Friday, October 31, 2008


The Common Man wishes you, one and all, a happy and safe Halloween. The Common Man has certainly had one. Trick or treaters have come and gone, wiping The Common Man's stash out and leaving him with a serious sugar craving and hard up for that sweet, sweet candy.

But there is a tempting option. The Common Man and The Uncommon Wife took The Boy out for his first trick-or-treating experience this year, going to the various houses around the neighborhood where he has friends. Even at 2 years old, The Boy was very carefull to say "tick-a-teet," "tank yoooo," and "Happaween" at each door as he collected his goodies. When they were finished, The Common Man and his brood returned home with a half-filled bag of chocolate-covered, sugary goodness. If The Common Man were so inclined, he could sneak up to the bag, lift out a Snickers or Twix (oh, God, the Twix!) and no one (especially not The Boy, who is sweetly tucked into bed with his froggy, baby, bear in a baseball uniform, and robotic talking bear and who will remember nothing from this night as he grows older) will be the wiser.

But, as a matter of principle, The Common Man cannot bring himself to stoop that low. After all, Halloween is a kids' holiday, and those houses gave up the goods in the expectation that it would go to an adorable two-year old in an Elmo costume, not his 30-year old, sugar-jonesing dad. The only candy in there acceptable for The Common Man to get at at this point is his package of Hot Tamales (which he won't like), but The Uncommon Wife has already claimed them. So, here he is. The Common Man. Curled on the couch in the Mancave (Mantuary), in the dark, typing away the shakes. Oh, God, if only he had a Twix!

Anyway, this craving will pass, either because The Common Man generates some freaking will power out of thin air or he passes out entirely from low blood-sugar. He's hoping for the former but will settle for the latter. And in the meantime, he'll think about his adorable son knocking on the doors of neighbors, trying hard to keep the head of the Elmo suit out of his eyes, and being ever so polite. Sure, holidays are fun for the kids. But when they're young enough, it's even more fun for the parents. Even a shallow kid-centric one like Halloween.

Anyway, Happaween everybody!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Phinally Phinished

The Common Man is man enough to admit when he's wrong (though not man enough to admit when he's lost driving through rural northern Wisconsin at 10:30 at night). So he would like to heartily congratulate the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans in the wake of their stunningly decisive World Series Championship over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Phillies were calm and commanding throughout the series, while the Rays looked young, panicky, and over-eager. Like The Common Man's cat, the Phillies played with their mouse, letting it stay in each game, convincing it they could escape, only to make them whiff on another changeupon the outside corner.

For the record, The Common Man's predictions, other than the onewhere he chose the winner, look pretty good. The running game was about equal, with both teams stealing 7 bases, getting caught once, and picked off once. Jamie Moyer pitched a solid ball game. Hamels won both his starts. And Ryan Howard hit .286/.375/.762 with 3 homers and 6 RBI.

Sadly, the Series was not a rousing success. It was sloppy, seemed one-sided despite 4 close games out of 5, sported terrible umpiring, and had a debacle of a game 5, which was first played in a monsoon and then suspended for 48 hours. Pundits have gone over the top, however, in their condemnation of it. Dean of baseball reporters, Peter Gammons posited that, "There are a lot of questions that will be weighed after this, the worst World Series in memory" and ESPN touted it as the "worst ever."

Frankly, that's ridiculous. Maybe it was a little sloppy and one-sided (11 errors in 5 games, 2 pick offs, baserunning mistakes). In 2007, the Red Sox swept the Rockies and outscored them 29-10; there was virtually no drama in that series. In 2006, the 82-80 Cardinals beat the Tigers in five games, in a series featured 12 errors. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in 2004 despite committing 8 errors in the first 2 games. In fact, the losing team hasn't won 2 games in a World Series since 2003. We've been seeing one-sided series for half a decade now, many of them sloppy. And other World Series have been halted in the middle. Famously, the 1989 Series was postponed for a week following the San Francisco earthquake. And several other games have either been rained out or suspended.

Frankly, the only criteria that should matter for a World Series are the drama it produces and the quality of the baseball played. In that regard, the 2008 World Series did ok. Not great, but ok. Though he's sure everyone in Philly enjoyed it immensely.

And one programming note: The Common Man realizes that things have been very sports-heavy around here lately. He's looking forward to once again branching out a little starting tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Does Anyone Care Anymore?

Last night, Game 5 of the World Series was postponed again, so The Common Man did some channel surfing. On TNT, he was surprised to discover that the NBA season kicked off. Who knew?

Frankly, The Common Man couldn't care less. The Common Man has only so much room in his head for sports, and that space is disproportionately dominated by baseball and to a lesser extent football. The rest of his brain (roughly 3%) is dedicated to The Simpsons and his family. So he's chosen to only take passing interest in the game, just enough to notice who wins the title, whether LeBron or D-Wade are Michael Jordan reincarnate, and whether the Wolves win more than 20 games.

But since they're going to the trouble of playing the games, The Common Man may as well make a few half-assed predictions for the coming season.

1) Everybody will make the playoffs.

Recognizing the frustration that comes from following a team for 82 games, even though they were eliminated from contention in game 6 and tanked the rest of the way to have a better shot at the #1 pick, is turning off potential fans in an economically troubled time, David Stern has made a move to address the matter, and has announced that this year, everyone makes the playoffs. For example, Stern is hoping that the enthusiasm of the (16) Charlotte Bobcats fans at getting to face the defending champion Spurs in round 1 will be enough to keep the franchise afloat until the economy recovers, since playoff tickets are more expensive and sought after.

2) You will laugh at baller-on-baller violence.

Basketball players, as a rule, think they're hard. That they're tough. And when they feel slighted by a chippy European small forward, they get their mad faces on and start swinging. But, because today's NBAers are so freakishly tall, they could not function normally in American society anywhere but on the basketball court. And when they try to do anything non-basketball related (drive a car, answer the phone, hit a dude) they look like a gangly, awkward mess. What's more, because they were catered to by their adoring fans all their lives, they never learned how to properly deck a guy. So they swing wildly, barely connecting, their punches landing beyond their opponents head, and they look like sissies. Someone's jersey gets pulled off. And eventually, Jeff van Gundy always ends up around somebody's leg. It's embarrassing for the players, but comedy gold for you. Enjoy.

