Saturday, November 15, 2008

One of the best weekends this season for the Arkansas Razorbacks

This weekend was a perfect one for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Why? Because the team didn't play. Yes, it's a bye week and the struggling Hogs (4-6 overall, 1-5 in the SEC West) got a much needed week off.

Now, I know it sounds cynical to think it's good when your favorite team doesn't have to play. Phooey on that. The Hawg is a pragmatist and there are plenty of practical reasons to see a week off for the Razorbacks as a good thing.

Yes, it's time for the Razorbacks to reflect on the season and figure out what to do next. Let's take a look at what a rotten season it's been. The team started out by barely beating a couple of scrubs -- Western Illinois and Louisiana Monroe. The third game of the season was supposed to be against the Texas Longhorns, but that was postponed due to hurricanes making a mess of the Lone Star State.

Arkansas got slaughtered at home by Alabama the week after that, got absolutely butchered by Texas the next game and then Florida came to town and murdered the Hogs. Thing looked up when the Razorbacks went to Auburn and beat a team that was ranked 20th in the nation at the time.

That victory was followed by a loss against Kentucky and then Ole Miss. The loss to Ole Miss was particularly painful as the Razorbacks had that game won and then blew it. Also, the Razorbacks lost to its former head coach, Houston Nutt -- a man that didn't exactly leave Arkansas under friendly circumstances (a lot of us can't stand him and we'll loathe him for many years to come).

Arkansas rebounded when Tulsa, a team ranked 19th at the time, came to town. That was a victory for the Razorbacks and it came against an offense coached by Gus Malzahn, the former offensive coordinator for Arkansas. Malzahn, by the way, is still thought of highly by a lot of people in this state.

That brings us to last week when Arkansas lost to South Carolina.

So, what's the season been like? The offensive line has been terrible, the defensive secondary is a wreck and the special teams have struggled. The only really bright spot has been running back Michael Smith and he got hurt in the South Carolina game.

Now, here's the deal with the Razorbacks -- if the team wins the next two games, it will be bowl eligible. The next two games are against Mississippi State and LSU. The one against Mississippi State is winnable, whereas the one against LSU will be very difficult.

However, if Arkansas can pull off two more victories and go to a minor bowl, the season will be considered a success. In spite of everything, a bowl appearance is considered to be a major deal in this state.

And, head coach Bobby Petrino could use a bit of success right now. He inherited a team from Nutt that is shy on talent, he caught hell from the national media when he left the Atlanta Falcons to come here and some sports writers out there still hate him.

It's also a fact that Arkansas fans are notoriously fickle. A bowl appearance translates into success and that will make the fact that the Hogs are currently dead last in the SEC West OK.

So, good luck to the Razorbacks in the next two games. Hopefully, this bye week will allow the young team to rest and keep their eye on an bowl appearance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Clinton might become Obama's secretary!

Good news, everyone!

According to a report from CNN, Hillary Clinton might become Barack Obama's secretary.

As an Arkansan, I couldn't be happier. Clinton does have some Arkansas ties and I wish her well, even if she does hate 95 percent of the people who live in this state.

A lot of us remember Clinton from back in those days when she wore glasses that were half the size of her head, still went by her maiden name of "Rodham" and used her super shyster skills to defend Tyson Foods when they were polluting lakes and streams in Arkansas. Hillary, you've come a long way, baby!

Who would have guessed that Clinton would be on the verge of becoming a president's secretary? Indeed, she could make Obama's coffee, schedule his appointments, answer his phone, take dictation (a term that took on a whole new meaning when Bill Clinton was president) and all those other secretarial things.

And remember back during the primaries when Hillary kept talking about answering that 3 a.m. phone call? Remember her claiming Obama didn't have the experience to deal with that phone call?

