Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Road to Skye: Part 1

I am writing this having survived the first half of our journey.

That's the most important part.

We picked up a car from Budget (which had some attendant confusion over how much they'd wanted to charge when we booked the car, versus how much they wanted to charge now that we were picking the car up) and were presented with a Mercedes-Benz A180 with the steering wheel on the right-hand side and very little instruction beyond that.

In the city, it actually wasn't too bad. It's a bit disorienting, but we were able to make it through more or less by driving infuriatingly slowly, following the cars in front of us and praising the miracles of the divided highway, which allowed me to pretend I was still on the side of the road that I've driven my entire life.

We managed to get to Stirling Castle, continuing our Castle Tour of Scotland and if I'm being honest, I think we had a better time there than in Edinburgh. The weather was much better, and the crowd was significantly smaller which helped. A short lunch at the castle-adjacent cafe and we were off into the Highlands.

Here's the thing about what we attempted. It's disorienting to drive on the left, with the car set up differently. It's disorienting to drive through the mountains. And it's disorienting to drive through hail.

So, yeah.

We took a small detour to Loch Lomond, but the weather had turned against us and we were unable to actually get out and appreciate it. Oh well, onward and upward.

It went reasonably ok for the most part, though I was driving roughly half the speed limit, infuriating well meaning Scottish drivers who just wanted to get on their way. Happily, they were able to pass and drive off like madmen. That's fine. It was all going well until a long stretch through the Ben Nevis range where we briefly skidded in what was now snow. No big deal, no damage, just a bit of a scare. By a bit of a scare, I mean we all sort of panicked for a while and I didn't know if I was going to be able to get us either to Skye or back to Glasgow. Maybe we'd just set up camp in the rental car and live on the mountain.

Once we got up the courage to keep going, we decided to take the hit on the B&B that we'd booked, and stopped in the next town we came to, which was Fort William.

Happily, there was room at the Travelodge and a nifty little seafood restaurant called the Crannog on the water, and a place to park the car where I didn't have to drive it anymore for the night.

Urgh. Onward to Skye in the morning, though I'm nervous about how we'll get back in time.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Scotland Trip: Edinburgh, Part 1

Oh hey, it's time for Edinburgh. Edinbrurur. Brubururuh.

As it turns out, the bus system between Glasgow and Edinburgh is pretty straightforward and self-explanatory. Pay some money while still jet-lagged. Sit on a bus for an hour. Get off in a daze near a Tesco.

After going into the Tesco to stock up on provisions (which for the purposes of this trip meant ridiculous chocolate bars and variously flavored chips), we headed up to Edinburgh Castle to begin our day.

Here's the thing about historically important sites; they tend to be really inconvenient to get to. We went through this during the trip to Greece, where all of the really interesting pars are located on big steep hills made of marble. Edinburgh Castle is not on a hill made of marble, but it is on a really big hill and I'm convinced we took the steepest route to the top (evidenced later by our relatively easy hike up the Royal Mile).

Steepness aside, I presume the castle warded off invaders with awful weather and a really long, really slow moving line for admission. Admission lines are to be expected, but something about the outdoor nature of this one, followed by the outdoor nature of much of the castle, meant that by the time we got our tickets (and a touristy guidebook, because we've sort of stopped bothering with the pretense that we're not the most touristy tourists), the main goal was "find somewhere in this historical marvel where it's even sort of warm."

Which was good. We found a room with a model of the castle and a bunch of explanations of how historic everything was, but most critically, a small space heater. Happily, at this point we were able to look through the guidebook and found an entry on something called the "One O'Clock Gun", which is apparently a piece of artillery that's fired at 1pm. 

I say happily, because it meant we were slightly less startled. Still pretty startled, but a little less. There was a crowd gathering around, while a man in uniform prepared the gun, then stepped back to look at a clock, then went back up to the gun with a pocket watch, then fired the gun. Which is really loud. Everyone standing around had no form of ear protection, and we took our cue from them without really considering that everyone here is a tourist who has no idea how loud this will be.

The answer is really loud. 

We toured through the rest of the castle, encountering a choir in the Great Hall and walking through an exhibit about the Honours of Scotland (which was full of wax figures that were a little off-putting, but well enough put together as far as exhibits go) and headed off into town to find lunch.

Scotland Trip: Post 2

I always think I'm going to be better at jet lag than I actually am.

"It's only a six hour shift", I'll tell myself. "Sure, it'll be like being up all night, but I've done that before as recently as, let's say, 2004 (which is coincidentally when I took quantum).

I was wrong.

We arrived in Glasgow after a trip on a plane that was relying on propellers to get us here, which I had not considered before and which I'd probably have been more irrationally afraid of if I'd been in any sort of condition to comprehend what was going on.

Thankfully, I was out of it enough that the 45 minute flight was over before I could worry about it too much.

We managed to check in and intended to meet up with my sister-in-law, who's been here for a few months now and will be our guide for Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was noon. The day was ahead of us, and the sky was bright.

And then it was like 3:30.

I'm still very tired, but we were able to eventually get up and head out with Alice and got a nice walking tour of the University of Glasgow, a revelation in that the subway was evidently shut down for Sunday, a pleasant cab ride to the Glasgow Necropolis (which we'd even have been able to visit if we hadn't slept until it closed) and a bunch of walking through a shopping district, before making our way back to Ox and Finch (where we had a bunch of small plates, and also some fries) and back to the hotel in preparation for Edinburgh.

