Category Archives: Media

Haiku News, November 5, 2010

I don’t miss much about Indianapolis, but I do remember the days of sitting at the Qdoba near IUPUI, chowing down on a giant plate of nachos (chicken, with pinto beans, hot salsa, sour cream, cheese, and a little bit of rice, please) and reading a NUVO Newsweekly (think the Indy version of the Chicago Reader).  To my memory, it is the only prominent news outlet for local artists and musicians, while incorporating investigative reporting from a left-leaning perspective–something otherwise tough to find in a blue-collar, NASCAR-lovin’, beer-swillin’ hotbed of ‘Publicanism†.

As a tribute to NUVO, here is my take on a staple of theirs:  haiku news.

Cranky electors/Vote out the incumbents but/Can’t remember why

Olbermann donates/MSNBC makes clear/”We are not Fox News!”

LBJ debuts/Fans watch games, then normalcy/NBA ignored

Colbert and Stewart/Rally thousands to fight fear/And earn blame from Dems

Mark earns victory/Alexi salutes with beer/Barack licks his wounds

Fifteen scores, two picks/Peyton shows that Father Time/Is a deadbeat dad

“Saw 7” premieres/Whose fate is worse:  slaughtered cast/Or tasteful film fan

Cans of Four Loko/Next scare on college campus/Red Bull still legal

†Update:  My friend Neil (hi Neil) asked me an excellent question on facebook:  “wuts rong with beer swillin’?”  While I’m assuming a tongue-in-cheekness with the spelling and all, I must clarify:  there is nothing wrong with beer swillin’.  I love swillin’ beer.  I swilled a beer tonight.  (If High Life counts.)  I mean no disrespect to those who swill beer–nay, I invite everyone to swill a beer.  To beer swillin’!

On a (barely) more serious note, I don’t want to come across as one of those jerks that moves off to The Big City™ and suddenly washes himself of the people and place from whence he came.  My family still lives in Indy, as do many of my closest friends.  I value a lot of relationships I made there to this day, and am proud of the work I did with former students and my old high school.  And, of course, the pride of the city, the Colts.  I think most of my readers understand the balance of affection and immense frustration with the city/state and share my views.

So go beer, go Horse, go…Pacers?  Do we still have the Pacers?

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“We’ll Getcha a Tiny Cannon.”

Another awesome video from kottke.org (if you regularly read this, you definitely should make this site a daily stop).

On Faux Gravitas; or, Writing Is Hard

Writing is hard.  Yes, another blogger whining about writing.

But don’t you think?  You just swirl all these ideas around in your head.  Compelling metaphors, sophisticated turns of phrase.  (Actually, I hate the phrase “turn of phrase.”  Please disregard.)  Sentence after sentence you’ve trimmed and edited, sometimes it’s a whole paragraph in your head.  You don’t even know what theme binds these thoughts together, how you’ll express them coherently.  You know, though, that you’ll sit down, and just blurt words out, BLAHBLAHBLAHBLAHBLAH typetypetypetypetype, and you’ll go and go and go, and you’ll look like a Hollywood writing montage, the camera panning slowly up and down while you tappity-tap away on your typewriter, the lens catching you schingping! the scroll or whatever it’s called back to the left, the camera keeps scrolling up, catches your head tilted up but eyes tilted down, peeking through your bifocals, and you just type all damn day.  Ideas!  Expression!  You’re an artiste!

Then you really do sit down, and you stare at the screen or at your paper.  And you type a whole paragraph, read it, delete it.  Maybe your problem is you write the same thing four different ways.  I like to write paragraphs that sum up an entire idea and resolve it by the end.  “Too efficient” is what I tell myself, such a smarmy, self-aware way to dismiss crappy writing.  Then I reverse course and write every stupid single word that enters my mind, and then–well, then you get the past few sentences.  (I’m trying to acknowledge that no one wants to read about another whiny blogger here, bear with me.)  But that flow, the ease.  When does it begin?  How often do I write before it happens?  What happens if I suddenly write nonstop, words pouring out of me, only to be terrible?

I ponder this because I will shortly be linking to an additional blog, Back Sports Page, where I will regularly cover the tennis world.  It’s the first time in years–since high school, really–that I’ll be required, in a sense, to produce original pieces of writing on a regular basis.  And let’s just say that then I wasn’t too inspired to meet the deadline.  But this is a gig I actively sought and appreciate having earned.  So wrangling with the anxiety of a commitment to consistent creative output, while seemingly counter-intuitive given my fondness for the subject, both refreshes my intellect and constricts my output. I look forward to the comfort of my own forum, where I can discuss a passion of my life, but that doesn’t magically eradicate the self-consciousness that can paralyze me, or any writer.  (I’m already worried about my combination of first- and second-person in this piece.  But I’m not changing it.  Confidence in a personal style choice?  Defiance of literary norms?  Uh, laziness?  Whatever.)

