Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Football

It's spring football season for Northwestern. In order to get properly fired up for a promising season, why not take a gander at Taking the Purple to Pasadena simultaneously commemorating the 1995 season, horrible sports-related rap, and cocky Gary Barnett shadow-boxing. In addition to creepily superimposing "Mr. Cat" Dave Eanet on a gray background with a faint outline leading to a video effect not entirely divorced from the famous Max Headroom pirating incident on Channel 11 (in a stunning blow to those fatcats at PBS who were showing an episode of Dr. Who), the video also features a who's who of famous Northwestern alumns including Charlton Heston who was not nearly toothily indignant enough for my liking.

Don't you worry, I'll have all day to damn this ape, says a shockingly
credulous Heston

They also roll out Dick Gephardt and George McGovern to fill out a roster of failed Northwestern presidential hopefuls in the great tradition of William Jennings Bryan, whose career serves as a virtual monument to failed causes: free silver coinage, himself as president, prohibition, and prosecuting John Scopes (he won the trial, but served as a popular subject of mockery, such as Time Magazine writing that he "successfully demonstrated by the alchemy of ignorance hot air may be transmuted into gold, and that the Bible is infallibly inspired except where it differs with him on the question of wine, women, and wealth.")

William Jennings Bryan was known to taunt opponents after
debates claiming that his style is incredulous, his verbage
is impenetrable, and he's just eloquent. Here he tells his
opponent "I want your heart. I want to eat his children. Praise
be to Allah."


With baseball season underway, it's time for the turtleneck and claret set to come out and proclaim the beauty of the game. On the radio the other day, they played a collection of baseball Haikus from PRI's Symphony Space read by Isaiah Sheffer and Alec Baldwin that have been helpfully archived here as the lead-off to the whole program. I really enjoy the concept of Alec Baldwin reading Haikus and hope that he regularly begins tossing them off in his gravelly baritone.

Put that coffee down
I'm from Mitch and Murray
Fuck you, that's my name

The Hunt for Red October is one of Baldwin's finest performances as he matches wits with a renegade Soviet submarine commander played by Sean Connery in the first of the movies based on Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan novels who was later played in two movies by Harrison Ford, who later went on to play a Soviet submarine commander with an accent nearly as comical as Connery's confounding Russian brogue.

Diagramming a run-on sentence

Of course, none of these Jack Ryans are the Jack Ryan who was supposed to run on the Republican ticket against Barack Obama in 2004. That Ryan was forced to withdraw (presumably through the machinations of James Earl Jones) after some salacious anecdotes slipped out during a messy divorce trial, which led to the Alan Keyes spectacle. The fictitious Jack Ryan is evidently doing better in Clancy's novels. As his extensive Wikipedia page notes:

In Debt of Honor, Ryan returns to government service to deal with a second war between Japan and the United States. For a brief time Ryan is the National Security Advisor, but when Vice President Ed Kealty is forced to resign after a sex scandal, President Roger Durling taps him for the job. Ryan accepts the Office of Vice President on the condition that it is only until the end of Durling's current term. He sees this as a way of ending his public life. He is barely confirmed for in Congress when a Japanese airline pilot deliberately crashes his 747 onto the Capitol during a joint session of Congress, killing most of the people inside, decapitating the U.S. government and elevating Ryan to the Presidency.

The reluctant yet determined Ryan Administration emerges in Executive Orders as Ryan slowly rebuilds the government. He is faced with political trickery by Ed Kealty, and a deadly plague initiated by the newly formed United Islamic Republic, resulting in two major military conflicts far from American shores.

Ebola virus
An airline kamikaze
Third prize is you're fired


The day after last week's post on Somali pirates, they swung on to the news scene by brazenly taking an American ship captain hostage, beginning a standoff that ended with SEAL snipers rescuing him, then vowed revenge on the U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne (D- New Jersey) became the victim of an attempted mortar attack as his plane left Mogadishu, but Al-Shabab, a rebel militant group, claimed responsibility, letting the pirates off the hook. “We fired on the airport to target the so-called Democratic congressman sent by Obama,” an Al-Shabab spokesman declared.

But where in the massive national coverage for this story is Jeffrey Gettleman, pirate reporter? The lead articles in the Times on the story were credited to Mark Mazzetti, who evidently works the Washington intelligence beat, and Sharon Otterman, a New York based international affairs reporter specializing on Africa who apparently drifted up to Gettleman's story, swung onto the deck, and seized it, along with chests full of hoop earrings and bandannas.

Mazzetti and Otterman collaborate on
Richard Phillipps story on the New York
Times News Galleon

Gettleman was left with a sidebar comparing the piracy situation to the Barbary pirate wars of the late eighteenth century, turning to no less than Thomas Jefferson to describe the situation: “When they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth, which usually struck such terror in the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.” The sailors were evidently cowed by the pirates' inability to grasp things and their menacing mumbling. Eventually, the pirates would attempt to wield four daggers for even more intimidation, but the options for remaining orifices that would accommodate a knife made this technique less than successful.

Not to be undone, the U.S. struck back with
a menacing display of epaulets,
muttonchops, and hosiery


Piracy off the Barbary Coast, of course, was the scourge of Medieval and Early Modern Europe along with the nascent United States. One of the most notorious pirates of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century was Zymen Danseker or Simon the Dancer, a Dutchman who operated out of Algiers, where he built an opulent palace as a monument to his ill-gotten gains. The French and Spanish sent fleets after him, but in 1609, he offered to give up his pirate lifestyle, and Henry IV, no stranger to compromise, gave him a pardon. Simon was later beheaded on a diplomatic mission to Aligiers.

The Huguenot Henry IV once said "Paris is worth a mass," but it actually
cost him his life as he was stabbed by Francois Ravaillac and an evidently
pitchfork wielding henchman (far right). Luck was not on the side of the
French Henrys. Henry III was assassinated by a Dominican friar after
turning the country against him by murdering his rivals. Henry II died
in a jousting accident.

The Barbary Coast was a hotbed of pirate activity, as you can see from this distressingly extensive Wikipedia List of Pirates. The Barbary Campaign was a significant early campaign for the U.S., but American military action did not end piracy in the region. Barbary piracy actually served as a key item on the agenda of the Congress of Vienna, along with the restoration of unsuccessful Bourbon monarchs whenever possible as well as the venerable King of Sardinia.

Metternich: No man shall leave this parlor until we determine the
fate of Swedish Pomerania

Pirate raiding on the Barbary Coast continued well into the nineteenth century. Both the British and French bombarded Algiers, which curtailed it, but it was only the French invasion of Algeria in 1830 that truly put a stop to it, which made Southeast Asia the premier pirating site.

So fire up your horrible sports-related rap lyrics, don an eye patch, denounce a sans-culotte, and always, always haiku.

Wait, that's not Alec
Classic Baldwin confusion
He's in Biodome

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