Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's Another Number?

At my alma mater, Syracuse University, 44 is a magic number. It is Jim Bown, Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Csonka. The city changed its zip code to include "44" and the student phone exchange prefixes begin with 44.

Today, this Syracuse grad turned 44 with very little fanfare. I was in Clemson and got a call from the kids in the morning, singing "You're growing old, you have gray hair...and dirty underwear."

I didn't tell any of my crew, and despite a couple of odes to me on Twitter and Facebook, nobody noticed. I don't make a big deal about other people's birthdays (or any of the Hallmark holidays) so I don't expect any well wishes in return. It's not the roadmap to a healthy relationship (or maybe it is, I'm still figuring that all out).

The last day of February is just another day on the calendar, or as I learned today, Dean Smith's birthday. But he's 82, much closer to the median age of a Fox News viewer than I.

I did spend my day in Clemson with a great lunch at The Esso Club and a late dinner at 356 Sushi. In between was a very mundane win for North Carolina over Clemson. It was a pretty typical day on the road and never felt like a special day.

It's just another day and another year removed from my youth, never more evident than on a stop-over on a fun college campus. And it's a number that reminds me I haven't changed the world in any meaningful way.

Biggie Smalls kicked in the door, wavin' the four-four. I went quietly into March 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Savannah To Clemson: Drive Or Fly?

Clemson SC is a 4 hour and 15 minute drive from home. It is a tedious and boring drive, but it isn’t all that long in the scheme of things.

But today I opted for a different plan. I flew to Atlanta and drove 2 hours to Clemson from there. That doesn’t make much sense does it? Well here are the factors in making that call, a choice I’ve been making more and more lately.

Primarily it’s necessary for preparation. In my brief time between events, I often have the kids. I also have workouts to catch up on, and many TV shows to digest from the DVR. Add these past couple of weeks of surveying potential new SUVs, and you’re right up against it until it’s time to leave.

While the time at Savannah airport or on the plane isn’t plentiful, it is a chance to hit the books. There is no work you can get done in the car besides making phone calls.

The second and less important reason is every segment counts. It’s usually a motto I don’t employ until November/December, but why wait? Get to Platinum Medallion a little earlier and you don't have to make such hard choices.

Driving is for going home after the game when I’m all keyed-up on adrenaline and 5-Hour Energy, but alas I have to go from Clemson to Columbia, Missouri for a Saturday game. So it’s going to be a 2-hour drive back to Atlanta, a flight to St. Louis, and then a 90-minute drive to Mizzou. Then a 90-minute drive back before two flights home.

It’s like the worst of both worlds: The hard choices are the price for having made such a good career choice.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Enter Jackie Nevada

The DirecTV guide description of last week's Justified episode "Money Trap" pretty much says it all:

"Raylan finds himself caught between a foxy grifter and an old nemesis out for revenge..."

Just how Elmore Leonard drew it up. In fact, much of this particular hour was lifted from Raylan, the novel. It includes the long-awaited introduction of Jackie Nevada, the card-shark Butler grad whose sense for banter and nostalgia belies her years on this earth. Her character comes across better on paper than on the show, but it doesn't make her any less attractive.

Jackie is the daughter of professional poker player Reno Nevada, and was almost named "Sierra," which of course leads to some witty back-and-forth with Raylan. She's another one of Elmore Leonard's dark-haired pistols. After all, it was J Lo who played Karen Sisco in Out Of Sight. And it was the very underrated Carla Gugino who played Sisco in the short-lived TV series.

So Jackie is going to be the next one on the "merry-go-round" with Raylan, who seems to attract women with a certain moral flexibility and colorful vocabulary.

The other show-runner from the DirecTV description was the "old nemesis out for revenge." This storyline was so memorable from the book that I thought I had seen the first-run episode before.

Jody, a killer fugitive on the run, fresh off killing two bounty hunters, enlisted the help of a low-rent porn director to find the money he stashed (that Jackie Nevada ran off with), and take out Raylan in the process.

In fact Jody and Kenneth (Kennet') make a sharply-produced video to call out Raylan, who watched it with wide eyes. Raylan and Jody  have their showdown in Raylan's home bar and Raylan pumps him full of bullets.

Jackie of course happens upon the scene while Raylan's gun is still smoking, and of course it doesn't faze her. This sort of action plays better in the book, but it's all very true to the author's vision.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Wishy Washy: February 2013

I thought when we moved to Savannah, we could throw Seasonal Affected Disorder out the window. February 2013 hasn't been particularly cold, but the weather's been dreary at best. And when you're home only 3-5 days at a time, you don't want to waste your time in the dreariness.