2015 Murphspot Mascot Bracket: Finale

How devoted am I to the completion of the Mascot Bracket? This special edition of the final matches is being posted from some sort of odd basement gate at Dublin International on a tablet, which Blogger seems to be struggling with. Updates to clean up the format will be completed soon. But the bracket must go on.

#13 Valparaiso Crusaders vs. #7 Wichita State Shockers

Considering that the Crusaders advanced to this point via clumsily thrown shield, I'm not entirely confident in their prospects. The thing is, for the most part, the shield is what the Crusader seems to rely on in terms of hand weapons. That works if he's Captain America. He is not Captain America.

His opponent, in the mean time, has acquired the ability to control plant life in the time since this bracket started. One could suggest that he's going to win by some sort of Wheat Sorcery, as he has so far, but I don't think that's the case here. 

Not a lot of people know this, but WuShock was the sixth of the Istari sent by the Valar to help stop Sauron. He's like Radagast, but wheatier.

Instead, one imagines that WuShock's attunement with crops would allow him to go after the Crusader's ability to feed himself and his comrades. The Crusader puts up a valiant effort, but in the end his reliance on grain products is his downfall. Mascot battle burns a lot of calories, and he won't be able to keep fighting for long.

Wichita State advances.

#9 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs #6 Xavier Musketeers

I see Pistol Pete as being pretty practical. He's wearing clothing appropriate to his setting, including a giant orange hat which not only shields him from the sun, but also allows other members of the Pistol Pete Contingent to easily locate him so that they don't wind up hitting his giant head while in the middle of the Rite of the Revolver.

The Musketeer is certainly jolly, but I think that at this point, he's going to be a bit too reliant on ceremony to succeed here. The Mascot Bracket is a fight in a gutter, and Pistol Pete's Neckerchief seems more suited to the environment than D'Artagnan the Musketeer's pillowy sleeves.

Oklahoma State advances.

#12 Wyoming Cowboys vs. #2 Virginia Cavaliers

Wyoming's Pistol Pete follows the general trend of cowboy-appropriate attire in conjunction with a carefree attitude, a giant improbable chin and a mustache like he's on the 1970's Oakland A's. There's a lot to support there and now that I've had to look back and forth between the myriad Pistol Petes in the tournament, Wyoming Pistol Pete has grown on me.

CavMan, on the other hand, varies between a doorknocker goatee and a Van Dyke based on the design of the character of the time. He's certainly got more military training than Pistol Pete, but I think his reliance on the sabre might be his downfall. While he's working out which crossbeam he can attach a rope to in order to dramatically swing in, Pistol Pete is at the ready with a six-shooter. It's the sort of "finesse vs. practicality" that I think we settled when Harrison Ford was ill that one time.

Wyoming advances.

#9 St. John's Red Storm vs. #14 UAB Blazers

St. John's has been skating along pretty well mostly on the novelty of their mascot/name. That's all well and good, though I do think that in electing to hire Johnny Thunderbird as their mascot, they may have missed out on a licensing opportunity with Marvel.

Actually, now that I write that, it seems like UAB could have done the same sort of licensing deal by appending "Johnny" (though through a less straightforward rationale than St. John's is employing), but if it results in an awful movie about the Human Torch fighting Ghost Rider, I'm sort of down. 

But that's not the world we live in. We live in the world of Johnny Thunderbird, whose tenacity I'm not really doubting, but who is, in the end, a bird. I just honestly can't see how to have a bird, even as one as interested in his car's sound system as Johnny Thunderbird, winning over a dragon.

UAB advances.

#7 Wichita State Shockers vs. #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys

WuShock has already defeated part of the Pistol Pete Triumvirate in combat, and I assume has absorbed his essence. 

Oh, also, new rule for 2015, the basic principles of Highlander can be instituted pretty much at will. Sword combat, the Quickening, Sean Connery playing a Spaniard, the whole thing. 

WuShock has probably absorbed a soul or two in his day.

So, given that, it seems as though WuShock would probably have learned enough from his victory over NMSU's Pistol Pete to thwart the OSU Pistol Pete. I'm a little sad to report that this won't end in a Pistol Pete-off, which I imagine would have been mostly about mustaches and bandoliers and whether or not Clint Eastwood's character in the "Man with No Name" trilogy was simply another incarnation of the Eternal Pete.

Wichita State advances.

#13 Wyoming Cowboys vs. #14 UAB Blazers

Things continue to look bleak for our Pete heroes. It's not impossible, here, that the Wyoming Pete could eke out a victory. He's overcome a few obstacles so far, and I refuse to count out anyone with a chin that mighty. And hey, maybe the "Blazers" name doesn't actually refer to the dragon itself. Maybe this is a fight between the Final Pete and a sports jacket.

But even then, it's not looking good. Wyoming Pete's sense of fashion will not be compromised, which is why he's no longer invited to formal-attire occasions. Sure, he misses out on some fine catering, but relinquishing his vest, his chaps and his big goofy hat would compromise who he is as a person.

In the end, whether he's fighting a garment or a dragon wearing the garment, there's no path forward for Pete. He yields, either to his determination to keep pulling off the cowboy look come hell or high water, or because Blaze breathes fire. One of the two.

