Saturday, January 20, 2007

"The Curse of the Golden Flower" and Two Ideas of Tragedy

Director Zhang Yimou and Chow Yun-Fat on the set of Sony Pictures Classics' Curse of the Golden Flower - 2006The Curse of the Golden Flower, Zhang Yimou's latest film to be released in America, is a brilliant motion picture that interestingly exemplifies important differences between East and West.

Following on the heels of two superb, epic dramas released in the United States in 2004—Hero (Ying xiong) and House of Flying Daggers—the Chinese director manages to top those films. The Curse of the Golden Flower is even more visually gorgeous than its recent predecessors, which is saying a lot. Zhang has been making brilliant, critically acclaimed films since his 1987 debut with Red Sorghum.

In Curse, the visual themes are even more cohesive than in the beautifully photographed Hero and Flying Daggers. Red and gold dominate, and the symbolism is carried through thematically, with red characteristically representing blood and life, and gold suggesting both riches and the power and beauty of nature, in its evocation of the sun. Black intrudes as the specter of death. Though these visual cues are truisms nearly to the point of being cliched, Zhang's intelligent use of them, and the astounding beauty of the compositions, enable the visuals to add meaning to the narrative without being annoyingly assertive about it.

As in Zhang's other recent dramas, the interiors of buildings are puzzling mazes, in which the viewer often becomes as lost in the architecture as the characters are in the complex plot.

The plot is indeed complex but told with great clarity and coherence. Gong Li plays Empress Phoenix, who is being slowly poisoned by her husband, the Emperor Ping, played by Chow Yun-Fat. Phoenix is aware of the poisoning but cannot openly disobey the emperor and must continue to take her deadly daily dose of fungus-laced medicine. However, she is plotting to take the kingdom away by conspiring with her elder son, the emperor's second son. (He has a son by a previous wife who is identified later in the film.) On the night of the Chrysanthemum Festival, an army of ten thousand will storm the palace under the command of Prince Jay.

Of course, things don't work out as planned, and the plot twists are truly Shakespearean in character, with the tawdriness of the characters' schemes making a great contrast with the grandeur of the settings and the importance of the events to the empire's future.

And there's the rub. In the end—without giving away any plot secrets—much happens, but nothing changes. And that is so very Eastern, with the cyclical sense of history common in the East. Ultimately, nothing changes. Yin and yang go out of balance, and in the end, they are back in balance. But that is all. Things don't get appreciably better for anybody, and the great irony of The Curse of the Golden Flower is that after all the effort to change who will sit on the throne, none of it changes anything—and, more importantly, it's clear that things wouldn't be noticeably different in the realm if Prince Jay had the throne. The individuals' loves, hatreds, and ambitions put things out of balance, and once the conflicts are resolved, balance is restored. But that's all.

American critics seem to sense this but not understand it at all. For example, Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris claims, "once it's all over, 'Golden Flower,' like 'Hero' and 'Flying Daggers,' leaves a flat taste." Other critics have had the same complaint.

But it's only a flat taste if you're expecting a Chinese director to make Western-style dramas. Which is, of course, a silly thing to ask.

Things are very different in Western drama of the past two millenia. One could surely argue that Greek tragedies exhibit a cyclical sense of history, driven as they are by the idea of fate. In the Christian era, however, Western tragedies have often been driven by a sense of progress. In Shakespeare, for example, there is frequently a great sense of a malign presence being driven out of society. By the end of Hamlet, for example, the stage is littered with the corpses of schemers, miscreants, the indecisive, and the weak, yet the playwright conveys a powerful sense of optimism about the future for the Danish kingdom. At the end of Macbeth, both tyrant and his evil muse are gone. The same is often true of the history plays.

In contemporary times, consider former Hong Kong and now American director John Woo, whose films tend to reflect a belief in the possibility (indeed the necessity) of personal and social transformation. (One of his Hong King films is even named A Better Tomorrow in English translation.) Woo, though born and raised in Hong Kong, was educated in a conservative Lutheran missionary school. His ideas are thus quite Western.

The Curse of the Golden Flower comes from a very different tradition. As in Hamlet, the stage is littered with corpses at the end, but the vision for the future is altogether different. Understanding that difference makes the film a richer and more rewarding experience.

From Karnick on Culture.

