Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Double Vowels In Action

The trouble with the NCAA basketball tournament is the rules are stupid, the commentary insufferable, the school administrations corrupt, and the athletes simultaneously worthy of sympathy and scorn. And every one of these deficiencies is trumped by the quality of the games, the enthusiasm and intensity of March Madness. I still like this accursed tournament!

The NCAA still insists on implementing game rules as though players ages' range from 8 to 12 and not 18 to 22. The three point line is less than 20 feet from the basket, a distance from which most self-respecting street ballers and suburban driveway shooters can hit about forty percent of the time. Instead of actually having a jump ball to address tie ups, college basketball offers the monumentally dull possession arrow. It's two, not just one, free throw for the other team when you get a technical foul, you naughty boy, and if you get too many fouls in a half, the opposition even gets to shoot free throws on an offensive foul! What on Earth is that about? College still enforces the outmoded intentional foul, rather than letting teams commit deliberate fouls when strategy dictates, provided there's no excessive contact or a case of one player trying to hurt another.

Broadcasters in all sports have many flaws: limited command of language, bombast, rambling, just to name a few. But what sets commentators of the college game apart from their counterparts who work the professional side is the absolutely infuriating coach worship.

Bootlicking Broadcaster:"You can't say enough about the job Billy Donovan has done with this team..."

Actually, you can! And you have! If you've reached the college ranks in coaching, you're good at it, no doubt about that. But spare me with all this fawning sycophancy!

The universities in the tournament and the athletes themselves do enough laudable and lamentable things to fill an entire library, so I won't bother breaching a subject that has already been covered time and time again by people who are better at it. Suffice it to say, however, that amidst the boosters, the ludicrous sums of money changing hands, the players who bypass the rules and get by with it, the players who live by the rules and are never rewarded, the self-serving school administrators, and the selfless ones, there's plenty of information out there to make impressions on both the cynical and the naive.

And did I mention the games were great? The NCAA won't fix what's broken here because they don't have to, and they know it.

In other news, the pastoral tribal group of East Africa known as the Maasai are reportedly leaving their traditional homes in Northern Tanzania for cities, and not necessarily because they wish to. It seems some rather questionable land agreements have been forged by unscrupulous property buyers, forcing many Maasai from their ancestral land. One sad consequence is the presence of Maasai warriors standing guard outside brothels in some of Tanzania's urban areas. And how are the warriors compensated? You guessed it, free--and unprotected--sex.

The good news is President Jakaya Kikwete has acknowleged the problem and wants the trend reversed. It would be one thing if individuals within the Maasai made independent, if unwise, decisions to abandon herding and set off for Dar Es Salaam to become cathouse bouncers, but that's not what's happening. By all appearances, these people are being negotiated out of their own property. Social engineering may not be a good idea for governments in most cases, but in this instance it makes more sense to intercede and set things right before the social problems created by the Maasai exodus spiral out of control. The AIDS virus is already a scourge in Africa; no need to exacerbate it.

These two seemingly disparate stories do have one common trait: the presence of double As. Insert your battery joke here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

No New Tale to Tell

First Simon Cowell, then the Pope. Are people ever going to roll off of Bob Dylan? Pope Benedict XVI's assessment of Bob Dylan as a "false prophet" might carry more credibility if Dylan had ever claimed he was a real one, and the Pope himself might have more credibility full stop if he hadn't once been a member of the Hitler Youth.

In fairness to the Pontiff, he did not call a press conference specifically to excoriate Bob Dylan; his claim appeared in a book about his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, who invited the vile-voiced mythic songwriter to perform at the Vatican in 1997. Well, at least the Pope isn't concerned about trivial matters. Still, the provenance of Benedict's antipathy toward Mr. Dylan dates back to July, 1965 when Dylan played an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival. The Pope, then known as Joe Ratzinger, attended the Festival as a music critic for BonnBeat, a standout alternative magazine. Ratzinger, a noted traditionalist when it came to folk music, was outraged by the jangling guitars and obnoxious drums in Dylan's band and never forgave him, vowing someday to become Pope and label the heretic a "false prophet."