You blurt out a witty comment or something, you sign a birthday card with a nice pun, and people think “You should be a writer!”  Or you play a good game of Taboo.  (And I have to say, I play a mean game of Taboo.)   “You’re good with words–I bet you’d be a good writer!”  But there’s  a freedom to the spoken word that almost makes it an opposing duality of the written word.  Words you say disappear into the air.  The exact phrase you use becomes an echo in others’ minds.  You learn at a young age that you can’t erase what you’ve said, so we never develop the desire to self-edit.  (Until we hear our recorded selves.  Are we more concerned with the aural qualities of our voices, or maybe what we said, and how we said it?)  When you’re speaking, the occasional transgression is accepted, sometimes encouraged.  “And then we opened the sushi–which reminds me…”  (Robin Williams has essentially made a career out of word salad.  He just has a wide array of dressings.)  Sometimes, it’s easier to be articulate when you’re speaking, because if you put the words together just right, people admire your off-the-cuff cohesion.  You smirk, and think, if they only knew I’m not really saying anything.

Your writing, though, glares right back at you.  Immediately.  You really think that?  I mean, you wrote it! You’re forced constantly to reassess every thought–not only every thought, but the exact way you formed it.  You remind yourself of the untold history of writing, the writing that exists but will remain forever unread, the chances that your perceptions of life or the human condition have been either exactly or superlatively replicated by another.  What stirring thoughts could I possibly contribute to a sport covered by thousands internationally?  And, let’s face it, even when you’re a huge fan, enamored in the nuance replete within all aspects of the game, tennis is not the most complex sport.  They play in tournaments, where there is one winner, determined by who hits a ball back and forth the best.  Wow!

Writing leaves me vulnerable, mainly to my own self-criticism.  But great writers will tell you that to become a great writer, you just have to write.  A lot.  Daily.  Whatever you can put down.  You face what you’ve written, mold your tendencies over time, improve, feel satisfaction in that improvement.  You won’t make any sweeping changes overnight.  As Andre Agassi said (and probably Confucius before him or something), it’s about the journey, not the destination.  Kinda like life, I guess.

OK…so.  Any of you seven readers out there like to write?  Anything hold you back?  Any tips or ideas?  I’d love to read new perspectives on all this.

Juan Williams and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Muslims Remark

I’m sure you’ve all heard now about Juan Williams and his thoughts on the ideal airline passenger.  As we all could (should) have predicted, his fearmongering remarks were immediately rewarded by Fox News, to the tune of $2.0 million.  I guess I’m thankful to know the running rate for bigotry.  How much money could I make if I wore a headscarf in an airport, holding a sign that says “God hates fags” in a faux-Middle Eastern accent, with a picture of Obama with a Hitler mustache?  Hey, gotta protect those first amendment rights!

Which is exactly what forgotten right-wing nutjob (there are so many these days, you really gotta go off the deep end to stand out) Eric Cantor is out to do.  I discovered when I woke up this morning that he is pledging a full-on assault on the federal NPR funding process.  Because, you know, Americans have been wronged, I guess.

It looks like Eric Cantor has graduated from the Dr. Laura School of Constitutional Law.  You’ll remember that after she was canned for her cogent social analysis racist tirade, she began a media crusade decrying “censorship” and claiming she just “wants her First Amendment rights back.”  Sarah Palin came to her defense, of course, because if someone is spewing offensive bigotry, Sarah Palin is THERE.  Palin, herself the victim of cruel gotcha journalism (“Why didn’t anyone tell me she’d ask about newspapers?!?!”) and other forms of media oppression, seemed to spark this recent spate of wrongheaded constitutional analysis.

[Can we just talk a second about how a grown woman runs around using the phrase “lamestream media”?  And people still somehow take her seriously–nay, are fighting to elect her president one day?  Not that I understand or sympathize with the Bush II-era anti-intellectual bent, but this has to be a new low.  I guess Jon Stewart is a “dumbface” and NPR really is National Poopy Radio.]

