Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, October 31, 2008 5:24 pm

Elizabeth Dole’s question

Filed under: Fun — Lex Alexander @ 5:24 pm
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U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole has a new ad out that asks, “If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor, would you go?”

Since the question is directed to me as a voter, not a candidate, allow me to answer that question:

I would decide whether or not to go based on the criteria by which I always decide whether or not to go to a party. Those criteria include:

  • Where and when is it? Do I have a conflict?
  • Will anyone be there whom I know?
  • Does the party have an agenda or theme (e.g., Halloween, New Year’s, somebody’s birthday)?
  • Will there be cake? Ice cream?
  • Would I have the opportunity to proselytize?
  • And, most importantly, can I get a babysitter?

Would I ditch the party solely because Godless Americans threw it? Heck, no. For one thing, at least half the people Jesus spent time with appear to have been atheists.

Also: Party.

The fat lady ain’t even warming up

Filed under: Fun,Journalism — Lex Alexander @ 10:58 am
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Rem Rieder at American Journalism Review points out something that everyone working in news media ought already have taken to heart but hasn’t:

… it’s important to remember that polls are just polls. They are not predictive; they are only snapshots of reality at a specific moment. They can change quickly. …

… you don’t have to go back to the dreaded time before Twitter, iPhones and Scarlett Johannson to find instances where the conventional wisdom was utterly wrong. I remember vividly when Hillary Clinton had a lock on the nomination, when John McCain was toast in the Republican primary, when Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani were formidable forces, when Obama was going to seal the deal in New Hampshire.

News media aren’t as good at predictions as they think they are.* Pollsters — reputable ones, anyway — don’t even claim to be predicting the future; in fact, most caution against it. News media and opining pundits alike should stow the predictions and wait for election night.

*The one notable exception to this rule was my friend and colleague Ed Hardin’s incredibly prescient column published the day of Super Bowl XXIX between San Francisco and San Diego. Not only did he predict a 49ers blowout, here’s exactly what he predicted:

  • Ed’s score prediction: 49ers 49, Chargers 16. Actual score: 49ers 49, Chargers 26.
  • Ed’s prediction: Steve Young would pass for 386 yards. Actual yardage: 325.
  • Ed’s prediction: Steve Young would pass for five TDs. Actual number: six.
  • Ed’s prediction: Jerry Rice would catch three TD passes. Actual number: three.
  • Ed’s prediction: Ricky Watters would catch two TD passes and run for a third TD. Actual numbers: two TD catches, one run TD.
  • Ed’s prediction: Natrone Means would rush for a TD. Actually: Means rushed for a TD.

To be fair, Ed was off on a couple of things, mainly that there would be a storm of biblical proportions at halftime and that a horse would break free along the sidelines, scattering photographers and cameramen in its path.

The CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston reminds you to drink responsibly this Halloween

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex Alexander @ 6:00 am

Don’t let this happen to you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 3:12 pm

Still bugs in the system

Regular readers know how I feel about electronic touch-screen voting machines (“black box voting”). Well, here’s evidence that after all this time there are still problems:

Note how the vote changes even after the machine is “calibrated.”

Folks, this is not a calibration issue. This is not a glitch. It is poorly written software, pure and simple. If you vote on such a machine and it also has paper, be darned sure you check the paper after every single choice to make sure what you’ve chosen is what actually gets recorded on the paper.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 8:04 pm

Memo

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex Alexander @ 8:04 pm
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TO: All political candidates/campaigns
FROM: Lex
DATE: 10/29/08
RE: Campaign phone calls

Both Ann and I have already voted. You may stop calling us now. Thank you.

Sunday, October 26, 2008 9:04 pm

Well, crud

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lex Alexander @ 9:04 pm

Sublime blogger Angry Pregnant Lawyer (possibly the best blog name evah) is hanging up her keyboard. I hate it, but I certainly understand the decision.

Panthers 27, Cardinals 23

Filed under: Panthers — Lex Alexander @ 8:19 pm
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I keep watchin’ and the Panthers keep winnin’.

