Thursday, March 31, 2016

March On Medium

Well, I hate to admit it, but I'm 2-1 on one piece of short fiction per month. I have something in the pipeline and I'm about 2300 words in- but unfortunately, it's not done yet- I'm hoping to get it done by the end of next month so I can stay above .500, so to speak, but I am wrapping up my Reinvention Series this month, so feast your eyes on this:

Next month I'll have that short fiction piece done, I promise and in May... maybe I'll start another series on something. Not sure what yet.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Bookshot #88: Brilliant Orange- The Neurotic Genus of Dutch Soccer

This book makes me want to visit Holland. There, I said it- and if you pick this book up expecting a book about Dutch soccer and Total Football and how it all happened, you'll get some of that with this book- but it's a rather unusual book in that it's not just about the history and the tactics and how it all went down on the soccer pitch. The author, David Winner wants to dig deeper and find out if there's something inherent in the Dutch national character or their national DNA that made the rise of something like Total Football an inevitability- and goes a long way to explain the Dutch inferiority complex/'always a bridesmaid and never a bride' that seems to bedevil them in major tournaments. Winner's thesis, therefore is something of a contradiction: the very same national DNA that produced some truly sublime moments of football is also the very thing holding the Netherlands back from winning a major tournament- and by and large, I think by the end of this book, I'm convinced that Winner knows what he's talking about.

True confession: I've always had a soft spot for the Dutch. I'm convinced that they are, without a doubt, the best soccer nation never to win a World Cup. (They've come damn close a couple of times- in 1974 and 1978 and more recently, in 2010- with a run to the semifinals in 2014.) One of the most brilliant goals I've ever seen was in 1998 when they were playing Argentina*:

And while this goal does get a mention in the book, it's worth noting that the goals I didn't know about kept me busy on YouTube over the course of this book. From looking up references to obscure Dutch painters I had never heard of, to a passing reference to a children's book that I'm pretty sure my mom still has somewhere, Mr. Google and Ms. YouTube were my best friends on this book. I spent time on Google Maps, scoping out street views of Volendam (home of Ajax's footballing brothers Gerrie and Arnold Muhren) and marveling that there were bike lanes even next to major freeways- and if you wanted too, you could, from what I could tell, cycle across the Markermeer from Lelystad to Westeinde if you really wanted too.**

The people I learned about were equally as interesting. Willem Van Hanegam had this unique way of kicking the ball with the outside/top of his foot that worked insanely well. Arie Haan scored a beautiful long range goal at the 1978 World Cup and who can forget Marco Van Basten's chip shot versus Russia to net Holland it's only major title to date, the 1988 European Title. And then, of course, there is the man himself, Johan Cruyff, who looms large in this book as both progenitor of the modern Dutch game and it's most reactionary critic in his latter days. (The Cruyff Turn. It's not his only highlight, obviously- but it gives you an idea of what the dude could do.)

The final third of the book produced some truths that jumped off the page at me. "When the national team is losing, their morale goes completely." (True. I remember watching the 2010 Final in a Bennigan's in Clear Lake and as it became apparent Spain was going to win it, you could see the Dutch players grow more and more frustrated and then get chippy- probably because they were merely trying to get the damn ball back.***) "Empty stadiums are very special." (Also true. Having done my share of Kinnick Stadium patrol over the years, there's something magical about an empty stadium. And if it's snowing, that's a double bonus.) But it's one of the last lines of the book that proved to be, weirdly, the most prescient of all: "Question of the 21st Century: where were you when Johan Cruyff died?"

That last one seemed especially strange given the fact that I was reading this book when news broke that he had died.

The Dutch, from a footballing perspective are on a bit of a downward swing now. They failed to qualify for this summer's European Championships for the first time since 1984 and you get the feeling that there are some rocky years ahead. The Dutch League, the Eredivisie has been overshadowed by the gargantuan money of the Premier League and the growing power of the Bundesliga. (Serie A, Ligue 1 and La Liga would probably all rank ahead of the Dutch at this point.) But if this book shows anything, it's that patience and cooperation- both national necessities for a nation literally built from the sea, whose survival depends on holding it back- can win the day. The Dutch will be back. They'll adapt and they'll get back to it- it's worth noting that Spain has been to 14 of 20 World Cups and has only managed to win one. England probably has similar numbers. So I think Dutch patience and perseverance will produce their long awaited glory at some point. It would be a shame it doesn't happen.

Overall: Fascinating book- not just from a football perspective. This book as I mentioned, makes me want to visit Holland and if my month of two 'soccer books' this one I found to be far more engaging than Das Reboot was. Winner is obviously enthusiastic about his subject and it shows. **** out of ****.

*I was happy to see Argentina lose because they had just eliminated England is one of the most tense, thrill-a-minute games I have ever seen. How did England lose? Of course- penalties!

**You can also go Den Oever to Cornwerd- across the length of the IJssselmeer as well- on bike. It's about 20 miles. I'm not sure why that blows my mind so much, but it does. Seems like biking across Lake Michigan or something.

***Lots of people loved Spain's win in 2010. But while tika-taka looked pretty, god damn could it get boring after awhile. So I sympathized with the Dutch and their frustration.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #159

We're still sticking around This Week In Vexillology and this time, we've got double trouble:

No, you're not seeing things- we've got the flag of Poland (up top) and Monaco (below it.) But, you know what- let's have so fun and make it a triple shot, shall we? Let's complete our happy little trifecta with this flag:

Confused yet? Let's start at the top of this little collection of bicolors with the flag of Poland. Adopted on August 1st, 1918 for national usage, the red and white colors have been around since the 13th Century- and were taken from the Coats of Arms and two nations that made up the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. (And if you want historical proof that 'what goes around comes around' click that link and let your mind be blown by the fact that back in the day, the Poles and Lithuanians were the big dogs on the block.) While the colors were used since that time they weren't officially adopted as the national colors of Poland until 1831. 

The white in the flag represents a desire for peace and the red used to represent socialism, but I'm guessing that's probably not the case anymore. (Just going out on a limb here.) Glancing through the WikiPage for the Flag of Poland, it turns out that the Poles have some pretty hefty laws about respecting their flag and rules about when to fly the flag.