UAB advances, and The Pistols Pete will have to try again in 2016.

#9 Wichita State Shockers vs. #14 UAB Blazers

And here we are. Dragon vs. Grain Elemental. And, I believe, two former Champions of the Murphspot Mascot Bracket. So, we don't have the pesky specter of "things that actually exist" hanging over our heads.

Over the last several years, and particularly in this bracket, WuShock has been built into some sort of Agricultural Menace, lording his power over both the flora he counts as subjects and over a bunch of well meaning Pistols Pete. 

I struggled with the outcome of this final Mascot Fight. Not only because this will be the first time in Mascot Bracket history (which I've apparently been doing since 2008) that a former victor reclaims the title, but because I'm hesitant to establish precedent that one of these mascots may become too powerful to be beaten in future brackets, unless some other school responds with a thresher or St. George, respectively.

In the end, though, the decision was clear. WuShock fought valiantly, along with his comrades (who I assume include sorghum, oats, barley and Ghostface Killah) but even his previous tactic of denying sustenance is unlikely to work here. I'm not sure that all dragons are carnivores, but Blaze certainly gives off that vibe. Also, I'm pretty sure wheat is flammable.

Blaze is victorious. The Bracket is at an End.
Your 2015 Murphspot Mascot Bracket Champions

Scotland Trip: Post 1

I have no idea how we're going to be awake at all this week.

It's currently around 12:30am as far as I'm concerned, but because Dublin is apparently closer than I thought it was, we're roughly an hour away from it being 7:30 in the morning and being corralled off of this plane. My position has long been that I hate long flights, but this whole "leave at 7pm, have the cabin lights dim for roughly an hour, and suddenly it's early morning and you haven't slept" seems like it might take some getting used to.

But hey, it's about time to be tired and trying to figure out the inner workings of the airport in Dublin so that we can get on another plane.

On the plus side, apparently the babies on Chicago to Dublin flights are remarkably well behaved. So we've got that going for us.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Murphspot Mascot Bracket 2015: Sweet Sixteen

#9 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #13 Valparaiso Crusaders

I'm a little sad the Crusaders' mascot appears to be named "The Crusader" rather than something more forceful. Maybe "Crusader Henry" after the founder of the school. Or "Crusader Jonathan" after Indiana's first Governor. Or, because all names tend toward it, "Crusader Pete".

The face of courage. Or hunger? I don't know. Something, probably, but it's underneath a helmet.
Let's go with "mild irritation."

So in the battle between Purdue Pete and Crusader Pete, I'm a little hesitant to go with the "One was from an era before rail transport, and so would have no idea how to stop the Boilermaker Special" rationale again. If anything, I could see The Crusader valiantly charging at the train like Don Quixote toward a windmill, heaving his shield at it and accidentally causing a terrible derailment. I think the Crusader wins not by brute force or by ingenuity, but by sheer luck.

Valparaiso advances.

#3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. #7 Wichita State Shockers

Oh hey, a game that's actually happening and that I'll get a post up about before it actually happens.

So we've got two magical creatures here. The Leprechaun, one assumes, has the power of guarding some gold and appearing in a series of increasingly ridiculous horror movies, mostly direct-to-video, which I guess had the benefit of keeping Warwick Davis employed through the 90's.

I don't even want to know if this makes sense in context.

The other is a Grain Being of immense potential, who uses his vaguely defined Grain Abilities to protect, I guess, the concept of agriculture. Maybe fields in general, regardless of their connection to agriculture. He's like Swamp Thing, if Swamp Thing were from the opposite of a swamp.

I'm not sure Wheat Thing has the level of gravitas of Swamp Thing, mostly because it sounds like a snack chip.
Based on those descriptions, I've got to go with WuShock, if only for the faint hope that maybe Alan Moore will write a series about him.

Wichita State advances.

#9 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. #4 North Carolina Tar Heels

I never quite know what to do with team names that not only existed, but did so contemporaneously. Leaving aside the giant Ram Man for a second, North Carolina's connection to the naval industry (which is why the tar, apparently) had as important a role to play in the story of the nation in which a man can write a silly blog about basketball mascots as cowboys, though the latter get more press.

Also, madness. They're very influential madness lobbyists.

I presume this is the result of pressure from the Pistol Pete Coalition, an organization that works for increased coverage of Westerns and big, wide-brimmed hats.

The Tar Heels are tenacious, but the Cowboys resourceful and mustachioed. I'm afraid I'm drawn in again by the craftiness of the Orange Pete.

Oklahoma State advances.

#6 Xavier Musketeers vs. #15 Texas Southern Tigers

Xavier usually does pretty well in the bracket, taking the Championship a few years back (which I imagine was celebrated throughout the Greater Cincinnati area). Here, though, I'm not so sure.

Musketeers definitely have a strategic and an armament advantage, but their experience was mostly used against the foes of the Ancien Régime. I'm not sure the Musketeers, who are either based in Cincinnati or, let's say, Strasbourg, would have all that much experience planning for a tiger.

Though I should say, the Musketeer is a pretty strong contender for "Best Mascot Hat Plumage"

Obviously, tigers can be taken down by gunfire, but given the slow reload time on a musket and the challenge of firing that first shot well while a tiger is running after you (even one as genial as the Texas Southern tiger), I'm not sure the Musketeer makes the shot in the first place, and the rest is a whirlwind of claws and teeth and orange fur.

