This is beautiful

Over at RollBamaRoll, they’ve got some excerpts from a Notre Dame board during the game last week. It’s just delicious.

It starts with these three bits of hubris:

I have officially hit my breaking point on hearing about Alabama’s “superiority.” For 44 long days, I’ve put up with it. But watching every single ESPN talking head pick the Tide has finally pushed me over the edge. I want Notre Dame to come out and punch Alabama in the mouth – not just for us, but for every non-SEC team that’s been branded as “inferior” or “slower” or “less physical.” It’s time to end this damn streak, and it’s time for Notre Dame to sit atop the college world once again.

I think very few of us are really nervous. I know im not

still just can’t believe it, can’t believe this is the year, for those of us like me who haven’t been alive long enough to see the last ND championship, it’s been a long wait, yet after following this team all year, there is no doubt in my mind they win this game, no doubt.

Later, with the rout on, we get the best line:

Nick Saban with a month prep time would beat Batman

Oh, the sweet, sweet schadenfreude!

You ask yourself “Could this get MORE over the top?” And then it does.

Mrs Heathen and I have been enjoying American Horror Story since last year. While it’s absolutely trashy television, it’s undeniably fun. What’s particularly inventive is that each season is its own unconnected story, and though actors return, it’s in completely different roles.

The first season, last year, dealt with a marvelously haunted “murder house” in present-day Los Angeles freshly inhabited by a troubled married couple (Connie Britton (Tami Taylor from FNL), and Dylan McDermott); Jessica Lange won an Emmy for her portrayal of the homeowners’ fallen belle of a neighbor. Lange, for her part, behaved as if there were no such thing as overacting, and it served the production well.

Season two is on now. We’re a bit behind (we have two unwatched episodes on the Tivo), but it’s no less enthralling. In fact, it may be MORESO simply because the creators — after having gotten away with a crazy haunted house staffed, in part, by the deceased and pregnant mistress of Dylan McDermott, the original homeowner’s wife (still sporting a head wound), a deformed and malevolent basement-dwelling monster, and some sort of sex ghost in a gimp suit — have decided to throw subtlety to the wind and really get weird.

So, this time the setting is a bleak, mid-sixties Catholic madhouse. Here (obviously) we encounter a sadistic nun with a yen for caning (Lange, again), an escaped Nazi mad scientist, a doomed nymphomaniac, the inevitable trapped intrepid reporter (bonus: a lesbian!), the actual no-shit Devil, aliens, and — I shit you not — Al Swearengen in a Santa suit chasing people with a straight razor.

This episode’s blurb, by the way, is what drove me here to suggest you crazy perverts watch the show; Tivo and DirecTV describe it as:

A murderous Santa wreaks havoc on Briarcliff; Sister Jude faces off with the devil; Arden has a shocking encounter in the death chute.

Of course. And, given that we have four episodes to go, our expectation is that it’s only going to get MORE bananas.

Sleep tight, Heathen.

Books of 2013 #3: The Night Circus

I don’t remember why this one ended up in the to-read list, but smart money says a glowing review somewhere. Let me just get his out there, then, so as (hopefully) to save someone else the trouble: Holy CRAP is this book ever a tedious pile of self-indulgent nothing.

Seriously. I haven’t been this disappointed by a book since the unaccountably award-winning Among Others last year, though the book itself has more in common with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which I also hated) in its apparent pleasure in its own rambling, shambling blankness.

Avoid. Seriously. Thank goodness I have a decent palate cleanser on hand.

A week later, and a few bits

I didn’t think to look before, but this article points out something fantastic: in the most recent 8 years of Nick Saban’s college coaching career, he has won 4 national titles. When he plays, he bats .500. Not bad.

  • 2003: LSU (First title)
  • 2004: LSU
  • 2007: Alabama
  • 2008: Alabama
  • 2009: Alabama (Second title)
  • 2010: Alabama
  • 2011: Alabama (Third title)
  • 2012: Alabama (Fourth title)

The other fun stat: Saban has won 27% of all BCS National Championships (4 of 15).

The SEC, of course, has won 9 of 15, or 60%. (The Big XII has 2; the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, and Pac-12 all have 1 each on the field.)

You know her voice.

Merry Clayton has a voice that will melt steel. You probably don’t know her name, but you know her astonishing backing vocal on Gimme Shelter.