This was a game of blown chances, and the Panthers are fortunate to have pulled it out. The Cards blew an extra point and unsuccessfully tried a fake field goal. If they’d kicked the PAT and the field goal, they’d have had a shot in overtime. On the other hand, Muhsin Muhammad dropped a pass in the end zone, so maybe not.

The first half was depressing — the offense simply couldn’t move the ball, and Kurt Warner was dinking and dunking down the field for the Cards as he has all season. The Panthers were lucky to be down only 10-3 at halftime.

But then came the third quarter, when the Panthers made up a 17-3 deficit inside of two minutes. That second TD came on Steve Smith’s immaculate deception or else one of the finest calls by an official this year — you be the judge. I thought at first he’d stepped out. Then on replay it looked as if his toe had remained inbounds with his heel not touching the ground. Adding to that impression was the divot his toe threw up — clearly green grass, not white. They don’t come any closer than that.

Jonathan Stewart was supposed to be the big, bruising, up-the-middle tailback, but DeAngelo Williams was the one who put up the numbers today, including an 18-yard TD run. Stewart had 10 yards on eight carries. That’s not how you get to start.

Warner put up a lot of numbers — almost 400 passing yards — but the defense stiffened in the second half. And then the Panthers went on a clock-eating, game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter to put it out of reach. And credit where due to Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin. He got his face smashed, literally, just weeks ago against the Jets — so badly they closed a lane of the Lincoln Tunnel to get him to the hospital faster — and this was his first game back. He was a stud, getting 9 catches for 63 yards and two scores. When that happens, even to an opponent, you have to admire his guts.

It wasn’t as pretty a win as you could want, but what you want is a win, and that’s what we got. Now, with the bye week, perhaps the battered O-line can get healthy again and build on what’s already a healthy 6-2 record.

Next up after the bye is at Oakland, who isn’t scaring anyone this year. But as they say in this league, on any given Sunday …

Saturday, October 25, 2008 5:48 pm

A bit of idolatry

Filed under: Panthers — Lex Alexander @ 5:48 pm
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Outside Bank of America Stadium with Victoria at the Kansas City game, 10/12/08. As permanent seat license holders, Mom and Jerry have their names on the pedestal. The dot is a red balloon, not panther spit.

Family portrait

Filed under: Hooper,Victoria — Lex Alexander @ 5:38 pm
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Perhaps the first shot of the four of us together since Disney World in ’05. Not sure what led Hooper to put his finger in his mouth ….

Alexander girls, July 4

Filed under: Fun,Victoria — Lex Alexander @ 5:32 pm
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Jordan, Victoria and Taylor ride in Montreat’s July 4 parade as Papaw’s Princesses. Papaw is driving the T-bird; fortunately, the reflections on the windshield hide his visage from unwary viewers.

Portrait of the artist as a young camera-grabber

Filed under: Fun,Hooper — Lex Alexander @ 5:20 pm
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And they didn’t even scream all that much

Filed under: Victoria — Lex Alexander @ 5:14 pm
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Victoria with friends at her Nancy Drew slumber party. We got the Nancy Drew solve-a-mystery game for her off eBay, but it was apparently so old that the online component had cobwebbed. But a good time was had by all, they actually got to bed at a reasonable hour and very few of the kids’ possessions were forgotten when they left.

Sauce for the gander

Filed under: Hooper — Lex Alexander @ 5:09 pm
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Since I posted a photo earlier of Victoria with a fish she caught, it’s only fair to post one of Hooper. Good work, buddy!

Soccer roundup

Filed under: Buttercups,Fusion — Lex Alexander @ 3:59 pm
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Once again, Hooper and Victoria’s games were opposite each other, so I didn’t get to see V. play. The Buttercups lost to the Hotshots, 2-1. They tell me one of the Hotshots’ goals was a fluke, Unfortunately, flukes still count.

