July 15, 2017

The Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee

Filed under: History, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

As a long-time admirer of H.L. Mencken (since discovering Prejudices: A Selection in a used book store on Queen Street in the mid-1980s), I’ve always had an interest in the skullduggery around the “Scopes Monkey Trial” … and apparently so has Colby Cosh:

H.L Mencken celebrates the repeal of Prohibition, December 1933.

In a merely procedural sense, the Scopes Monkey Trial in Dayton, Tennessee, ended on July 21, 1925 with the conviction of biology teacher John T. Scopes on the charge of instructing students that “man has descended from a lower order of animals.” But of course the real Monkey Trial is eternal, winding its way anew through American life, decade after decade. The carefully staged publicity stunt in Tennessee was merely one occasion in a longer struggle over the nature of man and the limits of his knowledge. I know this is an old-fashioned romantic ACLU-liberal view of the matter, but I hold to it.

As I write this column, county officials in Dayton are unveiling a statute of Clarence Darrow, the garrulous, crooked lawyer who represented Team Enlightenment in the original 1925 contest between Darwinian evolution and the Scriptures. In 2005, the citizens of Dayton, where Monkey Trial tourism is now a crucial industry, erected a statue of William Jennings Bryan on the grounds of the immortal Rhea County courthouse. Bryan had been the chosen hero of evangelical Christianity in the trial, dying less than a week after its conclusion, and is the namesake of a local bible college, which paid for the statue.


I became a serious student of the Scopes Trial as an undergraduate. Like anybody else, I had seen the 1960 Hollywood rendering of the play about the trial, Inherit The Wind, which represents Bryan as an ignorant windbag, Darrow as a tired, patient figure of ostentatious nobility, and a thinly disguised H.L. Mencken as a cruel nihilist newspaperman. Today, I suppose I would regard Mencken as the real hero of the show. He was privy to the ACLU’s engineering of the trial as a publicity stunt, but he also always said that Tennessee was within its constitutional rights to forbid the teaching of evolution — to be, in his view, just as backward as its people wished.

Inherit The Wind makes its pseudo-Mencken a heartless guttersnipe mostly as a device for elevating a sympathetic Darrow even further. This is part of the movie’s major liberty with the events of the trial: it has Bryan drop dead in mid-rant at the moment of its culmination, instead of waiting a few days. What I discovered as a student was that, aside from this excusable concession to theatrical unity, the film probably deserves some kind of prize for general fidelity to historical events.

September 12, 2016

Vikings beat Titans 25-16 with defensive take-aways, but no running game to speak of

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Sunday’s game was cover-your-eyes awful in the first half (for Vikings fans — check my Twitter feed for examples), but the second half more than made up for the flaws in the opening 30 minutes. With the quarterback decision un-announced until game time, everyone including the Titans’ defensive co-ordinator was expecting the Vikings to be nothing but the Adrian Peterson show, starring Adrian Peterson. And that what the Vikings tried to do during the first half, with distressingly poor results (19 carries for only 31 yards). Whether it was issues with the run blocking or Peterson’s sudden hesitancy to attack the hole (or both), the Titans kept him firmly under control.

Tennessee opened the scoring with a first quarter field goal and made the vaunted Vikings defensive line look … ordinary.

At best.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was barely ruffled by the pass rush and seemed to have plenty of time when he chose to throw the ball or to keep it and run, while the Titans’ two new running backs were moving the ball very well on the ground. When the Vikings weren’t giving up chunks of yards, they still managed to find opportunities to commit infractions to give away more yards in penalties. While the endzone was still elusive, the Titans were able to move the ball pretty much at will all through the first half.

The Fox game announcers seemed to have Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway (no. 52) on the brain because they credited him with tackles on a couple of occasions that were clearly Harrison Smith (no. 22) … if only because Chad can’t move that fast any more. (I love and respect Chad Greenway, but he’s not the player he was and I hope for his sake this is his final season in pads. If he wants to go into coaching, I’d love to see him continue as part of the Vikings organization.)

Vikings kicker Blair Walsh had an awful-then-mediocre day. The awful started with a missed field goal from 37 yards, then followed up with another terrible miss from 56 yards and a missed extra point later in the game. <sarc>Other than that, though, he did okay.</sarc> This is how bad the first half looked:

Coach Zimmer seems to have gotten through to the team, because the second half was a very different story indeed, starting from the kickoff where Cordarrelle Patterson took the ball 61 yards to set up the first successful kick for Blair Walsh, finally getting the Vikings onto the scoreboard. After a second Walsh field goal, middle linebacker Eric Kendriks picked off Mariota’s pass and ran it in for the Vikings’ first touchdown of the game (but Walsh didn’t convert). Walsh made his next attempt, moving the score to 15-10, and then a fumble was scooped up by defensive end Danielle Hunter and run in for the score. Walsh made his final field goal attempt and the game was almost out of reach for the Titans at 25-10.

