Category Archives: Random

Musing: 10 Bothersome Things

Occasionally, in this space, we muse.

We have mused about Facebook, and about Girl Scout Cookies.

We once mused about Panda Express, and later about Super Bowl Parties.

Today, we muse about (absurdly) random bothersome things, some large and incredibly serious, some small and trivial.

Let the musings begin…

Proceed to the route. Sometimes when I ask the lady in my iPhone for directions to a place, she tells me to proceed to the route. Here’s the thing: if I knew where the route was, I wouldn’t be asking for help. It’s preposterous. Surely we can do better. And by “we” I mean the lady inside my iPhone.

Surely, she can do better.

Share size candy bags. Let’s be honest, nobody shares these things. I know I don’t. “Share size” candy bags are about one thing, and one thing only: gluttony. “Share size” candy means that when I’m finished, instead of wanting slightly more, I want slightly to puke. This is evil marketing.

Share size candy bags can go straight back to the fiery hell from which they came.

It’s called “share size,” but everyone knows that’s total bullshit.

The Opioid Epidemic. Shifting gears to a more serious topic, the opioid epidemic is a real bummer. Statistics reveal that 91 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdoses, but the actual number is way higher. American cities are being ravaged, and the companies that purport to be part of the solution might be part of the problem.

Congress is getting involved, which likely means nothing useful will happen.

Transitioning now to more esoteric bothersome things….

The Concept of Maintenance. I’m not good at routine maintenance. In fact, I suck at it. I don’t like brushing my dog’s teeth, keeping the lawn mower clean, meditating, or going to the Doctor. Without proper maintenance, shit breaks down. This is a problem. This isn’t exactly a contemporary musing, but rather a timeless condition that has yet to be solved. Nevertheless, it made the list.

My dog’s breath is rancid, by the way.

Moving on.

Emotions. Apparently stoicism is a thing, but I wasn’t blessed with the capacity for it. Stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint. According to the internet, an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge, and that the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

I am not indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.

Also…

Housing Prices. For all the talk about the terrible economy, housing prices in Memphis, TN continue to soar. I always seem to (unconsciously) time the housing market poorly.

Devolution of Political Discourse. New data from Wakefield Research found that one in 10 couples, married and not, have ended their relationships in a battle over political differences. For younger millennials, it’s 22 percent. And nearly one in three Americans said that political clashes over Trump have “had a negative impact on their relationship,” said a recent report. Obviously this problem has intensified as the sources of news consumption have proliferated. Whatever the cause, it kind of sucks.

Liberals. Just kidding! Not going there.

Trendy Concept Restaurants. Earlier this week I ordered take out online from a trendy concept restaurant. Ordering and paying was extremely easy. But when I showed up 20 minutes later and told someone behind the counter that I had ordered online, he looked surprised to learn that they even had an online ordering feature. Nobody in the actual restaurant actually knew about my order.

Also, the food wasn’t good.

But the name and branding were trendy!

Negativity. Negativity is the worst, this list notwithstanding.

Perhaps soon we’ll muse about good things.

Perhaps.

 

 

 

Super Bowl Party Manifesto

Super Bowl parties are quickly heading the way of New Year’s Eve in popular culture, obligatory national celebrations that are hackneyed and overrated. But what are you gonna do, sit at home?

No.

So because you’re inevitably going to attend or host a Super Bowl party, here are some essential guidelines to follow in order to maximize your experience.

Tips for hosting a good Super Bowl party:

Plan according to the amount of space you have. I’m not here to judge – a good Super Bowl party can be held in a tiny apartment or a mansion. That being said, if you have one TV and six seats don’t invite 30 people. I don’t want to have to hold my pee til halftime worried my seat is going to get snaked as soon as I get up. By the same token, if you have six TV rooms and a media room with twelve reclining movie theater seats don’t have four people at your party, it’s depressing.

Don’t mess up the food situation. This is not the sole responsibility of the host, but you should provide a good base. Three or four solid offerings, let’s say a cheese and cracker spread with minimum three types of cheese, some type of meat, could be chicken wings, could be pulled pork sandwiches, could be meatballs, doesn’t really matter. Then one lighter fare type item, maybe a vegetable spread with dips, something to make people feel slightly less glutinous. Then, coordinate with your guests to make sure there’s not a ton of overlap. You can’t have Susie and Natalie both bringing their famous buffalo chicken dip. Things could get ugly if one dish gets all the love.

Offer your guests some kind of gambling opportunity. Squares are pretty much the go-to, easiest thing here.  Make sure you collect up front though, the drunker and fuller your guests get the more likely they are to ghost early and leave you short.

Diversify according to interest level. If you have the space, have at least two rooms for viewing: one for serious “watchers” of the game and another for more casual observers and chatters. If I’ve got way more money on the game than I should, I really don’t wanna hear about Steve’s cross-fit routines or Lily’s kid’s summer plans.

Tips for guests:

Speaking of kids, uhh, can we keep them to a minimum? Kids are great, especially if they belong to you, but this isn’t a birthday party with a moon bounce. This is a disgusting bloated American holiday where we celebrate violence, brain damage, gambling, intoxication and overindulgence. Hire a babysitter.

Please, enough already with evaluating every commercial. This is the nadir of the Super Bowl Party. Invariably some time around the middle of the second quarter someone will say, “Gee is it me or are the commercials just not as good this year?” I guess fifteen years ago the Super Bowl was the only time of year advertising agencies really tried, and therefore some Super Bowl commercials really stood out. But now they try all year round, so we can stop giving a shit about Super Bowl commercials, okay? YouTube them the next day if you really care, but spare the rest of us.

Other Do’s and Don’ts:

Do make fun of every dumb thing Phil Simms says.

Do not party hop, pick one and stick to it.

Do bring something, but don’t half ass it and bring a bag of chips or ice, unless specifically requested to.

Don’t bring booze and then take home what’s left.

If you’re at a majority fan of one team party and you’re rooting for the other team, keep it to yourself, don’t be obnoxious.

Finally, do invite me to your party, I’m non judgmental and a great time.

Democrats Toying With Hillary (Again)

It can’t be happening again, can it?

Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President in 2008 and again in 2016, is on her heels.

This time, by a 74-year old Jewish guy from Brooklyn named Bernie.

Oh, and Bernie just happens to be a Democratic Socialist.

So it makes perfect sense that he’s now running neck and neck with Clinton in Iowa, and ahead of her in New Hampshire – the first 2 states in which votes will be cast next month.

Or not.

8 years ago, everyone assumed that the Democrats would nominate Clinton and that she’d easily defeat whomever the GOP put forth to carry on the legacy of the Bush presidency. A legacy that had been torched, tattered, repudiated and torched again.

In 2008 the GOP had no shot. Hillary was going to be the first woman President….until Barack Obama came along.

That’s right, Barack Obama. The neophyte, mixed race politician with a Kenyan father and non-traditional name. Surely, such a bold candidate couldn’t beat Clinton – the uber successful Senator and wife of a popular, once-in-a-lifetime President politician.

But then he did (beat Clinton), even though it made no sense. After all, she was objectively more qualified.

Well, it made a little sense. Obama had Hope and Change and the fun logo and the youthful supporters and it was a movement and sure why not?

And don’t feel bad for Hillary, the Democrats said, we’ll let her do it next time.

Except now it’s next time and the Democrats don’t appear to be letting Hillary do it.

They appear to be lining up behind Sanders. Did I mention that he’s a Democratic Socialist who is proposing trillions in new spending including tuition-free college for all, and true universal healthcare?

Just checking.

Because once again the Democrats are discarding Hillary and it’s kind of hard to watch, regardless of how you feel about Hillary Clinton. Even if you hate Hillary, you have to admit it’s weird to watch what the Democrats are doing.

It’s like Lucy, Charlie Brown and the football.

Lucy is the Democrats, Charlie Brown is Hillary and I think you get the point.

It’s like that backup girlfriend or boyfriend that you think, someday we’ll date. Sure, we’re friends now, but one day we’ll hook up. One day the timing will be right. Except it never happens. Even though they are counting on it, they’re looking forward to it, they’re planning on it, they’re obsessed with it and you’ve promised it.

But it never happens.

It’s uncomfortable.

Do you know why it never happens? Because you don’t really want it to happen, that’s why. You just want to pretend it’s going to happen.

You don’t actually want it to happen.

For all their talk about how she has the depth of experience (Champion for Healthcare in the 1990’s, Senator from New York in the 2000’s, Secretary of State most recently), for all their talk about how between her and Bill Clinton, she was the one with the drive, the ambition, the killer instinct, the intellect – for all that talk – it appears Democrats just don’t like Hillary Clinton.

And don’t tell me it’s because she’s a stiff campaigner. So what? John Kerry was stiffer than an Iowa Spruce Tree in February and the Democrats nominated him for President over Howard Dean in 2004.

Dean was perhaps the least stiff candidate of all time.

And don’t tell me that it’s because she’s cozy with Wall Street, either. Barack Obama’s administration has presided over the implementation of Dodd-Frank, a financial reform bill widely considered to be feckless. Nevertheless, Democrats (judging from my Facebook wall) still see Obama as a cross between FDR / JFK and President Josiah Bartlett from The West Wing. 

They like the guy.

So Democrats probably need to stop lying to themselves about what makes Hillary unpalatable and just admit the fact that they don’t like her and that they don’t want her to be President.

They need to face that fact, because it’s starting to appear to be unquestionably true.

Is there a latent sexism in the country that doesn’t show up in polls (because it’s latent and nobody would admit it)?

Perhaps.

All of this is going to make the next few months very interesting. Perhaps there’s going to be a quick change in feeling and the Democrats will unite behind Hillary. For this to happen, current momentum will have to be reversed.  Maybe it will.

Otherwise this election is about to get very awkward.

 

Politics are the Best Sports

The calendar turned to 2016 and it’s officially a Presidential election year.

I want to write about this election, but you can imagine my hesitation.

I don’t want to write about immigration reform, tax policy, institutional racism, gun control, or anything else that actually effects people’s lives.