The Fusion won 5-2 against the Fire, which I thought was a better team in terms of ball control and skill. But they didn’t get off all that many shots, and the Fusion’s main shooters were more accurate from long range. Hooper played two quarters, second and fourth. He was asked to go in in the third quarter but didn’t want to. He played the fourth quarter but was dragging tail, although he had one beautiful shot go just wide. When I got him home he was complaining of a sore throat, and he turned out to be running a temp of just under 101, so I guess that explains it.

The Fusion have a makeup game scheduled for Wednesday. The ‘Cups don’t play again until next Saturday.

One note about the weather. The rain hotline was updated at 7:05 this morning to announce that all games at Bryan Park would be played as scheduled. By 7:30 it was raining, and it kept raining (heavily so for a couple of brief intervals) until well after Hooper’s game ended. Bryan Park officials are usually very protective of their turf, so to speak, so, given the forecast, which called for rain and perhaps thunderstorms overnight and this morning, I was surprised they played. They may regret it: Field 6C was in something of a mess by the time the Fusion and Fire were done. I was even more surprised that the ‘Cups played on Field 5 — it’s their normal field, but it was just reseeded two weeks ago.

Friday, October 24, 2008 7:47 pm

Friday Random 10

Filed under: Friday Random 10 — Lex Alexander @ 7:47 pm
Tags:

“Romeo Had Juliette,” Lou Reed
“Heart in the Street,” The Brains
“David Watts,” The Kinks
“Why Don’t You Get a Job,” The Offspring
“Come Out Swinging,” The Offspring (well, it claimed to be random)
“Last Train to Clarksville,” The Monkees
“Love,” The Cult
“Just One Look,” Hollies
“Bushfire,” B-52s
“Whirl,” Dreams So Real

lagniappe: “Something So Right,” Paul Simon

Thursday, October 23, 2008 8:44 pm

And he was supposed to be the bright guy

Filed under: Sad — Lex Alexander @ 8:44 pm
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I suspect I’m even more surprised than Alan Greenspan was:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said Thursday that the current financial crisis had uncovered a flaw in how the free market system works that had shocked him.

Mr. Greenspan told the House Oversight Committee on Thursday that his belief that banks would be more prudent in their lending practices because of the need to protect their stockholders had proved to be wrong.

Mr. Greenspan said he had made a “mistake” in believing that banks operating in their self-interest would be enough to protect their shareholders and the equity in their institutions.

Mr. Greenspan said that he had found “a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.”

Mr. Greenspan, who headed the nation’s central bank for 18.5 years, said that he and others who believed lending institutions would do a good job of protecting their shareholders are in a “state of shocked disbelief.”

He said that the current crisis had “turned out to be much broader than anything that I could have imagined.”

Of course, I’m not going to sit here and tell you I could have imagined things would get this bad, either. But then, it’s not my job to know these things. It was Greenspan’s job.

However, knowing that “free-market” trading in securities in fact needs some kind of regulation and oversight to keep the players informed and relatively honest with one another — which is exactly why we have an SEC — I *did* figure that banks having a lot of unregulated trading in complex securities was probably going to lead to problems someday. I figured the problems would be fairly limited in the greater scheme of things, though.

I guess that’s why I’m not the one who spent 18.5 years as chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 8:32 pm

Never again; or, damn you, Michael Fry and T. Lewis!

Filed under: Fun — Lex Alexander @ 8:32 pm
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For more than 40 years, my greatest vice has been SweetTarts. No kidding. I liked SweetTarts more than ice cream, more than chocolate cream pie, more than double-stuffed Oreos, more than barbecue, more than Nacho Cheese Doritos, more than beer itself.

No more.

“… they can lie to our faces and we’ll swallow it.”

Filed under: Journalism — Lex Alexander @ 8:15 pm
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Michael Hastings of Newsweek has written a long and very depressing article (NSFW — language) about what it’s like to be part of the traveling national media covering a presidential campaign. I won’t say I would never want such a gig — never is a very long time — but his account makes it sound halfway between a huge pain in the butt and journalist abuse, the result being that the reporters start becoming equal-opportunity haters.

