Friday, December 30, 2011

The Texas Bowl

Since the last post, the Northwestern football team lost its final game against Michigan State, leaving it in a precarious bowl position with a 6-6 record. Fortunately, bowl berths are not determined by precise formula, rationality, or by a giant wheel of non-BCS bowl games as I would prefer; instead it is through the much more entertaining process of intrigue, betrayal, and payola.

"It is he who has the most RVs that travels to the sunniest bowls," is something that
Machiavelli may have said if he was in the feudal position of NCAA President Mark
Emmert (shown at right demonstrating how to crush his enemies)

The chaos of the Big Ten season left several teams scheming against each other for the plum prize of mediocre bowl games played in barren stadiums to meager television audiences consisting of airport denizens and barflies. Northwestern took advantage of its network of international operatives and no doubt a sordid dabbling in horse-trading, bribery, and subtle threats scrawled on wax-sealed parchments to ensure that the Wildcat football team will once again return to its winter home in Texas. Since the 2000 season, the 'Cats have played all but two bowls in the Lone Star State.


Texas is known for its fierce independent spirit, its frontier lineage, and its prominence in pickup truck commercials that air constantly during NFL games. My favorite Texas residents, however, were a colony of French and Belgian followers of Charles Fourier. Fourier was a major French socialist thinker in the early nineteenth century but, according to historian Rondel Davidson in an article on the colony, the "tedious, ambiguous, and often preposterous nature of his writings" prevented them from catching on until after his death in 1837. His ideas centered on the creation of communal societies as a reaction to the social ills of early industrialization, but his plans for these societies contained the sort of hyper-specific mathematical precision of an delightfully off-the-rails social alchemist.

Fourier is commonly mocked for his grand pronouncements that, once society had been perfected, the natural world would respond by turning the seas into an ocean of lemonade. This reductionist view on Fourier as a mad lemonade prophet is understandably irresistible, especially considering his influence on utopian communities throughout the nineteenth century. Fourier scholars, however, would add that there is far more to his theories, for example his hatred of saltwater ecosystems as he wrote in his 1808 Theory of the Four Movements:
This breaking down of the sea water by the boreal liquid is a necessary preliminary to the development of new sea creatures, which will provide a host of amphibious servants to pull ships and help in fisheries, replacing the ghastly leions of sea-monsters which will be annihilated by the admixture of boreal fluid and the consequent changes in the sea's structure. The sudden death of all of them will rid the Ocean of these vile creatures , images of the intensity of our passions which are represented by the bloodthirsty battles of so many monsters.

Fourier (l) shared with other important philosophers an intense hatred of sea

The Texas colony at La Réunion was founded by a Fourier disciple named Victor Considerant. As Davidson relates in "Victor Considerant and the Failure of La Réunion" from the Jan 1973 edition of the Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Considerant found in Fourier's communal societies the solution to the social problems of mid-nineteenth century industrialization. He headed the Fourier Society and did far more to promote Fourierism than Fourier himself. His visions of social order saw a more gradual transition to communal society through government reform. In 1849, Considerant became involved in a plot to overthrow the newly-crowned Louis Napoleon and found himself in Belgian exile. Considerant could handle Belgium for less than three years; the American Fourierist Albert Brisbane invited him to America to plan a community in 1852.

Considerant's first preparation to
colonize Texas involved growing this

Considerant became quite taken with the climate of Texas and the spirit of the American frontier. By 1854, he had published two works outlining his plans for a colony called La Réunion outside of Dallas and began to raise subscribers in Europe. Colonists arrived in the summer of 1855, but it quickly fell apart. Davidson identifies several major causes for the failure of the community. For one, Texas land became a hot commodity while Consdierant was off raising funds, and the colonists were left with considerably worse land with a far greater price tag. He also had problems with his settlers, having failed to construct a Venn diagram showing the yawning chasm between hardy frontier people and people interested in the ideas of Fourier. Instead, he found that the main group of settlers were intellectuals almost completely bereft of the skills needed to survive in the wilderness. In addition, these settlers faced nativist anger from other settlers not particularly keen on an influx of European socialists, and beside that, the settlers found their French mostly useless. Even the winters were unusually severe. Considerant found the situation increasingly hopeless and grew despondent. He left for Europe in 1858 and, by the time he returned in 1859, La Réunion had become Le Abandon as colonists melted into Dallas or elsewhere.

Today, the frontier settlements of La Réunion have been swallowed up by downtown Dallas, its floundering farms and inept smiths and barren general stores entombed by shopping malls and interstates. And now, the idea of a French utopian socialist colony in Dallas seems as unlikely as a Northwestern bowl win after a decade of bowl results akin to the colonists' miserable crops.


Northwestern fans have come to Houston elated at securing a bowl berth from a disappointing season. Texas A&M started the season with grander ambitions and fell into the Texas Bowl after a comically disastrous string of second-half collapses. This season saw several bitter ends for the Aggies. They lost an opportunity to leave the Big 12 with a victory over arch-rival Texas on a last second field goal. Head coach Mike Sherman was fired, and interim coach Tim DeRuyter will leave for Fresno State. The Aggies and their paramilitary fanbase will make the short trip down the road hoping to end the season on a more positive note.

Mike Sherman Judd Nelsons his way
out of College Station

Despite these pressures, there is no doubt that a bowl victory means more to the Wildcats. Anyone reading this already knows and is sick of being reminded that they have yet to hoist a postseason trophy since 1949. Winning a bowl game, along with making the NCAA tournament, are the twin bogeys preventing Northwestern from fully ascending from its reputation as the worst athletic major college athletic program in the history of college sports to the comfort of mediocrity.

Nevertheless, the Wildcats face a tall task. A&M has an excellent passing attack led by quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and the Wildcats have struggled to stop big plays in the air all season. On the other side, Northwestern fans hope a recovered Dan Persa and the dynamic playmakers on the offense can keep up with their counterparts.

A lot of people grouse about the meaningless outcome of bowl games, but why scoff at more college football? I guarantee that no fan base has ever wanted to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas more than Northwestern wants a win tomorrow, even if all it means is that Northwestern was slightly better at football this year. And I'm sure that when the final whistle blows and the Wildcats pump their fists in victory in homage to their fist-pumping coach, they won't be celebrating being number 50. They'll know in their hearts that they are number 49.


The idea of French intellectuals flailing helplessly about the Texan countryside while spending evenings consulting their sea creature removal manuals is fairly amusing, but the nineteenth century utopian commune movement also demonstrates an admirable confrontation with the monumental task of finding ways to create a just and equitable society. And though some of their philosophers had loony passages in their works, or their communities may have failed to account for the logistics of actually creating a colony, we should take the mantle of Considerant and declare that it is Texas where the impossible shall become reality, the oceans shall turn to lemonade, and Northwestern will win a bowl game.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bowl Eligible

Northwestern defeated Minnesota in a tense LEGENDS DIVISION showdown with Minnesota, smashing the six win barrier, and securing a golden ticket that can potentially lead to a phenomenally crappy bowl game in the desolate outer reaches of the bowl landscape.

Far-flung Bowl officials were on hand to scout Northwestern in
their 28-13 victory over the Golden Gophers

But six wins is not enough to guarantee a bowl berth, especially in the topsy-turvy mediocrity of the Big Ten this season. At six wins, the 'Cats can be left out in the cold. In 2004, the Wildcats' 6-6 record was not enough for them to get to a bowl game after faltering against Timmy Chang's Hawaiian Juggernaut. This year, it seems the football team can still squeak their way to the type of bowl game mocked by people inexplicably angered by the presence of more college football, but nothing is certain.

