Monday, December 29, 2014

VA Tech Wins Military Bowl, Dancing Beamer Strikes Again

J.C. Coleman ran for 157 yards and a touchdown, and Virginia Tech harassed and ultimately injured Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel while rolling to a 33-17 victory Saturday in the Military Bowl.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer wasn’t on the sideline Saturday afternoon, but BeamerBall was in full effect. Beamer, who had throat surgery earlier this month, watched from the press box as his special teams and defense helped Virginia Tech (7-6) pull away from the Bearcats (9-4) starting late in the second quarter.

Tech freshman Greg Stroman contributed to the Hokies' win in all three phases of the game. He scored a touchdown on defense, caught a pass and ran the ball twice on offense, and broke off two punt returns that went longer than 30 yards on special teams. He ended his day by breaking up a fourth-down pass attempt on Cincinnati's final possession of the game.

Best play: The Hokies opened up a 27-10 lead thanks to a fumble return for a touchdown. Linebacker Deon Clarke started the play with a sack that pried the ball loose from Kiel. Defensive tackle Nigel Williams scooped up the loose ball near the 40-yard line and rumbled to the end zone’s doorstep before coughing it up. Stroman picked it up from there and plowed his way in for the score.

Virginia Tech managed to continue its streak of 22 seasons with a winning record despite a disappointing 6-6 regular season.

And behold Dancing Beamer from November 15th after his Hokies pulled off a 17-16 win at No. 21 Duke...

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Backstrom Leads in Points, Ovechkin Scores Goal of the Year

Russian Machine:
The Washington Capitals tolerated one period of boring New Jersey Devils-style hockey before they unleashed the fury. Lifted by goals from the Young Guns– Green, Backstrom, and Ovi– the less-boring team won this one soundly.

The Capitals struck twice in the second period, first with a furious slapper from Mike Green and then by Nick Backstrom’s patient wrister set up by Jay Beagle.

Alex Ovechkin scored a career-highlight goal seven minutes into the third period, executing the Ovi Move on two Devils defenders before backhanding the puck over Cory Schneider. Nick Backstrom added an empty netter in garbage time to celebrate his tenth goal — and team-leading 34th point (and he's now fifth in the league with 24 assists).

Braden Holtby earned his second shutout of the season– his first since game two in Boston. 19 saves on 19 shots. He rules.

The goal was only Ovechkin’s third over the past 11 games.

“When you feel good, everything is working well,” Ovechkin said. “Those kind of moments happen. Just [tried] to make a move and it was working, so . . . good play.”

The goal is Ovechkin’s 437th. He’s now tied with Pavel Bure as the third highest scoring Russian, behind Fedorov and Mogilny, whom I bet he’ll catch next season. Ovechkin is now the 66th highest scorer in NHL history (again, tied with Pavel).