Harrison Smith picked off Mariotta to seal the game, but Everson Griffin was penalized for roughing the passer (well after the ball was out), and instead the Titans were deep in Vikings territory with a first down. DeMarco Murray caught the touchdown pass, but the two-point try failed, and the Vikings covered the onside kick to snuff out the Titans’ last chance to tie the game.


September 5, 2015

Preseason football finally finishes … and the Vikings finally lost in preseason action

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Mercifully, the Thursday night game between the Vikings and the Titans wasn’t available on TV in the GTA, so I had an excuse to go play World of Warships or Guild Wars 2 instead of watching the carnage as third- and fourth-string players risked life and limb to try to stand out to their coaches in advance of Saturday’s final cut-down to 53 players.

At quarterback for the Vikings was third-stringer Taylor Heinicke, who played what sounds like an excellent game despite the rapidly crumbling walls of the second-string offensive line in front of him. In fact, Heinicke did so well that he made it almost unthinkable for the team to try to sneak him through waivers onto the practice squad — he’d be snapped up very quickly by a team looking for a good backup/developmental QB). If he continues to improve, he might make current backup Shaun Hill expendable next year. Despite his good work in earlier games, I think the team was expecting him to sit on the practice squad this year, but they shouldn’t risk losing him (so another player will have to be cut who might otherwise have made the roster).

By the time this gets posted early Saturday morning, any predictions I might want to make about who will make the final roster will be overtaken by events … but I’m still going to take a stab at it anyway:

  • QB (3) — Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, Taylor Heinicke
  • RB/FB (4) — Adrian Peterson, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Asiata, Domonique Williams
  • WR (6) — Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, Stefon Diggs (R), Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson
  • TE (4) — Kyle Rudolph, Rhett Ellison, Mycole Pruitt (R), Chase Ford
  • OL (8) — LT Matt Kalil, LG Brandon Fusco, C John Sullivan, RG Mike Harris, RT T.J. Clemmings, C/G Joe Berger, T Austin Shepherd, C/G Zac Kerin (this is the most likely position the team might fill from the waiver wire)
  • DL (9) — RDE Everson Griffen, NT Linval Joseph, UT Sharif Floyd, LDE Brian Robison, DE Justin Trattou, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, DE Scott Chrichton, DE Danielle Hunter
  • LB (7) — WLB Chad Greenway, MLB Gerald Hodges, SLB Anthony Barr, LB Audie Cole, LB Eric Kendricks, LB Brandon Watts, LB Michael Mauti
  • CB (5) — Xavier Rhodes, Terence Newman, Captain Munnerlyn, Trae Waynes, Jabari Price (suspended for first 2 games, won’t count against roster), Marcus Sherels
  • S (4) — Harrison Smith, Robert Blanton, Andrew Sendejo, Antone Exum
  • P (1) — Jeff Locke
  • K (1) — Blair Walsh
  • LS (1) — Kevin McDermott

Practice squads can start to be assembled about 24 hours after the final cut-downs, and up to ten players can be signed. Two of the spots can be used for more experienced players.

December 3, 2014

Tennessee Salvation Army covers themselves with shame

Filed under: Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Lenore Skenazy posted an item about a family in Tennessee who were turned away from a Salvation Army shelter because of their 15-year-old son:

When it comes to helping families in need, the Salvation Army turns a cold shoulder to one class of people: Teenage boys. A family in Johnson City, TN, found this out recently when, on a freezing cold night, they asked the organization for shelter. But because their family of five contained a 15-year-old boy, they were turned down.

But wait … for all the worries about police officers going rogue and acting like an occupying army instead of peace officers, there are still some good ones serving and protecting:

So instead the family headed to their car. The temperature: 18 degrees.

Somehow, local police officers came upon them and brought them to the Johnson Inn. The officers then pooled their money to pay for a room. When the night clerk figured out what was going on, he comped the room, so the officers’ money went to groceries for the family.

Meantime, 911 dispatchers who had been in on the action pooled their money to provide the Lejeunes some more food.