With Hillary around, that phone call might now even be Obama's problem. As president, he'll need a good night's sleep so he could let Hillary screen his calls for him and order her to get in touch if it's something important. If its just the ambassador from Derkaderkastan calling in an opium-induced rage or a prank call from Osama bin Laden, Hillary can take care of it. There's no reason to bother the president with something so trivial, is there?

Now, an Associated Press story states that Obama is also thinking about hiring Bill Richardson as his secretary. I hope not. Hillary has a much nicer phone voice and projects a more professional image.

Also, I hear that Obama hasn't forgotten about John McCain. The rumor is that he's thinking about hiring his former rival as the White House gardener. Good luck, McCain!


Remember when Joe Biden warned that Obama would be tested by the International community shortly after the new president took office? I, The Hawg, have possibly figured out what that test might be.

Call me crazy, but I do believe the Soviet Union will invade Georgia again in order to test Obama's resolve.

That will, truly, test Obama's claims that he will do his best to represent each and every American. Georgia, after all, was firmly in the McCain camp on election day.

If Joe Stalin and his wild Soviets invade Georgia, will Obama send troops to Atlanta or be spiteful and just let the Russians keep it? Here's hoping Obama does the right thing and kicks those reds out of Georgia.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Hawg shares Eric Cartman's dream

Every South Park fans knows that Eric Cartman's dream is to have $10 million.

Notice I said his dream is to have $10 million, not make $10 million. How Cartman gets his money is immaterial.

I, The Hawg, would also like to have $10 million and I've figured out how to get some E-Z cash. How? I'm going to start a business and fail spectacularly.

The government, of course, has been talking about bailouts a lot lately. The auto industry, for example, wants some of that bailout money that was set aside for banks although it has done absolutely nothing to deserve it (in my mind, no business in a capitalist nation deserves a handout from the government -- rotten businesses should fail). Even credit card companies that are in the business of irresponsible lending want some of the action, too.

Yes, it appears that companies like Honda and Toyota were completely unfair to our U.S. auto manufacturers. Those foreign (pronounced "fern" in these parts) companies analyzed the market, projected the future needs of consumers and met them. GM, on the other hand, boldly spent more money on Hummer advertising rather than pay attention to rising gas prices.

Hell, this government would have bailed out buggy manufacturers when automobiles made them obsolete. The current government would have sent some money to companies that insisted on building propeller-driven airplanes in the jet age. It makes sense, then, that auto manufacturers who cranked out SUVs like there was no tomorrow may well get some of the wonderful bailout money (which is backed by a bunch of bonds purchased by the likes of the red Chinese, by the way).

I, too, plan to have a business that's not viable and try to get some of that government money. My plan? I'll start a company that prints and sells tee shirts that have the slogan "Obama is my president" on them. I'll have those printed up in time for the presidential inauguration in January.

We all know that ObamaMania is sweeping the nation, so I figure I'll be able to sell a heck of a lot of those things and grow my business quickly. I'll need some employees, so I'll hire some of those. I'll be a kind boss and make sure they join a union, too. We all know that good Democrats (and a lot of Republicans) wouldn't let a company fail and put unionized employees out of work, don't we?

Of course, ObamaMania will wane at some point and that should cause my business to tank. If it doesn't tank, I'll simply mismanage it into the ground. Whether it goes broke naturally or through my horrible management doesn't matter one whit. It will go broke. That's a promise.

At that point, I can demand a bailout. I'll get on television and cry, claiming something has to be done to save all the jobs my company provides. Yes, I'll say the economy is tough and the government needs to step in and prevent more Americans from losing their jobs.

So, I'll get my money. Of course, the company will fail anyway because there won't be enough money in the world to make that dog a winner. At the end of the day, I'll have my $10 million, the federal government will be just a little further in debt to the Chinese and everything will be peachy.

Welcome to the new economy! All you have to do is fail spectacularly and the feds will rush in and save you. That's a hell of a deal!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday -- Pulp!

Here's a couple of versions of Pulp's "Common People." First, we've got the proper one by Pulp:

And, then there's one by William Shatner (with Joe Jackson providing some vocals, too):

Make sure to visit the other participants (or post something of your own) by clicking right here.