What you also don’t know is that, after the sessions for that record, she miscarried. The Stones were distraught, and gave her a portion of the song royalties. She also recorded her own version, which I strongly recommend you go listen to.

One more step on the road to ruin

The national office of the Boy Scouts of America has taken the unprecedented step of reversing a local council’s Eagle award decision, officially denying Ryan Andresen the rank on the grounds that he is gay.

Advancement in the Boy Scouts is essentially automatic up until Eagle; you do your merit pages and whatnot, reach the requisite time in the prior rank, and you get promoted. Eagle is different; you have to complete a significant service project, and then go before a (local to your troop) committee for review. I always saw this step as a final check, so to speak, to avoid promoting fairweather Eagles not actually committed to scouting — resume padders or people otherwise unfit at the character level, I guess. My own committee had only one person on it other than my scoutmaster, if I recall correctly, but other councils may do it differently. In any case, it is that body whose decision is final. They forward the paperwork to some office, and your Eagle kit comes back to be awarded at the next Court of Honor.

That BSA would rescind the decision of a local council here is enormous, and it shows precisely how much of a pawn of right-wing interests the group has become — and makes it clear that cries of “well, it’s just the national office that’s bigoted; my local group is fine!” are misguided. That the Mormon church is the single largest supporter of Scouting is a major part of this problem.

It’s a damn shame. My experience with Scouting in the middle 1980s was formative and valuable. There are no mini-Heathen to steer away from it, but the overt, bigoted, rightward trend has absolutely kept me from volunteering my time with local scouting groups, which is something I always thought I’d be happy to do. I certainly never thought I’d feel the level of shame for their behavior that I do now. Dammit, I’m from Mississippi; I don’t need another group acting all stupid for me to be ashamed of — magnolia-tinged shenanigans take up enough of my head-shaking as it is.


These guys are WAY more metal than your favorite band. Seriously.

Because they’re robots. No, seriously. Robots. The drummer has four arms. The guitarist has 78 fingers.

(Also, you have no idea how many Terminator themed headlines I avoided in writing this post.)

Our favorite thing, maybe

At halftime, ESPN’s sideline girl interviewed Irish coach Brian Kelly:

Her: “Where do the fixes need to come in the second half?”

Kelly: “Uh, maybe Alabama doesn’t come back in the second half.”

Saban beats you, in part, by making you quit. This is some quit, right there, and there was still 30 minutes of football to be played.

Sweet, sweet Irish tears

Roll Damn Tide. Best overheard line (from Reddit): “The Irish haven’t suffered like this since the potato famine.” A friend notes he saw another pithy line on Facebook: “They kept talking about Notre Dame having an SEC caliber defense. Unfortunately, it was Auburn’s.” ZING.

I’m just sorry we didn’t get the shutout. Best trivia-stat I’ve seen so far: AJ McCarron now has been on more championship teams (3, because he was a redshirt on the 2009 team that beat Texas) than he has losses as the starting QB (2: LSU last year, A&M this year).

Speaking of AJ, here’s his girlfriend and his mom (the girlfriend now has over 130,000 followers on Twitter after Musburger’s creepy comments):


So, yeah, back to back titles. But 3 in 4 years just means Nick is still pissed off about the 2010 team missing the mark, and God love him for it.

This game is particularly delicious, because Notre Dame is one of only two teams with what I’d call a statistically meaningful winning record vs. Alabama (more than 5 games), and are two of only three teams who are “ahead” of us by more than a single game. I broke this down before season started, but it’s worth updating:

  • Texas: 1-7-1, last in 2009 title game (W)
  • Notre Dame: 2-5, last in 2013 title game (W)
  • Texas Christian: 2-3, last in 1975 (W)
  • Boston College: 3-1, last in 1984 (L)
  • Oklahoma: 1-2-1, last in 2003 (L)
  • Rice: 0-3, last in 1956 (L)
  • UCLA: 1-2, last in 2001 (L)

Rice, obviously, is the other team that’s more than a game ahead on the series, which is hilarious — and also not likely to ever change.

Note this is a shorter list than the August version: we evened up against Michigan and Missouri in routs during the regular season. Unfortunately, it’ll be at least another 2 years before we once again have a winning record vs. the entire SEC — we don’t play Missouri in 2013. (Also, I removed Louisiana Tech — on the field, Alabama is 3-2 vs. the Bulldogs, but the source I used in August reflected a sanction forfeit that flipped it to 2-3.)