Texas Southern advances.

#8 North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. #12 Wyoming Cowboys

Mr. Wuf and associates greatest asset so far has been teamwork. While most schools have a type of animal, a sort of mythical figure or a variation on Pistol Pete, NC State's explicit invocation of the entire pack has been what has gotten them to the Sweet Mascot Sixteen. I presume Mr. Wuf to be their leader and representative.

The thing is that if there's one thing that Red Dead Redemption taught me, it's that occasionally cowboys are going to have to deal with some wolves going after the horses and non-player characters. Usually a whole bunch. And yes, sometimes they overwhelm everything and you have to ride off, abandoning whatever character you're supposed to be saving from the wolves, but in general, it's just not that much of an issue.

Pictured: A man with two guns who has decided his best option here is a Bowie knife.

Wyoming advances.

#11 Dayton Flyers vs. #2 Virginia Cavaliers

I know that Ohio's very excited about the whole "Birthplace of Aviation" thing, in that the Wright Brothers and a number of astronauts and I have been very forthright in my appreciation of the cartoon villain that is the Flyers mascot. Rudy Flyer has got the sort of feel of having just escaped from an inexplicable forgotten Beatles movie, where he uses his biplane to wreak havoc. Maybe that's what Rubber Soul was about.

Maybe he's the Narrator on Norwegian Wood?

CavMan, though, is crafty. Between the hat and the cape and the general swashbuckling nature, I wouldn't put "hiding in a bale of hay until the Flyer has to refuel, then running him through with a sabre" out of his reach. CavMan is the hero we need.

Virginia advances.

#9 St. John's Red Storm vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.

Lumberjacks, as far as I know, are hardworking, hardy individuals who take their jobs seriously. The SFA Lumberjack in particular also seems to wield an axe with a face on it, which is either a sentient being in its own right (in which case it should be feared) or he's some kind of lunatic who draws faces on his tools (in which case he should be feared).

If there's one thing I check for in the tools I use, it's that they're not distinctly angry.

The thing though is that I'm fairly certain there are some OSHA guidelines that would prevent working in severe weather conditions, and I think the Red Storm qualifies as that. I'm pretty certain the old mariner's saying is something along the lines of "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at noon in a forest, sailors acknowledge that there is no way to save you and start reading up on when you last updated your life insurance policy".

St. John's advances.

#14 UAB Blazers vs. #15 North Dakota State Bison

The Bison have been coasting through on two basic premises. First, they've had a significant size advantage on their opponents for both prior fights. Second, their mascot is named Thundar and I just really, really need that to be the stage name of a bassist in literally any sort of band. If this were a Mascot Name Bracket, Thundar would win the next three years in a row regardless of whether North Dakota State actually makes it to the tournament.

It's not, though, and Thundar's lost his size advantage. And now he's fighting a mythical creature that killed a well-meaning bear last round and, perhaps most impressively, voluntarily lives through humid Alabama summers where everything just feels heavy and it's hard to breathe and I feel like I need to put in the air conditioner despite the fact that it's like 40 degrees in Chicago right now.

One hopes the suit has a cooling system.

That was a tangent, but the point is that Blaze wins this one as well.

UAB advances.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Murphspot Mascot Bracket 2015: East/South Second Round

#1 Villanova Wildcats vs. #8 North Carolina State Wolfpack

On their best day, wildcats are going to have a rough go of it, so long as we're sticking with standard definitions of wildcats. I suppose if we're talking about rally cars, Villanova might have a better shot here at least from a momentum standpoint. Or a "driven by people with no apparent regard for reasonable driving speeds" standpoint.

I'm not saying I need a series that combines the spice-using navigators of Dune with the Dukes of Hazzard. I'm saying society needs that.

As it stands, we have a small, blue eyed cat, confident in its recent victory, entering the arena with let's say a dozen wolves. Wolves in jaunty hats, sure, but wolves nonetheless.

North Carolina State advances.

#12 Wyoming Cowboys vs. #13 UC Irvine Anteaters

I really do want to continue to encourage the development and implementation of novel mascots in the Mascot Bracket. Sure, Peter the Anteater doesn't really have much in the way of offensive prowess considering that his opponent is again not an ant, but by stifling his progress here, we wind up contributing to the Mascot File Drawer problem, where we see decreased submissions of mascots that may not work out in a fight to the death, but can teach us something interesting about the Mascot Sciences.

Also, we need more mascots with Peter's pleasant disposition.

And that's all well and good, but this is a battle between "pretty long tongue" and "so identified with pistols that he's named after them". Yellow Pistol Pete is victorious.

Wyoming advances.

#11 Dayton Flyers vs. #3 Oklahoma Sooners

At its most basic, this is less a fight to the death and more a lesson in the timeline of personal transport. Sure, it took a while for the Dayton Flyers to work out the kinks in how to take a big, heavy, metal machine and have it soar through the air, carrying as many sweaty passengers and screaming babies as you can fit into the fuselage while allowing for enough space to the traditional rations of half a can of the soft drink of your choice, a tiny bag of pretzels and whatever movie of indeterminate quality has been out long enough that they'll allow you to watch it if you buy some headphones.

Conestoga wagons, on the other hand, are relatively slow and, in my extensive research consisting of late 80's educational games, constantly either being caulked to float across rivers or having their inhabitants come down with cholera.