The most troubling aspect of the Right’s embrace of any type of offensive speech is two-fold.  First, no one seems to consider the consequences of any remark made.  “So I said n—– 27 times on air.  Black people say it all the time!  I’m just trying to keep it real with my peeps, yo.  What’s the problem?”  (Yes, that is the best way for you to connect to your white, middle-aged housewife, Laura.)  Secondly, they respond to these consequences not with an apology or genuine contriteness–no, they claim an assault on their rights!

Insane.  Did Dr. Laura get arrested after she ran off at the mouth?  Was Juan Williams detained for getting the willies around brown people?  (Uh, Juan?)  If only.  Think about how many life sentences Rush Limbaugh would have right now.  But this right/Tea Party shift to consequence-free action has reached a crisis point.  They’re equating consequence with government oppression. You mean I can’t run anywhere I want with my gun?  Oppression!  I can’t reveal to the world Barack Obama’s deep hatred for babies and kittens?  Censorship!

I’d say in the cases of Juan Williams and Dr. Laura, however, we saw perfect examples of the market correcting itself.

God Bless Delaware

Saw this on Gawker today.  My mind is simply blown.

I don’t really have anything to add.  Defend that Constitution, Christine!

Blue Flu Redux

Man.  These guys just don’t let up.

I remember when Marvin Harrison returned from the knee injury that ultimately derailed his career.  Week to week, he was an entirely different player.  At the beginning of the season, he’s an afterthought.  Just can’t run those routes with the same zip.  Then he burns Chris McAllister for a TD and catches another short TD pass against the Ravens, and Cris Collinsworth says “he’s back!”  Back and forth, all year.  All hail pundits!

I like you, Jaws, but let’s leave the Snap Judgments™ to Don Banks.

 

You Boys Get Off The GameStation!!!

Irresistible video I stumbled upon, via kottke.org, a blog to whose awesomeness I can only aspire:

When I Say Alvin, You Say Greene!

More brilliance from our favorite congressional candidate.

National Poopy Radio?

Courtesy of NPR’s Peter Sagal:  NPR is too smart!  Let’s hope they dumb it down so all them regular folk can tune in!  Because you just know Tiffany is desperate to tune out her top-4o radio and find out more about East Timor, but if only it were more accessible!

Blue Influenza; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love a 29-year-old Roger Federer

Anyone who either follows this blog (provided I continue to write new posts with any semblance of diligence) or has seen any of my Facebook or Twitter posts knows I have a serious passion for two sporting entities:  the National Football League’s Indianapolis Colts, or tennis stylist Roger Federer.  When I’m not reading about the (deteriorating) health of the Colts defense, I’m checking in to see whom Federer is smashing in the quarters of Tournament X.  I imagined Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, with his square-jawed “I heart football, but I don’t want to look like it” visage, torching some hapless defense for 17 touchdowns until it finally happened in 2006 (I have accepted these numbers quite easily).  I like to believe I willed Roger to complete his dogged quest for a Roland Garros trophy via those match points, his championship points, played repeatedly in my head.  But there is only one relevant question in sports, and though Manning finds himself in a similar position to Federer–considered by most, conditionally, to be the Greatest Player Ever™–they’re past the point in their careers when they can dodge the inevitable questions about time.  Time in the winner’s circle, time on the field, time on the tour.  And of course, “time to retire?”

All my considerable, virulent homerism aside (even though I still won’t vouch for Tim Jennings), Peyton Manning is trending to break every major quarterbacking record–consecutive starts, completions, yards, touchdowns, games won, most consecutive games being totally awesome, highest jabbering percentage, et cetera.  He has a preternatural ability to identify and exploit any defensive set.  (Side note:  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to emulate his field vision when playing my roommate in Madden, although my destroyed Xbox controller tally might give you an idea of how well I pull that off.  I’ll call all these audibles–Collie with the deep out, Addai up the middle, the always-unsuccessful draw.  If only the friggin’ game would let me yell “Waffle!  Waffle!  Tokyo right!”  Then maybe I’d have an edge.)  Defenders have even acknowledged that they’re going to give up a touchdown before the play even starts.  Start him at his own 2; give him the ball with 30 seconds left.  He doesn’t care.  With a, well, Federer-like simplicity, and reliance on technique and anticipation, Peyton will simply render entire squads, coaching staffs, and schools of thought useless.  Supposed defensive mastermind Rex Ryan contends Peyton “cost [him] two Super Bowl rings.”  [Insert Rex Ryan fat joke here.]

