The 2012 GOP Presidential Nomination Becomes A Two Horse Race

Rick Perry is on his way out. Michelle Bachmann is on her way out. Herman Cain is likely out. Chris Christie is not running. Donald Trump played the role of creepy seducer for about two weeks. And the most sane men in the GOP 2012 presidential nominee field, Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Buddy Roemer, the latter I could actually vote for in another era, never had a chance in this field of wingnuts and freedom hating millionaires.

That leaves just two men. Two men who happen to be the veterans of the pack. They are the ones who have spent the most years trying to earn a GOP presidential nomination, and therefore, should have been the front runners all along. And those two men are Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Romney should still be the favorite, based on the history of these things. However this installment of the GOP presidential nomination race has broken the pattern set over the last 40 years. It has been fascinating to watch. Simply the record number of debates has been fascinating. There will be more GOP primary debates than any NFL team has games this season, including the eventual Super Bowl participants.

I think we might have finally put infidelity behind us as a destroyer of men's political careers. How else can we explain the return of Newt Gingritch? Here's a man who cheated on two wives and is thrice married. It should be pointed out that Gingrich left his first two wives not only in the middle of extramarital affairs, but while they were stricken with a long term illness. Here's a man who shamelessly had an affair with the woman who became his current wife while prosecuting Bill Clinton for having an affair with a White House intern. Then, just a few months ago, he spun the story in a unique way when he explained that his affairs were driven by his passion to serve the nation. Newt is a passionate guy. And passionate guys will scamble to replace their wives as they walk the long road to the White House.

Cheating on one's wife and divorcing her when she's in the hospital is the sort of behavior that destroyed Gary Hart and John Edwards, respectively. But not Newt. He has gone from former House Speaker with no elected future 13 years ago, to having about a 45% chance of becoming the star of the 2012 GOP ticket today. He has spent most of the last decade as a lobbiest and paid speaker at Republican conferences and events. He had no chance of being elected to public office ever again. He wasn't seriously considered as a presidential candidate between 1998 and 2008, when George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were the big three ticket condenters. And does anyone remember this video from 2003

Newt being punked by Sacha Baron Cohen was confirmation that he was done as a politician, yes? How incorrect I was, with a lot of other, more qualified people who appear on television to analyize politics.

While I took a look at Newt's growing web site, I couldn't help but notice this text in Callista Gingrich's blog within site (which is called Callista's Canvas!):

Acquaintances admit that Callista Gingrich’s stiff smile and crisp uniform make it easier for detractors to portray her as cold and manipulative, a characterization they say is not accurate, though she has apparently resisted internal campaign efforts to soften her edges. Those sources also say it is hard to overstate her ever-growing involvement in the Gingrich empire and her husband’s campaign, for better or for worse.

Actually, go and read that entire blog post. It is incredibly frank and revealing. Could you imagine any presidential candidate's wife not only allowing her cold personality to be acknowledged by the campaign writers, but also acknowledging just how much of the family's K Street lobbying income is diverted to her favorite private institutions? Yes, it's public information, available to those who seek it out. But I have never seen it disclosed so clearly on a candidate's web site. Expect Rachel Maddow or Chris Matthews to pick up on Callista and the "five Gingrich firms on K Street," or, as Callista calls it above, "the Gingrich empire."

Gallery Galleon Opens For The 2011/2012 Season In Vieques

An announcement from Marion, the owner of the wonderful Gallery Galleon in Vieques, PR:

Greetings Friends,

We hope you can join us for our first show, The Passion Show, Friday, November 25th 6-7:30pm, Passionate Art, Poetry, Passionate foods and drinks. Louise Guerin oil paintings from New Zealand, Richard Giglio: Pablo Neruda paintings and Sandra Reyes, mosaics and glass sculptures!

Please visit our website to see our Upcoming Events:  Cape Cod Artists: December 23rd, Women of Vieques Photography: Feb 3rd and Gallery Galleon Group show: March 16th. All openings are Fridays from 6-7:30pm. Gallery is open Tuesday-Saturday 11-5pm after the first show, and by appointment, 787-741-3078. Rt. 201 one mile from Esperanza! for full details.

Gallery Galleon page on Facebook and for further questions!

*****Our first Vieques student class taught by Louise Guerin is FULL! Thank you for all the supporters of the Gallery Galleon arts program!****

Gracias, Blessings to you, Marion

A Quick Question

So the corrupt, draconian NCAA once banned UNLV basketball two seasons for hanging out with gamblers. They banned U Mass basketball because Marcus Camby accepted gifts and hookers from an NBA agent. So how long will they ban Penn State football for allowing children to be raped? Can they afford to? Can the networks?

This is not a matter internal to Penn State University. This is a massive criminal case. There will be prosecutions. There will be lawsuits. And there already is the investigation of a cover up or conspiracy. And it's going to get worse.

As much as I hate college division one sports and the NCAA, this cannot be something the body will ignore. Penn State must be banned.