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Colbert Report Says Goodbye

"I love being onstage," he said. "I love the relationship with the audience. I love the letting go, the sense of discovery, the improvising." Colbert also loves the freedom his television persona gives this down-to-earth, all-around decent guy to indulge his most narcissistic fantasies. "I get to piggyback my own ego on the character's unlimited ego," he says. This theme of porous but distinct personas is one Colbert returns to often. That night, when an audience member asked him about the differences between him and his character during a pre-taping Q&A, he replied, "I wouldn't want to be that asshole. He's got a tremendous ego. I get to pretend I don't."
The Colbert Report saw immediate critical and ratings successes, leading to various awards, including two prestigious Peabody Awards. The show's cultural influence—which occasionally would require a fair degree of participation from the show’s audience, dubbed the Colbert Nation—extended beyond the program a number of times. This impact included the character running for U.S. President twice, co-hosting a rally at the National Mall, presenting a controversial performance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and establishing a real Super PAC that raised a million dollars:
  • The Colbert Report premiered in October 2005. In the debut episode, Colbert coined the word truthiness, defined as "a quality characterizing a "truth" that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively "from the gut" or because it "feels right" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts." Truthiness was named Word of the Year for 2005 by the American Dialect Society and for 2006 by Merriam-Webster.
  • Colbert eventually coined a neologism to reflect this truthiness in action: Wikiality, which he defined as "a reality where, if enough people agree with a notion, it becomes the truth."
  • In 2006, Colbert encouraged fans to vote for his name to be the new name of a bridge in Hungary, which was being decided via an online poll; he beat the runner-up by more than 14 million votes. He was, however, disqualified, as the name of the bridge was intended to be a memoriam.
  • The show's popularity resulted in Colbert headlining the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner, which he performed in character. Colbert's performance quickly became an Internet and media sensation.
  • Colbert received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Knox College, Illinois on June 3, 2006; his credit as producer has been listed since that time as "Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A." (later changed in April 2009 to "Sir Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A." after Colbert was knighted by Queen Noor of Jordan in exchange for his support of the Global Zero Campaign to eliminate nuclear weapons).
  • New York governor-elect Eliot Spitzer and Henry Kissinger appeared on the show to preside over a guitar contest between Colbert and members of the indie-rock group the Decemberists. (Peter Frampton ended up filling in for Colbert, but that's a whole other story.)
  • In February 2007, Ben & Jerry's unveiled a new ice cream flavor in honor of Stephen Colbert, named Stephen Colbert's AmeriCone Dream. All proceeds were donated to charity through the Stephen Colbert AmeriCone Dream Fund. It was the subject of an extended bit on the program, including the creation of the "Wriststrong" wrist band, based on Lance Armstrong's "Livestrong" wrist band, which donated all proceeds to the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
  • In April 2007, a Pew Research Center report cited both Colbert and The Daily Show viewers as more well-informed than those who gathered their information via newspapers, television news and radio.
  • Colbert was named one of People's Sexiest Men Alive, one of GQ's Men of the Year, and one of Time's 100 most influential people. And in August 2007, Richard Branson christened one of the planes used for Virgin America's inaugural flights "Air Colbert."
  • In 2008, East Carolina University associate professor Jason Bond named a species of trapdoor spider Aptostichus stephencolberti in honor of Stephen Colbert.
  • On the first of the four episodes in Baghdad, Iraq for the troops, Colbert had his head shaved on stage by General Ray Odierno who was jokingly "ordered" to do so by President Barack Obama, who appeared on the episode via a pre-recorded segment from the White House.
  • In 2010, while in character, Colbert appeared before judiciary subcommittee hearing on the issue of farm workers and immigration.
  • Colbert was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album in 2010 for A Colbert Christmas.
  • The Annenberg Public Policy Center reported in 2014 that the Colbert Super PAC segments (Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow) increased viewers' knowledge of PAC and 501(c)(4) campaign finance regulation more successfully than other types of news media.
  • And perhaps most surprisingly, more than three dozen congressmen and -women have subjected themselves to Colbert's merciless and occasionally demeaning ridicule as part of the show's ongoing series "Better Know a District."

“It’s bizarre,” remarked an admiring Jon Stewart, whose own program, “The Daily Show,” immediately precedes “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central and is where the Colbert character got his start. “Here is this fictional character who is now suddenly interacting in the real world. It’s so far up its own rear end,” he said, or words to that effect, “that you don’t know what to do except get high and sit in a room with a black light and a poster.”

In May 2008, The Colbert Report received a George F. Peabody Award recognizing its excellence in news and entertainment. On August 21, 2010, it was announced that The Colbert Report won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program for its episodes broadcast from Iraq. In 2012, The Colbert Report won a second Peabody Award for its Super PAC-related coverage.

In 2013, The Colbert Report won two Emmys, one for Outstanding Variety Series and one for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. The Colbert Report winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Series broke the longest winning streak in Emmy history, beating The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, which dominated the Best Variety Series competition from 2003 to 2012. In 2014, The Colbert Report won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Late Night Talk Show Host.

The series finale on December 18, 2014 was watched by 2.481 million viewers, making it the most watched episode ever in the show's history. The finale was the most watched cable program of the night in its time slot, beating The Daily Show which was seen by 2.032 million viewers.