Friday, January 19, 2007

American Muslims' Protests of Fox TV Show "24" Are Misdirected

American Muslim groups have protested to Fox Television for the use of Muslims as terrorists on the Fox TV program 24, CNN reports:

Two years ago, Muslim groups protested when the plot of the hit Fox drama '24' cast Islamic terrorists as the villains who launched a stolen nuclear missile in an attack on America.

Now, after a one-year respite during which Russian separatists played the bad guys on the critically acclaimed series, Muslims are back in the evil spotlight. Unlike last time, when agent Jack Bauer saved the day, the terrorists this time have already succeeded in detonating a nuclear bomb in a Los Angeles suburb.

As we noted earlier this week on this site, the attribution of the fictional terrorists as Muslims actually makes a good deal of sense. After all, if you are going to have the premise that terrorists are operating on American soil, then Muslims would indeed seem to be the most likely ones to do so at this point in time. That much should be obvious.

If anything, the program has gone too far in the opposite direction over the years, pretending that threats other than Islam are predominant. As Fox pointed out in a written statement reprinted in the CNN story:

Over the past several seasons, the villains have included shadowy Anglo businessmen, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, Islamic fundamentalists, and even the (Anglo-American) president of the United States. The show has made a concerted effort to show ethnic, religious and political groups as multidimensional, and political issues are debated from multiple viewpoints.

The Fox statement also pointed out that the show's audience is not grotesquely stupid:

24 is a heightened drama about anti-terrorism. After five seasons, the audience clearly understands this, and realizes that any individual, family, or group (ethnic or otherwise) that engages in violence is not meant to be typical.

What is most annoying about the protests, however, is the blatant lying being perpetrated by some of the complainers, as in this quote from the CNN story:

Engy Abdelkader, a member of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee from Howell, New Jersey, launched a campaign Wednesday to encourage Muslims offended by the program to complain to Fox.

"I found the portrayal of American Muslims to be pretty horrendous," she said. "It was denigrating from beginning to end. This is one of the most popular programs on television today. It's pretty distressing."

That is bunk. The program is taking great care to ensure that viewers do not see all Muslims as jihadists, as I noted in my comment here on Monday, and as the CNN report also observed:

Concerns about Muslims' civil rights, detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo-like holding centers, and stereotyping are given vastly expanded treatment on '24' this year. In one exchange, the show depicts the president's national security adviser challenging the White House chief of staff over the detention of Muslims without criminal charges.

"Right now the American Muslim community is our greatest asset," the security adviser says. "They have provided law enforcement with hundreds of tips, and not a single member of that community has been implicated in these attacks."

"So far," the chief of staff responds.

Those American Muslims who fear being tarred with the same brush as the jihadists should simply take care to ensure that the U.S. Muslim community stresses its full loyalty to the United States and the rejection of jihad here and everywhere else. Whether that changes their relationships with Muslims elsewhere in the world is for them to work out for themselves. Fictional TV shows can't change that reality.

From Karnick on Culture.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Barack-Slapping

Hillary R. Clinton, who by party machinery, war chest, owed favors, and mebbe some secret dirt on anyone who matters, is the Democrat presidential nominee for 2008 before a primary vote is ever cast. Slam dunk.

If she decides not to run, it would be understandable, because she herself is dirtier than her husband ever was, and the GOP has many gigabytes of evidence to prove it and would delight in breaking it out. But even if she does run, she's already screwed her candidacy bigtime, overreacting to a blip on her radar named Barack Obama:

MATT LAUER: But do you think he's qualified? I mean, he's a fellow Democrat. Would you be comfortable with him in the White House?

FUTURE PRESIDENT CLINTON: I'm going to let all of those decisions be sorted out by voters.

Huh? Obama is even more certain to be the 2008 Democrat vice-presidential nominee than Hillary's a slam dunk for the top spot. And she disses him like that? He's the greatest guy in the history of the world, and will follow two Clinton terms and be our next-next president in 2016. (Like Al Gore, sort of.) He's an asset, not a rival.

If for some reason, Sen. (pro tem) Obama doesn't get the VP nod from his party, its near-monolithic black vote may well just stay home. A black person on the ticket, as Everett Dirksen might have said, is an idea whose time has come, and Barack Obama's time has come, albeit a bit too suddenly. (That's not his fault---most presidential timber has already been felled and even provided the axe, like Newt Gingrich, for instance.)