It also confirms every uncomplimentary thought you’ve ever had about the traveling press corps — no matter what your position on the political spectrum. No wonder it’s so long.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008 8:16 pm

Panthers 30, Saints 7

Filed under: Fun,Panthers — Lex Alexander @ 8:16 pm
Tags: ,

Well, we’ve accumulated some evidence in support of my hypothesis that I am the Panthers’ good-luck charm. I was able to watch almost all the game while washing and folding laundry, and the results speak for themselves. Either that, or else the good Panthers slugged the bad Panthers over the head, tied them up and threw them into the laundry closet. Whichever.

I won’t say this game had everything, but it had a lot good. Coming into the game, it was the Saints’ second-ranked offense against the Panthers’ third-ranked defense, and we got a good luck at why defense wins Super Bowls. Julius Peppers only got one sack but was in Drew Brees’ face All. Day. (And forced a fumble. Chris Harris, who recovered, must have been thinking, “Hey, that’s MY trick.”) Ken Lucas picked off a pass. And with Saints RB Reggie Bush out with an injury, the Panthers defense successfully stuffed the Saints on fourth-and-1 not once but twice, once at the goal line. How often do you see that?

Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for 35 carries for 134 yards — not bad considering the patchwork nature of the O-line. Jake still had to throw a good bit on third down, though. Steve Smith had 122 yards and a score — not a bad day for any wideout. But this was the D’s day.

The Panthers’ next three opponents — Arizona, Oakland and Detroit — won’t scare anybody. If the Panthers win those games, and they should, they’ll be in commanding position heading into their rematch with Atlanta.

Monday, October 20, 2008 9:26 pm

Fusion 3, United 3

Filed under: Fusion — Lex Alexander @ 9:26 pm
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At least I think it was tied at 3. I can’t remember for sure; it might have been tied at 4. This was a makeup of an earlier rainout. It also was moved up from 6 p.m. to 5:30 just a few hours before game time, which made neither coaches nor parents especially happy. Grr.

Buttercups 2, Shooting Stars 1

Filed under: Buttercups — Lex Alexander @ 9:24 pm
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I missed this game because it was opposite Hooper’s. But teammate A.’s mom said the coach said Victoria had the best game of her Buttercup career, so it’s not like I missed anything. (Sigh.)

Fusion 6, Blaze 2

Filed under: Fusion — Lex Alexander @ 9:22 pm
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The Fusion dominated the game (this one was Saturday), and some of its individual players are really starting to stand out. But Hooper had a good game at forward, getting off three good shots. The first two were blocked. The third one was a thing of beauty, arcing over the leaping keeper’s outstretched hands — and going just wide of the upright. He felt good about his play after that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008 2:39 pm

Assault and battery

Filed under: News & Record — Lex Alexander @ 2:39 pm
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I almost never blog about work here, but the health/fitness blog at work didn’t seem like the appropriate place to take up this subject, so I’m doing that here.

I didn’t hear about this until I got to work Friday morning, but a colleague of mine, Joe Killian, was assaulted while covering the Sarah Palin campaign appearance Thursday at Elon University. Joe’s account is here. Additional info and commentary by our colleague Mark Binker is here.

Joe’s OK, and he showed remarkable restraint in not responding physically (he’s a boxer). He said it was easy to restrain himself because doing otherwise would have gotten him fired. I’m not so sure it would have, and I’m certain it shouldn’t even if it did: There is some stuff even reporters shouldn’t have to eat.

This was a crime, as the title of the post suggests. It wasn’t just one supporter getting out of hand. It was an unprovoked criminal assault against an honest man doing an honest job … not that there aren’t a few dillweeds who see it differently, who think that something someone says — or even something that someone laughs at — excuses violence.

And it is the kind of thing that the rhetoric of the McCain/Palin campaign has encouraged. When you tell your supporters over and over and over that your political opponents and the media are “the other,” un-American, evil, that there are good guys and there are bad guys and you’re either with us or against us, then you have no right to be surprised — and absolutely no excuse — when one or more of those supporters crosses the line.