On one wall of the show's set, there is an artificial fireplace with the engraving "Videri Quam Esse," meaning, "to seem to be rather than to be"; it is a play off of the traditional Latin phrase "esse quam videri," or, "to be, rather than to seem to be," reflecting Colbert's mock right-wing personality.

Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinner: "I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."

More information:
» Paste: Colbert's 10 Greatest Moments on The Daily Show
» NY Daily News: The Colbert Report took home the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series
» Vanity Fair (2007): "The Man in the Irony Mask"
» Rolling Stone: 30 Best 'Colbert Report' Bits

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Redskins' Struggles: "It Hasn't Just Been One Player"

Mike Jones:
The Redskins (3-11) enter the game against their NFC East rivals having allowed 53 sacks (second most in the NFL). Meanwhile, the visiting Eagles have racked up 47, second most in the league.

And the Eagles (9-5) will catch Washington at one of its lowest points. The team has allowed at least five sacks in each of its past six games — a franchise record and the second-longest streak in league history.

Following a 2013 campaign that saw the Redskins surrender 43 sacks (14th in the NFL), team officials set out this offseason to upgrade the offensive line in free agency and the draft.

They shifted Kory Lichtensteiger from left guard to center and signed Shawn Lauvao early in free agency and penciled him in at left guard. The Redskins tried — and failed — to add a veteran to upgrade the right tackle position. Washington also drafted tackle Morgan Moses and guard Spencer Long in the third round, hoping to groom them so they could insert them as starters at some point this season.

Things haven’t played out as planned. Lichtensteiger has proved solid in his new position, but Lauvao and right guard Chris Chester have struggled. Tyler Polumbus opened the season at right tackle but got benched after seven games. Moses developed slower than anticipated, so second-year backup Tom Compton replaced Polumbus in the lineup, but he too has struggled. (Moses last week suffered a Lisfranc injury and was placed on injured reserve ).

Long hasn’t managed to satisfy coaches enough in practice for them to feel comfortable starting him over Chester. Third-year pro Josh LeRibeus likewise hasn’t managed to overtake Lauvao.

The line’s issues not only have put the Redskins in danger of setting a team mark for sacks allowed but also have been a major reason for a sputtering offense and a six-game losing streak.

The 1998 team allowed 61 sacks en route to a 6-10 finish. This squad is yielding an average of 3.8 sacks per game, but given that the team has given up 36 sacks over the past six weeks, that embarrassing record could fall.

Redskins Coach Jay Gruden acknowledges the protection issues have crippled the offense. But the coach insists the blame can’t fall solely on his linemen.

Mark Bullock:
The offensive line has long been a problem for Washington. It has struggled to maintain pass protection and give its quarterback the extra second or two to make a pass. It hasn’t just been one player either. Everyone on the line, including Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, has played poorly.

Quarterbacks and offensive lines work hand-in-hand on pass protection. The best offensive lines give their quarterback the extra second or two that he needs for a route to develop; while the best quarterbacks anticipate throws and get the ball out of their hands quickly to keep the blocking time to a minimum. It’s rare that teams have both a great quarterback and offensive line, but the Redskins’ problem is that they have neither. Both are making the situation worse for the other, and will continue to do so unless the problem is addressed.

Thomas Boswell:
Griffin’s team has lost the past 10 games in which he has taken the majority of the offensive snaps — a more meaningful measure than the technicality of who “started” that game. In the past two seasons, he has played the most snaps (by far) in 18 games. Washington is 3-15. His quarterback rating has fallen every season and is now so low (25.5, based on ESPN’s QBR formula) it is possible he ultimately will be no better than Heath Shuler. (I know, unbelievable.)

On Sunday against the Giants, playing after McCoy was hurt, coaches called a high-school-level offense to keep him from being overwhelmed. Of his 27 passes, 20 were thrown behind the line of scrimmage or less than five yards downfield. He completed only 2 of 5 passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield. Two passes with 90 yards-after-catch boosted his stats. Despite minuscule demands, he was overwhelmed anyway, sacked seven times, fumbling twice and generating just 10 points. A depressing desperation dink-and-dunk derby.