Roger Federer knows a bit about making other men feel inadequate.  With his classical movement and technique, he has embarrassed others to the tune of 16 singles Grand Slam titles (and, one time, himself, to this tune).  Who knows how many others–but notably one David Foster Wallace–have waxed poetic about his style to a greater eloquence than I can achieve.  Still, without Rafael Nadal, we’re looking at maybe 20 Slams, the calendar Grand Slam (maybe twice!), we’re talking barely fathomable achievements in modern sports.

As sporting contemporaries, Roger and Peyton may have some jarring dissimilarities.  You’re all alone on a tennis court, in sole possession of your competitive destiny, whereas  any number of teammates, coaches, assistants, waterboys, handlers, owners, celebrity owners, and sluts on a gridiron sideline loiter to advise and berate and coddle and encourage.  Roger will, save for the occasional psychotic intruder (nice tackle–former NFLer?), never touch another player; Peyton lets a bunch of replaceable lugs save him from being crushed on every offensive play.  (Still love ya, Jeff Saturday!)  Tennis players win the last point; football players lead at the last second.  Yet throughout their careers, these two sporting icons have endured the same tired criticisms.  They’re soft; they can’t win the big one; how can they be the best of all time when their contemporaries are better?  Critics viewed both players as flashy and prodigious but, hell, downright cowardly!  And in some instances, anatomically lacking.  Still, eventually they completed their career capstones, the above referenced championships, and all was right with the world.

But where do we, and they, go from here?  The luster of those quite personally satisfying glories has worn off a bit–2009 is so last year, and 2006, Colts’ Super Bowl season?  Puh-leeze.  I’ve slept since thenNext!

Still, each player, despite what is considered advanced age for their respective sports (Peyton at 34, Roger at 29), remains near the top of the game.  Peyton is actually playing better than ever.  But both guys are coming off events they’d best like to forget:  Roger has his loss to Novak Djokovic (who, at #2 in the world, is obvs no slouch) in the US Open semis, but more importantly, he’s coming off his worst Slam season since 2003, when he won his first major in London.  Peyton th–Peyton thr–[gulp]–Peyton threw the game-clinching interception in the most recent Super Bowl, a quick slant to Reggie Wayne that Tracy Porter saw coming from next Tuesday.  [Aside regarding this most tragic event:  blame to go around.  Peyton didn’t throw the greatest pass.  Reggie slacked on the route.  Tracy attributed his awareness of the play to “film study,” which has the feel of George W. Bush having won the presidency not via general election, but by outscoring John Kerry on a MENSA exam–the idiot out-geniused the genius.  Not to take anything away from Sean “Oh Look, They Put Hank Baskett On The Field, For Real, During The Super Bowl” Payton.]

Keep in mind sports media has seriously no patience.  Hell, this guy for Sports Illustrated apparently has made a career out of writing immediate responses to football games, mere minutes after they’ve occurred.  He even called the whole damn thing Snap Judgments.  (No contemplation allowed!)  So now, without a Slam final to his name in a whole nine months, we’re to believe that Federer is DUNZO!  He looked old and slow against Berdych in SW 19!  He was tired at the end of the Djokovic semi!  Peyton and the Colts (mostly due to the defense) are a .500 team, 2-2, after a quarter of the season.  They can’t win the Super Bowl!  They can’t even win their division!  What happens when the greats are teetering on the brink of their own decline?

THEY SHOULD RETIRE!!!!!!

OK, not true.  First, it’s easy to point out that both men are by no means finished contending for the highest honors in their sports.  Roger, through diligent training, his smooth, physically easy style, and perhaps the magic of some great skin care products, has stayed injury-free for nearly his entire career.  He survived to the penultimate round of America’s preeminent tennis tournament.  He hasn’t been ranked below 3rd in 7 years.  Peyton is in even better position to stay relevant; he evades defensive pressure through his quick release, thus regularly ranking as the least-sacked quarterback in the league.  Fewer sacks means less wear-and-tear on Peyton, as well as no Theismann-like freak accidents (ew, no, I am not linking to that one!  Gross).  And as I noted earlier, despite his BS interception against Jacksonville last week, Peyton is arguably better than ever. So use of the term “decline” here is relative.