She's not even nominated yet, and she's already made the first big mistake of her presidency. Foreign policy is hard enough, but first you have to master your own party, and certainly not eat your own. (But more on John McCain later...)

Is Man Good? Redux

Once again, I defer to Adam Smith's wonderfully wise and sadly overlooked other book, The Theory of the Moral Sentiments (1759):

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.... The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it."

"What is it that prompts the generous, on all occasions, and the mean, upon many, to sacrifice their own interests to the greater interests of others? Is it not the soft power of humanity, is it not that feeble spark of benevolence which Nature has lighted up in the human heart, that is capable of counteracting the strongest impulses of self-love?"


Smith, Reagan, and I are softies, I admit...

A Fascinating New Sport . . .

Polly Esther (L) gets slugged by Betty Clock'er during an elimination match in the Pillow Fight League (PFL) at a late night event in Toronto, January 12, 2007. Betty Clock'er, who defeated Polly Esther, will challenge the current champion Champain for the title in the league's first live event in the United States in New York City on January 19. (J.P. Moczulski/Reuters)Another item in our Everything Happens in the Omniculture series: professional pillow fights. Reuters reports:

Welcome to the Pillow Fight League, which has been drawing growing crowds in Toronto since it formed early last year, and is now set to export its campy fun to New York City.

The league is the brainchild of 38-year-old Stacey Case, a T-shirt printer and musician who came up with the idea that people would pay to see young women in costumes beat the tar out of each other with pillows -- and that women would volunteer to whap each other in front of a crowd. . . .

However, they're quick to point out it's not really just about young women in revealing costumes tussling in front of a largely male audience. Well, maybe it is a bit.

Rather like professional wrestling but with scantily clad women as the fighters, the bouts are presented as if they were real contests, and the performers adopt amusing stage personae:

But it's the fighters that make the show, and they come in all shapes and sizes, with names like Sarah Bellum, the smart one, and Boozy Suzie, who enters the ring with a beer that referee Patterson confiscates with a stern wave of his finger.

Lynn Somnia staggers to the ring in a hospital gown with electrodes dangling, apparently released from her sleep-deprivation chamber.

Top contenders include Betty Clock'er -- by day a financial editor and by night a cushion-swinging housewife who brings a plate of cookies to ringside -- and Polly Esther, billed as the waitress from hell ("And somebody's gonna get served!," The Mouth bellows as she struts toward the ring).

While the personas are all good fun, the action in the ring is real, and as Case is quick to point out, unscripted.

The rules are simple: women only, no lewd behavior, and moves such as leg drops or submission holds are allowed as long as a pillow is used. After that, it's up to the combatants. . . .

This past weekend, Polly didn't disappoint, torquing her long arms to deliver punishing pillow blows to Betty Clock'er in a fight to decide who will travel to New York this week to face PFL title holder Champain, an event Case is hoping will give an adrenaline shot to the league's profile.

Of course, the real money, and the promoters' real goal, is in TV:

The bigger picture involves a TV deal. Case says he has already turned down bids that didn't offer the mix of attention to the action and characters that he says makes the league more of a draw to the arts community than the mud-wrestling crowd.

It won't be long, I'm sure.

From Karnick on Culture.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Copy Writing: Concise, Precise, Incisive

The great copy writer, Lyle Wexler, formerly head of advertising at Bank of America, has created a fabulous blog offering valuable insights into copy writing. And if you can write copy, you can write non-fiction for sure - and have a leg up on fiction as well.

If you are honing your writing skills, whether for a directly related field or as a tool of communication, you can learn from this man. The Electric Idea Circus: have a gander.

Obama, Clinton and Identity Politics

Now that he’s throwing his hat in the ring, as will Hillary, it’s time to address the inane question of “Is America Ready for a black or woman president.” Well, if that black man and woman are Obama and Hillary, then absolutely not! The question shows just how race and gender obsessed American liberalism remains. Give me a solid conservative and I don’t care about their race, religion or gender, I’ll vote for them. I am sure practically every conservative would say the same.

It is a sad commentary on the state of modern American liberalism that the true racists are to be found there. That may be the wrong term, in that I don’t mean they hate white people, but that they are incapable of seeing anything outside of the construct of race. Sam’s piece below on black coaches in the NFL is testament to that. The ideals of the Civil Rights movement have been completely shattered, distorted and disfigured. If Dr. King is the apogee of that movement, then his dream has turned into a nightmare.