Northwestern got to their sixth win thanks to a seemingly improving defense. Minnesota effectively moved the ball, but had trouble scoring-- one threat was neutralized by a Brian Peters interception despite the fact that his broken left hand is swaddled in a club cast reminiscent of the tail end of an anklyosaurus.

The stopping power of an ankylosaurus is accurately modeled
in this scholarly comic from something called


The discovery of dinosaur bones in the nineteenth century led to a predictable amount of scientific intrigue, back-biting, and accusation that occurs in the volatile confluence of a nascent scientific discipline, rough exploration, and Cretaceous grave-robbing. The enmity between Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh has been well chronicled (most entertainingly in Bill Bryson's wonderful A Short History of Nearly Everything) as a reliable source of comical dinosaur rivalry, as their competition to extract and identify dinosaur species fueled an incredible advancement of both dinosaur knowledge and academic pettiness.

The relationship between Cope and Marsh contained spectacular examples of skullduggery in the name of science. Marsh outclassed his rival at dinosaur-based espionage. At an early collaboration in New Jersey in the 1860s, Marsh apparently stabbed Cope in the back by bribing site workers to send fossils only to him. A Cope expedition in the 1870s included two men in Marsh's employ; one of them apparently claimed that he planned to lead Cope away from fossil sites in a classic act of dinosaur perfidy. Marsh, however, suffered a reversal of fortune when one of his men sent some fossils to Cope.

Dino-rivals Cope (l) and Marsh. Marsh is the bearded man in the top center of
the photo at right, shown with his phalanx of armed assistants no doubt
wielding rifles should they meet a rival fossil-collecting gang or should they
dig deep enough to uncover less deceased dinosaurs

The two sniped at each other in newspapers and scholarly journals, disagreeing over taxonomy and other scientific concerns. Throughout the 1870s, they struggled to keep major fossil finds from each other, going as far as using hush money, accepting tips from pseudonymous fossil hunters, and keeping tabs on each others' fossil collecting henchmen. This secrecy was encouraged by their increasing reluctance to travel to fossil sites themselves, instead funding teams of mercenary diggers and "dinosaur rustlers" that attempted to steal fossils from rival camps. I like to imagine that they also sent telegrams to each other gloating over their ruthless thefts, threatening each other, and using the word "bones" as often as possible such as "When you awaken tomorrow, you will find that it is I who controls the greatest sum of bones," or "I shall never forgive this treacherous act of bone-thieving and you should hope that you do not live to see how I avenge my bones," or ""I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I will break your bones. A bone for a bone, that is how I account for my bones."

An 1896 Marsh illustration of a Stegosaurus that in the best of
possible worlds would have been mailed to Cope with the phrase
"Feast your eyes upon these glorious bones" scrawled triumphantly

Marsh held the upper hand throughout the 1870s and 1880s. He ascended to the presidency of the National Academy of Sciences in 1883 and secured a position with the U.S. geological survey. Cope struck back when he began attacking Marsh and John Wesley Powell, the head of the Survey. The rivalry continued to their death, when Cope ordered his skull preserved and measured against Marsh's in order to prove that he literally had the largest brain. Marsh did not accept this phrenological challenge. Their legacy lives on, however, in my new publication called The Smallest Stakes: A Journal of Comical Academic Arguments featuring articles such as "I'm laughing at your use of the term 'trope': a catalog of my colleagues' bumbling ontology, 1991-present," and "I am bringing my burliest graduate students to our next conference."


Not only has Northwestern attained bowl eligibility, but the brave Wildcat basketball team has managed to win a pre-season basketball tourney of dubious prestige. Northwestern avenged an NIT loss against Tulsa, beat LSU, and downed Seton Hall in the championship game to win the Charleston Classic.

The Wildcats, resplendent in their new uniforms, jubilantly
hoist the hardware

The tournament win augers well for a veteran team. They will struggle to fill the shoes of Northwestern basketball legend Juice Thompson. John Shurna will attempt to lead the 'Cats to the promised land with a familiar cast of characters such as tournament MVP Drew Crawford, Alex Marcotullio, JerShon Cobb, and the unstoppable lumbering of Luka Mirkovic. Northwestern also returns last years successful formula of a high-scoring variant of the Princeton Offense and the disruptive 1-3-1 zone defense. The team is 4-0 after the tournament and a win over inexplicable perennial season-opener Texas Pan-American with whom the Wildcats must have some sort of intense bone feud.


The Chicago Bears collected another convincing win against San Diego last week. But they also lost Jay Cutler for the season, just as he began engineering an effective passing game fueled by his cannon arm and elusive mobility honed by running for his life. The offense will instead turn to relatively unknown backup Caleb Hanie. The Bears came close to reuniting with Chicago fan favorite Kyle Orton, who seemed poised to ride into town and help the squad Bears their way to victory with his array of acceptable mediocre professional passing after being unceremoniously dumped by a Denver Broncos team enthralled by their 1940s quarterback play.

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" Kyle Orton wins the crowd
with another 6 yard out

Instead, Orton was snapped up by the Kansas City Chiefs through the arcane waiver process that reportedly saw the Dallas Cowboys attempt to claim him specifically to prevent him from helping potential NFC playoff rivals in a move that Jerry Jones learned from the treacherous Cardinal Richelieu. As a final indignity, the Bears signed one of the McCown brothers. Though they can still make the playoffs by thrashing a weak AFC west slate, the odds of seeing Cutler triumphantly return for a Bears playoff game and sulk the squad to victory seem as remote as they did after their early season losses.


Meanwhile, Northwestern's football squad faces off Saturday against a Michigan State team with essentially nothing to play for. This is an unexpected result given the apparent reluctance for any team to win the Big Ten this year, suggesting that the divisions should have been named Chaos and Entropy (in all seriousness, that would still be less dumb than Legends and Leaders). Instead, the new Big Ten Championship game has unexpectedly taken the drama out of the last week of the season. The Spartans have already clinched a spot in the game and are unlikely to position themselves for a BCS spot unless they win the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. State, therefore, has little to gain by beating Northwestern. Mark Dantonio claims the Spartans will go all out to win, though it would be surprising to see him risking injury to some of his more important or most battered players.

For Northwestern, a victory guarantees an elusive bowl spot and moves them up the rank to a more prestigious game in the vague hierarchy of crappy bowls. They'll also be playing an emotional last home game for the seniors and attempt to wipe away the disastrous five game losing streak with a five triumphant victories, a point that Fitz will not publicly make, although I suspect he feeds his monotonous "one game at a time" nonsense to the press while secretly filling his players' heads with odes to their greatness and portraits of himself leading them to glory across the Alps while perched on an elephant that is stomping rival Big Ten mascots like so much Alp detritus.


Northwestern's program has entered another spectacular year with a bowl eligible football team and a Charleston Champion basketball squad. For some other programs, these accomplishments are risible but given the historical performance of both teams, these are titanic victories. Northwestern can make this a historical year by winning a bowl game and (dare I dream it) making the NCAA tournament on the back of Shurna's deadly chest heave. There is nothing to stop them, accept for jealous rivals who attack them in academic journals of sporting success and try to get their hands on their precious bones.