There are 2 obvious reasons to stay out of politics on Facebook, blogs, the work place or anywhere else:

  1. I’m really not looking to offend anyone.
  2. Like most people, I’m too ignorant about complex issues to offer a relevant opinion on just about anything that might actually matter.

Also, I don’t really care.

Also, I don’t think it really matters.

Also, if I’m wrong, and it does matter, I’m still not sure I care.

Also, please don’t be offended that I don’t care about important issues. I’m glad that other people care and I’m glad stuff gets done, but I’m just not that guy.

I’m over it.

But I still want to write about the Presidential election for the same reason I want to write about sports.

Presidential elections are the best thing going.

Presidential elections are amazing because they’re essentially the best sporting events, but they only get played every 4 years. In that respect they’re like the Olympics except actually insanely good instead of shitty and un-watchable.

Presidential elections have everything that makes entertainment great. Personalities, rivalries, history, egoic explosions, pageantry, money, sex.

They’re fun to watch and you should always be able to pick a side, even if you don’t care.

Why is it fun to watch? Because it’s unscripted drama. Unpredictable humanity. Rules and records are made to be broken. Conventional wisdom, established to be violated.

Why can I always pick a side?

Not for the reason you might think. I used to think it was because of the issues.

It wasn’t.

Turns out, I pick a side for the same reason I picked sports teams. In other words, no reason whatsoever.

I root for Memphis teams because I was born and raised in Memphis. That’s not a reason, it’s either a historical accident or a karmic predisposition, depending on your point of view.

My political inclinations are equally quaint.

I was 7 years old in 1984. My mother took me into the booth with her to vote that year. I think she voted for Walter Mondale.

I kind of liked Reagan. He had nice hair.

In 1988, my 5th grade class held a mock debate. I was adamant about something relating to Michael Dukakis and missile defense. I doubt if my argument was fully developed, but I was into it.

As a 15-year old in 1992, after only knowing old Republican Presidents from other parts of the country, I watched in amazement as 2 young southerners celebrated on election night in Little Rock.

I think I started out rooting for Bush, switched to Paul Tsongas (I liked the name Tsongas), and was thrilled to see Clinton elected.

I liked the way Clinton communicated. He made me feel optimistic about my life. It had nothing to do with his now widely panned welfare reform programs or universal healthcare or crime or anything that mattered.

I voted for the first time, in 1996.

I still liked Clinton (he was cool) and I was a closet ageist and couldn’t support Dole and his decrepit arm. Dole injured his arm while serving in World War II, but that type of heroism didn’t matter to me. I was a 19-year old moron with absolutely zero adult life experience who had as much business voting in an election as I would have had to pilot a space ship.

Side note: I really liked Ross Perot. I knew nothing about his policies or his intentions, but I liked that he was an outsider and talked funny. Plus there was that SNL skit about him dropping his running mate (James Stockdale) off in the woods to abandon him after his horrid debate performance.

I watched the Florida recount with actual fear in 2000, for an entire month. As a first year law student, I was shocked to discover how tenuous American elections actually are. At the time, I was extremely partial to the Clinton legacy, even though Gore probably lost the election for running away from it.

Also, having a President from my home state seemed fun.

In 2004 and 2008, I went door to door with actual emotion for the lefties, convinced that any effort I could contribute might actually make a difference. In my defense, I was living in a swing state. And in my further defense, I was caught up in anti-war idealism typical for a 20-something and a belief that George W. Bush was the worst thing that ever happened to America.

Perhaps that’s true, though I doubt it and either way I’ve moved on.

2012 was probably the least interesting election of my lifetime, but I went into it with an open mind and voted for the least offensive option.

So looking back – you could say I started out on one side and have slowly come back to the middle.

Or you could say I started out with a sense that it all somehow matters and now I’ve woken up to the fact that it probably doesn’t. At least not in the grander scheme of things.

I’m talking humanity’s place in the universe type grand.

I’m honestly not sure which progression is more reflective of the truth – that I’ve evolved politically or gained a truer perspective. Perhaps both, perhaps neither.

This time I’d very much like to see what would happen if Donald Trump wins the GOP nomination. Not because I think he’ll Make America Great Again, but just because I think it would make for great television in 2016.

I can’t turn it off.

I don’t necessarily think Trump is good, or right. He might actually be the worst thing that ever happened to America.

I have no idea.

If America’s political system is as broken as everyone seems to say it is, why not let Trump go in there and burn it to the ground?

Reckless, perhaps.

But again, my political inclinations are as tethered to logic as the reasons I’ll be cheering for Alabama on Monday night.

I like Saban, I like dynasties and I like excellence.

Likes. Feelings. Etc…

Nothing more enlightened than that.

But still, it’s the best sport on TV.

Definitely Not a ‘Best of’ List

Best of lists are everywhere this time of year, for obvious reasons.

One, it’s a logical time to talk about what happened during the calendar year. Two, and more importantly, it makes for an easy column.

Hell, now we have whole websites that do nothing but listicles. I, of course, would never be so unoriginal.

So without further ado I bring you my Favorite Things of 2015!

(Way different than a best of list).

My favorite sports moments of 2015:

RJ Hunter three pointer to beat Baylor.  This shot was March Madness at it’s best. Underdog Georgia State pulls off a miracle, beating Baylor in the opening round of the tourney after being down 12 with 3 minutes to play. Georgia State goes on a 13-0 run, capped off by a deeeep three from RJ Hunter while his dad, the head coach, is on the sideline. His dad had injured himself in the conference tourney celebrating, so he was sitting on a stool during the game due to a torn achilles. As the shot went in his dad literally fell off the stool. A perfect sports moment.

I’m not much of a baseball fan but the Bautista bat flip was awesome. A player coming up clutch in the biggest moment of the season and defiantly flipping his bat. It actually made me care about baseball for a few minutes. Plus it pissed off baseball curmudgeons who hate any expressions of joy on a baseball field.

The Arkansas 4th and 25 miracle. This one holds a special place in my heart as it led to Alabama getting a berth in the SEC Championship Game and subsequently the College Football Playoff. Though this play stands on it’s own, it is a play I have never seen in 30-something years of watching football. It’s indescribable. Even watching it for the 100th time I can’t really believe it happened. Just watch.

My favorite albums of 2015:

I don’t consume a ton of music during the year, maybe two albums a month or so. I prefer to find things I really like and wear them out as opposed to mowing through a ton of albums. My favorite album, the one I was the most obsessed with for the longest time was definitely Courtney Barnett’s Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Many of these songs could have existed just as great short stories. Incredible, hilarious, insightful and odd lyrics all pulled off with a deadpan delivery that will scratch itself into your soul. Great classic rock-y hooks and punk energy. I love every track on the album though the first one is probably my favorite.

My other favorite album of 2015 is Vince Staples, Summertime 06. The title makes it sound like a fun record of summer beach jams. Not so much. Vince is pretty dark. I like how he’s just as interested in setting a mood as he is showing you how great of a rapper he is. It’s several tracks in before Staples really lets loose on some lyrics. I still probably slightly prefer his 2014 release Hell Can Wait but this album continued to grow on me the past few months. Here’s my favorite track.

Favorite TV shows of 2015:

There’s an insane amount of good tv these days so I’m bound to forget ten or so shows I loved, but these are the ones that came to the top of my head.

Fargo: This show is on virtually every best-of-2015 list, and for good reason. It was damn near perfect. The first season of this show was really good but this season just hit every mark. Incredible ensemble cast, pristine writing and servicing of the whole cast, great plotting and pacing. The whole thing could be taught as a masterclass on television.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: I will watch pretty much anything that Tina Fey is involved in. This show is both reminiscent of 30 Rock but also totally original. The reminiscent part is the joke density and absurdity. I always thought 30 Rock had the best joke writers in the world and they appear to now all be working on Kimmy Schmidt.  Ellie Kemper as Kimmy brought a different energy than 30 Rock, a relentlessly, foolishly positive attitude that was infectious. Also, I had the Pinot Noir song stuck in my head for a solid month.

Broad City: This show isn’t for everyone but it cracked me up. I love that the main characters actually like each other and their friendship is the main relationship of the show. I also love that they are sex positive and talk about things you generally think of as the domain of men on tv, e.g., bathroom, sex and drug humor. It’s kind of the anti-Sex and the City. It seems like these could actually be real people really living in New York.

Rick and Morty: I love pretty much everything Dan Harmon does. This show is no exception, hilarious sci-fi adventures led by a filthy irresponsible genius sociopath and his kinda dim grandson. The show can pretty much do whatever it wants in a given episode, which is great because it can borrow from every great sci fi idea ever. But much like Harmon did with Community, he grounds the absurd scenarios with an emotional center so that you actually care about the characters. My favorite episode was ‘Get Schwifty’, about an intergalactic American Idol type competition.

Favorite Book of 2015:

People read? I guess so. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel was one my favorite book of the year. A flu like virus wipes out 90 percent of the world’s population, then the story jumps forward 20 years and follows a group of survivors who have formed a traveling Shakespeare troupe. The story yo yos between their story and the story of an actor who died on stage the night the epidemic broke out. The book is low on apocalypse terror but there’s a great mystery to keep you turning pages. It’s well plotted and it’s filled with little ruminations and insights about civilization, culture, nostalgia and performance.

Favorite Movie of 2015:

I didn’t see a ton of movies in 2015 but my favorite was Sicario. It’s really a theater experience though, not sure it would translate on the small screen. The intensity, the score, the subverting of expectations, the incredible performances by the three leads, the tense atmosphere, incredible cinematography and the way it was shot made it really tense and enjoyable.

Favorite Meals of 2015:

I could probably name a top 50 or so here but I’ll just mention two. One was at Lotus of Siam in Vegas.  I had lunch there in June and this is probably my favorite restaurant in the country. It’s gotten pretty popular these days but it still delivers the goods. Incredible Thai food, and pretty much everything here is great.  We had Papaya salad, Northern larb, Thai red chili dip, Issan style beef jerky, and Tom Yum. If you like Thai food and are ever in Vegas, Lotus is a must.  http://lotusofsiamlv.com/

The other was at Bayona in New Orleans. There’s no beating the food in New Orleans and Bayona is a standout in a city full of great dining options. I had the crispy smoked quail salad and the veal sweetbreads. If you’re a little iffy on sweetbreads this would be the ideal spot to give ’em a try. Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Every bite at this place is perfection, and it’s in a great location in the quarter.