Also, make sure to click right here to help some kids in Conway, Ark., win a "high tech makeover" of their classroom. Watch the video, register and vote. They're winning with their Devo-inspired video now, so help put them over the top!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Three cheers for veterans!

I always feel a bit sheepish on Veterans Day as I never served in the military.

However, I also share Ronald Reagan's opinion of the value of an all volunteer army. The late, great Reagan suggested that an all volunteer army is valuable, indeed, as it is filled with people who want to be there, whereas a draft can result in a lot of resentful soldiers.

There's a certain wisdom to that.

My family's history in the service is rather slight. My great-great-grandfather fought in the War Between the States (he was an Arkansan who owned land in the Southern part of this state, so I'll let you guess which side he fought on) and he was the last one to take up arms until my father's generation.

Why? Because the War Between the States and the Reconstruction were still fresh in the minds of people in these parts for at least a couple of generations. Fighting for the United States was, believe it or not, considered the same as fighting for a foreign, invading power. No, I'm not kidding.

Now, my grandfather on my dad's side missed out on World War II by a couple of weeks. He was making the arrangements to leave his Arkansas home and report for duty when the Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. As we all know, that attack (and the one on Nagasaki shortly thereafter) brought the war to a close. With the war being over, granddad got to stay home.

My father broke the mold a bit by voluntarily joining the Navy after he graduated from college. He wound up touring Europe on an aircraft carrier. By joining when he did, my dad managed to miss Vietnam. His brother wasn't so lucky. My uncle enlisted in the Marines and spent two tours of duty in Vietnam. The experience literally drove him insane.

Obviously, the men in my family have never been quick to enlist. On my mother's side, I had an uncle in the Navy and his children also joined the military. Those people were the exceptions rather than the rule.

It's a completely different thing in my wife's family. My wife is an Army veteran and almost anyone in her generation and the one before it served in the Army or Navy. Why did they join? The felt it was their duty to do so.

That's admirable, folks. That type of dedication to this country is worthy of praise. That kind of dedication is the very thing that inspired by father to enlist rather than go directly to graduate school. It is the reason my uncle lost his sanity in Vietnam. My brother-in-law saw a friend of his killed in front of him in the first war in Iraq and another brother-in-law was among the first troops to invade in the current Iraq conflict.

None of the people I mentioned had any idea they would wind up at war, but they joined up and served, regardless. They knew they might be called on to fight for our nation and they volunteered to join the military, anyway. I appreciate their dedication and any American -- regardless on his or her view of the current war in Iraq -- should admire our troops, too.

So, my hat's off to our troops -- those who have served and those who are now serving -- for keeping our country safe.

Time to make the wife mad

Now, I've just got to tell a couple of stories related to my wife's time in the military. On our first date, she told me she was in the Army. I asked, "Well, did you ever kill a man?"

She saw that as an inappropriate question, but I thought it was the kind of thing you'd want to know about a woman you were on a date with. In spite of my rude behavior, we did end up married. She's used to my quirks and odd sense of humor at this point.

Also, my wife still carries her dog tag with her. I was looking at it before we were married, and I noticed the word "Roman Catholic" was stamped on it.

"You're not a Catholic," I said. "You told me you've always been a Baptist!"

For the record, we're laid-back Methodists now.

Anyway, she replied, "Well, I did that because of something my brother told me. He said I should say I'm Catholic because, in boot camp, you get out an hour early for mass on some days."

"So, did you actually go to mass?" I asked.

"No. I went to the PX and drank whiskey."

I do adore that woman.

Monday, November 10, 2008

So long, Ol' Coney

Folks, we experienced a loss today here at Casa de Hawg.

We bought our house here in scenic Benton, Ark., a couple of years ago and it came with two of the largest pine trees I've ever seen. The one in the back yard was dubbed Ol' Coney by me and my wife called the one in the front yard Ol' Piney (I told her the name I came up with great and the one she developed was, well, not).

