Monday, January 31, 2011

Fun with Venn Diagrams

Note: Part 12 of my 323-part series.

Song: With or Without You
Artist: U2

Fred R. Barnyard is credited with saying "a picture is worth 1,000 words." Who am I to disagree with an article published in the trade journal Printer's Ink in 1927? As such, here's part 12 of my series, and since it's a picture, it's twice as long as the minimum I've set for each of them.

Next Song: Black Rock
Artist: OAR

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sweet Child O' Mine

Part 11 of the 323 part series.

Song: Sweet Child O’ Mine
Artist: Guns N’ Roses

I promise to try to make a blog about my kid entertaining and humorous without resulting in me sleeping on the floor next to the couch if my wife reads it. (I assume she wouldn’t even let me sleep on the couch if it’s overly insulting.) So come for the mediocre writing and stay for the cute kid video at the end.

I’ve been a proud parent for a little over a year now. Yes, my son’s two, but for the first eight months, he didn’t do a lot in that first year to be proud of. Oh sure, he rolled over. My dog can do that. Well, not my dog because she’s dumber than a sack of hammers, but other people’s dogs can do that. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never actually met anyone who had their dog trained to the point he or she would roll over on command. Granted, our dog manages to not poop in the house while the kid still poops in his pants (ok, sometimes his dad does too). But I love him just the same.

I know I’m far from the perfect parent, but I’d like to think I’ve learned a little about this parenting thing in 27 months. Here’s just a few of the things I’ve learned:
  • Beiber Fever is not a recognized medical illness and calling your sister-in-law/nurse at work to figure out what to do will result in her ignoring your calls.
  • Just because the only cure for Bruce Dickenson’s fever is more cowbell doesn’t mean more cowbell cures all fevers. It also angers your significant other when you try that remedy at 2:30 a.m.
  • Being made mostly of cartilage does not mean babies bounce.
  • Riding the dog like a horse is not only not frowned up in this establishment, but actively encouraged.
  • I’m fairly certain the leading cause of insanity among parents of children under five is children’s music.
  • I don’t know how parents used television to babysit their kids before the advent of DVR’s and streaming Netflix.
  • The best time to send your kid to see your wife is when he’s got a poppy diaper.
  • Exposing your child to Colin Cowherd is grounds for child abuse charges in North Carolina.

Sure, there are sacrifices that have to be made with the little guy. I’d love to be able to spend my autumn Saturdays watching football from noon until midnight or go a day without having to sing a song about some bus and what it does all through the town. I’d be happy to be able to watch Family Guy reruns while he’s awake, but Yes Dear frowns upon that. Just because Stewie wants to kill Lois doesn’t mean my kid wants to kill my wife. (But now that I think about it, Stewie does a great job of keeping his plans secret from the rest of the family, so maybe she’s right in not wanting to give the little guy any ideas.)

Despite the sacrifices, I do get the benefit of shaping and molding the next generation (or passing that responsibility on to Steve, Mailbox and the rest of the gang at Blue’s Clues). I hope the next generation has a need for sabrmetrics, pedestrian blogs and reruns of Bones on Netflix. If not, I may be starting him off on the wrong foot.

Pardon the shameless video of my kid. (I warned you at the beginning of this there was a cute kid video at the end, much like the monster was at the end of that book.)

Next Song: With or Without You
Artist: U2

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Supid. It Burns!

Note: Part 10 of my 323 part series walking through my iPod
Song: American Idiot
 Artist: Green Day

When I started this project, there were a few songs I knew I was going to hate trying to come up with something to tie to the song. Of course, when I started this project, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to double digits before giving up on it. Anyway, this is not one of those songs. In fact, this one may be the one I was most looking forward to tackling (can we still say “tackling” or is that type of language frowned upon in the current political climate?).

