Monday, May 30, 2005


The Best-Seller Code

I recently finished The Da Vinci Code. Am I behind the times, or just frugal, waiting until I can find it for half price? Like the "clues" in The Last Supper, I will leave that to others. If, however, you would like to make the kind of money the Knights Templar only dreamed of by writing a novel, Dan Brown's book gives us some good leads.

First, keep the chapters short. This 450-page book has over one hundred chapters. The easiest way to write a page-turner is to break it up into little pieces of literary crack. If you have events transpiring in different places at the same time, this approach is admirably effective.

Second, write about a large organization doing scandalous things. Although Brown picks one of Earth's easiest targets in the Catholic Church, he does an excellent job of dredging up the Church's gory past, and suggests the present is not much different. I understand that books about Enron are also doing well.

Third, imply that world events are controlled by shadowy forces we barely apprehend, much less understand. Secret societies are gold, and Dan Brown serves us a full platter, with the Knights Templar, Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion. The only thing missing is alien abduction. It seems on some level, we are all part of the tinfoil-hat crowd.

These observations aside (and perhaps in spite of them), I thoroughly enjoyed The Da Vinci Code. It careens at breakneck pace through tangled threads of art, architecture, history and religion. Except for its implication that the modern Church is illegitimate, I can't imagine what got the Vatican so exercised. Or is that exorcised?

Monday, May 02, 2005


Naked Cash Acquisition Association

The NCAA recently added a 12th game to the football schedule. The division I coaches voted 115-2 against it; Division II was dead-set against it, as they have playoffs that already make their schedule potentially 16 games long. Yet it sailed through in a vote of the college presidents--you know, the ones who are in charge of academics, and who make loud noises about 'protecting the student-athletes' from the supposed evils of a playoff in Division I football.

If it's all about the money, why on Earth would they not want a playoff? Everyone from the presidents to the waterboys knows it would generate great uncountable piles of money, dwarfing the billions generated by March Madness. This December Dementia (or January Jihad--I don't care what you call it) would produce four fabulous weekends of college football, assuming a 16-team tournament. It would be bigger than the Second Coming.

It is about the money, of course. Specifically, it's about who gets the money. It is about a few dozen very old, very rich, very white men in horribly loud blazers who control the bowl games. These games, and the men who control them, are an anachronism whose time has long since come and gone. But they cling to their money, and their power, as only rich, powerful people can.

Adding a game to the schedule while ignoring the desire of sensible fans everywhere for a playoff is just another in a long line of bad decisions made by those who control college football. I would have thought it impossible that any sport (or any business) could be run worse than major-league baseball, but the NCAA is giving them a run for their money.

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