Take it easy on Referees

For as long as I have been watching sports, people have been complaining about officiating.

They have also been complaining about coaches, players and analysts. Complaining goes hand in hand with being a sports fan. But of all of those who have had scorn heaped upon them, the vitriol for officials and referees stands apart and above.

It seems for as long as there have been sports people have thought referees have been doing a bad job. From this, I can only draw the conclusion that it’s really hard to officiate sports at the highest levels.

Why are we so hard on officials? Everyone makes mistakes all the time in sports, but when it’s the refs who blow something it’s an outrage and something has to be done and we have to re write the rule books, etc.

Coaches who are paid exponentially more than officials screw up every single week. Whether it’s a game plan mistake or the more obvious and seemingly ever present game management blunders, every week these millionaires do something that defies belief.

Just this past week the Cowboys got the ball with a minute and change on Washington’s 10 yard line, in a tie game. The obvious game theory appropriate move was to kill the clock and kick a 99 percent field goal, leaving Washington 10 seconds and virtually zero win percentage. But instead Dallas scored with a minute left and Washington had time to come back and tie the game.

I’m not saying people didn’t criticize Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett for this – but it didn’t come close to reaching the level of derision heaped upon, say, the officials who screwed up the off sides call in the Clemson vs North Carolina game.

Players screw up all the time as well. Failure is a pretty big part of any sport and even the best of the best fail regularly. Some players are great, some are good, some are average, and some are terrible (relative to their competition). Why should it be any different for referees? Why do we expect them to be perfect automatons?

We employ selection bias as well.

You will often see a referee make an incredible call in real time where say a player just got a second toe dragged down before going out of bounds. A play that you had no idea which way it was going in real time, and they nailed it.  That play goes down the memory hole.

But when a ref blows a call that we all see so clearly in super slo mo replay, we lose our minds. That ref is either dirty or incompetent!

Maybe he is, either one is a possibility, but it’s also possible that when super fast strong and large athletes are moving at high speeds it’s easy to miss a call.

There is also the obvious bias of fandom.  Every call against your team is terrible, every call for your team is great.  Two fans can watch the same game and both come away convinced their team was screwed by the refs.

I think i know why it is that officials are so closely scrutinized by fans. Basically the job of a referee is to watch. Hey, that’s what we do!

Most of us can’t really fathom playing a sport professionally, or coaching, but just watching them play? How hard is that?

I think this is the root of most of the contempt for referees. We feel like we could do their job and do it better. We are spurred on in this belief by most play by play and color analysts who also apparently think they can do a better job than most refs because they treat most of the game as a forum for them to discuss whether they think every single call was right or wrong.

In recent years TV networks have employed expert referee consultants, who even with the benefit of multiple replays, manage to only be right about half the time or so.
Again, all this information suggests the job of officiating high level sports is incredibly difficult.  That is not to suggest we shouldn’t be looking at ways of improving officiating, whether it be through recruiting and training methods, salary, accountability, rule tweaks, transparency, etc, but maybe the next time a terrible pass interference is called we should just all shrug our shoulders and say, “Welp, that’s ok boss, you’ll get em next time.”

 

The NFL is Boring

NFL football is boring.

The NFL is stale, it’s safe, it’s monochromatic, everyone is .500 and everyone is hurt. Take away the fact that you either root for a specific team, your fantasy team, your daily fantasy teams, your point spread bets, your survivor pools, your picks pools, and try and assess the game in an objective detached way. The product is kinda meh. How many truly exciting games have there been this season? Can you name five?

Week 12 may have contained two such contests (New England v. Denver, Pittsburgh v. Seattle), but it’s hard to recall others and it doesn’t change the reality that the NFL’s product has grown tedious.

Football is the game we know the least about. Each team has dozens, if not hundreds, of plays, different formations, different options off those formations and plays depending on the different situations, on each side of the ball.

On TV we get to see about 30 percent of the action on the field. We’re screaming at the quarterback to throw the ball when the pocket is collapsing but we have no idea if anyone is open. Unless you are someone who really studies the all 22’s each week or has a background in football it’s hard to have an opinion more sophisticated than, “We need to run the ball more,” or “We need to air it out!”  That’s why everyone harps on game management mistakes, because it’s one of the things we can actually evaluate. As opposed to how the right guard is grading out on run blocking assignments.

All that to say, I’m sure NFL offenses are quite varied, but by the time the product gets to the field on Sundays it all basically looks the same. You either have a great quarterback and can move the ball or you have an average one and are mediocre or you have a terrible one and you suck. That’s obviously a simplification but it’s not that far off.

Contrast that to college football. Obviously the players are not as good, they aren’t even close to as good. But the product is so much better. First off, there’s tremendous variety. There’s the spread attacks in all their myriad forms.  There’s option teams, there’s pro style, there’s run first teams. There are teams that try and beat you with pure deception, there are teams that try and beat you with pure speed. There’s so much innovation in college football that by the time you see something go mainstream (read-option, pistol) there are five new philosophies percolating in the mid major levels.  It’s like hip hop dances, by the time you’ve heard of them they are already lame.

There is also just so much insanity on the field, such a variance in results. Double digit underdogs regularly win games they have no business winning because it’s hard to predict what 18-22 year olds are gonna do on a given day.  And the crowds are ferocious, the atmosphere on game day in many college towns is unparalleled by anything in the NFL. That doesn’t mean every college game is going to be great. Often it’s an incoherent mess, but that’s part of the fun. You don’t know what you’re gonna get. College football is psychedelic rock, you might get transported to another dimension or you might watch some guy noodle around aimlessly and sing tone deaf lyrics for four hours. You just don’t know.

The NFL is smooth jazz, corporate, safe, boring.

In college, the coaches might actually have personalities and make the game more colorful.  A few of em might even have the balls to go for it on 4th and 2 on the opponents 45 yard line occasionally.  In the NFL you got Rex Ryan and 31 boring middle managers spouting empty cliches after every game.

Sure, the NFL will be good again in the playoffs, when the stakes are ratcheted up and all the mediocre and below teams (well, except for the three or four of those that get into the playoffs) have been dispatched and the good teams battle it out. But college football is nuts from day one, and stays that way till the end.

The NFL is America’s favorite sport by a wide margin, but I wonder how much of that relies on fantasy, betting pools, gambling on games, etc.  Impossible to know, but i know what I see on Sunday is often about as interesting as the Electric Slide.

 

Sports are Dumb

As we enter the 2015-16 season, remember this: being a fan is silly and sports are dumb.

Now, if you’ve found your way to this site you’re probably a sports fan, and you’re likely a Memphis Tigers fan, so you may find these statements offensive. That’s not my intent. I’m a sports fan, I’m a Memphis Tigers fan. But lets level with each other. Sports are absurd, the rules are arbitrary, and the stakes are made up.

You might counter with an argument about fostering teamwork and learning leadership and becoming part of something greater than yourself, blah blah blah. Sports are distraction, they are entertainment, they are here to make you forget about the daily realities. Being a fan is even crazier, you invest time, emotion and money into people you dont know playing a made up game against other people you dont know. The only real excuse for being a fan of a team is that you were brainwashed into being one at a young age. I hate Tennessee because i was born to people who hated Tennessee.(good, clear thinking people).

Fandom offers you membership into a tribe, a society of people united in a common cause.  But if you’ve been a fan long enough, a real fan, one who invests in a team with no guarantee of reaping dividends, then you’ve no doubt been in a situation where you’ve been devastated by a loss your team incurred. Real emotional devastation.

In a car after the 2008 championship game someone remarked to the rest of us that it felt like a family member had just died, and we all solemnly nodded our heads in assent. What?? What lunacy is this, it’s just a damn game, played by people who dont care about you. Mickey Mantle don’t care about you, Derrick Rose dont care about you.  So why do we do it? For the high of winning? Perhaps. It’s a great feeling when you invest and are rewarded for your investment, you stand tall and puff your chest out, you’re part of the thing, you revel in the glory.  Maybe it’s cause we love to gamble, the ball is tipped and for the next two hours you don’t know if you’re gonna end up happy or sad, there’s a thrill in that limbo not often found in the drudgery of every day life.

A lot of people have checked out emotionally on the Tigers for this year, and who can blame em? Morale is low, players are jumping ship, recruiting is in the tank, the coach has lost the city, the team is overshadowed by the successful pro franchise, the college game is largely unsightly until the three weeks of March Madness.

But if you’re still out there, living and dying with every win and loss this season, remember this: sports are dumb, being a fan is silly. But thats ok, not everything you do has to make sense, and maybe sports operates outside of the logical universe, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll be rewarded with a magical season. (but you probably wont:))

On Film: Revisiting 1999’s American Beauty

I watched American Beauty tonight. It wasn’t the first time I’ve seen it since the 1999 release, but it had been a while.

It’s hard to fathom that 16 years have passed since the film, which won Best Picture, originally debuted.

American Beauty has aged well.

The characters and their various unhappy struggles are timeless. The overall theme – people struggling to wake up and tell the truth as opposed to merely fitting in and striving for success – still resonates.

That’s probably not an adequate description of the theme, but whatever the theme, it still resonates.

Personally, the strangest thing that’s happened over the 16 years since the film was released is that I’ve gone from identifying with the film’s teenagers (Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, and Mena Suvari) to identifying with the adults – Spacey’s character in particular.

I was 21 in 1999, I’m 37 now.