Next up, we've got the flag of Monaco. It was adopted on April 4th, 1881 and the red and the white are taken from the heraldic colors of the Grimaldi Family, who have been rulers of Monaco since the 13th Century. Which brings us to the second party of this story: what the hell is up with Monaco? Well, the TL;DR of the whole thing is this: the name comes from a 6th Century Phocaean Greek Colony named Monoikos- and it ended up in the hands of the Holy Roman Empire, who gave it to the Genoese and it eventually ended up in the hands of a Genoese family called the Grimaldis. Who somehow kept the place independent through revolutions and wars and a dozen other things- with brief occupations here and there it's somehow managed to remain a little slice of paradise all by itself.

There are some subtle differences (subtle indeed) between the flag of Monaco and the flag of Indonesia (our next entry.) Monaco's flag is more square than Indonesia's- so the red band looks like it's a little thicker on their flag instead of Indonesia's. And hey, speaking of Indonesia's flag...

Rounding out the bi-color madness, the flag of Indonesia was adopted on August 17, 1945 for national and civil usage, the colors of the Indonesia were taken from the banner of the 13th Century Empire of the Majahapit and the colors were holy at the time- and remain important symbolic colors throughout the region today. The red in the flag represents the physical life (body) while the white in the flag represents the spiritual life (soul). (An interesting tidbit from the flag of Indonesia's WikiPage: red and white could have been around well before the 13th Century thanks to the availability of cotton (white is the natural color of cotton) and red dyes acquired from "teak leaves, the flowers of the Averrhoa bilimbi or the skin of mangosteen fruits.")

Well, I didn't set out to look at three flags this week, but it was just too much fun not too. Once you start looking at one you just can't stop! So that's Indonesia, Monaco and Poland- and remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Boozehound Unfiltered: Revel Stoke Roasted Pecan

The end of winter and the slow dawning of spring meant that it was about time for me to snag a flavored whiskey and check out something new. Don't get me wrong: I was doing my best to whittle down my single malts to get them done with so I could bring new stuff in, but you know what? I'd had my eye on the Revel Stoke line for awhile now and when I saw there was a Pecan Flavored Whisky on the shelf, I made a move, dropped the cash and grabbed it and damn am I glad I did!

I'm assuming (perhaps foolishly) that Revel Stoke Whisky comes from somewhere near the town of Revelstoke, British Columbia- so this would be my second or third foray across the 38th Parallel to dip my toe in the waters of Canadian Whiskey. (True story: never had a drop of Crown Royale in my life. That, O, Canada, needs to be rectified. Though I have had a sample of their rye and that intrigues me as well.) But Revel Stoke! Their website is short on story, but long on recipes- which is sort of unusual. Seems like most brands these days have history somewhere on their website- it's almost refreshing that Revel Stoke just gets right to the point.

(Tangent: if you're wondering what's up with Revel Stoke spelling whisky without an 'e'- or more importantly, what the difference in the spelling is, in general- this is a pretty good rundown on the matter.)

OK- let's get down to brass tacks and get our whisky on!

Color: Pale yellow- almost straw-like in color. It's nearly transparent in many ways, which completely belies what follows in terms of taste and texture.

Body: Smells like pecans and heaven. Much like Jim Beam Maple, if you've ever wanted that pecan syrup at iHop to be available in alcoholic form, this might just be the whisky for you.

Palate: Buttery and smooth- you would expect the texture to be heavier, but it actually sits pretty lightly on the tongue. I want to put this on my pancakes in the morning- in fact, I think if you were enterprising enough and caramelized this stuff, it would make one hell of a syrup.

Finish: Beautiful. There's literally no other word for it... it warms you up perfectly and the buttery smooth palate just sits there, echoing across your tastebuds

Overall: Cheap, drinkable and delicious, if you're looking for a flavored whisky, you should check out Revel Stoke. Not only do they have Pecan Flavored Whisky- but they have Apple, Cinnamon, Spiced, regular old Canadian and- get this- Roasted Pineapple in their range. (That latter one I might have to get ahold of. When you think of flavored whiskies- roasted pineapple isn't a flavor that generally springs to mind.) If the rest of their range is as quality as their Roasted Pecan offering (and I'm going to go out on a limb and say that it probably is) then you won't be disappointed. As for the Roasted Pecan- well, this is probably the best flavored whisky I've had since Jim Beam Maple. And as such, I'm going to grade it accordingly: A+

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


A photo posted by Vladdo FF (@vladdo) on

It was Tintin that got me. I didn't see this particular picture until late in the afternoon, but there were more floating around out there- and yeah, it was Tintin, that most Belgian of icons that got me. Another attack. Another tragedy. Little Dude woke up around 5:30 or so this morning wanting some breakfast, so, while I was half-asleep and the Missus was doing her thing with Little Dude, I grabbed my phone to do the usual gauntlet of things I do at 5:30 in the morning to stay half-awake and somewhat functioning in case the Missus needs something. And that's when I saw the news about Brussels.

At this point, I'm sort of out of answers. After San Bernadino, Paris, Mumbai, Ankara- it just never seems to stop and we seem to be running out of useful answers to give. Someone on Twitter immediately pointed out this this was going to be blamed of refugees- who, of course, thanks to the latest machinations of the European Union, are finding themselves running short of places of safety to go. The issue plunged into the presidential election almost immediately- with The Hairpiece and his insanity up to his usual tricks and Ted Cruz rather cheerfully suggesting police increase their presence and patrols in Muslim neighborhoods. Because police in this country don't already have enough to deal with.

The majority of victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims. But listening to everyone out there- it's Muslims that are the problem. I saw #JeSuisSickOfThisShit floating around on Twitter, which struck me as somewhat apt- because really, we have to do more than post images of peace signs or hearts in solidarity with the victims. They deserve more than that.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Belgium tonight. That's all I can offer- I wish I could give more, but damned if I know what the right answer is anymore.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Not Broken Yet

The job almost broke me last week. I'm honestly surprised it took so long, but there I was, pulling into my usual parking spot down in Lot 11 and it hit me. Have you ever been so tired that you felt drunk? It was a ridiculously beautiful day. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, the temperature hinted at the coming of spring. I had the sunroof on the car open.* Meatloaf's Paradise By The Dashboard Light had played me to work. What was going to play me the rest of the way- the long walk down the alley and up the hill to work?