So anyway, Roll Tide Roll, and see you in August.

One more thing: RAMMER JAMMER:

(As a footnote, let me add that this site is a pretty great research tool. No idea who put it together, though.)

Yet another reason to want to be Lord British when you grow up

Buried in this rundown of Richard Garriott’s Mayan Apocalypse party is this delightful paragraph:

Garriott, 51, who made his first million after developing the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) “Ultima” while in his early twenties, has become known for his ostentatious and theatrical gatherings that give his guests a chance to visit a live version of his virual worlds. His first big parties date back to the late eighties when he began hosting elaborate haunted houses. Perhaps his boldest bash was his Titanic-themed party in 1998—he decorated a barge as the doomed ship, loaded it with VIPs in tuxedos and ball gowns, and then made the vessel sink in Lake Austin, forcing his guests, including the then-mayor of Austin, Kirk Watson, to swim to shore.

That man knows how to live.

Books of 2013 #2: Gun Machine

My friend Mike wonders how Warren Ellis gets away with only writing a book every few years, but if he continues to improve at this rate, he can stay on this pace as long as he likes.

Ellis is mostly famous as the author of Transmetropolitan, an influential comic that ran between 1997 and 2002. Since then, he’s also written a wide variety of other titles, both creater-owned and otherwise (and also including the source material for the 2010 film RED, about which Ellis has said “if you don’t want to see a film with Helen Mirren with a sniper rifle, I’m not sure I want to know you.”) However, he’s also written prose, most notably the 2007 novel Crooked Little Vein, which I read and enjoyed.

Vein was a fine, if short, bit of work, and was mostly carried by Ellis’ voice. If you’re familiar with his blog and other online work, it’s easy to see its protagonist as a stand-in for Ellis himself (not in a wish-fulfillment Mary Sue sort of way at all, though, unless Ellis actually has a jones for scrotal inflations). Its plot was well into the sort of grotesque/absurd area that Ellis has explored in some detail in his graphic work; Wikipedia’s plot summary starts with

Michael McGill, a burned-out private eye is hired by a corrupt White House Chief of Staff to find a second “secret” United States Constitution, which had been lost in a whorehouse by Richard Nixon.

So. Right. It was fun and all, but it also (and obviously) absurdist.

Gun Machine (out this week) is very different. Our hero, New York Detective John Tallow, is still somewhat Ellis-ian (and, like McGill, he’s got some goofy sidekicks), but the story is an inventive and real-world police procedural mostly devoid of the absurd flourishes that formed the bulk of Vein. It’s also significantly longer without being padded.

Ellis starts us with a violent and shocking set piece that ends with our hero seeing his partner killed before killing the assailant himself; the gunfire exposes a heretofore apparently sealed tenement apartment completely full of guns. Guns adorn nearly every inch of the wall, floor, and ceiling. And, as it happens, every one they test turns out to be tied to some unsolved homicide, going back twenty years or more.

It’s a weird setup, which we expect from Ellis, and I worried a bit that the excesses of Vein would show up and run off with the story. That never happens. Instead, we get a solid and disciplined novel that I found very hard to put down. It’s still a bit weirder than so-called mainstream thrillers, but mostly in tone. (The killer’s totemic apartment ties into his own delusions, not some secret mystical power, for example.)

If I have one complaint here, it’s that the conclusion of the work is a bit abrupt — though by no means as unsatisfying as, say, some of Lee Child’s work has been (all these guys could take a lesson from the late Mr Parker on that front). I get that endings are hard, and Ellis’ isn’t bad, but I definitely came away wishing the last chapter had fleshed a few things out a bit more. That’s a nit, though. Gun Machine was big fun, and I’ll be first in line to read Ellis’ next novel even if he takes another five years to churn it out. (Confidential to W.E.: Please don’t.)

Now: I think I’ll read something completely devoid of policemen.

Books of 2013 #1: The Last Policeman

I realized, in retrospect, that I’d read too much ephemeral bullshit online last year and not enough actual books, so my only real resolution for 2013 is to read more books. I certainly have no shortage of candidates — a revised online information diet would still include plenty of sources for new interesting tomes, and that’s where I found book 2013.1, The Last Policeman.