What will it take to get some books with original titles? Browsing through some novels recently, I came across names like "Slipping Into Darkness", "I Know This Much Is True", "Every Breath You Take" and "Superstition." Is this fiction or a nostalgic radio show? Naming books for famous songs might appear clever to authors or publishers, but to me it's tedious, especially as it's done so frequently. If you were the first person ever to think of it and did it only once, that might not be so bad, but this has to stop or soon we'll see this on the shelves: "I Feel Good Because I Want to Hold Your Hand But I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

James Patterson has supplanted James Michener as the author with the least imaginative book titles. "Roses Are Red", "Violets Are Blue", "Along Came a Spider" and so on. You would think even his fans might be a bit weary of this approach, but apparently not; they've already pre-ordered their copies of the long-anticipated "One Potato, Two Potato". As for Michener, at least the reader never had to wonder what his novels were about. If you were looking for a tropical setting, you knew "Alaska" wasn't for you.

The answer, my friend, is brown sugar. How come it tastes so good?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

You're the Kids In America (Whoa!)

I'm here to explain, children.

It isn't as difficult a job as you might imagine, but many of your parents claim they are unable to convey to you some of the realities of the world. I refer here not to complex human scourges such as war, famine, poverty or disease nor to long-debated philosophical or scientific mysteries like the origin or meaning of life. Your parents have all these things figured out; they seem flummoxed instead by matters of a far less grand nature.


This has been an FAQ, if you will, of parenting long before the days of YouTube and IPODs and in many instances, the question is quite valid. Often, however, there is something pernicious at work when parents utter this query. For instance, in the Pacific Northwest there is a dog grooming outlet with the crass but amusing name "High Maintenance Bitch." This sparked outrage among some citizens and was punctuated with the familiar rallying cry among so-called concerned parents: "How do I explain this to my children?"

Well, that's where I come in. The term "high maintenance" can apply to many situations but in modern slang it often refers to individuals who have expensive tastes and therefore pose a financial strain to said person's spouse or significant other. You kids probably know this already, as it is relatively nascent lingo. When you witness a young woman walk past you with heavy makeup, expensive clothing and jewelry and a general aura of swankiness, you may say to yourself, "Bet she's high maintenance." Furthermore, the term "bitch" refers to a female dog, but has also been used for centuries as an insulting or degrading term for human females. More recently, new definitions and applications for the word have surfaced, including describing individuals of either sex who are crybabies and even as a sort of backhanded compliment to women, among many others. So the name of the aforementioned dog grooming outlet has a kind of double meaning, referring both to a female canine who might need her hair brushed and washed and as a kind of mocking reference to the previously described human female with pricey accessories. Get it? See, this explanation business isn't so difficult after all.

But, young men and women of this nation, there's more to explain. It's about your parents. You see, when they utter the desperate cry of "how do I explain this to my children" following the death of a loved one, it's quite understandable. Doing so because of a pet grooming shop or, as was recently the case in Florida, in response to Eve Ensler's popular play "The Vagina Monologues" can only reveal up to three things about the people you call Mom and Dad:

1. They're stupid. This means they really don't know how to explain relatively trivial affairs like what a vagina is.

2. They're manipulators. This means they're willing to exploit you, their kids, to advance their own social or political agendas.

3. Maybe it's both. This means they're too stupid to explain things but just smart enough to use you as a cover for their real interest, which is telling everyone else how they should live.

Since I don't know most of your parents personally, I can't definitively say which of the three applies to them. But I would be cautious if I were you. They're your parents and it's best if you love them, respect them, or at least pretend you do, and listen to them to the extent it's possible. Even so, they're going to say some things to you and about you that are either untrue, overgeneralized or misleading.

First, a lot of you are fat and you play too many video games or spend too much time on the Internet. All of this is factual, but it is also misleading. Video games and MySpace are not the end of the world, but anything can be overdone, so try to get more exercise.

Second, a lot of you listen to terrible music. There is truth in this, but it's not universal and many complaints of this nature fail to take into account that your parents, and their parents before them, also listened to some really awful music. If you're skeptical or just want the point driven home, check out Tiffany or Nelson from the 80s, Emerson, Lake and Palmer or the Osmonds from the 70s, Tommy Roe or Freddy and the Dreamers from the 60s, and Pat Boone or Fabian from the 50s. Be certain to have a trash bin or paper bag handy if you decide to listen to any of these artists.

Third, a lot of parents tend to claim that dreadful things never happened when they were your age and the problem must lie in your generation's failures. Do not listen to this. Every single generation considers its successors inferior to themselves. To be sure, there are many examples of the quality of life in the past being preferable to the present. Some things really were better in the old days. But other things weren't. For every aspect of existence that was finer in the past, there is at least one that was far worse.

Now, kids, I hope you take my explanation to heart and begin to understand. And if you can't do that, don't worry; your parents and grandparents don't get it, either.