I untangled my headphones, plugged them into my phone and shoved them in my ears. Natasha Bedingfield? Maybe Unwritten? Something cheerful and uplifting? I did a quick search and, finding it, hit play. I listened for a moment and shook my head. No, I need something- yes, that was the perfect. I hauled myself out of the car and into the sunshine, slamming the door and slinging the canvas bag that had the various things I hauled to work everyday in it over my shoulder and setting myself to face the task ahead.

I must have looked drunk as I staggered slightly, grim expression on my face, exhaustion pouring off of me as the opening chords to AC/DC's Highway To Hell echoed in my ears. I smiled. Now this was just about perfect.

The last week of February and the first week of March were about as bad as they can get. It was all hands on deck. People were on vacation, getting whatever particular form of plague was sweeping through our tiny Communications Center or desperately fighting off the aforementioned plague as best they could. The train damn near came off the tracks that week- and I cashed in chips with our babysitter (grandma) and put my shoulder to problem along with everyone else- but for the first time in six years of doing this job, I found myself wondering: "what the hell am I doing here?"

There are months where I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I tripped, fell over sideways and somehow stumbled into a job where you have to think on your feet, multi-task like you wouldn't believe and where every single day is absolutely 100% different. Other people, with their nine-five desk jobs? They could keep those. I got to sit in the eye of the hurricane of chaos and nonsense that most people don't know about and rarely see.  In the symphony of weird strangeness and almost anarchy that is life sometimes, I am one of the rare few that gets to hold the baton. Its challenging. It's empowering. It's terrifying, amazing and fun- sometimes all at the same time. But damn, it's getting harder and harder to do.

Overtime becomes less exciting when it keeps you from seeing a wife who's working her ass off and hanging out with kids that are amazing amounts of fun. You start resenting the job when it eats into your time and your life- because after all, without a certain amount of balance and without actual time away, you get surly and bitter- twisted and cynical. You get fed up pretty damn fast. That was that week- a low point, a nadir. (I'm hoping it's a nadir anyway.)

After that week, suddenly a desk job didn't seem so bad. Suddenly the thought of set schedules and weekends off seemed, I don't know- tempting almost. The Missus and might find time to develop a hobby or two...  maybe even get friends (real ones, I know- weird, right?) that we see more than twice a year. I'm not going to lie...  I started looking. It was dispiriting at first- there was slim pickings out there- but working on the principle that you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, I sent in some applications. I did get a nibble on one and thanks to a night out at an excellent wedding, I totally forgot about the phone interview and thus, for the first time in my life, had a job interview while taking a shit. (I didn't actually tell them that...  though maybe I should have.)

I'm not really in a position to take a pay cut- nor am I desperate enough to contemplate doing so without a very good reason, which is why it occurred to me that I might be in the best position of all. Six more years gets me clear of a hefty chunk of my student loans. I don't have to go anywhere. I can look around now and again- keep my nose to the ground for the right opportunity. And if it comes, it comes- but if it doesn't, then I've got a rare commodity: a job that pays me well that I'm actually pretty good at.  And that, as they say, ain't nothin'.

We're into the back half of the month now. I'm not sure how I'm going to feel a month from now, but I know that this month the job tried its damnedest to break my in half.

But I'm not broken yet.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #158

This Week In Vexillology, we're moving slightly north from Slovenia to the other half of the nation formerly known as Czechoslovakia...  that's right, this week, we've got the flag of none other than Slovakia:

Adopted on September 3rd, 1992 as the national flag of Slovakia, what we see is pretty much what we've been seeing all over that portion of Europe. That's right- say it with me: PAN-SLAVIC COLORS! I want to travel back in time to 1848 and propose different colors at that pan-Slavic conference or whatever the hell it was because it makes all these flags so monotonous and boring. No kidding: if you take away the coat of arms, you know whose flag you have? Russia's.

So let's leave aside the color scheme and focus on the Coat of Arms. Adopted on June 1st, 1993- the double cross is a symbol of its Christian faith- one modern interpretation says it's represents St. Cyril and St. Methodius who brought Christianity to region from the Byzantine Empire way, waaaaaaaaay back in the day. (Specifically, the 9th Century if anyone is keeping score.)

The three hills represent the three mountain ranges in the northern part of the old Kingdom of Hungary- the Tatra, Matra and Fatra. (The Tatra and Fatra ranges are in Slovakia today...) The order of the 'heaps' and how they're interpreted dates all the way back to the 16th Century.

And that, ladies and gentlemen is Slovakia. Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bracketology '16

It remains a source of mild amusement to me that I plunge into the Brackets of March Madness every year with such enthusiasm. I hate playing basketball. I don't really watch basketball. (I've been known to go to a game when I can though- like baseball, it's not bad to watch in person.) But I do one of these every damn year and every damn year it's always so interesting and exciting and my bracket is usually a smoking pile of rubble by the end of the first weekend. Yet I do this anyway, because there's something almost primal about filling out what is essentially a large chart. Humanity just flocks to it for some reason.*

I usually have a general idea of what's going on in College Basketball (this year: anarchy) but this time around, I actually spent an hour or two listening to the talking heads on ESPN and glanced through FiveThirtyEight's March Madness predictions and then I got down to brass tacks. Let's take it by region, shall we?

Kansas has screwed me so many times that I sort of have hatred in my heart for the Jayhawks- yet they seem to be the pick of the talking heads and with some good reason. They're sizzling hot right now and have an experienced team behind a Coach who's been there before. (See also: Michigan State). So although someday, a 16 seed will beat a 1 seed, it won't be this year. KU to the round of 32.

Apparently 9 seeds are favored over all the 8 seeds across the board. I don't think that will hold up, but again, UCONN: sizzling hot. Huskies to the round of 32.

Is anyone else having a hell of a time picking between Maryland and South Dakota State? When Maryland is good, they're very good, but when they're not... and if South Dakota State starts shooting threes like lunatics...  gotta go with the Missus and support one of her alma maters. (Sort of alma mater anyway.) Jackrabbits over Terrapins.

I've heard a few Hawaii over Cal picks, but I think I'm going to go with the talking heads on this one and pick Cal. I will undoubtedly regret this choice.