Spacey’s character, who also narrates the film, is brilliant. He begins with this powerful setup:

Lester Burnham: My name is Lester Burnham. This is my neighborhood. This is my street. This is my life. I am 42 years old. In less than a year, I will be dead. Of course, I don’t know that yet, and in a way, I’m dead already. Look at me, jerking off in the shower. This will be the highlight of my day. It’s all downhill from here. That’s my wife Carolyn. See the way the handle on those pruning shears match her gardening clogs? That’s not an accident. That’s our neighbor, Jim, and that’s his lover, Jim. Man, I get exhausted just watching her. She wasn’t always like this. She used to be happy. We used to be happy. My daughter, Jane. Only child. Janie’s a pretty typical teenager – angry, insecure, confused. I wish I could tell her that’s all going to pass, but I don’t want to lie to her. Both my wife and daughter think I’m this gigantic loser. And they’re right. I have lost something. I’m not exactly sure what it is, but I know I didn’t always feel this — sedated. But you know what? It’s never too late to get it back.

What struck me tonight is that Burnham’s awakening – which is seemingly in progress as the film opens – is almost entirely driven by sexual frustration. This is intellectually honest. At 21 I thought the opening scene in the shower was a hilarious throwaway, now I realize the sadness and truth of it – and it’s still funny because it’s true.

Burnham’s entire motivation is summed up in an epic moment of dialogue between he and Suvari’s character – who at a minimum represents feminine beauty and youth:

Lester Burnham: So, are you gonna tell me? What do you want?

Angela Hayes: I don’t know. 

Lester Burnham: You don’t know?

Angela Hayes: What do you want?

Lester Burnham: Are you kidding? I want you. I’ve wanted you since the first moment I saw you. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. 

Angela Hayes: You don’t think I’m ordinary?

Lester Burnham: You couldn’t be ordinary if you tried.

Angela Hayes: Thank you. I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary.

I love this dialogue. I love it so much.

Spacey and Suvari's interchange in American Beauty is just perfect.
Years of self help and analysis can be summed up almost entirely in this one simple image from ‘American Beauty’

First of all, the way Burnham asks the question: So, are you gonna tell me? What do you want? Almost as if he’s asking her to divulge a secret, the secret of what women want. She doesn’t know. She just wants to feel special, not ordinary.

It’s perfect.

So it doesn’t glorify the feminine, but it doesn’t say much for Burnham either. At least not until that point.

Even as he was waking up to the fact that his life was fraudulent, that he was unhappy and that he had wasted many years – Burnham was still driven significantly by his passion for Suvari’s character. Multiple fantasy sequences, and the above exchange, make that perfectly clear.

When Burnham realizes that Suvari’s character is, in reality, a deeply insecure  and inexperienced young woman – his fantasy suddenly dies and he’s left to merely comfort her emotionally. Then, as he discovers his daughter is happy, he realizes he’s truly happy. Then, he dies.

It’s all very symbolic. And awesome.

In 1999 I thought of Burnham as pathetic and slightly perverted. Now, I see him as driven and waking up – first to the reality that his life is worthless, then to the reality that his sexual pursuit (Suvari) isn’t what he thought it was and won’t do for him what he hoped – existentially speaking. And in that moment, he becomes happy.

The other characters – Carolyn Burnham (Annette Benning), Thora Birch (Jane Burnham), Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) and Colonel Fitts (Chris Cooper) are all fascinating as well. Even Peter Gallagher (Buddy Kane) and Allison Janney (Barbara Fitts) add a lot. Each embodies a struggle common to American society as much today as in 1999. From Benning’s relentless materialism to Birch’s teenage need for authenticity and attention to Cooper’s internalized homophobia, the emotion of the film is gripping.

If you haven’t seen this flick in a while, you might want to revisit it.

If you’ve never seen it – I highly recommend you do.

Exclusive Report: Tagalongs >>>>>>> Thin Mints

My mom loved Thin Mints.

Especially frozen Thin Mints – she’d eat them by the sleeve.

With milk.

With Diet Coke.

With whatever.

She’d order 10, 20, 30 boxes. Green boxes. Thin Mints.

Given her bulk order tendencies, the mint-flavored cookie with a chocolaty coating was a staple in our home from February to not as long as you might think because we went through Thin Mints expeditiously in that house.

Consequently, I can put down some Thin Mints.

This guy just ate 2 sleeves of Thin Mints and might need to seek medical attention.
This guy just ate 2 sleeves of Thin Mints and will likely need to seek medical attention.

I’ve had Thin Mint stomach aches.  A Thin Mint stomach ache is characterized by acute abdominal pain accompanied by a wafer-esque minty aroma exuding from the digestive system.

So I basically grew up thinking Thin Mints were the best Girl Scout cookie.

Thin Mints are soooo good. I love Thin Mints. OH MY GOD THE THIN MINTS ARE HERE!!!! Don’t hog all the Thin Mints. Blah blah blah.

In retrospect, I can now see that this Thin Mint worship was at best misguided and at worst the moral equivalent of childhood religious indoctrination.

I was brainwashed into thinking Thin Mints were the best Girl Scout Cookie.

Not true.


Please don’t misunderstand me. Thin Mints are OK. They’re decent. They’re edible. There’s nothing wrong with Thin Mints, per se.

Actually, I take that back. There is one thing wrong with Thin Mints:

The mint part.

I really don’t need or want mint in my cookie.

I want mint in my toothpaste.

I want mint in my air freshener.

I want mint in my breath mint (see how that works?)

Obscured by their popularity is the fact that Thin Mints kind of suck.
Obscured by their popularity is the fact that Thin Mints kind of suck.

But I never really wanted mint in my chocolate cookie.

I just accepted it.

Thin Mints are the highest selling Girl Scout Cookie – accounting for 25% of overall sales.

Still, they’re overrated.

Do you know why they’re overrated? I’ll tell you why.

Tagalongs.

That’s why.


Holy shit – Tagalongs.

Now that – is a serious cookie.

The Tagalong is a man’s cookie. It’s a woman’s cookie.

The Tagalong is a hermaphrodite’s cookie.

What I’m trying to say is The Tagalong is a good cookie. A very good cookie.

The Tagalong is a crispy vanilla cookie layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolaty coating.

In other words The Tagalong is like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but instead of being a peanut butter cup, it’s a cookie. And instead of having a normal day you’re having the best day of your entire life.

That’s what the Tagalong is all about. The best day of your entire life. 

Goodbye kind of gross mint. Hello peanut butter and bliss.

This is the Tagalong - it's like the Thin MInt except really good instead of merely edible.
This is the Tagalong – it’s like the Thin MInt except really good instead of merely edible.

Today I literally gave away 2 entire boxes of Tagalongs. You know why? Of course you know why. Because if I hadn’t given them away I would have eaten both boxes in one sitting.

Why?

Because Tagalongs. 

That’s why.

If you’re still sticking to the idea that Thin Mints are the best cookie – please stop.

In fact, I’m even willing to say that the Trefoils cookie is better than the Thin Mint.

Trefoils are clearly not as good as the Tagalong – but they’re better than the Thin Mint.


I know what some of you are thinking. You’re thinking:

Gee Jay, I realize you have a different opinion but I really love the Thin Mints. You’re just stating your opinion and it is subjective. Some people don’t like peanut butter. Some people like mint. You’re being ridiculous. To each his / her own.

Well, I respectfully disagree. In the matter of the Thin Mint vs. The Tagalong I don’t think there’s room for personal preference.

For years, the shoe was on the other foot.

Everyone just insisted the Thin Mint was the best.

Well now the tables have turned.

The Tagalong is the best Girl Scout cookie. Deal with it.


(Edit / Update: Some people have responded to this with mention of Samoas. Samoas have coconut in them. Coconut is disgusting. Therefore Samoas are disgusting.)

November 25th, 2015 | Rocky VII, aka “Creed” to Debut

Well, well, well…lookie what we have here.

Details for the Rocky spin-off, Creed, are beginning to emerge.

The synopsis:

“Adonis Johnson (Actor Michael B. Jordan) never knew his famous father, world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, who died before he was born.  Still, there’s no denying that boxing is in his blood, so Adonis heads to Philadelphia, the site of Apollo Creed’s legendary match with a tough upstart named Rocky Balboa.

“Once in the City of Brotherly Love, Adonis tracks Rocky (Stallone) down and asks him to be his trainer.  Despite his insistence that he is out of the fight game for good, Rocky sees in Adonis the strength and determination he had known in Apollo—the fierce rival who became his closest friend.  Agreeing to take him on, Rocky trains the young fighter, even as the former champ is battling an opponent more deadly than any he faced in the ring.

“With Rocky in his corner, it isn’t long before Adonis gets his own shot at the title… but can he develop not only the drive but also the heart of a true fighter, in time to get into the ring?”

Sounds good.

Count me in for opening night.

Vince, from Friday Night Lights is all grown up and starring in the new Rocky-ish project. Also, I miss Coach Taylor badly.
Vince, from Friday Night Lights is all grown up and starring in the new Rocky-ish project. Also, I miss Coach Taylor badly.

It should be noted that Michael B. Jordan played memorable characters in two of the better TV dramas of the past 15 years. He starred as ‘Wallace’ in HBO’s dramatic hit series The Wire, and played star quarterback ‘Vince Howard’ on Friday Night Lights (NBC).

Side note: I really miss Friday Night Lights – especially Coach Taylor.

Coach Taylor is the kind of father nobody’s ever had.

Coach Taylor is the kind of man you dream about being when you dream about being a perfect man.

Coach Taylor is the salt of the earth’s inner core (assuming the inner core is extremely salty).

Anyway – back to Creed. 

Owen Williams over at Empire Online opined that this project feels more like Rocky VII, and less like the spin-off that Stallone has insisted it is going to be.

And that’s a problem because……….?

It’s not a problem.

Rocky VII totally works.

As far as I’m concerned they can make as many Rocky films as they want to.

I’ll watch them all.

Perhaps the final scene of the final movie can be Sylvester Stallone’s actual, real life, death rattle.

I’d buy a ticket.

Play Burning Heart in the background and I think it would make for a terrific scene.

Filming has already begun on this spin-off, er, sequel.

Other cast information, according to Williams:

Tessa Thompson (Selma) is Adonis’ musician love interest Bianca; Phylicia Rashad (The Cosby Show’s Claire Huxtable) is Apollo’s widow Mary Anne Creed; and Brit boxer Tony Bellew is another boxing champ and Adonis’ rival, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan.

No word yet on possible appearances by Clubber Lang’s or Drago’s offspring.