Despite moving to North Carolina 18 months ago, I still check in on my old hometown’s newspaper’s website every now and again to see what’s happening there. (Short answer: not much. Long answer: Not much of anything significant). To be fair, in the nearly five years I worked at that newspaper, other than a hostage standoff one year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there wasn’t a whole lot that went on there anyway. I did have a stretch where I went something like 18 straight weeks of writing at least one (and probably two to three) alcohol-related story when the city considered and then made changes to its alcohol ordinance. For the math impaired, that’s 4.5 months. By the end, I didn’t care anymore. I was hoping for someone else to be taken hostage just to give me something else to write about.

While there, I also check out their blog section, thinking it would be interesting to hear from some of the non-reporters about their thoughts on the community. This appears to have been a mistake on several levels. I have no way to prove this, but from the posts and comments on that section of the internet, whatever organization it is that is the Bizzaro Mensa must have decided at one of their conventions to make that website their new online home*. 

At one point, I’d started a list of all the facepalm-inducing comments and statements. Had I known I was going to write about this topic, I would have kept it. I do recall that one poster seemed genuinely to believe that state funded education, from kindergarten through college, was part of a communist plot to take over the country. When it was pointed out that public education in the United States dates back a few hundred years, they refused to change their tune. Never mind the fact that if it was part of a secret communist plot, it was the slowest-moving plot in history. Like most conspiracies, no amount of evidence could convince this poor soul that the state educational system was not brainwashing children into becoming communists and any evidence to the contrary was there to convince us there is no conspiracy.

I also learned that President Obama is a secret Muslim from Kenya who usurped power illegally is a socialist, a communist (with the schools playing a vital role, no doubt), a fascist and a Marxist, all at the same time, which, to be honest, is a pretty impressive feat. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone seemed to notice the inherent contradiction of claiming the president is all of these political philosophies all at the same time. When pressed to explain how he holds those contradictory positions, their response made slightly less sense than my two-year old trying to explain the plot of The Great Gatsby to me. At times, I find my self shaking my head in amazement, not at the absurdity of the comments, but at the fact these people can remember to breathe each day, let alone turn on a computer.

Despite the fact that I know I’m actively becoming dumber each time I read more than three lines of drivel, I’m like an “idiot addict” who can’t stay away. Every few days, I have the need to see what the minds of these people come up with. On rare occasions, I’ll engage a few of them by pointing out the cognitive dissonance in their “reasoning” or by just being snarky. Not surprisingly, they don’t take to kindly to that, especially the sarcasm. Apparently my statements are sullying the good name of the cyber wasteland they inhabit. And God forbid if you ask a question asking for more details on how a certain opinion was reached. Typically you'll just get the initial opinion restated a different way with no supporting evidence. Asking more than once for details as tantamount to accusing the poster of palling around with terrorists and being a child molester in his spare time.

I don’t doubt that many of them are well-meaning. Unfortunately, they seem to have assumed the Stephen Colbert approach to current events. Truthiness is more important than truth. Instead of looking at things analytically, they’ve chosen to respond to fear. ‘Oh noes, gays serving in the military will be the end of our country. They want to build a mosque at Ground Zero? That means the terrorists have won. Everybody PANIC!’  It’s basic fear-based reasoning and anything to alleviate that fear is deemed a good idea.
Now don’t get me wrong, they have every right to post their “thoughts” (or more accurately, the talking points of whatever political leanings they have) online. I wouldn’t have it any other way (despite their continued insistence that anytime the website removes a post, they are violating that person’s First Amendment rights. Most don’t seem to grasp the concept that an organization removing their ramblings is not the same as the government punishing them for those ramblings.) In fact, I’m glad they post their thoughts, mostly because it’s fun to point and laugh, but it also makes finding the idiots easier when they’re willing to publicly expose themselves (in a non-sex offender way).

 *Based on my limited experience, I've found most commenters on newspaper websites to be among the most ill-informed people around, so it's possible I'm just reading the south Georgia chapter of Bizzaro Mensa. Because I don't read all newspapers and magazines, I'll defer to Sarah Palin on this issue.