This manifests itself in strange ways. Look at the first black, female Secretary of State. Because she is defined by black liberals as a conservative, and even worse she works for the Bush administration, she isn’t authentically black. Skin color will only take you so far. If you don’t toe the line ideologically, then you are a traitor and you may as well be white, green, purple or yellow. “Real” blacks are simply liberals. Imagine how the media would have obsessed for months and have consistently thrown around the word “historic” if the first black female Secretary of State had been a liberal working for a Democrat administration.

This gets us to the heart of the unspoken question behind the question. What our liberal, unbiased friends in the media are really asking is whether a hopelessly racist and misogynistic America will vote for a black man or a woman. If that black man or woman is conservative, then the question becomes moot. Only if a liberal black man or woman is elected to the White House will America be considered by the Fourth Estate to have finally come out from under its benighted rock to see the light.

Fathers and TV Fiction

In recent days National Review Online has published a couple of very good articles on the value of fathers, using cultural products as their examples and evidence. First, Kathryn Lopez wrote about Rocky Balboa, noting that the title character presents a strong image of fatherhood in his dealings with his son and with the fatherless son of a woman he meets in a tavern and eventually hires to help out in his restaurant. I would add that Rocky also acts as a surrogate father to several other characters in the film, such as his buddy played by Burt Young, and the ex-boxer he defeated in an earlier film

Lopez quotes an excellent and memorable speech from the film, in a scene where Rocky talks to his self-pitying son:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you are because of him, or her, or anybody. Cowards do that and that ain’t you. You’re better than that!

Lopez then gives some real-life facts about fatherhood:

That’s notable because, as Dr. Meg Meeker writes in her recent book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, pop culture isn’t exactly overflowing with messages encouraging men to be manly and to take pride in knowing they have something their families need. In what is a bit of a motivational seminar, Meeker writes to dads: “You were made a man for a reason, and your daughter is looking to you for guidance that she cannot get from her mother.”

Meeker, focusing on girls, goes on to contend that girls with a dad in their lives have higher self-esteem, are less likely to get pregnant as a teen (are less likely to lose their virginity before they turn 16), and find themselves with fewer learning and behavioral problems. And the list goes on. The National Fatherhood Initiative has its own long scary-stat list. Kids without dads are more likely to be poor, to wind up in jail. Absent fathers can affect weight, dropout rates, smoking, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Looking at Sweden, where big government (Hillary’s village) steps in to take over where a dad isn’t providing, a 2006 Institute for American Values study finds that “boys reared in single-parent homes were more than 50 percent more likely to die from a range of cause — such as suicide, accidents, or addiction — than were boys reared in two-parent homes.” How’s that for a dire dadless picture?

I have long thought that a strong and loving father is a critical element in ensuring that a girl does not grow up to be promiscuous and easily abused emotionally and physically by romantic partners—which are characteristics very much to the detriment of any individual of either sex but especially to women (as one should hardly have to point out)—and the statistics certainly confirm this.

Hence it's good when the Omniculture offers up positive figures such as Rocky Balboa. Of course, everything happens in the Omniculture, so there are plenty of alternative examples, of bad fathers, but even these can provide valid lessons if seen correctly, as Rebecca Cusey points out in today's issue of NRO. Citing prominently featured laudable fathers in Friday Night Lights, Ugly Betty, and Everybody Hates Chris, Cusey identifies what is good about these fathers:

These three dads have one thing in common: They’re there and they care. In the real world, study after study confirms what humanity has always known: Dads matter. Kids who grow up in homes with dads who are there and who care are less likely to do drugs, drop out of school, become sexually active, and engage in criminal behavior. TV has come a long way since Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, or The Cosby Show, but TV still reflects society’s view of dads. Fathers on TV can be broken into three basic categories: The good, the bad, and the bumbling.