Speaking of Burning Heart, and Apollo dying – here you go (note this video is not the actual placement of this song in Rocky IV – it’s a re-edit):

10 Reasons I Quit Trivia Crack

A few months ago I noticed a friend playing a trivia game on his phone. He solicited my help with the sports questions – which felt good.

He then explained the basics of Trivia Crack to me, in particular the feature that it links to Facebook and allows friends to compete against one another.

I subtly thought it seemed like a good opportunity to show everyone – myself included – how brilliant I am.

Wrong.

So wrong.

I hate Trivia Crack.

I suck at Trivia Crack.

I quit Trivia Crack. 

Here are 10 reasons:

What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?
What a shit-eating grin this dude has, huh?

1. The Logo. The Trivia Crack logo guy (left) is a total creep. He has a creepy huge smirk and a creepy pointy head. Plus he’s the first creepy thing I see when I open the app and feel that initial pang of sinking fear in my stomach which is really just my gut telling me: You’re about to get humiliated by your friends and reminded of your own ignorance. Get ready.

2. Not everything is a sports question. Unfortunately for me, there are 5 categories other than sports in Trivia Crack.

Art, Science, Entertainment, History and Geography. 

This variety of non-sports categories works to my disadvantage. Two weeks ago I thought I was pretty smart. Now I realize that beyond sports, and bits of post WWII history – I have about as much stored knowledge as my dog.

3. Sports questions that aren’t sports.

Dear whomever wrote these questions,

Here is a partial list of activities that aren’t really sports – so please stop including them in the sports category: NASCAR, Cricket, anything to do with the Olympics, Baton Twirling, Cycling, Cockfighting, Alpine Skiing. Quidditch. – Thanks. 

Nothing is more frustrating than missing a “sports” question because it’s not really a sports question. I’m not saying some of these things don’t require athleticism, I’m just saying I hate Trivia Crack and I’m never playing it again.

That’s all I’m saying.

(FYI – for example, Football and Basketball are sports, Pickleball is not.)

4. It’s a conspiracy. Allow me to ask one more question about these categories. Who picked them? Who decided art was even important?

The NEA?

Obama?

The left-wing media elite? 

Look, I’m not saying art isn’t important. I like paintings and poetry as much as the next guy, but why is art a more relevant category than, say, Politics or Laws of the United States or Modern Memphis Tiger Basketball or Movie Quotes from Comedies of the 1990’s or Memphis Tiger Basketball Point Guards in the Modern Era? I think we can all agree these category selections are tilted towards people that aren’t me.

Also, can’t art and entertainment be one category? Call it art. 

Also, how about combining geography and science? Call it geography & science.

Works for me.

Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.
Sleeping through high school did not set me up to be successful at Trivia Crack.

5. I slept through high school. Trivia Crack has brought me face to face with the fact that for the first 30 years of my life – despite being enrolled in various academic institutions – I learned and retained almost nothing. I do possess a mild intellectual curiosity, but for many years it either wasn’t there or was buried under things like sleep deprivation, exhaustion, just-wanting-to-get-a-C, I’m going to sit here and pretend to listen while reading the sports page, or I’m going to mentally go row by row in this class-room and rank the girls in my head instead of listening to this woman talk about photosynthesis. 

What I’m saying is that learning wasn’t my first priority.

6. The man is keeping me down. Trivia Crack has been downloaded 130m times – and apparently the creators decided to allow their users to buy their way to prosperity. Trivia Crack offers the option of buying advantages such as extra time, the ability to skip questions, eliminate choices, etc… I wasn’t willing to do this. And since I regularly got my ass kicked during my two week stay on Trivia Crack, I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone who beat me did buy advantages. If they tell me otherwise I’m going to choose not to believe them.

7. I feel guilty about cheating. When it got to the point that cheating became a real option, I knew I had to get off of Trivia Crack quickly. There I was, about to lose to someone I really didn’t want to lose to – and my computer was right in front of me – and… 

Why not just see if I can look up the answer in time?

Oh my God am I really about to cheat in Trivia Crack?

Holy crap I’m a pathetic cheating loser.

So yea, I’m going with the theory that other people are cheating too because I can’t be the only person depraved enough to consider it.

This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.
This is my dog, Cajun. He knows as much about science, geography, entertainment and art as I do.

8. I don’t like stupid movies. I’m not saying I’m too cultured, or too sophisticated or too whatever to succeed at Trivia Crack. I’m really not. What I am saying is that in a key moment – aka trying to prevent myself from being humiliated –  I got a question about an actor named Clark Gregg. Clark Gregg?

This brings me to my next point.

9. Who is Clark Gregg? I didn’t know the answer to this, apparently because I don’t like comic books. According to the internet, Clark Gregg is best known for his work in The Avengers (2012), Iron Man (2008) and Thor (2011) – all movies adapted from Marvel comics. As in comic books.

Look I’m sure this comic book business is good stuff, but it’s just not my bag. In that sense it’s a lot like science, geography, entertainment, art and much of history. Basically what I’m saying is the totality of human knowledge is pretty much outside my zone of interest.

10. Complete random selection. The Trivia Crack wheel spins in a seemingly random fashion – but like an electronic slot machine you assume there’s pre-determined selection of outcomes. In other words, in Trivia Crack you count on an equal distribution of questions from the various categories. You probably shouldn’t count on it. The other day I got 38,353,000 science questions in a row. Each one about the periodic table or microbiology. I missed them all. I cried.

Apparently there’s some way to exercise greater control over category selection – but I learned that tonight when I was researching this post – 14 hours after I quit the game after multiple consecutive humiliating losses.

So for those reasons, I’m done with Trivia Crack. 

I’m still willing to help other people with sports questions though – but preferably just those having to do with football, basketball and maybe a little baseball – specifically from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Special Report: Panda Express, WAT?

Their attitudes on homosexuality aside, Chick fil A is essentially known for delicious chicken. If I go to my neighborhood Chick fil A – I’m about to eat some tasty chicken.

I rarely go to Burger King – but when I do – I often get a cheeseburger.

At Taco bell, I get tacos.

You see my point.

Not only are the names of these fast food restaurants logical, they’re intuitive.

Taco Bell = Tacos.

Burger King = Burgers.

Chick fil A = Chick(ens).

Simple. Understandable.

So perhaps you can understand my confusion today, the first time I noticed a free standing, fast-food restaurant named Panda Express.

Just in case you can’t imagine what I was thinking, I’ll tell you.

I was thinking: WAT


Pandas are an endangered species, according to Wikipedia:

The giant panda is listed as endangered in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species. There are about 1,600 left in the wild. More than 300 pandas live in zoos and breeding centers around the world, mostly in China.

There are only 1900 Pandas left in the world.

There are almost as many Panda Express restaurants.

According to our research (Looking up Panda Express on Wikipedia), Panda Express has close to 1,700 restaurants, located in 47 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. As the company does not offer franchises, all units are company-owned.

One would have to assume that a fast food restaurant with this logo would serve Panda Burgers and possibly a Panda Salad.
One would have to assume that a fast food restaurant with this logo would serve Panda Burgers and possibly a Panda Salad.

Many Panda Express units are found in: casinos, shopping malls, toll plazas, supermarkets, airports, train stations, strip malls, theme parks, stadiums and college campuses. It is the USA’s largest American-Chinese restaurant business.

Guam. 

Side note about Guam: Did you know Guam is the largest island in Micronesia?

Side note about Micronesia: Have you ever heard of Micronesia?

Side note about Guam and Micronesia: Did you know Guam was captured by Japan hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor?  For 2.5 years according to our research (looking up Guam on Wikipedia), the people of Guam were subjected to forced labor, torture, beheadings, and rape.

Happy ending to that last, grim, side note: Guam was recaptured by US troops on July 21, 1944.


OK, I have something to admit. I didn’t really think that Panda Express served Panda meat. But for a split second I was disoriented (no pun intended, but thoroughly enjoyed).

Orient. Ed. Get it?

Anyway, you know someone does. Someone does think that Panda Express serves Panda meat.

At least a dozen people do.

Maybe 100.

Maybe 1000.

How many do you think?

I was very confused when I saw a free standing Panda Express Restaurant for the first time.

I’ve seen dozens of Panda Express restaurants – and never really given the name any thought. I’m sure I’ve even eaten at dozens, but I don’t really know.

Why do I not know? Good question. I think the answer is because I’ve been mostly to the aforementioned Panda Express restaurants in airports, train stations, and malls.

In other words, I’ve eaten at Panda Express without making the conscious decision to do so. Involuntary eating. It happens. Especially at airports, malls, casinos and train stations.

These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – when reality, and rules of nutrition, are suspended. These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – where the thinking mind literally goes on hiatus, a sober blackout, where raw instinct takes over.

These are places – airports, malls, casinos and train stations – where the seductive properties of Orange Beef, General Tso’s Chicken and Shrimp Fried Rice anesthetize whatever portion of the mind that is supposed ask questions like:

(a) What is this meal going to do to my intestinal functioning?

(b) How many weeks has that rice been under those heat lamps?

(c) Wait a minute, do they serve Panda meat here? 

So there’s literally zero effective thinking going on at 95% of the Panda Expresses out there.

But today, I saw a free standing Panda express in Memphis, TN – on Winchester Road. It was a game-changer.

Today, it struck me. For a split second I thought – what the f#ck is that? A Panda Express?

There was cognitive dissonance. Clearly, it was a fast food joint – but, what, wait, Pandas, no, what, wait. Oh OK. I get it.

Look, I’m not here to tell the fine folks at Panda Folks how to sell Mandarin Chicken or Cashew Beef or Egg Rolls. They clearly know how to do that. In 2014, The Panda Restaurant Group had annual sales of over $2 billion and close to 25,000 employees. So these cats (pun not originally intended, but still enjoyed. cats. Chinese food, etc…) know a thing or two about Szechuan chicken.

I’m not here to tell these folks they’re doing something wrong.

In fact, I’m not here to really do anything except point out the fact that there’s probably a few people driving by the Panda Express on Winchester right now and thinking to themselves:

Nah, I’m going to go ahead just stick with burgers tonight.” 

