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January 9th, 2017

Underwood Defeats Trump

Well, looks like Frank Underwood would defeat Donald Trump in a landslide, based on the responses to my last post. Gregg Hartmann finished a distant third, and many comments ignored his candidacy entirely... which is mostly a result of name recognition, I think. Trump is, alas, real, and Underwood is featured in a hit television show. A character from a series of books just cannot compete, even when the series is as long-running and popular as Wild Cards has been.

Plainly, many of you need to read more Wild Cards. Get right on that, please! A new year is a great time for a new addiction! (And you can get signed copies from the Jean Cocteau bookshop).

One aside before I return to the subject of presidents. I was disappointed by how many of the comments chose to ignore my request to stay on topic and stay off real world politics. By now, of course, I am used to the people who will send comments about GAME OF THRONES and WINDS OF WINTER, no matter what the actual topic of the original post is, so that was no surprise. But when I say "no real world politics, please" and still get long screeds about Hilary with nary a mention of Underwood or Hartmann, that displays either a lack of reading comprehension or a certain fundamental discourtesy. If you want to play here, you need to play by my rules.

Getting back to presidents... one point raised by a number of comments got me curious. Several persons observed that Underwood was a murderer; that is, that he had actually killed people with his own hands. True enough. But that started me wondering -- how many actual American presidents and presidential candidates have done the same? How many of our presidents have been killers?

(Note that I say 'killer' and not 'murderer,' which is a somewhat different thing).

I am a history junkie, as many of you know, but as much history as I've read, I'm unsure of the answer to that question. There's only one president that I know for certain took a life himself, personally (as opposed to commanding troops in combat, or declaring war). That would be Andrew Jackson, who once killed a man in a duel. If we broaden the field to include vice-presidents and candidates, you also have Aaron Burr, who rather famously shot Alexander Hamilton.



Yet surely there must be others. Many of our presidents came from a military background. Grant, Washington, and Eisenhower were famous generals before reaching the presidency, and they were far from the only ones. William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor were also famous generals, and a lot of the presidents after the Civil War had served as generals in the Union army. There were also plenty of presidents who fought in one war or another in less exalted ranks. JFK and PT 109, for instance. Even Lincoln fought in the Black Hawk War in Illinois as a young man.

Serving in the ranks and commanding troops is not the same as killing with your own hands, however. Not having read all of their various memoirs or biographies, I have no idea whether Grant or Eisenhower or Washington or any of our other commanders in chief ever mentioned having shot someone in the face or stabbed them in the belly with a bayonet when they were still captains or corporals or whatever (generals don't usually actually gets their hands bloody, at least during the modern era) during their long military careers.

I know there are history wonks out there even more obsessive than me. Does anyone know? How many of our past presidents and presidential candidates were killers? We have Andrew Jackson and... anyone else?

(And please spare me comments like 'FDR was a killer because he brought us into WWII.' That is NOT the question on the table).

Once again: please stay on topic.

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Doom, Despair, Defeat

So far, the new year is off to a terrific start. Not.

Yesterday mostly sucked.

All the playoff games sucked, actually. The four wild card teams all lost, the four home teams all won, and every game ended in a rout. Most of them were over long before the fourth quarter rolled around. Of course, for me personally the worst of them was the last, when the Green Bay Packers routed my Giants. That one was actually a game for the first three quarters. The Giants defense came out loaded for bear, and stuffed the Packers and their bad man for most of the first half... but the Giants offense could not seem to take advantage, which (sadly) has been true most of the season. The running game, which had shown signs of life last week against the Skins, lay down and died again, and the passing game was erratic at best, with both Odell Beckham Junior and Sterling Shepard both dropping sure touchdown passes. OBJ dropped a number of other passes as well. Not his finest hour. In fact, it may well have been the worst game I have ever seen him play. Eli was pretty sharp for the most part, but when the receivers keep dropping balls delivered right into their hands, that does not count for much.

The result was that a quarter and a half of total Giant dominance yielded only two field goals and a paltry 6-0 lead. I knew that would not hold up (you cannot stop a qb as talented as Rodgers forever), and of course it didn't. The Packers took the lead for good late in the second quarter with a solid drive that made it 7-6, and then tacked on another touchdown with an insane hail mary pass just as time was running out, to take a 14-6 lead into the half.

The Giants defense did have one more great stop left in them, turning back the Packers on a 3rd and 1 and then a 4th and 1 at midfield, then taking the ball and scoring their only TD of the game on a beautiful long pass from Eli to Tavaris King, who actually caught the ball and made it 14-13. That was the high water mark, however. After that, Rodgers could not be stopped. Big Blue's D was plainly winded by then, and the offense gave them no help at all with a series of 3-and-outs and punts. Bad punts, too. For whatever reason, the Packer punter had a much better day, so much so that the Giants seemed to lose twenty yards of field position with every exchange. In the second half, Eli was repeatedly starting from inside his ten, Rodgers from midfield.

So: season over, Big Blue is done, the Packers go on. Here's hoping they crush the Cowboys. And yes, it's true, Aaron Rodgers is a baaaaaaaaaddddd man.

All in all, a pretty good season for the Giants. But I never really believed this was their year. The defense started slow but ended as one of the best in the league, but the offense never came alive. Next year, maybe, Big Blue can make another run, but first we need to (1) improve the offensive line, and (2) get ourselves a running game. A great young tight end would help as well. Will Tye is okay, but Mark Bavaro he's not. He's not even Jeremy Shockey.

All the teams I cared about having been eliminated, I am now rooting for Whoever Plays the Cowboys and Whoever Plays the Patriots. And if we wind up with a Cowboy/ Patriot SuperBowl, I will be rooting for A Giant Asteroid Strikes Houston.

Of course, the weekend was not all about football. Last night we also had the Golden Globes. Where Lena Headey lost, and GAME OF THRONES lost, and WESTWORLD and its two amazing actresses lost as well. Pfui. That was disappointing, but not unexpected. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association surprised me this year by nominating three genre shows -- GOT, WESTWORLD, and STRANGER THINGS -- for Best Drama, but in the end they reverted to form and passed over all of them in favor of the safe choice, the 'prestige' historical drama THE CROWN. (Which I did enjoy, mind you, even though I went away thinking that while it may have been good to be the king in the Middle Ages, it really sucked to be the queen in the 1950s). So: no Globes for us.

The highlight of the Globes -- and the day -- was Meryl Streep's speech.

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