No, writes Jason Kirk of SB Nation.

Toon Still Unbeaten In League Play

Newcastle have earned an extraordinary 19 points in 9 league games. They still need 40 points to ensure safety in the league. However, given how weak the Premiership seems to be this season, Newcastle should race to that total before the ground thaws in the spring of 2012.

But are they really good enough to qualify for an UEFA tournament next season? So soon? They are going to remain in the top six so long as Tim Krul remains brilliant in net, and the defense and midfield continue to develop as a unit. But their first league defeat has to be on the horizon. If not against Stock, then Everton, or Manchester City. The first league defeat is coming. How the squad deals with it will help define this season and the team's spirit.

Two highlights from Saturday's match against Wigan sum up the game. In the first half, Tim Krul made a tremendous save against Wigan's Vctor Moses, who fired a rising shot that was labeled for a spot under the crossbar. Then, late in the second half, the French midfield finally produced a goal. In the 80th minute, Sylvain Marveaux fed a beutiful pass backward to the outside center-right of the box, where Yohan Cabaye fired a rising shot into the top left corner. It was a perfect shot, perfect finish. Game, set, match, Newcastle. 

Here' wat my favorite NUFC blogs had to say:

Black and White and Read All Over:

Pardew had what he referred to as "<em>a little chat</em>" with the players at the interval - not quite the stirring oratory of half-time in February's meeting with Arsenal, you'd imagine, but certainly enough to urge them into a hungrier and more purposeful second-half performance.

Blog on the Tyne:

Cabaye's character is already shining through at Newcastle and long may it continue.

View From the Shite Seats:

It was an undeserved victory for a United side who had struggled all afternoon to create any chances of note and also to keep out a Wigan team who looked far more impressive than their lowly-position would suggest.

Newcastle To Be Put To The Test

There shouldn't be anything to assist Newcastle on Sunday, aside from plenty of rest and the enthusiastic support of home spectators. Sunday's match will be a true test of Newcastle's potential. They will host the Spurs, a side that has arguably has one of the best four midfields in the English Premier League.

Newcastle's new Franco-centric midfield will be the focus as a goal will almost surely be needed from them to support Newcastle's forwards, Demba Ba and Leon Best. Best and Ba have begun to gel and score goals, but in a game like this, I think a goal from a non forward would go a long way towards victory. Could be a long range shot, or a set play. We'll see if I am correct.

Newcastle will not be facing a full strength Tottenham side, as the Spurs will be without their star striker, Emmanuel Adebayor. However, the Spurs are full of weapons against the Magpies, who are slight underdogs.

Newcastle will have the option of using Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa as substitutes, since both have recently declared fit. Fatigue should not be an issue for the Toon. 

The game will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel in the US and Canada, and might be found at pirate video sites such as AtdheNet.

UPDATE, October 18, 09:48: Emmanuel Adebayor was fit to play for the Spurs after all. Newcastle got a well deserved point after coming from behind twice in Sunday's match.

Another GOP Profile In Courage

Herman Cain opened himself up to uncomfortable, personal questions when he went on a tour to promote his new book, which promotes his run for president. In the book, he explains in detail why he chose not to get involved in the 1960s civil rights movement, depite being a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta between 1963-1967.

I want to make it very clear that it involvement in the civil rights movement should never be a litmus test for office, much in the same way military service in Vietnam used to be a litmus test for national, male politicians. No black man or woman who was an adult between 1955 and 1970 should be required to reveal their involvement in the civil rights movement, nor should it be expected or assumed that they were involved simply on the basis of their skin color. Everyone had reasons for speaking out or remaining silent, and a lot of it had to do with geographic location and income.

No one should have to be interrogated about what they did in the 1960s. That is, unless they are running for president and bring it up themselves.

Lawrence O'Donnell went straight for the jugluar in his interview with Herman Cain last week. Mr. Cain, in his book, tells the story that while he was in high school, his father advised him not to get involved in civil rights rallies, marches, petitions, or other public events. For everyone who lived through that era in the south, getting involved was assuming at least some risk, be it legal, professional, or in some case, physical. I would agree that a black teenager being arrested in 1962 or 1963 Atlanta would not have been easy to shake off. I don't judge Herman Cain's reasons for not getting involved.  

But I do think it is appropriate to ask Mr. Cain about 1963 if he himself brings it up. In his book, Mr. Cain writes: 

On a day-to-day basis, because the civil rights movement was a few years in front of me, I was too young to participate when they first started the Freedom Rides, and the sit-ins. So on a day-to-day basis, it didn't have an impact. I just kept going to school, doing what I was supposed to do, and stayed out of trouble--I didn't go downtown and try to participate in sit-ins. But I well remember, as a young teenager, seeing signs printed in large black letters at the fronts of buses: "White seat from front, colored seat from rear." One day when I was thirteen, my friends and I were riding home from school in a half-empty bus--this was at the time when the civil rights movement was just getting off the ground and some police officers were just looking for a reason to shoot a black person who "got out of line." So, counter to our real feelings, we decided to avoid trouble by moving to the back of the bus when the driver told us to. By that time, the sit-ins and the Freedom Rides had kind of broken the ice, even though things hadn't fully changed. So we saw it every day on TV and read about it in the news. Dad always said, "Stay out of trouble," and we did.