Next Song: Sweet Child O' Mine
Artist: Guns N' Roses

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Peace, Peas and Jon Stewart

Note: Part nine of my 323 part series walking through my iPod

Song: Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want
Artist: Hootie and the Blowfish

Before he went totally crazy and then turned that crazy all the way up to 11, Michael Moriarty uttered one of my favorite lines in the 20-year run of Law & Order. After turning down a plea offer from a defense attorney, that attorney asked Moriarty “What is it that you want?” to which he responded “World peace, the Mets in the (World) Series and your client in Dannemora.”

The Aristotle of our times
As noted philosopher M. P. Jagger once wrote, you can’t always get what you want. Unless something’s changed from the time I wrote this to the time I posted it, world peace hasn’t broken out. (If it has, please stop reading this and go out and celebrate. The last time world peace existed, Adam and Eve were still debating whether to have salad or breadsticks with their never-ending pasta bowl. The internet will still be here when you get back, unless that was a casualty of world peace, in which case the peace will be short-lived as riots will soon be taking place over the lack of internet access. It’ll also mean I’ll miss writing to you all, but if you end up seeing a book written by me, please purchase it and know that it’s dedicated to you.) It took nine more years and a half-dozen cast changes in Law & Order for the Mets to make it to the series. I do think Moriarty was able to get the conviction to send the guy to Dannemora, so that worked out. One out of three isn’t bad (though Meatloaf has higher standards.)

 For the most part, I strive to live my life by the Crow Code in that “it’s not getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Sure, I’d like the Cubs to win the World Series (or make it to the World Series, or even make it to the playoffs. Hell, I’d settle for a winning season at this point) and the winning lottery numbers. I often have people give me the winning lotto numbers, but they usually tell me the day after the drawing, which is the equivalent of getting a free ride when you’ve already paid.

Sure, there are people out there who are only living in a material world and there are guys out there who want nothing but girls, girls, girls. (Alright, enough with the cheesy music tie-ins.  There’s no need for them and I’m not as witty as I think I am.) So here’s the short list of what I want, what I really, really want.

World Peace – or whirled peas. What can I say, I’m a sucker for homonyms.

 A decent selection of streaming options on Netflix – I like 30 Rock and My Name is Earl as much as the next guy, but the lack of funny sit-coms makes the streaming options less than ideal. Then again, there aren’t a great number of entertaining sit-coms to begin with, so maybe they’re doing the best they can.

Warmer weather – If, for some reason, you’re reading this in the summer, you can probably disregard this one. Wilmington had the coldest December on record and has had a total of three days at or above the average temperature for January so far. What’s the point of living at the beach if you can’t actually go enjoy it?

Just one date, come on Anne
The wit of Jon Stewart – and the writing ability of Bill Simmons, and since we’re keeping our feet on the ground and shooting for the stars here, a date with Anne Hathaway in which she and Isla Fisher fight for my attention.

A cool nickname – something like ‘Crabman’ would be awesome, but I don’t really have any crab-related stories, so that seems like a long shot.

That’s it. That’s the list. Sure, I’d like some other things, but ultimately, I think if I could get those five things listed (six if you want to include the Cubs), I’d be content with life, at least until I wanted something else.

Next song: American Idiot
Artist: Green Day

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cheering for Laundry

Chuck Klosterman is a sports atheist. It’s not that he doesn’t believe in sports. It’s that he doesn’t believe a person necessarily has to continue for the same team he’s been cheering for since he or she was seven year’s old, or even cheer for a team at all. There’s no inherent reason for the team you like when you still thought girls had cooties has to be the team you like when your grandchildren think girls have cooties.

The first Cubs bandwagon.
As a lifelong Cubs fan, this view perplexes me. How can you truly appreciate the good times (assuming, in the Cubs’ case, there ever actually ARE good times) if you don’t suffer through the bad times? It goes against everything that being a sports fan is about. The lean times result in the bandwagon fans jumping off, leaving you with the choice seats. Though if you’ve ever seen an actual bandwagon, there don’t really seem to be any good seats to begin with. They look crowded and uncomfortable all the time. Why you would want to jump on one of those when you can just start cheering for a team from the comforts of your own home is beyond me.