Friday, November 18, 2011


The Wildcats took care of business against Rice last weekend and head into a crucial showdown with Minnesota for bowl eligibility at Ryan Field on Saturday. The Wildcat defense contained Rice, the offense rolled as Persa connected with Ebert for a 90 yard score, and Northwestern managed to win a game it was supposed to win without causing spectators any undue heart palpitations.

A Northwestern fan prepares for a game
against a plucky non-conference opponent

The seemingly-revitalized Wildcat defense held Rice scoreless for most of the game. Their resolve will be tested against Minnesota, who gamely stepped into Northwestern's traditional role of upsetting Iowa, and retained possession of their hideous pig-trophy. The Gophers also hung in against Michigan State, but fell apart against a Wisconsin team that decided that the best way to avoid losing on a fluky hail mary was to completely annihilate their opponent. Minnesota QB Marqueis Gray has battled through injuries this season as well as some seemingly inexplicable benchings in favor of his freshman colleague Max Shortell, but looks to be at full strength against Northwestern.

The Wildcats are favored this weekend, but beating Minnesota has rarely been easy, even as their program has veered comically off the rails since the end of the Glen Mason era. The 'Cats suffered a defeat to the Gophers in 2009, and have found victory by the narrowest of margins; they squeaked by last year and in 2007 by a single point, and needed a near walk-off interception return in order to secure victory in 2008. No one on either side is taking anyone for granted.

Minnesota's first-year head coach Jerry
Kill relies on the ancient motivational art
of bellowing to ensure excellence from his


The Chicago Bears have been surprisingly decent. Like last year, the Bears spent the early season on a quest to punish quarterback Jay Cutler by subjecting him to an unending series of sackings. And again like last year, the offensive line has found some semblance of cohesion and Mike Martz has either been convinced or cajoled at the point of a bayonet into calling more rushing plays and short passes in his Greatest Show on Sludge offensive attack. In short, we've seen the Bears return to winning in spite of themselves with good defense, a great running back, and phenomenal special teams.

For most of their existence, the Bears have had the same identity, and it is amazing how, no matter what players or coaches end up on the team, the Bears remain the Bears. My favorite Bears season was probably the 2001 season, where a mediocre Bears team careened into the playoffs thanks to two consecutive Mike Brown overtime interceptions. The most Bears victory of all time, however, probably was this 2004 game against the Tennessee Titans. Chicago quarterback Craig Krenzel passed for 116 yards and two interceptions, and the Bears scored in regulation on an interception return by defensive end Michael Haynes, an R.W. McQuarters punt return, and a field goal. They won in overtime with a safety.

Announcers enjoyed reminding viewers that Krenzel
majored in molecular genetics at Ohio State. In this photo,
a number of Dallas Cowboys science enthusiasts happily
indulge his wish to get a closer look at Cowboys Stadium
grass ecosystem

Last Saturday's game against the Lions was another classic Bears win, as they scored touchdowns on two interception returns, a Devin Hester punt return, and a Forte run set up by a Detroit fumble. The game was also notable for a comical brawl ignited by a Matt Stafford tackle on an interception return, which emptied both benches.

The Lions are lucky that Martz coaches from the
press box and is not allowed to bring his
gladiatorial implements to Soldier Field

Though the Bears are unlikely to win the North unless Aaron Rodgers decides to spite Packer fans by inexplicably retiring mid-season, purchasing a large tract of land in Mississippi, and contentedly drive a lawn mower around its premises for several months, they remain in the mix for a Wild Card berth.


Theo Epstein has emerged from his Wrigleyville lair to proclaim that Dale Sveum will be the Cubs' new manager. He will replace Mike Quade, who lost favor with the organization because he refused to intimidate the opposition with an array of false eyebrows patterned on historical figures.

Quade models the "Eyebrows of Yalta" collection

The exact impact that a manager has on a baseball team is not completely certain. Unlike football head coaches, who spend a week devising their team's overall strategy, or basketball head coaches who expertly use timeouts to slow the last minute of a close game to a crawl and contort comically along the bench for our amusement, baseball managers affect a game mainly through setting lineups, devising pitching changes, foolishly calling for bunts despite concrete evidence that sacrificing outs is more often than not detrimental to a team, and occasionally berating umpires in a manner that compromises the dignity of everyone involved. It seems in the modern game, the manager's job largely involves controlling the clubhouse and eating shit from the media, especially in Chicago, where pundits blast managers for not leading their teams to play better. On a team bereft of major league talent like the Cubs, this means that the media expects the managers to emit baseball improvement rays in order to force his players to hit and field better.

I don't know anything about Sveum. I'm working on making sure I pronounce his name correctly so I can most accurately hurl epithets at my television when he does something order a hit and run with Alfonso Soriano batting or call Jeff Samardzija to pitch, or any of the million other minor decisions a manager will make during the course of the endless season as the Cubs inevitably sputter through a rebuilding year. I mostly know him as the third base coach of the Red Sox who was often criticized for his ambition in sending runners home.

Sveum (l) performs the vital third base coach role of congratulating a player
hitting a home run. Reed Sox fans' venom for the occasional out at the plate
was matched at the time for Cubs fans' consternation with then-third base
coach Wendell Kim. Kim earned two derogatory nicknames: "Wavin' Wendell"
and "Send 'em in Kim"

Sveum joins a long line of Cubs managers dating back to Albert Spalding in in 1876. The position of manager was in flux in the nineteenth and early twentieth century with managers who were either active players or retired players more akin to modern managers. The Cubs' nineteenth and early twentieth-century squads used a mixture of player-managers such as Cap Anson, Frank Chance, Silver Flint, and the dashing Bob Ferguson, who had not only one of the most swashbuckling middle names in baseball history (Vavasour), but also one of its best nicknames ("Death to Flying Things"). In the years between Anson and Chance, Cubs managers did not play, but directed their teams from the bench, content to spit, smoke, and encourage their players' general baseballmanship.

Cubs managers from 1878-1905 (clockwise from top left) Bob
Ferguson, Cap Anson, Silver Flint, Tom Burns, Tom Loftus,
and Frank Selee. The clean-shaven Frank Chance took over in
1905, shattering baseball's mustache ceiling


Northwestern has looked greatly improved on defense the last two weeks and will be looking to prove that their defense is not merely the result of an inadequate Nebraska coaching scheme and playing Rice. Otherwise, they will have to rely on a traditional Northwestern game plan to outscore the opposition. Minnesota fans certainly see this as a winnable game for their reeling squad after a slate of disappointing early losses.

A win here puts the Wildcats into technical bowl eligibility. Unfortunately, with the rest of the Big Ten likely to fill its berths, the 'Cats will need some teams on the precipice of eligibility to fall apart and hope that the bowl fatcats come a-callin' with their wads of cash, their silver topped canes, and their promises to do their stadium up all pretty. Otherwise, the Wildcats will be ineffectually waiting by the phone in the cold before challenging the University of Chicago to some sort of Quiz Bowl in order to satisfy bowl-starved Northwestern students and alumni. Yet all of this prognostication is for naught without a win against the plucky Gophers and perhaps even an upset against Michigan State to ensure a place at some miserable bowl and turn fans' frowns upside down.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Husked Corn and Other Staple Crops

Northwestern beat Nebraska. Northwestern beat Nebraska. Northwestern went into Lincoln, Nebraska, beat the #10 team in the country, and has begun an inexorable march to a Pizza City bowl to wreak havoc against another middling team that has also slunk into the postseason, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Pat Fitzgerald can smile again after a rough stretch for his Wildcat football squad

The Northwestern offense once again rallied around jack-of-all-trades Kain Colter after Dan Persa's injury in the second quarter. Colter hit Jeremy Ebert on an 81 yard pass and led the 'Cats on a game-clinching seven minute drive against Nebraska's fearsome "Blackshirt" defense that got its name from Husker football coach Bob Devaney's hatred of former Italian Prime Minister Luigi Facta.