Afterward he said “fun” six times. Either he’s in denial or keeps up a brave face for the team or wants the state of his game a semi-secret until he improves. I can sympathize with all that.

In fact, now that it is clear Coach Jay Gruden doesn’t believe he’s yet a competent pro quarterback but a helter-skelter “make a play” guy, I feel little but empathy for Griffin.

Brought in to save a franchise, he was begged to play that role. He went along. His first coach let him play compromised, defenseless, with an injured right knee until the joint collapsed, untouched, and required total reconstruction. Two years later, his speed is not back. So it never will be. With his separate-from-everybody gift gone, he was exposed as a player with big skills but only some of those needed in an NFL quarterback.

Like many college stars and Heisman Trophy winners, he was mis-evaluated by miles. Few things are harder than projecting NFL quarterbacks. It’s nobody’s fault. Provided a modified college offense his rookie year, Griffin’s development was frozen. All were fooled, including him.

More information:
» Video: RGIII Touchdown Call Reversed
» Jeff Fisher Trolls Redskins During Opening Coin Toss
» London Fletcher: Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett is "Clueless"

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Howard Blake's "Walking in the Air" (1982)

"Walking in the Air" is a song written by Howard Blake for the 1982 animated film of Raymond Briggs' 1978 children's book The Snowman. The song forms the centrepiece of The Snowman, which has become a seasonal perennial on British television. The story relates the fleeting adventures of a young boy and a snowman who has come to life. In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman fly to the North Pole. "Walking in the Air" is the theme for the journey. They attend a party of snowmen, at which the boy is the only human. They meet Father Christmas and his reindeer, and the boy is given a scarf with a snowman pattern. In the film, the song was performed by St Paul's Cathedral choirboy Peter Auty and this version was released as a single on CBS in 1982, and reissued in 1985 (on Stiff Records) and 1987.

Howard Blake developed the melody of "Walking in the Air" from a theme in his 'Lullaby - A Christmas Narrative,' an a cappella choral work commissioned by The Scholars in 1975 and first performed by them at St John's Smith Square, London, on 21 December that year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Live At Paste: Aloft Hotel Sessions

Nashville draws many up-and-coming musicians, including locally-based band Judah and the Lion. The band’s members met at Nashville’s Belmont University, and although they spend most of their time on the road these days, they still have an adoring fan base waiting for them at home. We saw this first hand when the band performed at Aloft Cool Springs, right outside of the city in Franklin, Tennessee. Watch Judah & the Lion perform “Everything Changes” from their recent release Kids These Days live at Aloft Cool Springs in the player above.

At Aloft Arundel Mills, we caught up with Vancouver-based singer/songwriter Dan Mangan, who released his first set of EPs in 2003. Now, with a couple Juno Awards and four LPs under his belt, he’s expanding his sound as Dan Mangan and Blacksmith, a new name that pairs Mangan’s scrupulous songwriting with a sort of synth innovation we haven’t seen on previous records. His latest single, “Vessel,” came through just as powerfully live with two people as it does in the studio version.

Spencer Cullum, Jr. and Jeremy Fetzer have played behind plenty of our favorite musicians, from Johnny Fritz to Caitlin Rose, but their instrumental project, Steelism, has been particularly refreshing. No two performances from Steelism are alike, and any chance to spend an evening with the band’s upbeat music is one we’d jump at. Fortunately, at Aloft Birmingham Soho Square, our cameras caught the band in action playing "Caught in a Pickle".

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"Bekoso, Bekiso, Bekaso"

Chicago Tribune:
A Jewish friend -- former rabbinical student, actually -- recently introduced me to a catchy and true Hebrew expression from the Talmud [Eiruvin 65b] that goes something like this:
Bekoso, bekiso, bekaso

Sometimes the order of the three words is different and the spelling can vary depending on who's doing the transliteration, but this is certainly close enough for blog work.