That passage almost makes it seem as if Mr. Cain would have gotten involved in sit ins and protests if he wasn't so young at the time. However, Mr. Cain was 19 years old and in college during Freedom Summer. He must have been surrounded by fellow students who were involved. So if he agreed with ending segregation and discrimination, why didn't he step forward just a little when history came knocking on his door in Atlanta in the mid 1960s? He wasn't in a northern city. He wasn't overseas. He was living near the epicenter of a movement that changed this country and opened the door for him to run for national office. 

Now if I were interviewing Herman Cain here, I might start the line of questioning with something gentle like, "Did you ever consider participating in a civil rights event while at Morehouse?" Or I might ask if he had friends who did. Or I might ask if he ever regreetted not getting involved, especually after the Freedom Summer of 1964, which was a media breakthrough for the movement. But that's why I am not an aggressive journalist. That's why I don't have Lawrence O'Donnell's job. Civil rights era questions at 07:20:

And if you thought O'Donnell was blunt and to the point, check out Martin Bashir laying a massive smackdown on CNN International (H/T We Are Respectable Negroes). 

And on Friday October 7, a day after his heated interview with Cain, Lawrence O'Donnell got some constructive feedback from Al Sharpton, Professor Mellissa Harris-Perry, and Goldie Taylor.

For all the shit Democrats have had to go through after volunteering their service and putting their asses on the line (both Al Gore and John Kerry volunteered for Vietnam and skipped the draft lottery process), should the news media be giving a pass to candidates who almost boast about sitting out opportunities to put themselves on the line?

It is obvious that the book passage (which seems very random, sandwiched betweeen other little stories from Cain's teenage years) was meant to reassure the GOP and potential voters that he is not a rebellous black man. He's no community organizer. He never flirted with liberation theology or black power. He's a corporate manager. And he is runnign to protect corporate interests. The GOP need not fear the color of his skin. They'll just have to put up with his volunteer peanut gallery (which can be heard in the O'Donnell interview videos).

Fixing A Wingnut's Analogy

I shouldn't do this. This is such a moot point. But it bothered me the moment Hank Williams, Jr. made his flippant remark while on Fox & Friends over a week ago. He threw in a dead guy to construct an analogy between two pairs of people. As an ameteur editor, I have to say that is not a best practice in analogies.

Williams touched on a couple of Wingnut talking points when he said what he said. First, he reinforced the narrative that Obama is the GOPs worst enemy. But that can't be true. As Ted Rall has said many times (and as I finally agree), most in the GOP and Democratic party engage in political theater, in which they act that they are opposed to each other. Obama is not the GOP's enemy. The GOPs real enemies are the American progressives who might finally be taking to the streets in sigificant numbers after ten years of economic decline.

Second, Williams reinforced the myth that Obams is strongly anti Isreal. This completey ignores two facts that (1) Obama and Clinton's Isreal policy is exactly the same as Bush and Rice's, and (2) Obama made it clear at his annual UN speech that the Palestinians will not be able to solve their crisis through speeches or resolutions at the UN. It was a firm message that the actions of the Palestinian authority two weeks ago at the UN were, in the end, meaningless and not supported by the US. How is that anti-Israel? Oh right, Obama is a radical black man and of course, all radical black men are anti Semites, just like Louis Farrakhan, or Professor Griff.

So what does a seeming hungover Williams say on live TV about President Obama playing golf with Speaker Boehner?

It would be like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu.

Let me fix that for you Hank, as one of the four people in your analogy is dead.

It would be like Hitler Ahmadinejad playing golf with Netanyahu.

There. Fixed. Not that the analogy is correct. Obama is still not the enemy of Israel. But if you are going to claim that he is, at least drop the dead guy out of your analogy. Not that Williams knows who the president of Iran is, or is able to pronounce his name. But you don't really expect wingnuts to be educated, do you?

Goodbye, R.E.M.

I've had two weeks to digest R.E.M.'s inevitable breakup announcement. I have to say, they went out with class. While they lost of lot of listeners after New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), the last four R.E.M. albums were all very good. They were true to the band's roots, involved a fresh dose of Brian Wilson influences, and a few times went back to the sound of perhaps their most loved album, Automatic for the People (1992).