Only Happy When It Rains was a 1995 grunge-era anthem from the Madison, Wisconsin based band Garbage. It really encapsulates weather and moods:

"You know I love it when the news is bad."

"I only listen to sad, sad songs."

"I only smile in the dark."

"Pour your misery down on me."

So rain is popular in some circles. I love watching summer thunderstorms from my porch, and I know my lawn appreciates a good drenching.

But last week and this week, I'm trying to get the kids some exercise - they looked so miserable sitting at car riders in their raincoats. And more importantly I'm trying to shop for the next family roadster.

How do car dealers sell on days like this when customers are sloshing through puddles? Who wants to go out and kick tires or look at interiors or go on test-drives, much less spend money on a day like today...or tomorrow? Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there'll be rain.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Busted Flat in Baton Rouge

Besides the fact that this was historic day in SEC basketball with four games going to overtime for a total of nine extra periods, the most significant development was Alabama's blown 10-point lead at LSU, and the ensuing ripple effect.

It was a 12:47 CT tip in Baton Rouge. My flight out was at 3:40. According to my GPS, the airport is 13 minutes from the Maravich Center. It was a dicey decision to begin with, but my chances were good barring any unforeseen delay or overtime.

I took care of the things I could control, making sure I ate (finding breakfast in Baton Rouge on a weekend morning ain't easy), packing up the tapes and printing out my boarding pass before the game. I wanted to make my flight, but as always I had a job to do that superseded that.

The first roadblock was when the AcroDunkers came out at halftime and destroyed one of the nets. There was a 10-minute delay while arena maintenance threaded a new one. We fumbled around for a few minutes creating exhilarating TV while the basket was repaired.

But it was a fairly run-of-the-mill 2nd half. Alabama came into the game 10-3 in the SEC but very much on the NCAA tournament fence because of a number of early-season stumbles. They seemed to have the game (and their destiny) well in hand leading by 10 with 2:52 left. They were led by the brilliant lead guard play of Trevor Releford (who wound up with 36). It was going to be a regular off-air with a hero interview and I was just a few dozen steps from my rental car.

But LSU closed regulation with a tenacious 10-0 run, and we were headed to OT. One of our tape guys, funny man that he is proclaimed "Now boarding Zone 1. Zone 1." I got a chuckle out of that myself, I had pre-planned Plan B, which was a drive to New Orleans while holding for emergency travel on the 75-minute drive. But that was all for the not-too-distant future. We had an overtime (or three) to get through.

The end of the first overtime was fairly dramatic. Alabama thought they'd won at the buzzer on a tip-in, but it was waved off as being too late.

The end of the 2nd OT was bizarre as LSU's Anthony Hickey, another one of the game's heros with 7 assists and 5 steals, inexplicably dribbled out past the 3-point line and launched in a tie game to try to beat the buzzer.

When LSU had finally survived in the 3rd overtime, you could almost hear my plane in the skies above the Baton Rouge campus.

As it turns out, triple overtime was outdone a couple of hours later when Tennessee survived at Texas A&M in 4 overtimes. But I didn't learn about that until I was already at New Orleans International, where I emerged from a stand-by list to get to Charlotte and then home to Savannah before 1 AM.

So my 20-hour day ended where it should have, even if it was after it should have been. You feel for Alabama who was so close. But from a selfish standpoint, the LSU team is becoming an interesting little bunch as well, and I have them the next two Saturdays.

I'll take the drama, but let's make sure we do this in a timely fashion two weeks from now. Thank you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Backtime On The Front Porch

On Lincoln's Birthday I got plowed into someone's front porch. On Washington's Birthday, I was featured on The Front Porch.

I remember sitting down at The Creative Coast with Jake (ironically a George Washington grad) to do this a couple of months ago. He had obviously lined up a bunch of these so they would be his legacy before abdicating and bolting northbound. Sort of like the less celebrated President John Adams setting up Midnight Judges.

The Podcast is actually quite good, and I don't just say that because it features my own voice. It was the type of discussion a couple of people would have on the front porch and I enjoyed it even more the second time.

One of the topics we discussed was this blog, begging the question: What Is Backtime?

December 19, 2012

I was sitting on The Front Porch just a couple of days ago, and during our fireside chat Mr. Hodesh asked about the derivation of this blog's title.