I think Wichita State gets in over Vandy and then runs into the waiting arms of Arizona who decides to put two in the stink and one in the pink and ends the Shockers. Wildcats to the round of 32.

Miami v Buffalo? Pffffffffpfpfpft...  who cares. Hurricanes.

Iowa over Temple. This too, I will undoubtedly regret- but if there was ever a moment to find the light switch and turn it on, it would be here. And the Hawkeyes if they can gather their collective fecal material for this, can maybe- maaaaaybe... go deeper than people think.

UNC-Asheville over Villanova wouldn't surprise me, because Villanova always seems to shit the bed at some point, but I think 'Nova gets into the Round of 32.

KU v Cal and Arizona v Iowa  in the Sweet 16.

KU v Arizona in the Elite 8.

And god damn you Kansas, I will make voodoo dolls out of your stupid Jayhawk if you screw me on this- Kansas to the Final Four.

If there's going to be a 16 over 1 upset, I could maybe see it here. Maybe. But probably not- Ducks to the Round of 32.

I'm going to buck the 9 over 8 trend and go with St. Joseph's.

Yale over Baylor because smart people.

I hate Duke. I will be delighted if UNC-Wilmington kicks the ever loving shit out of them, but alas, I don't think that will happen.  Duke to the Round of 32.

UNI over Texas because IOWA RULES THAT'S WHY.

I was going to go Green Bay over TAMU but FiveThirtyEight convinced me to flip. Given how well they did predicting the Democratic Primary in Michigan, there's NO WAY AT ALL this will screw me.

I have a soft spot for the Beavers (because I'm 12 and like to say, 'Go Beavers!' and then giggle.) but I think they're over seeded. Less than 20 wins versus VCU? I'm taking the Rams.

I think Oklahoma is too good to fall victim to a 15-2 upset- but this is Cal State Bakersfield's first time in the Dance and they might have juice to give the Sooners a scare. But I'm sticking with the Sooners.

Oregon v Duke and UNI v Oklahoma in the Sweet 16.

Duke v Oklahoma in the Elite 8.

Oklahoma to the Final 4 because Fuck Duke.

UNC (obviously.)

Providence v USC is one of those maddening 8-9 match-ups that always screw me, but I'm going with the Friars, because they're Friars. And why not?

Indiana v Chattanooga has been picked as a 5-12 upset... but I'm sticking with the B1G and going with the Hoosiers. (Plus, Hoosiers v Kentucky and then the winner gets probably UNC? Lots of old school match-ups could be glorious if it shakes out the right way.)

Kentucky (obviously.)

Michigan v Tulsa for another play-in game and I think Michigan gets in. Which set sup Michigan v Notre Dame. (Again, old school match-up. This is apparently the region for grumpy old men/Bill Simmons millennial dude bro types.) B1G Bias prevails and Michigan gets in to the Round of 32.

West Virginia (obviously.)

Wisconsin is hot right now- and I could see Pitt winning this, but I'm going with the Badgers.

Xavier (obviously.)

UNC v UK and WVU v Xavier in the Sweet 16.

UNC v Xavier in the Elite 8.

Xavier goes to the Final Four.

(If there is a 'Group of Death' or more accurately, 'Region of Death' this year- the East might be it.)

Hampton over UVA? No. (But given the fact the last time Hampton was in the Dance, this happened... can't entirely rule it out. But still, no.)

Texas Tech and Butler seem to be one of those maddening 8-9 match-ups... but I went with Butler- and FiveThirtyEight agrees with me.

Purdue over Arkansas Little Rock. (Another trendy 5-12 upset I've heard out there, but B1G Bias, as always, wins the day.)


Seton Hall and Gonzaga gave me pause for awhile since Seton Hall is sizzling hot after winning the Big East Tournament and my 'Zags had to win their conference tournament just to get in. And yet... can't abandon my 'Zags. Gonzaga over Seton Hall.

Everyone seems to think Utah is overseeded as a 3-seed. That might be true and probably won't be enough to get them beyond the Round of 32, but it should be enough to get them past Fresno State.

Dayton over 'Cuse.

Although I've driven past the lovely campus of Middle Tennessee State and was ever-so-slightly tempted to pick them for a 15-2 upset, Sparty Party baby. March is where Tom Izzo earns his paycheck and he's got his team in the right place at the right time.

UVA vs ISU and Gonzaga vs Sparty in the Sweet 16.

ISU vs Sparty in the Elite 8.

Sparty to the Final Four.

Oklahoma over Kansas.
Sparty over Xavier.

Michigan State 83, Oklahoma 77

Sparty Party for the win.

*The closest soccer equivalent to this is probably the FA Cup, where purported minnows usually manage to take down at least one team they have no business beating. (Arsenal this weekend was very Arsenal-y and crashed out to Watford to the tune of a 2-1 lost. Interestingly enough, I think I begin to gain some insight into why it feels so right to be an Arsenal fan. It's really not to different from being an Iowa fan. When they're good, they're very good- but they also have a lamentable habit of losing to teams they shouldn't. Like Watford for instance. That old feeling of frustrated resignation at a loss is oh so very familiar.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Vote Project: This Is The End

This seems like an appropriate soundtrack after last night's results. Trump destroyed Rubio in Florida and, indeed, knocked him out of the race. Kasich stopped the bleeding by winning Ohio, but Trump picked up Illinois, North Carolina and Missouri so it really wasn't the night that anti-Trump forces were looking for. But Rubio is out and only glancing at the primary calendar was enough to drag me from the depths of my despair. There's actually a decent amount of states for the GOP out there and if Kasich can pick up enough of a bounce we still might end up with a contested convention and a chance to block Trump from the nomination.

Will it happen? I don't know. Kasich is going to need to pick up Rubio's donors and some money, I think, to make a credible run at it- just winning Ohio isn't going to cut it. There are states where I think he has a shot down the stretch including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut. (Though apparently he's not on the ballot in Pennsylvania? The fuck?) I think Trump takes New York and New Jersey, for obvious reasons. Cruz? He'll probably play better in the Midwest/Mountain West- so I'd expect him to pick up Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin- maybe Utah, New Mexico and Indiana. I think Trump takes Arizona and I have no earthly idea what the West Coast (Washington, Oregon and California) is going to do.