These men are a strong contrast to the many bad dads on TV. Cusey writes:

But some TV fathers are just plain bad. This often comes, as in real life, when parents put their own desires above the welfare of their children. Bimbo after bimbo parades through Two and a Half Men. Uncle Charlie (Charlie Sheen) instructs young Jake to manipulate, ogle women, and swear despite the bleating protestations of dad Alan (Jon Cryer). In The New Adventures of Old Christine both parents are more interested in bedding new people than in their son. Scrubs, often a thought-provoking show, has reached a post-modern low with a story line in which star Dr. Dorian (Zach Braf) impregnates casual date Kim. In a series of scenes that is intended to be lighthearted, but is more sickening, they whimsically try to decide: parenthood or abortion? Usually intended to be shockingly funny, these dads’ indifference to their children comes off as just mean. In The War at Home, parents wage a losing battle against kids’ behavior, refusing to set any standards higher than emerging from adolescence without a police record. Melodramatic dramas, such as Desperate Housewives and The OC portray parents as selfish and poorly behaved as their children. Sometimes more so. These are the postmodern dads, who figure kids will be kids, teens will party and sleep around, and character is not worth molding. They reflect real-life parents whose biggest fear is to be seen as judgmental or hypocritical.

Given the prevalence of bad fathers in real life, the variety of rotten ones found on TV is realistic and a source of good moral lessons for all of us. As Cusey notes, however, "Happily, good fathers aren’t as hard to find on TV as one might think."

Conservative critics tend to look at the surfaces of things and complain that the media send bad messages to the society as a whole. As Cusey's article exemplifies, and as I've pointed out on frequent occasions, surface events are not what is really important in cultural products. What really counts is what the events mean. These articles show a good trend in right-of-center media criticism: a desire actually to understand things before pontificating on them.

From Karnick on Culture.

Black Coaches and Equal Opportunity

NFL Chicago Bears coach Lovie SmithAs if the pressure on National Football League coaches weren't enough, especially during the playoffs, Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy are forced to labor under the additional condition that everything they do will be characterized as having been accomplished—or failed, as the case may be—by a black American.

This Sunday, the two coaches will be leading teams in the NFL conference championship games, with the possibility that both will coach in the Super Bowl this year. And of course reporters have characterized this as a significant event, which of course it is, insofar as football is significant.

But there is a thorn in the acknowledgment of the men's accomplishment. Smith noted in a TV interview that he is forced to bear an additional responsibility because he is black.

It's unfortunate that a black American cannot just be a coach, or an entrepreneur, or a housewife but must be seen as a black coach, entrepreneur, or housewife. Americans tend to see each black or woman as a representative of a group rather than an individual.

As Smith put it yesterday,

I hope for a day when it is unnoticed, but that day isn’t here. This is the first time. You have to acknowledge that. We do. I do. I realize the responsibility that comes with that.

But as much as anything, I realize my responsibility of just being the head coach of the Chicago Bears, and it’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. I’m just excited for our football team to be able to take another step.

Smith and Dungy have both handled these expectations admirably over the years, but they shouldn't have to. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick are coaches, not white coaches, and that's the way it should be for Smith and Dungy. They are people, not symbols.

We should hope that the day arrives soon when black Americans don't have to bear an additional responsibility to other blacks or to society as a whole (having to exemplify our national ideal of equal opportunity) because of an accident of skin color, but instead are judged solely by their own accomplishments. To add to people's burdens by making them symbols only makes their lives that much more difficult.

Most important of all, judging people as individuals gives each person the greatest incentive to use their time and talents—and that is the surest way to open the road to success for everyone.

From Karnick on Culture.

Harder to Find Good Help

The appointed Miss New Jersey USA, Ashley Harder, has disappointed herself. She is resigning (not re-signing) her post (is it a post?) due to pregnancy. This does not accord with the image, or perhaps the form, expected of such a dignitary.

Personally, I was bemused by the whole thing. I would have thought the most natural gift for a newly expectant mother would be a new jersey.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is Man Good?

So says Ronald Reagan's epitaph, which you can view for yourself a few posts below this one.

Now, not just Christianity, but classical philosophy as well sees man as fallen. And as we look at the world around us, it's difficult to disagree with that. He used to be really great, not so much lately.

My buddy Aquinas would soften Reagan's formulation (as I did myself): that man is by nature (God-given nature?) capable, if not oriented, toward responding to good.

That should work theologically, as God, not man himself, is the source of all good, and if it is not true in reality, we're in for it, folks.

If Reagan didn't believe that people (in his case the captive nations of the Soviet empire) would embrace the freedom he helped precipitate, he would have gone about things differently, I think.