Alternately, snakebites, because James would not listen about leaving the snake alone.

Dayton advances.

#7 Michigan State Spartans vs. #2 Virginia Cavaliers

I'll give the Spartans a point in the Discipline category. They're proficient in that, and potentially moreso than a generic Cavalier. Particularly CavMan, who approaches life with the sort of devil may care attitude that befits his facial hair and his penchant for fancy hats.

In terms of armament and strategy, though, I'm thinking I'll have to go with Virginia here. Not only would they have been able to learn from any lessons that the Spartans came up with and incorporated them with the next few thousand years of advances in strategic warfare, they're guys with guns going up against guys in apparently green leather armor whose chin is basically the broad side of a barn.

You know, I get the bracers as a fashion statement, but I don't know that they provide any competitive advantage here.

Virginia advances.

#16 Robert Morris Colonials vs. #9 St. John's Red Storm

I feel like the Colonials vs. the Red Storm is either some sort of Masque of the Red Death analog combined with the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon, or it's a reference to a particularly harsh weather event that forced a small band of colonists to carve CROATOAN into a tree and then go do something with their time that wasn't being battered by flying debris.

As much as I would like to help Robert Morris out here, but Johnny Thunderbird rides on as ever, top down and stereo blaring. He is a phantom in the night, and all the colony will be awoken by his tunes. Deprived of sleep, they can't hope to keep up with the Red Storm.

Also, he's probably got lightning powers? Let's go with that.

St. John's advances.

#12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks vs. #13 Eastern Washington Eagles

So, in the last round, the Lumberjack was able to pretty easily dispatch with an hawk named Swoop.

I know what you're saying. This is an eagle named Swoop. It's totally different.

And sure. This bird of prey is pretty full of majesty, and is composed at least in part of concentrated Freedom. On the other hand, deforestation is still a thing, and I don't see this ending any better for this Swoop than the last. You can have all the majesty you want, but if your nest is gone and it's hard to hunt for food, times are tough.

The Lumberjack, you could reason with. The axe? No chance.

Stephen F. Austin advances.

#11 UCLA Bruins vs. #14 UAB Blazers

So, Joe Bruin has the advantage of his species being a real thing, and not being consigned to sword-and-sorcery style fantasy settings. That's actually non-negligible. As happy-go-lucky as Joe Bruin appears to be, he's still got the ability to call in actual bears.

Blaze is a dragon, which gives him a pretty heavy advantage if we can get over the "not actually an animal" hurdle. What we need is a way to directly compare the two.

Thankfully, we live in a world where you can just look that up on the internet, thanks to the magic of Youtube and Skyrim.

I'm going with that settling that.

UAB advances.

#7 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. #15 North Dakota State Bison

So, Herky's fine and all, and I presume he's got some sort of preternatural archery ability that allows him to hang out with superpowered aliens and men in powered armor.

Also, one of the more stylized masks that's come up so far.

But, despite that, we're dealing with one of the many toothy birds in this bracket and I think this simply comes down to size. Thundar isn't something that the Hawk is going to be able to pick up and carry off to tear him apart, and I think this is probably going to result in repeated assaults that Thundar weathers with grace.

Well, as much grace as someone named THUNDAR can muster.

North Dakota State advances.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Murphspot Mascot Bracket 2015 - Midwest/West Second Round

#16 Hampton Pirates vs. #9 Purdue Boilermakers

I can't quite find an intended identity for the Hampton Pirate, but one presumes because of how he's dressed that he's intended as sort of a late 17th, early 18th century sort of pirate, probably sailing around the Caribbean with occasional detours up to the Chesapeake Bay to see how things are going at his alma mater.

Also, apparently in this version of invented history, he's not only the mascot for Hampton, but an alumnus. So that's fine.

The thing is that if we set the Hampton Pirate as early 18th century, he's still a bit too early for the development of the steam locomotive. Born a bit later, and he might have a shot at overpowering Purdue Pete and derailing the Boilermaker Special, but as it stands it seems like he'd not know which switch to throw and at best, wind up tossed from the train.

Also, he's got a steely-if-sort-of-confused gaze.

I'm sorry, Hampton Pirate. If it's any consolation, I've got no idea how to stop a train either.

Purdue advances.

#5 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. #13 Valparaiso Crusaders

At its core, this is a question about two opposing fighting styles. The Mountaineer is equipped with a rifle and a bearskin cape, which either indicates that he's good enough with the rifle that he managed to kill and skin a bear, or that he bought a cape from someone, which would give him points in the all important Bargaining Variable in our patented Murphspot Mascot Bracket Algorithm.

Also, an alarming amount of fringe.

The Crusader, on the other hand, while not as resourceful, is likely more diligent in pursuing his beliefs, which in this case apparently include making Brown and Gold work as a fashion statement.

At the end of the day, I think the Crusader's tenacity (as well as his plate armor) give him the edge.

Valparaiso advances.

#11 Texas Longhorns vs. #3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Having just set aside an argument over resourcefulness against passion towards achieving your goals, I can't help but think that this also comes down to question of attitudes.

I don't want to knock Bevo. He's certainly got the most impressive horns in the bracket, even if they do seem a little unwieldy. He looks rather frightening. The problem with going with a cow, though, is that cows are generally pretty docile. I mean, hell, the Texas Longhorn wikipedia page notes the breed as having an "innate gentle disposition". That's great. I, personally, really respect that and find an innate gentle disposition to be admirable.