I think the only way forward if you're not a Trump fan (which I'm not) is to hope like hell Cruz and Kasich can pick off enough delegates to deny Trump a majority. Kasich's win in Ohio made that more likely- a Rubio win in Florida would have all but assured it. Prevention is the best that Cruz and Kasich can hope for at this point and it seems like it's going to be a somewhat forlorn and depressing hope, to be completely honest about it.

On the Democratic Side of things, it was a very good night for Hillary Clinton... she cleaned up- taking Ohio, North Carolina and Florida by decent margins and squeaking out victories in Missouri and Illinois to go five for five on the evening. There are more Bernie friendly states to the west still in play, but I think the avalanche is building and despite an unexpected win in Michigan, it seems that Bernie can't come up with anything to stop Hillary's momentum.

So, it's most likely (barring shenanigans by the GOP at a contested convention or an indictment for Hillary) going to be Clinton v Trump in the general election. Pretty much if there was a match-up I hate more than the dreadful prospect of a Clinton v Bush Redux, it's probably this one. Trump is, well, awful and Hillary is.... underwhelming.

And here's the most terrifying thing of all: a Hillary win is not guaranteed. I'm getting tired of people giving confident predictions of a landslide wiping away the Trump phenomenon. It's not in the bag. Don't pretend that it is. If half of Bernie's fans stay home- or strangely enough, flip to Trump, we're going to have a race. Hillary is bad on trade (which puts Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania on the table), bad on criminal justice reform, bad on foreign policy (ignore Conservative foaming over Benghazi- look at Libya in general, which, despite President Obama's protestations to the contrary, can't be dumped squarely on Cameron or Sarkozy.) I have two degrees in political science and I have no idea what happens if it's Clinton versus Trump. None.

I'd like to think that America hasn't completely lost it's shit, but a lot of people are pissed off right now and the mood of the country is such that it wouldn't surprise me if the electorate really does decide to douse the place in gasoline and light a match.

So where does this leave my vote? Up in the air, I think. I can't rule out a tactical voting scenario if it means making sure Trump doesn't win Iowa, but at the same time, I'd much rather be voting tactically for Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton. I think I'll be putting this post on hiatus for a couple of months and coming back in June to see where things stand. Maybe I'll be more confident in my choice by then- or maybe, I'll have to pop some Tums, hold my nose and vote for Hillary. Either way, it's probably time to start investigating third parties.

Monday, March 14, 2016

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny' --A Review

I didn't really know what to think of this movie at first. It seemed slow, ponderous and lacked the grace and effortless choreography of the first movie- and it seemed to lack some of the production values as well. It was nice, however, to see the familiar face of Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) emerge from her retirement in solitude to travel once more to Peking, where the Green Destiny, the sword of Li Mu Bai, her beloved resides in the house of Sir Te, who has recently died.

The world has changed since the first movie: there's less honor, there's more chaos and the West Lotus clan has a Warlord, Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee) who is looking for a blade strong enough to let him dominate the entire world. A young woman by the name of Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) arrives at his tower, attempting to join his ranks- as he approaches, she attempts to kill him, but is easily driven off. Meanwhile, a young man by the name of Wei Fang (Harry Shum, Jr.) is making his way through the forest when a blind enchantress (Eugenia Yuan) finds him and tells him to take her to Dai. Once there, she tells Dai to find the Green Destiny as it will allow him to dominate the world. Dai is reluctant to storm the house of the Emperor's brother, but the enchantress tells him to send Wei Fang and he does so.

Shu Lien, have arrived in Peking for the funeral of Sir Te finds that the Green Destiny is kept at Sir Te's house and isn't all that secure. She wonders about that and with good reason, as Wei Fang attempts to steal the sword, only to be stopped by Snow Vase- who enlists the help of Shu Lien to capture him and does so. She then asks for Shu Lien's help in learning 'the Iron Way.'

Realizing that Hades Dai will stop at nothing to retrieve the sword, Shu Lien asks for help from any remaining followers of 'the Iron Way' that are still out there- and happily, gets a response. Silent Wolf (Donnie Yen), Silver Dart Shi (JuJu Chan), Turtle Ma (Darryl Quon), Thunder Fist Chan (Woon Young Park) and Flying Blade (Chris Pang) show up to help guard the sword and, for awhile, they are successful- until Hades Dai, having learned that Wei Fang has failed, sends a raiding party to retrieve the sword.

The raid is unsuccessful, but the son of Sir Te is killed in the process- and Snow Vase reveals what she knows about Wei Fang's past and releases him, but is horrified to discover that he has stolen the sword. Shu Lien and the surviving warriors storm the compound of Hades Dai to retrieve the sword in a final, climactic battle. (As always: no spoilers for the ending.)

I was dubious about this movie at first... while it didn't seem like an unnecessary sequel, it also seemed like a sequel that no one was exactly clamoring for either and other than Michelle Yeoh being awesome as she ever is, the first twenty five minutes of this movie felt painfully slow. It didn't help matters that the close captioning was slightly out of whack with the actual dialogue either. Around the twenty five minute mark, however things took a turn- and by the time we meet Silent Wolf and his Warrior Posse, you find yourself drawn into the story and see the familiar touches that made the first movie so great emerge.

I keep coming back to Michelle Yeoh's performance in this movie though- her presence touches every corner of this movie and even with the arrival of Silent Wolf, who gives her character some more backstory and context doesn't less the importance of her role. Reams of words have been written about Hollywood and how unfairly they treat actresses after a certain age, but Yeoh's gravitas and authority makes it clear that if anyone has sent her that particular memo she didn't get it and if she did, she doesn't particular care. To be honest, it made me wish she was in more stuff- and in fact, I checked IMDB only to find that she's been plenty busy. (Tangent: while Tomorrow Never Dies might not have been the best Brosnan Bond movie, Yeoh's presence in it makes it a contender. She remains one of the greatest female characters in the entire Bond oeuvre and while I would have preferred that she ran off at the end and left James twisting in the wind, if she did sleep with him, it was as his equal for once and not as the usual damsel in distress/eye candy bullshit that Bond so often defaults too. Eva Green's portrayal of Vesper Lynn matches Yeoh's performance in that regard.) (Second tangent: Yeoh's presence in Tomorrow Never Dies made it exponentially better-but contrast that with The World Is Not Enough, which I remain convinced could have been one of the all-time great Bonds save for the presence of Denise Richards who's character is in the movie to set up a joke you can see coming (haha) from the outer edges of the Solar System and who is so unbelievable as a nuclear physicist, it drags the movie down. Even the equally ridiculously named Dr. Holly Goodhead from Moonraker was a more credible scientist than Christmas Jones.)