It is a list of the major areas in which a person's character is tested and revealed.
Bekoso -- (b'KOH-soh) by his cup, or metaphorically, how he or she behaves when drunk.

Bekiso -- (b'KEE-soh) by his pocket, or metaphorically, how he or she manages money.

Bekaso -- (b'KAH-soh) by his temper; how he or she acts when angry.

As the adage goes “nichnas yayin yatza sod.” (Wine goes in and secrets come out.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Erik Wernquist:
"Wanderers is a vision of humanity's expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available.

Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea of the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds - and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.

VISUALS - Erik Wernquist -
MUSIC - Cristian Sandquist -
COLOR GRADE - Caj Müller/Beckholmen Film -
LIVE ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY - Mikael Hall/Vidiotism -
LIVE ACTION PERFORMANCE - Anna Nerman, Camilla Hammarström, Hanna Mellin
VOCALIST - Nina Fylkegård -
THANK YOU - Johan Persson, Calle Herdenberg, Micke Lindgren, Satrio J. Studt, Tomas Axelsson, Christian Lundqvist, Micke Lindell, Sigfrid Söderberg, Fredrik Strage, Johan Antoni, Henrik Johansson, Michael Uvnäs, Hanna Mellin

NASA/JPL, NASA/CICLOPS, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, ESA, John Van Vliet, Björn Jonsson (and many others, of which I unfortunately do not know the names)."

Monday, December 1, 2014

VT Tops UVA for 11th Year in a Row, Now Bowl Eligible

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Michael Brewer kept getting knocked to the turf, kept getting up, and would not let Virginia Tech lose. The quarterback, maligned much of this season for inexplicable interceptions, threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Bucky Hodges with 1:48 remaining Friday night and Virginia Tech beat Virginia for the 11th year in a row, 24-20.

"We knew that this would be a tough one, that we would have to kind of ride the waves to get through this," Brewer said after throwing for 235 yards and two touchdowns. "They were good defensively and they were able to get pressure on the passer. They've done it to everybody all year, so I knew I was going to take some shots, but it was one of those deals where as long as we could get back up and keep moving forward and not shoot ourselves in the foot, we'd be all right."

Once the Hokies (6-6, 3-5 ACC) sacked Matt Johns on fourth down, their second victory in six games was secured, and qualified them for a bowl game for the 22nd year in a row. Only Florida State, with 32, has a longer run. They also ended a six-game losing streak at Lane Stadium against conference opponents.

The touchdown pass to Hodges came three plays after he and Brewer hooked up for a 50-yard catch and run.

"With the coverage that they rolled to at the snap of the ball, I knew that Bucky was going to be one on one and obviously we like that matchup," Brewer said. He finished 15 of 33 with one interception, one sack and was hit plenty.

"It was one of those deals where, you know, it's senior night. It was the seniors' last game in Lane Stadium and I was going to make sure that I did everything that I possibly could to make sure that we sent them out on the right note," he said.

Virginia (5-7, 3-5 ACC), seeking its first bowl bid since 2011, lost its 10th consecutive road game. The Cavaliers drove to the Hokies' 36 in the closing seconds, but Johns was thrown for an 8-yard loss after rolling to his right looking downfield.

The game was a defensive struggle throughout, and only in the closing minutes did the offenses get moving.

The Hokies' go-ahead drive, which took just five plays and involved a foolish penalty against the Cavaliers, came after Greyson Lambert had led Virginia on an 89-yard march and a 20-17 lead.

Starting from his own 25, Brewer was flushed and threw the ball away, but got hit and knocked down by lineman Mike Moore after releasing the ball, drawing a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty and an automatic first down. Brewer hit Hodges for 50 yards on the next play, and for the touchdown after a false start penalty against the Hokies.

"It was definitely shocking," linebacker Max Valles said of the winning score. "I felt like the way we were playing all day we could have just gone out there and got a stop. I'm very disappointed in the defense. It's on us."

Virginia Tech finished with 433 yards, the most allowed by the Cavaliers this season. Virginia gained 314.

More information:
» Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Where Might Virginia Tech Go Bowling?"