Luigi Facta is best known for stepping down during Mussolini's March on Rome in
1922. He initially gained power for a perceived positive attitude due to his perennially
smiling mustache, among the most spectacular of Europe's interwar mustaches. I
found the logo on the right on Nebraska's official page and not an ill-fated Nebraska
video game for the Atari Jaguar where the Husker defenders were forced to prove they
were bad enough dudes to rescue the president

More importantly, Northwestern's defense played its best game of the season. Though they allowed a career day in the air for Husker QB Tyler Martinez, they kept the Nebraska running game in check, even though they have a running back named "Rex Burkhead," a running back name that would only be topped by something like Truck Shoveler. The Wildcat defense stopped Martinez, Wrench Lunchhandler, and the Husker offensive line repeatedly and caused two key fumbles as the Nebraska coaches stubbornly stuck to the their run game against a stout Northwestern front that I now know would make these Wildcats unstoppable in 1904.


Northwestern must hold steady as Rice comes to Evanston to avenge last years 30-13 loss in Houston. Though Rice has had a tough year at 3-6 and sports one of the most porous defenses in college football, Northwestern fans know first-hand the danger of taking an opponent for granted. A home loss to Rice after last week's monumental victory in Lincoln would be a profound reversal of fortune that could end Northwestern's bowl hopes.

Rice is itself coming off a momentum-swinging victory over Conference USA foes UTEP. Rice quarterback Nick Fanuzzi came off the bench to lead the Owls with 405 yards passing and three touchdowns, as noted in this article from the Rice Thresher student newspaper that is now making me mildly disappointed that their football team is not also named The Threshers with a correspondingly violent Texas football hand gesture. The Owls have also managed a Big Ten upset this season as they defeated Purdue and helped move the Danny Hope regime to "embattled" status.

Purdue Coach Danny Hope has become more haggard with every

Dan Persa will return as quarterback for the Wildcats after suffering a shoulder injury that forced him out of the Nebraska game. Persa will add that to his growing list of ailments that he has shrugged off like a nineteenth century strongman who plays through injury because science has yet to diagnose them properly, for example shrugging off a hernia induced by excess triangular weight lifting as a bowel malady cured only by snorting lizard powders and applying electrodes to his person.


Rice Stadium was the famous venue of President Kennedy's 1960 Moon Mission Speech, where he likened space travel to the difficult feats of climbing the highest mountain, flying across the Atlantic, and attempting to defeat the University of Texas at football. Northwestern has unfortunately as far as I'm aware been the site for any presidential moon grandstanding.

Kennedy returned to Rice a year later for his lesser
known follow-up speech entitled "I Hate the Moon,"
where Kennedy got tough on the moon, characterizing
its alteration of American tides as suspiciously
communist in nature, casting suspicion upon the 1961
lunar eclipse, and earning a rousing ovation for claiming
that "if the man in the moon were to come into this
stadium right now, I would punch him his smug lunar

Kennedy wanted to send astronauts to the moon as quickly as possible, but space travel created complicated legal issues over moon sovereignty. In 1967, United States, United Kingdom, and Soviet Union signed the Outer Space Treaty to regulate acceptable uses for outer space. The Treaty banned launching nuclear missiles from space or storing them on the moon or other celestial bodies. It also banned setting up lunar military installations. The Treaty's provisions unfortunately served as a direct provocation for Bond villains who spent the remainder of the century constructing moon bases and threatening the Earth with all manner of space-borne attacks such as missiles, weather disruptions, and, in up to 65% of Bond movies, some sort of space laser.

The Treaty was in part a reaction to American meddling in space for defense purposes. The 1967 West Ford project launched 480 million cooper diodes into orbit in order to construct an artificial ionosphere in order to facilitate global radio communications. The project was created as an alternative to conventional cable or radio communications that the government feared were vulnerable to Soviet disruption. British and Soviet scientists protested, with Pravda chipping in with a headline reading "USA Dirties Space." The project inspired a clause in the treaty to provide for international consultation to alert other nations to space experiments. Satellite technology quickly rendered the West Ford project obsolete, although remnant diodes remain in orbit.

A 1979 Moon Treaty attempted to subject space and all celestial bodies to international control. The treaty banned exploration of celestial bodies without notifying other nations or consulting the UN Secretary General and forbid claiming sovereignty over other planets, moons, and the like. This treaty has been approved by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, and Uruguay, none of which have managed to successfully put a person in position to either peacefully explore the heavens or exploit space for nefarious means or tell other to stay the hell away from Ganymede.

An important array of laws governing the use of outer space exist
specifically to prevent this from happening


Last Friday, the Northwestern football season appeared over. Now, the Wildcats have renewed hope. A victory over Rice and either Minnesota or Michigan State will make Northwestern eligible for spectacularly awful bowl game/tractor expo and I can't possibly be more excited. Of course, at 6-6, Northwestern can go to a bowl only if other conferences cannot fill their allotments or the teams bow out of the bowl from shame or some sort of ridiculous NCAA infraction such as punishing players for high-fiving too vigorously for the NCAA's liking. Winning out will guarantee a bowl berth in some god-forsaken wind-swept land. Northwestern fans like the team's chances more against Rice and Minnesota, although the Gophers have been dangerously scrappy lately. Michigan State remains the toughest game on the schedule, though one can never underestimate the Spartans' predilection for unexpected localized ineptitude.

After being mired in the doom and gloom of a losing season, Northwestern has hope again. And if we can play a basketball game on an aircraft carrier, why can't Northwestern play a shitty bowl game on the moon? We do these things not because they're easy, but because they're hard.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


A victory for Northwestern at last. The Wildcats recorded their first win since trouncing Eastern Illinois and snapped a five-game losing streak by beating Indiana and then stepping on them to get inches above the Big Ten cellar. It was a remarkable offensive performance against Indiana's matador defense as the Wildcats put up 59 points. Along the way, Drake Dunsmore set a Northwestern record with four touchdown catches, setting off a hailstorm of horrible commentator puns such as "Drake Duns-score," "Drake Dunsfour," and others too ghastly to dignify with a mention in this august online publication. As a professional supplier of ape-related puns to car dealerships using giant inflatable monkey marketing, I urge Big Ten Network television crews to holster their puns and leave it to the pros.

"Our prices are bananas," "This A.P.R. will
make you go A.P.E.," and "Let this orangutan
sell you a tan Durango," are the ones I'm
giving out for free

No one doubts that Northwestern can put points on the board. The Wildcat offense confused Indiana with a variety of looks, as the versatile Kain Colter lined up at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, superback, and right tackle as well as kicked an extra point, coordinated the defense, took a turn inside the Willie costume, liaised with the media, organized the Athletic Department budget, and participated in a psych 110 experiment during media timeouts.

Fitz and Mick McCall sent Colter on a mission to represent
Northwestern football at the European Sovereign Debt Crisis
summit after handing the offense to Trevor Siemian and the

Northwestern's defense, however, still gave up 38 points to the Hoosiers and had difficulty tackling their dynamic freshman quarterback Tre Roberson. While Northwestern's defense allowed the offense to outscore Indiana, they will have a tougher task as they travel to Lincoln to begin their rivalry against divisional foes Nebraska.