Overall: A slow start doesn't doom this movie and while it's not the sequel I think a lot of people were looking for, it's a solid, respectable sequel that captures the grace and beauty of it's predecessor quite nicely. Donnie Yen turns in a sold performance as Silent Wolf, but it's Michelle Yeoh who owns this movie. She makes it worth watching. *** out of ****.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #157

This Week In Vexillology, we're getting away from municipalities and back to countries- this time to wrap up the nations that make up what used to be Yugoslavia- last but not in any way the least, we've got the flag of Slovenia:

As with many of the other countries of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia goes with the traditional white-blue-red that are associated with the Pan-Slavic movement, but in the case of Slovenia have a historical link to the coat of arms of the Duchy of Carniola. The Coat of Arms appears in the hoist side- the peak represents Mount Triglav, which is the highest peak in Slovenia. The wavy lines represent the Adriatic Sea and local rivers. The three six-pointed golden stars in the inverted triangle above the peak are taken from the Coat of Arms of the Counts of Celje, a major dynastic house of the 14th and 15th Centuries,.

The flag was officially adopted on June 25th, 1991- though the Slovenian tricolor was raised for the first time during the Revolution of 1848. In terms of the post-Yugoslav Era, Slovenia was first to head for the exits- with a movement called for independence starting in 1987 and culminating in a declaration of independence on June 25, 1991. Two days later, the Yugoslav People's Army entered the country and began what came to be called the Ten Day War, which culminated in the Brioni Agreement, which secured Slovenia independence.

(Slovenia sticks in my head a bit thanks to probably one of the most amazing Olympic Moments I've ever seen- winter or summer. In 2010, Slovenian Cross Country Skier Petra Majdic came off the course and fell down a ten foot gully at the edge of the course. She broke multiple ribs and seemed to be totally done- but somehow managed to fight back for a bronze. The fall- which you don't exactly expect in cross country skiing looked nasty as hell and I read later that one her broken ribs actually collapsed her lung before the final where she managed to get a bronze. So, she falls off the damn world, breaks ribs, keeps skiing and with a collapsed lung and broken ribs manages to score a bronze? Still the damnedest thing I've ever seen, six years later. You can see the fall in the first three minutes or so of this video- and you can see how much pain she's in as well.)

Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bookshot #87: Das Reboot

I brought this book after listening to a Men In Blazers Pod Special featuring the author, Raphael Honigstein- who also narrates this excellent documentary on F.C. St. Pauli. Why buy the book? You know, I'm not really sure...  I watch more soccer than I used to, so it just sort of made sense to me to learn more about the history and trends of the game itself and Das Reboot is a fascinating look at how a game can evolve and be changed from the ground up.

After a decline in the quality and results of the German game from 1998 onward- culminating in a disastrous turn at the 2004 European Championships, the best minds of German football sat down and began to figure out what had gone wrong with their game- in decades past, considered one of the premier football powers of the world- and how they could reach that pinnacle once more. The heart of Das Reboot: How German Soccer Reinvented Itself and Conquered The World is the reinvention that took place between that low point of 2004 to reaching the summit of soccer glory once again, ten years later- raising the World Cup for the fourth time in Brazil in 2014.

The tandem of Oliver Bierhoff and Jurgen Klinsmann laid the foundations for the revival that Joachim Low would carry to it's fruition in Brazil. Investment in youth development proved to be key- with Bundesliga clubs starting their own development centers and youth academies- but the Bierhoff and Klinsmann tandem went back to the drawing board and left nothing untouched. Coaching, training- it wasn't just a change at the top of the pyramid- the national team itself- no, they wanted to create conditions for sustained success in the future- and with the World Cup in Germany for 2006, they had plenty of motivation- and pressure on them to succeed.

A tactical revolution- which has been percolating upward since 1983 or so, also bore fruit, thanks to the efforts of Ralf Rangnick- whose zonal marking and 'four at the back' system slowly gained adherents and attention gradually- one of his disciples turned out to be the now Liverpool Manager, Jurgen Klopp- but the real blueprint and proof of concept for Rangnick's philosophy came when he took over as Manager for TSG Hoffenheim in 2006- a billionaire founder of SAP Software had brought the club in 2000 when it was languishing in the 8th Division and now Rangnick was being brought in to get them into the First Division- which he did. (How long they will stay there, I don't know- as currently, they're 17th in the table,)

The culmination of this reinvention took place during the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. Honigstein weaves the story of German's run to glory in between chapters that tell us how they got there, including every one of Germany's matches- including the one versus the USA (where Joachim Low faced down his predecessor, Klinsmann) and the one against Algeria (which brought back memories of the Shame of Gijon) and of course, the demolition of Brazil in the semifinal before it's final triumph against Argentina in the final.

Together, the story of Germany's World Cup in 2014 and the story of how they got there make for a thrilling, fascinating story that kept me turning pages and interested until the very end. If you're a soccer fan this is a must read. If you're a fan of creative thinking and the power of reinvention- this is a must read as well. After realizing that they could no longer rely on past glories to power them to success, Germany challenged every assumption about football they had and left no corner untouched to reinvent themselves in a bid to return to glory. They succeeded- and so does this book. **** out of ****.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Whither The Art Museum?

I'm a little behind this week...  I need to finish a book so I can review it and I was going to write another post about, well, work, but I'm still massaging that a little bit. Happily, some late breaking news this afternoon provided a topic to delve into.

The University is pulling out of a public-private partnership that was set to develop the Hieronymous Square area downtown (finally! At long last!) and give the University of Iowa Art Museum a new permanent home. Which is a bummer, because that was a really, really good location for a new Art Museum. Which now opens up the question- now what? Where does the Art Museum go? And does this delay a return of the Museum or even make it less likely?