Now, those pine trees are old. How old? I do believe they hung Yankee spies from them during the War Between the States.

Well, maybe not that old. But they were around 100 years old, and that's pretty aged when it comes to pine trees.

Unfortunately, those two wonderful trees were so old and tall that Ol' Coney got struck by lightening at least twice and Ol' Piney got hit once. Those two trees are the highest points in the neighborhood and lightening strikes around here are common as there are magnetic deposits in the bedrock around here.

So, Ol' Piney was dying and could have fallen on the house one day. Ol' Coney was in poor shape, too, so we had them both cut down today. That's just sad, really, particularly when you consider those huge trees were so hard to take down that they took a black walnut tree and some scrubby tree my kids used to climb out with them.

Sadly, I don't have any decent pictures of the trees -- they were just too big to photograph effectively.

Is there a point to all this rambling? Why, yes there is! I've learned a few things from our tree removal experience:

1. Keep an eye on those trees. I didn't know Ol' Piney was on his last legs until we had some limbs cut off earlier this year and the tree guy pointed out the extensive damage to the pine. Had he not warned us of that damage, I have a feeling the tree would have fallen through my roof one day.

I have never been in the habit of looking for damage to my trees. I sure as heck am now.

2. Insurance companies can be difficult, but they can be persuaded. We're insured by Allstate, which I was starting to believe acted more like a collection agency than an insurance company. Why? We initially called about having our home insurance pay to remove the trees, but were told that they weren't covered.

"If a tree falls through my roof, will you repair my house?" I asked.

"Yes," the Allstate person replied.

"But you won't pay to cut down a tree that's dying and could fall through my roof."

"No we won't," was the reply.

That struck me as odd. However, the insurance company eventually did agree to send some money to remove the trees. The lesson here is that insurance companies don't want to pay anything initially, but they can be convinced to change their minds. Remember that if you have a tree that needs to be removed.

3. Big trees tear up things when they are cut down. My yard looks like hell right now and, as I mentioned, we lost two trees other than the pines that we wanted removed. We all know that there's a certain group out there that thinks cutting down a tree is almost as bad as killing a person.

Ignore them. Removing those trees before they get so huge that getting rid of them is a problem is a great idea. Had our pines been cut down before they got too large to handle, two healthy trees in our yard would have been spared and my yard wouldn't look like the surface of the moon right now.

The tree guys swear they'll be back in the morning to clean up most of the mess. I sure hope so. I felt like I was walking through a war zone when I came home today as wood chips, pine needles, limbs and sawdust was everywhere.

4. Huge trees can tear up things when they're growing, too. Ol' Piney was right next to my driveway and the root system has just about ruined the end of my driveway. It doesn't cost much to repair a driveway, but what if one of those trees was too close to my house? Driveways are cheap to fix, but repairing a foundation isn't.

5. It costs a lot of money to remove huge trees. How much? About $3,000 to cut down both of those trees. The insurance company didn't cover all of that, either (they contributed $1,000).

That really makes sense. There were four people sent out to cut down our trees, so they have to be paid. Also, there's a lot of heavy equipment involved and that stuff is expensive to run. The crew also had to take down part of our privacy fence to get to the trees, and they'll have to put it back, too.

The whole operation will take two days. The trees are down, but there's a lot of cleanup involved.

There's yet another reason to consider taking out those trees before they get too big.

6. Cutting down those native trees means we can plant some that we like better. We have no shortage of pine trees here in Arkansas. I don't think they're particularly attractive, but that could be because this part of the country is dominated by them. They're common as sin, see?

With Ol' Piney and Ol' Coney gone, my wife and I are free to replace them with some trees that we like better. Perhaps a magnolia tree or a willow would work out well.

In other words, we're losing two huge, ugly pine trees and we can replace them with whatever we want. That's not altogether bad.