It’s no secret I mostly read so-called “serious” books, but my travel schedule and (frankly) age have softened that prejudice a bit in recent years. I’ve read more SF, devoured all of the Harry Dresden books, and even picked up a bit of a mystery/thriller habit that I initially thought was confined to Robert Parker’s “Spenser” novels (turns out I was wrong, and as a consequence I know in my bones that Tom Cruise is absolutely NOT Jack Reacher).

Anyway, book #1 for 2013 is a hybrid title. The Last Policeman is both a mystery and, technically, a science fiction story. The argument is this: owing to the impending and inexorable arrival of a large asteroid, Earth as we know it has about six months to go. We join the story in media res on that point; the protagonist (Detective Hank Palace) fills us in on the recent past as part of the narrative, so we get to explore how the world reacted as the likelihood of impact moved from “nothing to worry about” to “oh God, oh God, we’re all going to die.” His rumination gives us most of the speculative-fiction bits in the novel (which is otherwise set in a world basically just like our own), since obviously the impending doom of all or most of mankind is going to do some very weird things to society, to the economy, to geopolitics, and most notably to individual humans themselves.

Palace’s job as a murder cop has become very odd indeed, since, as zero-hour approaches, more and more people are opting to check out early. Suicides are rampant, which of course creates an excellent smokescreen for a murder or two. It’s not at all inventive that the story hinges on Palace deciding one particular “hanger” was in fact a murder, but it is inventive that it takes place in a world where “well, so fucking what?” is an increasingly viable answer.

The book’s not high lit by any stretch of the imagination — I read the whole thing on New Year’s Day — but it was definitely fun. I’ve learned to be kind of circumspect about recommendations from places like BoingBoing or IO9, but this time around I wasn’t disappointed. I expect I’ll read the other two books Ben Winters has planned for Detective Palace.

Cotton Foolishness

It turns out Johnny Football is more fun to watch when he’s playing someone else; Leonard’s Loser is of course the freshly-routed Sooners, and we’re completely okay with that.

It does make us a little sad, though, to see that the Cotton Bowl game is no longer played in the actual Cotton Bowl; like most other big time football games in Dallas, it’s played at Cowboys Stadium over in Arlington (which, you’ll note, isn’t Dallas).

I actually noticed something interesting about StarHat Stadium at the beginning of the season, back when Alabama opened against Michigan there as a “neutral site” game. Jerryworld is much smaller than either college’s home facility — Michigan’s Big House has the largest seated capacity in the US at almost 110K; Bryant-Denny (#5) holds nearly 102K. A capacity crowd at the Cowboys’ home is a paltry 80K (#25), which made the game a particularly hot ticket. In fact, as I noted back then, Jerryworld isn’t even the biggest stadium in the Dallas area. The venerable, neglected Cotton Bowl seats 92,000.

This is a great one-point example of something that shocks folks who aren’t college gridiron fans: the biggest stadiums in the US are for college football. The largest pro field is the Giants/Jets home MetLife Stadium, which ranks 15th at about 83K; the top 14 are all for the college game, and the top 6 seat more than 100,000 people.

Anyway, the gist of this little trivia blurb is really just to tee up some snarking on bad journalism. This awful little bit over at Yahoo’s sports blogs talks a lot about how the Cotton Bowl Classic “outgrew” its original staidum home, and went on to “bigger and better” things, without once noting this very simple fact: its new home seats fewer people. Sure, parking’s probably better, and the facility itself is much nicer (the Cotton Bowl was built in 1930), but it sure as shit isn’t bigger than the Cotton Bowl itself.

Things I’ll Bet You Didn’t Know, College Football Edition

The other night, something weird happened in a bowl game that, apparently, has only happened one other time in Division I college football: the offense scored a 1-point safety on a point-after attempt.

This has resulted in LOTS of confusion and ignorant statements, which is par for the course with sports, and in this case it’s at least partially justified because the rules for college are very, very different from high school and college on this point. In those leagues, a change in possession during a PAT or 2-point conversion ends the play. No points are scored, and the kickoff proceeds normally. Not so in the NCAA.