Anyway, you endure the losing and losing (and losing and losing) because you know that eventually (maybe, please) things turn around and you arrive at the Promised Land. And that triumph (I imagine) is worth all the heartache and pain that you put up with to get there. But part of me can’t help but wonder why I don’t just pick a team that’s on the rise and cheer for them for a few years before moving on to the next team on the brink of success. It’s not like any of the players on the teams know or care who I root for. Would I not have been happier being a Tampa Bay Rays fan over the past three years, or even a Phillies fan? Honestly, I probably would have.

When I was nine, I loved the song Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Loved it. Couldn’t hear it enough. Called radio stations (back when you could do that) to request it. But eventually I got tired of it, like most seven year olds do with most things. So why do we expect people to make a lifelong commitment to a team at that age, especially when the players from that team you first fell in love with have long since stopped playing. As Jerry Seinfeld observed, you're essentially cheering for laundry.

All this leads me to Saturday night when the Atlanta Falcons played the Green Bay Packers. While I live and die with the Cubs, when it comes to football, I'm a sports atheist. Most of the time I cheer for the Fighting Squirrels, my fantasy team. I have a few friends who have been Falcons’ fans for nearly as long as I’ve been alive, if not longer. I also have a lot of friends who have been lifelong fans for the past three years, which coincidentally is when the Falcons’ most recent run of success began. I don’t begrudge people who want to hop on a team’s bandwagon when they start to show signs of promise. But please, for the sake of the people who have ridden that same bandwagon through the deserted towns and dusty trails with nothing by tumbleweed and losing seasons as far as the eye could see, don’t try to compare your agony to that of fans who remember life before Matt Ryan.

Why I'm a Packers fan . . . for now
For now, I’m a Green Bay fan. My mom is a lifelong fan dating back to the first Super Bowl, so I can claim some familial influence should I feel the need to justify it. But truth be told, I really like watching Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rogers play. In the supremely unlikely event that he get’s traded in the next year or so, my allegiance will likely shift to whatever his new team is. Such is the life of a sports atheist. Should Green Bay lose to Chicago next week, I’ll still watch the Super Bowl, but it’ll be more as an interested observer of the details of the game rather than that of a fan with a rooting interest. I’d hate to steal one of the few remaining seats on a bandwagon from someone who wants to get on. Those things are uncomfortable enough during the lean times.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

To Tell the Truth

Note: Part 8 of my 323 part series using songs on my iPod as a jumping off point.

Song: Tell the Truth
Artist: Eric Clapton

This is the true story... of one blogger... picked to live in a house...writing a substandard blog and  publishing it ... to find out what happens... when he stop being polite... and start getting real...The Real World

To tell you the truth:

* I often don’t care how you’re doing when you ask, I’m just being polite.

* I may or may not be doing ‘good’ when you ask me, again, I’m just being polite.

* The only reason I follow the NFL is for the benefit of my fantasy team.
Based on my track record, maybe I should quit following it completely.

* I’ve never seen an episode of 24, The Sopranos, or Lost.

* I know it’s not the apex of literary achievement, but I find Dan Brown’s novels enjoyable.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I still like Hootie and the Blowfish.

* While we’re on the subject of music, I always thought NSYNC were better than the Backstreet Boys

* That said, Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way is a really, really good pop song.

* I sometimes feel bad for subtly mocking people online without them realizing it, but then I realize they probably deserve it.

* I often feel as though I’m the smartest person in the room.
(but I’m often spending my time in the same room as a two-year old.)

* I sometimes copy witty comments from other places and post them as my facebook status without crediting some random screen name for its original source.

* I try to put up a positive front, but I don’t have much faith in the Cubs this year.

* Maybe it’s years of bitterness, but I enjoy when other people’s teams fail to win.

* Even though my wife and I both hold two degrees from Georgia Southern University, we still cheer for the teams of the university that currently employs her (as well as GSU).

