Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anything except for money.

This past weekend, I was approached at a drug store parking lot by a man who told me he was a restaurant owner, he showed me his laminated menu, and explained to me that he had run out of gas. Problem was, he had forgotten his wallet. So he was asking folks to help him out with enough cash to buy a gas can and some gas. At the time, he had raised $6 in a few hours.

First, I asked him where his place was--perhaps I could drive him there. He replied that it was really far away, so that was out. Then, I asked him where his vehicle was located and he told me cross streets that were in the direction from where I had come. "No problem," I said, "I'm headed back that way. I'll get you a gas can and some gas." He looked at me skeptically and asked, "you'd pay $10-12 for that?" "Yes," I replied, "just let me get something from the store, really quick, and we can go." "Okay," he said, "just let me tell a guy who was helping me out." He walked around the corner. When I was done with my transaction, I walked around the corner and circled the parking lot, but the guy was nowhere to be found. Bummer.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Books Reviews: The Boys in the Boat, By Daniel James Brown

The Premise:
(From the cover) Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The Good:
The story is especially poignant for me as it took place in places where I’ve lived and am intimately familiar with, so I wanted to get that bias out of the way early. That said, once the story gets moving, it moves along like, well, an eight-man crew that’s found its swing. Mr. Brown does his best work describing the races. Like all memorable historical and sports-themed stories, the book works its magic when it’s building anticipation up to the action—even when you know the results, or think you do, you still feel the apprehension of actually being there. And it is a book that’s alive with heroes and villains, sweat and tears, tragedy and triumph.

The Bad:
The book spends a great deal of time focusing on one of the “Boys in the Boat” in particular, which I understand is a narrative device to help the reader get immersed in the story, but the overall message of the story is about each member of the crew giving up their individuality for the success of the group. While I immensely liked the boy the author focused on—he had a truly remarkable life—there were times when I wanted to learn more about the other boys. And I never really got a strong sense for “why him”. It just seemed disingenuous. Also, there are times when the prose is overwritten and there is a bit too much focus on the Nazis outside the context of the Olympic games.

The Verdict:
Buy it if you went to U-Dub. Read it otherwise. The book has been optioned to be made into a movie, along the same lines as Seabiscuit, so have fun creating your dream team of actors to play the roles.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Top 12 “Elemental” Baby Names*

1.     Tungsten
2.     Cobalt
3.     Thorium
4.     Au (Pronounced Ah-you)
5.     Manganese
6.     Ytterbium
7.     Xenon
8.     Boron
9.     Bromine
10. Nickel
11. Noble Gas
12. Fe

*As made up by Prof. That Tad Guy

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Stan “The Man” Musial deserved better.

A friend of mine, an avid sports memorabilia collector, told me about an upcoming auction for a wide range of Stan Musial autographed baseballs, game-worn jerseys, signed photos, magazines and the like. Y’know, stuff baseball fans would want.

What I wasn’t expecting were the personal items. Now, I’m not one to quibble*, but I feel like memorabilia should be related to the field of accomplishment to have meaning. Stan Musial became “The Man” for his accomplishments on the baseball field. I do not remember him being a particularly notable fashion plate or even gaining much notoriety for his fashion sense. If he owned a fashion label with a clothing line, I’ve never heard of it. In short, I don’t believe he was known as Stan “The Man known for his noteworthy fashion sense” Musial.

If you find all of this to be a bit disrespectful, I apologize. I, too, find it disrespectful. Stan Musial is and was one of the greatest Cardinals baseball players to play the game. So I find it downright unconscionable that people are trying to profit from every item the man ever touched.   

For instance, these five sweaters worn by Stan Musial.

What? $1 opening bid?

Now, my history is a bit rusty, so my sincere apologies if these sweaters have some sort of significance that render them noteworthy. For instance, if he wore them during his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. But if not, for shame.

I would hope when my time to leave this moral realm transpires that the persons closest to me would take me to a well regarded taxidermist, dress me in a tailored Superman suit, pose me like I was flying and hang me from the Rotunda in our nation’s capitol. And after that, they’d have the decency to sell off all of my worldly possessions and donate the money to an appropriate charity.

Except for my sweaters. Those suckers are going to be worth millions** one day.

*I’m totally one to quibble.
**Not guaranteed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The people on TV never watch TV.

Sitcoms are designed to entertain. I have just written the obvious; I know. Week to week we pop into characters' lives and bear witness as they experience some event, hopefully noteworthy. Usually the action is fast-paced, the friendships steadfast and the banter crackling sharp, witty and perfectly timed.

However, I'd be interested to watch one week where the rhythms and emotions are closer to real life. Notice I said "one week" because, let's face it, sitcoms are designed to entertain. But during that week, I think it'd be fascinating to see a group of characters struggle to have a conversation because they've known each other so long that they have nothing new to talk about. Or to hear the awkward pauses that occur when people don't have a blistering quip at the ready to make the group laugh. How would the characters interact when they aren't acting as characters, but real people who sometimes have good days and bad? What new "adventures" would transpire? The adventure of scrolling through Netflix after work to find something, anything to watch? Riveting! The adventure of reading a book while doing laundry? Hilarious! The adventure of working out at the gym surrounded by a bunch of people at or below your fitness level? Scintillating! The adventure of not fighting with a loved one because you had a long day at work and just want to go to bed already? Sweeps week!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Katy Perry’s Roar is reprehensible.

I listen to the radio in the car*. Most of the time it’s on a news station, but nearly as often it’s on a music station. Since there isn’t a good college radio station with a respectable signal in town, I have to settle for Top 40. That means that I have to wade through a lot of Blurred Lines** to get to one Get Lucky***.

Now, I could be a snob and say that the music is terrible, over-produced and lacking substance. Actually, I just did. But that’s not entirely true. There are some well written, well sung songs on the radio that are damn catchy and upbeat—which is all I really expect from Top 40 radio anyway.

But there is one song that is unforgivable on the radio. It’s a song that only exists—so obviously only exists—to make money.

Katy Perry’s Roar.

This is pop music at its most exploitative. It is woefully lazy, shows nothing but contempt for the audience and is insulting. It's not even bold enough to have an original thought. If this were a songwriting class assignment, it would fail miserably. But since it’s attached to a mega-star, it’s supposedly acceptable.

Here are the song’s lyrics. I’ve crossed out all of the clich├ęs, tropes and otherwise familiar metaphors and similes that have already been used by other, more talented performers. The non-lined out lyrics aren’t exactly Shakespeare.

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything

You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)

Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up (HEY!)
Get ready cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now


I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Louder, louder than a lion****
Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh oh oh
You’re gonna hear me roar

Now I’m
floating like a butterfly
Stinging like a bee
I earned my stripes
I went from zero, to my own hero

You get the point, and the song repeats, so I’ll spare you the r-r-r-rest.

Why should I even waste my time discussing it? Because if we just sit there and let it play on the radio, then the people who manufactured it will just spoon feed us more of the same. Just recycle lyrics from better songs that actually made us feel some emotion beyond the heavy sigh of defeat that comes from worn-out resignation.

So the next time Katy Perry threatens to make you hear her roar, don’t let her. Change the station. Because you are a champion and oh oh oh oh oh.

*If I use the CD player, the ABS light comes on. I know enough about cars to know that’s not supposed to happen.
**Enough already!
***IMO the true song of the summer 2013
****Seriously, pick an animal! Tiger or lion, they both roar.