3) White, unathletic (read: bad) players will continue to be called "sparkplugs" and "energy guys," and announcers will praise them for "out-hustling their black opponents.

This happens in virtually every sport. White athletes are given some kind of extra credit for being able to hang with African-American competitors. Guys like Mark Madsen and Brian Scalabrine are given ridiculous contracts to play 8 minutes a game, track down one loose ball, miss two shots, grab a couple of rebounds, and make three fouls. And for this, they are called "gamers" for "succeeding" despite their physical limitations. Meanwhile, Craig Smith of the T-Wolves averages 9 and 5 despite getting just 20 minutes a night and being only 6'7" and a power forward, and no one pays any attention. The Common Man isn't saying these announcers are racist per se, but the latent racism behind how players are judged is prevelent throughout sports.

4) The words "NBA player," "incident," and "strip club" will all be included in at least one article on this season.

There are few certainties in life. But one of them is this: athletes in general, and especially basketball players, love the strip club when they're on the road. And when they are there at 3:30 in the morning, as one or more of them undoubtedly will be, nothing good is going to come of it. Just remember this paragraph when it happens. And always remember that nothing good has ever happened between the hours of 3 and 6 AM. That's a good time to be asleep and out of harm's way.

5) Instead of watching the NBA Finals, you will go outside, sit on your deck, enjoy a drink and the sunshine.

Typically, the NBA season ends in mid-April, but its finals don't get done until the end of June. Why? Because it takes a long freaking time to whittle 16 (note: that's more than half the league) teams down that far. Indeed, by the time the playoffs end and the champion is crowned, the regular season is a distant memory. One could argue it barely matters at all. And by the time the league finishes up, the weather is nice and the sun sets late. Who in their right mind would be inside watching basketball when you could drink a pitcher of margaritas in the warm evening air?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays...

Once again, the World Series is delayed by rain. This time around, they got the game going but were forced to suspend it in the 6th because, for some reason, the umpires didn't want to use scuba gear to keep going. And the home plate ump left his prescription goggles at home (ohhh, snap!). So the game has been suspended. This gives the Tampa Bay Rays a one-day reprieve, and The Common Man something to watch tomorrow afternoon when he should really be working.

What struck The Common Man the most, as he watched the Philadelphia's infield turn into a Slip and Slide track, was how dirty B.J. Upton's uniform got in the top of the 6th. Indeed, when water hits the clay and dirt of the infield, the result is a cement-ish, paint-like goop that clings to any surface. And when Upton skidded into second-base like he was waterskiing, his pants ended up caked with bright brown ick.

It's not every baseball fan that's going to notice these things, but The Common Man was fortunate to spend two summers as a clubhouse manager for a minor league team. All The Common Man could think when he saw Upton's pants was "that's gonna be damn near impossible to get out." It's a strange perspective to have as a sports fan, The Common Man thinks, to allow laundry analysis to shape one's thoughts and impressions of historic action on the field of play.

Yet, this is what being a clubhouse manager hath wrought. The Common Man watches Upton slide and flashes back to early mornings on the day after a road trip and finding bags and bags of muddy, damp, smelly uniforms, taken off the team bus and dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Wondering just how many times he'd have to run them through the inadequate washing-machine to get them the gleaming white or stark gray that The Common Man's bosses expected. Often, he'd be at it for 4-5 hours before all the laundry was done on those days, taking a brush to the stains and scrubbing with all his might.

It was terribly frustrating, difficult work. But frankly, The Common Man enjoyed it. The job (even the laundry aspect) deepened his love, appreciation, and knowledge of the game and made him even more eager to stay up until 1 AM, watching a game end. And it helped him understand the amazingly complex and substantial network of people who support ballplayers and who never get noticed. So tonight, The Common Man salutes those real men who don't mind washing a bunch of jocks jocks, who make and lay out a banquet both before and after each game, who clean and shine every damn shoe. Here's to you boys, though tonight The Common Man is glad that, he won't be the one up until 1 AM making sure Upton's pants are ready to go tomorrow.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Beacon of Manhood: Jamie Moyer

Well, The Common Man's successful viewing experience last night, brought about by Penn State's first win at Ohio State in 15 years and plenty of time to watch Game 3 of the World Series, was improved tremendously by watching 45 year old (he'll be 46 next month) Jamie Moyer baffle Tampa Bay Rays hitters for 6.1 innings. Moyer, despite coming up ridiculously short in his previous start, bounced back against the young and hungry Rays, taming hitters less than half his age. Moyer limited the Rays to just 5 hits and 3 runs, and striking out five (including 23 year old BJ Upton once, and 22 year old uber-rookie Evan Longoria twice). He wasn't perfect, but like the cagey and wily old man that he is he kept his team in the game and far exceeded expectations.

Baseball is a funny game. As in life, the race doesn't always go to the swift or the fight to the strong. Sometimes, indeed often in baseball, gutty and smart performers can outstrip even the most skilled and gifted opponents. And when that happens, baseball is infinitely more fun to watch. Being privileged enough to watch Nolan Ryan reel off no-hitters long into his forties, or see Rickey Henderson in his 5th comeback coax out his eleventy billionth walk off a 20 year old phenom, or Jamie Moyer, throwing changeup after changeup in his first World Series in a 22 year career.

For his impressive work and his impressive age (and because no one else seemed particularly inspiring this week), The Common Man awards Moyer this week's Beacon of Manhood. The Common Man hopes to be just as successful, grizzled, and impressive when he's 46. The Common Man doesn't much mind being wrong in his predictions his prescience is thwarted by an awesome story and an ideal example of masculine manliness.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday Beer Review: Point Einbock

Mother Nature has kindly resolved The Common Man's conflict this week, postponing Game 3 of the World Series, and allowing The Common Man to college football without guilt or the fear that he'll miss something switching back and forth. Indeed, the conflictingly scheduled game is the bane of the sports fan's existence, leading to self-doubt (which game should you be watching?), disappointment (you missed the double-reverse, flea-flicker TD pass), and, worst of all, bad karma (as the game you decide is most important to you will ultimately end poorly).