Well, I think the Museum is still coming back. University officials are re-affirming their commitment to getting the place a new permanent home and you know what? Reading that article, I'm not sure the timeline is going to be adversely affected either. I have a feeling that there have been some behind the scenes conversations that lead to this change of direction- they're not going to pull out and eat the development costs unless they've got another idea of a direction to go to begin with.

But where does it go? Here are my theories:

1. The Menard's Option: I think this might be a little too far away from Campus to be very likely- but it does have some benefits- not least of which is a ton of free parking. Plus, you've got an existing building to work with and more space than you would know what to do with. Plus, Google Maps seems to think it's a done deal- maybe they know something we don't?

2. The Hawk Shop Outlet Option: down on Gilbert Street, there's a sizable building which currently houses the Hawk Shop Outlet. Again, this one is a little too far from Campus for me to believe it's a likely option- and it's proximity to both Ralston Creek and the River might be an issue as well, but it is in the heart of what the City wants to turn into the Riverfront Crossings District. A renovated or even a new facility at this location could, if designed correctly, be one hell of a draw for a changing area of Iowa City.

3. The Old Capitol Mall Option: I like this one the least, but it might be on the table again. There's a ton of space opening up on the 2nd Floor of the Mall- which is entirely owned by the University and it could be converted easily into a very nice, decently large space without too much fuss, I think. There's parking already attached and plenty of places to eat downstairs.  It could easily turn what used to be the premier mall in the area back into a destination venue instead of a walk through area.

4. The Ann Cleary Option: This intrigues me, because it could potentially be the most awesome option of all. Follow me around on this: the WRAC House is done in it's current location. Halsey Hall is home of the Dance Department, who has long coveted the old Art Museum building, which is tailor made for gallery space, etc. The IMU Ramp, which was the first parking ramp built on campus and well past its prime- not to mention the fact that's it's universally hailed as a truly awful parking ramp. So what do you do? Gut Halsey and move the Dance Department across the river. Demolish the IMU Ramp and then build a new parking ramp across the entire length of that block (from WRAC to where Halsey is now) and build a Museum on top of it, with an entrance out onto the Ann Cleary Walkway. As an option, it's a little complicated, but it would revitalize that area of campus- but the new Art Museum in the same neighborhood as the other Pentacrest Museums and be smack dab in the middle of campus, with what I'm sure would be pretty stunning views of the river.  My only thing? Seems like it would be costly.

The strange thing is, that after reading the article, I have a feeling that they've got a totally different concept in mind. I just don't know what it is yet...  but I can't wait to find out.

Monday, March 7, 2016

MLS Quest 2016

This is the year.

I know I say that every single year, but this really is the year. Last year was helpful- I narrowed the list down quite a bit, but this year, I'm going to do it. I'm going to pick an MLS Team to support. (I'm also angling for a Bundesliga team, but that quest might be placed discreetly on hold as we'll be officially cutting the cord and ditching our Direct TV this month and switching to Sling- probably in the next month or so- which maybe means BeIN Sports and all kinds of new goodies for me to consider.) Look, I want an MLS Team because I think it's important to support your domestic league if you're a soccer fan and for the first time, I think I can safely say that I am. (Pre-NBC Sports, I would say that I liked soccer, but it was quadrennial/biennial type of thing with the Euros or the World Cup being the highlights of my 'like' but now I can theoretically find soccer on my television every single weekend, I'd say that yes, I have crossed the line and become a fan. A rabid fan? Mmmmmmmmaybe...  but enough of a fan that it's important to me that I support my homegrown league.)

I caught a decent chunk of the playoffs late last year- (that game between the Seattle Sounders and F.C. Dallas was incredible) and saw a bit of the MLS Finals, but not as much as I'd like- so last year helped zero in on teams that I would be interested in. But there are also a few teams that I haven't seen on television yet and some more teams coming into the league that I could conceivable support as well, so I have some homework that needs doing as well. Teams I could get behind and/or need to look into more:(the ones in italics I want to actually see this season, the ones that aren't have the majority of my interest right now.)

Western Conference:
FC Dallas
Portland Timbers
Sporting Kansas City
Colorado Rapids
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes

Eastern Conference:
Columbus Crew SC
Chicago Fire
Orlando City SC
Toronto FC
Montreal Impact
Philadelphia Union

Looking at it, that's really a depressing large number of teams- but when you consider that last season I hadn't really made an effort at all, I think I've come a long way baby. (Now there are teams coming online for Atlanta (meh), Miami (hmmmm), Minnesota (maybe) and another Los Angeles team (yeah, no). Of the new ones coming in the next few years only Minnesota intrigues me. But I also don't want to wait either... so we'll see.)

Of my core group of six, I would say that Columbus, Dallas and Kansas City are probably my top three right now. Geographic proximity is important to me (because I'd like to be able to conceivable go and see a game) but it's not a deal breaker either. Chicago for instance, hasn't been up to much of late in the league- and Portland is lodged on the West Coast- though it's fan culture alone would probably land it a slot on my bucket list. Orlando City, is way down on Florida- but was a lot of fun to watch last season- and while a visit to Dallas doesn't exactly appeal, the Missus does have relatives down there, so we could, conceivably in the future, be in Dallas.

(Of the non-core six...  I know people in Pennsylvania, so a trip to Philly isn't out of the question and I have a cousin lodged in Montreal- so again, an Impact game could also be in the cards. Colorado, Salt Lake City, San Jose and Toronto are more about getting my knowledge on than anything else.)

This is the year. It's going to happen. MLS Quest 2016 is officially underway...

(Sidenote: I don't know enough about NWSL to actually commit to a team, (yet)but I want to try and make an effort to track down and watch games where I can, because again- it's important to support your domestic league.)

Saturday, March 5, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #156

So, this week in vexillology, we're taking a slight detour. I've been devouring podcasts at a fairly healthy clip for about a year or so now. They're nice, the perfect background noise for when I'm cleaning, washing dishes, folding laundry and one of the podcasts I listen to is the always excellent 99% Invisible, which looks at aspects of design that all of us either take for granted or just straight up don't notice.  I was listening to the usual regular episode and the host, Roman Mars (what a great name- seriously) mentioned that they were posting an update to the TED Talk he gave on Vexillology the year before...

What's that? I perked up. A TED Talk on Vexillology? Yes please!