The problem is that the Fighting Irish Leprechaun is constantly preparing to box and is armed with a club.

As much as I want to award the Longhorn for eating some grass and going about his life, I don't think he comes out of this one.

Notre Dame advances.

#7 Wichita State Shockers vs. #15 New Mexico State Aggies

The issue with sentient wheat is that I'm not really able to form a plan for how to defeat it. The NMSU Aggies could, I suppose, come up a way to introduce a rival crop that would compete with WuShock. Or maybe introduce some sort of harmful pest into WuShock's living quarters.

The problem is that the mascot isn't an agricultural student, though I think that would be awesome. It's Pistol Pete.

The Maroon one in this case, though the Pistol Petes (Pistols Pete?) are beginning to blur together.

Pistol Pete understands a few things very well. Pistols, for one, and moustaches for another. If this were a Burt Reynolds-off, it'd be Pistol Pete in a landslide, but I don't think he'll get to use that skill here.

I think he'll just shoot at WuShock.

But the bullet passes through the individual stalks. WuShock advances.

Panicked, Pistol Pete fires five more times. All of his bullets pass through WuShock, seemingly harmlessly.

The horror of his situation hits Pistol Pete at about the same time as a giant fist made of wheat.

Wichita State advances.

#16 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers vs. #9 Oklahoma State Cowboys

I speculated in Coastal Carolina's last matchup about some sort of terrible Rooster Magic available to the Chanticleer which might allow for some way for him to claw his way to victory. I wasn't quite sure where that came from, but I think, looking back into my notes, I was swayed by a bizarre Russo-Finnish film that appeared in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and in which a rooster controlled the movement of the sun by not crowing.

Yes, I'm not quite sure either.

So that's a bit of a deep cut.

Here, though, I imagine that the Oklahoman Pistol Pete; the original, will have no trouble. Roosters are part of his life, I assume, as are communing with the Great Pistol Pete Consciousness and shooting varmints and such.

Oklahoma State advances.

#5 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. #4 North Carolina Tar Heels

So, while Tusk has tusks and, as was pointed out by a friend with a far superior blog that is well written, full of actual analysis and insight and that you should be reading (and isn't just a once yearly bit of nonsense like this), may have been involved with the downfall of Robert Baratheon, leading to the reign of our Glorious Defender, Joffrey.

Not many people know this, but when characters in A Song of Ice and Fire die, they're reincarnated in the distant past, in sequels no one wanted.

And I can see how feral hogs would be a problem for North Carolinians. They're dangerous, there's some agriculture they could mess up, and if they collectively decided to block Route 12 near Sealevel, they could effectively trap and endanger Outer Banks vacationers all the way up to Corolla, which I imagine would be sort of inconvenient.

On the other hand, residents of North Carolina (as well as Ramses) have access to the internet, and therefore have access to this big long advertisement for a hog trap. It seems like being armed with that would end this pretty quickly.

North Carolina advances.

#6 Xavier Musketeers vs. #14 Georgia State Panthers

On one hand, the Xavier Musketeers have the advantage of not only being armed, but probably having some actual hunting experience and should be able to pick a bright blue panther out of a wooded area.

On the other, they might make some sort of horrible mistake and wind up in a movie with Orlando Bloom and his most improbable neckwear to date.

Orlando, you've reached critical Orlando-ocity. It's time to settle it down a little.

The Panther's threatening at all, but I believe the hit he takes to his stealth capability by being the same electric blue color as the first car I drove when I was in high school is fatal.

Not a photo of the actual car, but I'm pretty sure they only made these things in electric blue and maroon.

Xavier advances.

#7 Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. #15 Texas Southern Tigers

I like Rodney. Honestly, I do. He's got an offensive weapon in the horns, obviously, but more than that I'm concerned about his grin. That is the grin of a ram who is up to something.

The Mr. Burns hands probably aren't helping.

The problem, though, is that while I respect Rodney's Intimidating Grin of Madness, he's fighting a tiger. Sure, a grandfatherly tiger who seems content to just show up and throw some Werther's Originals at the kids, but a tiger nonetheless and I'm not sure "ram vs. tiger" ever ends with the ram victorious.

I'm sorry, Rodney.

Texas Southern advances.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Murphspot Mascot Bracket 2015: South Region

#1 Duke Blue Devils vs. #16 Robert Morris Colonials

Basically two ways this could go, as every year. Either we acknowledge the whole Les Diables Bleus World War I Alpinist unit Duke is invoking and wind up in the "Which military force would win?" question that I'm pretty sure makes actual historians set fire to things, or we focus on the actual foam rubber mascots. If we go with the former, Duke wins through actual training (and not just being "people who lived in a colony). If the latter, it probably goes to RMU as the Blue Devil is more inexplicable than threatening, while the Colonial has the sort of jawline that I assume is formed explicitly so that he can bite through steel.

Additionally, that is a hell of a coat.

Also, I could be sort of a homer and go with the team from Pittsburgh (well, Moon, but you know what I mean). That might impact the integrity with which this bracket is viewed worldwide.

And I'm ok with that.

Robert Morris advances.