R.E.M. spent over 10 years as a consensus choice as one of the best rock bands in the US. They shared that title with other acts that have come and gone, including Talking Heads, The Pixies, Living Colour, Soundgarden, Metallica, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Luna (and some that have stayed, such as Wilco and Interpol). They were not only one of the best bands in the US, but they were also part of the New Wave. They entered the scene thanks to airplay on American college radio alongside the likes of Talking Heads and U2. And they were simultaneously part of the Athens Georgia music scene, which, along with Boston, Chicago, and Seattle, is a founding city of the Indie music scene of the 1980s and 90s (later to be branded "Alternative" by the music industry). R.E.M. is one of the few bands (the only band?) to bridge the New Wave movement and the American Indie movement, and arguably helped to found the Indie movement. While their Athens counterparts, the B-52s, remained in the New Wave movement, R.E.M. established the framework of how a small band from a college town could get radio airplay nationwide and music videos on MTV. In just four short years, R.E.M. went from having a critically acclaimed, yet underground album (Murmur (1983)), to a breakthrough video on MTV in September, 1987 for The One I Love:

I entered high school with Document, graduated college weeks after drummer Bill Berry suffered a ruptured aneurysm on atage (and bought a Georgia farm in preparation for his retirement), and firmly settled into New York to the sounds of New Adventures in Hi-Fi. I rocked out in my dorm room to the contemporary, distortion pedal sounds of Monster (1994) and enjoyed drinks in a bar in north Amherst with friends and the occasional female to the sounds of the honest, somber masterpeice, Automatic for the People.

There have been magnificent articles and books written about R.E.M. I close this post with some recent articles I've read in the past few years.

 Josh Modell, Spin:

Here, [in Collapse Into Now], they discover the glow of middle age, warmly acknowledging the past -- hello again, Peter Buck's mandolin -- while realizing that the present can feel just as comforting. The sober, pretty "Uberlin" sounds like a happier cousin to "Drive." Twinkling ballad "Every Day Is Yours to Win" updates "Everybody Hurts" for the other side of despair, when optimism seeps back in. "Discoverer" and "All the Best" deliver sexy crunch for Monster fans. It's R.E.M.'s many faces, collapsing into now.

Annie Zaleski, Salon:

Even as the band’s popularity increased — Top 10 Billboard hits, MTV heavy rotation, arena tours, mainstream radio airplay — there was nothing overtly contemporary about their music.

 Chris Sullentrop, Slate:

From almost the beginning, there's been something backward-looking about R.E.M. fandom, a secret wish that R.E.M. never become more than a heralded but middling-selling college band from Athens, Ga.—even though such obscurity would mean that the vast majority of R.E.M. fans engaged in this Edenic pining would never have discovered them.

 Dan Kois, Slate:

Even R.E.M.'s "political" songs of the era, like "Fall on Me" or "Exhuming McCarthy," are tricky to parse. " Fall on Me" could maybe be about acid rain, or maybe air pollution in general, or maybe, uh, missile defense? Whereas U2's political songs of the 1980s are a little easier to work out: "Pride (In the Name of Love)" is about Martin Luther King Jr., for example, and "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" is about Bloody Sunday. Stirring as those songs are, there's very little a listener can bring to them; they are Bono's take, not yours, unlike "Fall on Me," which, for me, in 1987, was a deeply personal song about the crushing whatever of existence.


Newcastle Eyeing An Undefeated October

A Black and White October? That would be the limit of Newcaastle United's unbeaten streak, I think. 

Then again, take a look at how lucky the team has been. They wrestled a point from an unbalanced Arsenal side. They weren't supposed to win at Villa Park in mid September. But they fought hard and got a point against their former ace goalkeeper, Shay Given. And this past weekend, they came out swinging against Wolverhampton at Molineaux, a ground that has given them much trouble in recent years. But a fortunate correct call by the referee prevented a Wolves penalty, and a fortunate, incorrect call by a referee disallowed what would have been Wolverhapton's tying goal at the very end of the second half. 

Newcastle needed luck to get this far without a loss. But they are gelling as a team. Their defense has been better than average most of the time. Their offense has been below average, until the last two games when Demba Ba began to produce goals. And theough it all, their midfield has held everything together, and it is arguably one of the four best midfields in the league this season.

One of the other great midfields belongs to Tottenham. Newcastle get to rest for 13 days before hosting the Spurs. During that time, five players should fully recover from minor injuries and be ready for action: forward Shola Ameobi, midfielders Hatem Ben Arfa and Dan Gossling, and defenders Mike Williamson and Davide Santon, their crucial new left back. If they somehow get a point out of the Tottenham match, then Newcastle should keep going until the end of the month.

When the lads visit Stoke on October 31, I expect them to finally lose. If not there, then surely the next game against Everton.

What's that? They can defeat both of them? They can take this winning streak into the City of Manchester Stadium on November 19th? I like your attitude, Geordie faithful.

On to the news wire. There's so much to share:

A freelancer over at Bleacher Report summarizes how Newcastle are already surpassing expectations this season.

Sunday Sun: Pardew praises "blossoming" sqad

Footbo: "I believe its a very good time to be a Newcastle fan and I think theres a squad here, if we are lucky with injuries that could be the biggest surprise this year in english football."

The National: "It might not have been splashed on headline-grabbing transfer fees but Ashley has put his money where his mouth is."