And the Salvation Army relented and took the family in … minus the 15-year-old, who felt that he was the reason his family was turned out into the below-freezing weather. He’s apparently now in a mental hospital, having had a breakdown over the guilt the Salvation Army helped him feel to the fullest. Nice work, guys. So Christian.

August 29, 2014

Vikings defeat Titans 19-3 to finish preseason undefeated

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Queue the “Detroit Lions 2008” jokes (the Lions went undefeated in the preseason, then lost 16 games in a row to become the first NFL team to lose every game since the schedule expanded to 16). Last night, the Vikings visited Nashville to play the least meaningful of the four preseason games: almost all the starters sit this one out, so the teams are composed of second-, third-, and fourth-string players desperate to make a positive impression on the coaches before the final cut to 53 players is due on Saturday.

At The Viking Age, Dan Zinski reports on the injuries highlights:

Teddy Bridgewater got in some work in the first half and threw another touchdown, hitting Adam Thielen with a nice touch pass in the corner of the end zone. Bridgewater finishes the preseason with 5 TDs and 0 INTs.

The defensive stars tonight, if there were any true defensive stars, were Shaun Prater and Corey Wootton, the latter of whom collected a strip sack against Tennessee’s Zach Mettenberger.

In extended action, Christian Ponder did very little of consequence. If his appearance represented a trade showcase, it wasn’t much of a showcase.


The negatives were all injury-related. Adam Thielen left with a bad hip, Zach Line was felled by an ankle injury and Antone Exum seemed to jar his shoulder when making a big hit. We await status reports on all three men.

It was also announced that Justin Trattou injured his shoulder during the game. Exum could have returned to the game.

The Daily Norseman‘s Eric Thompson also reported:

In honor of our very own Ted Glover, I’ll address his favorite Twitter question first: #HowDidTeddyLook? Teddy Bridgewater got the start on Thursday and led the Vikings to the game’s only touchdown on the first drive of the game. The Vikings traveled 80 yards in 12 plays thanks to a healthy dose of runs from Jerick McKinnon and Joe Banyard. The drive culminated with a gorgeous corner fade route pass from Bridgewater to Adam Thielen. Unfortunately Thielen went out later in the game with an apparent hip injury; let’s hope it isn’t anything major because Thielen has truly been a breakout player this preseason.


Holding your opponents to one meaningless fourth quarter field goal usually means your defense had a good day. The D looked good in a lot of areas, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered as the team takes on the St. Louis Rams next week.

For instance, who the heck is going to be playing linebacker? With a lot of injuries to the LB corps the Vikings fielded some weird personnel packages. At one time there were three middle linebackers on the field at once: Jasper Brinkley, Audie Cole, and Mike Zimmer. After tonight’s up-and-down, mix-and-match performance from that unit, not many people outside of the Vikings coaching staff have much of a clue what the team is going to do with that part of the depth chart after Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway.

June 20, 2014

QotD: Whiskey and bourbon

Filed under: Business, History, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Whiskey in the USA has a long, colourful history. (Note that it is indeed spelt with an “e”, along with Irish whiskey — the Scotch and Canadian varieties are both plain whisky.)

One of the most illustrious early American distillers was George Washington, who manufactured the stuff commercially at his place near Mount Vernon in Virginia, and was very proud of the high reputation of his merchandise. I’m sure it was great for its time, but then and for long afterwards the general run of whiskey must have been pretty rough. I’ve often thought that the really amazing achievement of the Western hero wasn’t his ability to shoot a pip out of a playing card at fifty paces, nor even his knack of dropping crotch first into his saddle from an upstairs window, but the way he could stride into the saloon, call for whiskey, knock it back neat and warm in one and not so much as blink, let alone burst into paroxysms of uncontrollable coughing.

All that, of course, is changed now. American whiskeys are second to none in smoothness, blandness, everything that goes to make a fine spirit. Some of them, like Washington’s product and many since, are based on rye, but nearly all the brands we see in the UK belong in the bourbon category. Bourbon (rhymes with turban) gets its name from Bourbon County, Kentucky, where the first stills of this type were set up, though it’s long been regularly made in several other states besides. Federal law requires bourbon whiskey to be derived from a cereal mash of at least 51 per cent corn, which is to say Indian corn, often called maize over here, though it’s the identical vegetable that makes you, or me, so tremendously fat eaten off the cob.