#8 San Diego State Aztecs vs. #9 St. John's Red Storm

Typically, the Aztecs do well in the Mascot Bracket, but I don't believe they've gone up against St. John's Red Storm before. In their favor, they've got actual weaponry and a pretty awesome helmet on their mascot.

But I don't feel like I can ignore the fact that the Red Storm sounds like the fighting force of a Silver Age comic book villain. Probably in a Captain America book.

Combine that with the fact that their mascot's name is Johnny Thunderbird and I can't help but give this to St. John's. Johnny Thunderbird sounds like the name of a guy who just drives around town with no particular goal in mind except that everyone within earshot should hear his sweet, sweet sound system blaring Whitesnake.

Yes, Johnny Thunderbird. Here you go again on your own. We get it.

St. John's advances.

#5 Utah Utes vs. #12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

I'm not going to go into the inevitable My Cousin Vinny tangent, except to say that I spent more time writing this bracket than I'd originally intended because I found it necessary to go watch the end of My Cousin Vinny.

The Lumberjacks are the reigning champions, mostly on the strength of their "dude in flannel with an axe" platform. Well, I say dude in flannel with an axe; I should specify that I'm assuming the SFA Lumberjack has some expertise in the field of Lumberjacking. Hell, I've been alternately a dude in flannel and a dude with an axe (though never at the same time, I don't think) and I'm certainly no threat, but I'm guessing the SFA Lumberjack is more confident that he won't manage to lop off a limb than I am.

If this were the mascot, I'd just retire the Bracket entirely. 

Considering that the Utes are countering with a hawk named Swoop, I'm not sure this works out for them. At the very least, their opponent being someone whose job it is to knock down trees can't help for simple habitat displacement reasons. Also, he's got an axe.

Stephen F. Austin advances.

#4 Georgetown Hoyas vs. #13 Eastern Washington Eagles

This is the second entry in a row where one of the combatants being trotted out is a predatory bird named Swoop. I'm starting to genuinely get concerned that soon, all mascots will coalesce into a small few and we'll replace the fine art of being in a foam rubber costume while people play basketball with a Saturday Morning Cartoon about the adventures of Swoop and Pistol Pete.

He does have the disdainful gaze down pretty well.

Ignoring the Hoya Saxa thing for a second, and realizing that this doesn't help my image as some sort of anti-dog tyrant, Jack the Bulldog is likely pretty tenacious, but he's still a relatively small dog that I've got to think the eagle could at least try to pick up. I'm not sure if the spiked collar would act as a disincentive. Not enough of one anyway.

For some reason, wearing the hat and nothing else is a little unsettling.
Eastern Washington advances.

#6 Southern Methodist Mustangs vs. #11 UCLA Bruins

I've spent less time in the western part of the country than I'd like, but considering this is a Wild Horse vs. Roaming Bear fight, I'd like to imagine this is the culmination of a centuries long inter-species war. Maybe New Mexico serves as some manner of border country.

Despite Joe Bruin's general congenial sort of feel, he's still a half ton of claws and rage. It's hard to fight against that.

He's just so cheerful about the prospect of dismembering his opponents.

It's harder still when you're a Shetland Pony. I have nothing against Peruna, and I'm glad we live in the part of history where if you want a detailed history of the Shetland Ponies that have served as the Southern Methodist University mascot that exists. Which is great.

I just can't come up with a scenario in which Peruna is victorious here.

UCLA advances.

#3 Iowa State Cyclones vs. #14 UAB Blazers

Sy's fine and all, though "toothy cardinal" has been done elsewhere. He's got sort of a terrifying Cheshire Cat smile going on, but maybe he just really likes the weather patterns of Central Iowa.

Back away slowly or he'll start talking to you about his sweet home meteorology instrumentation.

UAB, on the other hand, is coming at this with a fire-breathing dragon named Blaze. That's basically all that matters here. There wouldn't be a whole lot Sy could do to counter than in any case, but certainly not as a songbird.

Someone go alert the Ghiscari.

This isn't even close.

UAB advances.

#7 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. #10 Davidson Wildcats

I honestly don't know what it is at this point with schools wanting to give teeth to birds. Is this some sort of genetic engineering initiative I was unaware of?

I've long held that wildcats, as non-descript cats that live in the woods but effectively the same size as a domesticated cat, just aren't all that threatening in a fight to the death. This isn't going to be any different.

Iowa advances.

#2 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. #15 North Dakota State Bison

See, institutions of Buffalo, New York? You could totally pull off something like this.

Now, listen. I'm not going to sign off on Thundar the Bison's haircut. This is generally a pretty lighthearted Mascot Bracket, but I have standards that I will not violate.  I will, however, sign off on basically anything named Thundar.

As for the actual battle, this is mostly just a weight-ratio sort of thing. There are reasons that in most standard combat sports, weight classes are a thing, but the Mascot Bracket cares not for such considerations. There isn't a handicapping system. There is no relief. There is only the arena.

Also, silly pictures and foam rubber. But mostly the arena.

North Dakota State advances.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Murphspot Mascot Bracket 2015: East Region

#1 Villanova Wildcats vs. #16 Lafayette Leopards

We start this region of the bracket where the West left off, with differently sized cats. There isn't all that much interesting to say that doesn't break down to "Well, let's go with the larger cat, I guess" in most of these, but for some reason both Villanova's Will D. Cat and Lafayette's The Leopard have really intensely colored eyes.