Black And White And Read All Over: "[Joey Barton] may not have been present to irritate Wolves - something Alan Pardew lamented after the game, claiming he "might have stopped or slowed down the game" - but we still managed to upset them with a combination of clinical finishing, breathtaking goalkeeping, committed defending and, perhaps most crucially, the not inconsiderable assistance of the officials."

Blog On The Tyne: "Let's be honest, Ba went into the clash with Blackburn under a little bit of pressure after failing to find the net in his first few games. Yet Ba walked out of St James' Park clutching the match ball which had been signed by all of his team-mates."

View From The Shite Seats: "We may not be the best team in the league, and we may well fall away over the coming months, especially during the difficult November fixture list, but for once we have something to shout about and a team to feel rightly proud of, so let’s enjoy it while it lasts."

Does This Look Like A 14th Place Team?

I was going to start this post by answering my own question. Does Newcastle United look like a 14th place team after going undefeated in August and picking up seven points? Not right now, no. But could they get stuck in a relegation battle if they pick up injuries? Of course.

Newcastle supporters are on edge, mainly because the club fell one signing short of its goal during the summer transfer window.

Newcastle wanted to purchase two strikers over the summer. They could only sign one. The string of successful signings in June was not continued in July or August, and the team ran out of time to find a new star forward. We can speculate that the front office failed to do due diligence with each bid. We can also speculate that the team's tour of the USA, combined with vocal discontent from departing midfielders Kevin Nolan and Joey barton caused too much disruption to what should have been a very positive summer of development and refinement.

The failure to sign a star striker has delt a blow to expectations for the club from both fans and the press. I believe two major UK media outlets have Newcastle finishing in 14th place, a poorer result than last season.

This has been a very busy year for me. I haven't blogged as much as I'd like. But I could have done a weekly summary about Newcastle United's activities during the summer, and it would have been a lot of filler.

So what better way to resume blogging about Newcastle United ...than with a lot of new filler!

Here are the key articles from the last three weeks that demonstrate just how this club and its supporters go through dramatic ups and downs at any point in the season:

Black & White & Read All Over: "No new arrivals on deadline day - how depressingly predictable."

Give Me Football: "Overall, the Magpies have strengthened with the addition of seven new signings, but the lack of a striker addition means it gives opportunity for one of Pardew's current crop to step up to the plate..."

People UK: "Newcastle boss Alan Pardew admits the ­­bitter relationship between the club’s owner Mike Ashley and Toon Army causes him problems."

Sunday Sun: Alan Pardew goes to Swizerland to take another look at long term striker target, Eren Derdiyok, who has been on Newcastle's radar for three years.

The Media Education Fountation Turns 20 This Fall

A message from Professor Sut Jhally, U Mass Communications professor and founder of the Media Education Foundation:

Dear MEF Friends and Colleagues,

The bottom-line pressures of our commercial media system are in the process of delivering a deathblow to American journalism. The demise of print journalism and the rise of the image have essentially forced the mainstream news media into the entertainment business. And the consequences for public discourse have been devastating. As author Chris Hedges has pointed out, the loss of independent journalism is “impoverishing our civil discourse, leaving us less and less connected to the world around us, plunging larger and larger parts of our society into dark holes and opening up greater opportunities for unchecked corruption, disinformation, and the abuse of power.” By filling the information void created by media consolidation and rampant commercialism with half-truths and ever more fantastic spectacles, corporations have built what Hedges has called an “empire of illusion.”

And in the empire of illusion, reality has met its match.

Climate change, resource and species depletion, domestic financial disaster, and shocks to the global capitalist system bring us face-to-face with what the philosopher Slavoj Zizek has called an “apocalyptic zero-point,” nbut the media-advertising-public-relations complex has been up to the task. In just one of many examples, upwards of 40 percent of Americans now disagree with the overwhelming consensus of international scientists who say that human beings are causing climate change, and that not changing course will be catastrophic, choosing instead to throw their lot in with the paid roster of corporate-sponsored "scientists," "experts," and politicians who have been offering up comforting illusions in the face of inconvenient realities.

The traditional intellectual function of colleges and universities seems more crucial than ever in this environment of mass denial and distraction. The work of teachers, researchers, scholars, and writers in many ways represents a last bulwark against the encroachments of commercial illusion that have spread across the wider culture. When I founded MEF 20 years ago, I couldn’t have known this. My primary goal was to distribute my first film,Dreamworlds, and to add my voice to the many others who were fighting for the legitimacy of popular culture as a field of study. I had no idea at the time just how important media education, media educators, and critical inquiry of this kind would become just two decades later: not only as a means of intellectual self-defense, but as a defense against threats to democracy and civil society.

Stuart Hall seems to me to have gotten it just right when he said that intellectuals have two primary responsibilities: to understand the world as objectively as it can be understood, and to communicate that understanding to the wider public beyond the realm of specialized intellectuals. On our 20th anniversary, with the stakes higher than they have ever been, I couldn’t be more grateful that MEF remains dedicated to exactly those goals.