Northwestern will be looking to try to save their season against the newcomers who mark the first step in Big Ten expansion towards 64 teams. As most Wildcat fans know, the last meeting with Nebraska ended in an Alamo Bowl routing appropriate for its location near the actual Alamo. The defeat has been seared into the minds of Wildcat fans thirsting for vengeance and Nebraska fans, some of whom can recall playing in something called the "Alamo Bowl" in the year 2000.

This year, unfortunately, the possibilities of revenge seem slim for the Wildcats. They face a 7-1 Husker squad ranked #10 in the BCS standings that has only lost to a seemingly unstoppable Wisconsin team that had not yet exposed its vulnerability to the hucking the ball 50 yards into the endzone with no time remaining play. Northwestern, on the other hand, limps into this game quite literally, with Dan Persa suffering from a painful turf toe injury. The Wildcats also must win in Lincoln's creatively-named Memorial Stadium against 80,000 screaming Husker fanatics hoping to intimidate the Northwestern offense with noise and their horrifying mascot who lurks in the shadows with his frozen grin belaying a confidence in all manners of sinister uses for corn farming implements.

Nebraska's mascot was created as a composite of popular
children's nightmares

How will the game shake out? On the one hand, the Huskers don't pass the ball particularly effectively, which helps cover up some defensive struggles against the long ball. On the other hand, Northwestern's run defense has been closer to Maginot than Thermopylae, and they will be facing a far stouter defense than Indiana's feeble unit. No one but Pat Fitzgerald seems to think the Wildcats have a chance. But Northwestern football thrives as the underdog with no expectations, and Nebraska may be looking past the 'Cats to a meeting with potential inaugural Big Ten Championship opponents Penn State the next week. Anything can happen in the Big Ten, and Northwestern has yet to notch their annual signature upset by failing to beat a surprisingly weak Iowa team. Hopefully, the Wildcats can catch an overconfident Nebraska team unaware as they prepare mainly by choreographing elaborate touchdown celebrations designed to flout the spirit but not the letter of stringent NCAA restrictions to prevent football players from enjoying themselves.


Nebraska joins the Big Ten as a vital corn-producing region with a team nickname paying homage to their connection to the crop. The American mastery of maize continued to fascinate corn's greatest 20th century enthusiast, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In the 1955, Khrushchev implemented a wide-ranging program to jump-start corn production in the Soviet Union. His enthusiasm grew after visiting the United States and, in particular, the vast Iowa cornfields of Roswell Garst, who then sold the USSR thousands of tons of seed to help rectify the Soviet Union's wretched state of cornlessness.

Comrades! We will crush the imperialist Redenbacher

There's a wonderful report on Khruschev's corn program in Central European University's OSA records of intelligence reports filed for Radio Free Europe about the goings-on behind the Iron Curtain. According to a 1958 report entitled "Khrushchev and Corn," the author has noted that Khrushchev had championed the crop since 1939. The document points out that "Almost every foreign speech...pays tribute to corn and often yields such bon mots as 'Corn in the hand means a pork chop in the mouth.'" The corn campaign, however, failed to live up to its expectations. The directive ordered growing corn in less than optimal conditions, and collective farm administrators dragged their heels in corn planting. The Politburo blamed problems on resistance from farm authorities and appointed corn inspectors, which the report incredulously describes as "another echelon of farm authority." "Only a Gogol could do justice to the Khrushehevian kolkhoz [collective farm] corn inspector," the report concludes.

The Radio Free Europe reports are a fascinating source of Soviet statistical misinformation and bureaucratic rapaciousness. The writer of the reports demonstrates a simultaneous cynicism and appreciation for the absurdity in these accounts, describing Soviet actions invariably as "malfeasance and skullduggery." In a report entitled "Butter and Egg Man-- Soviet Style," the author describes the results of a Soviet drive to catch up to the United States in livestock products such as meat, milk, and eggs. It reproduces a story (from where, it is unclear) about a Kirghiz collective farm where the chickens and cows began to double and triple egg and milk production over the amount they would normally produce when bound by traditional restrictions such as the laws of physics and biology. The reason for the increase was not the development of a Soviet super-cow (which surely would have ended the Cold War and begun a reign of worldwide Soviet hegemony), but through what the report describes wonderfully as "the swindler's machinations" of the farm administrator. Inquiries revealed similar statistical anomalies at nearby farms. The administrator, however, remained in his position.

Another report that must have been filed by the same author entitled "Kolkhoz Cash And Carry Operators" from 1959 discusses the corruption of state farms. The author attributes the problems to the practice of consolidation of farms into larger entities, reflecting a Stalin-esque "gigantomania" with enormous projects that led to opportunities for large-scale corruption among the "conniving cadres." The boodle involved inventing fictitious orders for supplies and pocketing the excess. As the annex notes "all sorts of business operators (deltsy) and intriguers are being attracted, as flies are by honey, by the chance to make profits" in acts of brazen misappropriation of state resources that would stagger even the most sticky-fingered Chicago machine bosses. The one significant weakness in this sort of Soviet boondoggle is that the Communist Party's faceless bureaucracy left these men unaccountable to the people and therefore unsuitably lacking in the nicknames necessary for the perpetration of acts of swindlery and corruptitude. Think of how much more impressive the reports would be if these acts of larcenous bureaucracy were perpetrated by people named "Tractor" Ivan Stepanovich or Grigory "Little Lenin" Pavlovich.

This poster celebrates the triumphant ordering of 100,000 fake
tractors by crooked kolkhoz operators


It is true that Northwestern is facing long odds against Nebraska. But it is also true that this is college football where the improbable and the unlikely occur on a weekly basis. Northwestern is still technically fighting for a bowl spot and a major upset this Saturday can turn the season around and ensure a berth in whatever god-forsaken bowl game would have the Wildcats. But should Wildcats yield to inevitability and the football team falters in its upset, I have no problem falsifying reports of victory and spreading them across the Big Ten. And then pilfering money meant for the purchase of vast swathes of Soviet capital goods.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hoosier Weekend

Northwestern again looked good in the first half before falling apart in the second against Penn State. On the other hand, they did so while joining the trend of using Future Uniforms meant to invoke the gradual transformation of college football into an underground arena blood sport where defensive backs are allowed to use implements such as pruning shears and laser cannons to slow down offenses.

Northwestern's special alternate
uniforms irritate Wildcat football

The Northwestern defense once again had holes. Penn State QB Matt McGloin wasted no time bombing it to the endzone, and Silas Redd carved up the Wildcats for 164 yards, averaging 9.1 yards per carry while sporting a name befitting a Dickensian villain. The Northwestern offense, prolific in the first half, failed to score a point in the second half. Dan Persa left the game with a turf toe injury, making him questionable for the Indiana game. Joe Paterno won his 408th game and tied the record for most wins for a Division I coach and continuing his undefeated streak against Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats lost their fifth game in a row and now need to all but win out to make it to the post-season. A cyclone has ripped Ryan Field from the ground and deposited it in the lake. Pat Fitzgerald has been spirited away by pirates and is being held ransom for chests of doubloons and spices from the Orient. A Big Ten shaman has placed a curse on the team rendering them unable to wear cleats for the rest of the season. The indoor practice facility has become sentient and turned evil, held at bay only by a mob of Evanston citizens with torches. It has been a rough week for Northwestern football.