For some reason, that makes me happy.

 

80’s Movies, Artificial Intelligence & Early Retirement

A few days ago I mused about the challenges of navigating the Facebook culture for a 37 year old closeted-insane person.

Today, I’d like to take that conversation a step further by discussing flesh eating robots.

I’m not a science fiction guy. Growing up, I didn’t watch Star Wars or The Terminator.  It wasn’t until 2014 that I watched The Matrix. 

Jack be limbo, Jack be quick. Jack go unda limbo stick. All around the limbo clock. Hey, let's do the limbo rock.
Jack be limbo, Jack be quick.
Jack go unda limbo stick. I never got the appeal of the Matrix. 

I could never understand how a Keanu Reeves movie, whose popular images appeared to suggest was about Karate, or the limbo, had everyone so enamored.

Less specifically, science fiction was just too science and too fiction for me. I took a hard pass.

For me and television – it was all comedy or sports. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, The Toy, Stripes, Bill Murray.

That kind of stuff, was the stuff.

Sometimes my sister seized the remote control and I was forced to watch the occasional romantic comedy. I’m not embarrassed to admit I grew to enjoy films of the romcom genre.

Chances Are, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Cybill Shepherd was perhaps my favorite 80’s romcom.  In that particular picture, Robert Downey Jr. is reincarnated and starts dating Mary Stuart Masterson (hot) – whom he eventually realizes is his all-grown-up daughter from his previous life. He then pursues Shepherd – Masterson’s mother and his former true-love.

Hilarity and Peter Cetera / Cher songs ensue.

Factoid: This guy was in every movie ever filmed between 1986-1991.
Factoid: This guy was in every movie ever filmed between 1986-1991.

I recently thought of Chances Are because when Robert Downey, Jr. visits the afterlife – he runs into ubiquitous 80’s character actor Joe Grifasi. Grifasi is an administrator in the afterlife, and he’s typing on something that resembles a celestial Ipad, even though Ipads wouldn’t be officially released for another 20+ years.

All that to say this:

(1) That Peter Cetera / Cher song is really good.

(2) What used to be the future is now the present, i.e. Ipads (if not celestial) are here.

Which brings me, in what surely could have been a smoother transition, to the concept of technological singularity.

Technological singularity is a concept straight out of the future. I hadn’t heard of this concept until last night, until I read this article on a concept called Artificial Intelligence (AI) (it’s actually a series of articles so here’s part 1).

Anyway those links are to 2 long articles on AI. AI, in a simple version, is the basic alarm clock. In a slightly more complex version AI is a driver-less car and in a way-more-complex version it generates scenarios beyond anyone’s capacity to fully understand the ramifications of.

Rather than try to explain what the articles said – I’ll just share this one image (below) from the text and encourage you to read the links if you’re interested.

Basically the articles and the image are suggesting that over the next 20-30 years we are likely to see as much progress in human existence (technological and otherwise) as we saw in the previous 100-200 years.

This explains where we might be in the course of human history. Courtesy waitbutwhy.com.
This explains where we might be in the course of human history. Courtesy waitbutwhy.com.

According to Wikipedia, Technological Singularity:

Is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called the singularity. Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events may become unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable.

Let me be clear – I’m not of the belief that flesh hungry robots are going to kill the human species – though that’s clearly a possibility that educated people entertain. Nevertheless – I’m not afraid of that. Life has always scared me more than death anyway.

How I’m going to die scares me a little, but again, that’s part of life – not death.

If my death is ultimately caused by flesh eating human robots – In some ways I’d consider it an honor.

Hey, I lived long enough that when I was a kid Ipads were part of a futuristic movie with the guy from Brewster’s Millions and an awesome Cher / Peter Cetera song, and now, as an adult, I’m being eaten alive by a flesh eating robot.

That would be quite a lifetime.


Please don’t think I’m some sort of science fiction conspiracy freak.

I might be, but please don’t think that. I’m not ready for that image.

My point – one of them anyway – is that I have read enough about The Internet of Things (IOT) and Google X to be open minded to the idea that humanity is on the precipice of some major, mind blowing alterations in our way of life.

Of course, there’s no real point dwelling on it. We’ll be there when we get there if we get there. Right now, we’re here.

Besides, there, the articles on AI make clear, can’t even be comprehended.

Look, it would be really cool if robots were cheap and smart enough to obviate the need for me to have a job – and for that technology to emerge before my savings account gets depleted 10% further – i.e. around April.

So that’s probably not going to happen.

And I’m not really part of that solution, anyway. After all, I’ve always been terrible at science and math. My only real skill in academia was writing papers loaded with bullshit. Blogging foreshadowed. But there were no blogs in 1989 – just imaginary celestial Ipads.

The reason any of this futuristic-science stuff has my attention, is attributable to something I read in another field of study. Last year, I came across a quote from a German-born American mathematician and electrical engineer named Charles P. Steinmetz (1865-1923). Apparently Steinmetz did a lot of the work leading to the development of the electric motor.

Nice work on that electric motor Steinmetz. I wrote an article on staring at women’s asses – so I’m not sweating it.

Anyway, for whatever reason, Steinmetz was quoted in Paramahansa Yogananda’s classic Autobiography of a Yogi. That book, which according to Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Steve Jobs directed be handed out to each attendee of the memorial service following his 2011 death, was published in 1946 and tells the life story of a young man born in Gorakhpur, India. The young man eschewed traditional studies in favor of more “spiritual” practices (meditation, prayer, etc..) and dedicated his life to spiritual pursuits. He eventually became a U.S. based monk (Yogananda) with notoriety in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He met with Ghandi, Calvin Coolidge and many others.

Anyway – Steinmetz (the electrical engineer) was once asked what line of research, in his opinion, would see the greatest development in the future (he was actually asked about the next 50 years, so it’s possible his timing was off or that he answered the question indirectly). His answer:

I think the greatest discovery will be made along spiritual lines. Here is a force which history clearly teaches has been the greatest power in the development of men. Yet we have merely been playing with it and have never seriously studied it as we have the physical forces. Someday people will learn that material things do not bring happiness and are of little use in making men and women creative and powerful. Then the scientists of the world will turn their laboratories over to the study of God and prayer and the spiritual forces which as yet have hardly been scratched. When this day comes, the world will see more advancement in one generation than it has seen in the past four.

What intrigues me is that Steinmetz, an electrical engineer, in a book promoted by the greatest technology inventor of our time, is basically saying similar things about the exponential nature of coming human advancement as these AI futuristic scientists. Both Steinmetz and the AI folks acknowledge that the extreme scenarios of AI project the emergence of some type of all knowing power.

That’s heavy stuff. And fun to talk about – but I’m here. Now.

I need an affordable robot more intelligent than me in the next 6-8 weeks. (Photo courtesy of Wired,com).
I need an affordable robot more intelligent than me in the next 6-8 weeks. (Photo courtesy of Wired,com).

What’s now? Now is 1:44am and that alarm isn’t being pushed back. I haven’t even taken my shoes off yet or switched my laundry. I don’t have a human intelligence level robot. I need power. I have a Google Chromebook at 41% battery. None of my food or clothing or driving or dog-walking is yet automated. So I’m going to have to do all that shit tomorrow. Today.

There’s a lot more that I want to say – but something’s telling me not to. So for now I’ll leave you with that Cher / Peter Cetera song:

On Music – A Movie Script Beginning

Spencer Plan is a guest contributor to BBALLJONES.com on the topics of Music & EPL. You can follow him on Twitter @barsandkaps.


 

One has to drive an hour and a half north from Seattle to reach Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham, like many small towns, employs itself. A hospital, a school district and a university employ thousands. The university that resides in Bellingham is Western Washington University. It’s likely that you’ve never heard of Western Washington, as it’s one of those schools where the in-state students make up over 90% of the enrollment. But Bellingham and Western Washington University fascinate me. Because from this small town and never-heard-of school came Death Cab For Cutie (DCFC).

Sportscasters frequently mention how Clayton Kershaw (Pitcher – LA Dodgers) and Matthew Stafford (Quarterback – Detroit Lions) grew up together and were on the same youth sports teams. They mention this as if it’s some great coincidence – that skilled youth athletes end up on the same team. Structurally and communistically, this is how sports are supposed to work. Get the good players on the same team to play teams that are just as good or better so that everyone improves. I’d be more surprised if Kershaw and Stafford weren’t on the same teams. They are obviously both great athletes who got noticed and joined teams with the best coaches and most motivated parents. The system worked.

What brought Gibbard and Walla together????
What brought Gibbard and Walla (pictured) together????

But how does it work with musicians in a band? How do the talented musicians find each other? Representatively, how did Benjamin Gibbard (Vocals – DCFC) and Chris Walla (Guitar – DCFC) find each other in a small, college-town in Washington. Now, not everyone will agree that these guys are talented or that their finding each other was a good thing. But let’s put that aside and acknowledge that DCFC is a commercial success and are known far beyond Bellingham.

DCFC started as a solo project by Gibbard. The first cassette, You Can Play These Songs with Chords, was all him. Gibbard could’ve kept going it alone, but he determined it best to add some bandmates. Enter Walla, Nick Harmer (Bass – DCFC) and a drummer who would ultimately be replaced. While Gibbard is the face and would likely have had success as a solo artist, his good fortune of Walla being at his college of 12,000 probably turns DCFC from hobby into career.

Walla’s value to DCFC goes beyond standard guitar player, he has produced most of their albums. While that inside-job might not seem impressive, take a look at this wiki page. He’s also produced for The Thermals, Nada Surf and Telekinesis; other artists appreciate his talents. And this guy just happened to be at the same small college as Gibbard.

I’m excited for the new DCFC album, but I’m concerned for their future. Walla retired from the band last year. Though he plays on the new album, he didn’t produce it and he won’t be touring with them. See them now, the writing may be on the walla.

On Facebook, Stalking, & Ralph Waldo Emerson

He’s all wrong for us, baby. I saw you beat that man like I never saw no man get beat before, and the man kept coming after you. Now we don’t need no man like that in our lives.
–Duke to Apollo, in Rocky II as they considered a rematch with Rocky Balboa.