Best wishes for a productive academic year,

Sut Jhally Founder & Executive Director

Revealed: The Final Saab-Subaru Joint Project

Back when General Motors owned 20% of Subaru, it decided to utilize Subaru's platforms for it's least appreciated brand, Saab. While Saab enjoys a healthy cult status among New Englanders, 1970s lberals, college professors, and gay men, it has had a tricky existance in the US. After all, how do you convince customers looking at BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz to consider a front wheel drive car from Sweden, containing a mix of engineering architectures from Alfa Romeo, GM, and briefly, Subaru?

Mercedes buyers buy the brand primarilly for the status and the safety innovations. BMW buyers are in love with the brand for its sport luxury blend and, until recently, universal insistance on rear wheel drive. Audi buyers used to be from left field, like Saab drivers. But in the last 20 years, under guidance of their parent Volkswagen, Audi has become the German auto afficiando's alternative to Mercedes and BMW. Saab has always been trying to compete against the German sport luxury segment, but for decades, they did so with a hatchback using a front wheel drive platform. Saab was more known more for its winter-proof features, such as heated seats, than its peformance on the road.

That was supposed to change in their partnership with Subaru. More all wheel drive vehicles would be introduced (in the end, only the leather-clad Impreza clone 9-2x was produced). Saab would share GM's new global platforms such as the Theta. Subaru's new flagship, the B9 Tribeca, would be the basis of Saab's first SUV, the 9-6x. In the spring of 2005, a prototype of the 9-6x was produced.

But it was too little too late to turn Saab into the next Oldsmobile. GM sold its stake in Subaru to Toyota that October. As a final product, GM quickly developed a Saab SUV based on the Chevy Blazer / GMC Envoy, dubbed the 9-7x. By 2009, Saab was forced to find a buyer or shut down as an auto maker.

Saab was rescued (twice, actually), and they remade their entire image. They embraced their heritage of rounded hoods, wrap around greenhouse windshields, and the coolest car cup holders of all time. They chose to make their vehicles part time all wheel drive, using Haldex rear differentials made in Sweden and used in proven platforms by Ford and Volvo. And they renovated both their design center in the UK, hired a highly talented, American-born design director, and are remarketing themselves as the car brand with the edge in design.

And so now, over six years after the 9-6x prototype was put together, it has been revealed in the Saab museum and on the Saab blog. It's essentially a B9 Tribeca with the more conservative body panels of the current Tribeca. In fact, the body panels shown here were designed for the Saab 9-6. When Subaru decided to tone down the original Zapatinas design in 2007, they simply copied what you see here for the sides and back of the current Tribeca.

The interior, however, is all Zapatinas. The electroluminescent guages of the Tribeca have been replaced by green LED lit dials, and the logo on the steering wheel is different. But otherwise this is the same interior that the Tribeca has used since its 2005 debut.


Dhalgren's Favorite Android Apps

After using and loving Andorid for 11 months, I figured I'd add my two cents on the most useful, trustworthy apps to download and use.

1. Flight Track ($4.99). Track flighs and save a list of all the flights you have taken / will take. Flight Track notifies you when a gate or time changes and when the flight status has changed (taken off, landed, etc.).

2. Flight Board ($3.99). A beautiful companion of Flight Track that lets you see the arrivals or departures board for any airport in the style of the big boards at Paris' CDG airport. Flight Board can be used as the phone's live wallpaper, which is really nice.

3. Google Scoreboard (free). It's just a baby, but Google Scoreboard is off to a wonderful start. Select leagues to follow, including all 4 English football leagues and Japanese baseball. Select favorite teams. When a game starts or ends involving a favorite team, you get a notification at the top of the screen. Really nice. But it has growing pains. Often you have to reload data by tapping the scoreboards. The scoreboards are separated by league, like cards in a deck, and Scoreboard does not actively load them all. The app is not yet set up for full background operation. It often loads the scores for the league that currently has games in progress, and neglects the others. So for a user like me who is following a Japanese baseball team, the most reliable notification is the score of the NPB game in progress, which arrives as soon as I turn on my phone at 06:00 or 07:00 New York Time. But I am confident that Scoreboard will be ironed out.


4. Beautiful Widgets ($2.90). Don't like the home screen clock that you carrier put on your Android phone? Or was there no clock at all? Add a beautiful clock, clock + weather, or weather-only widget with Beautiful Widgets. True to its name, there are hundreds of different skins, fonts, and icons to download and use. Widgets are one of the biggest differences between the iPhone and Andorid. And Android users love to customize their phone to make it ther own. Beautiful Widgets is the best app for the money to let you do that.
5. Gingerbread Launcher (by Modaco, free). Sprint is great, but the SprintID packs Sprint is encouraging us to use are not. Switching from your customized screen to a SprintID pack wipes out your widgets, wallpaper, and sometimes your settings and shortcuts/folders. Replace the annoying SprintID icon at the bottom of your screen with the standard green Google browser globe, and never accidentally use SprintID again. Unfortunately requires you to recreate your widgets and folders. But it's a one time process. Once it's done, you don't ever hve to see the SprintID icon again.
6. Better Alarm Clock Pro ($1.99). It's an alarm clock that layers over the standard Anfroid alarm clock. Why is it better? Becasue it has a cool LED display feature. Choose the color for the digits from millions of colors. Then dim the screen so your phone can be used as a travel alarm clock. Simply stand the phone upright or horizontally and you have a cool travel alarm that won't light up the room. Better Android is a popular, trusted delveloper. But as of this month, they have been banned from the Market after one of their apps was frowned upon by the Google gatemasters. I hope they -and this app- come back.