Even Air Willie has been mysteriously swapped out for Evil Air


For the Wildcats to make it to a bowl, they'll have to use all of the cunning, strategy, and daring British eccentricity of Geoffrey Spicer-Simson to pull off the seemingly impossible. Spicer-Simson led one of the strangest naval campaigns in modern history during the First World War when he and his men transported two motor boats named the Mimi and Toutou overland from Cape Town to engage with German gunboats in a battle for supremacy over Lake Tanganyika. Spicer-Simson's adventures are chronicled in Giles Foden's Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Taganyika, which details how Spicer-Simson led the expedition, successfully destroyed two German vessels, and inspired the C.S. Forrester novel and John Huston movie The African Queen.

Spicer-Simson was an unlikely candidate to lead the expedition. He did not exactly fit the model of an early twentieth century naval officer. His body was covered in an extensive array of butterfly and snake tattoos and, once deployed on his African mission, he eschewed the tyranny of pants in favor of more breathable khaki skirts. Still, if he had he been the second coming of Nelson, the Admiralty would have probably forgiven his unbecoming epidermal decorations. His naval record, however, revealed a dangerous propensity for incompetence in all manners of sea-borne combat. As Foden relates, Spicer-Simson had already been twice court-martialled: once for smashing his destroyer into a liberty boat bringing sailors ashore for leave; another time he drove his boat onto a beach. Spicer-Simson also nearly sank a British submarine during a periscope hunting exercise and during the war he abandoned his coastal flotilla for an evening reverie with his wife only to watch from a hotel window as German torpedoes destroyed one of his ships. By the time the Admiralty planned to launch an expedition, they seemed wary of allowing Spicer-Simson to command a fleet of rubber animals patrolling a bathtub.

Spicer-Simson shown in naval uniform and as a tin soldier
in his more familiar khaki skirt get-up

The British government had learned of the German presence from a big game hunter named John Lee who spotted the Kaiser's legions aboard a fearsome gunboat called the Hedwig von Wissen while stalking an elephant. First Sea Lord Henry Jackson ordered an attack on the German ships at Lake Taganyika, declaring with the cartoonish hubris of a nineteenth-century British naval officer that "it is both the duty and the tradition of the Royal Navy to engage the enemy wherever there is water to float a ship." At the same time, Lake Tanganyika was hardly a priority for the war, and the Navy had a difficult time finding someone to lead the expedition. Eventually they settled on Spicer-Simson who, according to Foden, was either the last man left or simply in the right place at the right time, sitting at his desk where the Navy hoped he could inflict minimal damage upon their war effort.

Foden wonderfully describes Spicer-Simson's merry band of outcast adventurers that included a Chief Engineer who had been a Grand-Prix-winning race car driver who with limited knowledge of engines, a medical officer described by Foden as having "an odd way with sideburns," an adventurer-reporter who had already been declared dead once, and two enormous kilt-wearing Scotsmen who joined the expedition directly from the tavern. Of course my favorite of the officers was C.T. Tyrer, who affected a monocle, consumed Worcestershire sauce as a beverage, and referred to everyone as "Dear Boy." The plan was to arrive in Cape Town and transport the two eight-ton boats overland through the use of rails, oxcarts, and the occasional pulling power of the beefy Scotsman 10,000 miles to the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika.

The map at left shows the distance from Port Elizabeth to where the boats eventually
launched. The transport of the boats went mainly by locomotive, although used a variety
of means of transportation in a military version of Fitzcarraldo

The British operation's absurdity meant it attracted ample attention. As Foden relates by using both British and German sources, the Germans knew of the expedition well before Spicer-Simson reached the lake. Nevertheless, the expedition proved remarkably successful. The expedition captured a German vessel and added it to their flotilla (renaming it from the Kingani to the more terrifying Fifi). They sunk the Hedwig and captured her crew. Spicer-Simson considered his mission completed. The Allied Forces, however, did not yet rule Lake Tanganyika's waves. Another German ship, the massive 1200 ton converted ferry Graf von Götzen, still patrolled its waters. Spicer-Simson was reluctant to engage the larger ship with its imposing 105 mm gun. He sought to counter by adding a larger vessel to his fleet. The naval battle, however, never came to fruition. While Spicer-Simson schemed, British and Belgian forces successfully attacked German positions by land. When ordered to support an attack on a German harbor, he instead ordered his fleet to flee in fear of the fort's guns. British forces captured the fort without him. Spicer-Simson returned to meet with the victorious British army, who, as Foden relates, revealed that he had fled from fake wooden artillery, mocked his cowardice, and, most painfully, cat-called him for his skirt-wearing proclivities. It was a low moment.

As for the Graf von Götzen, Belgian airplanes had damaged it and the German commander had it scuttled. Investigations later showed that the German forces had removed the ship's guns and it too sported wooden decoys. Defenseless, the Mimi and Toutou could have easily sunk it.

Spicer-Simson was rewarded with medals from both Britain and Belgium, but the Navy had apparently seen enough of him. As Foden relates, he was never given command of a ship again and immediately returned to his desk job.

Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure does not stop there, though. Foden appends the book with an entertaining depiction of the making of The African Queen, where apparently Huston descended into directorial madness and earned the nickname "The Monster." The crew suffered tropical illnesses and star Humphrey Bogart self-medicated with an abundant supply of scotch. Foden closes the book with his own journey on the Lake on the Liemba, a cargo ship reassembled from the Graf von Götzen itself.

This still from The African Queen perhaps suggests why Hepburn
later wrote a book called The Making of the African Queen: Or How
I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My


The Wildcats travel overland to Bloomington this weekend to take on another Big Ten cellar dweller in Indiana. This should be a favorable match-up for the 'Cats, but these two teams have a recent history of close games, and Indiana's first-year coach Kevin Wilson must also see this as a winnable conference game for his squad. Wilson, of course, had been instrumental as Northwestern's offensive coordinator, unleashing of the spread offense in the first years of Randy Walker's tenure. Logic says to expect a shoot-out against a similar offense-first opponent, although given how things usually turn out when I predict them, the game will almost certainly end as a 4-2 slugfest with all scoring achieved via safeties and blocked extra point returns.

A loss here effectively ends Northwestern's season, but a victory sets up the possibility of going 6-6 by beating Rice and Minnesota, miraculously upsetting one of Michigan State or Nebraska, and possibly sneaking into a bowl game by stealthily huddling under canoes. Although this season has been maddening through the squandering of many leads, Wildcat fans can at least enjoy watching younger players such as Colter, Siemian, and Smith begin to solidify the offense of the future. A future where Northwestern uniforms include gray helmets and utility belts, and the NCAA is controlled by an even more blatantly corporate cabal of bloodsport-peddlers hoping to harness our amusement for their nefarious double-dealing.

Enjoy your Inevitable Future NCAA Football Dystopia

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The Wildcats will head home from Saturday's loss against Iowa to face Penn State under the lights. Though Northwestern mounted a comeback from 17 down to tie the game and menace Iowa fans with the specter of another game slipping through their fingers in the manner of a suave international jewel thief continually foiling a dogged Interpol agent, the 'Cats ran out of mojo in the fourth quarter. Hawkeye fans hope that a win against Fitzgerald will finally break the Wildcats' spell over their snake-bitten program, but I suspect that Northwestern lost the game to lure them into a false sense of security. Next year, Iowa fans will not only face a Northwestern team hell-bent on vengeance, but a rival patriotic card display promoting Soviet industry by filling the stands with gigantic pictures of Lenin and tractor factories located in the former Tajik SSR.