If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that it has gotten one hell of a lot of attention on some of the most-read blogs in the country, many of which have even linked to Joe and/or Mark’s posts, from what Mark says. (Mark checked at my request Friday afternoon and found his Capital Beat blog had had 61,000 visits in one hour; at least briefly, our blog server was overwhelmed.)

And the attention is good because something like this, minor as it fortunately was, needs attention. We’ve been here before — just ask those old enough to have covered Bull Connor — and it leads nowhere good.

And maybe I’m paranoid, but when supporters of one political movement get angry and desperate enough to start assaulting journalists, it makes me unhappily certain that things have gotten bad enough that there’s someone out there waiting for his chance to take a shot, quite literally, at the leader of the other side. Maybe he’s not out there — I hope not — and even if he is maybe he’ll never get the chance. But, yeah, I think he’s out there. And if he is, and if he does, then, please God, I don’t think we’ll have a country after it.

UPDATE: In the comments, Fred links to a report of an incident in New York in which an apparent Obama supporter hit a McCain supporter in the head with a sign. It looks like they have arrested a suspect and are prosecuting him. Good. (BTW, the LEX in the title of that post is New York shorthand for Lexington Avenue, where the incident took place, and appears to have nothing to do with me.)

UPDATE: So I wasn’t quite as paranoid as some commenters thought. Man, I hope this is as close as it gets. And these guys qualify as terrorists, or at least would-be terrorists, so why not use the word?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Re the incident I just linked, a former colleague writes:

One of my first jobs in newspapers was covering an area that included Crockett County, Tenn., where this plot was broken up … and it was one of the most backward and terrifying places I have ever been. I’ll never forget watching people throw their shit out of their windows from bed pans down in the main black neighborhood just outside the county seat … The county fathers refused to extend water and sewer. I also remember the county manager telling me he was infuriated by the ingratitude of those people, to be bellyaching after everything he had done for them.

This was in 1991.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here’s another one. I’m sure the Secret Service really appreciates how much easier all this rhetoric has made their jobs.

ANOTHER UPDATE: And this from Newsweek’s special election wrapup:

The Obama campaign was provided with reports from the Secret Service showing a sharp and disturbing increase in threats to Obama in September and early October, at the same time that many crowds at Palin rallies became more frenzied.

Correlation is not causation, the article doesn’t say how the number of threats compared with those of similar candidates at similar points in their campaigns, and so forth.

Monday, October 13, 2008 8:39 pm

Well, yeah, but that’s not quite the point

Filed under: Fun,Hooper — Lex Alexander @ 8:39 pm
Tags:

On Sunday our church had a cookout (and pie-judging contest) at the chicken farm of a couple of our members, out near McLeansville. It featured a petting zoo, horse and pony rides and hay rides. As the tractor pulling our hay trailer started to move, Hooper looked down and announced, “Now we’re going to kill some grass.”

Earlier tonight, he told me about a dream he had on Sunday night: “I was in this town called Bakugan Town that had every kind of Bakugan there is. And I was the mayor. And *I* had every kind of Bakugan there is. (pause) And I had a butler. And it was you. That was a good dream.”

Buttercups 2, Sharks 1

Filed under: Buttercups,Victoria — Lex Alexander @ 7:34 pm
Tags: , ,

The Buttercups have played this team twice already — with only four teams in the league and an eight-game season, they play two teams three times each and a third twice. This was the closest of the three games, and the Sharks led much of the way. In their loss two weeks ago (no games last weekend), all the Buttercups had looked very tired, very slow to the ball and pretty uninspired. They looked a lot better today until about the last five minutes, and even then there were individual bright spots.

Victoria, in contrast to the team, played a bit slow in the first half, but she stepped it up in the second. She also spent an uneventful quarter in goal.

Sunday, October 12, 2008 8:38 pm

Buccaneers 27, Panthers 3

Filed under: Panthers — Lex Alexander @ 8:38 pm
Tags: , ,

The Panthers need to enshrine me as their official good-luck charm, because when I don’t watch at least a significant portion of the game, bad things happen. I missed pretty much all the game yesterday while working on trim taping for the house painting, although I listened to a bit on the radio. (I heard Steve Smith fall down after a 48-yard catch that would have gone for a 72-yard TD if he’d kept his feet.) It was just ugly all the way around, a good, ol’-fashioned buttwhipping.