7. Tip Calculator ($0.99). Very straightforward. Enter the check amount, the tip percentage (15%), and the number of people splitting the bill. Tip Calculator does the rest. 
8. OpenTable (Free). Make restaurant reservations and find new restaurants. Works really well and has a clean interface. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.
9, Opera Mini Web Browser (free). The standard Google browser that comes with the phone is just fine. But if you need extra speed and a cleaner interface, the folks at Opera have built a super fast browser that lets you get into a web page, do your thing, and get out. Very nice when you are in the middle of the Great Urban Race. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.
10. IMDb (free). You see a sign for an upcoming or ongoing film production in the city. Don't make a mental note of the title. Launch IMDb on your Android and find the synopsis and cast in seconds. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.

12. Gauge Battery Widget Pro ($1.98). Android phones eat up batteries, especiually when you have GPS and WiFi turned on, or if you're uploading phone photos to Facebook. Gauge Battery Widget is an attractive dashboard-style widget that shows you how much juice you have left. Very simple and it doesn't eat batteries. The Pro version allows you to customize the color and transparancy of every gauge element.

13. Google Sky Map (free). Point your phone to the sky and identify constellations, planets, and moon phases in a lovely graphic interface. A novelty application, yes. But this is one that people install and then love. Uses the phone's gyroscope and compass to accurately show what is above you (or below you if you point to the floor to see southern constilations. This is one of those apps that differientiates Android from iPhone. App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space. 
14. FX Camera (free). Add a toy camera, polaroid effects, and a nice B&W camera to your Android device. Photos are captured in 960x640 resolution, making it an ideal Facebook photo capture app. App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space.

15.  AK Notepad  (free) Says what it does. Create a text document on the go. Write a list of things to do. Export them to MS Word or an email. Write a blog post, or a restaurant review, or a diary entry on the go. The possibilities are endless. Stores text files to the SD card.

16. Google MyTracks (free) A GPS distrance tool that tracks how far you walk or travel on land (car, bus, train). See your average speed, elevation, total distact, and track on a Google Map. It's a battery hog, but it is the most reiable and accurate GPS tracker I have found yet for the Andorid platform.
App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space.

17. Minimal Reader (free) This stripped down version of Google Reader allws you to put a widget on your screen that displays the titles of blog posts from your favorite blogs and news sites. You set up the RSS feeds and Minimal Reader does the rest. My feeds include DNA Info Inwood News, Curbed New York, Gothmanist, Reuters headlines, and some podcasts. Needs a little work, but because it is minimal, it doesn't clog your storage space with articles. It just shows you the titles of the blog posts, so you choose what you want to downloand and read.

18. Notepad (free) Another plain text editor, but more plain and business like than AK Notepad. Probably better for writing and editing loner notes or lists than AK Notepad. It's free. Why not get it in addition to AK and decide which is best for you?

20. Shoot Me (free) You don't have to have a rooted phone in order to take great screenshots. All the screenshots here were taken with Shoot Me on my stock LG Optimus S running Android 2.2.2. Simply activate, go to the screen you want to capture, and either press a shutter button or give the phone a gentle shake. All photos store on the SD card in a separate Shoot Me folder. Should work on most new unrooted phones. It's definately worth a try.

Newcastle Fail To Finish 2010/11 Season Strong, But Rebuild Offense In Transfer Window

It would have been phenomenal had Newcastle ended their 2010/11 campaign with a victory over West Brom back on May 22nd. They would have finished the season with 48 points, in ninth place, ahead of arch rival Sunderland. West Brom could have used a victory as well, as it would have placed them in the top half of the table at the end of the campaign. But both sides were denied victory thanks to an explosive start by the Magpies, followed by a second half of miscues, bad timing, poor communication, and some bad luck. Actually, it was poor defending by the Baggies (including an own goal), followed by terrible defending by the Magpies. Throw in some final Toon appearances (Alan Smith and possibly Leon Best), and it was a messy, disappointing game.

Black & White & Read All Over:

A disappointing end to the match, and the season, perhaps, but hopefully a timely reminder to all concerned that we're a side in need of investment over the summer if we're to kick on next year. 