Jubilant Hawkeye fans storm Iowa City to celebrate finally
defeating the indomitable Wildcats

Iowa now prepares for a cross-divisional showdown with Indiana as they attempt to stay in the lead for the division. The loss, meanwhile, marks the fourth consecutive defeat for the Wildcats as they cling precariously to the cliff of bowl eligibility while the prospect of contending for a divisional crown has been tied to the railroad tracks and no doubt gruesomely eviscerated by a passing locomotive.


Watching the World Series is bittersweet since its very existence evinces the Cubs' masterful futility. This year, instead of retreating to their traditional October irrelevance, the Cubs are busy completing a complicated Morris Dance with the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres in an attempt to sign Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and, perhaps tomorrow, exhume the corpse of Branch Rickey in order to bring the Cubs a front office that uses modern baseball analysis instead of relying on some sort of arcane wizardry that hopes to enable the likes of Aaron Miles to successfully play Major League baseball.

Famed Elizabethan clown Will Kempe claimed to have Morris
danced from London to Norwitch over nine agonizingly
annoying days

As the drama unfolds, the only pleasure left for the bitter husks of Cub fans is to root against the St. Louis Cardinals and the machinations of Tony La Russa. La Russa, who fancies himself the type of manager who plays chess while the others play checkers, enjoys doing things like using back-up catcher Gerald Laird as a pinch-runner and playing the matchups to the extent where I'm fairly sure he would alternate pitchers every pitch if it was allowed by the rules. Unfortunately, watching the World Series also means being subjected to Fox coverage, bringing with it the dynamic duo of Tim McCarver and Joe Buck who combine an emotionless blasé delivery with inane gibberish. By the end of the game, it is no longer possible to distinguish McCarver's words from this Italian fake English go-go song. Fox has yet to unveil its baseball robot yet, but has treated fans to a special infrared camera that achieves the same effect achieved by Rowdy Roddy Piper when he put on the They Live glasses.

The Fox infrared camera in action. After the game, Buck and
McCarver pummeled each other in a parking lot for seven solid

Even when it comes to the facile world of sports fandom, there's nothing noble about watching a game specifically hoping for a rival team to fail. It feels somewhat seedy, not unlike going to a bullfight secretly hoping to see a goring, rooting for the Apes to neutralize Charlton Heston, or watching a demolition derby wishing for the cars to escape with nary a scratch. At the same time, sports provides a rare arena to guiltlessly wish misery upon a group of people with whom I have no other quarrel other than the color of their jersey and I hope that the good people of St. Louis are forced to endure an offseason reliving a horrible World Series moment such as losing a game because of an unnecessary headfirst slide by Nick Punto whose lack of a basic grasp of the laws of physics ends up dooming the Cardinals.


Just as Kirk Ferentz finally exorcised his Northwestern demons, Pat Fitzgerald will attempt to finally beat Penn State. Fitz is 0-3 against the Nittany Lions, including last year's stunning loss where the Wildcats blew a 21-0 lead, which served as a helpful preview of every loss this season. Northwestern has only beaten Penn State three times since they began playing them in 1993. At least that is one more than Penn State's early twentieth century rivals Washington and Jefferson College, who managed only two victories against Penn State from 1894-1917. It should be noted, however, that the Jaymen as they were then known (now their nickname is the vastly more satisfying Presidents although it is not clear whether it refers specifically to Washington and Jefferson or extends to all presidents, even crappy ones such as Chester A. Arthur) tied them twice, including an 1899 contest ended by the referee for fighting. Considering that football in 1899 was largely indistinguishable from the pleasant meeting of a pair of angry mobs, I'm assuming that the game descended into manly displays of pugilism and cudgelmanship.

Of course, no football game could roil nineteenth century American pugilists more than the works of Shakespeare. In the 1840s, a feud between actors Edwin Forrest and William Charles Macready took a violent turn as partisans for each actor pummeled each other in the streets of Manhattan. Forrest had taken to following Macready's American tour, taking the same roles as a way to prove himself the superior soliloquizer. As wikipedia suggests, their rivalry became a proxy battle for tensions between the United States and Britain; working class Americans favored the American Forrest as their own, while Anglophile upper classes preferred Britain's Macready. Feelings ran so strong that even virulently anti-Irish nativists joined with their emerald brethren in the time honored nineteenth century American tradition of hating British people.

Macready endured taunts, sheep carcases, and cries of "Down with the codfish aristocracy." In May 1849, Macready endured heckling at a performance at the Astor Opera House filled with angry pro-Forrest factions stoked by fliers distributed by Tammany Hall Boss Isaiah Rynders invoking patriotic rhetoric to quell this Shakespeare insurgency. The hostile crowd, who had earlier pelted Macready with offal, including what the wikipedia page describes as "bottles of stinking liquid," boiled over. The police surrounded the opera house as the mob attacked, and the state militia fired into the crowd.

The Astor Place Riot, May 7, 1849. It is odd for modern readers
that a performance of Shakespeare could trigger such violent
partisan fighting since Shakespeare today is associated with
the turtleneck and half-glasses set who are unwilling to
disagree with their fists and sword-canes. Instead, riots today
can stem from far more reasonable origins such as the outcome
of sporting events

The Astor Place riot was one of many violent disturbances in New York in the 1840s and 50s. In 1857, another major riot broke out among various gangs with names such as the Bowery Boys, the Dead Rabbits, and the Roach Guards in what has been called the Dead Rabbits Riot. On July 4, the Irish Dead Rabbits and the nativist Bowery Boys became enmeshed in a series of street fights that began when Dead Rabbits broke into a Bowery hangout, destroyed it, and drained it of its precious booze stocks. This act escalated into a street battle involving hundreds of gang members and associated looting enthusiasts. The fight deleteriously affected Rynders's career when his attempt to reason with the gangs to stop fighting was met with a riposte of stones throne at his top-hatted person.

Despite his stoning and removal from machine power, Rynders remained a
factor in American politics as shown in this 1859 cartoon. According to
this Harper's Weekly article by Robert C. Kennedy, the cartoon is satirizing
US Secretary of State Lewis Cass for his volte-face on the issue of forcible
German conscription of naturalized German American citizens visiting
Germany. On the left, Cass derisively blows his nose as a legion of
mustachioed Prussians drag a German American away to do their
Hohenzollern dirty work. On the right, Cass warmly protects a German
man while Rynders waves the flag in celebration of the government's
humane policies brought about by a sincere concern for capturing the
votes of German American citizens

The Dead Rabbits refused to accept responsibility for the riot and instead attempted to blame their rivals, the Roach Guard, clearly betting on the public siding with the gang that sounded slightly less likely to serve as the main antagonists for a cheap Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles knockoff. They issued this statement to the New York Times:
We are requested by the Dead Rabbits to state that the Dead Rabbit club members are not thieves, that they did not participate in the riot with the Bowery Boys, and that the fight on Mulberry street was between the Roach Guards of Mulberry street and the Atlantic Guards of the Bowery. The Dead Rabbits are sensitive on points of Honor, we are assured, and wouldn't allow a thief to live on their beat, much less be a member of their club.