Bush, too. We're in the throes of deciding whether the Iraqi people really want peace, brotherhood, and all that blahblah. I still think they do, but we should not overestimate their courage (and, it appears lately, our own) or underestimate the chilling effect of a few very bad men.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Season of "24" Begins with a Bang

Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer in "24" season premiereThe Fox TV series has progressed from a cult hit to an award-winning cultural bellwether, so it's an interesting thing to see what each season's central story line consists of. Last night was the first half of Fox's four-hour, two-night season premiere (an excellent way to get viewers deep into the season's story line very quickly).

The story starts off with a bang, with Jack Bauer, just released from a Chinese prison (having been traded by the Chinese for undisclosed U.S. assets), where he had undergone unspeakable tortures but not spoken a single word for two years (of course!), only to find out that he is being traded to a U.S. sympathizer in an Islamic terrorist organization (who hates Jack because the agent killed the terrorist's terrorist brother) so that the Muslim will turn over his brother to the United States, which is urgent because the brother is about to launch a series of bombings in the Uinted States.

The U.S. government and Jack both know that he will be killed by the Muslim, but Jack is willing to accept his destiny because in doing so he will be dying for something, as opposed to dying for nothing, as would have been the case had he died in the Chinese prison.

That is a beautiful and morally charged moment. It's truly great drama. Well done.

I hardly need tell you that Jack spectualarly and violently escapes from his Muslim captors, and then the double-crosses, shocking revelations, and violence rush forth in quick succession. The first two hours are the best start for a 24 season since season 2. Last year's episode struck me as rather disjointed in too many ways, and last night's installments showed a much tighter and stronger plot.

An interesting note: in the opening sequences of episode 1, various characters make several statements to the effect that mearl all American Muslims are loyal to the United States and don't support terrorism at all, here or elsewhere. Then, the villains turn out to be Muslims, and one of them is one of the people whom we are set up to think is an innocent Musliim American being unfairly targeted for abuse.

Very interesting indeed.

From Karnick on Culture.

Happy Martin Luther King Day

The local news here in Los Angeles had some footage of a "traditional" drum circle accompanying the Debbie Allen company doing an African-style dance in honor of MLK.

That's as silly as trotting out bodhrans and a riverdance to commemorate John F. Kennedy.

Dr. King, by the strength of his beliefs and character, led our country through a very dangerous time in our history, the days of rage of the 1960s. The whites threw him in jail, and the still-radical Malcolm X's people threw eggs at him, yet he bore the slings and arrows from every side and brought us all through it.

Let's get one thing straight---Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American, and an American hero, pure and simple, and that's why we honor him today. His work is surely not done, but his truth is marching on.

Political Football Report

It's actually a phrase from long ago---there was a controversy in Philadelphia around 1970 about naming the newly-built sports facility. The Democrats favored Harry Truman, the GOP wanted Dwight Eisenhower. They compromised and went for America's military veterans (we called it The Vet), but I always preferred the waggish Political Football Stadium.

Anyway, this past weekend, the former Baltimore Colts beat the current Baltimore Ravens (formerly the Cleveland Browns); the former Boston Patriots beat the former Los Angeles Chargers; the Chicago Bears, formerly the Chicago Staleys, beat the Starbucks Seahawks, and never mind about the New Orleans Saints beating my Eagles.

I mean, never mind about that, OK?


So now there are 4 teams left and the winners of next week's round go to the Super Bowl. Then, 2 weeks of SuperHype, the infamously banal and universally dreaded media coverage of America's biggest game because they have nothing better to do.

Now, if the Saints beat the Bears, we're in for a deluge of New Orleans "indomitable spirit" blather and how Dubya screwed up post-Katrina, even though New Orleans' indomitable spirit was conspicuously absent before, during and after Katrina and Bush.

And if the Colts beat the Patriots, we'll get a double whammy because Colt quarterback Peyton Manning's dad Archie struggled in pain and shame as the Saints' QB for so many years and tears back in the day.

What's funny is that if Clinton or Gore had been president, I'm sure they'd have nailed the Katrina disaster because it's their kind of thing, although Saddam and his lovely sons Uday and Attila would still be alive, thriving and reconstituting their nuclear program about now. And I'd be rooting for New Orleans, hands down. I always felt sorry for the Saints, and I loved Archie Manning.

Funny. My sentimental favorites and my picks are the Colts and the Saints, but I've never wished to be so wrong. If I'm not, the media will be playing some seriously gleeful political football. Patriots will find it unbearable.