Backtime, in TV terms, is the time left in your show. This is of course presuming that everything goes to format. You'll need to expand or compress your content to fit the show's length.

Life of course has no given length, but there are only 24 hours in a day. And if you're a Dad, a frequent business traveler, writer, researcher, and someone who wants to remain in reasonably good physical shape, that may not be enough time. So you learn how to maximize your time to get the best content on the air, which in this case means your life.

So my constant evolvement as a Dad, my road adventures, memoirs, perspective on sports, TV and book reviews, and not-too-serious political commentary are all a part of who I am. They all need to be cultivated, watered like plants, to keep my mind sharp and focus on whatever the hell comes next.

Yesterday was a good example:

7:30 AM - Homework at coffee joint

9:30 AM - Haircut

11:00 AM - Holiday Feast at the kids' elementary school

12:30 PM - Car wash

1:30 PM - Conference call (90 minutes)

3:30 PM - Conference call (60 minutes)

4:30 PM - Monitor kids' karate and gymnastics class

6:00 PM - Address and stamp 75 holiday cards

7:15 PM - My karate class

9:00 PM - Prepare food for Wednesday holiday party

10:00 PM - Write blog

Then I set the alarm for 6 AM, with a 7 AM personal training session hanging over my head. And a 12-day, 4-event road trip begins on Thursday.

My son is only 8, but he saw my "must" do list for the week and he was moved to say, "That's a lot of stuff." Come May, I'll likely be sitting on my own front porch devouring a book or just watching the traffic go by. But for now, this is the season. You can set your watch to it, I am the traffic.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Next Best Show On Television

After being away for a few days I had the option of which to watch first, The Americans or Justified. One show couldn't wait.

The Americans has it all: Cold War spy shit, historical plot points, clever disguises, marital tension, and the real threat of the end of the world.

Episode 4 "In Control" is a memorable one, as both the FBI and KGB operate behind the scenes in the immediate aftermath of the Reagan assassination attempt. When Secretary Of State Alexander Haig goes on camera and assumes temporary control of the US Government (VP George H. Bush was regarded about as highly as Dan Quayle three months into Reagan's term) Phillip and Elizabeth show the complete opposite thought processing.

Elizabeth is the real loyalist. She is the point person on "Operation Christopher," a pre-emptive strike on US government officials. They're forced to kill a security guy while staking out Caspar Weinberger's house.

She thinks like the Russians, that since Haig was once a general and has taken "control" of the government, that this assassination is a coup d'etat. That America is going under martial law and will no doubt blame the KGB, a justification to start World War III and wipe the Soviet Union off the planet.

Phillip is more pragmatic, he's really an American at this point. He knows that life is good and thinks the American people are generally good, "Moscow is overreacting." And he was right.

"All these years walking these streets, living with these people, you still don't really understand this place. Haig could have ten nuclear footballs, this still wouldn't be a coup."

The FBI was of course dispatched to find the Russian angle, and then determined that John Hinckley Jr. was a nut.

So much like the US history with the Soviets, the war was almost all hyperbole. Credit to both sides for not pushing the button.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flash Backtime: A North Carolina Hit And Run

Just finished a 36-hour stint in Raleigh. Between fine meals at Sammy's Tap & Grill with NC State legend Derrick Whittenburg, and a late dinner at the legendary Amadeo's, there was a basketball game.

The Wolfpack beat up on Florida State with a number of outstanding performances by a deep and talented squad who picked up their 19th win. They're looking to better a Sweet 16 season a year ago, and with  monster efforts like 31 points and 13 rebounds from freshman T.J. Warren, they've got a shot.

Another one of the highlights of the trip was working with a college buddy as my play-by-play guy. To think, 20 years ago I was pouring beer on the kid when he was pledging the fraternity. Just goes to show you, you have to be nice to everyone.

But a trip to North Carolina on a sunny day (at least it was when I got there) makes me think about one thing: Wine. Huh?

August 20, 2009

I took one full day on the road hitting my favorite regional winery. Time well spent!

Raylen Vineyards is one of the jewels of the very underrated North Carolina wine country. Now it's not Napa or anything, but it's very good, well-priced, and well-decorated.

Plus, who am I to disagree with one particular high-profile wine fan:

Any winery that Mariano Rivera endorses is one that I could set up a cot in. I'd just wait for his arrival so we can discuss whether he prefers the 1996 Yankees or 2009 Yankees while we share one of Raylen's unique red blends.