To celebrate his reprieve, The Common Man cracked open a Point Einbock, a local brew out of Stephen's Point, WI, that The Common Man had sampled a few weeks back. Indeed, hoping to improve his karma and his manly rooting talents, The Common Man knew he needed to drink a big beer, one with full body and flavor. Indeed, to have the testosterone to root properly, The Common Man strongly believes that only good, strong beer will prime your manly pump. Indeed, any beer drunk solely on the basis of its "drinkability" will leave your rooter on empty by the start of the third quarter.

Point's website brags that its Einbock "is hand-crafted utilizing the finest Munich and Vienna styles of specialty malts with a blend of Bavarian Hallertauer hops." It starts relatively smooth and flavorful, but has a strong bite on the back end. Still, the bite is not overbearing nor does it discourage further consumption. Rather, its a reminder to slow down and enjoy the beer's ample caramel and fruit flavors. It is a manly bite, sure to put hair on your chest and drop your voice by at least an octave. Perfect for gameday.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Film at 11

Since The Common Man's virus seems to have run its course (thank God), he's happy to share virally goodness with all y'all.

-- First off, The Common Man doesn't care who you are and what your political, social, or philosophical beliefs are. If everyone in the nation can't come together and call this literal take on A-ha's classic '80s hit "Take On Me" comedy genius, he doesn't know what everyone is fighting for.

But, and here's where The Common Man realizes that he's lame (but lame in a totally awesome kind of way), when he comics guy breaks through into our world, how is he going to survive? He'll have no social security number, no references, and, frankly, he's awfully sweaty and gross looking. He can't actually expect the chick he just met to let him move in and freeload off her, can he?

-- Since time immemorial, man has struggled with the ultimate question: What would happen if Superman and Batman were real, and they met? Thankfully, the question has finally been answered, thanks to College Humor. Also, it turns out that Superman is kind of a douche.

-- The Common Man is, of course, stallwart and true, and unfazed by things that would frighten most men to their cores. But he is having nightmares. And the nightmares look like this:

Real or no, that is one scary kid. Even though he's as tall and well-proportioned as a two-year old can be, The Common Man thinks he's going to put The Boy on a diet.

--Finally, because he hasn't shown one in a while...EXPLOSION!!!

Bonus: It's narrated by Adam West. What more could you want?

The Match Game

Last night, the Phillies and Rays proved that, even if the Yankees or Red Sox don't make the World Series, good baseball trumps stupid media-generated storylines. In a tight and thrilling 3-2 win, the Phillies took a big step toward upsetting the young and talented Rays, behind the strong left arm of Cole Hamels and the powerful bat of Chase Utley.

So what's changed? Really not much. Hamels still needs to win his next start, because Myers/Moyer/Blanton are not going to win 3 of their 5 starts. This is where, as The Founding Father pointed out last night, Ryan Howard needs to start beating up on the Rays' right handed starters, and stop flailing at breaking balls in the dirt.

With that in mind, The Common Man wants to take a look at some of the other matchups that will prove important to watch in the next 3-6 games:

1) Dioneer Navarro vs. Phillies, Carlos Ruiz vs. Rays

As you saw last night, both the Rays and Phillies like to run and are generally successful. The Phillies stole 136 bases during the regular season and were only caught 25 times (47-3 for Jimmy Rollins alone, and 20-1 for Jayson Werth). That was good for 3rd in the NL, and only 5 off the leaders, and their stealing percentage was by far the best in the league. The Rays led the AL with 142 SB (including 44 by CF BJ Upton), but with a far lower success rate. It will be imperative for these catchers to limit the running game as much as possible, particularly in games like last night's, where one run's importance is magnified so greatly. Navarro threw out 38% of basestealers this year, and Ruiz threw out 25%.

2) Jaimie Moyer vs. Father Time

Jaimie Moyer is something of a marvel. At 45 years old, easily the oldest player in the majors, he's enjoying his best season since 2003. He has lasted 22 seasons in the bigs, almost all of them as a soft-tossing, control artist who has succeeded by upsetting hitters' timing and being left-handed. Despite not really establishing himself until he was 30 (including spending all of 1992, his age 29 season, in the minors), Moyer has won 246 games, been an all star, and pitched in four postseasons. That said, it was clear against the Dodgers that Moyer didn't have an answer for good right-handed hitters. Given BJ Upton's tremendous postseason, Jason Bartlett's proclivity for hitting lefties (.379/.411/.508), and Evan Longoria's all around awesomeness, there a good chance that Moyer's pitched his last effective game of 2008. And at 45, there's a good chance that Moyer's pitched his last extended stretch of effective baseball. And that's a shame, because he's had a pretty awesome career.

3) Phillies history vs. Rays history

Even though The Common Man doesn't really think that previous incarnations of the Phillies and Rays will have any bearing on this series, it's worht noting that these are two of the losingest sports franchises in the history of professional sports. The Phillies have been around since 1883 and have won exactly ONE league championship (there was no World Series before 1903). Their all-time record is 8945-10,099. They are the only franchise ever with 10,000 losses. The Rays, on the other hand, have a 751-1037 record in just 11 seasons. Their winning percentage is an abysmal .420. This is not only the first year they've made the postseason, but the first year they've finished above .500, and the first year they haven't lost at least 90 games. If there is some way for both teams to lose this World Series, The Common Man is confident it will happen.

4) Brett Myers vs. Willy Aybar

If Aybar starts at DH tonight for the Rays, and judging by how well he's been hitting that's a distinct possibility, you can call this the Domestic Disturbance Dustup. Aybar, after a disappointing 2007 that saw him check into rehab for a substance abuse problem, started 2008 off in a big way by assaulting his wife in the Dominican Republic. Afraid that being jailed for three months would be detrimental to the family, Aybar's wife had the charges dropped and Aybar was free to come back to the Rays and deliver post-season heroics and have everyone in the mainstream news forget that he's a wife-beater. Likewise, Phillies starter Brett Myers is a mouth-breathing, raging, wife-beating a-hole who deserves to be shoveling manure in whatever hole he crawled out of rather than pitching in a World Series. Myers was arrested in 2006, in Boston, for hitting his wife in the face out in public on the street. God knows what he does in private. Myers was allowed to pitch the next day by the Phillies (if The Common Man remembers correctly, on national TV). Following the game, according to ESPN, Myers said was not especially contrite, saying, "I'm sorry it had to get public, that's it. Of course, it's embarrassing." Myers, by the way, is 6'4", 215-230 lbs. His wife is not. The Common Man doesn't wish ill on many people, but if it were possible for both of these men to get tangled up along the first baseline and each tear an achilles, he'd be for it.

5) TV Ratings vs. Good baseball

Look, the TV ratings are going to be lower for this World Series than last year's. That's just the way it goes. Fewer people live in Tampa and Philly than in Boston and Denver. But, if the teams play well and the games are close, series like this have the ability to create more fans for major league baseball than another year with the Sox or Yankees in the series. Indeed, thinking back to the Twins' first championship in 1987, and how that affected The Common Man's rooting interests, it's clear that he would not be as obsessed with the game today than he would have been if the Twins stayed also-rans for so many of his formative years. So think of all the kids in Philly and Tampa today who are getting to enjoy and be motivated by baseball for the first time. And think about how these kids are going to grow up to be baseball nuts in 2020. And think about the kids in Chicago or St. Louis or rural Arkansas that get to see players like Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins, Evan Longoria, Chase Utley, and even Jaimie Moyer and see their futures. The Common Man thinks that this World Series can and will do more for baseball in the long-term than any since, say, 2001.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Series Preview

Since The Common Man has split the day chasing The Boy and worshipping at the alter of the porcelyn god, he has not had a chance to write the massive, detailed, funny, insightful, and moving World Series Preview he had planned. He'll try to get to that tomorrow morning, assuming he hasn't flushed away all his internal organs by then, and have a regular post up in the afternoon as well.

But since the series is about to start, here's The Common Man's prediction snapshot for the 103rd World Series.

1) Rays win in 6. Shysterball points out

"I think prognosticators do that because if they say a series will end in four or five games, they are saying something bold about one team's strength in relation to the other's. To call for a sweep is to suggest a hopeless mismatch. To say five is only a tad better. A fella can piss off readers when he does that and, even worse, someone may later say that he was really, really wrong! At the same time, if he says seven, he's basically saying he has no idea which team is better, and hey, anyone can do that. "Saying six is a difference splitter. By saying six, Johnny Expert is basically saying "I think team X is better than team Y, but not so much that you can later rub how wrong I was in my face, OK?"

Still, The Common Man picks the Rays because they look better on paper, the AL is better than the NL for the umpteenth straight year, but the Phils are good enough to homer their way into a couple of wins.

2) Key Players. For Tampa, their starters (Kazmir, Shields, Garza, Sonnanstine) need to go deep and limit the exposure of Tampa's bullpen. Out in the bullpen, David Price needs to be the monster he is. For Philly, it will essential for Pat Burrell and Chris Coste to get hot and hit the pants off of Kazmir. And Hamels needs to be lights out, because...

3) Philly (and Cole Hamels) need to beat Scott Kazmir twice. Hamels is the only elite starter the Phils have, and they'll need to luck into two more wins from Myers, Moyer, and Blanton in order to pull this off. So...

4) If Philly loses game one, it's essentially done. Sure, stranger things have happened, momentum doesn't really matter, baseball's a funny game, yadda, yadda, yadda. But unless the Phils get an out of nowhere performance from one of their other starters, The Common Man doesn't see how they keep up with the Rays' consistent offense and sparkling pitchers.

5) Ryan Howard has to be a monster in games 2-4 and 6-7. He's a hell of a hitter, very strong, but definitely not used to facing the caliber of righty starters that the Rays are going to throw at him (again, AL > NL).

So there you go. Good luck to both teams, since The Common Man doesn't really have a horse in this race. The Common Man now is going to collapse in a chair and pray the world stops spinning.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What You Should Have Been Watching: Life

Law and Order, more than any other show before or since, has defined the procedural show. By strictly dividing its hour into halves (conveniently law and order), the long-running NBC legal drama has at once elevated the procedural and dumbed it down for the common viewer. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but given L&O's incredible success, it's not surprising that their model has run rampant across television (The Common Man is looking at you, every single show on CBS). As L&O has declined, other shows have shown real promise in revitalizing a formula that seemed static. House, for instance, has perfected the formula and consistently delivers an engaging, funny, and mind-bending hour every week.

Another program that has shown a great deal of promise over the last two years has been NBC's Life. Life takes the cop-procedural drama and adds a Veronica Mars-esque long-term story arc. Indeed, perhaps its best to think of the show as Veronica Mars for 30 year olds.

Damian Lewis (who will be instantly recognizable to any fans of HBO's excellent mini-series Band of Brothers, as Lt. Winters) stars as Charlie Crews, a Los Angeles detective who was framed for the murder of his best friends and sentenced to life in prison. When he is exonerated, Crews successfully sues the city and the department for several million dollars and to get his job back. Back on the outside and on the force, Crews uses the knowledge and skills he accrued in prison, as well as an offbeat, zen-like philosophy to solve crimes and annoy his partner (Sarah Shahi). In his spare time (since this is television), Crews spends his time searching for the people who murdered his friends and put him in jail.

It sounds gimmicky, and it is. But the shows producers exploit that gimmick, and Lewis's wonderful acting, to tremendous effect, allowing the crimes Lewis investigates to explore his mind and the nature of incarceration. Lewis shows off a manly intellectual curiosity, wanting to understand himself, human nature, and the world around him. While on the surface he seems calm, his obsessive and consuming quest to discover the truth belies an inner conflict that he struggles to contain. Particularly strong supporting performances by Adam Arkin and new cast member Donal Logue highlight Lewis's quirky performance, and ground what would otherwise be a heady, ethereal show about a millionaire cop in reality.

It's a testament to the shows producers that not a single moment of the show feels wasted. Indeed, every line uttered by the characters and every crime investigated add more depth to the characters, as they seem to grow and expand with each episode.

In its best recent episode, Crews and his partner are assigned to investigate a murder that occurred in a recreation of the famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. As Crews reenters "prison," his familiarity with the guard/prisoner relationship, comfort in the prison setting, and recognition of the power dynamics at play all reveal as much about the effects of the prison system in the United States as they do about Crews. And in the end, he understands and bonds with the killer, lovingly advising him how to handle his time in real jail. Crews knows, above all, that everyone is connected to everyone, and that those connections make each person stronger. And in the end, that's what this show is, a show that seeks to understand human nature and to embrace it. To explore the better, and the worse angels of its nature. The Common Man appreciates its complexity and its simplicity; its humor and its seriousness.

Life is available online at if you'd like to get caught up in a different kind of detective show, and airs on Fridays on NBC at 10:00 Eastern.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Eenie Meenie

If you've at all seen the clips on youtube of McCain rallies or the commercials produced by both campaigns, you know that Americans have their political ire up. The Common Man doesn't begrudge that. He is, after all, a political junky and revels in analyzing the process by which one guy gets elected to have a bunch of power over the rest of the guys. But The Common Man can easily see how this election season could be indescribably frustrating for most Americans, with its protracted electoral season and its strikingly unpleasant rhetoric back and forth. As the country inches ever closer to the second Tuesday in November, the election seems to take on greater and greater significance, the parties involved more and more shrill, and the stakes ever higher and higher.

In this hyper-political environment, perhaps its not surprising that both major party candidates have been elevated to a brand, of sorts, becoming dour and humorless symbols of something, corporate logos, rather than human beings. So, as the election season winds down (by winding up), The Common Man is pleased to see reminders that the candidates are, in fact, human freaking beings. It is sad, of course, that Barak Obama's grandmother is ill and that Joe Biden's mother-in-law passed away. But to see these candidates leave the field during what is, undoubtedly, the most important period of their lives is a reminder that, indeed, someone loves these two men. And they have people that they love.

Indeed, these people probably are upset about accusations that their grandson goes "palling around with terrorists" or is either un-American, a Muslim (not that this should be a problem), or both. Or they have to endure the claim that their father is "erratic," "unstable," and has a violent temper. Though candidates invite slander and cheap criticism simply by virtue of being politicians, there are those who stand with and behind these candidates who are affected by the attacks. Not that the realization that Obama's grandmother is probably listening in will stop the attacks (nor, really, should it), but that Americans listening in can remember that both tickets presumably come from strong family backgrounds, were raised by well-meaning, good people, and have a positive vision for how this country should and will be.

Likewise, when the nature of the campaign is to turn the candidates old before their time, and stump speeches and talking points seek to remove all semblance of a personality from these candidates, it's good to remember that, indeed, there is substance there. Whatever their detractors think of them, no one can claim that either Obama or McCain is an empty suit. And when John McCain can get up in front of the Al Smith Memorial Dinner, and deliver a brilliantly witty, smart, self-deprecating, and memorable speech in support of the Smith Memorial Fund, it only serves to remind America that he's a funny man, a man formerly much beloved in this country for his energy, his attitude, and his accomplishments.

Really, this weekend served to underlie the fact that, no matter who wins the election in two weeks, America will be in better hands than it has been in for eight years. While it may take time to resolve the challenges the country faces in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Wall Street, America's next leader (provided John McCain doesn't die in office) will have the intelligence, political acumen, and humility to move the country forward. That's a comforting thought, even if The Common Man's preferred candidate stumbles in the coming weeks.

John McCain: One funny mother.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Stuff and Saturday Beer Review: Stockyard Oatmeal Stout

Today was a cool, crisp day. The kind of day where The Common Man doesn't mind being out raking leaves, contemplating the end of summer, because the temperature is perfect to do work and not become a sweaty nasty mess. Instead, he could collect said leaves into a neat pile and enjoy watching The Boy collapse, face-first, into them over and over. Indeed, as The Founding Father points out, over at The Mantuary, there is no month like October if you're a man. Football, baseball, raking, perfect temperatures. Fires in the evening.

And finally, it's time to get into real beer. No more light and airy beers, tasting vaguely of fruit and dancing. Instead, it's time to drink stouts, porters, and bocks, strong dark beers designed to ward off the cold and provide nourishment in the barren winter months. So, tonight, as The Common Man sits in his favorite chair, watching the Red Sox-Rays game, reading one of Rainster's latest book recommendations, and just enjoying life, he holds in his hand a mug of Stockyard Oatmeal Stout, which he found at his local Trader Joe's.

Stockyard is apparently brewed by Goose Island Brewing Company, out of Chicago. The Common Man says "apparently" because there is no Stockyard Brewing Company, and other beer bloggers out there have suggested that they've found some kind of connection. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that this is a perfectly acceptable beer, rich in flavor and dark in color. There's a significant amount of carbonation, and subsequently it has a thinner feel to it than, say, Guinness.

Indeed, after sneaking a taste, The Uncommon Wife called it "Guinness for wusses". She's got a point. That said, there's less flavor here than in Guinness. It's got more chocolate to it than coffee flavored aftertaste, and sticks with you far shorter than the Irish Stout by which Irish Stouts are judged. It's worth a try if you want to like Guinness but are turned off by just how thick, rich, and overbearing the beer can be. Just be sure to drink it when it's warmer. The Common Man gave it a try right out of the fridge and didn't get the full body of the beer until later. It was then he realized that it's a manly beer for manly men, but not for the manliest of men, who drink a Guinness for breakfast, a Guinness for lunch, and then a sensible dinner.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Finance and Freak Outs

The Common Man, like most of you, has been following the economic news in the wake of the recovery plan passed by Congress, signed by President Bush, and enacted by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. And like most of you, he's incredibly curious (and hopeful) to see whether it will work. After all, The Common Man would like to not have to ride the rails, eating beans from a can, grifting his way across the nation. Frankly, his grifting skills are in steep decline and he doesn't like beans all that much. Trains are cool though.

As he's checked back to, he's been incredibly amused to follow the headlines associated with the bailout. Indeed, when stocks fell on Monday, reported that investors had no confidence in the bailout plan. But on Tuesday, when the Dow rallied in the morning, the headline suggested something like the international economic relief plan had made investors confident in the solvency of their system. Indeed, whenever the stock market rises and falls, financial journalists seem to switch their narrative. If the market is up, the measures proposed by the FED are working; if the market is down, they aren't. Sometimes the narrative shifts a couple of times a day, as though everyone on Wall Street loses their shit at exactly the same time. (Currently, is talking about a "Wall Street Whipsaw: Stocks turn mixed as investors consider recession talk, lower oil prices.")

Meanwhile, regular Americans are watching this rollercoaster and are getting nauseous and nervous. The volatility, not just of the market, but of the narrative makes it difficult to know who to trust and what exactly is happening. It's like re-reading a comic strip, but finding that the panels keep changing, and it's never how you remember it. It's disorienting and is promoting panic, and The Common Man can't help but think it's counterproductive.

Is it possible to separate the narrative of the Dow's rise and fall from the narrative of the economic recovery plan at this point? The Common Man doesn't know. The two are so intrinsically tied in America's mind right now that it will be incredibly difficult to parsel them out. Yet, The Common Man thinks that's absolutely necessary, to give the recovery plan the time it needs to work without constant speculation about whether it's working or not. Give the damn thing a couple of months, dammit before you pronounce, once and for all, how things are going. In the mean time, tell Americans how best to protect their assets and reassure them that, probably, things will eventually be ok again. Stop promoting the provoking the greatest fears of Americans who believe that a new depression is likely.

If recent history has taught The Common Man anything, its that you can't judge the effectiveness of a policy by the first few days after it's implemented. The Iraq War went great for a few weeks and everyone in Washington seemed to love No Child Left Behind when it was initially passed. Be calm, be reasoned, and let the recovery plan do it's job why don't you. Leave the editorializing for later. That goes for the media as well as for the individual.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Live, From the Basement, It's Debate Night!

To be consistent, The Common Man considered getting in his car and driving around for 90 minutes to listen to the debate. But, because his knee hurts too much to make his way toward the garage, The Common Man is going to stick it out here on the couch with his beer and live blog the debate. Updates every 15 minutes or so, all times are central. One final note, in the interest of full-disclosure, The Common Man is supporting Barak Obama for President, though he has a lot of respect for John McCain's service before he got to the Senate and while he was there.

8:03 Bob Schieffer starts off with a question about the economy and the candidates’ plan to fix it. Is anyone actually wondering about the economy these days? Hmmm, The Common Man hasn’t heard anything.

8:06 Obama’s answer is much more direct and clear than McCain’s. He sounds more confident and calm. John McCain, on the other hand, sounds as though he’s rambling and wandering through his answer. Like a student giving a presentation who didn’t read through it in advance.

8:11 Joe the Plumber? Saying it over and over makes him sound like a ridiculous character and dehumanizes him. This works against McCain, as he needs to connect on a deep level with American voters tonight. Instead, he sounds shallow and condescending to Joe the Plumber.

8:13 McCain needs a better phrase than "spreads the wealth around," which sounds terribly positive (which of course McCain doesn't mean it to be). That sounds pretty good. Share that wealth around to The Common Man, why don't you?

8:17 "I'd use a hatchet and then I'd get out a scalpel?" What's the point once you've cut off the arm? Bad metaphor.

8:19 John McCain mentions the $3 million "overhead projector" for the Chicago Planetarium. This sounds familiar to me. his audio being piped in from the previous debate?

8:20 McCain finally scores by looking at Obama and telling him "I'm not President Bush; if you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." Now he's addressing Obama directly again. Terribly effective, challenging him to explain himself.

8:23 Barak Obama cites Fox News as supporting him. McCain's head almost explodes. His eyes nearly ended up in Shearer's lap.

8:25 Ooh, Bob Schieffer! Yeah, tell each other off!

8:29 Neither one of them has the balls to do it.

8:32 McCain looks smug on the split-screen. Obama, measured and reasoned.

8:33 McCain: I'm proud of the people who come to our rallies.

Really, John?

8:36 ACORN is tearing apart the fabric of our dewmocracy? Then our dewmocracy is terribly weak and we have bigger problems than ACORN.

8:40 Ooh, a running mate question. This should be good. Who would you rather be President of the United States, Joe Biden or Sarah Palin? The Common Man will give you a moment to stop laughing before you answer.

8:42 This brief time-out brought to you by Bayer Muscle & Joint Cream. Mmm...menthol and numbness.

8:43 If The Common Man had not seen all the clips of Sarah Palin, John McCain's description of Sarah Palin would be incredibly moving and persuasive. A very great description.

8:50 Since The Common Man was forced to miss out on visual portion of the first two debates, this is the first time he's seen the candidates together for any extended time. Has the difference between their demeanors always appeared so striking?

8:51 Right, John, Barak Obama's eloquence is a bad thing. Everyone knows that them people who know'd how to talk smart can't never be trusted.

8:55 Why did McCain look incredulous when Obama brought up that Colombian labor organizers are being assassinated? Is that somehow off the table? How unpleasant. Gentlemen shouldn't discuss such things. By the way, according to Human Rights Watch, "Colombia leads the world in trade unionist assassinations, with 17 killings in the first three months of 2008 alone, and more than 400 during the 6-year administration of President Alvaro Uribe. Hardly any of the killers have been brought to justice."

9:01 "Your fine is zero." Very effective. Whether its true or not and gets factchecked apart (The Common Man has no idea, really), he just won the point. People won't remember the fact check. They will remember the zero. So McCain's grin seems misplaced.

9:04 John McCain doesn't dumb down as well as George Bush dumbs down. Believe it or not, that's a weakness. Despite all his faults, Bush always conveyed the idea that he's communicating and connecting with his audience. McCain seems to be talking past them.

9:08 Right, so John McCain won't impose a litmus test, but supporting Roe v. Wade isn't a sign of judicial acumen and of correctly interpreting the Constitution. So, what's the difference?

9:15 McCain is blinking. Like, he's blinking a lot. A LOT. Someone who knows poker, tell The Common Man what that means. The Common Man thinks it means John McCain is nervous, or knows he's in trouble, but doesn't know for certain.

9:17 Obama: Education-->Economic strength. Economic strength-->Military strenght. A strong, clear equation.

9:17 The Uncommon Wife: "Is John McCain actually made out of wax? And is he melting?"

9:25 The Common Man thinks John McCain's rocking his rebuttal on education, sounding at once disappointed in Obama and knowledgeable about the subject. The Uncommon Wife disagrees, she says "McCain really makes me feel uncomfortable."

9:31 McCain leaps into the handshake with Obama at the end of the debate. Making sure that he remembered, after forgetting following the second one.

9:34 Talking heads think the "Joe Plumber" was effective. The Common Man thinks that shows that the mainstream media is entirely out of touch and insulated from the Joe the Plumbers of America.

9:35 Overall, The Common Man thinks that John McCain did far better this time around than previously, but didn't really do enough to change the tenor and tone of the race and his place within it. He looked and sounded uncomfortable at times, while Obama seemed cool and composed throughout. Bob Schieffer was a terrific moderator. He asked interesting and insightful questions and follow-ups, and kept both candidates to their time. It was a contentious debate, though not as unpleasant to hear as last week, when both candidates sounded whiny and flustered.

And, now, The Common Man is going to pay attention to his wife. He'll be back tomorrow for his regular post. And he invites your comments and criticism.

The Name Game

This is, truly, a politically contentious age. The Common Man believes that the exchange between Republicans and Democrats grows ever more strident and discourteous, it's like no one knows how to talk to one another anymore, or how to express their opinions in a manner that won't come off as rude, insulting, or pattently ridiculous. Indeed, political speech has become stupid, and persuasion seems a lost art for most Americans.

Case in point: Mark Ciptak is a father of three living in Elizabethton, TN (site of the Kirsten Dunst career-wrecker of a movie of the same name), who works for the Red Cross Blood Bank.. At the hospital, while his wife recovered from labor and (for the purposes of The Common Man's narrative) holding their newborn baby girl in her arms, Ciptak filled out the baby's birth certificate. Though he and his wife had agreed to name the girl Ava Grace (awww, that's beautiful), Ciptak had a change of heart and, without consulting the love of his life, wrote down his daughter's name as "Sarah McCain Palin" Ciptak. "I took one for the cause," he said, "I can't give a lot of financial support for the campaign. I do have a sign up in my yard, but I can do very little."

First of all, naming your daughter Sarah McCain Palin is virtually no different than putting up a yard sign. Indeed, his yard sign probably is more effective in political debate because a) it's apparent to more people and b) it seems far less ridiculous. Naming your child after a candidate just seems weird to this Common American, and The Common Man is certain he's not alone. Not that many, many children haven't been named after political figures in the past, mind you, but rarely has it seemed so blatant and awkward, and done for such shameless political reasons (Ciptak didn't do it because he admires McCain and Palin, but because he wants to promote their flailing campaign).

Sure, this constitutes political speech, but it's not effective political speech. Aside from demonstrating one man's duplicity, idiocy, and devosion it does nothing to actively persuade undecideds. The Common Man submits that, while this is an extreme and egregious case of someone mistaking "making a statement" for "persuading others to get what you want", that the majority of Americans can think of little better way to express their opinions and bring about the electoral result they want. That's sad, especially when the campaigns are constantly looking for volunteers and would encourage any and all of their supporters to talk about the election with their neighbors.

Finally, The Common Man has to point out, without knowing anything else about Ciptak and his family (he well may be a good man, husband, and father otherwise), that this is a terrible example of fathering. First, he purposely and willfully neglected to discuss the matter with his wife. A lie of omission that he's publicly demonstrated for his other children. Second, he treated his daughter as a commodity, as something to be used for a political purpose, rather than as a blessing and as someone he loved. He saw her as an opportunity, not a person. That's selfish and unmanly. If The Common Man tried to name his next child Obama, The Uncommon Wife would make sure that no one ever found his body. As for Mrs. Ciptak, "I don't think she believes me yet," he told the Kingsport Times-News. "It's going to take some more convincing."

It may also take a great deal of convincing to keep her from calling an attorney. Good luck pal. And the American dewmocracy keeps slouching ever lower.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quick Hits

In the news today, as The Common Man nurses some tendonitis in his knee: is wondering whether Barak Obama's lead is actually a lead. Twenty-five years ago, Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley ran for Governor of California and polls taken before the election and exit-polling suggested that he had won. However, when the votes were counted, Bradley lost. Scrambling to account for their failure, scholars and pollsters suggested that social pressures and fear of being labeled as racist may have convinced some voters to lie about who they had voted for. According to CNN, "Some analysts say the Bradley effect can account for 6 percentage points against an African-American candidate." Since their national polling has Obama ahead by 8 points, that would drop the race into a virtual dead heat,, well within the margin of error.

Fortunately, as usual, the boys at and those at realclearpolitics are on top of things (actually, they were far out in front on this story, and CNN seems to be playing catch-up). According to Lance Tarrance, Bradley's own internal poster, "The hype surrounding the Bradley Effect has evolved to where some political pundits believe in 2008 that Obama must win in the national pre-election polls by 6-9 points before he can be assured a victory. That’s absurd. There won’t be a 6-9 point Bradley Effect –- there can’t be, since few national polls show a large enough amount of undecided voters and it's in the undecided column where racism supposedly hides. The other reason I reject the Bradley Effect in 2008 is because there was not a Bradley Effect in the 1982 California Governor’s race, either. Even though Tom Bradley had been slightly ahead in the polls in 1982, due to sampling error, it was statistically too close to call." So the so-called Bradley Effect may have been less influential than originally thought because of poor polling.

--That's not to say that racism doesn't exist these days, however. Indeed, The Common Man was searching for some images to depict colonialism the other day and came across a vile page (The Common Man will reprint the address here, but will not link to it, under any circumstances. View this as an educational experience. And the behavior by the crowds at McCain rallies has been extremely troubling:

This man, of course, is an extreme example, but The Common Man is incensed that the people behind him didn't yank that monkey from his hands and burn it. It's dispicable behavior, and letting dispicable behavior happen in front of you without doing something to stop it makes you morally culpable as well. McCain supporters, do yourselves and your candidate a favor and stop idiots like this one before they get broadcast on youtube. Every time some idiot like this gets coverage, your candidate's chances of getting elected dip slightly.

--Speaking of people who don't have a chance in hell of getting what they want, Samuel Barteley Steele is suing Jon bon Jovi and Major League Baseball for 400...billion dollars for copyright infringement. Bon Jovi's incredibly mediocre "I Like This Town" is the theme song for this year's MLB playoffs (you know this if you've watched, say, 15 minutes of baseball this October). Anyway, Steele is claiming that Bon Jovi stole his idea for the song from Steele's song "(Man I Really) Love This Team." Steele apparently submitted his song to MLB in 2006, but was rejected. Here is the Bon Jovi song, just in case you like disappointment:

As for Steele and his band Chelsea City Council, here's their MySpace page, and this appears to be the song in question. Beware, they also appear to suck. As for their case, judge that for yourself.

--When Major League Baseball and its subsidiaries are not bilking terrible musiciansout of their hard-earned billions (chuckles), some ballplayers actually go out of their way to be good people. Jonny Gomes, the hacktastic outfielder for the feel-good Rays, is one of those. The Rays all shaved their hair into mohawks in an aesthetically-challenged sign of solidarity for the playoffs.
When one young fan, 12-year old Zachary Sharples, followed suit he was suspended from school for having hair that constituted a distraction. Hearing about his story on the news, Gomes invited him onto the field before Game 2 against the Red Sox to watch batting practice, meet the players, and get an autographed bat. Gomes points out "Hopefully, we've got a Rays fan for life -- a Jonny Gomes fan for life. To make the kid's day -- maybe make the kid's year -- is awesome." Good on you, Jonny Gomes.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quick Robin!

Turning now to less weighty topics, recently, The Common Man's usage of the term "man cave" was called into question by The Founding Father, who writes over at The Mantuary. The term, he claims, was invented by someone over at HGTV, which presumably means that women came up with it. Sure, The Common Man will grant that he is not the first to use the term, and that it's entirely possible that its some kind of womanly creation.

The Common Man certainly won't take issue with The Founding Father's terminology. He can and should keep using it. After all, he is an expert on manly spaces and has a nice site that The Common Man plans to keep an eye on. He urges you to check the site out as well.

But The Common Man is unsure whether the word conveys the right atmosphere for his manly seat of power. First, Mantuary is difficult to say, without the c between the n and the t there. The word seems a little weak. "Man cave," however, is direct, to the point, descriptive, and functional. Like men should be. And the word Mantuary implies that men somehow need sanctuary from the femininity the wife brings. The Common Man sees no need for that. The Uncommon Wife is welcome in the man cave any time, so long as she and The Common Man are clear that it's where the football and baseball and violent movies happen (last night, John Carpenter's The Thing. Manly men freezing to death and not trusting one another.... Excellent!) when such things are necessary. And her touches (and those of The Boy) are welcome there too. The goal of the family is to mesh their lives together into one; so long as The Common Man's autographed baseballs, 1965 World Series Program, and 1991 newspaper plate from the day the Twins won the World Series are not disturbed and remain the focus of the room, The Common Man has no call to complain. He does, after all, want his wife and son to feel comfortable in his domain. Finally, The Common Man would point out that the aforementioned man cave is located deep underground, with little natural light. It has both the look and the feel of a cave.

The Common Man doesn't really care who came up with the idea. Women, after all, are well known for their good ideas (or so The Uncommon Wife keeps telling The Common Man). And if imitation is the second best form of flattery (outright plagiarism being the first), he doesn't really see a need to stop using it (particularly since The Uncommon Wife would like him to flatter her more often...this counts, right?).

Since the term "man cave" is a good one, The Common Man is planning to keep using it on this site. However, perhaps he should leave it up to his loyal readers. By what term should we call the formerly-named Man Cave for future reference? Please vote in the poll on the right.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Indian Giver

Christianity (or at least the Christian nations) rightly gets blamed for a large share of the problems in the globe today. Indeed, it was in the name of spreading Christianity to the furthest corners of the globe (tough to do, of course, because the globe is spherical) that colonization became so fashionable in the second millennium. Of course, economic and political gain were major driving forces as well, but the positive p.r. line was that Jesus's word needed to be taught to the "heathens." And, of course, the displacement of peoples, the redrawing of borders, the cultural (and literal) extermination of peoples, and the playing of one ethnicity off against another that followed played a huge part in ruining the Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia that we see today. And through it all, the most visible face of the Western colonial powers was usually those of the Christian missionary. Also, given that the crusades and Spanish conquest of the Americas led to (probably) the largest level of religious violence in history (not Christianity's best hours), The Common Man can understand a certain level of animosity toward Christ and his teachings, and toward Christian churches in general, throughout the world.

With all Christianity has done wrong, perhaps the greatest testament to the religion (and to its founder) is how it continues to thrive, even in the places that were once oppressed by it. Indeed, it's impressive how fast church populations are growing in Africa, and how they are maintaining their numbers in atmospheres hostile to them (China, Egypt, Afghanistan, etc.). Yet, for all Christianity gets put upon for its failures in the past, and as much as its dominance in the West is taken for granted, it's amazing to realize that Christianity is often on the receiving end of violence as it attempts to grow further in these hostile areas.

In particular, Pope Benedict's decision to declare Sister Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception the first Indian saint drags this phenomenon, kicking and screaming, into the light. St. Alphonsa was born during a premature labor, brought on when a snake wrapped itself around her mother's neck in the night. She suffered severe eczema for over a year and was permanently disabled after severely burning her feet. Though she apparently suffered greatly in life, St. Alphonsa, according to Catholic Online she "is usually noted for her acceptance and love of suffering and pain" because of its connection to Christ's suffering. "It is a rare spiritual height for the Christian soul than a passive fatalistic resignation to one’s problems or pain," the article continues.

Yet, the suffering that Alphonsa endured and apparently welcomed is also being meted out upon Christians in India by a hard-line element of Hindus, particularly those in the state of Orissa. These attacks, according to the Associated Press, "have left dozens of people dead, dozens of churches destroyed and thousands of people homeless, many forced to live for days in thick forests until they could make their way to safety." Since the August assassination of a conservative Hindu leader (by Maoist extremists having no connection to the state's Christian population), "groups blamed Christians and set fire to a Christian orphanage. That has been followed by mob attacks on churches as well as shops and homes owned by Christian. At least 28 people have been killed." And the problem is spreading and becoming more entrenched, as right-wing Hindu parties are becoming legitimate parts of state governments.

The attacks undermine a) just how weak any minority population is in the face of fervor and b) Christianity's struggles to gain a foothold in the Roman Empire is mirrored today in the struggle of Christians and their martyrdom for their faith in hostile environments. It seems, indeed, to be the nature of any "other" to encounter resistance within a dominant culture. And The Common Man isn't sure whether that's reassuring (as many people seem to have outgrown the competition) or scary (considering all the new and exciting ways people have learned to kill each other in recent years). Either way, this problem deserves greater public scrutiny whether it's in India, Michigan, or England, where the other is unfairly attacked (physically or otherwise) for trying to secure its right to exist. Perhaps by framing the issue in terms of what is happening to Christianity, the West can be roused to act (or to pressure others to act).