The manufacturing process is carried out by means of large stills that operate on exactly the same principle as the patent or Coffey stills used in the production of grain whisky in Scotland. The young spirit is then drawn off to mature in specially charred oak barrels. Until recently, these were required to be new, but it seems that nowadays used casks are permitted. This is bad news for some distillers in Scotland, who formerly imported the secondhand casks to age their own whisky in.

Prominent brands of bourbon available in the UK include Jim Beam, Old Grandad, Wild Turkey, and Jack Daniel’s. Wild Turkey is a newcomer, to this country at any rate, and increasingly tipped as the best. Jack Daniel’s is the established quality leader. Strictly it isn’t a bourbon at all, but a Tennessee whiskey made at Lynchburg in Moore County, no less.

Don’t go there, as I once did. Moore County turned out to be dry and all I got to drink all day was a glass of cold tea at Madame Bobo’s Boarding House. I doubt if things have changed much.

Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.

August 30, 2013

Vikings eke out a win against Tennessee in final preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:39

Head coach Leslie Frazier took no chances in this fourth preseason game: almost none of the starting players even put in a token appearance. What looked like a serious injury to backup offensive lineman Seth Olsen seemed to justify Frazier’s caution — Olsen went down and didn’t get back up again. The trainers rushed on to the field, followed shortly by the EMS team. Olsen was carried off the field, but was seen to be moving his arm. While the injury appears to be much less serious than first indications, it was a scary moment. Tom Pelissero has more:

The injury occurred when Olsen dived to make a low block downfield on a screen pass to teammate Joe Banyard. It appeared a Titans defensive lineman’s right knee struck Olsen in the head before he landed face-down on the turf.

There was a roughly 10-minute delay as a medical team worked to pad Olsen’s head and strap him down, with the Vikings’ entire team forming a semicircle on the field. Olsen was conscious as he left the field on the gurney and raised his left hand to acknowledge the crowd.

“You could see all our guys getting on a knee and just praying for him and just hoping for the best,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “When those moments come and they bring that stretcher out, you have no idea what’s going on. So, we were all just hoping for the best, and fortunately, things worked out that way.”

The Vikings initially announced Olsen had a neck injury, but Frazier clarified after the game the diagnosis was a concussion.

With almost all the first team sitting out the game, the second- and third-string got a final chance to make their case for sticking when the final cuts come down (cut-down to 53 players is tomorrow). Marcus Sherels (who took time off to attend his father’s funeral last week), being challenged for both his DB spot and special teams role, had a very good game including setting a team preseason record with a 109-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Joe Banyard made his case for sticking with the team with 64 yards on the ground, 52 yards receiving and a TD.

Ben Goessling has a few other players on the bubble:

  • Desmond Bishop probably had his best night of the preseason in his third game back from a torn hamstring, making seven tackles and pulling down two Titans players in the backfield on Tennessee’s first drive. It’s worth noting that Marvin Mitchell, who has started at weak-side linebacker all through training camp, didn’t play on Thursday night, as the Vikings treated him more like a starter than a player who has much to prove. But Bishop might have done enough to guarantee himself a roster spot, at the very least.
  • While Sherels stole the show for the Vikings, Bobby Felder had a night he’d probably rather forget, spraining his ankle shortly after getting beat a 50-yard pass in the third quarter. X-rays on Felder’s ankle were negative, but he probably would have liked to finish his preseason with a stronger impression after playing well early.
  • Fullback Zach Line, who didn’t have to do much lead blocking in college, provided a nice example of it on the Vikings’ drive for the go-ahead field goal. He and DeMarcus Love combined on a nice kick-out block on Banyard’s 19-yard run. Line didn’t show the pass-catching skills he’d displayed early, but he’s probably done enough that the Vikings would at least consider using a practice-squad spot on him.

October 8, 2012

Vikings beat Titans to move to 4-1 record on the season

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

Just like everyone predicted before the season began, the Vikings are tied at the top of the NFC North with Chicago, both boasting 4-1 records. (Hint: nobody, not even the most rabid Viking fans, were predicting anything like this.) With a comprehensive beat-down of the Tennessee Titans, the Vikings have already won more games this year than they managed in 2011 (it’s the first time they’ve won three games in a row since their huge 2009 run).


August 14, 2011

Titans 14, Vikings 3 in first preseason matchup

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 15:45

I didn’t see the game live, but I caught about three quarters of it on NFL Network’s replay this morning. As anyone could have predicted, it was a sloppy game for both teams. Both Titans scores came off turnovers, while the Vikings quarterbacks and receivers still haven’t quite gelled (miscues and missed catches were far too common).