The beautiful thing about this TED Talk is that it does bring up a big problem, not only with municipal flags but by extension with state flags as well. Iowa's is actually pretty decent- but there are far, far too many 'seals on a bedsheet' as Mars calls them for my liking. He talks extensively about the five basic principles of flag design (as laid down by NAVA): Keep it simple, use meaningful symbolism, 2-3 colors, no writing and be distinctive... and then he looks at some good examples of municipal flags (Chicago, D.C., Portland, Amsterdam- they have an especially cool flag, I think) and then he looks at some very bad examples of municipal flags.

Before I get to the horrible surprise in the 'bad' examples of municipal flags, I want to detour back to NAVA (an organization I should probably join at this point) and their five principle. I have a slight and minor quibble with their 'no writing' rule. Having looked at way too many flags that include Coats of Arms I can see their point- tiny writing, tinier symbolism- I usually have to pull the Coat of Arms and find out what it means separately. It's generally easier when I don't have to deal with one. But- I've also learned an awful lot about those countries from looking at their Coat of Arms as well. So yeah, I get it- buuuuuut, a little bit of tiny writing has taught me an awful lot as well.

But, BACK TO THE BAD MUNICIPAL FLAGS! Mars talks extensively about the flag of San Francisco and how bad it is- but he also showed a bunch of other bad examples including this:

What fresh hell is this? It doesn't appear that Iowa City has a flag (thank god) but it's got this for a seal, which I'm less than crazy about as well. But seriously Cedar Rapids? Really? Even Davenport- whose flag commits any number of sins, looks better than this. Des Moines really kicks ass with their flag as well. (Seriously: I would buy a flag of Des Moines. It's pretty striking and sort of boss.)

I'm not a Cedar Rapidian, but this is a topic worthy of further investigation. Are there vexillologists up the road attempting to change this flag? Does their City Council even care? What about Iowa City- do we have a flag? If we do, does it suck? Can we do better? (City Lab has a pretty good rundown of the best and the worst out there. It's worth a look.)

These and many other questions I'm going to try and answer. Stay tuned and I'll update everyone when I can. In the meantime, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Squawk Box: Making A Murderer

It's been about a month or so since the Missus and I finished up watching Making A Murderer on Netflix and I'm still honestly not sure what I'm supposed to think about it or even what the point of it all was. Was it meant to be a portrait of how the criminal justice system can fuck up in a major way in this country? Or was it meant to show how the presumption of innocence is impossible when prosecutors can try their case in the media if the murder is shocking or lurid enough- or hell, was it even an attempt to show that the defense in a case can play that game as well? Was it supposed to be a portrait of how the criminal justice system can screw poor people in a major way if it wants too? Or did the filmmakers actually believe the story of Steven Avery?

Making A Murder is a 10 episode documentary that looks at the case of Steven Avery- who was sent to prison back in the 80s for a sexual assault that it turns out he didn't commit- he was, in fact, exonerated and released. Once he was released- as there was fairly substantial evidence to suggest that the Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office knew he was innocent and ignored the evidence- he sued the Sheriff's Office and just before the trial was set to be concluded, Avery was arrested and charged with another murder.

Whether you believe that fact was coincidental or convenient probably shapes how you view the rest of the documentary.

Thinking about it, I don't think there's any doubt that Avery got royally screwed in his first case. The Manitowoc County Sheriff's Office screwed it up- whether out of malice or personal vendetta, as the documentary suggests or through general incompetence, I don't know. I do know that the tension between the City Police Department the Sheriff's Office felt very familiar to me- that sort of push back and forth/vaguely political rivalry between the two was portrayed in a way I could easily believe.

The fact that the Sheriff's Office was dead sure they had that guy also was unsurprising. I think every agency has that 'one person' or 'frequent flyer' they deal with so often that the risk of falling into the trap of confirmation bias can't be overlooked. (Just because it's usually that guy doesn't mean it's going to be that guy every single time.)

So yes, the sexual assault that sent Steven Avery to jail the first time was a mistake. He deserved to be exonerated and yes, he deserved to have his day in court. The first episode, which covers the background and the story of the first case is just fine. Outrage level: high. It's the subsequent episodes where things started to get dodgy for me.

At first, I was right on board with the filmmakers. This was way too coincidental and for the longest time, there wasn't even the hint of a motive. (Turns out some key evidence got left out, per Wikipedia) but as time went on, I found myself wondering what I was missing. It made no sense- Avery had access to a car crusher. Why didn't he just crush the car? How the hell did his nephew get involved in all of this? What wasn't I being told?

And that's where I sort of got off the bus. While it was probably impossible for the filmmakers to have told a compelling story of both trials effectively (there's a TON of witnesses, hours of testimony, etc) it felt...  imbalanced. I started listening to the first season of Serial while I was doing this and the contrast was telling. Sarah Koenig delves into the case of Adnan Sayed but makes a concerted effort to hold onto objectivity when looking at the evidence. I feel like Making A Murderer lacked that. It wasn't about the flaws in the case or finding the truth one way or the other. There was an agenda here and I'm not sure what it was.

By the last episode, I wasn't buying whatever the filmmakers were trying to sell me. Could the controversy have been avoided? Sure. If I was the Manitowoc County Sheriff, I would have kept every last one of my officers away from that crime scene- I wouldn't have let them come within a mile of the police and if Calumet County needed extra bodies, the state or FBI would have provided them. I would have done my damnedest to hermetically seal my agency away from this case just to avoid the merest sniff of conflict of interest. Had Manitowoc attempted to do so (at least more than the series portrayed them doing) much of the controversy may well have been avoided.

Did the defense make their case? I don't know. If the standard they had to meet was reasonable doubt- I think they might have come awfully close to doing just that. And the points that Avery's lawyer, Dean Strang makes about presumption of innocence are thought-provoking and worthy of discussion: in our reality-television obsessed culture, is a presumption of innocence even possible any more? And if its not, can justice for anyone truly be achieved?

Overall: Thought-provoking, rage-inducing and ultimately troubling, Making A Murderer is a compelling piece of television. But, having been sucked into not one, but two seasons of Serial, I can say if you want to see True Crime done the way it's supposed to be done, listen to that instead. I'd say ** 1/2 out of ****