Regardless, I'll miss my pine trees a bit. The size of those things was impressive. However, I'm glad I don't have to worry about one of them falling through my home or crushing a neighbor's house and I look forward to picking out some new trees with my wife.

All in all, then, it hasn't been a bad day.

Update! The jerks that cut down my trees managed to mangle my parents' house! Click right here to read all about it.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Arkansas' bowl hopes dim

For a good shot at a bowl game, the Arkansas Razorbacks really needed to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday.

That didn't happen. Arkansas lost 21-34 to South Carolina, dropping their record to 4-6 (1-5 in the SEC). South Carolina wound up 7-3 (4-3 in the SEC) after the game.

Of course, the Hogs needed to reach that mystical 6 wins mark to make it to even a crummy bowl. To get there, they'll have to win against both Mississippi State (3-6, 1-4) and LSU (6-3, 3-3 in the SEC).

Arkansas has a shot next week on Nov. 22 when the Hogs travel to Miss State. Arkansas is sixth in the SEC West and Miss State is fifth -- neither team is that good, honestly.

However, LSU comes to Little Rock the day after Thanksgiving to take on the Hogs. Uh, that game is problematic. LSU ought to stomp Arkansas unless those Tigers are so full of turkey that they're slow and falling asleep. Well, Arkansas might pull off a miracle, but that seems unlikely this year. The season hasn't exactly been one filled with miracles, has it?

There was something that came out of the South Carolina game that gives us Hogs fans hope, however. The much maligned Casey Dick did manage to hit receiver Jarius Wright for a 70-yard play that ended in a touchdown. Arkansas hasn't done that yet this year.

There were some concerns, however. Once again, the offensive line was terrible and Dick got sacked six times. When he wasn't getting sack, poor Dick was running for his life. This is a young team so, hopefully, they'll learn a thing or two about pass protection by next season.

That will be too late for Dick, however, as he's a senior.

Also, Michael Smith got hurt. He's the running back that has been the only truly great player on the team this year. Arkansas has a bye week coming up, so let's hope those two weeks give Smith plenty of time to heal and he'll be effective against Miss State.

Now, I know a lot of my fellow Arkansans are complaining about new head coach Bobby Petrino. They need to shut the hell up. Houston Nutt, master recruiter that he is, left Petrino with nothing. Nutt's over in Ole Miss with a very talented team and Petrino is making do at Arkansas.

Give Petrino some time. He'll right the ship soon enough.

I have a feeling that Arkansas will wind up 5-7 and they'll miss out on bowl season. Anyone who knew anything about who would be left on the team this year and that a new coach would be coming in should have known things could wind up like this. You don't lose two outstanding running backs like Darren McFadden (he's playing for the Oakland Raiders now) and Felix Jones (who plays for the Dallas Cowboys) and bounce back quickly.

Meanwhile, here in Benton...

My beloved Benton Panthers took a beating on Thursday and are out of the playoff picture. Benton got stomped by Watson Chapel, 19-57. Watson Chapel isn't that great, currently ranked fifth in the 6A South with a conference record of 3-4 (4-5 overall).

I love high school football (it's a big deal here in Arkansas), but it's been hard to watch Benton this year. The team is just awful.

Now, the 6A South is an eight-team division and six of those teams are going to the playoffs. Benton finished seventh in the league with a conference record of 1-6 (2-8 overall). It's pretty pitiful when you can't even go to the playoffs when six teams in an eight-team division are going. You've got to be pretty rotten to to miss that very big boat, indeed.

Thank God for Little Rock's J.A. Fair. They came in dead last in the division by not winning a game all year. Benton beat them, and the Panthers beat Conway earlier this season.

My dad and I go to almost all of Benton's home games (we're both proud Benton graduates, so we like to see how our alma mater is doing). Neither one of us can remember a time when Benton looked so disorganized, undersized and just plain uncompetitive.

Well, there's always next year, right?