* All things being equal, I think redheads are the hottest.
(And this is probably the one time my wife will actually read my blog . . . she’s not a redhead)

* I don’t see the appeal of Dave Matthews Band.

* I also never got the appeal of Conan O’Brien.

* I tell myself I’m a soccer fan, but I generally only watch the World Cup
I feel bad about that, but not enough to change.

* I often wonder how long laugh tracks stick around for and if we sometimes hear people who have since died when I’m watching a crappy sit-com that needs a laugh track.

* As much as I enjoy Ken Burns’ documentaries, I think the director’s cut would run uninterrupted for a month. (I’m also guessing his bedtime stories for his grandkids end at 4 a.m. When he gives a toast at weddings, the carbonation in the champagne is gone before he finishes. What I’m trying to say is that he’s very long-winded.)

* Bandwagon fans used to annoy me. Now I realize they have no impact on my enjoyment of a team or its success.

*Life was better for me before my kid figured out his music was on my iPod.
Corollary: I no longer care what the wheels on the bus do, so long as no one’s singing about it.

Next Song: Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want
Artist: Hootie and the Blowfish

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One step closer is also one step farther away

Note: Part 7 of my 323 part series using songs on my iPod as a jumping off point.

Song: One Step Closer
Artist: U2

There's nothing more intimidating for a writer than a blank screen with the blinking cursor in the top left just flashing again and again, waiting for you to fill the page with your thoughts. Well, actually, you're filling the page with symbols that, on their own, mean nothing, but we have ascribed them meanings so that we're able to communicate through the written word. And actually, there are probably a lot of things more intimidating than a blank page. Your boss, your in-laws, that cat that walks around always thinking he's better than you, the roid-head who keeps hitting on your girlfriend to name a few. 

But eventually you start writing. You have a general idea or a theme in mind, maybe a few plot twists. Gotta, gotta compelling protagonist? Yeah? Gotta obstacle for him to overcome? Huh? Gotta story brewing there? Working on, working on that for quite some time? Huh? Yea, talking about that 3 years ago. Been working on that the whole time? Nice little narrative? Beginning, middle, and end? Some friends become enemies, some enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer from the experience? Maybe a little bit of selective plagiarism . . . err . . . quoting from a Family Guy episode.

Or maybe you’re setting out to write a new sacred document for your religion of choice and decide you’re going to sell the information contained in that document as though you’re the reincarnation of a cult leader. Meanwhile, as you’re writing, a famous movie star locks himself in your close and despite the best efforts of his famous friends, he refuses to come out of the closet. However, you realize at the end of writing the prophetic words you realize that it’s all a scam and announce that to the world, only to have threats of a lawsuit leveled at you. Almost like the South Park episode on that topic.

It’s also possible that you’d want to turn your life around after winning $100,000 in a scratch off lotto ticket only to lose it when you run into the street to celebrate and get hit by a car and wind up in the hospital where you see Carson Daly talking about karma. You then realize that if you do good things, good things happen. Do bad things and bad things happen. So you make a list of all the bad things you’ve done and one by one you’re going to make up for all your mistakes. As you start doing that, you find the lotto ticket, so you keep working to cross things off your list, typically one a week except for summers when you retell stories of your previous tasks. Just like the show ‘My Name is Earl.’

I really miss My Name is Earl. It was a quirky little show that lost its way around season three when Earl went to jail rather than letting his ex-wife get her third strike. For the rest of the season, the writers seemed to realize they’d made a mistake and seemed to be working to get him out of jail, only to compound their mistake by having Earl lapse into a coma. It wasn’t until they finally got back to the basic premise of the show (crossing items off his list) did the show regain its footing, but by then its audience had migrated elsewhere, thus leading to its untimely cancellation.

 If you did any of those things when you stared at the blank page in front of you, you’d be one step closer than I am to coming up with something to write. Instead I’ll probably just end up rambling on and on about nothing in particular and you’ll end up regretting the time you spent here and I’ll apologize and we’ll just pretend this never happened and see what the next topic is and hope for something a little better.

Next Song: Tell the Truth
Artist: Eric Clapton