The Wildcats will be facing another tall task in handling the vicious Penn State defense. Their hope is that the inconsistent Nittany Lion passing attack will stall against the heretofore porous Wildcat pass defense and that Persa, Colter, Ebert, and the rest of the Wildcat Gang can manage to outscore them. A win in front of a hopefully rabid homecoming crowd could hopefully give Northwestern enough momentum to salvage the season, terrorize the rest of its Big Ten opponents and Rice, and send Pat Fitzgerald Morris dancing towards Bloomington while belting out a soliloquy about his young men in a way precisely calculated to rally the Wildcat faithful and disparage the codfish aristocracy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iowa Week

The Wildcats followed up the crushing hat debacle with another defeat against an irritatingly resurgent Michigan team last week. I came in expecting an insane high-scoring quarterback shootout, and the first quarter did not disappoint as both teams flew up and down the field. Fitz even successfully used the passing quarterback/running quarterback alternation strategy with Persa and Colter, hoping to confuse the Michigan defense by getting them think that they would obviously pass with a hobbled Persa and run with the dynamic Colter, but maybe they'll switch things up and run with Persa but maybe they already thought about that so they'll really pass with Persa, but no, that seems to obvious, what if they run with Persa but then he flips it back to Colter who then laterals to Former High School Quarterback Jeremy Ebert who bombs it to a wide open Rashad Lawrence streaking down the sideline.

Mick McCall's game plan is based on a solid foundation of

In the second quarter, though, the offenses tapered off. The Michigan offense came prepared for a shootout in the second half, but Northwestern could not score at all, and now the Wildcats stand at an alarming 2-3 at the precipice of missing a bowl game. So let us turn our attention away from this worrying development in Northwestern football to make fun of hilariously corrupt colonial officials.


British India in the early nineteenth century was sandwiched in between a trade monopoly ruling through the accepted traditions of the regions and an aggressive expansionist global power. The East India Company technically administered British India, but the British government controlled the region's political and strategic affairs. The small British bureaucracy maintained influence indirectly through alliances with the myriad Princely States under British protection. The British government sent Residents to their courts, political agents who kept an eye out for treacherous anti-British alliances, advised the rulers, and generally maintained British interests. Throughout the eighteenth century, these Residents often existed within a familiar context of conquest and occasionally adopted Mughal customs (this phenomenon is wonderfully chronicled in William Dalrymple's White Mughals).

By the early nineteenth century, a reforming tide had arrived. British officials in India began promoting English-language education, civil service reforms, and a joyless Victorian moralism. Civil service reform began in earnest with the appointment of William Bentinck, a utilitarian under the influence of a pre-taxidermied Jeremy Bentham who sought to modernize the Indian government. The case of the British Resident at Delhi, Sir James Edward Colebrooke, gives a fascinating look at the intersection of the British and Indian worlds meeting at the crossroads of universal pocket-lining corruption.

Governor-General Bentinck (l) was influenced by UK Stare Champion
James Mill (center) and Jeremy Bentham, shown here in stuffed form
worshiped by an evil utilitarian cult apparently appeasing his logical
wrath by bringing him a fresh head

The accusations against Colebrooke can be found in this October 1932 edition of Asiatic Journal. Colbrooke, by then an aged official in the prime of his venality, stood accused of dozens of incidents of corruption mainly concerned with giving and receiving gifts from various leaders of Princely states, a practice which had been banned in 1828 as part of a reform initiative. In one sense, Colebrooke's crime had been not adjusting to the new bureaucratic regime and conducting affairs through a more Mughal mode. On the other hand, Colebrooke had been caught in the great tradition of nakedly buying and selling influence for a variety of nineteenth century bounty that left him condemned by nineteenth century language vituperative enough to enable the construction of the world's highest horse. Here is an arbitrary sample of charges against Colebrooke:
  • Accepting nuzzurs (a ceremonial offer of money and gifts prohibited by the 1828 law) from "every native above the lowest rank who has been introduced to him, with hardly any exception"
  • Embezzling public property
  • Allowing Lady Colbrooke to receive at her durbar the agents of the independent states and to maintain "an intimate and corrupt understanding with many of them"
  • Not paying his manservant but allowing him to accumulate wealth through "corrupt and criminal practices"
  • Improperly receiving an elephant
  • Illicit trading of shawls
  • Selling furniture, carriages, and other articles of property to "natives of considerable rank...some of those transactions being of a highly disgraceful and fraudulent description"
  • Receiving tantalizing vague "trays of stuffs"
The report concludes that Colbrooke was guilty of "gross misrepresentations," deprecated his defense as "discreditable," and was summarily removed from office. The case was prosecuted by Charles Trevelyan, a young official in India who later went on to a famous career in the British Civil Service. Bentinck praised him for doing his job "ably, honourably, and manfully" despite his "most painful and invidious task." Bentinck also praised the judges and used the case to show his civil service reform at work, hopefully in the dulcet plummy tones of this fictional colonial official (I know I keep linking to this clip, but I have yet to point out how much I love the way that actor chews up the phrase "from smuggling to swindling to receiving stolen goods to baldfaced blackmail." So sue me in the disciplinary courts of the Raj).

Charles Trevelyan contemplates
throwing the book at Colbrooke, but
worries that Colbrooke will sell it to
Nawab Shumsooddeen Khan for an
egregiously inappropriate number of
trays of stuffs


Iowa and Northwestern fans have developed a deep mutual antipathy this century that has been deepened by their proclivity to dash each others' Big Ten title hopes. Northwestern fans certainly remember the 2000 game at Kinnick where a two-win Hawkeye squad demolished the Wildcats' Rose Bowl hopes before gleefully storming the field, a loss that set in motion through mysterious machinations (that I suspect involved an illicit exchange of scarves involving Michigan boosters and bowl representatives) a berth in the far less prestigious Alamo Bowl. At least the loss in that bowl game has set the scene for the vicious LEGENDS DIVISION showdown in Lincoln where the Wildcats will face a hostile crowd of Nebraska fans suddenly remembering that they play Northwestern each year. In recent years Northwestern has paid the 2000 loss back with interest, defeating Iowa three years in a row, and five of the last six, occasionally ending their BCS ambitions.

Pat Fitzgerald loads his equipment from the last Iowa-
Northwestern game

This year the stakes are lower. Both the Wildcats and Hawkeyes bring sputtering squads to their clash at Kinnick. The disappointing record of both teams, however, may make this game even more important. Northwestern desperately needs a win to get back on course to make the illustrious Pizza City Bowl, and finally beating Northwestern may give the Hawkeyes the boost they need to become contenders in the mild division (which division? Ah, yes the LEGENDS DIVISION, thanks for reminding me that that's a thing). A clash of struggling teams may produce a swelling of enthusiasm that parallels the proclivity of these two fanbases for arguing with each other on the Internet.

The civil and gentlemanly discourse regarding a difference of
opinion on the subject of the superiority of a college football

This game seems like it may also be a shootout, with Iowa's defense less staunch than it has traditionally been and with Northwestern's defense struggling against the unsporting chicanery of the forward pass. Given Northwestern's struggles against Illinois and Michigan, the combination of Vandenburg and McNutt is as terrifying, and Iowa fans have nightmares of Dan Persa, the latest in what seems to be an endless parade of mobile, accurate Northwestern quarterbacks.


The excitement of another Iowa-Northwestern game raises the question of why these new rivals cannot play for some sort of awful trophy now that they play every year (at least until the next round of conference expansions leads to a a massive 119-team conference called the Uncontemplatably Gargantuan Ten and Notre Dame). Either that, or the teams should play for lucrative control of all four Quad Cities or at the least the ability for each university to station a Resident there to bleed the region dry of its most valuable commodity--trays of stuffs.