern, nuclear-powered underwater behemoths that prowl the ocean seaways.

Contraband

Last night Kish and I wanted to see a movie.  I felt like an action movie, so we went to see Contraband.

Contraband is about smuggling.  Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Farraday, formerly the world’s greatest smuggler but now trying to go legit.  His plans for a law-abiding life go awry when his inept brother-in-law has to dump smuggled goods and must come up with lots of money to pay off his debt.  That puts Chris’ wife and sons in the gunsights of a bad guy — played with appropriate menace by Giovanni Ribisi — so Chris must devise a smuggling scheme and assemble a team to accomplish it.  Along the way the movie takes us on a cargo ship from New Orleans to Panama and back again, involves Chris in an armored car robbery, and reveals various plot twists and turns.

Contraband is like a heist movie, except that a successful, improbable smuggling scheme takes the place of a successful, improbable robbery.  There are the same on-the-fly decisions in order to overcome unexpected hurdles, the same narrow escapes with mere seconds to spare, and the same bulletproof, brilliant protagonist.  It was interesting to get a sense of how life on a cargo ship works and the customs procedures applicable to shipping, but most of this movie seemed awfully familiar.  We left the theater with a shrug about a movie that falls squarely into the run-of-the-mill category.

Adrift Against The Fence Line

There really wasn’t a sunrise this morning.  It’s still snowing, and the sky was gray and heavy with clouds.  The light was filtered, leaving the snow-covered landscape a study in white, gray, and black.

Along the Yantis Loop in New Albany, the wind had done its work, sculpting the drifted snowbank into a delicate, curving ridge against the fence line that stretched into the distance.