And invest they have. Alan Pardew is yet to prove himself as a master of game strategy. But he is proving himself to be a wise spender. In the first four weeks of the transfer window, Newcastle have acquired two French midfielders in their prime (Yohan Cabaye and Slyvain Marveaux), and a proven striker (Bemba Ba). The club hope to sign an Egyptian midfielder (Sheikabala), and a star Turkish striker (Mevlüt Erdinç, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain) in July. The club could also make a bid for Adel Taarabt, a Moroccan-born midfielder who is currently with Queens Park Rangers.

Meanwhile, Newcastle were forced to sell Kevin Nolan to West Ham, once the team captain was irreversibly offended by the first contract renewal offer he received. The organization have told veteran midfielder Alan Smith to find employment elsewhere (the latest rumor is that he will sign with Leeds). And the team have told reserve striker/prospect Nile Ranger that he can pack his bags as well. His failure to grow on or off the pitch gave the club no other choice.

The durable midfielder Joey Barton, upset over Kevin Nolan's departure, seems to be entertaining offers from Hamburg and Arsenal. If Newcastle were to lose Barton, and pick up Taarabt or Sheikabala, they would have a a faster, formidable midfield, featuring some French speaking players as well as guys with Arab names (let the Glenn Beck Islamic Caliphate outage begin). The Mags would have Jonas Gutierrez, Cheick Tiote, Hatem ben Arfa, and Sylvain Marveaux, with possibly Sheikabala, Taarabt, Cabaye, Peter Løvenkrands, and Dan Gosling available off the bench. Even if they lose Gutierrez, they would still have awesome depth at midfield. Remember, just a year ago, the cash-strapped club's addition to the midfield was the lanky James Perch, who is still with the team as a reservist. I can't declare anything until we see results, but this promises to be the best Newcastle midfield since I first became a fan in 1993.

With the acquisition of Demba Ba, Løvenkrands can go back to being a backup midfielder. Shola Ameobi becomes a backup striker if the club acquires a star striker. And in the backfield, it is still unclear if key defender José Enrique will stay or go. But if he goes, there would still be a budget to purchase a replacement. Meanwhile Steven Taylor continues his comeback as a starting Center Back. Ryan Taylor, Mike Williamson, Tamás Kádár, Danny Simpson, and Fabricio Coloccini round out the other available defenders.

That leaves Pardew with the question of what to do about his goalkeeper. Right now, he's content to let Tim Krul, Steve Harper, and Fraser Forster fight for the starting spot, while several clubs submit their bids for Forster, one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the Premier League today.

More answers and possibly more signings will be revealed as the Toon prepare for a three match tour of the USA in July, their first visit in 16 years.

Two For Two

I was completely incorrect in my predictions of Newcastle's remaining matches this season - until the third last game and the penultimate match. I correctly predicted a 2-1 victory over Birmingham, and a scrappy 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

It would be really nice if I could finish the season with a thrid straight correct predition: Newcastle 3, West Brom 1. Come on, Lads!

This game will not be telecast in North America, so the only way to see it is if you have authorization to view events at ESPN3.

A Huge Win For The Lads

Newcastle sealed their safety in the Premiership with a home victory against languising Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon. It wasn't the prettiest game, and there were a couple of opportunites for Newcastle to increase their lead in the second half. But in the end, a lot of hard work and battleing for the ball in the midfield paid off. It was a very nice recovery from the total lack of effort displayed at Anfield last week.

Newcastle now have 44 points. It's looking like 39 points will be the safety threshold for the table this year, which is exactly where Birmingham is currently stuck with two more matches to be played.

This game featured a rare chant from the Toon Army: "Attack Attack Attack." The Newcastle faithful might be fiercely loyal, but their patience is not infinite. They knew a victory on Saturday guaranteed another campaign (season) in the Top Flight beginning this August. 

With Chelsea playing soft and Newcastle's final game of the season at a seemingly re-energized St. James' Park, could they finish the season with two wins and 50 points? How about one win and 47 points? A 10th place finish in the table is still within reach, if they finish strong and finish plays well.

Now on the far more knowledgeable Newcastle United blogs:

Black & White & Read All Over: "At the end of a week during which our new home shirt was revealed, an unspectacular St James' Park victory over Birmingham brought confirmation that it's sleeve will carry the official Premier League badge into the 2011/12 season."

View From The Shite Seats: "The defence yet again failed to cover themselves in glory, but with PL survival assured for another season, Pardew can begin planning how to deal with the inevitable loss of key players in the Summer transfer window and how to spend the £24.50 he will have available for transfers." 


Nine Points Still Up For Grabs

As expected, I was completely incorrect in predicting Newcastle's remaining games up until this point. But they can still win two of their three remaining games to all but assure finishing ahead of Sunderland in the league table. Despite the injuries, missed opportunities to earn points, and uncertainty surrounding Joey Barton and Jose-Enrique, they ought to make Birmingham work at St. James' Park on Saturday. A victory wouldn't be more difficult that holding Manchester United to a draw a month ago. 

So I am standing by my prediction. Newcastle 2, Birmingham City 1.