The actual sequence of play in the Oregon game was something like this:

  1. Oregon lines up for a PAT kick.
  2. Ball is snapped.
  3. K State blocks the kick, and recovers the ball outside the end zone. (This is where, in the NFL or high school, the play would be whistled dead.)
  4. Wildcat player enters his own end zone to evade Ducks.
  5. Duck tackles Wildcat in the Wildcat end zone to end the play.

(The Wildcat, as part of his run, had also fumbled and recovered his own fumble, but this part wasn’t relevant to the ruling.)

The ruling on the field, which is correct, is that the Ducks scored a 1-point safety. This confused the bejesus out of some people; fortunately, we here at Heathen are some intensely pedantic motherfuckers.


Perusing the aforelinked NCAA rules actually makes this much clearer than you’d expect. The most stark thing you notice in that PDF is that the words “extra point” or “two point conversion” aren’t used in the rules. As far as the NCAA is concerned, there are only touchdowns, field goals, and safeties — but these things occur in both regular play and try downs, which are the single plays run after a touchdown scored in regularly play. You know a try down as the PAT or two-point conversion attempt. The try down is the source of much confusion!

During regularly play, as you know, a touchdown is 6, a field goal is 3, and a safety is 2. During a try down, however, the touchdown is 2, and the field goal and safety are worth only 1. (N.B. that this means an intercepted 2-point attempt run all the way back to the other end zone would be worth 2, not 6; this is called a defensive two-point conversion, and is also only possible in NCAA football.)

What happened in the Fiesta Bowl is clearly a safety — the player entered his own end zone deliberately, and was downed there. That counts as a safety in regular play, and in college try downs are no different. As a consequence, Oregon was awarded the single point.

As noted, this is super, super rare — but even rarer is a possibility allowed for the rules, but never actually seen in play: it’s possible (but incredibly unlikely) for the defense to score a safety on a try, too. Should a member of the kicking team deliberately enter his own end zone while holding the ball, and be downed there (say, after recovering a fumble from an intercepting defender who caught butterfinger disease a yard shy of the end zone), the defense would score a defensive conversion safety worth a single point — which means that, contrary to popular opinion, a score of 1 is possible in American football after all.

That’s it. It’s over. No one will EVER make a more awesome New Year’s Eve show.

It’s fair to say that KDOC in LA had a little technical trouble the other night, but it’s also fair to say that this was by no means the extent of their problems — clearly stoned guests, rampant F-bombs, drunk talent wondering aloud if they’re live, cuts to black and dead air, Jaime Kennedy, etc. The link is to a clip, but the YouTube poster has promised the whole thing this weekend.

Via Patton Oswalt on Twitter. Also over at Grantland.

Things that need to stop

Recently, businesses that have my cell number have decided it’d be okay to text me.

I disagree. Texts are fine if you’re my friend, or co-worker, or know me in some legitimate way. However, I am in no way okay with receiving automated texts of any kind.

So far, the only actual recourse I’ve found is to insist that these businesses delete my cell number. It’s apparently now a given that, if they have that number, they’ll generate automated texts. There’s no opt-out, short of zapping the number, which is annoying — if they want to call me, that’s fine. I just don’t want the texts.

It turns out that there ARE ways to block some kinds of automated texts, but I’m not 100% sure this will work — the culprits for me are reservation or appointment systems, but it does seem possible that they’re using the same internet-gateway type approach.

It’s the “former movie actor” part that kills me

The caption for this 1958 photo is “Patrolman Louis Romano questions former movie actor Lawrence Tierney in the West 54th Street Police Station early today. Tierney was arrested after a bruising battle with Romano and another policeman on Sixth Avenue after they had ejected him from a bar. All three were given treatment at a hospital and released.”

Some Heathen may recognize Tierney’s name, as the caption’s opinion of his career’s status turned out to be a bit off, as he worked consistently from 1943 until his death in 2002. He was in Reservoir Dogs, for example. Best of all, though, is that he’s the guy who plays Elaine’s dad in a 1991 Seinfeld episode called “The Jacket.” His character was inspired by my favorite writer:

Elaine’s father, a published author, was inspired by Richard Yates, author of Revolutionary Road, who Larry David had met while dating his daughter. Tierney’s performance as Elaine’s father was praised by the cast and crew, who intended to make Alton Benes a recurring character. However, they became frightened of Tierney when it was discovered that he stole a knife from the set.