Will D. Cat, as discussed in previous years, is clearly the Kwisatz Haderach, though I've got doubts about the Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan Area's spice reserves. Also, he might anger Sting.

I'm actually a little more frightened of angering Sting's hair.

The Leopard's got some manner of bright red eyes of rage thing going on, but even with the size advantage, Will D. Cat's eyes freak me out more and make me want to not anger him so early on in the bracket.

Villanova advances.

#8 North Carolina State Wolfpack vs. #9 Louisiana State Tigers

I realize that just in my last post, I deducted points for a silly hat. In my defense, and in keeping with the integrity of the current state of mascot hat analysis, Wilbur's floppy Stetson was trying for something and not quite achieving it. Mr. Wuf's sailor hat isn't trying to be something it isn't. It knows its limitations. It simply is.

I sort of feel as though they want to go antiquing. Which I'm fine with.

I like Mike the Tiger. I've walked by Mike's habitat (though that would have been the previous Incarnation of Mike), and he's, from what I can tell, a very capable tiger.

If this were a single wolf on tiger fight, it'd be Mike without a doubt. Against a wolfpack, though, I imagine this turns out like the Dawn of the Dead remake, and Mike to his opponent simply because there are too many to fight.

North Carolina State advances.

#5 Northern Iowa Panthers vs. #12 Wyoming Cowboys.

You know what? I give up.

Everyone has Pistol Pete as their mascot, and I'm starting to think Pistol Pete is the Borg. Soon, the Pistol Pete Cube will find us, assimilate us into its collective, and then we'll all be Pistol Pete.

I don't know if it's worth it to resist. Maybe I should embrace the moustache. Maybe Pistol Pete has been with all of us all along.

Maybe Pistol Pete guards the secret to happiness. Maybe Pistol Pete is serenity.

Regardless, I can't come up with a way to have the Panthers advance. Pistol Pete is victorious. Pistol Pete is life.

Pistol Pete.

Wyoming advances.

#4 Louisville Cardinals vs. #13 UC Irvine Anteaters

I mean, for a cardinal, Cardinal Bird is pretty frightening. A cardinal took up residence outside one of the windows in my apartment last year apparently because he liked to mock the cat, but if he'd had human-shaped teeth in his beak I'd have quietly packed up everything I owned, gotten in my car and driven until there were no more roads.

Still not as frightening as Adam Wainwright.

As far as I know, anteaters don't pose that much danger to things that aren't ants. And to preserve the sanctity of the Mascot Bracket, it might be that Peter the Anteater can't come out of this victorious.

On the other hand, this is the sort of thing we like to encourage here at the Mascot Bracket. We live for the Anteaters of the tournament. For the mascots that thankfully aren't the most popular choices in mascotdom (Bears, Cats and Pistol Pete, evidently). Having seen Peter the Anteater in action, I'm going to trust to his guile. It seems cruel to limit him to eating ants.

Peter the Anteater's resourcefulness beats out Cardinal Bird's terror.

UC Irvine advances.

#6 Providence Friars vs. #11 Dayton Flyers

Leaving aside the Friars/Flyers linguistic note for a second, I'd like to remind everyone that Friar Dom is in your closet while you sleep and is just waiting for an opportunity to devour your soul with his unblinking Friar Stare.

There is no escape.

That said, the Friar's main method of attack seem to be charity, humility and studiousness, while the Flyers have got at least some capacity for an aerial assault.

Dayton advances.

#3 Oklahoma Sooners vs. #14 Albany Great Danes

This doesn't seem like a fight. This seems like the beginning of a credit sequence about a man, his dog, and the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889. Maybe with Nick Offerman guest starring as President Grover Cleveland.

I'd like an HBO documentary about President Cleveland's bow ties.

If we're talking about an actual fight between Boomer and Sooner and Damien the Great Dane, it'll be close. Despite being Welsh Ponies, I'd have to assume that Boomer and Sooner can probably kick pretty hard. Damien's probably quicker on his feet and has the agility to deal with a pair of ponies, but then I'm sitting here trying to imagine a dog and pony fight and the whole enterprise is just sort of bizarre.

I'm going with the one that has the steel on its feet.

Oklahoma advances.

#7 Michigan State Spartans vs. #10 Georgia Bulldogs

Again, I don't hate dogs. I swear I don't. I even like Uga as a dog in particular. He seems pleasant, and if I recall showed up in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, so there's the additional factor of a literary CV.

And I wish I could give this one to him. But no matter how many millennia of advances in military technology the Spartans don't have access to, he's still got a sword and he's fighting a domesticated dog.

I'm going to continue to just pretend the Spartan mascot is actually McNulty in a toga.

I feel bad about it, but there's no way around the result here.

Michigan State advances.

#2 Virginia Cavaliers vs. #15 Belmont Bruins

Bears for the most part do relatively well in the Mascot Bracket, in part because I have no idea how I'd react to coming across a brown bear in the wild. Even one as seemingly genial as Bruiser would probably immediately destroy me, and then Werner Herzog would narrate something about the fleeting nature of life. Or chickens.

Is that video entirely unrelated? Sure. But now you've seen it, and your life has been improved. Also, this Mascot Bracket might be a chicken.

But I'm not CavMan. I certainly don't have CavMan's hat, nor his ability to, I assume, swing in like Errol Flynn and eviscerate his enemies.

Virginia advances.