Regardless though of their current abilities, why is there so much pressure on older, iconic athletes to either continue their total domination of their peers or simply go away, do some television commentary, anything, just PLEASE, do NOT ruin your stat sheet!?  Perhaps it is our natural inclination to reject the idea of the aging athlete, much as humans hate aging in general (time to pick up some more RF Cosmetics, Gramps).  Unfortunately, Peyton or Roger cannot benefit from the Botox treatment, the tummy tuck, the omega-3 fatty acids (well, those might help for when they do sudoku in 50 years).  As humans must accept the end of life, these athletes must accept their descent into mediocrity, then inability.  They’ve watched their kinetic seeds blossom into premier sporting ability, and now they’ll watch the leaves wilt and the weeds sprout.  They’ll feel death of their athletic skills as we only witness it.  The perk for us mere mortals is that we don’t have newspaper headlines or cable sports prognosticators clamoring for us to just die or whatever:

“Our next topic–Steve.  Does he give it one more year at the assisted living center, or is it time for him to hang up the loafers and head on to that great shuffleboard court in the sky?”

“Ya know Jim, I’ve followed Steve throughout his life.  We all remember the amazing highlights, those incredible memos at the office, the unforgettable performance as Giggles the Clown at Little Jimmy’s 6th birthday, the legendary landscaping sessions.  But it’s time to face facts.  His stats show us that his sexual prowess clearly peaked in 1972, but like all the greats, he just kept going, sometimes not even showing up on game day; he even tried trading teams toward the end of his career–and we know that never turns out well.”

“You’re right Bill.  And his bladder control ratio has been on the same trajectory.  Could I see him sticking around, trying one more year, finally reigning as Bingo champion on the fourth floor?  Sure.  But you know…sometimes, this decline, it’s just sad.  You gotta know when to let it go.  So if we were to buy or sell here, I’d say–well, I’d say that neither is an option.  Steve may just want to take himself right off the market.”

What is so unnatural or painful about the decline?  It happens with every athlete.  Retirement (then re-retirement, then re-re-retirement) beckons at some point.  Sure, sometimes magic does happen–see Brett Favre’s 2009 comeback season.  (Then again, see his 2010 season–maybe karma happens, too.) But either way, throughout sports history (and human history), we’ve witnessed the fraying of athletic ability.  Serves slow, passes lose zip, errors increase, “I just didn’t have it today,” the footwork deteriorates, the ranking plummets, the rating plummets.  We acknowledge it.  We freak out, trying to prevent it.  But we just won’t accept it–it just can’t happen to [insert favorite player here]!  Humans never die–duh!  Federer will always be amazing!  He’ll go 88-6 in 2013!  Peyton will forever throw a touchdown per year of his age–do you realize how many TDs that is in 2026?

This charade makes me wonder what we, as sports fans, actually enjoy when watching sport.  Would I rather watch Roger slice and float and angle his way to a 5th set loss, or see him hit 30 aces in a straight-set win?  Peyton throw 4 TDs in an OT defeat, or see Mike Hart rack up 160 yards rushing in a win? Of course–we want the win.  Victory validates everything!  And we await a loss as an opportunity to move to the Next Best Thing.  But maybe our viewership and fandom would develop into something more complex if we viewed the game through our players’ eyes.

Federer often talks of his love for tennis in his press conferences.  Peyton eats, breathes, sleeps football.  Their play expresses their passion but masks the innumerable hours they’ve devoted to sheer work–watching game tape, running sprints, hitting backhands, throwing passes.  Who are we to tell them to shut it down?  Roger, in particular, owes no one anything–he can play as long as he damn well pleases.  (I don’t think Tony Godsick is going to be hurting anytime soon.)  And Peyton–well, I’d love to know if his teammates are right now thinking, “Yeah, 11 touchdowns, that’s great and all, but you did miss Clark on the out route at 3rd-and-6…”  He’ll be accountable to his team, his coach, his owners, and, I suppose, ultimately, his fans.  But rarely is he the reason for a loss (paging Larry Coyer), and as long as he’s a Colt, he’ll conduct his offensive orchestra.

So if they’re still rolling with the punches, I should too.  I’ve decided that I’m going to relish what’s left in these icons’ careers without casting the critical eye.  Rather than lament the lack of perfection in every performance, we should express gratitude that they’re still so relevant this far into their careers.  I’m guessing they’ll do the same–if the typical human cheers up as they progress through time, surely these guys will too. Maybe Peyton never wins another Super Bowl (hell, at this defense’s pace, maybe he never wins another game).  Maybe Roger starts losing in the 2nd round to the Kristof Vliegens of the world (nice haircut, buddy).  Whatever.  When these guys have had their fill of random hotels and dingy locker rooms, sore elbows and aching knees, I’ll know when to start grieving.  Until then, I’ll take all of their play I can get.  If Peyton and Roger are only looking forward, why shouldn’t I?