Here’s Judd Zulgad‘s summary after the game:

The Vikings unveiled what could be best described as a soft launch of their new offense Saturday night in their preseason opener against Tennessee.

It was far from a success.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb, making his Vikings debut, played two series in a 14-3 loss at LP Field. The Vikings’ only points came from a 37-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell in the third quarter. But no one in the visitor’s locker room expressed any concern — not with three preseason games and plenty more installation to go before the Sept. 11 regular-season opener at San Diego.

“I thought their effort was good, and the execution was good up to a point,” new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said. “We always want points. We’ll have to make bigger strides next time with that first unit.”

I tuned in just as McNabb was finishing his time on the field, and the time of possession seemed to be strongly in Tennessee’s favour, so Joe Webb played into the second half and Christian Ponder finished out the game (Rhett Bomar was supposed to play, but didn’t get a chance).

Several starters were held out or only made the briefest of appearances on the field, and some backups made good use of the extra playing time (Jaymar Johnson for one). Other players, unfortunately, lowered their stock by making mistakes (Chris Cook’s name came up far too often in the wrong context here, for example).

Just watching the players in game mode shows how different things are from seeing footage of them in team drills at camp: some players who were said to have had “great camps” were nowhere near as effective in the real game situations. On the other hand, the offensive line did better than expected given the training camp picture.

If nothing else, the coaches now have a lot of things on film to help evaluate players and fix problems that showed up during the game.

August 13, 2011

Vikings vs Titans tonight in first preseason game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 10:49

I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch tonight’s game, as NFL preseason games are very much hit-and-miss for TV coverage (especially in Canada). It is likely to be even more sloppy for both teams than first preseason games usually are, due to the disruption through the lockout earlier this year. Both teams have new head coaches, new starting quarterbacks, drafted their respective “quarterback of the future” in the first round, and are still trying to sort out their playbooks. Due to the lockout, neither coach got the additional organized team activities before training camp that they would have been allowed to have in a normal year.

For the Vikings, one of the big question marks will be how well new left tackle Charlie Johnson will perform: he’s filling the very big shoes of Bryant McKinnie, who was cut from the team after arriving at camp nearly fifty pounds overweight and suffering from high cholesterol issues. Johnson is not a rookie — he spent the last couple of seasons protecting Peyton Manning’s blind side — but he looked distressingly vulnerable to pass rushes during training camp. It could be just that Jared Allen is having a great start to the year, or it could mean that the Colts got rid of Johnson because his skills were no longer sufficient for the job. If he doesn’t improve rapidly, the Vikings could end up starting Rhett Bomar as their quarterback for the regular season, due to accumulated blindside hits on Donovan McNabb, Joe Webb, and Christian Ponder.

McNabb is hoping to use this season to prove that last year was an just unlucky fluke and not the real McNabb. He’s signed for 2011 and will be a free agent next year. Christian Ponder, the Vikings’ first round draft pick, will be the third string quarterback for this game, and Joe Webb will be the second string. Although most pundits expect Ponder to move ahead of Webb on the depth chart, it’s still a tight race between the two.

Other changes include the replacement of Sidney Rice as number 1 wide receiver by Bernard Berrian (not a popular guy among the fanbase for his lack of production over the last two seasons) and the replacement of pass rusher Ray Edwards by Brian Robison (he’d backed up Edwards and signed a contract extension before the lockout).

The new coaching staff also means a change in the offensive play book: we’ve been told to expect a lot of two tight end sets to take advantage of the pass-catching abilities of Visanthe Shiancoe and second round pick Kyle Rudolph. The defence has less change, as the new defensive co-ordinator was with the team last year.

Tonight’s game will only feature the starting line-ups of the two teams for a couple of series, to be quickly followed by the second and third string players. Even the first quarter won’t be quality football, but expect the second half to be very sloppy indeed, as the players with only a faint chance of making their respective teams try to catch the eye of the coaches on big plays.

Update: Just checked in to Twitter, to see what the various Vikings media outlets are reporting. It’s halftime, with the score Titans 14, Vikings 0. McNabb came through fine, with some nice play in limited exposure. Berrian lived down to expectations by dropping a pass from McNabb. Asher Allen (starting for Antoine Winfield) was burned on the very first play from scrimmage. A fumble by Booker set up the first Titans score, and an interception of Webb (made worse by a holding call on Marcus Sherels) set up the second.

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