Facebook and I have a toxic relationship and I’m the problem.

We first got together in 2009.

It was wrong from the beginning.

Facebook notifications - red icons with numbers inside - have the power to ruin my life.
Facebook notifications – red icons with numbers inside – produce a false sense of power dangerous to insane people.

Personal struggles – euphemism for manifested insanity – in my mid-20’s left me isolated from friends as I attempted to redefine myself – euphemism for futile avoidance of admitting insanity characterized by a surface level self-reorganization designed to convince people that I’ve changed. 

Facebook allowed me to introduce the new me to the world and derive a temporary sense of power from little red dots. For those of you not on Facebook, when someone likes a post or wants to be your friend or comments on something you posted, you are notified by the arrival of a little red dot on your Facebook page.

Perhaps they should change the little red dots to little tan crack rocks.

Though I’ve actually never smoked crack and am therefore somewhat hesitant to employ the metaphor, that’s essentially what the red dots are.

Side note: The new me was exactly the same as the old me, only this time in a different city doing below average, long form amateur improvisational comedy. Look at me! I’m creative! Oh, and the new me wore hip clothes from Urban Outfitters. Look at me! I’m in skinny jeans and an ironic Coco Puffs t-shirt!

Look at me, I’m writing a blog!

Not that there’s anything wrong with Urban Outfitters, per se.

Other side note: By the world, I mean approximately 200 people out of 7,125,000,000. In other words, an infinitesimally tiny sliver of the actual world.

Facebook allowed me to show 200 people how ironic my t-shirts are.
Facebook allowed me to show 200 people how ironic my t-shirts are thus inducing them to like me.

Another benefit / death trap of Facebook is that it allows a dangerously deep level of access to a pool of acquaintances. For a guy who has always been more comfortable finding a girlfriend / hostage / wife in the friend zone, Facebook is way better than Tinder.

I just disclosed a state secret.

Within a few weeks of joining Facebook, I was “dating” an old friend. Status change!!!

Within a year, we were “engaged.” Status change!!!

Within 2, we were “married.” Status change!!!

Within 5, we were “divorced.” Status change!!!

In the meantime, I had gotten off Facebook- then back on – and then off again.

A few weeks ago, I got back on Facebook for the 3rd time.

What the hell?


What possesses someone, other than a stalker, to get on Facebook 3 separate times?

Let me address the stalking thing real quick.

The guy in this picture appears to be a "full stalker" as opposed to someone with stalking tendencies.
The guy in this picture appears to be a “full stalker” as opposed to someone with stalking tendencies.

I’m not a full stalker. I do, however, have some stalking tendencies.

What’s the difference?

Mostly my own resistance to admitting I’m a stalker, but indulge me please.

For example, I’ll stalk someone’s Facebook page. Why not? That’s what it’s there for, right? But I don’t put spyware on their computers or anything. Full stalkers use spyware.

And I’ve even been known to do a nostalgic drive by an ex’s house. Which, after I typed that suddenly seemed creepier than when I did it. But it’s not like I waited in the bushes. Full stalkers wait in the bushes.

And OK, I’ve read some emails that weren’t addressed to me. But they were left open. It’s not like I hacked into the computer or anything. Full stalkers hack into the computer.

Subtle distinctions, perhaps. But nobody wants to be a stalker so please allow me to also point out that I’ve never  (a) tapped anyone’s phones, (b) waited in the shadows of a parking garage, (c) set up surveillance cameras or (d) boiled a bunny rabbit.

I’m capable of most of those things – but pride and good fortune have kept me safe thus far.

So again, other than being a full stalker, what would provoke someone to get off Facebook twice – and then back on again twice?

The first question – in my case – is actually pretty easy to answer.

Pathetic, deluded, fearful self-righteousness.

When I close my account I can announce to the world my moral superiority.  I am suddently off Facebook.

The unoriginal I’m off of Facebook Rant: Now hear this!  Facebook is purely ego. It’s a bunch of people seeking approval. Pathetic self aggrandizing. Transparent. Shallow. Disgusting. Makes me sick. People showing only the surface of their life to make themselves feel better about their pathetic desperate lives. Facebook is a bunch of judgmental, fake, amateur philosophers, amateur theologians, political pundits, relationship experts. ex wives and girlfriends, attention and intrigue seekers. Predators. 

But there’s a problem.

Back in the real, non Facebook world, I’m judgmental. I’m fake. I’m an amateur philosopher, an amateur theologian, an amateur political pundit. I’m a relationship expert, an ex, an attention and intrigue seeker. I’m a predator.

I make me sick.

I’m a pretty big hypocrite.

Getting off Facebook doesn’t change any of that. It doesn’t change who I really am.

Actually most of the time I’m on Facebook, I don’t fully show this side of myself. I don’t fully participate. I hold back. I’m more of a lurker. A tendency stalker.

Being a tendency stalker is perhaps the greatest facade of all.

So as an admitted amateur philosopher, allow me to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

If Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive he'd see right through my bullshit.
If Ralph Waldo Emerson were alive he’d see right through my bullshit.

So despite my protestations about the evils of Facebook (what I say), I always get back on Facebook (what I do).

Why? Why do I always get back on God Damned Facebook?

For all the wrong reasons, mostly. For the little red dots and the sense of power they produce. For self-aggrandizement (Read my new blog!). For predatory purposes (leads on the next status change – entering through the friend zone). For tendency stalking, a new term just coined to indicate stalking behavior that does not rise to the level of full stalking.

Oh – and did you know you actually have to have a Facebook account to sign up for Tinder?

So there’s that too.

But again, for friend-zone tendency stalkers, Facebook is better than Tinder.


I think I’ll stay on Facebook a while this time. My pride can’t stomach another obviously self-righteous quit. I can’t risk feeling compelled to jump in for the 4th time.

Maybe I’ll even quit lurking and let loose with a few dog pictures. Maybe I’ll “like” things without restraint and post some wise, philosophical text images that I pull off a Google search (like the images for this blog entry). Maybe I’ll make a political post about how both parties suck. That’ll show them. Maybe I’ll talk about my day. Maybe I’ll make a vague reference to some vague personal crisis that nobody cares about.

These are crack rocks, which studies may one day prove to be less addictive than Facebook red like dots.
These are crack rocks, which studies may one day prove to be less addictive than Facebook red like dots.

It’ll be worth it, if people genuinely like it!

I’ll certainly keep posting links to BBALLJONES.com – because after all, look at how creative I am!

But here’s the thing – maybe it’s all OK. Maybe it’s just 2015 and Facebook, which can certainly reveal egotism, can also deliver from that prison.

Maybe Facebook and I are settling into a better rhythm.

Maybe it can work out after all.


 

UPDATE: 10 minutes after posting this, nobody had liked it.

UPDATE TO THE UPDATE: After a few people started liking it, I felt guilty for manipulating them into liking it. So please only like it if you actually like it. 

 

 

Musing: 8 Reasons I Suck At Airline Travel

I suck at airline travel. Here are 8 reasons why:

This bag sucks, and causes back pain - but some part of me refuses to stop using it.
This bag sucks, and causes back pain – but some part of me refuses to stop using it.

1. Lack of Wheels. Despite the fact that I travel fairly regularly – my luggage completely sucks. Rather than a traditional roller board piece of luggage, I still rely on an over sized hanging bag (see picture). It’s bigger than a hanging bag but not quite an actual piece of acceptable adult luggage. I just stuff this thing totally full of crap – because I over pack. Importantly, this not-quite-a-hanging-bag has zero wheels. Which means the weight of its contents may not be distributed on the floors of and rolled across America’s overly spread out-airports. The shoulder strap is ill fitting, which forces me to carry it like a briefcase. But it’s way too heavy for that. It’s heavier than me. Basically, It sucks.

2. Over packing. I’m going on a business trip for 2 nights so yea, I’ll probably need work out clothes. Side note: I’ve never ‘worked out’ in my life. Since none of my dress shirts really fit well right now, I’ll just go ahead and take 7 options. I’ll probably want to change into something a little more casual after work before walking across the street to O’Charley’s for a 5:00pm dinner, so I’ll go ahead and pack some casual shoes, a few of my best western snap shirts and my top 3 or 4 pair of jeans. Rather than check the weather, I’ll just pack 2 different jackets, that way I’m covered. Who cares that my bag weighs 285 pounds? Oh right, I do. Damn it.

3. I never check in early. Because I’m totally insane, I never check in or print a boarding pass in advance – as most seasoned travelers do. I simply wait until I arrive at the airport. My reasoning: I have absolutely zero reasoning. I’m literally incapable of handling this simple task. Therefore, I typically board last. Therefore, I’m typically bumping my over sized not-exactly-a-hanging-bag into passengers seated in the aisles and cramming said bag into an already crowded over-head compartment.

4. Coffee. I typically purchase a giant cup right when I get through security. This is a bad idea, but I do it anyway because bad ideas define my travel behavior. This particular behavior is bad because I then have to carry the giant cup of coffee with one hand, while carrying the giant, over stuffed, not-quite-a-hanging-bag with the other. In most American airports the average walk between security and my gate is 378.7 miles, so it’s a long walk. This ritual results in 2nd degree burns on the coffee hand – because I can’t rotate hands – and generates shoulder and back pain on the not-quite-a-hanging-bag side of my torso. It sucks. I suck.

5. iTunes challenged. There are serious gaps in my technology game. Major gaps. One of these gaps involves iTunes. I’ve never quite figured out or taken the time to synch my previously purchased iTunes songs to my iPhone. I also just don’t have a lot of iTunes purchases period. In my non-travel life, I rely on Pandora mostly. Anyway, the bottom line is once everyone’s electronic devices have to go in airplane mode – I have no good entertainment available. Therefore my in flight options are typically Skymall, Sky Magazine (that feature on the resurgence of downtown Sacramento looks really good), or whatever book I brought that I’m not really reading and have almost zero desire to even attempt opening.