When it was time to go, I loaded up the trunk to transport the alcohol back across state lines.

Now I'm no professional bootlegger, but I'm told this is how Nascar got started in these parts. Guys who were transporting moonshine had to drive very, very, very fast.

I took it a little slower. And when I got home I uncorked one, and took it even slower than that.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Accidents

I was driving East on Anderson Street. It's the road that connects my house with the Truman Parkway. It's the road I take multiple times every day, and it's the way I take the kids to school as I had just an hour earlier.

But on this day, February 12th, also known as Georgia Day/Lincoln's Birthday/Fat Tuesday, I got lit up like a skinny wideout in Ed Reed's airspace.

It was about 9:50 AM when I left the house in my karate gear.  It had rained quite a bit so I wanted to avoid the standing water on Abercorn and take the end-around to the highway. Chuck Todd had gone to commercial so I switched over to The Spectrum, where I caught Kate Earl's One Woman Army - the last song I would ever hear in the Nissan Murano.

I was cruising down the thoroughfare when I caught it out of the corner of my eye. At my 3 o'clock, an old tan minivan going at roughly the same speed as I was on a side street. It didn't dawn on me that someone could run the Stop.

The photo I took of Paulsen Street was on a clear day, but there are two Stops and a blinking red light. This is the view of Driver #1 (her official name in the police report) aka "not me," who plowed me into the brick front steps of the house pictured here.

I didn't have the presence of mind to take a picture of the steps with the passenger's side of my vehicle resting on them.

But back to the moment, when I saw the other car it was too late. I couldn't slam on the brakes, I'd spin out on the wet road. So I hoped that it would swerve around me and braced for impact. I became Driver #2, aka "the shlamazel."

The moment was cinematic, as I've played it out in slow motion in my head. It was a tooth-jarring collision that sounded like a gunshot. All the airbags activated as the car spun around until it was jerked to a stop by the brick steps.

The front of the car was smoky and sulphury from the force of the airbags, the windshield was cracked, and the horn from the other car was blaring. I wobbled out and there were witnesses on the scene within moments. After asking me a number of questions, "Are you OK? Is there anyone else in the car?" the resident of the house brought me a chair from the porch and told me to sit down.

I was told there was a "gash" on my head, which turned out to be just an aggravated rug burn from the airbag. I still looked more like Uncle Fester than Frankenstein ("FrankenFester"). Police and EMS were on the scene very quickly, and I was sitting in my chair generally being left alone.

Driver #1 and her passenger were taken off in gurneys and neck braces. The witnesses had told the cops what had happened. The EMS guy asked if I needed medical attention. I didn't know, I was a little jelly-legged going to the car to get my license and insurance, and now I had to decide in my frame of mind whether I needed to go to the hospital. I decided I'd better be safe.

I was only scraped up, but as soon as I complained about some neck stiffness I was strapped on a gurney, immobilized, and was sent off in the second ambulance.

The ER is not a place you want to hang out in. Outside of a couple of nice-looking nurses, there's nothing good about the place. There was definitely no urgency to see me though I'm sure I rang up quite a bill. But I was asked my name and birthdate several times to make sure I was still with us.

After checking my neck and spine, checking for a concussion, treating the scrapes on my head, assessing my various contusions, and having an x-ray done on my big toe, everything was negative. I was released around 1:30 PM with some very weak pain meds.

I was told to be prepared for everything to hurt more tomorrow. I think that's where the expression comes from: "Tomorrow you're gonna feel like you were in a car wreck."

Then I obviously had no car, so I had to deal with Geico and then Enterprise. It was time consuming, but got quality service from each. Enterprise really did pick me up, in the pouring rain. I got a GMC Terrain with XM for a month - good enough I guess. I got new car seats for the kids, and picked up some sushi on the way home.

After informing some friends and family of my odyssey, I had a pity party for myself with Kentucky/Florida (dud), the State Of The Union (OK), and Justified (outstanding).

But it was a nice Fat Tuesday to be alive. Happy accidents are the ones you walk away from.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Rock, Dunk, Jayhawk

My career can be chopped up a number of different ways. There's the PA/AP/AD years, and the producer years. There's the single years and the family years. And there's the Big East years and the Big 12 years.

For the last decade, there is no team that I've covered more than Kansas basketball. And this week while I was toiling away at home and at Auburn, I saw the two greatest college basketball dunks I can remember. They were both by Jayhawks in the ever-heightening game of "can you top this?" between Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore this season. Both got me jumping out of my chair and shouting when there was nobody else around.

The first was Monday night by Withey, posterizing Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez. The sheer power of the slam with a strong defender draped all over him was awesome.

The fact that the slam was (way) contested and Withey brought it home with the "and one" made it one of the most remarkable basketball plays of this or any other season. And Withey was properly pumped up about it without going over the top.

Then on Saturday night, with the game against Texas well in hand, Ben McLemore got out in front of the field and did the most perfect, business-like 360 you will ever see outside of a dunk contest.

When he was out ahead you could feel it coming, but you had no idea what was about to happen.

The stills obviously don't do these athletic feats justice. So here are the You Tube links for the Withey dunk and the McLemore dunk. You're welcome.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Backtime Walkabout: Auburn

With the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, the saying is you have to "declare" your allegiance to one or the other. Well, my family has Crimson Tide ties. It's actually my in-laws. Actually my ex-in-laws. But they shower the kids with 'Bama gear, and the kids know how to greet other Alabama people with "Roll Tide."

But in the TV business, on the road, there are no such allegiances. Our allegiance is to where we stay. And I'd choose to go to Auburn 100 times out of 100.

Tuscaloosa does have a nice campus and a fun downtown area, but we usually stay at some shack off of I-20. Auburn's campus is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but we often stay downtown within walking distance of the activity.

Of course the Auburn University centerpiece is less beautiful today as the famous Toomer's corner oak doesn't look so hot, courtesy of an Alabama wacko.

But the schools have reciprocated goodwill in the wake of the Toomer's oak fiasco, and the tornado that leveled much of Tuscaloosa in the spring of 2011. All while winning the last 4 BCS championships.

Friday, February 15, 2013

RIP: Family Roadster 2004-2013

You served me and my offspring well, Nissan Murano. It's too bad that lady ran a Stop sign and put you into that nice woman's front steps on Anderson & Paulsen. It's a good thing you were a safe car and took one for the team. It's also a good thing that the valuable cargo had already been dropped at school.

Thank you Nissan Murano for being the first car in the world of my firstborn, and for moving the family safely from Omaha to Kalamazoo to Savannah. Thanks for lugging me and two exhausted children through 14 states in 16 days on the epic summer road trip of 2010.

I don't believe that things happen for a reason, but there's a reason things happen. It was about time for some new wheels and you can't get too sentimental about machinery, unless you're Neil Young. So Long May You Run Nissan Murano, somewhere in automobile heaven. Your 130,000 miles were not wasted.

In case you're wondering, Backtime's Executive Editor walked away from the crash. I was banged up, but unbroken, and a little out of sorts to remember to take pictures of the actual scene. There will be much, much more on a day in the life of a crash test dummy, coming soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day: A Good Day To Die Hard

The Die Hard movie series is now 25 years old. And there was a time in my life when I would have made sure I was at the theater on release day. But life changes and I'll have to wait for a window of opportunity. Life changes for everyone but John McClane that is. He's the guy that always winds up in the middle of some master criminal's plot.

According to IMDB, Bruce Willis is now 57 years old. Which in this world of personal trainers, anti-aging centers, and PEDs makes him ready for another couple installments. Unless he dies in this one - I haven't seen it yet - but I get the feeling he won't.

Willis was 30 and plucked from obscurity when tabbed to play alongside Cybil Shepherd, running the Blue Moon Detective Agency in Moonlighting. Their banter became the formula the romantic comedy crime drama like you now see in Castle or Bones. And that propelled Willis to mega-success.

There were some great films: Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense. And there were a lot of also-rans where the  Willis name appeared above the title. But nothing in Hollywood has ever been a more perfect fit than Bruce Willis as John McClane.

You think back to the release of Die Hard in 1988. Who possibly could have pulled that role off back then - Nick Nolte? Tom Berenger? Stallone? Maybe, but 25 years later Willis is an icon for this character.

All the Die Hard films surround Willis with an outstanding cast and very colorful arch-enemies. I will watch the first three movies just about every time they pop up on cable. The fourth one, Live Free Or Die Hard, is just a notch below though we like Timothy Olyphant as an evil cyber-genius. And Olyphant has moved on to the role that he's meant for, a bit of an icon himself.

John McClane's one-liners have taken on a life of their own. "Yippee Ki Yay" is the one that gets all the play. But if you're not a big fan of the series, I've got one thing to say to you:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flash Backtime: Marco Rubio, Behind The Music

Giving the opposition response to the State Of The Union address is hard. You have to attack or at the very least contrast the President by dishing similar rhetoric.

But when the President delivers in this forum, he gets standing ovations and backslaps from both sides. The response has no audience and no pause, it's just one person in a stale environment looking directly into the camera for 14 or so minutes - Or in Michele Bachmann's case, looking away from it.

Call it executive privilege I guess. Marco Rubio's response was more eloquent than Bobby Jindal or Paul Ryan before him, though he became fidgety and mushy-mouthed about 5 minutes in. When you have an audience, you can stop to wipe your brow or get a drink of water after an applause line. There is no such luxury in this role.

And unfortunately, the substance (I know that's a stretch) of Rubio's speech was lost as millions at home recognized how unnerved he was. Time Magazine may have anointed him as "The Republican Savior," but last night he was just another political pawn, one that is sacrificed in the big chess game.

Since the clip of a shifty (see what I did there?) Rubio reaching for his bottled water will be on a loop for the next four years, Backtime proudly re-airs its much more comprehensive dossier on Senator Rubio from this past fall.

September 22, 2012

On June 19th of this year, two dueling Marco Rubio biographies were released on the same day. On the left American Son, the memoir/autobiography of the Florida Senator and conservative rock star. On the right The Rise Of Marco Rubio, the unauthorized biography by Washington Post writer Manuel Roig-Franzia. Which one do you think I read?

Roig-Franzia's work is investigative to put it lightly. The text of the book, including afterword is 244 pages. After that, there are 32 pages of source notes. Much of the professional end is kind of boring, unless you like the hero's ascension through local and state politics. But as Rubio's life story is peeled back layer-by-layer, you can see why he wasn't the VP pick.

Would Rubio have helped Romney's chances? Maybe. Would he have dragged more drama into a ticket already riddled with soap opera? Absolutely. Not that anything necessarily disqualifies Rubio from the job. But the national vetting process would've caught wildfire with all the issues the book details, especially in a 3-month sprint to the finish.

Rubio's story, which is uniquely American by the way, is better deconstructed over the long haul. He could announce in 2015 and let the media and his GOP opponents have at it. What would be massive distractions to the campaign now would be something he and his strategists could tackle individually over the long haul.

Before chronicling the problems with Marco Rubio's own narrative, it's important to point out that he's not Tea Party. Yes he rode the insurgent wave against the GOP establishment in 2010 as he was a massive underdog to Florida's then-Governor Charlie Crist, and incorporated the movement into a landslide victory.

He essentially sent Crist packing to the other side. And Crist's chief strategist, Stuart Stevens, who managed a huge lead into a woeful defeat is doing his unwitting best to unravel Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign.

Rubio was the House Speaker in one of the purplest states in the country. While he wasn't a household name, he was a political animal. He got the Tea Party support because Crist infamously hugged President Obama. Godfather Jim DeMint gave the blessing, but once in the Senate Rubio opted not to join Rand Paul's Tea Party Caucus.

On the whole Rubio's bio is conservative enough, definitively on social issues and mostly (a converted GOP spender) on financial ones. But he's been moderate-to-progressive on immigration, and had to modify his position several times as the GOP candidates tried to out-reactionary each other in the early 2012 debates.

Rubio's mantra is about a family being welcomed in the America, and the land of opportunity made it possible for him to be where he is today. Which is true. Except he wasn't exactly forthcoming with his story's specifics, and it might seem as though it was politicized to raise his profile.

Rubio went on the stump and kick-started his web bio as his family was in exile, fleeing from the thug Castro's Cuba. But the real story is that his parents arrived in May of 1956, a good 2 1/2 years before Castro took power.

And while it's true that after Castro the Rubio family could not return to their homeland, they were immigrants, not refugees. In fact Rubio's grandfather, Pedro Victor Garcia was a proud man. When he realized that he couldn't find good work in the US and was tired of depending on his seven daughters and their husbands, he returned to Cuba in 1959 to make a better living.

If anyone ever scratched their head about what on earth Mitt Romney meant by "self-deportation," this encapsulates it. Garcia actually took a job with the Cuban government (Castro regime) before returning to the US in 1962, attempting to re-enter for good. An immigration judge ordered him deported, but the Cuban Missile Crisis began, and his return to Cuba became logistically impossible though his presence in the US remained illegal for several years until his permanent residency was approved in 1967.

The point here is that Cuban-Americans are held politically in higher regard than other Latino immigrants because of their escape from Communist rule. Again it doesn't diminish the Rubio success story, but the circumstances under which the family arrived from Cuba are not political, and not exploitable for political gain.

There's more family baggage of note. Rubio's sister's husband, brother-in-law Orlando Cicilia, was convicted on a drug trafficking/money laundering deal in 1987. He didn't seem to be a major player, but it was for a major honcho (think Calderone from Miami Vice). He wound up serving 12 years on a 25-year sentence.

How does this affect Marco Rubio, who was roaming in the defensive secondary at South Miami High at the time? Likely not at all. But it became a major dust-up with Univision when they broke the story. Which could be another reason Rubio isn't ready for the national glare, that he reacts hotly and needs time to grow a thicker skin to play the bigger game.

Then there are the corrupt types around him. Rubio's very first fundraiser when running for US Senate was thrown by Alan Mendelsohn, a notorious GOP donor, who later was sentenced to four years in prison for bribery, siphoning PAC funds, and failing to report 600K in income.

And members of Rubio's inner-circle have also found trouble. State Legislator Ralph Arza faced pressure to resign after using racial slurs more than once. And his itimidation tactics later led to a guilty plea in a witness-tampering case. He got six months.

Rubio's other right-hand man David Rivera, is now the US Representative from Florida's 25th district. He has repeatedly been under investigation related to financial disclosures, and possible kickbacks received from gambling proprietors (dog track owners).

Despite Rubio's fierce anti-gambling track record (he saw the destruction of lives throughout his years in Vegas), he and Rivera are best buddies. They were even involved in a foreclosure proceeding for a house they co-owned in Tallahassee, which was quickly rectified.

But many of Rubio's personal finances are co-mingled with his political ones. There are many situations over the years where his RNC card was used to pay for personal stuff, big and small. Rubio always seemed to work the matters out, but it could be interpreted as he was trying to slide some purchases through.

That could be in part due to his own personal financial disclosures, which showed an ongoing debt problem (into low six figures) that could be viewed in direct opposition to the public profile of personal responsibility. In later years, the lucrative sale of property to a campaign contributor also raised some flags.

These items from the Florida political landscape are documented matter-of-factly by Roig-Franzia. Corruption and kickbacks are nothing new to the Florida state politics, or would it be to any other state. It's the price of doing business, and Rubio doesn't come across as a criminal or an angel.

Rubio's religious history is also a zigzag. He was born Catholic, converted to Mormon when his family moved to Las Vegas in his middle school years, became Catholic again when the family returned to Miami, then went Baptist as an adult while eventually settling on Catholic.

His straddling of the line between the different branches of Christianity may also come across as calculated. After all, in order to embrace all of Florida, it would be wise to caucus with the Spanish-speaking Catholics in Miami while simultaneously thumping bibles in the panhandle. Throw in some pandering to rich Jews in Boca (make sure you check for hidden cameras) and you've got the trifecta.

What the book doesn't capture is the charismatic figure and captivating speaker that Rubio has become, you'd probably have to read the other book to tap into that. He is championed by republicans up and down the line, and seems respected by democrats as well.

His endorsement of Romney was tepid (like many), he's kept a fairly low profile throughout 2012, and looks to be gauging which way the future GOP wind blows, so he can adjust his sail accordingly.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Paper Backtime: Long May You Run

I chose the title for this web log from Neil Young's song of the same name, which honored a classic automobile - one that was a huge part of his life. I just finished the book two days ago and my own personal roadster was finished today. More on that in the coming days.

Young is well-known for his enthusiastic love of Lionel trains, clean energy, and enhanced digital sound quality. But nothing is a greater supporting player in this book than Neil Young's personal vehicles, which he names. "Mort" (short for Mortimer Hearseburg) was great for loading a whole band, their equipment, and some groupies if they were lucky. WN Ragland, Nanu The Lovesick Moose, and Pocahontas are all vessels of adventure on the American and Canadian road.

His passion now is for The Lincvolt, which blends his love for huge, fancy, classic cars with a clean energy footprint. It's that divergence that sort of defines his career. It's why the hypnotic, acoustic My My, Hey Hey is on the same album as the brash, electric Hey Hey, My My.

Waging Heavy Peace was actually one of the strangest books I've ever read. The stream of consciousness from the now-clean Young is also symbolic of career. He worked incessantly creating music and he put so much out there to find brilliance, which he so often did.

This book does much of the same. Young's 497 pages jump around in time and space, in frame of mind and subject. But he always prefers record compositions to songs, so his 68 chapters have to add up somehow. But maybe not, by his own admission he was never straight during his musical career.

There are a number of fantastic perspectives that spike in a book that rambles quite a bit. His ability to see the little things are quite incisive:

"I like to play to an audience that is into it. I dislike people sitting in the front row talking on cell phones. Of course these people are sitting in the most expensive seats, the ones they get through ticket scalpers and other services...Capitalism collides with music in this area. 

It was not like that when I started. The people in the front row were the music freaks, the real music fans, who knew every song, every lyric, every piece of information about the band that they could find. They were stoked to be there in front of the stage, and ready to rock. So these cell phones and rich folks who can afford the big bucks for prime seating distract me from what I am doing and make me feel like I am on display in a museum."

The subject of him not being high anymore also comes up from time to time, usually when he's walking on the beach in Hawaii or going on a road trip with the dog.

"So now I am in the song machine gone awry. I wander the halls of straightness, not knowing how to hallucinate. Finally the course is clear and the sound of the waves on the rocks is fading. The fog is clearing and there is so much sea."

Reading this book is often about separating the fog from the sea. But for those of us who appreciate the journey to the destination, or album sides to singles, Waging Heavy Peace is worth the ride.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Royce White Report: Royce White Reports

In the most celebrated news the NBDL has ever seen, Royce White today reported to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. RGV is the "AAA" affiliate of the Houston Rockets, who drafted White in the middle of the 1st round just over 6 months ago.

The news is news because White truly is a transcendent talent. At 6'8" and about 270 lbs, he led Iowa State last season in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He also led the Cyclones to their first NCAA tournament berth in 7 years. He has the body type and (most of) the skills of LeBron James.

But white enters the NBA season just before the All-Star break in the D-League, since he and Rockets management couldn't come to an understanding regarding his anxiety disorder. But White made plenty of news cycles, Twitter news feeds, and even HBO's Real Sports as an advocate for the mentally ill during his hiatus/exile.

Yesterday White passed his physical. Today he reported for action. Tomorrow he should make his pro debut against the Maine Red Claws. The national glare should be on him for about a day, then he'll play for crowds in the 5,000 range until the Rockets decide whether to elevate him to the big leagues.

After the detente, the timing of the return is of no surprise. The Vipers just returned from a 6-game road trip, and the road trips are a concern for White because of a fear of flying (among other things).

Hopefully White can achieve peace, and then eventually some acclaim in the NBA. He certainly seems ready to go.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

This Week On A Very Special Real Time

When named in a lawsuit, it is generally thought that the defendant should keep his mouth shut. Except when the legal action is a waste of everybody's time, and the defendant has a very large microphone.

The fact that Bill Maher actually received a letter from Donald Trump's attorney, Scott S. Balber, attaching a birth certificate and a denouncement that Mr. Trump is not the spawn of an orangutan, is both troubling and hilarious.

You know in the coming days, Trump will be searching feverishly for some type of comeback that can level the playing field. But in his head, George Costanza is no doubt grumbling, "Jerk Store!"

The hour-long show was brilliant in a number of areas. There was the satellite interview with Julian Assange. Newsweek's Tina Brown explained the precipice of "culture change" in the Arab world, that the Taliban fear an educated woman far more than a drone strike.

But aside from the politically salient points and topics, there was satire at its height. Maher and his writers took the infamous Obama skeet-shooting photo to the next level.

Maher questioned to what lengths Obama would pander to endear himself to the nation's rednecks.

He could guest star on Hillbilly Handfishin'.

Or pimp out the presidential ride.

He could get tattoo renderings of his children - though you don't have to be a redneck to appreciate that one.

Or he could moonlight as everybody's favorite meth cook.

When I watched this sequence in my hotel room in Lexington a couple of nights ago, I was laughing out loud and nearly broke my hand slapping the desk.

I put the computer down and had to follow up down in the hotel lobby with the riff-raff after the Rascal Flatts concert let out. I didn't have DVR so I was operating off of memory. Either my delivery was bad or the Kentuckians didn't get the irony. But today I watched it again and it was brilliant - an all-time Real Time.