Now 4-2, the Panthers face the 3-3 Saints next weekend. (It looks like the Bucs and Falcons are off.) A loss ties them for bottom of the league division. A win puts them in first by a half-game. The question: Which Panthers team will show up? And will *I* show up?

Saturday, October 11, 2008 7:32 pm

Flame 5, Fusion 4

Filed under: Fusion,Hooper — Lex Alexander @ 7:32 pm
Tags: , ,

The Fusion finally got a second game in, what with all the rain. Unfortunately, they didn’t play very well as a team for most of the game. One of the Flame’s goals was an own goal. Hooper spent a quarter in goal and gave up two, but only one of them was anywhere close to preventable. He displayed remarkable equanimity after the game.

Friday, October 10, 2008 7:01 pm

A new source of stem cells … if you can stand the pain

Filed under: Geek-related issues — Lex Alexander @ 7:01 pm
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Apparently you can now get stem cells from testicles. My friend David comments: “So whip those puppies up here on the table and let me get all my shiny, very sharp, steel instruments ready.”

That hurts, and I haven’t even donated any stem cells.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 9:48 pm

Mainstreaming the differently hemoglobined

Filed under: Fun,Weird — Lex Alexander @ 9:48 pm
Tags: , ,

When I saw Herb tonight when I was picking V. up at Girl Scouts, he brought up a new TV series that actually went some way toward making me think there might be something on TV (besides Panthers games) that I’m missing. This is something of a revelation, inasmuch as I pretty much stopped watching TV during the last season of “The West Wing.” I mean, yeah, I hear good things about some shows from some people whose opinions I respect — Nancy loves her some “Mad Men,” for example — but, honestly, I stay so busy that the idea of appointment television’s making its way back into my life, even with the help of the VCR (yeah, we’re still analog here) is almost laughable.

But HBO’s “True Blood” (I have not yet explored the site, so, please, no spoilers in the comments) has the most intriguing concept for a TV show I think I’ve ever heard of: mainstreaming vampires. As Herb describes it, an artificial blood has been created that means vampires no longer have to, well, prey on the living to survive. And now that they don’t have to, apparently a movement among them has arisen to try to un-live something approximating a normal un-life.

Herb didn’t have time to go into great detail, so I’m not clear on what exactly this might mean in practical terms. For example: daylight activity or not? Coffin or king-size bed (and, if coffin, must it still be lined with one’s native soil, and if so, how does one keep one’s designer cape clean)? Mirror and camera, or are they still pointless? Can you eat real food, and if so, would you want to? (Herb says the series is set in Nawlins, so for a mainstreaming vampire not to be able to partake of the local cuisine would be cruel.) And do you still have that foul-breath thing going on?

Then there are the psychological underpinnings of the premise; “Dracula,” after all, was basically the first Freudian novel … and we are talking HBO here. Do mainstreamed vampires have mainstream sex, and if so, with the living or just each other, or both? And just because you don’t have to prey on the living to survive doesn’t mean you might not want to just for the thrill of it, so how does the wanting-to-mainstream community handle the outlaws? Relatedly, Herb says one of the early plot lines has to do with a series of unsolved murders, which, naturally, everyone blames on the vampires even though the victims were — hello! — not exsanguinated. Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations.

We don’t have HBO, and I’m not going to add another channel to the cable package I already pretty much don’t watch. But the writers for this series appear to have bitten themselves off a big chunk of interesting to suck on, and I’ll be watching and listening to find out what my TV-watching friends think.

She’s got them pegged

Filed under: Fun — Lex Alexander @ 8:43 pm
Tags:

Victoria’s friend A., also a fifth-grader, on fifth-grade boys: “They like to pants each other when they think I’m not looking. They also like to wrestle and step on each other’s feet.”

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