6. I’m a jerk. This is unfortunate, but I’m not a naturally tolerant, kind person. When the TSA agents tell me to exit the scanner machine and wait at the yellow line, it takes every bit of restraint I can muster not to say, “Would it kill you to say please?” When they tell me that lap tops must come out of my bag, I mutter, “I know.” When I pass by the self-consumed businessmen in first class while boarding the plane, I can barely contain my contempt. When a morbidly obese person occupies the seat next to me, I make a certain facial gesture which even an amateur body language expert could clearly interpret as saying: “Your inability to stop eating is ruining my life.” These are the kinds of reactions you’ll get out of me on a good travel day.

7. I have a weakness for LidsThe only reasonable excuse for buying clothing in an airport would be if a gang of nudists, or any other similarly motivated group of persons, ripped off all of my existing clothes, stole my luggage and left me completely naked outside the PGA Tour Shop, Luxe International or some other tightly themed clothing and accessory store. The merchandise in these places is overpriced, the selection is limited, and so there’s just no valid reason for a human being to ever spend a dollar inside a store of this genre. That being said, if my gate is within 10,000 yards of a Lids hat store I’m likely to liquidate a portion of my 401k to buy a Cubs / Lakers / Cowboys / Pirates / Phillies / or whatever hat is looking good that particular day. A hat that won’t be looking good the next day and that I won’t wear more than 3 times over the next decade before it lands in a Goodwill garbage sack. My weakness for Lids is attributable, in part, to the fact that I started going bald at the age of 23. It’s related, trust me.

8. I refuse to sign up for rewards programs. People that have the discipline to sign up for, understand, keep up with, and take full advantage of rewards programs are – in my estimation – alien life creatures. How does anyone have the discipline or the fortitude to participate in these things? No, Budget rent-a-car lady, I’m not a FastBreak member – so I’m going to have to give you all my information again. I’m going to have sign all those boxes again. I’m going to be pissed again. Yes, I was here last week, and the month before that, and 7 times last year. Yes, I really should sign up to avoid the line – but the more you ask me the less likely I am to do it. I hate you. I hate me. I hate this whole traveling process.

 

 

On Music – Thinking A Blue Streak

Spencer Plan is a guest contributor to BBALLJONES.com on the topics of Music & EPL. You can follow him on Twitter @barsandkaps.


 

Very little. That’s how much I know about Bob Dylan. Perhaps, even less.

Something about Minnesota, something about a typewriter, maybe something else. Perhaps, like others, I mostly connect him to 80s comedians who along with a Dylan also did a De Niro, a Pacino and a Nicholson.

And I don’t know much of his music.

Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair
Photo Courtesy of Vanity Fair

If I was on a game show I’d wager that I could name four Bob Dylan songs. But given that, I would categorize two of those songs as all-timers, Hurricane and Tangled Up In Blue (TUIB). Now, perhaps this is an easy statement to make. Both songs are on album called ‘The Essential Bob Dylan’ so clearly someone thinks these songs are good.  But, what interests me, is how entirely possible it would have been to never have crossed paths with one of those all-timers.

Hurricane is a classic and its availability was widespread. Your sensory nerves could flatline and you’d think Hurricane was a good song just from that scene in Dazed and Confused.

TUIB is different. I grew up in a town known for music. And I had a typical blue collar youth, gritting and grinding my way through. But it wasn’t until I left Memphis and went to college near D.C. that I was exposed to TUIB. TUIB is good. TUIB is great. I could listen to TUIB on repeat for hours. The law of diminishing marginal utility doesn’t apply. The 29th doughnut tastes as good as the 28th.

Now this isn’t meant to be preachy. ‘Hey bballjones.com readers, go listen to TUIB’ or ‘my music is better than your music’. It’s more about opportunity and chance. It took me having to move states, live with someone from another state and for that person to be in a band that covered TUIB. If not for that, I’d likely not know the song now.

So, how does one cross paths with a song? And is there anything better than crossing paths with the right song?  And fundamental to this website, why aren’t they playing Tangled Up in BLUE at TIGS games? TIGERS!!!

Take a listen: 

 

Musing: Abandoned Malls Are The Creepiest Places In The World

There is perhaps no physical structure creepier than an abandoned shopping mall.

What was once a symbol of togetherness, vibrancy, economic vitality, and joyousness – is slowly transformed into a empty, decaying wasteland. Yet because the physical structures and signage linger behind – the abandoned structures represent much more than emptiness, loneliness and decay. They also represent failure, miscalculation, impermanence and danger.

So basically, they’re just really creepy.

Image Courtesy of Johnny Joo - Mashable.com
Image Courtesy of Johnny Joo – Mashable.com

The website Mashable.com has put forth another series of images of an abandoned mall – this time a partially snow-covered abandoned structure in Arkon, Ohio.

It’s just really creepy.

Is there a city that stands for urban decay more than Akron, Ohio?

Memphians shouldn’t snicker though.

Memphis has malls – Hickory Ridge, Raleigh Springs, Oak Court among others – that are in varying states of decay. I haven’t been inside the Raleigh Springs Mall since my mother took my siblings and I there in the mid-1980’s to buy house pets and various other knick knacks, but every time I drive by I’m thoroughly creeped out and slightly intrigued.

Why does that still exist?

What’s in there?

Is everything the same as it was in the 1980’s?

Why am I crying? 

In researching this post – I came across a website for the Mall of Memphis. An active website. Which is amazing, because the Mall of Memphis closed on Christmas Eve, 2003 and was demolished in 2005. Apparently someone – a guy by the name of Doug Force – feels as intrigued (and maybe not quite as creeped out) by old malls as I do.  Force’s  Mall of Memphis tribute website is complete with an extensive timeline.

The Mall of Memphis website made me want to curl up in a ball and be held firmly.

Here are 4 consecutive entries on the Mall of Memphis timeline, which offer some insight as to why the mall no longer exists – and a basis for my future nightmares:

  • 2002 – A Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. unit takes control of the mall property through a foreclosure.
  • October 7, 2002 – A Mall of Memphis employee, who was taking a shortcut to work, found the body of a man on a small bridge over a ditch in the 4400 block of American Way early Sunday. The victim, who had not been identified by police late Sunday afternoon, was shot in the head, homicide Lt. Walter Norris said. The victim was believed to be in his early 20s. A neighbor told police he heard a gunshot about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Norris said. Police had no motive for the shooting and were investigating.
  • October 8, 2002 – A 14-year-old boy was charged Monday in Juvenile Court in the shooting death of a 15-year-old boy whose body was found near a ditch south of the Mall of Memphis. Deandre Kendall was charged with first-degree murder in the death of William Hall. Kendall is scheduled for a detention hearing today in Juvenile Court.
  • November 7, 2002 – A 14-year-old gang member who allegedly boasted last month he was ready to get his first “187” or homicide will face murder charges as an adult in the shooting death of another teenager. Deandre Kendall was transferred from Juvenile Court to the County Jail Wednesday. He is charged with first-degree murder in the Oct. 5 shotgun slaying of William Hall, 15, whose body was found the next day near the Mall of Memphis. Kendall was ordered held on $100,000 bond.

Yep, pretty creepy.

Here are some pictures of the Mall of Memphis right as it closed, and as it was being demolished – courtesy of the aforementioned site:

mall of memphis

escalator

Remembering Dean Smith Via Robert Goulet

Dean Smith, the legendary former North Carolina head coach, passed away this weekend.

In a tidbit of information straight out of the holy crap, I’m old department — Dean Smith actually retired from coaching 18 years ago, in 1997. Therefore, most basketball fans under 25 probably have no idea who Dean Smith was – or what he represented.

Dean Smith was Michael Jordan’s college coach at North Carolina. And he was the most respected coach / teacher in the college game for over 2 decades.

Dean Smith was a coach. He was a coach in an era – the 1980’s and 1990’s – of college basketball when coaches were larger than life. And they were coaches.

Today, head coaches are basically CEO’s. Given the realities of modern media, coaches today must be polished, politically correct, figure heads. Of course, they still have to win basketball games. That was true then and it’s true now. But 20 and 30 years ago – coaches coached. And they did so with vastly different personalities and styles that made each of them unique and highly marketable in their own way.

Without social media, without nearly as much national television, without the internet – coaches were significantly more free to be themselves and coach their team with freedom of personality. It made the whole enterprise just a little more fun than it is now.

Today, in a college athletics environment that resembles a corporate workplace – having an outlandish personality is a risk. College employees – including coaches – have their spontaneity and personality scrubbed by risk managers and P.R. filters. I get why it’s necessary, but for the average fan – it leaves a void.

As a result, there aren’t nearly as many colorful personalities in today’s college game. The ones that stand out – Boeheim, Calipari, Pitino – are mostly holdovers from a previous era.

Robert Goulet - Star of the Greatest Commercials Ever Filmed.
Robert Goulet – Star of the Greatest Commercials Ever Filmed.

In the mid-90’s – in a move reflective of the popularity of the coaches themselves – ESPN produced a series of musical commercials – designed to promote their college basketball telecasts – which featured actor / singer Robert Goulet.

If you don’t know who Robert Goulet is – I’m sorry.

Think of Robert Goulet as Burt Reynolds, but with an incredible voice and as a lounge singer in Vegas. It’s a lethal combination.

The commercials were – quite possibly – the greatest series of musical commercials ever filmed.

Side notes about Robert Goulet: (a) He played one of the house guests in Tim Burton’s 1998 classic film Beetlejuice, and (b) the American Mustache Institute presents The Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award to the person who best-represents or contributes to the Mustached American community during that year (courtesy WikiPedia).

Side note about Beetlejuice: apparently Beetlejuice 2 is in the works.

Side note about that side note: That’s pretty awesome – mainly because Winona Ryder is gong to be in it and she’s probably still incredibly beautiful in that nutty-waif kind of way.

Anyway, back to Dean Smith. His passing – happily – reminded me of the Robert Goulet commercials. After said reminder, I immediately re-watched them. All of them. There are 16. It’s time well spent. I do it about once a year. I encourage you to do the same.

Here’s a link to the Dean Smith version (you can easily find the others by searching for “Robert Goulet ESPN commercials”). There’s a Bob Knight, and a Rick Pitino version as well. You can thank me later: